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What’s working so well for PGA Tour Superstore? CEO Dick Sullivan explains

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Popular perception suggests golf retail, particularly the large scale, brick-and-mortar variety, is under siege. So, I was intrigued by PGA Tour Superstore’s recent announcement of 15 percent same-store sales growth year-over-year and even more intrigued by the company’s plans for expansion (adding 19 stores over the next three years).

The company also saw a 42 percent growth in e-commerce sales and performed over 100,000 custom club fittings last year across its 31 retail stores. PGA Tour Superstore opened four stores in 2017 (Glendale, AZ, Hilton Head, SC, Jacksonville, FL and Las Vegas), with plans to open at least five in 2018.

I spoke with PGA Tour Superstore President and CEO, Dick Sullivan, about the company’s unique approach to retail and the state of the golf retail marketplace in general. Sullivan was an executive at Home Depot and the Atlanta Falcons prior to his appointment as head of PGA Tour Superstore in 2009.

Ben Alberstadt: Tell me a little bit about the PGA Tour Superstore model and what’s working for you.

Dick Sullivan: We take a lot of our same values that we had at Home Depot in terms of how we take care of our customer. In our case, we’re much more than…buying products off the rack. Anybody can do that. In our case, it’s so much more important that we bring the level of assortments, the level of service, and a level of experience that consumers really want. A lot of other retailers have tried to bring, say, a high level of service, but they just can bring the…assortments we bring because of the size of our stores…They’re 40-50,000 square feet.

We make multi-million dollar investments in technology every year to make sure that what our customers see inside of stores is really what the pros will see and what all the OEMs are using in terms of fitting.

In addition to the technology that we have, we hire PGA Pros in our stores. Just like Home Depot, where if you don’t have the right people on the floor…that’s a problem. We go out and we seek the best in class in golf, whether it’s students coming out of academies, whether it’s coming out of green grass shops…it’s really important to our customers that we have that level of expertise.

The broad assortment that we carry, not only the hard goods side but on the apparel side, are also important to our customers as well. And we don’t just sell products. We gave over 50,000 lessons last year. We fit over 100,000 customers. We put on over one million grips….We have large-scale putting greens. We have hole-in-one contests. We do closest to the pin. We do other contests.

BA: I don’t want to ask you for the recipe for the secret sauce, but can you talk a little bit more about applying the Home Depot model.

DS: Well, there’s no commission at all. If a customer comes in and doesn’t want to buy anything that day, that’s fine. We’ll have people come in…and say, “Well, I wanted to buy a new set of clubs, but an associate told me I should take a lesson first.”

Another thing is, our company has an inverted organization chart. Those who are closest to the customer are the ones who are in power to make decisions. Those at the bottom–the chairman, the CEO–we help facilitate and deal with challenges and obstacles…Every single day [information is coming back from the store]…and the customer is at the top. The customer is king…the associate is right below them in terms of the org chart.

Our associates solve problems on the floor of the store. They don’t have to go through some bureaucratic system or political power to make decisions. So, it’s a great experience for our customers.

BA: That sounds like it would yield both fluidity and continual optimization of the in-store experience for the customer…

DS:  Just like in the pro shop. You want that golfer to feel like they are king. Our associates get to do the things with our customers that competitors can’t…You think about the simulators inside our stores. That experience alone…the hole-in-one contests…things like that, those are the fun things our associates get to do. Lessons with kids on Saturday morning. All that stuff is really fun.

BA: It seems like you’re putting a premium on relationships and the service element, where others might sometimes feel that it’s not worth an investment, so it’s interesting to see you defying that line of thinking.

DS: Well at Home Depot, and Arthur [Blank] taught me this about 26 years ago: Our associates are not an expense, our associates are an investment. And another thing I’ll never forget him saying: “We’re not in the transaction business, we’re in the relationship business.”

We have nine-hole leagues. We tested them in Minnesota, and our customers really gravitated to it..It’s really fun for families to come in and play…There’s some wonderful new technology that’s out there that’s allowing us to do some unique things.

In the cold-weather months…we have not only one dozen-plus simulators in every one of our stores, but we have these practice bays–almost like an indoor driving range…that’s different. That’s an experience. Someone used the term “retailtainment.” I’d never heard that term, but I thought it was a good term.

