Friday, November 21

Charlie Sifford: 'I Was Made for a Tough Life'



Charlie Sifford will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom on November 24. The following is from the archives.

I knew what I was getting into when I chose golf. Hell, I knew I'd never get rich and famous. All the discrimination, the not being able to play where I deserved and wanted to play — in the end I didn't give a damn. I was made for a tough life, because I'm a tough man. And in the end I won; I got a lot of black people playing golf. That's good enough. If I had to do it over again, exactly the same way, I would.
− Charlie Sifford, Golf Digest, December 2006

A BLACK CADDIE FROM A POOR FAMILY in Charlotte, North Carolina, Charlie Sifford dared to play professional golf with white men. It was not a friendly game for Charlie. He endured open heckling, insults and who knows what else.

But someone had to go first, so the resolute Sifford embarked on the PGA Tour in the 1960s and scratched out a living, including wins at the 1967 Greater Hartford Open and the 1969 Los Angeles Open. In 2004 Charlie Sifford was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

I saw Charlie three times last year (2007), in Savannah, Hickory (North Carolina) and Baltimore. Twice I shook his hand and once I spoke with him. Charlie was stroking putts on the practice putting green at the Senior Players Championship in Baltimore last September. It’s a rare opportunity to talk to the Jackie Robinson of a sport, and I took it.

“How are you doing, Charlie?” I asked.

Charlie had a heart problem that prevented him from playing golf, but he wasn’t about to miss a Grand Champions event, an ambassador of sorts riding around in a cart and swapping stories in the dining room. I can’t remember our conversation exactly, except that he was getting along OK and hoped his doctor would clear him soon to play golf again.

I do remember it was just the two of us on that putting green on a bright September morning. I felt lucky to be in the presence of a true pioneer.

Thursday, November 20

Golf on TV: CME Group Tour Championship, DP World Tour Championship, Australian Masters

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

The LPGA Tour concludes its 2014 season with the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, as the top-nine players in the season-long Race to the CME Globe points standings have an opportunity to win the $1 million bonus prize at week’s end. The top-three in the standings, Stacy Lewis, Inbee Park and Lydia Ko control their fate, as they are guaranteed to win the title with a victory this week.

The European Tour also wraps up its 2014 season with the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai. While World No. 1 Rory McIlroy has already clinched the Race to Dubai title, the top-15 in the standings at week’s end will split a $5 million bonus pool, with $1.25 million going to McIlroy.

Adam Scott will attempt to win a record third-consecutive Australian Masters, after successfully defending his 2012 title in last year’s PGA Tour Australasia event.

* * *

LPGA TOUR

CME Group Tour Championship
Dates: Nov. 20-23
Venue: Tiburon Golf Club (Gold Course), Naples, Fla.

Tournament Airtimes On Golf Channel (Eastern):
Thursday         1:30-4 p.m. (Live) / 4:30-7 p.m. (Replay)
Friday              1:30-4 p.m. (Live) / 4:30-7 p.m. (Replay)            
Saturday          1:30-4 p.m. (Live) / 4:30-7 p.m. (Replay)
Sunday            1:30-4 p.m. (Live) / 4:30-7 p.m. (Replay)

Event Notes

Feng defends: Shanshan Feng finished one shot clear of Gerina Piller for her third career LPGA Tour win.

Headlining the field: Race to the CME Globe top-nine (those eligible to win the $1 million prize): 1. Stacy Lewis; 2. Inbee Park; 3. Lydia Ko; 4. Michelle Wie; 5. So Yeon Ryu; 6. Shanshan Feng; 7. Anna Nordqvist; 8. Chella Choi; 9. Karrie Webb.

