Friday, July 3

Course Strategy: When Stupid Is Smart

By Charles Prokop

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

I GENERALLY TRY TO PLAY A HOLE in the way that makes the most sense to my game. I'm more likely to lay up than try the heroic shot because the long run payoff is higher for me, even if the short run thrill is lower. I'll try to hit the fairway rather than cut distance off in the rough because I feel better about a long shot with a predictable lie.

But I think I've finally found the hole where my rules don’t apply.

(Image via VancityAllie-Flickr)
The 5th hole on my regular course is a 378-yard dogleg left par 4. Trees line the narrow fairway down to the dogleg. Hit the perfect drive down the middle to the center of the dogleg and you have a 100 yard or so wedge into the green. Hit it a little too far, and you catch a fairway bunker. A little too short, and trees block your shot to the green. You can hit it over the trees if you are in the perfect spot, but it's a very small spot. There are also a few places in the fairway you can hit short of the dogleg and then hit a short iron through gaps in the trees, but these are also small spots.

Out of bounds hugs the right side just past the trees, and the ground in the right rough slopes severely toward OB. To the left is a line of trees, a cart path, and a waste area extending to the dogleg. The waste area is dotted with small bushes. To the left of the waste area are more trees.

For years I tried to hit the fairway. Sometimes I had a shot to the green, but I hit a lot of trees, occasional out-of-bounds shots, and many good drives that gave me no shot. I tried irons to safe spots, but the fairway slopes and doesn't hold predictably enough for the ball to stop at a predictable distance, so irons were a crap shoot.

So I got stupid.

I now just bang the ball as far as I can over the trees on the left and down the waste area. If I miss the bushes, I have a little punch and roll shot into the green. My scores have been much better on average. I never go out of bounds, and an unplayable drop from a bush still gives me a chance at a par putt after a decent approach shot.

So what's the lesson here?

I have no idea. I guess I'll keep trying to play my version of smart, but stay ready to welcome flashes of stupidity.

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

Thursday, July 2

Golf on TV: The Greenbrier Classic and Alstom Open de France

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


The Greenbrier Classic
Dates: July 2-5
Venue: The Greenbrier Resort (The Old White TPC), White Sulphur Springs, W. Va.

Tournament Airtimes on Golf Channel (Eastern):
Thursday         4-7 p.m. (Live) / 7:30-10:30 p.m. (Replay)
Friday              4-7 p.m. (Live) / 7:30-10:30 p.m. (Replay)
Saturday          1-2:30 p.m. (Live) / 6:30-11 p.m. (Replay)
Sunday            1-2:30 p.m. (Live) / 7-11:30 p.m. (Replay)

On CBS (Eastern):
Saturday: 3-6 p.m.
Sunday: 3-6 p.m.

Broadcast Notes

Cabrera defends: Angel Cabrera finished two shots ahead of George McNeil for his third career PGA TOUR win.

Headlining the field: Bubba Watson, Tiger Woods, Patrick Reed, Paul Casey, Louis Oosthuizen, Kevin Kisner, J.B. Holmes, Russell Henley, Steve Stricker, Webb Simpson and Bill Haas.

* * *


Alstom Open de France
Dates: July 2-5                                                                                        
Venue: Le Golf National (Albatros Course), Paris, France

Tournament Airtimes on Golf Channel (Eastern):
Thursday         4:30-7:30 a.m. / 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. (Live)
Friday              4:30-7:30 a.m. / 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. (Live)
Saturday          8 a.m.-Noon (Live)
Sunday            7:30 a.m.-Noon (Live)

Broadcast Notes

McDowell defends: Graeme McDowell edged Kevin Stadler and Thongchai Jaidee by one stroke to earn his 10th career European Tour victory.

Headlining the field: Graeme McDowell, Martin Kaymer, Victor Dubuisson, Brendan Steele, Lee Westwood, Alexander Levy, Darren Clarke, Jamie Donaldson and Paul McGinley.

Wednesday, July 1

VIDEO: 'A Season of Woe for Woods'

TIGER WOODS IS BACK IN ACTION this week at the Greenbrier Classic in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. Tiger will play his first two rounds alongside pal Steve Stricker and David Lingmerth, winner of the Memorial about a month ago.

Judging from the 33-second Golf Channel clip (above) that summarizes Tiger's 2015 season to date, there's only one direction to go -- up.

"We want the old Tiger back," Stricker said yesterday.

I think playing all four tournament rounds this week is a good goal for Woods.

Tuesday, June 30

A 57 With 3 Aces in Virginia

PATRICK WILLS, A 59-YEAR-OLD AMATEUR, had a pretty good day recently at Laurel Hill Golf Club in Lorton, Virginia. Playing in the Summer Solstice tournament with his sons Charlie (29) and Christopher (27) and Matthew Ghormley, the former Marine shot a 57 that included three holes-in-one, two of them coming on par-4 holes.