BA: Another interesting element here is you’re doing very well online. Can you speak to that?

DS: Well, we have a 50-year license with the PGA Tour. When we did the deal with Tim Finchem…there was no license of that length. We believe strongly in the brand of the PGA Tour. They’re at the top of the pyramid. When you think of golfers, you think of the PGA Tour. The PGA Tour brand reeks of quality. If I said, “Volvo,” and I said, “give me the attributes of Volvo,” by the second, third, or fourth, you’d say “safety.” So when I say “PGA Tour,” it’s usually “high performance,” “quality.” All those things help us in the virtual space…versus “Bob’s Discount Golf” or something like that.

Second, the assortments that we have are just phenomenal.

Black Friday. I remember an article that said, “this is the death of Black Friday.” This was supposed to be the first time that consumers shopped online…at the level of 59 percent. It made me a little nervous. Across the company we had a 28 percent increase that Black Friday, and we had a 98 percent increase online. Then we were up 62 percent on Cyber Monday.

A few years ago, we didn’t have quite the national footprint and the name recognition…I think that footprint has helped us grow our e-commerce business, along with the reputation the PGA Tour brings.

BA: Given the success that you’re seeing, do you think there’d been some fundamental misunderstanding of the golf consumer, or was it just an element of common sense that was lacking?

DS: At the end of the day, the customer votes. We all know that. And I think some organizations maybe have an arrogance in thinking they have all the answers, and they push those decisions down. As I said, we have the reverse: Our associates listen to our customers. Our customers tell our associates what we can do better, and we make those changes.

One of core values is listening and responding. Putting our people first. Innovating. There’s a number of values that we’ve taken from that model of Home Depot and brought it over. The assortments that you see, the size of our stores, that didn’t exist 15 years ago…and I think the level of service, the investment in people, was never happening. And then the investment we make in technology…it’s not just magical marketing that convinces people they need to buy. They can actually see it [by hitting the club on an in-store simulator].”

BA: I think there’s such a level of skepticism at this point that marketing claims are so in-one-ear-and-out-the-other that the best thing OEMs can do, if they really believe in their technology, is to say “go try it out on a launch monitor.” We’ve reached critical mass in terms of marketing speak.

DS: Yeah. Getting fit is not just the little box on the floor and if you swing 88 mph you’re a regular flex…it’s come a long way over the years, and I think we recognize that. That makes it fun. And it makes it more challenging, because the product actually has to perform. It’s not marketing claims; people can actually see the results. Spin rate. Launch angle. All that. And if you’ve got the right fitters, they can quickly dial you in. And we fit for golf balls. It’s amazing to see people come in and get fit for golf balls

BA: That should be the direction of retail. That’s the stuff that really makes the difference, along with lessons. That’s what’s going to enhance how well a player plays and how much s/he enjoys the game.

DS: And if it doesn’t work on the course, they can bring it back. We want people to be happy. It’s fun to hear these stories on course about how a player changed his ball or changed equipment. And they’re all out there fighting for market share. There’s some unbelievable manufacturers. We just came off of a weeklong training session with hundreds of our associates at Streamsong…all the major manufacturers are represented. Every one of our associates goes through extensive training on products…our associates know as much as the reps know.

BA: To circle back, initially, I’m impressed by the scale of the operation, the growth year-over-year, but so much of what you’re doing seems almost like a small business in terms of attention, in terms of investment in employees, it terms of relationships with customers and not being as transactional in orientation. I think that’s a really interesting element of the story.

DS: Hopefully we’re never so big that we change the culture of our company. The investment we making in training…we believe in training probably more than any other retailer out there. It’s so important our associates come well trained and are able to work with customers, because this is not easy stuff. It can be overwhelming.

BA: That’s the point the consumer is at, I think. Technology has become so sophisticated that you either need to do a ton of research or you need help. You need background knowledge in addition to knowing about specific offerings, or, again, you need help.

DS: Right. And we try to make it all simple. We don’t just focus on the avid golfer, we cater to juniors, women, seniors, everyone. That’s part of our whole model.

