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Opinion & Analysis

Kerr: It will never seem the same on television again

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By Seth Kerr

GolfWRX Staff Writer

My first memory of the Masters is Fred Couples on the par-3 12th hole on Sunday in 1992. I was 11, and already in love with the game and most other sports.

I remember Ken Venturi announcing, and watching the ball slowly roll back ready to fall in the water and ruin my favorite player’s dream, and then I watched it stop. I can remember smiling and knowing he would win, and I remember saying someday I would be there.

So when my dad called me and said it was time to cross off something on both our bucket lists I felt like I was a kid again. I’ve been lucky enough to go to some great sporting events like the Final Four and have gone to more games than I can count at the two best venues in the world in my humble opinion, Fenway Park and the Boston Garden, but what they say is true.

Nothing is like Augusta.

We had tickets for Saturday. I had scoped out all the information I could on the best places to watch, when to buy souvenirs, whether to buy chairs, etc., so I felt pretty solid on what we should do when we arrived.

I’d heard all the stories about eating a pimento cheese sandwich (not bad), how nice everyone is, and how hilly the course is. The course is incredibly hilly, shockingly hilly. Television doesn’t do it justice. They could run the bobsled event down some of those fairways.

We arrived and headed straight for the shop to buy a shirt, hat and chairs. We decided we would try to make it to No. 16 and watch the par 3, so we’d be where the action was during the end of the day.

We made the trek across the first hole, around the second green, third fairway, seventh fairway, No. 17 fairway and finally to the 16th. We were there by 8:30 a.m. and there were already a number of chairs. We put ours just to the left of the right greenside bunker about four rows deep.

My dad wanted to sit for a while and since we were a couple hours from anyone actually playing the hole I decided to walk around for a bit and try to take in each hole. It really is a beautiful place. The bunkers are much deeper than they seem on television and a lot of the greens seem smaller too.

The left side of the par-5 15th looks about 20-feet deep. From the cross walk there is a sprinkler head marked 114 yards. I’m a 5 handicap and decent golfer and don’t normally miss the green with a wedge but the shot looked incredibly intimidating.

Same with the 12th, the green looks so small. It looks like a sliver of green between bunkers.

I could talk all day about the course and the little things. What really stands out is the people you meet. Once players started arriving at the 16th and chairs filled up, we met tons of people both first timers and people who had been there for 10 or 20 years. There were old, young, men, women and almost everyone was knowledgeable about the sport. Some of the most fun we all had was watching the scoreboard on No. 6 to see whose name they would take off and whose they would replace it with.

On a random note, there are no bugs. I saw one fly, and one dragonfly, no ants, no spiders, no mosquitoes, nothing.

As far as the play, there weren’t too many stand out shots on the 16th that day.  The best shots were players getting up and down from the bunker.

The most notable action was Justin Rose four putting to fall out of contention and Gary Woodland four putting on his way to shooting 85 and withdrawing due to an injury.

All day we had been watching the scoreboard wondering, where is Phil, what is he doing, is he doing anything? Every time a name went down on the scoreboard, we would think his was going up, but it never did. For most of the day players had to be 3-under or so to make the board, and without cell phones you really have no idea what was happening around the course.

Then you heard the roar and just knew. I looked at the guy next to me and we both said, “that was an eagle roar, maybe it’s a Phil roar.” Within about two minutes, we saw a name being replaced and there was Phil.

When he arrived on the 16th and made his way up to the green the crowd went crazy for him. It was great seeing how he carries himself, unlike another certain someone. Phil acknowledged the crowd, smiled, nodded his head at encouragement, and looked genuinely thankful for the crowd’s cheers.

But for me I will always remember the final group. Seeing my golfing hero. Going back to being that 11-year-old kid and seeing Freddie walk up the 16th. Clearly dejected, clearly not having a good day, but clearly loved.

You guys can have Tiger and whomever else you want, I’ll take watching Freddie any day of the week.

Everyone I met who I told it was my first time said the same thing, “You’ll be back next year” or “see you in the same spot next year”. And they are probably right, I think I will have to go back. It will never seem the same on television again.

Click here for more discussion in the “Tour Talk” forum.

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Seth is an avid golfer playing year round in Florida.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Rich Gardner

    Apr 14, 2012 at 6:35 pm

    While I’ve never had the chance to see the Master’s ( my No# 1 Buckets list), I’ve marshalled at Jacks Memorial for several years until retiring to Ca a few years back…much better weather for golf out here than in Buckeyeland…but please know that Jacks love for the Masters is what led him to set up the Memorial as close as possible to the Master as he could…Everything is colored green, no arms on chairs, caddy’s must wear the same “jumpsuits” (unless they’ve changed that since I was there) and restricted tickets…Wonderful experience, Muirfield is a beautiful course, one the players rate as one of the highest on thour….Great venue if you can’t make the Masters!