"When we got to the green I looked down and I don't even know what I felt -- I was dumbfounded," Wills told BBC Sport about recording his third ace of the round. "I don't know if I broke out in joy such was the disbelief. It was unreal. I had never experienced anything like that before."

The odds of making three 1's in a single round are astronomical -- "well into the billions," reported BBC Sport.

Laurel Hill golf director Gene Orrico verified the scorecard.

"I was shocked," Orrico said. "I have been around golf for a long time, read the stories, and to have three [holes-in-one] in one round is incredible. Patrick has been around a long time, he is an honourable man and well respected."

The 57 on the par-71 layout was the middle round, one of three 18s played on the same day. In the first round Wills scraped it around in 68. (Ha ha.) He closed with a 66 for a 14-under total and his 20th victory in the Summer Solstice tournament. He is a plus-4 handicap who has now recorded more than 20 aces, all in tournaments.

BBC Sport has a detailed writeup of Wills' 57.

Monday, June 29

Retired Golf Broadcaster Peter Oosterhuis Has Alzheimer's

A FIXTURE ON GOLF BROADCASTS SINCE 1995, Peter Oosterhuis was not flashy or particularly chatty as a golf announcer and analyst for the BBC, CBS Sports and Golf Channel, which is what I liked about him. Oosterhuis just went about the job without an excess of words or calling attention to himself.

In May, at an event for the Jim Nantz Alzheimer's Center, Oosterhuis, 67, publicly announced that he has Alzheimer's disease. (Golf World released the above video today.)

"It's a horrible disease," said Roothie Oosterhuis, Peter's wife. "It not only affects Peter. It affects me, it affects our children, it affects our grandchildren, it affects our friends.

"It took nine months for us to accept the fact that Peter has this. He is, as always, elegant and amazing in standing up to the situation."

Contrary to what I wrote above, I suppose Oosterhuis is calling attention to himself in this instance, but it's a brave call for the right reasons. Oosterhuis will be openly sharing about his personal challenge with a disease our society needs to understand better, and also helping to raise awareness and perhaps research money along the way.

As you may know, Oosterhuis was a good player -- a member of six European Ryder Cup teams and winner of more than 20 worldwide titles.

"Golf has been a big part of my life ever since I was a little boy growing up in England," Oosterhuis said when he retired in January, "and I thank CBS and Golf Channel for allowing me to continue in the sport after my playing days were over."

Friday, June 26

Looking for Bobby Locke's Famous Hickory-Shafted Putter (Conclusion)

The mystery surrounding Bobby Locke's hickory-shafted putter included a high-profile golf auction. Read Part 1.
John Coyne concludes his two-part series on the mysterious search for the hickory-shafted putter used by Bobby Locke, the South African golf legend who won four British Opens and entered the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1977. Read Part 1.

By John Coyne

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

"FROM 1953 TO 1955,"  ACCORDING to Bobby Locke's nephew Alfred Pratt, "Bobby Locke made routine visits to the Slazengers works at Horbury, Yorkshire, for technical and business reasons. Alfred Pratt was also at Horbury and employed by the company.

While at the factory, Pratt says, Bobby was persuaded to switch from using the "Dunlop 65" golf ball to the "Slazengers B51."

Also, Locke agreed to have a replica putter be manufactured by Slazengers as a precautionary measure in case he lost his famous putter. "Bobby agreed that replica proto-types be made," says Pratt, "and the company considered that there might be a market for such replicas and the proto-types could serve to calculate production costs."

Bobby Locke in 1955.
(Image courtesy of Alfred Pratt)
The main problem was that, by those times, stainless steel golf-club heads were all "drop-forged" and not hand-forged, blacksmith style. The slim shafts to fit were exclusively steel. There was, in fact, a steel-shafted, "Bobby Locke Triple Crown" putter already in standard production. The head was shaped on the form of the original, as near as could be. A quantity of suitable heads was obtained for grinding and finishing with special hosels for drilling out to accommodate the thicker, tapered, hickory shafts, secured with the usual rivet pin. The American hickory timber also had to be especially imported for making into shafts.

Six or more hickory-shafted putters were manufactured as specified with shiny stainless steel heads and inscribed/stamped "Bobby Locke" and "Slazengers" for him for testing and choice. After trying out the samples, Locke selected several of these as a gift from the manufacturer. 

Pratt believes one of these came up for sale as part of his memorabilia sale at Christies in 1993. A similar putter belonging to a mutual friend, Wing Commander Derek Graham, was a personal gift from Locke as a token of friendship in the 1950s and 1960s. Pratt thinks also that another replica went to Steve Pyles.

As Pratt states now: "If the head is stainless steel and it has 'Bobby Locke' on the blade, it is a replica without doubt."