But we’re growing. We’re going to double the size of our company over the next four years…basically open a store every other month. We see a lot of opportunity. There’s a lot of real estate out there. There’s plenty of real estate in some markets we haven’t been in, and customers are calling and writing asking when we’ll make it to those markets, so you’ll see us growing in some new places over the next three or four years.

BA: Great. Any final remarks on the state of the industry?

DS: Most people call me up and say, “What’s wrong with golf?” I say, “What’s wrong with golf? I don’t think there’s anything wrong with golf.” Golf Channel just announced there were more viewers than January than ever before. Golf rounds have stabilized. We’re bringing more kids into the game than ever.

I don’t want to be falsely optimistic, and certainly there are some things that still need to be fixed, but there’s certainly more positives in golf now than not and the buzz at the PGA Show was great. You know, there were lots of clouds the last few years…but I felt a real positive buzz at the show, more so than I have in many years. I think that bodes well for the game, whether it’s outdoors, or whether they’re coming inside and hitting on simulators, just as long as they’re having fun with a golf club in their hand.

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10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Bill

    Feb 12, 2018 at 12:32 pm

    This dude should do undercover boss or something. He’s delusional if he thinks half of his stores operate this way. Also the WORST repair service I’ve ever seen…or at least close to it.

  2. Jon K

    Feb 12, 2018 at 11:11 am

    First of all, sales were up for one simple reason–no more Golfsmith. And for all the smart sounding talk about “great customer service” and “our employees are an investment”, PGA Superstore is just another big box retailer that likes to hire a lot of part-timers, pay them very little with no benefits, and provide no incentive for sales people, nor provide any of them a means to actually make a living in golf retail. Just look at the turnover. Also, golf and golf retail is a very specific world with its own culture and values. Big box retailers lack the authenticity and the integrity of a real golf shop, or of a great independently owned store like Carl’s Golfland.

  3. alexdub

    Feb 12, 2018 at 10:29 am

    I go to PGATSS for one reason — the fitting bays. I may just be stopping in to buy a grip or something small, but I’ll stay for 45 mins and try the new drivers in the simulation bay and roll some putts. I think PGATSS does a great job with the model they are implementing.

  4. Reeves

    Feb 11, 2018 at 12:11 am

    The day you walk in and the price of a Callaway, Taylormade, Ping etc. product is at a discount over the OEM controlled price is the day I will know they have something special to offer…to many years the OEM’s have been able to control prices on new stock and even one and two year old models. Time this price fixing comes to an end…if a retailer wants to sell the $499 Callaway driver for $429 then he should still be able to carry and sell that item..OEM’s should not be allowed to price fix period.

    • peter collins

      Feb 13, 2018 at 6:34 am

      I can’t abide any form of price fixing

  5. allan duncan

    Feb 10, 2018 at 6:48 pm

    If you want to see how not to operate a golf store, please come to Myrtle Beach and sit back a laugh.

    • Steve P

      Feb 10, 2018 at 8:09 pm

      Totally correct! i was there last summer over the 4th of July for the Ripken baseball tournament for my son. As someone in golf retail for 25+ years I wanted to check out their store as we don’t have one in our market. It was the dumpiest large golf store I had ever set foot in! This, in one of the largest golf destinations in the world!
      I couldn’t believe how sad it was. I bet I could increase their sales 50% at that location within 6 months.

      • Matt B

        Feb 11, 2018 at 8:15 am

        I too agree. I have been going in these MB stores for years. Love the merchandise options but the staff is rude and overbearing.

  6. Joe D

    Feb 10, 2018 at 2:36 pm

    There is one in Irvine, about an hour away. If only it was closer. I’d pay the $99 and you get 30 minute launch monitor sessions for a year.

  7. Bruno

    Feb 10, 2018 at 12:49 pm

    Visited the Las Vegas store and it was like a boy in a candy store. I bought some overpriced tees and fled before I made a big mistake. 😎

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GolfWRX Morning 9: The real problem with the FedEx Cup | Golfer at gunpoint | What elite junior golfers all do

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By Ben Alberstadt (ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com)

