Friday, December 28

A Chance Encounter With an Old-Time Pro

Editor’s note: I enjoy getting emails from readers. The following one, published with permission, came from Stan Polkowski. Stan realized during an August round of golf that he was playing with an old-time club pro and a man who used to compete on the PGA Tour.

I WAS GOLFING TODAY AT FOX CREEK golf course, a public course in Livonia, Michigan. The starter let me (age 60) and my friend off the back nine first. As we approached the 1st tee for our second nine, we could see a foursome of women teeing off from the front tee box. There were two older golfers waiting for the women to start as I pulled our cart up to the tee box. I asked them if we should make it a foursome and they said fine as we would be waiting on the women ahead.

They introduced themselves as Joe and Larry. I wrote their names down on my scorecard so I would remember their names. Joe said that he was a member of Oakland Hills Golf Club in Birmingham (where they played the U.S. Open). Joe said they were playing the club championship at Oakland Hills so he was playing at this public course in Livonia with his friend Larry. Joe also said that he plays golf with the Detroit baseball great Al Kaline, who I knew was a member of Oakland Hills and a very good golfer.

I could see from his first few shots that Larry was a very good golfer for 85 years old.

Larry said that he has lived in Livonia for the last 60 years. He had a very smooth swing but did generate some good swing speed with the driver. As we talked, Joe said that Larry used to be a very good professional golfer in his days and played in many professional tournaments.

Larry mentioned some of the tournaments and famous professionals he had played with in past days. He showed me a wallet-sized newsspaper article from Florida that showed he had won a driving contest. I asked Larry what his last name was so that I could Google his name to see his golfing history. It was Larry Tomasino.

Larry was just a delightful guy to not only play golf with but to listen to his golfing history and stories of the professionals that he golfed with. He said that he knew Jack Fleck and that there was a book about Jack and, if I understood him correctly, had his name (Larry) mentioned a few times. This must be the book that you wrote, THE LONGEST SHOT.

It was a delightful nine holes of golf. Joe and Larry did not even keep score. Joe had not played too much recently because of some health problems and Larry had recently gone through some chemo and also had not played much recently, but was out having fun with his longtime friend, Joe.

Thursday, December 27

‘Redemption’ Airs on NBC, Dec. 30

PGA Tour 2012: Redemption presented by Barclays, an hour-long NBC Sports special airing Sunday, Dec. 30 at 3 p.m. ET, will highlight some of the memorable moments of the past season, focusing on players who persevered and succeeded in clutch situations.

Produced by PGA TOUR Entertainment, the show will tell defining stories and memorable tour performances of the year 2012, including features on Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Bubba Watson, Ernie Els and Jason Dufner.

Wednesday, December 26

24 Apparent Golf Truths

(Boston Public Library - Flickr)
THESE ARE AN ASSORTMENT OF APPARENT golf truths from one of those emails that makes the rounds. Can you relate to any of them in particular? Which do you consider to be laws of the golf universe?

1. Don’t buy a putter until you’ve had a chance to throw it.

2. Never try to keep more than 300 separate thoughts in your mind during your swing.

3. When your shot has to carry over a water hazard, you can either use one more club or two more balls.

4. If you’re afraid a full shot might reach the green while the foursome ahead of you is still putting out, you have two options: you can immediately shank a lay-up or you can wait until the green is clear and top a ball halfway there.

5. The less skilled the player, the more likely he or she is to share his or her ideas about the golf swing.

6. No matter how bad you are playing, it is always possible to play worse.

7. Everyone replaces his divot after a perfect approach shot.

8. A golf match is a test of your skill against your opponent’s luck.

9. It is surprisingly easy to hole a 30-foot putt. For a 10.

10. Counting on your opponents to inform you when they break a rule is like expecting them to make fun of their own haircut.

11. It’s not a gimme if you’re still away.

12. The shortest distance between any two points on a golf course is a straight line that passes directly through the center of a very large tree.

13. You can hit a two-acre fairway 10 percent of the time and a two-inch branch 90 percent of the time.

14. If you really want to get better at golf, go back and take it up at a much earlier age.

15. Since bad shots come in groups of three, a fourth bad shot is actually the beginning of the next group of three.

16. Every time a golfer makes a birdie, he or she must subsequently make two double bogeys to restore the fundamental equilibrium of the universe.

17. There are two things you can learn by stopping your backswing at the top and checking the position of your hands: how many hands you have, and which one is wearing the glove.

18. Hazards attract; fairways repel.

19. A ball you can see in the rough from 50 yards away is not yours.

20. If there is a ball on the fringe and a ball in the bunker, your ball is in the bunker. If both balls are in the bunker, yours is in the footprint.