* * *

EUROPEAN TOUR

DP World Tour Championship
Dates: Nov. 20-23
Venue: Jumeirah Golf Estates (Earth Course), Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Tournament Airtimes On Golf Channel (Eastern):
Thursday         3-8 a.m. (Live) / 10 a.m.-1 p.m. (Replay)
Friday              3-8 a.m. (Live) / 10 a.m.-1 p.m. (Replay)
Saturday          3-8 a.m. (Live) / 10 a.m.-1 p.m. (Replay)
Sunday            2:30-7:30 a.m. (Live) / 9:30 a.m.-1 p.m. (Replay)

Event Notes

Stenson defends: Henrik Stenson won by six strokes over Ian Poulter for his eighth career European Tour victory, wrapping up the season-long Race to Dubai title and in doing so became the first player to win both the Race to Dubai and the FedExCup in the same year.

Headlining the field: Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose, Martin Kaymer, Jamie Donaldson, Victor Dubuisson, Graeme McDowell and Marcel Siem.

* * *

PGA TOUR Australasia

Australian Masters
Dates: Nov. 19-22
Venue: Metropolitan Golf Club, South Oakleigh, Australia

Tournament Airtimes On Golf Channel (Eastern):
Wednesday     9:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m. (Live)
Thursday         9:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m. (Live)
Friday              9:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m. (Live)
Saturday          9:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m. (Live)

Event Notes

Scott defends: Adam Scott finished two shots ahead of Matt Kuchar to successfully defend his 2012 title.

Headlining the field: Adam Scott, Geoff Ogilvy, Stuart Appleby, Greg Chalmers, Robert Allenby, Daniel Popovic, Michael Sim, Craig Perry, Peter Lonard and Nick O’Hern.

Wednesday, November 19

Lucas Cohen Wants to Turn Every Kid Into a Player

PGA professional Lucas Cohen is passionate about teaching golf to kids.
By John Coyne

Text and images copyright © John Coyne. All rights reserved. Used with permission.


STANDING ON A SLIGHT RISE in front of the pro shop at New York Golf Park and gazing the length of the driving range, landscaped with yardage markers and scattered golf balls, I can see a handful of thoroughbreds grazing in the bright fall sunlight.

This is Columbia County, New York, and this 10-acre golf park is wedged between farmland and apple orchards. The only sound to disturb the rural setting is the whacking of practice balls. That, plus the steady cadence of instructions from the driving range pro, Lucas Cohen, who is pacing the swing stalls, offering encouragement and advice to a dozen students, all members of the fledgling golf team of the local Hudson County high school.

Lucas has taken on himself the task of bringing par golf to teenagers more comfortable with plows and  pitchforks than 5-irons. This is his fall semester gig, golf coach to the local high school team. In the long summer months, he also provides free instruction to all the county kids if they are (or not) big enough to safely swing a club. Not only does he teach the boys and girls how to play the game, he also instructs them on the Rules of Golf. (Next he’ll be making them take the SATs of golf!)

Lucas, who was born within walking distance of this converted farm field, spent his teenage years in Florida where he learned the game and graduated from Santa Fe College in Gainesville. He still returns to Florida every winter when he works with the pro who first mentored him in the game. It was in Florida, after he graduated from college, that he turned his attention full time to golf and worked his way up through the lengthy accreditation process to become a certified PGA professional.

Creating a Golf Park and Golf Academy

New York Golf Park in rural Columbia County.
Built like Sam Snead with the personality of a Jimmy Demaret, he knew early on in his life that he was better suited as an entrepreneur than a country club pro, and went looking for a place of his own. He found one in rural Columbia County.

On a visit to the state in 2008 he drove by a vacant driving range and decided to come home again to New York.

It took him until 2011 before he could cement the purchase of the range. Then with help of childhood friends, he created New York Golf Park and his Start to Finish Golf Academy, installing two synthetic putting greens, a 5000 square foot natural grass tee, several target greens, and acres of open fairway stretching to the horse farm. 

In addition to the driving range, Lucas also has a new 19-hole miniature golf course, batting cages, and a pro shop for the players. There is room (and sports) for the whole family!

Besides free Saturday morning lessons, he offers summer long golf camps for boys and girls and fits in lessons for adults most other days of the week. 


