Monday, August 3

Inbee Park Adds British to Trophy Case

WHILE MOST GOLF FANS RUMINATE about phenom Jordan Spieth, World No. 1 Rory McIlroy and whether Tiger Woods will ever win another major (or other tournament), Inbee Park has been on a stunning run. With her victory yesterday at the RICOH Women's British Open, Park has won six of the last 14 women's majors.

Major talent Inbee Park.
(Allison)
Add the 2008 U.S. Women's Open and Inbee, who tops the Rolex Rankings, has seven majors for her career. Not a bad resume for a 27-year-old.

As the Associated Press reported, Park "hunted down" Jin-Young Ko, picking up 7 shots on the rookie in 12 holes to win by 3 shots. Park's 7-under 65 at Turnberry was the most recent example of her ability to close and domination of the sport.

"I don't know what else to go for now," Park said.

That quote makes sense when you consider that Park has won the most important trophies in her sport. The British was the only missing hardware, until yesterday.

"Every major was very, very special to me," Park added. "But to wrap it up with the British Open is just much more special. This is definitely the golfer's most-wanted trophy."

Jin-Young Ko was the runner-up, and that other Ko, young Lydia from New Zealand, finished tied for third.

The LPGA is calling it a career grand slam for Park, even though the organization gave the Evian Championship major status beginning in 2013. Park has won the Evian Championship -- in 2012. This seems like a case of the LPGA wanting to have it both ways.

For now, maybe we should call it the Inbee Slam. And wait a few weeks. The Evian Championship begins on September 10.

Related:
FOUR Is Right Number for Grand Slam

Friday, July 31

Paul Dunne's Seven-Alarm Open Championship


WHAT WOULD IT BE LIKE to contend as an amateur at the Open Championship?

After watching Irishman Paul Dunne, 54-hole leader at the Old Course, we know something about that. But Dunne tells us much more about his experience in "Paul Dunne: Reflections on the weekend when my dreams became reality at British Open" published by the Irish Times.

Dunne's Open diary is an entertaining read. A snippet:
Thursday, July 16th –First Round I’d gone to bed at eight o’clock the night before. I never go to bed that early. I couldn’t get to sleep and it was probably half 10 before I slept. I’d a 6.43am tee time and had set seven alarms, to go off every two minutes, from 4am to 4.15m. I got up at a quarter past, and was the last one up. Everyone else in the house was up, afraid I would sleep in. I had a bowl of muesli and a yoghurt and was off [to] the course. I was ready.
(H/T John Coyne)

Thursday, July 30

Kim Leads Women's British Open, Ko 1 Back

ROUND ONE IS ALMOST in the books at the RICOH Women's British Open at Turnberry in Scotland. Scores are low. There were at least 20 rounds in the 60s.

South Korean Hyo Joo Kim leads after a 7-under 65. Teen sensation Lydia Ko of New Zealand is a shot off the pace with a 66, her best round in a major championship. American Cristie Kerr also opened with a 66.

World No. 1 Inbee Park shot a 69. Defending champion Mo Martin carded a 70.

TV SCHEDULE

All times Eastern.

Friday, July 31
ESPN2 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

Saturday, August 1
ESPN2 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

Sunday, August 2
ESPN2 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
ABC 5:00 - 6:00 p.m.

Wednesday, July 29

USGA: Play Nine Holes Today

Following is a USGA announcement about the second annual PLAY9 Day.

By USGA

FAR HILLS, N.J. (July 27, 2015) – The United States Golf Association (USGA), in partnership with American Express, invites golfers to participate in its second PLAY9 Day on Wednesday, July 29.

PLAY9 Day is an effort to rally golf industry stakeholders, facilities and golfers around the nine-hole round as a fun, quick and convenient way to enjoy the game.

Participants are encouraged to share photos, success stories and support of the program by using #Play9Golf via social media throughout the day. Fan posts will be featured on the USGA's official platforms.

The USGA recorded a 13 percent year-over-year increase in nine-hole rounds posted to its Golf Handicap and Information Network (GHIN®) in the months following the program's launch in 2014.

Nine-hole facilities comprise nearly 30 percent of courses in the U.S., and 90 percent of courses offer a nine-hole rate. According to the National Golf Foundation, the average nine-hole green fee in the United States is $22.

Among the many benefits of the nine-hole round:
  • It involves less of a time commitment than playing 18 holes, and is comparable with the time it takes to watch a movie, go out to dinner or attend a sporting event;
  • It can be less intimidating to newcomers as they learn the Rules, etiquette and fundamentals of the game;
  • It is family- and budget-friendly;
  • Nine-hole scores are eligible for Handicap purposes.
A USGA consumer study conducted by Sports & Leisure Research Group found that 60 percent of golfers see nine-hole rounds as an engaging way to introduce people to the game. Whether for new or experienced players, PLAY9 Day is designed to encourage everyone to find the time to play more of the game we all love.

Golf course operators can download a PLAY9 toolkit at www.usga.org/play9 that includes a user guide, posters, tent card and customizable cart plate.

