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Tour Rundown: Gutsy finishes all around

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In Italian and Spanish, Montesano translates as Healthy Mountain. Well, duh, obviously…just look at me! This week, I become Montecalvo, or Bald Mountain, when I participate in Bald For Bucks to raise money for cancer research. Donations of all sizes are welcome, and you can support the cause by clicking this link.

Last week’s professional golf stretched from the gulf of Oman to Singapore, to Australia and New Zealand, across the Pacific Ocean to Arizona, and on to Florida. As much as any other week, it was an international game. For a complete rundown, keep your eyes on the screen and read on.

PGA Tour: Honda Classic to Mitchell in gutsy close

At the 2017 final regular-season event on the Web.Com Tour, Keith Mitchell failed to birdie the easy, par-5 closer, and just missed getting his PGA Tour card. His face told the story. During the playoffs, he played well enough to secure the card for 2018, albeit with less status.

On Sunday, the table turned 180 degrees. Tied with a couple of no-names (cough, Brooks Koepka; cough, cough, Rickie Fowler) on the 72nd hole. Mitchell made an unlikely birdie from a fairway bunker, and won by one stroke over the decorated duo. Having driven in the left fairway bunker, Mitchell eschewed a run at the green, and pitched some 84 yards to the short grass. His 130-yard approach settled 15 feet from the promised land. His putt never wavered, and an inaugural PGA Tour title was his.

European Tour: Oman Open has unexpected winner in Kitayama

Al Mouj did not lay down this week in Oman. The course and its surrounds tested the field with water, wind, and a round-delaying sandstorm. 36 holes were on offer Sunday, to conclude play. The closing marathon took its toll, as challengers fired and fell back. Along the coast where the gulf of Oman meets the Arabian sea, Al Mouj might have kept its trophy, were it not for the closing heroics of Kurt Kitayama. The young American birdied holes 16 and 17 in round four, at precisely the time when his competition found water, rocks, and everything unwanted over the watery, final stretch. What made his victory all the more improbable was his start early Sunday: quad-bogey-bogey-birdie-bogey.

After playing holes 37-41 in 6 over, Kitayama flipped a switch and played the next 31 holes in nine under. Playing together in the final group, Kitayama, Max Kieffer and Joachim Hansen came to the 72nd tee with a chance at victory. Hanson went to a watery grave off the tee, making bogey and dropping to T6. Kiefer had an uphill birdie putt to tie Kitayama, but left it well short after a case of line-obsession. Kitayama was able to calmly two-putt from 15 feet to secure his second European Tour title in four months. In a four-way tie for second, one behind Kitayama, were Kieffer, Jorge Campillo, Clement Sordet and Fabrizio Zanotti.

LPGA: Sung Hyun claims Women’s World Championship with Sunday 64

Another week, another close call for Minjee Lee. These are the stretches that make or break a season, even a career. We’ll get to the winner in a moment, but Australian Lee is so close to a dominant stretch of victories. Here’s hoping that the coming weeks see her scale the mountain. At the top of this week’s podium, the winner of the Women’s World Championship, is another golfer with designs on the number-one ranking. Sung Hyun Park epitomizes the power game of the new generation of golfer. She hits it hard, far and straight! When she putts with precision, as happened during round four, well, 64s also happen.

Both golfers (Park and Lee) were clipped by a single Sunday bogey. It was the only blemish for Lee, against four birdies. Park simply went deeper: three consecutive tweets to begin her round, two more chirps by the seventh hole, and a quartet on the inward nine. Nine birdies on any day are a tough hand to counter, and Lee came up two strokes shy, at 13 under. Both golfers are inside the season points race’s top 10, with Lee at third and Park resting at sixth.

PGA Tour Champions: Cologuard Championship ends 9-year victory drought for O’Meara

Did you hear the one about the professional golfer who birdied eight consecutive holes? On Friday, it was Mark O’Meara. After opening with par at the first, he didn’t make another until the 10th. Turning in 28, O’Meara slacked his way in with eight consecutive pars, then a bogey at the last. Despite the unconscious display of brilliance, all O’Meara had to show for his efforts was a tie for second, one shot behind Kenny Perry. As the leader tumbled on Saturday, O’Meara played a decent round (70) to take a one-shot lead over three golfers. With everything on the line on day three,  O’Meara made eight birdies against one bogey for another 66, and claimed his first Champions Tour title since 2010, by four strokes over Willie Wood, Kirk Tribplett, Darren Clarke, and Scott McCarron.

PGA Tour of Australasia: New Zealand Open to Murray by a whisker

Australia’s Zach Murray played a game of come-and-get-me; countryman Ashley Hall nearly did. Murray opened with 63-65, then closed with 70-68. His efforts reached 21-under par at 266. Hall lay like a lion in the bushes with 67-69-67, then burst home with 65 on Sunday. His 7-under effort on day four nearly caught the champion, but Murray’s early-week fireworks were enough to secure victory. Hall might have done the deed, save for a closing bogey at the par-4 home hole. Murray also made a mess at the last, with a bogey of his own. His eagle-birdie-birdie stretch on holes 13-15 kept the charging Hall at a distance, and established the winning margin.