21. It’s easier to get up at 6 a.m. to play golf than at 10 a.m. to mow the grass.

22. A good drive on the 18th hole has stopped many a golfer from giving up the game.

23. If there’s a storm rolling in, you’ll be having the game of your life.

24. If your opponent has trouble remembering whether he or she shot a six or a seven, he or she probably shot an eight (or worse).

Friday, December 21

Hall Monitor: Is Monty Worthy?

From the ARMCHAIR GOLF archives. This originally ran on December 9, 2009.

Colin Montgomerie (Newton-Flickr)
SOME HAVE SPECULATED WHEN Colin Montgomerie will be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. Monty was on the 2009 International Ballot but didn’t receive enough support. (There are two ballots: the PGA Tour Ballot and the International Ballot for players who spent most of their careers competing outside the United States.)

“With the open-door policy that the WGHF [World Golf Hall of Fame] seems to have, Montgomerie will one day be enshrined,” wrote managing editor Mercer Baggs last month. “But he wouldn’t get my vote.”

Baggs’ knock on Colin is his lack of a major title and no PGA Tour wins.

Monty’s career numbers are impressive: 31 European Tour wins, eight Order of Merit money titles (including seven straight) and a 20-9-7 career record in the Ryder Cup. Only Nick Faldo and Bernhard Langer have won more Ryder Cup points for the Europeans.

I can look past Monty’s lack of success on the PGA Tour. He dominated the European Tour, and that’s his home turf. The hole in his resume is the zero majors. Fellow international player José Maria Olazábal, who was inducted this year, won two majors, both Green Jackets. Ollie also had 21 European Tour wins and six PGA Tour titles. He was an airtight choice.

Monty came agonizingly close to winning at three U.S. Opens, lost a playoff to Steve Elkington in the 1995 PGA Championship, and flirted with the Claret Jug in 2005. Just one of those would have put him into the Hall with ease. As it is, he’ll have to wait longer and endure more debate.

Thursday, December 20

How Pebble Beach Is Improving Pace of Play

Editor’s note: Chuck Dunbar, head golf pro at Pebble Beach, had serious concerns about “The Six-Hour Round,” a story about slow play which he felt could lead to the mistaken impression that long rounds are commonplace at Pebble Beach. (I recently played in a Lexus event at The Links at Spanish Bay, Spyglass Hill and Pebble Beach.) Following is a slightly edited version of his email about Pebble’s pace-of-play efforts, which I’ve published with his permission.

By Chuck Dunbar

Pebble Beach on a recent December day.
TWELVE YEARS AGO WE acknowledged we had a pace-of-play problem at Pebble Beach. Any golf course that facilitates as many rounds as we do fights the same battle. That said, we have made a concentrated effort to remedy the problem of slow play to enhance our guests’ experience.

As recently as this past September, we have invested time, effort and money addressing the issue. We have hired a pace-of-play consultant, retrained all of our marshals and added a salaried pace manager to oversee play and the marshal team every day from sunrise to sunset.

These are just some of our strategies. And we’ve been quite successful.

Since we track and record pace of play on an hourly basis to measure our success, our average pace of play in September 2012 was 4 hours, 50 minutes. In October, 4:42. In November, 4:39. And in December thus far, 4:32.

We do not track time for shotgun events as many corporate groups load up the courses past maximum capacity, often doubling up most of the holes and playing a competitive format slowing play even further. They do this at their own discretion. Put 136 people on any golf course with championship conditions and you’d see a six-plus-hour round on most of those courses.

Chuck Dunbar is the head golf professional at Pebble Beach Golf Links.

Wednesday, December 19

Tiger on Rory Rivalry

Better days in 2012.
TIGER WOODS PUBLISHED HIS YEAR-END MESSAGE on Monday. Tiger covered a range of topics, including the emergence of Rory McIlroy and his potential rivalry with the Irish star and new world No. 1:
Rory McIlroy had a wonderful year, and my hat is off to him. He deserved Player of the Year. Whether we develop a rivalry remains to be seen. Let’s just let it play out and see where it takes us. We’ll look at the results the next five or 10 years and see if it becomes a rivalry or not. We’ll have to win big events and play each other down the stretch. That hasn’t happened yet. We’ve only played each other at Honda down the stretch. We need a lot more of those type of battles, but in bigger events.
On 2013:
Looking ahead to next year, I’m just trying to win those big four tournaments, and obviously try to use other events to prepare for them and try to win them as well. I’ve had to alter my practice schedule because my kids come first. They’re my No. 1 priority. It takes a little better time management on my part to figure all that out, but I expect to play a similar number of events.
Tiger also said he was pleased with his three-win 2012 season and the ability to practice and play without being hurt. He’s excited about the holidays with his kids, saying the best present he ever received was space Legos.

As for me, I fondly recall a long-ago race-car set that occupied the living-room floor for several days after Christmas.

Tuesday, December 18

Lexus Day 3: Sitting With Johnny Miller

Editor’s note: I was recently at Pebble Beach for the 2012 Lexus Champions for Charity as a guest of Lexus. This is another installment in an ongoing series.