September 18, 2018

Good Tuesday morning, golf fans.
1. Feinstein: the FedEx Cup Playoffs still aren’t right
Most agree the PGA Tour is yet to deliver the FedEx Cup (pardon the pun) of our collective dreams. John Feinstein offered some constructive criticism.
“Chances are good though, based on reports of the planned changes, that the tour still won’t get it right. It has been trying-sort of-for 12 years now to get it right. The problem is it doesn’t REALLY want to get it exactly right. Which is sad, because it shouldn’t be that difficult.”
  • “Because it wants so badly to convince the public that the events it controls are REALLY important, the tour barely gives more credit to those who win a major than to those who win the John Deere Classic or The CareerBuilder Challenge.”
  • “The winner of a regular tour event receives 500 FedExCup points. Those who win a WGC event-also part of the tour-receive 550 points.”
  • “Which is why a major should count for at least three times as much as a regular tour win in the points system. Winning a major is SO much harder than a regular tour event: the quality of the field; the pressure on Sunday; the understanding that you are playing for history, not just money.”
  • “It is ludicrous that Brooks Koepka won two majors this year and goes into the Tour Championship in seventh place on the points list. Tony Finau, who has not won anywhere, is third. Koepka could add the Tour Championship to his resume this week and NOT win the FedEx Cup. Seriously?”
Additionally, Feinstein levels the suggestion most of us agree on: the Playoffs should be actual playoffs.
2. …and speaking of still not right
Joel Beall follows up on the story of Montana parents being barred from watching their children play high school golf.
  • “It appears Kelly’s group has garnered a partial victory, as the MHSA has introduced a rule on a trial basis this fall that will allow non-participants on the course during events. Twelve guideline have been implemented, which state that spectators have to stay 40 yards from golfers and that cell phones must be turned off upon entering the property.”
  • “We will try it at all levels and see how it goes,” Luke Kloker of the MHSA executive board said to Montana’s Sidney Herald. “Every other state seems to be able to figure out how to make it work.”
  • “However, this pilot program will come with a price. The MHSA also announced that it will charge $10 for admission to the course for golf events. While it’s common for high-school sports like football, basketball, and baseball to charge entrance fees, it’s highly unusual for golf.”
What’s the rationale? Funding a beer cart?
3. Rosaforte on how Keegan made it all the way back
Tim Rosaforte does his usual picking of the low-hanging fruit and juicing it for all its worth with his latest: a look at Keegan Bradley’s resurgence. (Not a criticism of Tim. He does what he does and he does it well)
  • A morsel…”The decline in Bradley’s young career started with an exchange of high-profile swing coaches starting 2013, when he left Jim McLean for Chuck Cook and went back to McLean before settling on Darren May, an English teaching pro at The Bear’s Club.”
  • “We worked hard on making him accept the fact that he needs to be somewhat of an average putter, because his ball-striking and driving stats are so good,” May explained. “They’re all shooting scores in different ways.”
  • “Ranked second in strokes gained: approach and sixth in strokes gained: tee-to-green, Bradley ultimately fed off the success his close friend Webb Simpson achieved in 2018, when he overcame the anchor ban with a win at The Players and a spot on Furyk’s team.”
  • “Our career arc has been the same,” Bradley said, referring to Simpson. “Watching what he did really changed my mentality.”
  • “The final piece of Bradley’s resurrection were the words of encouragement passed along by Michael Jordan through a relationship cultivated at The Bear’s Club. Not long after he signed for the 78 at Ridgewood, Bradley started reading MJ’s inspirational words on his phone. His basic message: Take from the experience and build on it.”
4.  Evian finally has that major feel
Randall Mell writes (rightly) that major championships cannot be manufactured. Thus, the Evian was always going to have to grow into to fine garments the LPGA bought for it in awarding that status.
  • “There’s more to creating major-championship tradition than jacking up the purse, renovating a course and draping the winner in her country’s flag after it came flapping from the heavens under a skydiver’s parachute.”
