Thursday, March 26

Golf on TV: Valero Texas Open, Kia Classic, Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic, Trophee Hassan II

The following edited content was supplied by Golf Channel in a news release.

The PGA TOUR shifts to the Lone Star State for the Valero Texas Open, the first of two events remaining before the Masters.

The LPGA Tour stages the final event prior to its first major of the season with the Kia Classic in Southern California, as Lydia Ko leads a strong field that includes 18 of the top-20 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings.

Miguel Angel Jimenez will try for his third straight Champions Tour win in as many starts on U.S. soil this week, as he joins Fred Couples and Colin Montgomerie at the Mississippi Gulf  Resort Classic. And the European Tour is in Morocco, as Alejandro Canizares defends at the Trophee Hassan II.

* * *

PGA TOUR

Valero Texas Open
Dates: March 26-29
Venue: TPC San Antonio (AT&T Oaks Course), San Antonio, Texas

Tournament Airtimes on Golf Channel (Eastern):           
Thursday         3-6 p.m. (Live) / 9:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. (Replay)
Friday              3-6 p.m. (Live) / 9:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. (Replay)
Saturday         1-3 p.m. (Live) / 10 p.m.-3 a.m. (Replay)
Sunday            1-3 p.m. (Live) / 10 p.m.-3 a.m. (Replay)

Tournament Airtimes on NBC (Eastern):
Saturday          3-6 p.m. (Live)
Sunday            3-6 p.m. (Live)

Broadcast Notes

Final opportunity to qualify for the Masters via the top-50: This week serves as the final opportunity for players to qualify for the Masters via the top-50 in the Official World Golf Ranking. The only remaining category in which a player can qualify outside of receiving a special invitation is by winning next week’s Shell Houston Open.

Bowditch defends: Steven Bowditch finished one shot ahead of Will MacKenzie and Daniel Summerhays for his first career PGA TOUR victory.

Headlining the field: Phil Mickelson, Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Jimmy Walker, Jim Furyk, Billy Horschel, Martin Kaymer, Matt Kuchar, Davis Love III, Matt Every and Graeme McDowell.

* * *

 LPGA TOUR

Kia Classic
Dates: March 26-29
Venue: Park Hyatt Aviara Golf Club, Carlsbad, Calif.

Tournament Airtimes On Golf Channel (Eastern):          
Thursday         6-9 p.m. (Live) / 4-6 a.m. (Friday replay)
Friday              6-9 p.m. (Live)
Saturday          6-9 p.m. (Live)
Sunday            6-9 p.m. (Live)

Broadcast Notes

Nordqvist defends: Anna Nordqvist won by one stroke over Lizette Salas for her fourth career LPGA Tour win.

Headlining the field: Lydia Ko, Inbee Park, Stacy Lewis, Hyo-Joo Kim, Shanshan Feng, So Yeon Ryu, Suzann Pettersen, Michelle Wie, Karrie Webb, Lexi Thompson and Cheyenne Woods.

* * *

CHAMPIONS TOUR

Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic presented by C Spire
Dates: March 27-29
Venue: Fallen Oak Golf Club, Biloxi, Miss.

Tournament Airtimes On Golf Channel (Eastern):
Friday              Noon-2:30 p.m. (Live) / 12:30-2:30 a.m. (Saturday replay)
Saturday          3-6 p.m. (Live) / 4-6 a.m. (Sunday replay)
Sunday            3-6 p.m. (Live) / 5-7 a.m. (Monday replay)

Broadcast Notes

Maggert defends: Jeff Maggert won by two shots over Billy Andrade to become the 17th player to win in their Champions Tour debut.

Headlining the field: Miguel Angel Jimenez, Fred Couples, Colin Montgomerie, Jesper Parnevik, Jay Haas, Tom Lehman, Corey Pavin, Kenny Perry, Bart Bryant and Jeff Maggert.

* * *

EUROPEAN TOUR

Trophee Hassan II
Dates: March 26-29
Venue: Golf du Palais Royal, Agadir, Morocco

Tournament Airtimes On Golf Channel (Eastern):
Thursday         7-9 a.m. / 10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. (Live)
Friday              7-9 a.m. / 10:30 a.m.-Noon (Live)
Saturday          9 a.m.-1 p.m. (Live)
Sunday            9 a.m.-1 p.m. (Live)

Broadcast Notes

Canizares defends: Alejandro Canizares finished five strokes clear of the field for his second career European Tour victory.