Johnny Miller at recent Lexus event. (Lexus)
PEOPLE LIKE JOHNNY MILLER because he says what he thinks. People dislike Johnny Miller because he says what he thinks. (Some of that dislike is because he tends to remind people how good he was as a player. You know what? He really was. I saw him play.) I’ve never wavered. I’m in the like column, even though I know he might say something that makes me cringe. As I’ve commented in the past, Johnny can be like a goofy or crazy uncle. You’re not sure what he’ll say or do, but he’s family.

Johnny is a part of my golf family. I grew up with him. When he was at his peak in the early and mid 1970s, I was playing high school golf. Johnny was a great ball striker and one of the best iron players ever. Hall-of-Famers such as Lee Trevino and Lanny Wadkins have said as much.

So, as you might imagine, it was more than pretty cool that Lexus, my gracious hosts, seated me next to Johnny Miller at the front table during the champions dinner and awards ceremony in Pebble Beach on a recent Saturday night. Johnny was on my left; my wife was on my right. Peter Jacobsen was next to Johnny. We talked, ate dinner and talked some more, until it was time for Peter and Johnny to hand out the awards and pose for pictures with the winners. Those were a fun two hours.

What was Johnny like?

The same guy you hear on TV, perhaps easier to converse with than I expected. I didn’t know what to expect. I had wondered what he would be like in person. It was easy, though, comfortable. It wasn’t an interview, just dinner-table conversation, which made it better.

The real thing. “This is a good Coke,” Johnny said not long after we were seated. “They’re all different.” You don’t drink diet soda? I asked. He said no because he’s allergic to so many things, including artificial sweeteners, apparently. I said that he didn’t look like he was having trouble keeping the weight off. His reaction seemed to say that he thought he could be doing better.

Comparing short arms. One of the first things I said to Johnny was how I liked watching him play when I was a teen and would pretend to be him during my solo rounds at my local nine-hole golf course. I mentioned that I related to his height and how he bent over a lot to reach for the golf ball. I knew he was fairly tall (6’2”) and figured he might have short arms, like me. Johnny got to his feet. Let’s see, he said. We stood shoulder to shoulder, his right, my left, our arms hanging at our sides. He told me that he always thought he had the shortest arms of a tall golfer, but I think I had him beat. (I’m almost 6’4” and my sleeve length is only about 33 inches.) Johnny said during his playing days he played irons that were a half inch over regulation, but is now considering an extra two inches on his irons. He doesn’t play much golf, though, and he doesn’t miss it. He’d rather be fly fishing in a mountain stream. In fact, he told me he was heading up toward Redding in a few days on a fishing trip.

His mom’s blackberry pie. I asked Johnny if he ever foresaw himself doing TV work. No, he said. He’s signed on for three more years with NBC. After that it sounds like he’ll be gone, except for an occasional event. He wondered aloud who might take his place. I said, “You must enjoy it.” He’s still in the tower after 20-plus years. Johnny said he feels like he has something to offer and brings something different to the game. My wife told him how she appreciates his candor. He told me a story about his mom’s blackberry pie. He always wondered why it was the best. His mom finally shared the secret: mostly ripe, sweet berries, plus a few select tart ones. An approach that can also work well for golf commentary.

More on Johnny’s playing days, the yips, Peter Jacobsen and other stuff. I now realize this is too long to finish in one installment, so I’ll plan to share more about Johnny and Peter later. Come on back.

Monday, December 17

The Six-Hour Round

RECENTLY, AS YOU MAY KNOW if you follow this blog, I had the privilege of playing three exceptional golf courses in Pebble Beach: The Links at Spanish Bay, Spyglass Hill Golf Course and Pebble Beach Golf Links. It was the first time I played 18-hole rounds on three consecutive days in, well, I don’t even know—20 or 30 years.

A small fleet of golf carts. (Kinmartin)
As I’ve already reported here, it was absolutely incredible. I can also tell you that those were long rounds, each one six hours or more. Not that I’m complaining. There were some legitimate reasons why they were on the slow side. (It was a corporate event, the Lexus Champions for Charity, that loaded up three championship courses with golfers of all skill levels in a shotgun start.) Nonetheless, it got me thinking about slow play as a persistent problem of the game.

(Read How Pebble Beach Is Improving Pace of Play)

In many cases, I think slow play is ridiculous. Five or more hours to play a round of golf seem excessive. I don’t play much anymore—and I do love the game—but if it takes that long to get around, is it any wonder that people will find other things to do? I have zero desire to play five- or six-hour rounds (unless it’s Pebble, of course). I’d walk away, too. Yes, there are a lot of other sports and entertainment options and people do have short attention spans. But hasn’t the game also hurt itself immensely by evolving into a slow-play culture?

