Coming off the back of all the excitement of Sergio Garcia’s win at The Players Championships at Sawgrass, there have been repeated calls to acknowledge this event as the 5th major. Already billed by some as the ‘unofficial’ 5th major, there is an increasing clamour from the games modernizers that this be made official.
Of course traditionalists could not disagree more, arguing that to add another major would water down the achievement that is winning a major; something that should be the crowning glory of a career. They also say that it would short-change those who build their season around the 4 events that we currently call majors and that the Players Championship does not have the tradition associated with a major (even if this was the 89th time the event has been held).
I use the phrase ‘events that we currently call majors’ as it might surprise some that the events that we currently recognise as majors are now are not the original majors that the likes of Bobby Jones would recognise. The original majors were The Open, The Amateur Championship, The US Open and The US Amateur Championship (the first two normally being known as the British Open and the British Amateur Championship). When Bobby Jones held his 1930 grand slam of all four majors in a season, it was these events he won – not the Masters (which didn’t exist until 1934) or the PGA (which had only existed for 16 years at that point).
As an aside, for someone like Sergio including two amateur championships would finally allow him to lose the tag of most talented player never to win a major having won the British Amateur in 1998 and Tiger’s total would be boosted by 3 US Amateur Champs. But while they remain highly regarded events, the restriction to amateur players means that they will never regain the prestige that they once had and will certainly never count as majors again.
The selection of the four events we know as the majors is generally ascribed to Arnold Palmer in 1960. Having won the Masters and the US Open, he is said to have commented that if he won the British Open and the PGA he would have a grand slam to equal Bobby Jones. While Palmer’s comment was the first time that the events were mentioned as majors, they must have been known as the most prestigious events for some time for him to say that. This selection has now hardened into one of the central tenets of golf.
That the definitions of majors have changed once in the past obviously means that however unlikely, it could possibly change again. But assuming that the Players was accorded the status of a major, how would it happen – would the Players go in as a 5th major or would it replace one of the current ones?
Adding it in as the 5th major would be the easiest route as it still would not take away from the current ones. But as I mentioned earlier, would this not dilute the achievement? And why stop at adding one event, what about adding in others like the Australian Open? It is a great example of an event with excellent pedigree and a roll call of illustrious winners with the added bonus of being outside the US and therefore more appealing to the global market? Would it not create the possibility of two tiers of majors where you have your major-majors and your minor-majors (if that doesn’t sound too Gilbert and Sullivan)?
If you choose the other option and say that one of the current majors were demoted, which one would it be? While it’s only my opinion, one of them does look far more vulnerable than the others. The Open has too much tradition and an international outlook with the closest links back to the origins of the game to ever be demoted. The US Open is always set up as the toughest test in golf with the idea being that the winner should be the only person on or near par. The Masters has the pomp and ceremony (or affected gravitas and snobbery if you see it from the other side), and it has Augusta; arguably the most beautiful and demanding course in the world. That leaves the PGA somewhat sucking hind teat.
The PGA Championship used to be the grand hurrah of the season. With the increasing length of the professional golf season, this is no longer so and the addition of the end of Tour competitions on the US Tour (the Fedex Cup) and European Tour (the forthcoming Dubai World Championship) has taken away some of glare of the spotlight. Added to the perceived lack of distinctive personality of the PGA and the sensation that the winners’ roll of the PGA does not always reflect the best golfer as the lucky journeyman, then you might think that the PGA is ripe for replacement.
But you’d be wrong.
The personality of the PGA is far more subtle than that of its colleagues’. It was and is primarily a competition by the professional golfer for the professional golfer – originally at a time when professional sportsmen were nowhere near as venerated as they are now. It reserves a large proportion of its places for club professionals, rather than the touring professionals that we are used to seeing, and while this might be slightly anachronistic, it shows a refreshing independent from the moneymen. Something that was noticeably lacking at the Masters when invitations went out to players a long way down the world ranking purely because their home countries are ones where golf is a fast growing sport.
