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The PGA Tour should blood test everyone for both drugs and wellness

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Is there a better way to handle testing?

In a gentlemen’s game that has always policed itself, the policy of drug testing is tantamount to putting a square peg in a round hole. It just feels like it doesn’t belong and like it could be administered in a more tactful manner. As it stands, the practice seems to diminish an element that is critical to any strong relationship: trust. There’s a better way.

Recently, a lot has been made of the peculiar case of Mark Hensby. He did not take a urinalysis and was subsequently suspended by the Tour for a year. The suspension seemed to be more of a story of confusion and crossed wires than anything else, and Hensby offered a heartfelt apology for his actions. In the apology, Hensby mentioned that he had previously taken, and was expecting to take, a blood test.

Moving forward into the 2018 PGA Tour season, blood testing will become more and more prevalent on the PGA Tour. This gives the Tour a better way to test for HGH and other drugs that a urinalysis won’t catch. But it could also be a big opportunity for the Tour to improve the life of players and even the fans. Seems odd, but it’s happened before.

Years ago, I was at a golf course and overheard two retirees on their way out of the parking lot. “See you tomorrow,” one man said to his friend. “Nope. Arnie says I’ve got to get my prostate checked. So should you.” Arnold Palmer’s positive diagnosis for prostate cancer in 1997 became the lunch pad for a prostate cancer awareness campaign that saved lives.

The Tour should once again be looking to ring that same bell of health awareness. It might not be prostate cancer, but it could be pre-diabetes, testosterone, vitamin deficiencies, cholesterol management and immunization strength. All promoted in a positive and proactive light. Some privacy issues obviously need to be addressed, but imagine Champions Tour players talking about how healthy and legal testosterone treatments have improved their game and overall quality of life. Or a player finding out through the mandatory blood work that he is pre-diabetic and how the changes he made in his life have had a positive impact.

Let’s test for more than just drugs; let’s test for wellness. Some employers are already doing this using online lab services to give employees drug and wellness tests. These tests are available to anyone who is interested in a healthier life, which a lot of PGA Tour fans are. The fatigue we may feel on the closing holes may be less about cardio and strength and more about vitamin or testosterone levels. Insights like these are available to all of us now — not just the Tour players — and they’re valuable. But the unique ability to raise the awareness of holistic wellness for players and fans belongs to the PGA Tour.

We are all familiar with the These Guys Are Good slogan. Now let’s add These Guys Are Getting Better.

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Laz Versalles is a husband, father and golfer who lives in Santa Monica, California. A former club professional, Laz now works in healthcare, coaches a middle school golf team and strives to break 80 whenever he gets a chance to play. A native of Minnesota, Laz is a lifelong Twins and Vikings fan and believes Randy Moss is the most dominant football player than ever walked this earth. You can follow Laz on twitter @laz_versalles

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Mikele

    Dec 22, 2017 at 8:46 pm

    Drug testing via blood work is good. There rest of it is not the Tour’s business or anyone else’s business other than the individual. The idea that the tour should stick its nose into this area of a players personal life is reprehensible and an inappropriate intrusion beyond the workplace. I wonder how many advocates of this rant and rave about government interference in people’s personal lives and regulation.

    • Laz Versalles

      Dec 23, 2017 at 12:10 pm

      Consent would definitely be a part it. If a senior tour player found out via blood test that he had a vitamin deficiency, it would give that player on opportunity- totally up to them- to share it with fans. Hence the example of Arnie’s prostate cancer campaign. Nothing reprehensible and inappropriate about health awareness.

  2. Robin

    Dec 22, 2017 at 11:45 am

    Tim Finchem was scared to test Tiger Woods. Especially after the sports illustrated article where %25 of Pga pros thought TW was on some type of peds.

    • Hate WRX Trolls

      Dec 22, 2017 at 8:42 pm

      Pure BS. Tiger was regularly tested. I worked for the Tour when he was at the height of his career. I know it to be fact. You’re just another rumor mongering tool. Now go back and read the actual article you cite and come back when you understand what it says and the discussion of facts.