Tuesday, July 28

My Golf Education in the California Desert


HOW, WHEN AND WHERE did you learn the game of golf? For me, it began more than 40 years ago in the California desert.

Located in Palmdale, a town of about 10,000 people in 1970, Desert Aire Golf Course was a flat, short, 9-hole public track with few distinguishing features, except for the Joshua trees that are native to the California high desert. Desert Aire was not a difficult course. Nor was it a course anyone was dying to play. It was, however, the course where I learned to play golf.

For that reason alone, I loved Desert Aire because it introduced me to the game of a lifetime. It was where I spent many summer days as a teen. It was also where I spent countless hours playing rounds with my dad and brother, my friends and golf teammates.

My Golf Education

How did I learn the game?

Mostly by playing, picking up tips from my dad and watching the pros on television. Like a lot of kids who loved sports, I pretended to be the players I saw on TV, copying their swings and their tempo.

We now live in an era of highly specialized golf instruction for all aspects of the game and all skill levels, from beginner to tour professional. There are numerous golf schools and golf academies all across the United States. And golf equipment has continued to advance, which is especially good for the amateur, although, like others, I'm concerned when technology threatens to make golf courses obsolete.

It was much different when I was growing up. I used real woods with small heads and forged irons made of steel or fiberglass shafts, always hand-me-down and used sets. 

I did have two advantages, though. I started playing when I was young. (There is no equivalent for starting young.) I also had regular access to a golf facility, a humble one, yes, but I didn't look down on Desert Aire. I was a happy kid who got to tee it up.

As best as I can remember, I never paid for a golf lesson. Nor did I ever take a private lesson from our head pro Red Simmons or assistant pro Ron O’Connor.

I did take group junior lessons. Ron would gather 15 or 20 of us on the driving range during the summer and teach us the fundamentals: grip, stance, setup and more. He talked to us, demonstrated and then lined us up to hit those red-striped range balls, taking a few moments to watch and instruct each boy. It was during one of those sessions that Ron refined my grip, the left hand in particular.

Somewhere along the way—maybe while playing with him—Red gave me a tip about the shoulder turn. (I still rely on that swing thought.)

In those early days, I practiced a lot. I had a little plastic shag bag of scuffed and cut golf balls that I hit to Desert Aire's lone practice green over and over and over again. I learned to hit off hardpan because that's all there was. I putted a lot. Like many kid golfers I was fearless on the greens.

Playing on Golf Teams

I made the high school golf team as a freshman. I was terrible. I fit right in. We finished eighth out of eight teams my first year.

I got better. I played three more years in high school and on a community college team. Because I learned to play the game at humble Desert Aire, I enjoyed the privilege of competing at private country clubs and public resort courses throughout California.

If you've ever spent time in the desert, then you can probably imagine that the wind blew hard at Desert Aire. I can assure you it did, especially in the afternoons. You had to hit the ball solidly and control its flight to have some success.

I recall an unfortunate motorist traveling along Ave. P, which bordered the 1st hole, a par 5. Red's strapping son smashed a tee shot that hooked into the street and struck the windshield of the oncoming car. The man parked his damaged vehicle in the gravel lot and stormed into the clubhouse where assistant pro Ron was working behind the counter.

"Somebody just hit a golf ball into my car and broke my windshield!" shouted the man. "What are you going to do about it?"

Ron replied, "I’m going to tell him to turn his left hand a little bit to the left to weaken his grip."


Sponsored by Bird Golf Academy.

Monday, July 27

Oh Happy Day in Canada



THIS TIME, THE PUTT GOT to the hole and dropped in.

Australian good guy Jason Day won a shootout at the RBC Canadian Open by sinking a 22-foot birdie putt on the final hole to beat Canadian David Hearn and American Bubba Watson by a shot. Day's fourth PGA Tour win was like salve after a close call at the Open Championship a week ago.

"It was disappointing," Day said about barely missing a playoff at St. Andrews.

"Even though I knew that I played great, I knew that I had to focus on this week. So when I actually had the same putt ... the same thing was going through my mind: 'Make sure you get it to the hole.'"

And he did, for his third consecutive birdie that gave him a 68 and 17-under total at Glen Abbey Golf Club in Ontario.

Day's triumph was Hearn's disappointment, the home-country favorite who began the round with a two-shot lead and shot a ho-hum 72.

"I got off to a great start," Hearn said, "and in the middle of the round I just struggled a bit with hitting the quality shots I had been hitting all week."

Sad fact: The last time a Canadian won the Canadian Open was 1954. Maybe an Australian victory is the next best thing.

Friday, July 24

Eight-Way Tie at Senior British Open


WEATHER IS A FACTOR AT ANOTHER Open Championship this week. The second round of the Senior British Open at Sunningdale Golf Club in Berkshire, England, was suspended on Friday afternoon due to heavy rain and flooding. Play is scheduled to resume on Saturday at 8 a.m.

"The plan will be to finish round two tomorrow and then start round three," said European Tour referee Dave Williams on EuropeanTour.com.