It became a major for a reason. It still attracts the highest calibre of players and while maybe not all the courses it visits could be seen as classic major venues, a vast majority are and it is held right across the country offering the chance for many people to see a major in their home town.
In some ways the PGA would not have lost some of its distinctiveness if it had not stopped being a match play event when it changed in 1958 to stroke play. In this age of television coverage, this makes a lot of sense as it allows constant golf to be seen. In match play the final day is often just the last two competitors and maybe a play-off for third and forth place. Done correctly, match play is a superb, in fact it’s possibly the best format in golf with the Ryder Cup is the most prominent example of that. Were the PGA to switch back, it would immediately have an identity that would separate it from the rest of the majors. It would also open up the chance of one of the club pros causing an upset, something that would guarantee excitement.
Whatever changes the PGA Championships does or doesn’t make to ensure its significance as a major, the question you need to ask is whether any of the winners of the PGA (or any of the others majors for that matter) would swap that victory with winning the Players. The unanimous answer would be no. The Players has a fantastic amount going for it; tradition, pedigree, a superb course and let’s not forget the enormous winner’s cheque but it does not have that certain something that will vault it up a level and into the majors and that, for the moment at least, is the way it will stay.
Morning 9: Inside a life-changing PGA Tour finish | The LPGA’s struggle
By Ben Alberstadt (firstname.lastname@example.org)
June 25, 2019
Good Tuesday morning, golf fans.
1. Inside a life-changing finish
PGATour.com’s Jim McCabe with more on Zack Sucher…
2. Return of the Phrankenwood
Golf Digest’s E. Michael Johnson…
“Phil Mickelson always delivers-at least as it relates to interesting equipment stories. After recently employing a two-driver strategy, Lefty hauled out his old Callaway X Hot 3Deep fairway wood that he used to win the 2013 Open Championship with. Earlier that year Mickelson asked Callaway for a 3-wood he could hit both off the tee and off the turf. The result was a 43.25-inch 3-wood (with a finished loft slightly stronger than its listed 13 degrees). The club also had a face height 10 percent larger than the company’s X Hot Pro, thus raising the center of gravity more in line with Mickelson’s impact spot. After working with the club at Doral that year, Mickelson’s caddie at the time, Jim Mackay, called it, “The most meaningful club Phil has ever put in the bag in my 20 years caddieing for him.”
3. Woods name dropped from wrongful death suit
ESPN’s Bob Harig...”A wrongful death lawsuit no longer names Tiger Woods in a claim against a South Florida restaurant that carries the golfer’s name.”
4. A strike at Detroit Golf Club?
Greg Levinsky of the Detroit Free Press (syndicated in Golfweek)…”The employees who are making Detroit Golf Club a playable PGA Tour-caliber golf course this week are calling for the end of negotiations and a new contract. If it doesn’t happen by the time the Rocket Mortgage Classic tees off on Thursday, then the union says it’s willing to strike.”
5. Golf course dispute leads to fatal shooting, fire
AP report on an insane golf-related multiple homicide…
6. LPGA’s struggle
The New York Times’ Karen Crouse on the plight of the LPGA Tour…
7. Team Baby Mommas
Golf Channel’s Randall Mell…
8. Getting off the ground…
Golf Digest’s Dave Shedloski on the effort to establish new PGA Tour events…
We’ve been highlighting the timepieces worn by PGA Tour winners as they hoist their trophies…
Here’s a bit on Chez Reavie’s Rolex Oyster Perpetual Datejust II Fluted Black Roman
“Rolex was founded in 1905 by Hans Wilsdorf as a London timepiece distributor but always dreamed of making a precise wristwatch. In 1910, a Rolex watch was the first to receive the Swiss Certificate of Chonometric Precision. In 1919 Rolex moved to Geneva and continued making precision timepieces. The Rolex Datejust II is a larger version of the Datejust (41mm vs 36mm) and was introduced in 2009. The movement in the Datejust II is a self-winding Calibre 3136 that is certified by the Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute (COSC).”
