With his win at the RSM Classic, all golf fans by now well know that Charles Howell III ended an 11-year victory drought.
What may be equally as interesting for GolfWRX Members, however, is that the Georgia native did so just a month after totally overhauling his golf bag, switching to 13 Titleist clubs and a prototype 2019 Pro V1 ball.
The presumptive 2019 Titleist signee talked to our Johnny Wunder about the switch and what it was like to go winless for so long.
JW: Charlie, welcome back to the winner’s circle, my friend.
CH III: I appreciate it…I made it as hard as I could, but fortunately, I found a way there.
JW: There was a transition that happened before this — we’ll call it a month ago — into a whole new bag of Titleist equipment. So, the first quest I have is, “What prompted the change, and how difficult was that process for you?”
CH III: When I look at my career, and where I’m at in my career, I thought that, the most important thing for me going forward is my driver and 3-wood. Where, the way that the game is changing, I’ve got to find something that I can hit as far as possible, but also straight…I know that I’m not going to drive the bar as far as Cameron Champ, but I need to maximize whatever I can do. So going through the process of testing a lot of things, it was very clear that the TS drivers really did that for me. My ball speed went up. My overall dispersion pattern became closer together. Really, it was a home run.
Now, we spent a bit of time testing. I know that I wore J.J. [VanWezenbeeck, Titleist Tour Rep] out. But, by the end of the process, I had a TS2 and a TS3 that I could have played in a golf tournament, and it was a flip of a coin really on which one to use. Not a lot of guys can say that about companies, where you can play either model, but for sure, that was the case there.
JW: Well, let’s talk a little bit about the TS2 and the TS3. You had both drivers ready to cook for the tournament, but what was the deciding factor?
CH III: The TS2 is a driver where you can just tee it up and hammer it. It’s going to go very straight, and the ball isn’t going to curve a whole lot. It’s very easy to launch. The TS3 was a driver where, if I get a hole where I need to work it a little bit left to right, or a little right to left to go with the slope of the fairway, or a crosswind, for me, it was a little bit easier to do that with the TS3, and that’s why I ultimately ended up there.
If I’m playing everyday golf at home with my buddies, and I want a driver with which I can just swing as hard as I can and hammer it, then I’m going to go to that TS2 all day.
JW: I noticed in the driver you have the [Mitsubishi] Tensei AV Blue . Is that personal preference, or is that what tested out?
CH III: That’s just what tested out. We were having this conversation earlier about driver shafts; there’s so many of them out there, and there’s so many companies, and it’s really difficult to know what’s what. What we wanted to do is start with something that’s familiar, and it ended up actually testing out fantastic — we were getting the launch and the spin numbers that we were after, so there was no reason to…go down a rabbit hole.
JW: You have a very interesting set makeup now. You have a T-MB 4-iron, but then you go AP2 in 5, 6, 7, and then the CB in your shorter irons…talk to me about the strategy.
CH III: I grew up playing cavity back clubs my whole life. I’ve always been a proponent of some forgiveness down there and some help down there. The big reason for the  CB in the short irons had to do with offset, and that’s strictly a personal preference. I wanted some help down there…but I didn’t want a lot of offset, so the CB…fit that perfectly.
The T-MB 4-iron, that thing is so easy to get up in the air, it’s incredible. That, for me, and for every golfer out there, they need a T-MB 3, 4, and 5-iron, because they are so easy to get up in the air. It really is awesome, the technology of that club.
JW: Let’s talk about the golf ball. You go from a 2017 Pro V1x and you transition into the new Pro V1 proto…
CH III: I loved everything about the Pro V1x ball off the driver and the 3-wood. Now, when the [2019 Pro V1] came out, what I found out was that I gave up no ball speed whatsoever, but I picked up a little bit of a softer feel and a little more spin around the greens. So for me, right away that was a home run.
Now, I say that knowing that touch and feel around the green is highly player dependent. For me, I prefer a bit of a softer feel…I could find you 10 guys who prefer a firmer Pro V1x feel around the greens…but the cool thing was that I didn’t give up any ball speed with the driver whatsoever.
JW: Let’s talk a little bit about the last 11 years. We talked a little bit on the podcast with you about expectations and what you went through to get back to the winner’s circle. Just kind of man to man, how difficult was it at times. — knowing how good you are and being such an amazing player and then going on a drought like that — how difficult was that?
CH III: You know, there were a lot of times where I questioned everything I did from how I practiced, to how I prepared, to who I worked with…just everything. And eventually, I got to a point where I sat down with Grant Waite and Dana Dahlquist who I work with, and John Graham on short game, and I said, “OK, guys, do we really think that I’m doing this the right way?” And through some discussions…the answer was, “yes.” And [I said] let’s just stay the course. Let’s just keep doing this.