  • “It takes Sundays like the one Angela Stanford delivered at Evian this past week….It was a big day for more than Stanford, who was such a feel-good story, breaking through at 40 to win her first major with her mother at home fighting a second bout with breast cancer.”
  • “It was a big day for LPGA commissioner Mike Whan and Evian Championship founder Franck Riboud…The Evian Championship finally measured up.”
5. Patty’s new Scotty?
While Reed is a free agent, he’s had nothing but success with an Odyssey White Hot Pro 3. Scotty Cameron is turning on the charm however, making the putter above to woo Captain America, according to David Dusek.
“A yellow box arrived at Titleist’s PGA Tour van Monday at East Lake Golf Club, containing a new, customized Scotty Cameron Tour Rat I putter that has a slightly darker, non-glare finish. While Reed is not a Titleist staff player, the putter, trimmed in red, white and blue, has Captain America stamped into the bumpers of the head, a nod to Reed’s nickname after the 2016 Ryder Cup.”
6. Want to be an elite junior golfer?
Our Brendan Ryan found some interesting results in exploring where PGA Tour pros played their junior golf.
  • “Based on the data of these 24 PGA Tour players, their average home course has a yardage of 6,772 and slope of 132. Wowzers! Can’t believe it? It makes perfect sense: To be competitive in golf, you must shoot under par. Shooting under par, like riding a bike, or walking, or writing, is a skill. It is developed through a combination of repetition and feedback.”
  • “Easier golf courses allow players the opportunity to shoot lower scores and build confidence. Over time, these skills become habit. When players enter tournaments, it is more likely they shoot under par. Breaking par at your home golf course is only the first step towards becoming an elite junior golfer. The data suggests that players (both boys and girls) need to average approximately 69 per round to win on the AJGA – on 6,800-yard courses for boys and just under 6,000 yards for girls.”
  • “No major championship venue has ever had a junior member go on to win, or even play, the PGA Tour. That’s right: the PGA Tour is not filled with junior members from Augusta National. Why? Because while playing Shinnecock Hills is an absolute treat, the course is extremely difficult, and 74 is a great score. Junior members at such courses create habits of shooting 74, and when they enter tournaments, like the AJGA, in general, they get beat.”
7. Coastal resorts weather the hurricane
Golfweek’s Martin Kaufmann reports…”Hurricane Florence inflicted untold millions of dollars of damage on the Carolinas, but most of the popular resort destinations along the coastline were not hit as hard as initially feared.”
“The hurricane looked like it was going to deliver a direct Category 4 blast to the coastline where North Carolina and South Carolina meet. The storm weakened as it made landfall but still wreaked havoc as it moved slowly across the Carolinas. But the damage was not as bad as initially feared.”
“North Myrtle Beach, S.C., Mayor Marilyn Hatley told the Myrtle Beach Sun News that she felt “blessed and thankful” that the area, while hit hard, didn’t suffer the devastation that had been anticipated.”
8. Odds to win the FedEx Cup
Per the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook…
2/1: Bryson DeChambeau
11/5: Justin Rose
6/1: Tony Finau, Dustin Johnson
8/1: Justin Thomas
16/1: Brooks Koepka
40/1: Jason Day, Rory McIlroy
50/1: Keegan Bradley, Billy Horschel, Webb Simpson, Francesco Molinari
60/1: Bubba Watson, Cameron Smith
100/1: Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Xander Schauffele, Patrick Reed, Patrick Cantlay
150/1: Tommy Fleetwood
250/1: Jon Rahm, Rickie Fowler
500/1: Aaron Wise, Paul Casey, Hideki Matsuyama, Kevin Na, Kyle Stanley
1000/1: Marc Leishman, Gary Woodland
5000/1: Patton Kizzire
9. Golfer threatened at gunpoint…for trying to retrieve his golf ball from somebody’s yard
Just the facts, ma’am…
KDKA CBS Pittsburgh report…”Police say a Butler County man pulled out a pistol and threatened a golfer who was trying to get a ball out of the man’s yard.”
  • “According to state police, a 42-year-old Butler man was playing golf at the Bonnie Brook Golf Course on Serene Lane around 2 p.m. Sunday when he hit a golf ball in the direction of a nearby home.”
  • “When the man went to retrieve the golf ball from the yard, a 55-year-old man came out and the two got into an argument…During the argument, the man pulled out a pistol and threatened the golfer.”
  • “The 55-year-old man will be cited with terroristic threats, simple assault and harassment. He has also been told not to contact the victim.”