Tiger Woods’ name dropped from wrongful death lawsuit
One month after being named in a wrongful death lawsuit involving a former employee from The Woods Jupiter restaurant, Tiger Woods is now no longer a defendant.
On Monday, Woods’ attorneys announced that the 43-year-old’s name had been dropped from the amended case, but the lawsuit filed last month by the parents of Nicholas Immesberger, who died in a drink-driving accident in 2018, is ongoing against both The Woods Jupiter and Woods’ girlfriend – Erica Herman, who is the general manager of the restaurant.
Per a report from ESPN’S Bob Harig – speaking on the decision to drop his clients’ name from the case, Woods’ attorney, Barry Postman, stated
“The decision was clearly appropriate and reflected the fact that Mr. Woods should not have been included in the lawsuit in the first place because he had nothing to do with Mr. Immesberger’s death.
“While the situation was tragic, the facts will ultimately show that the cause of Mr. Immesberger’s car accident were the many decisions made by Mr. Immesberger on the night of his passing.”
The lawsuit filed in May alleges that Immesberger was served excessive amounts of alcohol before his fatal crash on Dec. 10 and that employees, managers and owners let Immesberger, who was not wearing a seat belt before the accident, drive home despite their knowledge that he was over the limit.
Speaking on the incident at the PGA Championship in May, Woods said
“We’re all very sad that Nick passed away. It was a terrible night, a terrible ending, and just—we feel bad for him and his entire family. It’s very sad.”
Detroit Golf City
Woodward Avenue is a major thoroughfare in downtown Detroit. From it, you can see two very unique golf courses, close in proximity but miles apart in every other way.
The first course, the Detroit Golf Club, is a lush 36-hole Donald Ross design. Privately owned and operated, DGC is set to host the inaugural Rocket Mortgage Classic this week. This will be the PGA Tour’s first regular event in Michigan since the Buick Open ended in 2009 and the first regular tour event ever for the city of Detroit.
The second course, Palmer Park, is city owned and currently closed. The grass is overgrown, but you can see the bones of a once proud 18-hole municipal track, winding through the 296 acres of the larger public park space of the same name. Originally opened in 1927, the Palmer Park golf course has always been a piece of inner-city Detroit’s fabric. But now it sits empty.
Niall Hay, the Chairman of the First Tee of Greater Detroit, is working hard for these two courses to help each other, and at the same time, help thousands of underprivileged kids in Detroit learn the great game of golf and all the positive things it can bring to their lives.
The First Tee of Greater Detroit was one of the program’s very first chapters. It began in 1997 as a partnership with the LPGA, the Masters Tournament, the PGA of America, PGA Tour and the USGA with a simple goal to get more kids playing golf. It started as a way to bring affordable golf to communities that needed it. Detroit was an obvious choice, but eventually, like so many other things in Detroit, the economic recession caught up to it.
“During the economic meltdown, the chapter just went away for a variety of reasons. Mostly funding,” said Hay.
But in 2012, Hay, a former member of the Ohio State golf team, decided to look into exactly what went wrong with the First Tee program in Detroit. First, he met with past chairmen and former board members. They all gave the same story. The program just died a slow death as the funding dried up. Members of the board moved on to different things. But they all said it was a great organization and one of them suggested that Hay start it back up. “I was looking to potentially join a board, not found one,” Hay said with a chuckle. But it was him or no one. So he did it.
A small group in the city of Ann Arbor was already working with the First Tee on getting a chapter started for Washtenaw County, but funding was proving, yet again, to be an issue. So Hay and others had to wait for that to be resolved before they could obtain a letter of intent for a chapter in Detroit from The First Tee. But he was certain that his community needed the program in place.
“If we were going to do this,” Hay said, “we need to do it in the city of Detroit, in the inner city and impacting underprivileged kids in the city and not in suburbs or other areas. We wanted to stay in downtown Detroit where there is the most need.”
