Wednesday, May 16

'Arnold Palmer: Homespun Stories of The King' By Chris Rodell From Triumph Books

THERE'S A NEW ARNOLD PALMER BOOK that offers a hometown perspective on "The King."

Here's a description from the publisher:

In Arnold Palmer: Homespun Stories of The King (Triumph Books, May 15, 2018), Latrobe, PA resident and personal friend of Palmer's Chris Rodell offers a new take on the legendary figure.

Available from local and national
retailers throughout the US.
Drawing on more than 100 interviews conducted over decades of acquaintance, Rodell delves into Palmer's character away from the game, examining Palmer's relationship to his hometown and its people. The insights and anecdotes showcase a different side of Palmer, giving fans a glimpse of the King passing up his throne for a barstool, Magnolia Lane for Main Street and the big stage for the small town.

Highlights include:

  • A heartfelt foreword from 9-time major championship winner Gary Player
  • Stories depicting Palmer's devotion to his fans, and the mountains of zany autograph requests filtered through the local post office
  • The Palmer Timeline: milestones, trivia, news clippings and other irreverent tidbits from a truly remarkable American life
  • Why Palmer loved his hometown club more than any of the famous courses around the world
  • Palmer's legacy, in Latrobe and beyond, in the words of those who knew him best

Arnold Palmer: Homespun Stories of The King introduces fans not to the iconic personality they've long admired, but to the neighbor they never knew. Rodell's perspective is equal parts journalism and fan mail, combining a professional approach with a relatable, accessible voice. Both golf historians and the younger generation of fans will find value in this enlightening, engaging portrait of Palmer.

Chris Rodell's writing has appeared in publications including Sports IllustratedEsquireMen's HealthGolf and Arnold Palmer's Kingdom Magazine.

Thursday, May 10

#LiveOverPar: Tiger, Phil and Rickie Struggle at The Players Championship

THE THURSDAY WINNER OF THE HYPED GROUPING of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler at The Players Championship was TPC Sawgrass.

Tiger grinded out an even-par round of 72. Rickie carded a 74. Put Phil down for a 79. Ouch.

USGA Celebrates Fifth Anniversary of PLAY9


LIBERTY CORNER, N.J. - As part of its ongoing efforts to grow the game within local golf communities, the United States Golf Association (USGA) today announced plans to celebrate the fifth year of its successful PLAY9 program.

Since its debut in 2014, PLAY9 has focused on encouraging more people to play more golf, more often. The program aims to showcase the nine-hole round as an ideal solution for both avid golfers and newcomers alike to get out and play in a time-friendly and engaging way.

This year, in collaboration with its Allied Golf Association network, the USGA will host and invite local communities to participate in dedicated regional PLAY9 days each month, beginning on May 9.

Golfers can find a golf course in their community that offers a nine-hole rate at The course finder identifies nine-hole facilities as well as 18-hole golf courses that offer a nine-hole rate.

Community PLAY9 events will also be held in markets associated with the USGA's championships, including Middle Island, N.Y. (near the site of the U.S. Open); Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Senior Open); Wheaton, Ill. (U.S. Senior Women's Open); Pebble Beach, Calif. (U.S. Amateur); and Charleston, S.C. (next year’s U.S. Women's Open).

"The PLAY9 program offers a fun entry point into the game for newcomers while providing a way for golfers to balance their love of the game with their demanding schedules," said Mike Davis, USGA CEO. "We have seen the impact to date and the awareness it has built around enjoying nine holes with friends and family. Together with our friends in golf, we’re finding new ways to welcome more golfers and support a positive future for the game."

Since the program's inception, PLAY9 has continued to positively impact golf communities and engage golfers nationwide:
  • Nearly 24 percent of golfers* reported that they participated in a PLAY9 program in 2017, a significant increase from 2015 (17 percent)
  • 54 percent of single digit handicappers reported that they participated in a PLAY9 program in 2017, up from 32 percent in 2015 
  • 70 percent of golfers agree with the statement, "Nine-hole rounds are a great way to try golf"
According to the National Golf Foundation, 88 percent of all public golf courses in America currently offer a nine-hole rate, averaging less than $30 per round. Nine-hole scores made up around 8 percent of all scores posted to the USGA GHIN system over the past four years (2014-2017), an increase from an average of 6 percent from 2010-2013.