As I played at the three Pebble Beach-area courses, I was reminded of some aspects of the modern game that can slow it to a snail’s pace.

For instance, do I really need to know exact yardages? Is about 150 yards good enough, or do I need to know it’s 147 or 153? How long, and from how many angles, do I need to look at a putt? Do carts speed up the game, or does cart-path golf actually slow things down? Golfers of all skill levels used to walk and get around in four hours.

There’s been a lot of talk in recent years about what can be done to draw more people to the game. Some of the ideas are radical. I’d hate to see the game cannibalized in some respects—12-hole courses, six-hole rounds and such. I wonder what if people just played at what used to be a normal rate—two hours (or less) for nine holes and four hours (or less) for 18? Is two hours too long for a recreational activity?

If that’s too long for some people, then perhaps golf isn’t for them. I’d rather take that approach then try to turn this great game into something that’s palatable for a wider group of people—in essence, giving in to a popular culture of short attention spans and instant gratification.

In his first column for, Arnold Palmer outlined some of his concerns about the game, which included slow play:
Slow play is turning time-starved people away from the sport. We need to encourage nine-hole rounds.
I think nine-hole rounds are a great idea. But, again, what if 18-hole rounds could be played in four hours (or less)? Do you remember those days?

They weren’t really that long ago.

Friday, December 14

Clarke for McGinley in 2014?

By Brian Keogh

Brian Keogh is a golf correspondent for The Irish Sun and a contributor to The Irish Times, Golf Digest Ireland and other golf publications. The following excerpt from Brian’s Irish Golf Desk is used with permission.

Paul McGinley
THINGS ARE MOVING APACE IN THE RACE for the 2014 European Ryder Cup captaincy. Less than 12 hours after the USA appointed eight-time major winner Tom Watson and within minutes of Rory McIlroy’s tweet to re-iterate his support for Paul McGinley with the proviso that Darren Clarke get the job in America in 2016, Clarke, by retweeting Rory, appears to be singing off the same hymn sheet.

It’s the first sign of some joined up thinking in Europe, winner of seven of the last nine Ryder Cups. Faced with the task of taking on an eight time major winner in the aura stakes, it would be madness to try and fight like with like. For starters, Europe doesn’t have an eight-time major winner and Clarke may well feel that he is on a hiding to nothing by trying to take on the Kansas City legend.

McGinley, a long-time admirer of Watson’s, would be the ideal solution. Not only would his appointment allow Europe an excuse to claim the underdog’s role, it would put the pressuure on Watson to deliver. That would leave McGinley to concentrate on what he does best—organise and prepare—and leave Clarke untainted for the 2016 matches at Hazeltine in Minnesota.

Clarke may also fear losing face if it comes down to a close vote by the Tournament Players Committee following the appointment of McGinley supporter Francesco Molinari and Dubliner Peter Lawrie recently.

Nothing will be decided until January but we could well be close to another dual announcement by Europe—McGinley 2014, Clarke 2016. It makes sense.

Brian Keogh covers golf for The Irish Sun and contributes to a variety of golf publications. Pay him a visit at Irish Golf Desk.

Thursday, December 13

Tom Watson Back on the Ryder Cup Job

“WE’RE JUST REALLY TIRED OF LOSING the Ryder Cup,” PGA of America President Ted Bishop said on Thursday during a media conference that announced Tom Watson as the captain of the 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup team.

Tom Watson
But Tom Watson can’t win the Ryder Cup for the PGA of America—no more than Davis Love III could, or Corey Pavin, or even Paul Azinger, who has been somewhat immortalized since the U.S. victory at Valhalla in 2008. The captains mostly choreograph and cheerlead. They don’t hit any shots. They don’t stroke a single putt. Watson will be a very able captain, I’m sure—maybe one of the best—but it will still come down to the resolve of those 12 American men who earn spots on the 2014 team.

It will be Watson’s second captaincy. His 1993 U.S. team won at The Belfry in England by a narrow margin, 15-13. The 2014 Ryder Cup will be played at Gleneagles in Scotland. Watson was anxious to get a second crack, saying he has been “waiting for this call for a long time.”

“I loved it the first time,” he said. “I’m a great fan of the Ryder Cup. It’s a great honor to be able to do it again.”

The other TW (Tiger Woods), who has had a frosty relationship with Watson stemming from critical remarks Watson made about him, quickly issued a statement.

“I’d like to congratulate Tom Watson on his selection as Ryder Cup captain. I think he’s a really good choice. Tom knows what it takes to win, and that’s our ultimate goal. I hope I have the privilege of joining him on the 2014 United States Team.”

Larry Nelson, a three-time major winner (including two PGA Championships) and a member of three U.S. Ryder Cup teams, was a casualty in the process. Nelson, 65, was considered to be a strong candidate for the 2014 captaincy but was bypassed with the selection of Watson, who got a rare second chance.

