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Stalag Golf, P.O.W. Style

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While visiting the USGA Museum archives I was exposed to something special that made me realize how important golf is to many of us. As an Army veteran myself, I appreciate others’ sacrifices for country both past and present. This is a short story of sacrifices past.

Many brave soldiers and airmen were captured and taken prisoner by the enemy during World War II. Many of these men were imprisoned in German prisoner of war camps, or stalags. These soldiers endured hardships many of us will never even begin to understand. Many more never made it home alive as these hardships took their toll on them, cutting their precious lives short.  For the most part, our enemies certainly did not care about the welfare of their prisoners of war.

How does golf fit into war? Well, it seems that in between the valiant struggle for daily survival, our boys found a way to play a little golf. Who could blame them? This goes to show that to many of us, golf is really more than just a game, it is a way of life and could even provide a momentary escape from a prison camp. Not an escape outside the walls, although many of those were certainly attempted. I mean an inner escape where golf became a refuge of sorts from the monotomy of prison life.

It seems that the YMCA and the American Red Cross found a way to send over many items to our brave boys. Food, medicine, clothing, shoes and in fact, golf clubs were even included in these care packages. It seems crazy, the notion of playing golf in a prison camp. It seems even crazier that the ememy would allow such a thing. One can only surmise that our boys must have had some extra time on their hands and that their captors wanted them occupied so as not to cause trouble for the guards.

I searched in vain all over the internet to see what I could learn about the POW’s and  golf. Without access to special library files,  the pickings were pretty slim. Almost all I found was a former American bomber crewmember’s personal website about his ordeal and capture which led to his imprisonment in Stalag Air Luft 3. This man is surely well into his 80’s by now, but he took the time to exchange a few e-mails with me about the subject of golf and stalags.

Arthur Starratt found it a tough pill to swallow that GI’s would even use leather from their boots to make something silly like a golf ball. According to Mr. Staratt, “It’s hard to believe guys would cut up their shoes to make golf balls. At Stalag Luft One the goons would issue a P.O.W. a pair of shoes that were never the right size. So you would walk all over the camp to find someone who had your size and than he would walk around to swap with some one that had his size. When you got a pair that fit, cutting them up to make golf balls would be the last thing I would do.”  Ahhh, obviously Mr. Staratt was never addicted to golf. My passion for the game leads to believe that all that was needed was a very small piece of leather to construct the ProV1 of the day. I don’t want to make light of others’ struggles, but during basic training we constructed a real chess board out of paper and hid it from the drill sergeants. We played chess in the barracks every chance we got, it was simply an escape from the nightmare we were in. Certainly, not the real hell prisoners of war experienced, but similar situations, none the less. I have to believe, that if the guard’s allowed it, the men would find a way to play. I did locate a short 1995 New York Times interview with another stalag survivor.  He painted a much different picture of prison camp conditions. According to POW Joseph Boyle, “Golf hazards were a little unique. If the drive went close to the fence, the golfer would signal to the watchtower, and the German guard with the gun would motion that it was all right to pick up the ball. There were no caddies in this prison camp in Poland called Stalag Luft III.” According to Boyle, in Stalag Luft III, there was time for golfing.  “We played for Canadian candy bars, recalls Boyle, 50 years after his liberation. A hole-in-one would be worth half a candy bar. Even during the worst war the globe has ever seen, captured prisoners stayed healthy with the help of games.”  This is why I believe these men played on, whatever the game might be. In this case, our beloved game of golf.

According to Boyle, “The Y.M.C.A. had sent over a few clubs and some balls, but somebody had been unable to resist the urge to whack the balls far over the fence, so there was a need to come up with a new supply, preferably less aerodynamic.”

"My friend, Harry Indierie, from Huntington, L.I., had studied engineering," Boyle said. "He was the pilot and I was the co-pilot when we were shot down over the Brest peninsula. He made a graph about one-eighth scale of the two parts of a softball. We would take the cover of an old basketball or the top of a leather boot and cut them into figure eights.”

"For the inside, we would cut off some rubber from the heel of a boot. Then we’d take the innards of a softball and wind them very carefully. Then we’d borrow a needle and linen thread from the one guy in camp who was allowed to repair boots. We sewed the two cover pieces on tightly. Then we rolled the ball on a table top to make it tight, and we dampened it so it would shrink. Then we’d wax it. It looked like a miniature baseball."

American WWII POW constructed golf balls stored away at the USGA. WOW, is all I can say.