  2. Matt

    Apr 13, 2012 at 5:30 am

    Fortunate to make my first trip to Augusta this year as well, Wednesday practice round. Made the trip from California…unbelievable experience. Hoping to get back next year. Just sitting at the practice range at Augusta National watching guys work on their game was amazing.

  3. Pingback: Kerr: It will never seem the same on television again | Augusta Blog

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Courses

Coming Up: A Big Golf Adventure

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My name is Jacob Sjöman, and I’m a 35-year-old golf photographer who also enjoys the game we all love. I will be sharing some experiences here on a big golf trip that we are doing. With me I’ve got my friend Johan. I will introduce him properly later, but he is quite a funny character. According to Johan, he is the best golf photo assistant in the world, and we will see about that since this is probably his biggest test yet doing this trip. Previously on our trips, Johan almost got us killed in Dubai with a lack of driving skills. He also missed a recent evening photo shoot in Bulgaria while having a few beers to many… and that’s not all.

Anyway, the last couple of days I’ve been packing my bags over and over. I came home from the Canary Islands this Sunday and I’ve been constantly checking and rechecking that we’ve got all the required equipment, batteries, and that the cameras are 100 percent functional and good to go for this golf trip. I’m still not sure, but in a couple of minutes I will be sitting in a taxi to the airport and there will be no turning back.

Where are we going then? We are going to visit some of the very best golf courses in New Zealand and Australia. There will be breathtaking golf on cliffsides, jaw-dropping scenic courses, and some hidden gems. And probably a big amount of lost balls with a lot of material produced in the end.

I couldn’t be more excited for a golf journey like this one. Flying around the globe to these special golf courses I’ve only dreamed about visiting before gives me a big kick and I feel almost feel like a Indiana Jones. The only thing we’ve got in common, though, is that we don’t like snakes. Australia seems to be one of the worst destinations to visit in that purpose, but all the upsides are massive in this.

First, we will take off from a cold Stockholm (it’s raining heavily outside at the moment) and then we will do our first stop at Doha in Quatar. Then after two more hours, we are finally heading off to Auckland on the north island of New Zealand, a mega-flight of 16 hours. I believe that could very well be one of the longest flights available for a ordinary airplane. I need to check that.

Flights for me usually mean work, editing photos from different golf courses I’ve visited, writing some texts, editing some films, and planning for the future. Last time, though, I finally managed to sleep a little, which is a welcome progress for a guy that was deadly scared of flying until 2008.

Now, I am perfectly fine with flying. A few rocky flights over the Atlantic Sea to Detroit helped me a lot, and my motto is now, “If those flights got me down on the ground safely, it takes a lot of failures to bring down a plane.”

Anyway, I hope you will join me on this golf trip. Stay tuned!

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Opinion & Analysis

Be Curious, Not Critical, of Tour Player Swings

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After a foul ball by a tour player, the talking heads on TV are often quick to analyze the “problem” with that swing. Fair enough, I suppose. Even the best players are human and our game has more failure than success. But I’d like to offer a different take on swings of the best players in the world.

First, let’s remember how good these guys and gals really are. If you met up with the lowest ranked player on any professional tour at a public course one day, I’ll bet that golfer would be the best golfer most of you have ever played with. You’d be telling your buddies in the 19th hole about him or her for a very long time. These players have reached a level of ball striking most people only dream about. That’s why I’m more curious than critical when it comes to a tour player’s swing. I’m not thinking about what he/she needs to do better; I’m thinking, “How do they do it so well?” In other words, I want to know how they put their successful move together. What part goes with the other parts? How did their pattern evolve? What are the compatible components of their swing?

Let’s use Jim Furyk as an example. Furyk has what we might call an “unconventional” move. It’s also a swing that has won nearly $70 million and shot 58 one day. But I’ll offer him as an example because his swing illustrates the point I’m making. From a double-overlapping grip, Furyk picks the golf club up to what might be the most vertical position one would ever see from a professional. Then in transition, he flattens the club and drops it well behind him. Now the club is so flat and inside, he has to open his body as quickly as he can to keep the club from getting “stuck.” Let’s call it an “up-and-under loop.”

Let’s take Matt Kuchar as a counter example. Kuchar’s signature hands-in, flat and very deep takeaway is pretty much the total opposite of Furyk. But he comes over that takeaway and gets the club back into a great position into impact. We’ll call that an “in-and-over” loop.

Both are two of the best and most consistent golfers in the world. Is one right and the other wrong? Of course not. They do have one thing in common, however, and it’s that they both balanced their golf swing equation.