Nelson had a 9-3-1 Ryder Cup record. Watson posted a 10-4-1 mark in four Ryder Cup appearances.

Wednesday, December 12

ESPN: The Truth Behind ‘The Arnold Palmer’

HERE’S EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW about the famous combination of iced tea and lemonade. The history. The mystery. The industry. It’s a part of Americana. From ESPN Films 30 for 30 Shorts. And, of course, from the man himself, Arnold Palmer.

The questions remains: Is it the world’s most-refreshing drink?

Tuesday, December 11

Davis Love Tapped for Bob Jones Award


DL III  (Allison)
THE UNITED STATES GOLF ASSOCIATION (USGA) announced the selection of Davis Love III as the recipient of the 2013 Bob Jones Award.

Presented annually since 1955, the Award is the USGA’s highest honor and recognizes an individual who demonstrates the spirit, personal character and respect for the game exhibited by Jones, winner of nine USGA championships.

“Throughout his impressive career, Davis has distinguished himself with his sense of fair play, integrity and reverence for the game’s traditions,” said USGA President Glen D. Nager. “His passion for the game, as well as the values and principles that guide his everyday life, are emblematic of the characteristics that the Bob Jones Award seeks to identify. Golf and all those who play it are inspired by Davis' example.”

Love, 48, will receive the Bob Jones Award during the USGA’s Annual Meeting, to be held in San Diego on February 2, 2013.

The winner of 20 PGA Tour events, Love is one of the greatest players of his generation. In addition to capturing the 1997 PGA Championship at Winged Foot Golf Club, Love is a two-time winner of The Players Championship, in 1992 and 2003. He also was captain of the 2012 U.S. Ryder Cup team.

Bob Jones Award Recipients

1955 — Francis Ouimet / 1956 — William C. Campbell / 1957 — Mildred D. Zaharias / 1958 — Margaret Curtis / 1959 — Findlay S. Douglas / 1960 — Charles Evans Jr. / 1961 — Joseph B. Carr / 1962 — Horton Smith / 1963 — Patty Berg / 1964 — Charles Coe / 1965 — Glenna Collett Vare / 1966 — Gary Player / 1967 — Richard S. Tufts / 1968 — Robert B. Dickson / 1969 — Gerald H. Micklem / 1970 — Roberto de Vicenzo / 1971 — Arnold Palmer / 1972 — Michael Bonallack / 1973 — Gene Littler / 1974 — Byron Nelson / 1975 — Jack Nicklaus / 1976 — Ben Hogan / 1977 — Joseph C. Dey Jr. / 1978 — Bing Crosby & Bob Hope / 1979 — Tom Kite / 1980 — Charles Yates / 1981 — JoAnne Carner / 1982 — William J. Patton / 1983 — Maureen Ruttle Garrett / 1984 — R. Jay Sigel / 1985 — Fuzzy Zoeller / 1986 — Jess Sweetser / 1987 — Tom Watson / 1988 — Isaac B. Grainger / 1989 — Chi Chi Rodriguez / 1990 — Peggy Kirk Bell / 1991 — Ben Crenshaw / 1992 — Gene Sarazen / 1993 — P.J. Boatwright Jr. / 1994 — Lewis Oehmig / 1995 — Herbert Warren Wind / 1996 — Betsy Rawls / 1997 — Fred Brand Jr. / 1998 — Nancy Lopez / 1999 — Edgar Updegraff / 2000 — Barbara McIntire / 2001 — Thomas Cousins / 2002 — Judy Rankin / 2003 — Carol Semple Thompson / 2004 — Jackie Burke Jr. / 2005 — Nick Price / 2006 — Jay Haas / 2007 — Louise Suggs / 2008 — George H.W. Bush / 2009 — O. Gordon Brewer Jr. / 2010 — Mickey Wright / 2011 — Lorena Ochoa / 2012 — Annika Sorenstam / 2013 — Davis Love III

Monday, December 10

Lexus Day 3: Charities Are Real Winners

Peter Jacobsen and Johnny Miller at champions dinner in Pebble Beach. (Courtesy of Lexus)

Editor’s note: I was just at Pebble Beach for the 2012 Lexus Champions for Charity as a guest of Lexus. This is another installment in an ongoing series.

THE GRAND BALLROOM OF THE INN AT SPANISH BAY was packed on Saturday night with hundreds of happy golfers who had just completed the 2012 Lexus Champions for Charity. During three near-perfect December days on the Monterey Peninsula, these men and women had played three famous tracks: The Links at Spanish Bay, Sypglass Hill Golf Course and world-renowned Pebble Beach Golf Links.

Their spouses, in many cases, were there, too, soaking up the resort and golf experience, basking in the December sunshine and sightseeing behind the wheel of a shiny new Lexus, courtesy of their hosts.