Boyle said that the the makeshift golf balls would only fly 50-75 feet, so even the best driver in camp, Sparling Bernadotte Anderson, whom Boyle says later had a whirl as a professional — couldn’t lose them.” There are many great and historical golf balls out there, but maybe none so special as these two on display at the USGA. They look like tiny little baseballs, made out of darkened shoe leather. How did their course play? "The ground was flat and sandy, so we’d smooth it out with pine needles and make our own putting greens," Boyle said. "We made our own putters from wood trim from the barracks. We played pitch-and-putt golf, using a used milk can for the hole."

Someone spent a lot time and hard work making these limited flight POW golf balls.

After a lengthy Google search, I finally located part of an October 1944 Prisoner of War newspaper that told a neat story about American prisoners playing golf in captivity.

If you would like an interesting and historic read, feel free to download the story here.

When you have the chance, thank a veteran for their past or present sacrifices, it allows us to play real golf on real golf courses. By the way, hey Choeppner, THANKS!

 

 

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The DailyWRX: What’s buzzing on social media 6/5/2020

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With everything going on, I wanted to find some humor out there…hope you all can find some time to have a chuckle, it helps.

I relate to this on so many levels…

My game therefore I am trash.

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Send this to a trash golfer ????

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It’s funny…

But the guy might do it cuz he’s so damn savage.

I’m in…

Once again…

I love the shots and tips that come out of these vids…..but these backyard setups continue to solidify that I have failed at life…SMH. My jealousy rages.

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Rainy Wednesday…we going skippin!

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He is a literal walking ray of golden sunshine…

He’s inching up my list of favorite player…just sayin’.

DM @johnny_wunder for anything good

 

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Morning 9: U.S. Open could feature fans after all | LPGA skins match? | Singh WD’s from Korn Ferry event