Monday, May 7

VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS: Jason Day Banks 12th PGA Tour Win at Wells Fargo Championship


I probably said that earlier this year when Day won the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. But it's worth saying again after his second PGA Tour victory of the season.

"In the final round of the 2018 Wells Fargo Championship, Day wowed the crowd in his Green Mile performance to seal the win," noted the PGA Tour, "but Aaron Wise made his presence known as he [finished 10 under] to tie for second."

Day's 12th PGA Tour win vaulted him from 14th to seventh in the Official World Golf Ranking.

"I had no idea where the ball was going today, especially off the tee," Day admitted. "I missed a lot of fairways, missed a lot of greens."

He added: "My short game stood the test, which was nice. This was probably one of the best wins I've ever had just because of how hard everything was today."

Wednesday, May 2

VIDEO: European Ryder Cup Captain Thomas Bjorn Pays a Surprise Visit to Stephen Atkinson

Below is the clever letter from Stephen Atkinson that went viral and prompted the visit from European Ryder Cup Captain Thomas Bjorn.

A Magnificent Seven (Conclusion): Spike Kelley at the 1971 Q-School and His Life in Golf

This is the final installment of a series on players from the 1971 Q-School. Read Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6 and Part 7. Nearly a half century later John Coyne tracked down Allen Miller, Lanny Wadkins, Leonard Thompson, Sam Adams, John Mahaffey, Steve Melnyk and Spike Kelley. How had pro golf and life turned out for these seven men?

By John Coyne

Copyright © John Coyne. Used with permission.

ONE OF THE YOUNG GUNS WHO DID NOT QUALIFY at the 1971 Q-School was Spike Kelley, the assistant pro at a nine-hole course in Shawnee, Oklahoma. Kelley, who hadn't been able to putt all summer because the greens had burned out on his home course, shot 80 in the first round of the tournament. The only thing he had done right that day, he said, "was buy a Coke on the tenth hole."

Spike Kelley is head pro and co-owner
of Goshen Plantation Golf Club
in Augusta, Georgia.
Spike would shoot 80, 74, 72, 74 and then a 71 in the fifth round, tying for the 23rd spot. He needed a 72 or 73 on his last round to earn his card. That, too, caused him concerns.

"Me, on the tour! I'll have to buy a golf bag."

The one he was using at Palm Beach was borrowed. "A member at the club gave it to me when I qualified so I'd look like a golfer."

Spike could not put it together the last day and faded with 79, for a total of 450, six shots too many. His cheerfulness, which had made him a favorite of the few spectators who came every day to camp on the 9th and 18th greens or walk a few holes in the sun, didn't leave him. It hadn't been a wasted week for Spike Kelley.

"After all," he said, "I got to play on a great golf course and fly on a jet plane."

And he would be back the next year when the PGA Q-School moved west.

"I hope we play in California. I've never been to Disneyland."

What Spike also remembers fondly about the 1971 Q-School was that it was the first time he had ever been in a fairway bunker. "I played a wood out of the sand and hit it on the green. I was thinking then, 'Well this isn't too hard.'"

While Florida did prove hard, Spike kept trying and qualified two years later and made the PGA Tour. He would be on the tour from ’1973 to 1979 and have his best year in 1975 when he finished second at the Tallahassee Open and won the Buick Open.

But the tour was not for Spike.

He returned to Oklahoma and became the home pro at Shawnee Country Club for 15 years before building the Traditions Golf Club in Oklahoma City, where he worked until finding on the Internet that Goshen Plantation Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, was for sale.

''I looked at about 12 courses, and this was by far the best," Kelley said.

At 54, Spike Kelley and his partner, Richard Finley, bought Goshen Plantation Golf Club in Augusta from American Golf Corp for $1.8 million.

''It's an absolute gem," said Kelley, who moved from Shawnee to be the co-owner and head pro.

The Goshen Plantation Golf Club was completely remodeled by Kelley in 2001. Since then, it has been voted the "Best Public Golf Course" by the Augusta Magazine, and one of the top 10 public courses in Georgia by Georgia Golf Magazine. In 2009, Golf Digest named it the "Best Place to Play."

Kelly is not only the pro, but he is out early most mornings to mow fairways and greens and greet the early players at the first tee. His good will, charm and sense of humor are still the strong point of this kid who came out of Oklahoma and made a career and life as a professional golfer.