Headlining the field: Matteo Manassero, Marcel Siem, Jose Maria Olazabal, George Coetzee, Ross Fisher, Tommy Fleetwood, Pablo Larrazabal, Oliver Wilson and Alejandro Canizares.

Wednesday, March 25

The Man Who Made the Masters

This is the first in a series on Clifford Roberts, the co-founder of Augusta National Golf Club and the chairman of the Masters Tournament from 1934 to 1976.

By John Coyne

Copyright © John Coyne. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

FROM THE HILLSIDE AT AUGUSTA NATIONAL one looks into a natural amphitheater and across a landscape of interlacing fairways and greens, golden sand and blue-green stately pines. The old Berckman’s nursery fills smooth valleys and soft hills to the far edges of Amen Corner with a maze of color: azalea, dogwood, and redbud. In so many ways, this ancient acreage and southern plantation club house still has the look, code and culture of those antebellum times.

It is, also, a very modern golf course, as architect Robert Trent Jones defined it in The Complete Golfer. Jones wrote, "The Augusta National is the epitome of the type of course which appeals most keenly to the American taste, the meadowland course. From tee to green there is nothing but closely cropped green turf. These broad expanses of fairway, punctuated with pines and dotted with flashes of white sand, give Augusta a clean, sprightly appearance."

A Hacker and a Legend

Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts.
The happenstance of life that has brought into creation Augusta National and the Masters Tournament began at the Vanderbilt Hotel in New York City, through a mutual friendship with Walton H. Marshall, who operated the hotel, plus a chain of other hotels that included the Bon Air Vanderbilt Hotel in Augusta, Georgia. Marshall was a close friend of two unlikely golfers. A hacker named Clifford Roberts and America’s greatest amateur, Bobby Jones.

Successful Wall Street mogul Clifford Roberts lived in New York and wintered in Augusta which, at the time, was a favorite resort for northerners, being just 137 feet above sea level. Roberts, years earlier, as a lowly private in the U.S. Army, had gone through basic training at a base near Augusta, and served his country in World War I.

Roberts was also a fan of Bobby Jones and it was only a matter of time before their two worlds connected at the Vanderbilt. However, Roberts writes in his book, The Story of the Augusta National Golf Club, that he first met Bobby Jones in 1926 while watching the finals of the 1926 USGA Amateur Championship at Baltusrol Country Club in New Jersey.

Soon after the Vanderbilt introduction Jones and Roberts became fast friends and golf partners in Augusta, where Roberts was there as a snowbird and Jones drove from his home in Atlanta, both to play golf. When Jones expressed a desire to find a course where he could play without attracting a crowd of spectators, Roberts came up with a plan where they might build a course—one of Jones’s cherished ambitions now that he had retired from competitive golf and was working as a lawyer in Georgia.

It so happened that Fruitlands Nurseries on the south side of Augusta was for sale. The 365 acres of the former Berckmans farm was priced at $70,000 and Roberts pulled together a small group of wealthy New York businessmen (and players) to buy the property. Jones hired the famous golf architect, Dr. Alister Mackenzie to design the course. The deal was done in 1931.

First Visit

Years later, Bobby Jones would write, "I shall never forget my first visit to the property. The long lane of magnolias through which we approached was beautiful. The old manor house with its cupola and walls of masonry two feet thick was charming .... [When] I walked out on the grass terrace under the big trees behind the house and looked down over the property, the experience was unforgettable. It seemed that this land had been lying here for years waiting for someone to lay a golf course upon it. Indeed, it even looked as though it already were a golf course ....”

The first years were difficult as the club came into being at the height of the Depression. The first Masters was played in 1934, two years after the course was finished. In those early years Roberts had to hit up the members to cover expenses and tournament prizes. 

Quickly, however, Augusta National and the Masters found its way into the consciousness of all golfers. Gene Sarazen’s double eagle in its second year, and sports writer and Augusta member Grantland Rice’s captivated summation of the double-eagle as "The Shot Heard Around the World" promoted this first major of the year. Played in April, the tournament filled the sports pages of every newspaper while the country waited for the opening of the baseball season.

Chairman Roberts

As chairman of Augusta National and the Masters Tournament, Roberts was keenly aware and considerate of his "patrons" as he referred to spectators. Augusta National led the way in providing physical facilities to help the public watch the tournament. Roberts was the first to install the over-under par system of scorekeeping, gallery ropes and grandstands, pairings of twosomes rather than threesomes and complimentary pairing sheets. He also used his power to reduce both the chatter and the commercial breaks on Masters broadcasts for later television viewers.