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1. Singh bows out of Korn Ferry opener
Adam Woodard reports we will unfortunately not be getting the Singh/Schnell pairing we were hoping for…“Vijay Singh caused quite a stir a few weeks back when the three-time major champion’s name appeared on the field list for the Korn Ferry Tour’s first post-pandemic event at TPC Sawgrass’ Dye’s Valley Course June 11-14.”
  • “On Sunday, the PGA Tour confirmed Singh has withdrawn from the Korn Ferry Challenge. Golf Channel was first to report.”
  • “Singh riled up golf Twitter – Korn Ferry Tour pro Brady Schnell, in particular – with his initial decision to enter the KFT event. Being a lifetime PGA Tour member, The Big Fijian was eligible to enter the event because he wasn’t playing in the Tour’s return to play that same week at the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas.”
2. Still no fans at Colonial
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard…”Despite a revised state order that would allow fans to attend next month’s Charles Schwab Challenge in Texas, the PGA Tour plans to proceed without fans for at least the first four events when play resumes.”
  • “The PGA Tour’s primary focus continues to be the health and well-being of all involved with our tournaments and the communities in which we play,” a statement from the Tour read. “We plan to resume play at the Charles Schwab Challenge with the event – and the three to immediately follow – closed to the general public.”
3. Lynch on player mics
Golfweek’s Eamon Lynch has a few thoughts on one of the most-discussed matters coming out of The Match 2…“The most compelling possibility raised by “The Match II” is having players wear microphones during tournament play, and this week the European Tour said it will encourage players to be mic’d when it resumes action in July. The ET’s chief executive, Keith Pelley, exhibits more confidence in golfers agreeing to this than any of the people I know who produce live tournament golf for a living. Those producers will unanimously tell you it’s near impossible to get a simple walk and talk from a PGA Tour player, much less an intimate audio feed for 18 holes of competition.”
“The absence of mic’d competitors in tournaments isn’t because producers don’t want greater access. For all their garrulousness on social media, even younger Tour players maintain an old school mentality passed down from generations of Curtis Stranges and Raymond Floyds, who were as about as approachable as a piranha with toothache when they were working between the ropes. There is also a cost attached. “The Match II” was carefully stage-managed, with players held up along the way to ensure they were live at the right times. That won’t happen in tournaments with 156 guys in the field. Sure, you can stream a single group wired for sound, but for network broadcasts you’ll add the expense of a production staffer to monitor all the chatter for gems and a tape operator to cue it up (and armchair critics will still bemoan that it’s tape-delayed).”
4. Stymied LPGA skins match
Wherefore art the women in these charity matches? Apparently, we’d have already seen an LPGA skins match featuring top players, but for a lack of financial backing…
Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols has the full story…
“It’s all in place:
  • “Two courses are interested in hosting
  • Twelve players have agreed to compete
  • If they can pay for TV production, Franzen says they have the full support of the LPGA to work with their broadcast partners
“The idea is to deliver two days of skins matches to outlets around the globe. Players will have the ability to choose which COVID-19 relief fund they want their winnings to go toward.”
“But here’s the deal: Franzen needs funding. Lots of it.”
5. USGA: USO could feature fans
ESPN’s Bob Harig…”But the United States Golf Association is now optimistic about keeping the championship at Winged Foot Golf Club in suburban New York City and remains hopeful that spectators in some limited form will be able to attend.”
  • “The organization had been working on contingency plans to move the tournament to another venue, if necessary.”
  • “We are focused singularly on Winged Foot,” John Bodenhamer, senior managing director of championships for the USGA, said in a phone interview Friday. “Once we got the September dates, that was our thinking. Time is on our side. We did look at multiple scenarios, but given the recent news we felt we could focus there.”
  • “Winged Foot is a special place for us. And the golf course will be amazing. And to be able to do this in New York, where things have been so challenging, will put an explanation point on it. We see Winged Foot as our sole focus.”
6. Fill-in Tour event?
Rob Oller, Columbus Dispatch, syndicated in Golfweek…“Columbus could be in the mix to host a second PGA Tour event the week before the Memorial Tournament scheduled for July 16-19, two sources confirmed to the USA Today Network on Friday.”
  • “The Columbus-based tournament would serve as a temporary fill-in for the John Deere Classic, which was scheduled to be held July 9-12 in Silvis, Illinois, but canceled on Thursday because of concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. It was to be the first tour event to include spectators.”
  • “…Other leading alternative site is Detroit with Lexington, Kentucky, and Carmel, Indiana, also possibilities. (This story was updated on Saturday, May 30, to include new information from the Akron Beacon-Journal, a member of the USA Today Network.)”
7. Mackenzie Tour cancels season
Carson Williams at Golf Channel…“Border restrictions, mandatory quarantines for those who enter Canada and gathering restrictions in all provinces because of the coronavirus pandemic were just a few reasons that led the tour to cancel its season.”
  • “With growing uncertainty surrounding the border and the 14-day quarantine regulations, among other factors, we’ve weighed all of our options and concluded that it is not feasible to play this summer,” Mackenzie Tour Executive Director Scott Pritchard said in a press release. “With the safety of the communities we play in mind, as well as the well-being of our players, sponsors, tournament-organizing committees, volunteers and golf course staff, we came to the realization that this is the best decision for everyone involved.”
  • “Mackenzie Tour members have been sent information detailing eligibility for the 2021 season. Those who have earned status at three 2020 Qualifying Tournaments will keep their status for next season. For the Qualifying Tournament entrants who have not yet competed, they will be guaranteed a spot for the 2021 event.”
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Morning 9: Latest memo from Tour to players | Phil’s post-Match perspective | Greg Norman’s regrettable take