No small achievement for anyone.

John Coyne is a bestselling author whose most recent golf novel is The Caddie Who Won the Masters. Learn more at John Coyne Books.

Monday, April 30

VIDEO: Lydia Ko Flushes a 3-Wood on First Playoff Hole and Wins LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship

LYDIA KO WON FOR THE FIRST TIME on the LPGA Tour since 2016.

Ko set up an eagle 3 on the first playoff hole at the LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship with what some are calling the shot of year (at least so far). She struck a 3-wood from over 230 yards that rolled to within three feet of the cup. And then she sank the putt to clinch the title.

"To pull that off then was probably the best shot that I've seen," said her playoff opponent Minjee Lee.

Ko now has 15 victories on the LPGA Tour. She will turn 21 this week.

Thursday, April 26

A Magnificent Seven, Part 7: Steve Melnyk of the 1971 Q-School and His Life in Golf

Embed from Getty Images

This is the seventh in a series on players from the 1971 Q-School. Read Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5 and Part 6. Nearly a half century later John Coyne tracked down Allen Miller, Lanny Wadkins, Leonard Thompson, Sam Adams, John Mahaffey, Steve Melnyk and Spike Kelley. How had pro golf and life turned out for these seven men?

By John Coyne

Copyright © John Coyne. Used with permission.

"I NEVER THOUGHT ABOUT JOINING the PGA Tour," Steve Melnyk told me recently.

"Being from Georgia, Bobby Jones was a great influence on me but after winning the British Amateur in 1971 and making the Walker Cup team, I thought what else can I do? I had already won the 1969 U.S. Amateur at Oakland and three times been a college All-American. At the time I had been selling life insurance for two years and I didn't like it. So, I guess, I turned pro almost as default."

Melnyk would play professionally for 10 years. He never won on the tour but he did finish second four times, and he finished 12th at the 1972 Masters. His great claim to fame at Augusta was winning the Masters Par 3 Contest.

"Back then there was no money in the tour," said Melnyk. "In my second year I only made $60,000."

But there was, he remembered fondly, a lot of companionship among the young professionals new to the tour. 

"We traveled commercially, no courtesy cars. My wife and I, we were friends with the Watsons and the Murphys.

"We all did laundry together on Monday night. No day care. No baby sitters. If you played in the morning, then you baby sat in the afternoon. It brought us closer together and we were all friends."

At the 1982 Phoenix Open, Steve would slip and break his right elbow. While recuperating, he became a reporter for CBS Sports, and two years later, he retired from the tour and returned to broadcasting with CBS until 1992 when he joined ABC Sports.

Then after a total of 22 years as a reporter and analyst for CBS, ABC and ESPN, he retired from television in 2004.

Meanwhile, Steve began playing again and 10 years ago regained his amateur status. He also started a golf course development company, Riverside Golf Course, which designed, constructed and operated eight courses in the Southeast, two of the Trophy Clubs in Georgia, the Oak Hills Golf Club in Columbia, South Carolina, and the Julington Creek Golf Course in Jacksonville, Florida, with Robert Walker.

As someone who has been involved his whole life with golf as an amateur, professional and course designer, I asked Steve what changes he sees today with the game. 

"These young college kids are so good," he said immediately. "They are all so good, so early. And it is pure golf. That's one of the reasons I love the Walker Cup. It is my favorite event.

"But today it is a different game. It is a power game. They hit it a long way. Part of the reason is that the fairways are so firm, and the grass is cut short. Better equipment. Even the missed shots go a lot farther.

"The golf ball is much better today. Remember how we had to put the golf balls through a ringer to make sure they were round?

"A big reason is that the equipment is lighter, and that means the faster we can swing the club. Our clubs in the '70s were heavier and that's a big difference. 

"Also, what is great to see is that golf is spreading around the world. Kids are playing the game at an earlier age. And more women are playing. Look at the LPGA and the women from Asia playing golf."

Today, the equipment and the courses are better, and more people are playing the game. Golf couldn't be better. And the game is better thanks to golf professionals like Steve Melnyk and the other young guns from the PGA Tour Q-School Class of 1971.


John Coyne is a bestselling author whose most recent golf novel is The Caddie Who Won the Masters. Learn more at John Coyne Books.