Lucas Cohen has a well-stocked pro shop.
In an area of upstate New York where there is only one private course, few public ones, and fewer golf lessons, Lucas Cohen and his New York Golf Park are a welcome addition for the aficionados of the game. But what makes Cohen an appreciated hometown boy is his devotion to the young people of the nearby small towns. He wants to turn everyone into a player.


While the USGA and the PGA are scratching their heads about how to get young people into the sport and grow the game, Cohen is doing something about it every summer week in Columbia County. 

On the last Saturday morning of the summer, when I was working on my woods, I saw that the teenager golfers were growing weary and losing interest in practice until Lucas stepped up to the tee, told his students to "watch this" and then went through his deliberate pre-shot routine, picked out his target, and unleashed a high powering drive that brought oohs and aahs from the kids and revived their interest in the sport.

Out at the far end of the range, 300-plus yards from the tee, even the horses took notice. They, too, recognized a thoroughbred, not a race horse, but a seasoned PGA professional.

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

Monday, November 17

Golf Digest: Geoff Ogilvy on Those Three-Footers and More

Geoff Ogilvy
LIKE HIM OR NOT, GEOFF OGILVY has often come across as thoughtful and unfiltered. In the December 2014 "My Shot," Ogilvy, tagged "The Thinker," covered a lot of ground. Following are three hand-picked excerpts.

On three-foot par putts:
STUBBORNNESS AND DETERMINATION really come into play on the three-foot putt for par. But when you face 50 of them a week in competition for six straight weeks, they begin to erode you. Over the course of a 30-year career, they beat you up. I don't take them lightly, even in practice, because I don't want to form bad habits. So I grind over every one of them. I yearn for the day when I retire and play friendly games with my mates, and when I don't like the look of a certain three-footer, just raking it away and walking to the next tee. That is true freedom.
On the state of golf writing:
GOLF WRITING on the whole isn't as enjoyable as it once was. I love reading Bobby Jones' books, and it's a shame there's nothing like them being put out today. There are few masters of the craft left. Literary geniuses like Tom Callahan are disappearing because there are fewer platforms for them. Golf books, save for instruction titles, don't sell well, so writers are less motivated to develop that literary ability. It's all very fast. And let's face it, there are fewer golf legends to write about. The Internet has made it impossible for a mysterious person like Ben Hogan to exist.
And the best ball striker on tour?
SERGIO GARCIA has gone from being merely a superb ball-striker to being the best in the game. Sergio has always been a "flusher," someone who hits it solid. But today he plays golf utterly the way it was meant to be played, drawing or fading the ball at will, probably the way Hogan did it.
Read "The Thinker" at GolfDigest.com. 

Friday, November 14

Report: Third Female Member Joins Augusta

MAKE IT A THREESOME. Augusta National Golf Club has admitted another female member.

Golf Digest's Sam Weinman reported:
IBM CEO Virginia (Ginni) Rometty has joined Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore as the third female member of the longtime home of the Masters, multiple sources have confirmed. Yahoo! founder Jerry Yang is also among the handful of new members at Augusta National. 
Rice, the former Secretary of State, and Moore, a finance executive, were invited to be Augusta's first female members in 2012.
Weinman also reported that two Augusta members spotted the IBM CEO hitting balls on the Augusta driving range last Friday.

"She has a nice swing," a member said.

Golf Digest also published Rometty's handicap index, which is 35.4. Her last posted score was 116 more than a year ago.

Thursday, November 13

Golf on TV: OHL Classic, Turkish Airlines Open, Lorena Ochoa Invitational

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

The PGA TOUR is in Mexico for the OHL Classic at Mayakoba. Harris English won last year’s event for his second victory of 2013.

The European Tour stages the Turkish Airlines Open this week, with only next week’s DP World Tour Championship remaining on the Tour’s 2014 schedule and season-long Race to Dubai. Jamie Donaldson, Sergio Garcia and Marcel Siem are the only three players with a slight mathematical chance of moving ahead of Rory McIlory in the Race to Dubai standings, with each needing to win both this week and next to have any chance of erasing McIlroy’s lead.