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1. Latest “bubble” memo
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard details the most recent communique from Tour to its players…“In a memo sent to players on Wednesday, tournament director Michael Tothe outlined many of the protocols that will be required when play resumes on June 11 at Colonial including the four Fort Worth, Texas, hotels that will create the foundation of the circuit’s “bubble” for the week.”
  • “The core of the PGA Tour’s plan to return was always about testing, but it’s a fine line to walk. In two weeks, at the Charles Schwab Challenge, we’ll find out if it will be enough.”
  • “Players are allowed to stay in individual RVs or rental homes but they are being encouraged to assure the health and safety of their accommodations if they choose to stay outside the bubble.”
  • “Players were also informed where COVID-19 testing will occur when they arrive in Fort Worth as well as meal options at Colonial, which will be limited to grab-and-go lunches in order to follow safety protocols.”
2. Little John finishes second at Crooked Stick 
Kyle Neddenriep, Indianapolis Star…Daly II made that same walk on Wednesday, up the 18th fairway for the final round of the inaugural Dye Junior Golf Invitational at Crooked Stick.”
  • “I think a lot of guys have re-watched the 1991 PGA tournament,” Daly II said. “I watched it every night before the tournament. (Watching him) walk down the 18th with all of the fans everywhere was pretty cool. He started as the ninth alternate and didn’t expect to play. For him to win, it was a ridiculous story. He loves it.”
  • “Daly II put together a remarkable tournament in his own right, finishing a three-way tie for second place behind winner John Marshall Butler of Louisville, Kentucky. Daly II was 4 over for the two-day, 54-hole event, which featured 33 of the top high school boys players in the country and 33 of the same on the girls’ side.”
3. Phil open to wearing mic
Golf Channel’s Will Gray…”Speaking on the Dan Patrick Show, Mickelson admitted that he didn’t expect the same level of banter during a typical Tour event with a seven-figure prize on the line, but he’d nonetheless be willing to broadcast his inside-the-ropes dialogue.”
  • “I would be open to the idea because of how it’s being received, and some of the insight and so forth,” Mickelson said. “But you don’t have the play between individuals. I had a partner, and Tom and I could talk back and forth. And maybe you could get some of that with the caddie, but having a partner is much more intimate and you have much better conversation.”
4. …wants annual Match
AP report…”Phil Mickelson, fresh off the success of Sunday’s charity golf exhibition with Tiger Woods, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, says he would like to see “The Match” become an annual event.”
  • “I think you could showcase guys like Steph Curry and Michael Jordan or Tony Romo and Patrick Mahomes, who are all good golfers, elite talents and have great personalities,” Mickelson told the Los Angeles Times in a column published Wednesday. “Those personalities are going to come out with this event. Or you could have someone who loves the game and is competitive but is really entertaining like Larry David and Bill Murray. I think that could shine.”
5. More audience info
Interesting stuff from Geoff Shackelford…“According to Showbuzzdaily.com, almost 1/3 of The Match 2’s audience was in the coveted 18-49 demo and the number was even better on on TruTV, also meaning there are people of any age group who know how to find TruTV”
  • “About 30% of The Match’s audience landed in the 18-49 demo despite the 44.5 average age of the participants…The numbers for TaylorMade Driving Relief with a foursome averaging 29.5 years”
  • “That’s 25% of the almighty buyers for a younger, supposedly more millennial-friendly group of golfers. And a grand total of (at least) 860,000 fewer viewers 18-49.  While not a huge difference in the percentage department, The Match did rout Driving Relief in overall audience and even took chipped away at NASCAR’s ratings.”

Full piece.

6. After a long layoff, how do the pros play?
Dylan Beirne, 15th Club for PGATour.com, examines the question…“As we might expect, there’s a clear relationship between performance and the number of weeks a player has been off. We can analyze how well players perform by comparing our estimate of their ability (how we would expect them to perform) to how they actually performed.”
  • “Generally, players taking small breaks of two weeks or less are marginally better than expected, while longer breaks result in an average drop in performance of between 0.1 and 0.2 strokes per round. For context, a drop of 0.2 strokes per round is about the gap between 100th- and 135th-ranked players in the world. It’s a significant change, but not enormous.”
  • “Additionally, the drop in performance after a 10-20 week gap is quite consistent across different levels of players. Top-50 players in the world are affected by a similar amount to those outside the top 50.”
7. A really bad take from Greg Norman
I mean, what else can you call it? A man who has a history of obtuseness and putting his fin in his mouth outdid himself with unfounded speculation about the Kobe Bryant helicopter crash in an interview with Michael Bamberger…“I asked Norman about the January helicopter crash in Los Angeles that killed all nine people aboard, Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, among them. I asked Norman if he had any insight, from his own experience as a helicopter pilot, and as an elite athlete who has flown often in helicopters as a passenger, into the tragedy.”
  • “Yes – yes,” he said. His voice was sober. “Probably pilot error and pressure from the back,” Norman said. Norman could imagine the legendary basketball player saying, “‘Get me through this; get me there. I’ve got to get my daughter to this game.’
  • …”My instructor and I had a saying, ‘If you can’t see through it don’t fly through it.’ If I was flying to Doral or Orlando or Naples and there was fog, we just put it down and waited it out.”
8. Sprint to the Cup
Ben Everill at PGATour.com…“The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting cancellations and postponements of tournaments leaves just 11 eligible tournaments over a 10-week stretch for players to qualify for the Playoffs and a chance at the $15 million bonus that comes with the season-long FedExCup crown.”
  • “While the top 125 will not double as the cutoff for TOUR cards next season in this reduced schedule, it will remain the mark to get into THE NORTHERN TRUST, the first of three Playoffs events in the chase for the FedExCup.”
  • “Gone is the luxury of extended rest between starts for those sitting way back on the list, such as Koepka, who was just starting to find his feet again on a return from injury when the pandemic halted play in March.”

 

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