Golf’s a funny game. In Mexico, I missed the cut there, and I thought I played close to every bit as good as I did at Sea Island. I just didn’t quite score as well. That shows you how razor thin-edged this game is. You miss a cut, then you win a golf tournament.
I think the most challenging part of the game is staying the course with stuff that you truly believe in and giving it time to work out, because it’s such a results driven game, and you want results yesterday. Between social media and the way golf is covered now, it’s “results, results, results.” I think the challenge is to stay patient amongst all that.
JW: For you, as I mentioned a while back, getting that first one, it’s almost like winning for the first time again in a weird way. Once that first one inspires the confidence, you’re off to the races. Now that you’ve got that behind you…are you looking at your schedule in a different way or is it just week to week?
CH III: A little bit of both. I’ve got the tournaments that I like. I’ll still play a bunch on the West Coast because I like the West Coast…I’ll tell you the one thing I hope comes out of this is that if I get in position to win a tournament on Sunday, I’ll be that much more comfortable, and I’ll be that much more trusting in what I do. I’ll just play normal golf, and I won’t try to do more of anything, and hopefully that continues to evolve, etc.
But that to me is what I’m most curious to find out: When and if I get into that position again, will I feel a little bit more, let’s say, comfortable or different?
JW: Cool. Last question: You’re with Titleist. Big company. Historic company. But now you kind of have access to Vokey, Aaron Dill, Scotty Cameron, what’s it like walking into that scenario where you have access to those clubmakers and designers? Was that an attraction? Was that part of the decision to go to Titleist?
CH III: Well it is, right? I have a leading expert in every field. I can lean on their experience. I can aggravate the daylights out of them. I’m at a point in my career where I want to play good golf, and if these guys are able to help me find a half-of-a-percent advantage, well then…over the course of a year, it matters.
[For example] Aaron Dill’s expertise and changing bounce on wedges in different situations and conditions. Those things I’m really looking forward to…and I’m going to learn a lot in this process too. These guys have been around a long time, and they’ve helped a lot of world-class players, so I’m going to learn a bit.
JW: I’ve got to ask this question or the GolfWRX Members will kill me. When’s that 14th Titleist club going to pop in there…a Scotty Cameron?
CH III: Now this off season, I’ll have more time work with different things…we’ll continue to work on that, and we’ll get that part handled.
JW: Well, Charlie, on behalf of GolfWRX and everybody else, that was a really, really, ridiculously popular win. You’re good for the game, I’m so happy that you won. Go kick some butt and have a great holiday, and we’ll look forward to watching you in 2019.
CH III: You guys, as well, have a great Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I do appreciate it. I know that all the GolfWRX Members understand the difficulty of the game and the challenges of it it. I hope I carry myself in a way where people understand that I know the difficulty of the game, and I can appreciate the ups and downs. I thank everyone and hope everybody has a great holiday.
Valentino Dixon on his time in prison, his golf art, gratitude, and hope
Valentino Dixon, who served 27 years in prison for a crime he did not commit — and took up golf course-related artwork as a hobby during that time — joined Michael Williams on the 19th Hole podcast.
While the full interview doubtless represents one of the most important and impactful GolfWRX podcasts to data, we wanted to present a few excerpts for the more textually inclined.
On the events that led to him spending 27 years in prison
Valentino Dixon: “This was Buffalo, New York…I grew up in a bad area, a drug infested area, a lot of violence and stuff like that and these guys pull up, they start shooting, they shoot a friend of mines and another friend of mines return fire, ended up killing the guy. Anyway, long story short, when the shots rang out I was inside the deli across the street and I actually ran out afterwards and ran to my car, I pulled off.
“Shortly thereafter I was pulled over and taken into custody and questioned and ultimately charged with shooting three people.”
“I knew that I was going to be cleared or at least I felt I was going to be cleared because there was 80 witnesses. So I said, there’s no way that they’re not going to straighten this out and I’ll be out the next day, but that didn’t happen. Two days after I was arrested, this friend of mines turned himself into police, told them what happened. Actually the physical evidence matched his story, they found the dead guy’s gun on the scene and they disregarded him, told him that they didn’t believe him. Seven witnesses came forward, they disregarded those witnesses.”
“I found myself going to trial ten months later, my lawyer promised the jury that he was going to call these witnesses and introduce this confession and did not do it, and this is all on public record. I had a public defender and the jury found me guilty. I didn’t know that later on the jury foreman went to the judge and asked the judge, “Hey, why his lawyer didn’t call the witnesses he promised us?” The judge told him not to worry about it, to go home and sleep well and the judge never revealed that this happened.”