Preceded by a boisterous cocktail reception, the champions dinner and award ceremony in the Grand Ballroom (and the adjoining St. Andrews Ballroom for the overflow folks) were the closing events of a 24-year tradition of the luxury car company. The Lexus Champions for Charity has helped raise about $250 million for worthy causes throughout the United States. This year was no different.

For nearly everyone in those banquet halls on Saturday night, this was the trip of a lifetime, a golf quest most people can only dream of. Yet, in the end, charities were the centerpiece of those surreal three-plus days, the real winners—organizations such as the East Oakland Youth Development Center, the Saint Vincent Foundation, the Special Kids Network and the Salvation Army, to name a few.

Peter Jacobsen and Johnny Miller

Peter Jacobsen, a Lexus-sponsored pro, was there, serving as master of ceremonies and cracking everyone up, as usual. So was Johnny Miller, who also represents Lexus, offering comments about the generous slice of golf heaven that is Pebble Beach and vicinity and opining on the state of the professional game.

I was also extremely fortunate to be there at the front “reserved” table, with my wife on my right and Johnny seated directly to my left. Peter sat next to Johnny. It was one more in several pinch-yourself moments I’d had since arriving on Wednesday night.

We feasted on filet mignon, California sea bass, salad, wild mushrooms, winter squash and hazelnut chocolate cake. We enjoyed fine wine, including an Arnold Palmer Cabernet Sauvignon from the Napa Valley to mention one fitting example. We watched an entertaining slide show of the event and then Peter stepped to the podium to hand out the awards, but not before auctioning two special trips, the Lexus America’s Cup VIP Experience and a VIP package for the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion.

With an assist from Johnny, Peter worked the auction like a seasoned pro, laughs erupted around the cavernous rooms and The First Tee benefited to the tune of $25,000.

Following are the event winners, all playing for their designated charities.

2012 National Championship Results

1st Place Net: Greg Hafif and Robert Bolding
(Casa Colina Centers for Rehabilitation)

2nd Place Net: Steve Rojas and Steve Lehor
(Salvation Army)

3rd Place Net: Jackson Griffin and Brian Williams
(Carolina ALS – Pinstripes Fund)

4th Place Net: Blake Collingsworth and Timothy McEwen
(Huskers Athletic Foundation)

5th Place Net: Tim Wilbanks and Rick Layne
(Alabama Sherriff’s Youth Ranches)

6th Place Net: Steve Riggs and Peter Marvin
(Saint Vincent Foundation)

7th Place Net: Lance Gidel and Scott Pritchettt
(East Oakland Youth Development Center)

8th Place Net: Keith Powers Terry Milam
(The Hermitage, Home of President Andrew Jackson)

9th Place Net: Jeremy Roenick and Trent Walford
(Special Kids Network, Inc.)

10th Place Net: Jason Sills and Jennifer Sills
(Jewish Home of San Francisco)

1st Place Gross: Jeffery Anderson and Troy Anderson
(Boys Hope Girls Hope of Arizona)

2nd Place Gross: Rob Tedoldi Jr. and Omnia Fowler
(Ronald McDonald House Charities of Columbia)

3rd Place Gross: Kevin Sweeney and John Amendola
(St. Agnes Men’s Club)

4th Place Gross: Adam Buckley and Jim Caplinger
(Montgomery Inn Foundation)

5th Place Gross: Lee Gerdes and Ken Gerdes
(New Canaan YMCA)

Saturday, December 8

Lexus Day 3: Pebble Beach!

Neil Sagebiel (yours truly) on the par-5 18th hole at Pebble Beach.

Editor’s note: I’m at Pebble Beach for the 2012 Lexus Champions for Charity as a guest of Lexus. This is another installment in an ongoing series.

Caddie Mike and me.
“YOU CAN BREATHE NOW, NEIL.” That was our caddie, Mike, talking after I hit my first tee shot at Pebble Beach this morning. First-tee jitters are normal. This was far different, though. THIS WAS PEBBLE! And not only that, this first swing of the day was on the famed 18th along the Pacific Ocean, our beginning hole in the shotgun start.

I led off and just silently prayed I could stay steady enough over the ball to put it somewhere in the fairway. And I did. A lifetime golf quest was fulfilled today. A bucket-list item was crossed off the list.

It was a gorgeous day at Pebble Beach. It’s sensory overload, admittedly overwhelming—in a good way, of course! I tried to take it all in and also play some respectable golf. I mostly gave up on the latter goal fairly early and focused more on reveling in the experience, taking in the breathtaking views and enjoying the golf holes that were so familiar to me after seeing them year after year on television.

Many thanks to Nancy, Steve and Shawn, my playing partners from Lexus. I’ll always remember the sunny December day I played Pebble Beach Golf Links.

Nancy Hubbell of Lexus, my terrific golf partner and new friend.