On the Internet there is a statement that the famous hickory-shafted putter is in the possession of Des Froneman, "a great friend" of Locke's. However, it has a blade with "Gradidge" stamped on the sole, according to Pratt. It was accompanied by a letter of provenance from Mary Locke. This letter says: "My daughter and I have heard from Colin Taitz that you bought one of our dear Bobby's putters which we had promised to give Colin for his auction before he left us."

The letter does not say that this putter is his antique one but is "one of" his.

Tragic Plight of Locke's Wife and Daughter

Mary Locke was Bobby's second wife. He married her in 1958 and their daughter Carolyn Locke was born in 1960. The two women owned Bobby Locke Place—a section of central city of Johannesburg that had been renamed in Locke's honor. The city complex included 20 apartments and a swimming pool, all built in a 1940s architecture style. 

After Bobby Locke's death in 1987, and the decline of Johannesburg at the end of apartheid, the central city, where the complex was located, was caught up in a wave of crime, drugs and prostitution and white-flight from the city. The character and climate of central Johannesburg changed dramatically and the two women were trapped managing their buildings as that part of the city crumbled around them.

Unable to sell the property, with its value plummeting, the mother and daughter were alone and lost in poverty, and in 2000, shocking the golf world of South Africa, Mary Locke, 80, and her daughter Carolyn, 40, shared a bottle of champagne and then killed themselves.

South Africa had lost its last connection to Bobby Locke, or so they thought. 

However, nephew Alfred Pratt has returned to Cape Town to live out his life and to search for Bobby Locke's most prized possession, the old rusty putter, and to correct the errors in Locke's biography. 

"It would be a real sadness to find that Bobby Locke's old putter has, simple vanished," Pratt says today, "But perhaps it, secretly, went into his coffin with him."

Now that would be a fitting ending to the legacy of Bobby Locke and his hickory-shafted putter. A man who many consider golf's most enigmatic player.  

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

Uncovering the Real Bobby Locke

Thursday, June 25

2015 U.S. Senior Open Fact Sheet

The U.S. Senior Open began today in Sacramento, California. Following is select information from the "2015 U.S. Senior Open Championship Fact Sheet" provided by the United States Golf Association (USGA).

June 25-28, 2015
Del Paso Country Club, Sacramento, Calif. (
Twitter: @usopengolf;; Instagram: @USGA; #USSeniorOpen

Del Paso Country Club will be set up at 6,994 yards and will play to a par of 36-34–70.

Del Paso County Club was designed by Scotsman John L. Black. It was redesigned and renovated by architect Kyle Phillips in 2006. The club was founded in 1916 on property that was part of the original Rancho Del Paso, a historic 44,000-acre area used by 19th-century settlers as a pathway through the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Based on the course setup for the championship, the USGA Course Rating is 74.9. Its Slope Rating is 147.

The starting field of 156 golfers will be cut after 36 holes to the low 60 scorers and ties.

Eighteen holes of stroke play are scheduled each day from Thursday, June 25, through Sunday, June 28. In the case of a tie after 72 holes, a three-hole aggregate playoff will commence immediately after the conclusion of the fourth round on June 28.

The 2014 purse was $3.35 million; the winner earned $630,000.

TELEVISION SCHEDULE                            
The U.S. Senior Open will receive at least 20 hours of live network coverage. Fox will air at least 10 hours of coverage throughout the championship. Fox Sports 1 will air at least 10 hours over the first two days of play.

Date                Network                     Broadcast Hours (PDT)
June 25           Fox Sports 1               11 a.m.-4 p.m.
June 26           Fox Sports 1               11 a.m.-4 p.m.
June 27           Fox                             11 a.m.-4 p.m.
June 28           Fox                             11 a.m.-4 p.m.

Tickets for the 2015 U.S. Senior Open Championship are available for purchase at Weekly tickets are $125 (good Thursday-Sunday with parking). Trophy Club tickets are $250.

This is the 36th U.S. Senior Open Championship. The first U.S. Senior Open, played in 1980, was conducted for golfers 55 and older. The next year, the USGA lowered the minimum age to 50. Miller Barber captured the first of his three U.S. Senior Open titles in 1982 – he also won in 1984 and 1985. The U.S. Senior Open has four two-time winners: Gary Player (1987, 1988), Jack Nicklaus (1991, 1993), Hale Irwin (1998, 2000), and Allen Doyle (2005, 2006). Doyle became the championship’s oldest winner in 2006 at the age of 58 years, 13 days. The youngest champion is Dale Douglass, who won in 1986 at the age of 50 years, 3 months, 24 days.

This is the first U.S. Senior Open Championship and the fifth USGA championship to be conducted at Del Paso Country Club.