The first steps were to form a foundation, gain 401(c)(3) non-profit tax status from the IRS and then form a diverse and talented board. This took some time. Then, they needed to find the money to fund it. This took more time. But Detroit is a strong community and several local businesses were willing to partner to get things back up and running. And in June of 2015, the First Tee of Greater Detroit began with its first green grass program.
Today, the program is as strong as ever, with over 500 students in the spring, summer and fall programs, which all act like a sort of camp for youth development and some golf. Additionally, the First Tee of Greater Detroit partners with local public schools to train its PE teachers to teach First Tee curriculum, the nine core values and related golf activities. Over 13,000 additional kids are reached in the National School Program.
For the first three years of The First Tee Detroit’s rebirth, the green grass program took place at Palmer Park.
“Back then, Palmer Park was a really rundown course. We focused our programming on the front nine, and some of the drier areas on the back,” Hay said. The course had issues with flooding and wasn’t in the best condition, but it was home. A place to play and practice regularly. But after a few years, the city put out a request for proposal, seeking additional management help for its public golf courses. “The First Tee was hoping to pull Palmer Park from the RFP and have the First Tee chapter raise money to make it a high quality 9 hole golf course,” Hay said. “It got pulled from the RFP, they signed with Signet, who put their money into the other three city courses and the Palmer Park course never reopened.”
“So now, the children of First Tee Greater Detroit are spread around a bit. They practice and play some at Rackham, one of the other public courses in Detroit. Some at Maple Lane. There are classes and clinics all around the city. “We do not have a home course or facility now but we have more traction with people. The more the First Tee gets bigger and bigger, the more we would love a home base.”
And with the PGA Tour’s new four-year deal with sponsor Quicken Loans and the Detroit Golf Club, golf interest in Detroit is getting a shot in the arm. More and more kids are signing up with the First Tee Program. And this is just the beginning. PGA Tour events across the tournament schedule are associated with their local First Tee Chapter. Most sites have youth experience areas where the First Tee Experience is promoted and encourages. The core values of the program are on display at tour events and children and their parents alike are exposed to a way to get involved with youth golf. The First Tee of Greater Detroit will have a tent at the Rocket Mortgage Classic adjacent to the Kids Zone.
And just as important, the PGA Tour events donate a percentage of their revenue with the First Tee Chapters. Detroit will be no different in that regard. And some chapters make hundreds of thousands of dollars from these tournaments. “We are one of the primary beneficiaries of the tournament,” Hay said. “The tournament itself will share some of the revenue with local charities. The First Tee of Detroit is one of the charities that will thankfully receive funding from the Rocket Mortgage Giving Fund.”
“It’s a game changer for us,” Hay said about the PGA Tour’s newest stop in Detroit. “It could take us to the next level. Our Board has never been more engaged. We have already seen a huge spike in interest. We have seen 40 to 50 percent more inquiries and kids signing up. Kids want to play and more volunteers are signing up to teach.” In fact, Summer and Fall registration is going on right now and the excitement continues to build.
The First Tee of Greater Detroit has experienced a rebirth. The City of Detroit has experienced a rebirth. And now, as thousands of golf fans drive down Woodward Avenue to watch the best players on the planet compete in the Rocket Mortgage Classic at Detroit Golf Club, they might also look towards Palmer Park and see the spirit of golf sitting idly by, waiting for someone to give it a chance.
Funding, of course, is yet again the issue. But with the right investor(s), Palmer Park could experience a rebirth of its own. And that would not only help reinvigorate the heart of the city, but also the hundreds and soon to be thousands of kids who are discovering the game of golf with the First Tee Greater Detroit. The Rocket Mortgage event is a great start. Hopefully, this is just the beginning for Detroit golf.
“We’ve got hundreds of acres in the middle of the city where you could put in a really cool nine-hole course and short game area. It would be a great story for Detroit. And it would be great for our community and for these kids.”
If you are interested in helping by giving a donation, you can participate by doing so here.
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