In fact, while Roberts, and in turn Augusta National, were receiving negative criticism for their closed society and were a symbol of what was wrong with private golf clubs, Roberts, especially, was being praised for having the ability to push corporations like CBS around, forcing the network to obey the club’s ideals of propriety and anti-commercialism. Golf fans of all stripes responded to Robert’s emphasis on the history, tradition and values Augusta National placed on the Masters Tournament and the game of golf.

It was Clifford Roberts, in fact, through his long tenure as chairman of the Masters Tournament who made Augusta National what it is today and changed so dramatically the stature of professional golf in America.

John Coyne is a bestselling author of three golf novels and more than 20 other books. Pay him a visit at John Coyne Books.

Tuesday, March 24

South Korean Ladies Dominate Ladies Tour

"THE LPGA OUGHT TO THINK ABOUT setting up a satellite office in Seoul," wrote GolfChannel.com's Randall Mell on Sunday night. "South Koreans are looking determined to own this year in women's golf."

I hadn't thought about it, but Mell is right, serving up the plain facts a la Joe Friday: "South Koreans or South Korean-born players have won all six LPGA events staged this year."

Hyo Joo Kim
The most recent winner was Hyo Joo Kim at the JTBC Founders Cup in Phoenix. Kim fired a 67 in the final round to beat American Stacy Lewis by three shots. Kim is 19, "part of a gifted wave of young South Koreans," Mell reported.

"They're fearless," Lewis said.

Indeed.

As Mell wrote, Kim already has a major victory, the 2014 Evian Championship, which she won as a member of the Korean LPGA Tour. That title paved the way for LPGA membership. Kim understands her competition.

"I have known these players since we played the Korean ladies tour," Kim said.

"I know how good they can be. In fact, everyone on the LPGA is really good, otherwise they wouldn't be here. I'm just trying to find my place."

It's evident there's a place for Kim. After this past week's win, that place is No. 4 in the women's world rankings.

Monday, March 23

Matt 'Back-to-Back' Every

Matt Every
MATT EVERY LIKES BAY HILL. With a sparkling 66 including a dramatic birdie on the final green, Every clinched his second PGA Tour win and second consecutive victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He is the third repeat champion at Arnie's place.

Meanwhile, 54-hole leader Henrik Stenson groused about being put on the clock for slow play in the final round. Two 3-putt greens on the closing holes hurt the Swede, who finished second.

"I wasn't in the right frame of mind on a few of those putts, and it cost me," Stenson said.

The winner, whose middle name is "King" according to Wikipedia, struck the ball well at Bay Hill, hitting 41 fairways and 58 greens over the four days.

"I was driving it really good this week and my irons were spot on ... I kind of had a feeling," Every said. "I was shaking some of those putts in late. The one on 18 [was] straight downhill. That's what you want under pressure."

He added, "A lot of friends and family out here this week, and their support was awesome."

Rory McIlroy, who will try to complete the career grand slam with a win at the Masters next month, shot 70 in the final round and finished in a tie for eleventh.

Tiger Woods, the player with the most victories at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, was a no-show at Bay Hill this past week, which didn't escape the notice of the newest back-to-back champion.

"I actually told him, 'Don't worry, man, I'll hold it down for you until you get it back.'"

Friday, March 20

Good Times in Charlottesville





THAT'S ME AT FAR RIGHT with fellow sports authors Fred Bowen and Ran Henry at the Virginia Festival of the Book. Our Thursday panel was entitled "Wide World of Sports: Fact, Fiction and Poetry." Phil Raisor was also on the panel.

Thanks to moderator Peter Hedlund and all those who attended.

Accepting the Shot

By Charles Prokop

Copyright © Charles Prokop. All rights reserved. Used with permission.


I RECENTLY FINISHED READING The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. The book is about a guy on a walking mission in England, nothing about golf, but I was struck by a line near the end.

"If we can’t be open, Maureen thought, if we can’t accept what we don’t know, there really is no hope."

Maureen is Harold Fry’s wife. It struck me that Maureen’s attitude applies to many aspects of life, golf included.

I know that my life as it is now has little in common with the life I thought I was preparing myself for in graduate school, or even for most of my career. If I had spent all my time trying to force things into that planned mold, I don’t think I’d be nearly as happy as I am now. I might even be dead. When I gave up and accepted where things were going even though I wasn’t sure where they were going to, things worked better for me.