 

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Tour Rundown: Sangmoon Bae is headed back to the PGA Tour

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The schedulers may have whiffed with Tour Championship and Ryder Cup in back-to-back weeks, but that’s what we have on the horizon. As the 2017-18 PGA Tour season comes to a close, and with it, the Web.Com Tour playoffs, number one on everyone’s mind is next season: where will I play? Do I have status? Some of those questions were answered last week, so let’s run down the answers to the questions, in this week’s Tour Rundown.

Bae back on PGA Tour after Web.Com playoff win

The oldest event on the Web.Com Tour was the site of Sang-moon Bae’s comeback completion. Two years of mandatory military service in South Korea did little to derail the 32-year old’s professional career. Bae birdied the 72nd hole to hold off his challengers, including the eponymous Anders Albertson, to win the Albertson’s Boise Open at 19-under. Bae was a stroke off the first-round lead, then moved into a first-place tie after 36-holes. He continued to advance, seizing the 54-hole lead. Albertson caught fire on Sunday, making 5 birdies in his opening 9 holes. After a bogey stall at the 11th, Albertson birdied 5 of the closing 8 holes. Roberto Diaz of Mexico was tied with Bae after round 3, but a Sunday 68 dropped him back to 5th place. Bae guaranteed a return to the 2018-19 PGA Tour with his Idaho triumph.

Wu works wonders in Holland for KLM victory

Like Bae, Ashun Wu of China birdied the 72nd hole at The Dutch club, host site of The KLM championship on the European Tour. Like Bae, his closest pursuer (Chris Wood) failed to match it, and Wu walked away with his third career European tour title. Wood held a 1-stroke lead over Wu after 54 holes, and the battle to see which “W” would emerge with the “W,” came down to the final 9 holes. Wood played well, making 3 birdies in the inward half. They were sandwiched around a double-bogey at the 12th, and the Englishman closed with 5 pars to finish at 15-under. Wu’s card included only one hiccough, a front-nine bogey, and he was a bit more clutch when it counted. The victory moved Wu inside the top 50, in the season-long Race To Dubai.

Stanford claims first LPGA major title at Evian

For her entire career, Angela Stanford has been a fixture in the top 5 of major championships. It has been a wonder that she did not claim one of them until the fall of 2018. In France, Stanford mounted a final-round comeback, overcame 3rd round-leader Amy Olson, and captured the Evian Championship by one shot over Olson and 3 others. Stanford opened with 72 on Thursday, then dived into the 60s with abandon. Rounds of 64-68-68 brought her to 12-under par. The Texan was able to keep her head, despite an eagle-double-birdie stretch on holes 15-17. Austin Ernst had a clean card on Sunday, but 3 birdies were 1 shy of victory. Mo Martin also had 3 birdies on day 4, but 2 bogeys brought her back to 11-under with Ernst. Sei Young Kim and Olson both went above par in the 4th round, after playing marvelous golf through the first 3 days. Despite their struggles, they also finished in that second-place tie.

Broadhurst claims third title of PGA Tour Champions

Paul Broadhurst won his first 2 Champions title in 2016. After taking a break in 2017, the Englishman returned with abandon in 2018. Wins at the 2-man Bass Pro and the May Senior PGA were followed this week with a triumph in Michigan. Broadhurst overcame a surging Brandt Jobe, who birdied 5 of his firs 6, back-9 holes, before he stalled. Jobe reached 13-under to claim second place alone. Broadhurst finished in style, with birdie at the last, for a 2-shot win.

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GolfWRX Morning 9: Bae-umphant! | U.S. Ryder Cuppers’ strokes gained advantage

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By Ben Alberstadt (ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com)