1998 U.S. Senior Open: Riviera Country Club, Pacific Palisades, Calif. (Hale Irwin)

Billy Casper (1959, 1966 U.S. Open; 1983 U.S. Senior Open)
Hale Irwin (1974, 1979, 1990 U.S. Open; 1998, 2000 U.S. Senior Open)
Orville Moody (1969 U.S. Open; 1989 U.S. Senior Open)
Jack Nicklaus (1962, 1967, 1972, 1980 U.S. Open; 1991, 1993 U.S. Senior Open)
Arnold Palmer (1960 U.S. Open; 1981 U.S. Senior Open)
Gary Player (1965 U.S. Open; 1987, 1988 U.S. Senior Open)
Lee Trevino (1968, 1971 U.S. Open: 1990 U.S. Senior Open)

Aug. 11-14, 2016: Scioto Country Club, Columbus, Ohio
June 29-July 2, 2017: Salem Country Club, Peabody, Mass.

Wednesday, June 24

Looking for Bobby Locke's Famous Hickory-Shafted Putter

Following up "Uncovering the Real Bobby Locke" published here last month, John Coyne takes us on a mysterious search for the hickory-shafted putter used by Locke, the South African golf legend who won four British Opens and entered the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1977. This is the first of two parts.

By John Coyne

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

THE DAY OF BOBBY LOCKE'S near fatal accident, he played golf at Clovelly Country Club, near Cape Town with his nephew Alfred Pratt and two other friends. After the round, Alfred put his clubs and Locke's in the boot (as they say in South Africa) of Locke's Vauxhall Cresta and then the foursome went into the club's bar for a drink. 

At the time, Pratt said, "Locke was heavily involved in drinking," so a few drinks later, Pratt had enough and decided to leave his clubs in Locke's car and just walk home on his own.

Bobby Locke with his
famous flatstick.
Later, he—and the world—would learn Locke and another golf pro, Maurice Bodmer, were injured when Locke's car was hit by a train at a rail crossing. It was February 1960 and both men were taken to the Groote Schuur Hospital. In the accident, Locke's clubs were scattered all over the road and adjacent verges. Bobby Locke's famous hickory shafted putter and his five iron went missing.

"My own clubs," Pratt recalls, "had remained intact in the boot of the car but the bag was stained with Locke's blood. Bobby himself had been flung backwards through the rear windscreen and spread-eagled and bleeding across the boot lid."

After the accident, Pratt put an ad in the local newspaper offering a reward of ten pounds for the return of the two clubs and they were returned.

"It was a relief when the finder gave them to me," he says. "I gave the clubs to Locke and he continued to use them. The famous antique putter was in regular use and I played many rounds with Locke and he certainly had the real putter in his hands in the early nineteen-sixties."

In 1963, Pratt emigrated to the UK and never physically handled or saw the putter again. "However, I have copied photographic evidence of his continued use of the putter into his advancing years." There is evidence, too, of Locke using the putter as seen in his autobiographical and golf instruction book, Bobby Locke on Golf published 1953.

A Misleading Auction

Then, on July 9, 1993, Pratt attended in London Christies' Bobby Locke Memorabilia Sale. He had planned to buy Locke's hickory-shafted putter as an investment and a keepsake until he saw and read in the brochure this description of Lot 120:  "Bobby Locke’s Putter, a hickory shafted putter with silvered head and inscribed on the sole 'Bobby Locke' with lengthened and thickened leather grip, circa 1950” – expected sum £800 to £1000. 

The wording, Pratt thought, implied that the item was his regular putter and not another. It did sell at the auction for £2400 plus Value Added Tax but not to Alfred Pratt.

"When I saw the item and the brochure photograph I did not make a bid. I knew for certain that Bobby Locke's putter was a rusty antique, which I had seen  many times, as given to him by his father or by a friend Bob Weallans."

Locke's putter, an individually hand-made antique, bore no names of the manufacturer. Pratt was convinced Christies was in no way to blame. "They took the item for sale described 'on trust' as authenticated by Locke's heirs, Mrs Mary Locke and her daughter Carolyn," explained Pratt.

Later Carolyn Locke would confess in a golf journal interview that she and her mother had misrepresented the putters for sale. In an article that appeared in the newspaper it stated Miss Carolyn Locke, 33, confirmed that she had kept her father's famous putter, a non-named brand, hickory-shafted rusty-bladed golf stick given to him by his father."

Carolyn and her mother would also donate or sell one of those replica putters to the St. Andrews Museum with a signed provenance that it was the putter used by Locke. The two putters on display there, however, are both shiny headed and inscribed with modern stampings and Locke's name. This means that neither can be the genuine object, according to Alfred Pratt. He might have used them or tested them but they are not the genuine article.

Why is there such confusion and misrepresentation of Locke's famous hickory-shafted putter?

Alfred Pratt knows why.


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