I certainly don’t know where my next golf shot is going, or how the round is going to turn out. But I do know that fighting where it’s going and moaning about it after it happens only does two things. It makes my swing get stiff and choppy as I try to control an uncontrollable ball and it wrecks my enjoyment of the round. My head starts to jerk, I hang on and don’t release, and awful things happen.

Getting to admitting that I don’t know where that ball will go, feeling OK with that, and committing to hitting it with all my might can be tough.

I wonder if Maureen would like to make a little money as a caddie?

Charles Prokop is a clinical psychologist who writes about golf at fairwaywords.

Wednesday, March 18

My Author Appearance at Virginia Festival of the Book

I WILL BE AT THE VIRGINIA Festival of the Book on Thursday, March 19 (tomorrow), in Charlottesville. I will be on a panel with three other sports authors, talking about my most recent book, DRAW IN THE DUNES: The 1969 Ryder Cup and the Finish That Shocked the World.

I attended last year and spoke about my first book, THE LONGEST SHOT: Jack Fleck, Ben Hogan, and Pro Golf's Greatest Upset at the 1955 U.S. Open. I had a great time.

I have finalized my reading selection. I am going to read a short section that illustrates how team members feel about playing in the Ryder Cup, especially at the opening ceremony and right before they tee off. It will include an anecdote about U.S. foursomes partners Raymond Floyd and Miller Barber, and how Barber, who was supposed to hit first (the opening shot of the 1969 Ryder Cup), couldn't do it. (Portions of pages 128-131.)

If you are in the area, I hope to see you there.





Tuesday, March 17

Ben Hogan's Early Years as a Teaching Pro at Century Country Club

By John Coyne

Copyright © John Coyne. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

IN 1938, CENTURY COUNTRY CLUB of Westchester County, then one of the prominent Jewish country clubs in the county, went searching for a professional golfer to work as the teaching assistant to Dan Mackie, the club’s home pro.

Ben Hogan practicing at
Century Country Club.
(Image: Jules Alexander
via John Coyne)
Someone mentioned Ben Hogan, who was playing on the fledgling PGA tour, as a possibility. Hogan was playing in California and it was decided to check out Hogan through Frederick Hellman, brother of former member Marco “Mickey” Hellman, of the Wells Fargo Bank.

In February 1938, Ted Low wrote Hellman thanking him for his help, and saying, “I received your telegram saying that you had seen Ben Hogan and that he made a nice appearance.”

Hogan was hired and went back east to take over as the teaching pro at the club. His salary was $500 a year, plus food and lodging.

Hogan himself would admit he was not a gifted teacher of the game. In his classic book, Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf written with Herbert Warren Wind and published first in 1957, a book that still sells nearly 100,000 paperback copies a year, Hogan would write, “I didn’t and don’t have the ideal temperament for teaching,” In this book he also would write, “Quite early in my career when I was serving as the professional at the Century Country Club in Purchase, N.Y., I did a great deal of teaching.”

And when he wasn’t teaching, he was practicing.

“He lived on the practice range,” says Nelson Long, the club’s long-time head pro. “We had a member here who passed away a few years ago but remembered Hogan from his time at the club. He said that whenever Hogan played with a member, however, he had the habit of looking away when the member swung, so as not to be influenced by a bad swing.”

Hogan did, however, draw on his time at Century, in writing Five Lessons. He writes, “There was a young businessman at my club, Fred Ehrman, who had this ability to learn, and we did a very satisfying job together. He was a 90-shooter in April. Five months later he was playing in the 70s and won the club championship.”

It was while giving lessons at Century that Hogan began to develop his understanding of the dynamics of the golf swing, which, he said, he fully understood by 1946, his first great year on the PGA tour. “Beginning in 1946,” Hogan writes in Five Lessons, “I was able to win some of the big championships, and being able to win was the proof I needed that what I felt was correct was indeed correct.”

In 1940 Dan Mackie was pensioned off at Century Country Club and Hogan became the head pro. He would stay, however, only that summer.  In the years before and after World War II, and into the 1960s, pros at northern clubs only worked from April to the end of October.

Would anyone surpass Hogan’s ability?

In 1940, Hogan wrote, “It is my conviction that in the years ahead there will be many changes in style and form, just as there have been in the past. We never come anywhere near reaching perfection—there is always something left to improve.”

Well, also came the Big Bertha drivers, the Pro V1 golf balls, and, of course, Nicklaus and Tiger.

John Coyne is a bestselling author of three golf novels and more than 20 other books. Pay him a visit at John Coyne Books.