Lexus Day 2: Dinner With Peter Jacobsen and Nick Watney

Editor’s note: I’m at Pebble Beach for the 2012 Lexus Champions for Charity as a guest of Lexus. This is another installment in an ongoing series.

The Mission Ranch owned by Clint Eastwood.
ANOTHER HIGHLIGHT DURING AN event filled with incredible highlights was a Friday night dinner with Peter Jacobsen and Nick Watney at the Mission Ranch in Carmel. The Lexus folks arranged and hosted the dinner, and there were about a dozen of us seated around the table on the toasty patio. Peter and Nick were seated directly across from me so I could easily chat with them and ask them anything.

The restaurant and property are owned by Clint Eastwood, and Peter shared some fun stories about his stays there when he played in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am during his early days on the PGA Tour. Then we very nearly had a brush with the Hollywood icon at dinner. Clint was spotted in the restaurant and Peter wandered off to find him and say hello. (They’re longtime friends.) However, Peter was unable to persuade Mr. Eastwood to make a stop at our table since he was on the way out.

The dinner-table conversation covered a lot of non-golf topics, including college football, Notre Dame and much more.

I almost hated to bring up golf, but once I did Peter and Nick were easy to talk to and great company. I plan to recap parts of that conversation later and hopefully share a few of the many hilarious stories that Peter told.

Friday, December 7

Lexus Day 2: Spyglass Hill

A perfect golf day at Spyglass Hill Golf Course.

Editor’s note: I’m at Pebble Beach for the 2012 Lexus Champions for Charity as a guest of Lexus. This is another installment in an ongoing series.

THIS WAS ONE OF THE BEST GOLF DAYS of my life. Spyglass Hill is phenomenal, a scenic and extremely challenging golf course. The weather was perfect: sunny, warm (for December) and gentle breezes.

Nancy Hubbell of Lexus, who is hosting me this week, was my playing partner. We were also joined by Kevin Hanssen, an assistant pro at Spyglass Hill, and Josh, our knowledgeable and good-natured caddie.

What a terrific group. We had great fun. Kevin and Josh could not have been more pleasant. And we hit some nice shots here and there. (Kevin hit a lot of fine shots. He finished 2 under. I probably don’t need to tell you how good that is around this place.)

It’s hard to believe that it could get any better than this, but then tomorrow is Pebble Beach.

Lexus Day 1: Fun for Spouses

Giving more money to charity at the spouse luncheon on Thursday. (Courtesy of Lexus)

Editor’s note: I’m at Pebble Beach for the 2012 Lexus Champions for Charity as a guest of Lexus. This is another installment in an ongoing series.

ONE OF THE FIRST THINGS I ASKED when Lexus invited me to the Lexus Champions for Charity National Championship at Pebble Beach was this: Can my wife come? Yes, said Lexus, and they have taken care of just about everything in that regard, treating her extremely well, making her feel like she is a part of the event.

In fact, while the golfers are out on Spanish Bay, Spyglass Hill and Pebble Beach over the three days, the spouses are enjoying their own special activities. On Thursday it was a extravagant multi-course luncheon with wine (including expert wine and food talks) in nearby Monterey.

The trip, of course, is an incredible golf opportunity, a bucket-list experience. But bringing along my wife makes it even better. We will remember this unique adventure for the rest of our lives.

Thursday, December 6

Lexus Day 1: Giving Is Breakfast Topic

Editor’s note: I’m at Pebble Beach for the 2012 Lexus Champions for Charity as a guest of Lexus. This is another installment in an ongoing series.

LEXUS HELPS RAISE A LOT OF MONEY for a lot of worthwhile causes.

That was the message I heard at the players breakfast this morning before heading out to The Links at Spanish Bay. And the message wasn’t delivered by the Lexus folks who invited me to participate in, and write about, this event. It came from players seated at my breakfast table.

A Santa Fe man raved about the money donated to his local JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation).

Another two men from the Bay Area who have played in this event several times talked about money poured into a community center in East Oakland, where many youth face every challenge you can imagine, including just staying alive.

According to Lexus, the Lexus Champions for Charity has raised more than $245 million in about a quarter century.

Lexus Day 1: The Links at Spanish Bay

Editor’s note: I’m at Pebble Beach for the 2012 Lexus Champions for Charity as a guest of Lexus. This is another installment in an ongoing series.

THIS MORNING THE GOLF ASSIGNMENT was The Links at Spanish Bay. We began at 9 a.m. and braved a difficult golf course in extremely tough conditions. It was windy, very windy. At times, our caddie, Che, said it was a four-club wind. I didnt know much about Spanish Bay. Now I do. I lost several golf balls. I wisely didnt keep score.

I played with three Pennsylvanians: Hunter, his father, Lewis, and Cathy. Cathy played great and the others definitely had their moments.