      • steve

        Dec 25, 2017 at 1:46 pm

        tiger was never tested and was he not suspended on this last incident were there was 3 drugs in his system for which he had no prescription for I know this for a fact

  3. FG

    Dec 21, 2017 at 4:49 pm

    It’s still illegal to get testosterone treatments on any tour, regardless of the doctor’s permission and patient’s condition…

    • SK

      Dec 23, 2017 at 3:11 am

      Testosterone shots in the rear end may boost your testosterone levels for a few weeks and then you need another shot…. and then it get’s dangerous. As you age your testosterone levels drop and there’s nothing much you can do about the decline.

      • Laz Versalles

        Dec 23, 2017 at 12:14 pm

        There’s more than one way to treat low T. Unrelated: I played a round a day after getting a B-12 shot and it was eye-opening. Super tuned in and focused. Still three-putted four times, but they were aggressive run-it-by-hole three putts.

        • roger

          Dec 23, 2017 at 2:40 pm

          High Testosterone and prostate cancer are related. As you age your prostate goes through a buildup of cancerous cells, and getting testosterone shots may accelerate prostate cancer. If you are desperate in your golf game do you want to risk your long term health just to knock off a few handicap points?

  4. DoubleMochaMan

    Dec 21, 2017 at 12:03 pm

    That sounds like a good idea… for the health of the players on tour. Everyone with a PGA Tour card or those who play in a PGA Tour event without a card should take the test. All results should be strictly private. It’s a win-win, unless I am overlooking something. And if a pro does not want to know the results that is okay, too. Unless the result is the presence of banned drugs in their system. That, too, remains private, but corrections are requested.

    • Laz Versalles

      Dec 21, 2017 at 6:50 pm

      It’s a heck of an eye opener. I’ve recently made a big push towards living a healthier lifestyle and knowing where you stand from a blood work perspective helps. Example: I took a vitamin B-12 shot yesterday and have felt great all day. Probably going to do it ever 2 weeks or so.

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10 Years Later: Why the assistant coach has made college golf better

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It’s been 10 years since the NCCA Legislation began allowing assistant golf coaches to perform on-course coaching in college events. Today, 94 percent of the top-100 men’s golf teams have assistant coaches, and the coaching pool is stronger than ever, with individuals such as Jean Paul Hebert (Texas), Jake Amos (South Carolina), Ryan Jamieson (Florida), Robert Duck (Florida State), Donnie Darr (Oklahoma State), John Mills (Kent State), Garrett Runion (LSU), Zach Barlow (Illinois), Bob Heinz (Duke), and 2017 Assistant Coach of the Year from Baylor, Ryan Blagg. The list includes a guy with 20+ PGA Tour experience (Bob Heinz), several former college standouts and some National Championship wins (Jean Paul Hebert – 1, Runion – 2, Amos – 2).

In the 10 years since the expanded role of the assistant golf coach, the National Championship has still been dominated by major conference schools, with only three non-major conference schools earning a spot in match play (Kent State 2012, and Augusta State in 2010, 2011). Of course, Augusta State went on to win both of its appearances in match play, earning back-to-back national championships under Coach Josh Gregory.

One of best examples of the success of assistant golf coaches is Chris Malloy at Ole Miss. Malloy, a graduate of Ole Miss, began his coaching career as the women’s assistant golf coach at Florida State. Shortly after, he was working with both programs and had an immediate impact, which included helping the men win their first ever ACC championship. Shortly after, Chris took over as the men’s golf coach at University of South Florida, transforming the team into a National Contender and a top-30 ranking. Today, at Ole Miss, Chris has done the same thing, transforming a team and a culture in three years, earning a spot in the 2017 NCAA National Championship at Rich Harvest Farms.