“It was our local paper that went to the foreman and said, “Hey, what happened during the deliberations?” He said, “Hey, I went to the judge and told him I didn’t feel right about this, that something was wrong here.” Anyway, the judge denies that that even took place. I was given 39 years.”
On getting started doing golf course art
VD: “Right. Well, I was known as the artist in Attica. I spent, out of the 27 years, I spent 25 of those years in Attica. So over the years I had publicity on my case because the local newspaper had came to believe in my innocence, but there wasn’t a judge in Buffalo that would do anything about it. So the warden and the officers in Attica knew that I was innocent of the crime and would always check in on me and look in and see if I was all right and everything like that, but they knew that I drew also. So the warden came to me one day and asked me could I draw his favorite hole, which was Augusta, the 12th hole at Augusta.”
“I’d never golfed before. I mean, I’m from the inner city. So it was like all right, I guess I can do it. I knew nothing about golf. I drew the Augusta 12th hole. He loved it. Other inmates loved it and one of the inmates encouraged me to draw more golf holes. I said, “What are you talking about? What for? That doesn’t even makes sense.” He says, “I love the golf course, I think you should draw more.” He planted the seed.”
“A week later I went around and I got some old golf magazines, Golf Digest magazines, and I start pulling out the pictures that I loved. The guy gave me some really old ones that he had in his cell. So I start pulling out the ones that I liked, the ones that I thought was pretty and then from there I started drawing them. Whenever I put my mind into something, I just go in and really hard. So for months and months, all I did was draw golf courses. Okay. “
“Eventually I started reading the columns out of the Golf Digest magazine and I came across Max Adler’s, called Golf Saved My Life. I kind of put the two together because it was like golf was saving my life because being there was really, really stressful and hard and every day was a challenge. I have friends that committed suicide. I didn’t know if I was going to be the next person that my mind was going to snap.”
On the positive reception his art got in Attica
VD: “Well let me tell you this. Right. Like I said, there’s so many guys … I mean guys that done killed three, four people were stopping at the cell saying, “Wow, I love that golf course.” These are guys that had never golfed before. So I’m saying if these guys love the golf courses that I’m drawing, I can only imagine how golfers would feel, because I mean these guys never golf. Maybe one out of 10 have golfed. You know what I’m saying?”
“So it really gave me the boost, the determination it gave me and inspired me to keep pushing it. I felt like, wow, this is something that you really like doing now because I got satisfaction out of other people looking at my drawings and loving them. This is what motivates me.”
On how he spent his time in prison
VD: “Well the thing is, is this. God was always with me. I prayed a lot. I prayed every day. Okay. And I just stayed positive. I read hundreds and hundreds of self help books, motivational books, anything to fill my mind with positive things and energy so that I wouldn’t become negative or fall into that whole negative thing that you see. I’ve seen a lot of prisoners fall into where they lose hope, they become bitter, angry, upset with the world and all that other stuff. I was determined not to allow that to happen to me. So I had to push my willpower to the max.”
“At the same time, I was drawing up to 10 hours a day. So I was really like, listen, if I got to become the best artist in the world in order to get my freedom, then that’s what I’ll do. And this is why I mean I pushed myself to the limit. I’ve done some golf drawings that were … these are all drawings now, not paintings. I’ve done some drawings that people have never even seen. I got a 60 by 90 drawing.”
On his artistic style
VD: “…I had to develop my own style over a course of I would say 20 years. Just every day I had to learn from error. I didn’t have no teacher, so I had to learn through trial and error of what to do, what not to do, how to blend colors, what worked, what didn’t work, how to layer everything on top of each other. My goal has always been to make the drawings look like a painting.”
“Take the whole paper out of it. So when you look at it, you’d say, “That ain’t done on no paper.” That’s the whole goal there. So I had to put so many colors on top of each other to get that painting effect and then drawings are so much more strenuous than paintings because I know how to paint also. But drawing is so much more strenuous because there’s no shortcuts. You got to sit there for … I might sit there for two hours and just do one little corner because you got to get all the detail in there. You know what I’m saying? So it’s way more work that goes into what I do in regards if I was painting. I mean if I’d had done this stuff in painting, I would have thousands of golf painting.”
On gratitude and his perspective
VD: “I’m a very grateful person. I don’t want to sound too religious or anything like that, but we should always be grateful to the creator for what the things that he’s given us. So I mean, I was in a bad situation. I’m sitting in the cell and I’m looking at the people around me and the people around me is doing 10 times worse than me and I had to be grateful. So that’s how I look at it. We had these little eight inch TVs that we could buy on commissary for like $149. Okay. So, right. Yeah, they would beat us on every level that they could. So I’m watching this TV when I can and I’m looking at the world. I’m looking at what’s going on with people out in society.”