Caddie Che told me Spanish Bay tends to be underrated in terms of difficulty, and said that it plays as tough or tougher than Pebble Beach. The last stretch of holes are particularly brutal when the wind is strong (tip killers, Che called those holes, because they can ruin scores and moods). Fortunately, we started on 10, so we got them out of the way earlier.

That's me standing on the balcony of our ocean-view room.

Our group at Spanish Bay, with Cathy in the foreground.

The back nine at Spanish Bay.

Win this by making a hole-in-one. It's still there.

The rules.

More Pebble Beach:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Wednesday, December 5

Arrival at Pebble Beach

Editors note: I’m at Pebble Beach for the Lexus Champions for Charity as a guest of Lexus. This is another installment in an ongoing series. Read Part 1, Part 2Part 3 and Part 4.

IT WAS DARK AND FOGGY LIKE, WELL, Pebble Beach when we arrived late this afternoon at The Inn at Spanish Bay for the 2012 Lexus Champions for Charity. All our bags and golf clubs arrived as well (always a good thing) and are safely stowed. We’re here. And we’re excited!

The Lexus folks are outstanding and the accommodations and hospitality are truly remarkable. The welcome gifts included three FootJoy golf shirts, a “whale” button-up shirt and a Marmot Gravity Jacket. (Had I known of this bounty, I could have packed a tad lighter.)

“I’m in heaven,” my wife just said. This is good to hear, you know?

We’re situated on the second floor in an expansive ocean-view room, complete with fireplace, balcony and more. As I said, it’s pitch black, but with the balcony door open I hear and smell the oceanand that’s alright with me.

Tonight is a welcome reception at The Beach Club. Let the fun begin.


Tuesday, December 4

The Road to Pebble Beach, Part 4

Editors note: I’m going to Pebble Beach for the Lexus Champions for Charity as a guest of Lexus. This is another installment in an ongoing series. Read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

Pebble Beach Golf Links (Conway)
WE GOT A LATER-THAN-EXPECTED start but did make it to Charlotte on Tuesday night at 9 p.m. Tomorrow morning we fly to San Jose, and then drive to the Monterey Peninsula for the 2012 Lexus Champions for Charity. We will be staying at The Inn at Spanish Bay, and, besides amazing golf, will participate in a variety of social events.

I still don’t think any of this has sunk in—but it will soon. Nancy Hubbell of Lexus has informed me of the golf lineup: The Links at Spanish Bay on Thursday, Spyglass Hill Golf Course on Friday and Pebble Beach on Saturday.

I walked nine holes on Monday afternoon at my local club. It was an unseasonably warm 65 degrees in the Blue Ridge Mountains. What is going on with the weather?

While we’re on that subject, it’s supposed to be “picture-perfect” (for early December) on the Monterey Peninsula. Mostly sunny with highs in the mid-to-upper 50s for the next several days. I’ll take it. Here we go.


Monday, December 3

The Rules Geek: Keegan Bradley Isn’t a Cheater

Editor’s note: The Rules Geek is an occasional feature at ARMCHAIR GOLF.

Keegan Bradley
KEEGAN BRADLEY WAS HECKLED AT THE WORLD CHALLENGE won by Graeme McDowell because of his belly putter just a few days after the R&A and USGA announced an impending ban of anchoring via new rule 14-1b.

“I had some guy here call me a cheater on the last hole, which was no fun,” Bradley said on Saturday.

This is an easy one. Saturday was December 1, 2012. Rule 14-1b does not go into effect until January 1, 2016. Therefore Bradley is not a cheater.

That foolish fan needs a better grasp of the Gregorian calendar and a refresher on golf-spectator etiquette.

The USGA itself said this in a statement:
“This is a deplorable incident, and there is no place in our game for this kind of behavior. As we noted when announcing proposed Rule 14-1b, it has been and remains entirely within the Rules of Golf for players to anchor the club while making a stroke. There should not be a shred of criticism of such players or any qualification or doubt about their achievements, and we think that it is inappropriate even to suggest anything to the contrary. Rule changes address the future and not the past. Up until now and until such time as a Rule change were to be implemented, golfers using an anchored stroke will have been playing by the Rules of Golf.

“We are sorry that Keegan had to experience this unfounded criticism from an obviously uneducated spectator. Instead, Keegan and other PGA Tour professionals should be commended for their maturity and grace in managing through a proposed change to the Rules of Golf.”
The Rules Geek does not take sides in the anchoring-ban controversy, and is only concerned about upholding the current Rules of Golf. So, for now, anchor away.

The Rules Geek sez rules were made to be followed. Got a rules-related tip or story? Send it to The Rules Geek at

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Decision 33-7/4.5 Overhauled for Video Age
Camilo Villegas and the Divot DQ
Bad Behavior Down Under?
Juli Inkster and the Donut DQ
Phil Mickelson and the Proper Drop
Abnormal Ground Conditions Aid Amateur
Hunter Mahan’s Driver Replacement