The LPGA Tour wraps up a stretch of seven consecutive international events this week with the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Mexico before turning to next week’s season-ending CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Fla.

* * *

PGA TOUR

OHL Classic at Mayakoba
Dates: Nov. 13-16
Venue: El Camaleon, Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Tournament Airtimes On Golf Channel (Eastern):
Wednesday     2-5 p.m. (Live) / 7:30-10:30 p.m. (Replay)
Thursday         2-5 p.m. (Live) / 7:30-10:30 p.m. (Replay)
Friday              2-5 p.m. (Live) / 7:30-10:30 p.m. (Replay)
Saturday          2-5 p.m. (Live) / 7:30-10:30 p.m. (Replay)

Event Notes

English defends: Harris English finished four shots ahead of Brian Stuard for his second career PGA TOUR victory.

Headlining the field: Harris English, Angel Cabrera, Erik Compton, Padraig Harrington, Davis Love III, Billy Hurley, Nick Taylor, Robert Streb, Will MacKenzie, Ben Martin and Tony Finau.

* * *

EUROPEAN TOUR

Turkish Airlines Open
Dates: Nov. 13-16
Venue: Montgomerie Maxx Royal, Antalya, Turkey

Tournament Airtimes On Golf Channel (Eastern):
Thursday         4-9 a.m. (Live) / 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. (Replay)
Friday              4-9 a.m. (Live) / 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. (Replay)
Saturday          4-9 a.m. (Live) / 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. (Replay)
Sunday            3:30-8:30 a.m. (Live) / 10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. (Replay)

Event Notes

Dubuisson defends: Victor Dubuisson won by two strokes over Jamie Donaldson for his first career European Tour win in last year’s event.

Headlining the field: Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia, Martin Kaymer, Victor Dubuisson, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Darren Clarke, Luke Donald, Jamie Donaldson and Marcel Siem.

* * *

LPGA TOUR

Lorena Ochoa Invitational presented by Banamex Info
Dates: Nov. 13-16
Venue: Club de Golf Mexico, Mexico City, Mexico

Tournament Airtimes On Golf Channel (Eastern):
Thursday         5-7 p.m. (Tape Delay) / 4-6 p.m.
Friday              5-7 p.m. (Tape Delay) / 4-6 p.m.
Saturday          5-7 p.m. (Tape Delay) / 4-6 p.m.
Sunday            5-7 p.m. (Tape Delay) / 3-5 p.m.

Event Notes

Thompson defends: Lexi Thompson finished one shot ahead of Stacy Lewis for her third career LPGA Tour win.

Headlining the field: Inbee Park, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Lexi Thompson, Suzann Pettersen, So Yeon Ryu, Shanshan Feng, Lydia Ko, Anna Nordqvist and Cristie Kerr.

Wednesday, November 12

Golf Pioneer Charlie Sifford to Receive Prized Medal

Charlie Sifford
CONGRATULATIONS TO CHARLIE SIFFORD for being named as one of the 19 people to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom on November 24. The medal is the highest civilian honor in America. Sifford will be the third golfer to receive the award. Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus are the other two.

Sifford broke the color barrier on the PGA Tour, paying a terrible price in terms of insults, threats and all manner of indignities. I've heard him talk about the difficulty of that path and the abuse he endured, and also how he felt that somehow he was the man to do it.

Sifford, 92, won twice on tour, at the 1967 Greater Hartford Open and the 1969 Los Angeles Open. He also won twice on the Champions Tour. In 2004, Sifford was the first African American inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

"Dr. Charles Sifford is most deserving of this special honor," said PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem at PGATour.com.

"He is the ultimate pioneer who endured untold hardships with tremendous dignity, courage and spirit, and he is a true role model who has provided inspiration to aspiring players of diverse backgrounds. We all owe him a debt of gratitude for helping to change our sport for the better. He is a true champion, in every sense of the word."