“I hate to say it. I was in the worst prison and I’m in a six by eight cell and I felt like I was more blessed than a lot of people on the outside, but people are really struggling out there and doing really bad. Here it is, God preserved me, he kept me in shape, he kept my mind sane, he gave me this talent, he gave me a loving family.”
“So I had to count all those blessings and say, “You know what? I could really be twisted up in here and messed up. So you know what, don’t be bitter, don’t be angry, don’t complain, don’t cry, count your blessings, push your willpower to the highest level. Just push, push, push, push and be the best artist that you can be in the world.” That was my goal.”
All images via Valentino Dixon’s website. His golf art is available for purchase here.
GolfWRX Morning 9: Tiger talks 2019 | Phil’s legacy | Koepka snubbed again
By Ben Alberstadt (email@example.com)
December 12, 2018
Good Wednesday morning, golf fans.
1. Brooks snubbed again
“I get no respect!” Who said it, Rodney Dangerfield or Brooks Koepka?
2. Tiger talks 2019
Woods sat down for an exclusive with Golf.com. Here are a few morsels from an interesting conversation.
3. Mickelson’s legacy
Did 2018 change the way we think about Lefty?
4. Shots o’ the year
Doug Ferguson goes through the bag, highlighting some of the most memorable shots hit with various clubs in ’18.
5. Louisville Golf
Our Peter Schmitt paid a visit to arguably the finest purveyors of persimmon, Louisville Golf.
6. Patrick Sullivan
He who putted a ball into the water and missed a four-footer at Q-School, Patrick Sullivan, isn’t letting it get him down.
7. What we learned
Kyle Porter looks in the rearview mirror at what we learned in 2018.
8. Reed against the world
That’s Scott Michaux’s headline in piece for Golf Digest.
9. Valentino Dixon
Our Michael Williams talked with Valentino Dixon about the Golf Channel documentary detailing his at once inspiring and heartbreaking saga in the latest episode of the 19th Hole.
Brooks Koepka does not appear happy with being left off ESPN’s list of most dominant athletes for 2018
On Tuesday, ESPN The Magazine released their list of the 20 most dominant athletes of 2018. Amongst that list included household names such as Lebron James, Novak Djokovic and Drew Brees, while the American gymnast, Simone Biles, took the top spot on ESPN’s list.
One man who did not appear amongst the roll of honor of sporting royalty, however, was golf’s Brooks Koepka. The 28-year-old captured two major championships in 2018, but that wasn’t enough for him to feature on ESPN’s list, which included the triple crown winning horse, Justify, in 16th place.
Learning of his exclusion, Koepka took to social media and made this post, which suggested that he was not too pleased with his omission.
— Brooks Koepka (@BKoepka) December 11, 2018
The list evaluated athletes against their fellow competitors, and then analysed their performance against the accomplishments of other great athletes within their sport from 1998 to present.
Explaining Simone Biles score of 3.25, the compiler of the list Peter Keating stated “So what does Simone Biles’ dominance score of 3.25 mean? In 2018, she was 3.25 standard deviations better than the typical top-four performer in all-around women’s gymnastics since 1998—rendering her the year’s most dominant pro athlete.”
The LPGA’s Ariya Jutanurgarn was the only golfer to feature on the list, who Keating judged to have been the fourth most dominant athlete of 2018. The Thai player won three times on Tour in 2018, which is the same number of times as Koepka; however, just one of those wins was a major championship title, compared to Koepka’s two major victories this year. Jutanugarn did, though, have a total of 13 top-five finishes in 2018, compared to Koepka’s five, and also won every year-end LPGA award that was possible for her to win.
In the past, Koepka has spoken concerning the lack of respect that he feels that he is given, in particular by the media. The American has previously suggested that certain players get their names written about more than him because they “kiss up”, and this year the current world number one let the press know that he doesn’t forget an insult, stating “Come Sunday, I won’t forget it when everyone wants to talk to me because I just won. I don’t forget things.”
Judging by Koepka’s reaction on social media to ESPN’s list, this will be yet another incident that the 28-year-old is unlikely to forget. The chip that Koepka carries around on his shoulder has fueled him to win three of the last six major championships that he has appeared in, and this latest snub from the media has given him plenty of incentive to once again prove people wrong in 2019.
GolfWRXers, was Koepka’s omission from the list justified, or another show of disrespect towards golf’s current best player?
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