Another great example is Sooner coach Ryan Hybl, who in 2017 lead his team to the NCAA National Championship. Hybl, an outstanding player at Georgia, then was an assistant with the program from 2005-2009. The system continues to work as three notable assistants made moves this summer; Jim Garden from OU to Coastal Carolina, John Handrigan from UF to Notre Dame and Dusty Smith from Vanderbilt to Mississippi State.

Although to date, mid-major teams have not fared consistently on the national level. The system of assistant coaches has proven to be an excellent tool in broadening the pool of candidates. Last year’s National Championship featured six mid-major schools with half being wily veterans, and half being a product of the assistant coach route; Michael Beard of Pepperdine served as the assistant at Arizona State; Bryce Waller of University of Central Florida served as the assistant at the University of Tennessee; Bryant Odem of Kennesaw State served as the assistant at the University of Wisconsin. It will also feature teams like Oklahoma State, Baylor, Virginia, Oklahoma, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss and Purdue, which have coaches who have benefited from their experience as assistant coaches in their roles with these programs.

Practice Facility at the University of Central Florida

Practice Facility at the University of Central Florida

The pool of candidates for coaching positions today is deeper than ever. Athletic Directors are blessed to be able to interview several good candidates for almost each job. The result for the players are fully engaged coaches who bring passion and desire to improve each of their programs.

Bowen Sargent, the current head coach at University of Virginia and former assistant coach at the University of Tennessee under Jim Kelson, started coaching when the rules only allowed one coach. In the 10 years since the rule change, Bowen believes “it’s a positive change for sure. Having two coaches allows for a better student-athlete experience and for them to have more access to their coaches.”

Coach Bowen Sargent of UVA, along with former players Denny McCarthy and Derek Bard at the US Open

Coach Bowen Sargent of UVA, along with former players Denny McCarthy and Derek Bard at the U.S. Open

The diversity among coaches is also greater. Today’s juniors have the option to play for a skillful player such as a Mike Small at Illinois or Casey Martin at Oregon, or Doug Martin at Cincinnati, or even a world class instructor like Bryce Waller at UCF, Ben Pellicani at Limpscomb or Casey Van Dame at South Dakota State. Waller, an excellent instructor himself, has lead UCF to three National Championship appearance in 7 years. Likewise, Ben, a Golf Digest top-40 under-40 instructor who spent several years learning from Mike Bender has been instrumental in transforming Limpscomb into a national contender, participating in their first ever National Championship in 2017. Lastly, Casey who spent several years under Jim Mclean, then as the assistant at University of Tennessee, has transformed South Dakota State Men’s and Women’s Golf, with both teams currently ranked in the top-100 in the country.

Ben Pellicanni of Limpscomb University helping to read a putt

Ben Pellicanni of Limpscomb University helping to read a putt

Athletic Directors are also starting to put more funding towards golf resources. The result has been an explosion of golf-specific training facilities across the scope of college golf. Many mid-major schools have top-notch practice facilities, including places such as University of North Texas, University of Richmond, University of Central Arkansas and Illinois State to name a few.

Golf facility at the University of Central Arkansas

Golf facility at the University of Central Arkansas

The tremendous pool of coaching candidates has also benefited other levels of golf. For example, 2014 Assistant Coach of the Year Chris Hill is now the head men’s and women’s golf coach at Concordia University, a Division 3 School near Austin, Texas. In his two years as coach, he has already lead the program to seven tournament titles.

As time passed, I believe that we will see a change at the NCAA Championship and it will include a growing trend towards mid-major universities not only earning spots at the National Championships, but having success like Augusta State. The person at the head of one of those programs is likely to have come from the assistant coach ranks and should be thankful for the rule change, which lead to these opportunities.

Please note: As of writing this article, only 6 men’s teams in D1 do not have assistant coaches. They are UTEP (51), McNeese (84), Nevada (88), Richmond (89), Cincinnati (92) and Tennessee at Chattanooga (96).

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