What would happen if Kuchar did what Furyk does coming down? Well, he wouldn’t be on TV on the weekend. If he did, he’d be hitting drop kicks several inches behind. That doesn’t win The Players Championship. The point is that the Furyk downswing is incompatible with the Kuchar backswing, and vice versa, but I’m guessing they both know that.

How can this help you? My own personal belief and the basis of my teaching is this: your backswing is an option, but your downswing is a requirement. I had one student today dropping the arms and club well inside and another coming over the top, and they both felt better impact at the end of the lesson. I showed them how to balance their equation.

My job is solving swing puzzles, a new one very hour, and I’m glad it is. It would be mind-numbing boredom if I asked every golfer to do the same thing. It’s the teaching professional’s job to solve your puzzle, and I assure you that with the right guidance you can make your golf swing parts match. Are there universal truths, things that every golfer MUST do?  Yes, they are the following:

  1. Square the club face
  2. Come into the ball at a good angle
  3. Swing in the intended direction
  4. Hit the ball in the center of the face (method be damned!)

But here’s the funny part: Let Kuchar or Furyk get off base and watch every swing critic in the world blame some part of the quirkiness of their move that has led to their greatness. When players at their level get off their game, it’s generally due to poor timing or that they lost the sync/rhythm that connected their individual parts. The same holds true for all of us. We have to find the matching parts and the timing to connect them. You might not need new parts.

After all, weren’t those same parts doing the job when you shot your career low round?

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Opinion & Analysis

The numbers behind “full scholarships” in NCAA men’s college golf

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If you are in the world of junior golf, you’ve probably heard about a young man you know who’s getting that coveted full ride to college, maybe even to a Power-5 school. With all the talk in junior golf about full scholarships, and a lot of rumors about how many are available, we decided to poll coaches and gather some real data about “full scholarships.”

So, what did we find out? In total, we got responses to a voluntary online survey from 61 men’s D1 coaches, 19 men’s D2 coaches and 3 NAIA coaches (83 total). On average, the coaches in the survey had 11.8 years of coaching experience. Of the coaches that responded, 58 of the 83 coaches reported having zero players on full ride. Another 15 coaches surveyed reported having one player on full ride. This means that 69 percent of the coaches surveyed reported zero players on full scholarship and 18 percent reported one player on full scholarship, while another four coaches reported that 20 percent of their team was on full ride and six coaches reported between 2-3 players on full ride.

We then asked coaches, “what percent of golfers in Division 1 do you think have full scholarships based on your best guess?” Here’s what the responses looked like: 25 coaches said 5 percent and 36 coaches said 10 percent. This means that 73 percent of respondents suggested that, in their opinion, in men’s Division 1, Division 2 and NAIA, there are less than 10 percent of players on full ride.

Next, we asked coaches, “what was a fair scholarship percentage to offer a player likely to play in your top 5?” The average of the 83 responses was 62.5 percent scholarship with 38 coaches (46 percent) suggesting they would give 30-50 percent and 43 coaches (52 percent) suggesting 50-75 percent. Only two coaches mentioned full scholarship.

The last question we asked coaches, was “what would you need to do to earn a full scholarship?”

  • Top-100 in NJGS/Top-250 in WAGR – 41 coaches (49 percent)
  • 250-700 in WAGR – 19 coaches (23 percent)
  • Most interesting, 17 coaches (20 percent) noted that they either did not give full rides or did not have the funding to give full rides.

The findings demonstrate that full rides among players at the men’s Division 1, Division 2 and NAIA levels are rare, likely making up less than 10 percent of total players. It also suggests that if you are a junior player looking for a full ride, you need to be exceptional; among the very best in your class.

Please note that the survey has limitations because it does not differentiate between athletic and academic money. The fact is several institutions have a distinct advantage of being able to “stack” academic and athletic aid to create the best financial packages. My intuition suggests that the coaches who responded suggesting they have several players on “full rides” are likely at places where they are easily able to package money. For example, a private institution like Mercer might give a student $12,000 for a certain GPA and SAT. This might amount to approximately 25 percent, but under the NCAA rules it does not count toward the coach’s 4.5 scholarships. Now for 75 percent athletic, the coach can give a player a full ride.

Maybe the most interesting finding of the data collection is the idea that many programs are not funded enough to offer full rides. The NCAA allows fully funded men’s Division 1 programs to have 4.5 scholarships, while Division 2 programs are allowed 3.6. My best guess suggests that a little more than 60 percent of men’s Division 1 programs have this full allotment of scholarship. In Division 2, my guess is that this number is a lot closer to 30 percent.

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