September 17, 2018

Good Monday morning, golf fans.
1. A veritable Bae-umph!
Sangmoon Bae won the Albertsons Boise Open with a birdie on the final hole for a one-stroke victory in the Web.com Tour Finals event. With the win, he earns his PGA Tour card for 2019.
  • Golf World report…”Sangmoon Bae’s return to the PGA Tour this season did not go as planned, finishing 202nd in the FedEx Cup standings to lose his PGA Tour card. Luckily for Bae, following a short detour to the Web.com Tour Finals, he’ll be back on the big stage in 2019. With a birdie on the final hole at Hillcrest Country Club, Bae won the Albertsons Boise Open to regain his PGA Tour card.”
  • “Golf fans may remember the plight of Bae at the end of 2015. He had turned in the best season of his professional career, winning the Frys.com (now Safeway) Open, accumulating nearly $2.6 million in earnings and competing for the International Team at the Presidents Cup, held in his native country of South Korea. However, Bae’s homeland requires all males 18-to-35 to complete a two-year military commitment. After losing a court battle seeking a wavier, Bae was forced to set aside the sport for service.”
  • “I thought it would not take that long [to get my game back], but I have struggled for almost a year,” Bae said. “My game is not that much different, but maybe a little mentally. It’s a little different in my mind because I feel like I’m back to being a rookie. More humbled and more patient.”
2. Stanford, finally
AP Report…”Angela Stanford ended her long wait for a first major title when her 3-under 68 was enough to win the Evian Championship by one shot Sunday after long-time leader Amy Olson made double-bogey on the 18th.”
  • “At age 40, and 15 years after she was runner-up at the U.S. Women’s Open, Stanford’s wild final few holes gave her a 12-under total of 272….Olson missed a six-foot putt for bogey on the 18th to force a playoff, while Stanford waited near the green signing autographs for dozens of young spectators.”
  • Golf Channel report on what befell Olson, “who was seeking her first LPGA win. She was playing steady if not spectacular golf and had missed only one fairway when she came to the par-4 18th. She then proceeded to hook her drive into trouble on the left. Her attempt to escape remained in the rough and by the time she put her third shot on the green, it was well short of the hole. She then gunned her first putt some 5 feet past, then missed the comebacker. Her 74 left her in a four-way tie for second place.”
  • Ryan Herrington writes…”the label “best player without a major championship” often gets passed around in men’s golf, a dubious honorific to say the least. Just ask Colin Montgomerie and Lee Westwood how much fun it is to be considered worthy of such consideration. The title is far less commonly used in the women’s game, although when it is trotted out, Angela Stanford often is among those mentioned. Until Sunday, that is.”
3. A Wu-inner, narrowly
AP report…”Ashun Wu has claimed victory at the KLM Open after Chris Wood squandered a three-shot lead over the closing holes.”
  • “Englishman Wood brought a one-shot lead into the final round at The Dutch and started his day strongly, hitting back to back birdies at the 9th and 10th holes. However, a double-bogey at the 12th allowed the chasing pack, including Wu, the chance to bring themselves back into it.”
  • “Wu was the man to capitalise on Wood’s downfall, birdying three of the final five holes to finish on 16-under par and leaving Wood needing to find a birdie on the par-5 18th to take the contest into a play-off.”
  • “However, Wood could only find par to finish a shot behind Wu, who has won his first title since 2016.”
4. An American edge?
Golfweek’s David Dusek took a very interesting look at recent strokes gained data for the U.S. and European Ryder Cup players.
  • “For example, analyzing the strokes gained data on each of the 12 American players since the completion of the U.S. Open shows that the single-biggest strokes gained advantage on the squad is Justin Thomas’ approach the green average of 4.167. In the six ShotLink events Thomas played, he typically gained more than four shots against the field based solely on the quality of his play from the fairway. His iron play has been a bigger weapon than Brooks Koepka’s driving (4.077), Tiger Woods’ approach game (3.921) or Dustin Johnson’s performance off the tee (3.836).”
  • “On the European side, the most significant strokes gained advantage during the same period has been Francesco Molinari’s 4.56 strokes gained approach the green average. His play from the fairway has been even more dominant than Rory McIlroy’s performance off the tee (3.825).”
Maybe meaningful, maybe trivial, but certainly interesting. Full piece.
5. ANWA questions
The Man out Front with a bit of new information about the ANWA…
  • “NBC will broadcast three hours of play that includes coverage at Amen Corner five days earlier than we are used to, with the cameras, cables and microphones all from CBS’ infrastructure for the upcoming Masters. Driving the NBC Sports/Golf Channel production will be the production team behind Sunday’s Drive, Chip and Putt Championship coverage. Mike Tirico is the only confirmed announcer for the ANWA, with Golf Channel still sorting out which talent will work the event while it is also producing the first major of 2019, the ANA Championship in Rancho Mirage, Calif.”