"All going well, we'll start round three as a two-tee start. We'll have probably have an hour or so of play left to then finish up on Sunday morning. Then we'll probably go with threeballs off one tee and finish when we're supposed to."

Eight men share the lead at 5 under par: Colin Montgomerie, Bart Bryant, Jeff Sluman, Lee Janzen, Bernhard Langer, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Marco Dawson and Michael Allen. Only Montgomerie and Bryant had begun their second rounds when play was suspended.

"I didn't feel totally comfortable with my swing," Langer said after opening with a 65, "but my putting was very good and I didn't make any major mistakes."

Langer is the defending champion. The German star won by 13 strokes last year in Wales.

Wednesday, July 22

What Golf and Ken Harrelson Gave Baseball

By John Coyne

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


WHY AND WHEN DID BASEBALL PLAYERS start wearing golf gloves in the batter's box?

Golfers, more than anyone else, might be the first to ask that question seeing, as they do, ball players tugging at their golf gloves as they approach the plate.

Famed baseball player Ken "Hawk" Harrelson
said golf was his favorite sport.
Some say it was Bobby Thomson of the Giants who wore a glove during spring training in 1949; others say it was Ted Williams in '53, when he came back to the Red Sox from Korea. Baseball historians also point out that Larry Doby, the first African-American player in the American league, wore a glove, but it seems that everyone agrees Ken Harrelson was the first baseball player to step into the batter's box during a game wearing a golf glove.

One account says he first used the glove on September 4, 1964, when he was with Kansas City and playing against the Yankees.

It seems Harrelson had played 36 holes that afternoon and arrived at the ballpark with a blister on his hand. He had not expected to play that night but found he was batting third in the lineup. According to Harrelson, in an article written by Scott Merkin, the Hawk remembered his golf glove was in his pants pocket, and he put it on to get some protection, then hit two homers that night against the Yankees.

Thus, the batting glove was unofficially born.

"From that day on, I never hit again without one," Harrelson said. 

Also according to Harrelson, the Yankees got back at him the next day.

"Mickey Mantle,” recalled Harrelson, "had the clubhouse guy go buy a couple of dozen red All-Star golf gloves because that was the color I was wearing. They all ran out onto the field wearing red golf gloves, and that's how the hitting glove got started."

Today Ken Harrelson is an announcer for White Sox games. It is his 31st season in the booth. Before the television gig, he played nine seasons with the Red Sox, Kansas City, Washington and Cleveland. his career ended in 1970 when he broke his leg.

Playing Pro Golf

Harrelson always says that of the sports he played, golf was his favorite and his best game. He played golf professionally for three and a half years after his baseball career, qualifying for and playing in the 1972 British Open (missing the cut by one shot) and winning some small non-tour events, before turning to the broadcast booth, first with the Red Sox and then Chicago.

I met him at the 1971 PGA Qualifying School, this former "rite of passage" for new players to the Tour, when I was researching and writing an instructional book based on the skills of young players.

That year the "Hawk" was one of 357 golfers who had paid an entry fee of $300 and then attempted to qualify for the Tour at one of three regional tryouts (Winston-Salem, North Carolina; Quincy, Illinois and Riverside, California). Seventy-five players survived and attended the school at the PGA National Golf Club, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

It was 108 holes of competition for those players and it was there that I met Harrelson as well as other young pros: Tom Watson, Lanny Wadkins, John Mahaffey, David Graham, all of whom had made the cut. This class of young professionals is considered the best ever to qualify for the PGA Tour.

Harrelson had an opening round of par in the tournament, but withdrew after shooting 75 and an 82. He would try three times to qualify, but never made it.

Being the Hawk

The photographer for my instructional book, Better Golf, published by Follett, happened to be Richard Raphael, who took the iconic photo of the Hawk in a Nehru jacket standing out in center field at Fenway Park. It appeared on the September 2, 1968 cover of Sports Illustrated.

Harrelson often in the late sixties wore Nehru jackets, multi-colored bell-bottom slacks and white cowboy boots. At the time he was one of the most colorful players in the majors, as well as among baseball's best golfers.

While he got his nickname "Hawk" from his famous nose when playing baseball, he also invented the "Hawk Walk" for the golf course. If he made a birdie, he would strut forward, arms stretched down, jaw jutting, to pluck his ball from the cup.

Harrelson wasn't the only golfer to show baseball how to hit a ball.

Also in Chicago, but across town at the Cubs' Wrigley Field, Sam Snead in 1951, showed the fans what a real golfer could do with a golf ball. Wrigley Field's 89-foot scoreboard deep in center was too far away from home plate and too high for any ball -- baseball or golf -- to clear the wall, even with a driver, or so thought the fans.

Sam Snead, however, was invited to try and hit a golf ball out of the park. And he did. He drove a golf ball over the scoreboard, clearing it, not with a driver, but a 2-iron. Now, of course, players like Bubba and Rory would need only a wedge, and, of course, they'd be wearing a glove.

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