I spent some time with Charlie Sifford when I was working on THE LONGEST SHOT and hanging out with a group of legends a few times a year on the Champions Tour. I plan to re-share some anecdotes in the coming days.

Tuesday, November 11

PGA Pros Who Served During World War II

From the archives.

By John Coyne

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


WORLD WAR II WAS CALLED the last “good” war and Tom Brokaw wrote of the men and women who fought in it as, “America’s greatest generation.” They came of age during the Great Depression and served their country in World War II.

PGA membership card of Lloyd Mangrum during war period.
Many of this greatest generation were golf professionals. Herb Graffis, founder of Golfing magazine, in his history of the Professional Golf Association (PGA), writes how golf professionals served in combat during World War II, and did a hundred other volunteer jobs relating to golf to help the war effort. From the first days of World War II, players put away their sticks and picked up rifles to defend America.

They would not be the first players to fight in a war. At the outbreak of World War II, it is estimated 900 members of the PGA were veterans of World War I. By the end of WW II, 20 percent of the members of the PGA had served in the armed forces, another 15 percent in war production jobs. Eleven pros were killed in action, three more died while in the service.

PGA pros, throughout the war years, were involved in construction, equipping and operating practice putting greens, practice tees, courses and indoor nets at more than 62 armed services hospitals. Professionals and superintendents often got together and built small golf installations at hospitals, and the pros kept going back to instruct patients and maintain the golf playgrounds.

In addition to that work, tournament circuit prize money during the war was in government bonds. In 1945, prize money was approximately $500,000 in war bonds. That year exhibitions by PGA members raised over $100,000 for hospitals, the USO and the Red Cross. According to Graffis, “Those wartime tournaments and exhibitions had a great deal to do with establishing the pattern of today’s tournament circuits, since most of the events have hospitals, boys’ clubs, and other welfare operations as promoters and beneficiaries.”

Not to be overlooked was the celebrity drawing power of Bob Hope and Bing Crosby at golf events. In 1943, Hope and Crosby took to the road for six weeks of exhibition matches with pros and amateurs. Joining them on tour were Sam Byrd, Byron Nelson, Joe Kirkwood, Gene Sarazen, Harry Cooper, as well as early LPGA stars Louise Suggs, Patty Berg and Babe Didrikson Zaharias. Hope and Crosby started at the Dallas Country Club with a gallery of about 5,000 who bought $4.5 million in war bonds and an ambulance for the Red Cross. They finished at the Edgewater Golf Club in Chicago. Bob and Bing paid their own expenses through out the tour, and the PGA gave them money clips as tokens of appreciation. 

War Toll

The war took a toll on the PGA. By the end of 1945, dues-paying membership was down to 1,565. That was 570 fewer members than when hostilities began. When the war was over, there were 4,817 courses in the U.S. and roughly 2,250,000 golfers, but few of these players had ever been to a golf tournament.

But all of that was about to change. Lloyd Mangrum, while training for the D-Day landings, was offered the professional job at the army’s Fort Meade golf course, which would have kept him out of combat, but he declined and went to the front lines in Europe. He would receive from his combat tours two Purple Hearts, and was wounded a final time at the Battle of the Bulge. However, when he was discharged from the army, he immediately won the 1946 U.S. Open, the first Open held after the war.

Other name professionals who served in the army and were back on tour within days of being discharged from service were Tommy Bolt; Jack Fleck who was in the Navy and also part of the D-Day invasion; Herman Keiser; Ted Kroll, who earned three Purple Hearts, and was wounded four times; Ed “Porky” Oliver; and the great amateur Smiley Quick, who won the ’46 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship and then turned pro.

The golf professionals of the greatest generation were home from the war and back on the links. It was the start of the modern PGA Tour that we know today.


John Coyne is a bestselling author whose latest golf novel is The Caddie Who Won the MastersLearn more at John Coyne Books.