  • “What NBC did to secure the rights for Year One will be known to only the few folks inside the room. But The Forecaddie hears CBS made a hard push to televise the ANWA despite speculation that Saturday night’s NCAA Final Four coverage might have impacted their thinking. TMOF hears NBC/Golf Channel’s devotion to telling the Drive, Chip and Putt stories was a huge part in the decision to go with the peacock, as was the availability of Tirico, who gives the broadcast instant gravitas. And never sell short the growing prominence around Augusta National of Comcast chairman Brian Roberts, a key driver of the DCP, head of the Masters website committee and consigliere to former chairman Billy Payne. Comcast, in case you hadn’t heard, owns NBC and Golf Channel.”
6. Heck yeah!
16-year-old amateur Rachel Heck availed herself impressively at the Evian Championship.
  • STLToday report…When 16-year-old Rachel Heck finally hits the professional golf tour, the current world No. 2, Ariya Jutanugarn, plans to give her a lot of respect. American high schooler Heck made a big impression Sunday completing the Evian Championship – her second major – in a fun grouping with the Jutanugarn sisters, two-time major winner Ariya and 13th-ranked Moriya.”
  • “Heck justified her wild-card entry in France first by making the cut, just as she did in her majors debut at the 2017 U.S. Women’s Open….”It was amazing, I was just grateful to be here,” said the native of Memphis, Tennessee, adding she had no set targets. “Because last year I made the cut at the U.S. Open, so people were like, ‘Oh, you can do it again.'”
And indeed she did. Well played.
7. Gaston’s new gig
An excellent piece from the weekend by Digest’s Ryan Herrington on USC’s acclaimed women’s golf coach’s surprising move.
  • A taste…”I was at the U.S. Women’s Open in Birmingham, and my cellphone rang late on a Friday,” she recalled. It was a search firm representing Texas A&M. The school decided not to renew the contract of its women’s golf coach, Trelle McCombs, and was wondering if Gaston might have an interest in the vacant post.”
  • “Gaston’s USC squads won NCAA titles in 2003 (left), 2008 (right top) and 2013. Gaston told them they first needed to get permission from her athletic director to talk, which bought her some time to think. “I wasn’t trying to move,” she said, “but I thought you know why not have a look. I’ve never looked.”
  • “Indeed, despite being among the most accomplished coaches in her profession-in the last 13 years USC had finished no worse than fifth at NCAAs-only once had she been approached by another school about an opening. It was in 2007 and, coincidentally, it was Texas A&M. Gaston wasn’t interested then, and the Aggies eventually hired McCombs.”
  • “…Most important, she saw a future, one she really had never dreamed of. “I think everybody probably thought I’d finish my career at USC,” Gaston said, “and quite honestly, that’s really what I thought I’d be doing as well.”
8. Golf in Puerto Rico bouncing bark
Our Dan Shepherd filed an excellent look at the golf industry in Puerto Rico and its resilience.
  • “Transforming how the world perceives Puerto Rico is essential. While the destination has rebuilt significantly and seen more visitors of late, it needs to continue gaining traction if it is to return to pre-Maria visitation levels. “Our mission is to create a much healthier tourism industry and a global brand for Puerto Rico,” said Dean. “Travel and tourism can fuel ongoing recovery, and we will change lives if we do this right.”
  • “An unincorporated territory of the United States, Puerto Rico’s history, tropical climate, natural scenery, traditional cuisine, and tax incentives make it a destination for travelers from around the world. It’s particularly appealing to American golfers, who can take direct flights from many cities, and without needing a passport to visit.”
  • “There are more than 20 golf courses on Puerto Rico, most of the upscale and luxury resort variety, but there are municipal and military base courses as well. Located throughout the island in different micro climates and on varied terrain, the courses are often amenities of hospitality brands, such as Hilton Ponce Golf & Casino Resort, Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Puerto Rico Golf & Beach Resort, and Coco Beach Golf & Country Club (formerly Trump International Puerto Rico), where the annual PGA TOUR Puerto Rico Open is played each spring.”
9. For your listening pleasure

A confluence of GolfWRX podcasters! Johnny Wunder from GolfWRX’s “The Gear Dive” podcast made his way to the Two Guys Talking Golf studio to talk about PXG’s store opening, interviewing Fred Couples, why he loves golf equipment so much, which of Tiger Woods’ irons he’d want to play from throughout his career, and much much more.

 

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