Ladies European Tour: Canberra Classic in touch with the Dutch

A weekend of 64-68 usually spells wonderful news for golfers, unless you find yourself pitted against Holland’s Anne Van Dam. That was the case for Slovenia’s Katja Pogocar, who entered the final round square with her rival. Her day-three work was a bit choppy, with six birds against three boges. As things went, it was just enough to hold off Jiyai Shin for outright second, by one slim stroke. The day and the week belonged to Van Dam, who secured her fourth tour title by following 63 with 65. The pair were tightly pitted as the closing stretch arrived, when Van Dam went to work. She closed with an eagle and two birdies over the final four holes, two shots better than her competitor. The final margin of victory was three strokes, thanks to the winner’s final-day, unblemished scorecard.

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Ronald Montesano writes for GolfWRX.com from western New York. He dabbles in coaching golf and teaching Spanish, in addition to scribbling columns on all aspects of golf, from apparel to architecture, from equipment to travel. Follow Ronald on Twitter at @buffalogolfer.

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Morning 9: Inside a life-changing PGA Tour finish | The LPGA’s struggle

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

June 25, 2019

Good Tuesday morning, golf fans.
1. Inside a life-changing finish
PGATour.com’s Jim McCabe with more on Zack Sucher…
  • “By now, the particulars to the story have been well documented: How Sucher in Round 3 went from six in the lead to six behind playing competitor Chez Reavie, thanks in large part to a horrific meltdown of a three-hole stretch and a back-nine 41, and how he played those same nine holes in 5-under 30 Sunday to sprint into a tie for second behind Reavie, rake in 245 FedExCup points and put himself in position to secure a PGA TOUR card for the rest of this year and in 2019-20.”
  • “Yes, you can cue up any of the underdog music you prefer, but amid the wild scene in the scoring area Sunday, Courtney Sucher and Mullinax stood to the side and sang the praises of their husband and friend, not words to a song. And they focused not on the blur of that back-nine 30, but on the darker moments that Zack had to navigate to get here.”
  • “At Wells Fargo, when he made that double-bogey (on the 13th hole in Round 2 to fall one outside the cut), he didn’t give up,” said Courtney. “He told me the eagle he made two holes later changed his whole perspective to this comeback.”
  • “That eagle got Sucher into weekend play, but more importantly, it ignited a confidence within. “He’s never doubted his ability to stay in it,” she said.”

Full piece.

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.”
  • “Woods’ attorneys announced Monday that the estate of a bartender who crashed his car and died after leaving the restaurant in December had voluntarily dismissed Woods as a defendant. But the lawsuit filed last month by the parents of Nicholas Immesberger is ongoing against both The Woods Jupiter — the name of the restaurant near Woods’ South Florida home — and Woods’ girlfriend, who serves as general manager.”
  • According to Woods’ attorney, Barry Postman, Woods invests in but does not own the restaurant.

Full piece. 

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.”
  • “Come (Thursday) when this tournament starts,” said Kevin Moore, president of local union, Teamsters Local 299, and executive board member of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, “we’re going to do what we have to do. Demonstrations, strikes, whatever is at our disposal.”
  • “A seven-member group of mechanics and groundskeepers represented by Teamsters Local 299 saw their contract expire in 2018. The club had been asking for a contract that included a “3% pay raise, health care relief and job security language,” according to a news release on Monday.”
5. Golf course dispute leads to fatal shooting, fire
AP report on an insane golf-related multiple homicide…
  • “A third body has been found in the rubble of a burned-out mobile home in California, bringing to five the number of dead in a shooting and fire that began during an argument at a golf course, authorities said.”
  • “Santa Maria police identified Kurt Bracke, 70, and Richard Hanen, 78, as the victims who were fatally shot.”
  • “Residents told The Santa Maria Times there had been a long-standing feud between the two men and the shooter that boiled over Friday at the golf course of the Casa Grande Mobile Estates in Santa Maria, a coastal city about 140 miles northwest of Los Angeles. The shooter has not been identified.”
6. LPGA’s struggle
The New York Times’ Karen Crouse on the plight of the LPGA Tour…
  • “…They are helping to deliver a product that perhaps has never been more appealing: The past 11 majors have produced 11 different winners, the last four all younger than 24.”
  • “And yet the L.P.G.A. continues to struggle for exposure. The tour’s primary television platform for the past decade has been Golf Channel, whose coverage the first two days of the Women’s P.G.A. consisted of three hours from 6 to 9 p.m., Eastern Time. On Friday that window precluded a single live shot of Green, who had finished her round well before the day’s telecast.”

Full piece. 

7. Team Baby Mommas
Golf Channel’s Randall Mell…
  • “Stacy Lewis and Gerina Piller cleverly confirmed their pairing as “Team Baby Mommas” at next month’s inaugural Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational team event in Michigan.”
  • “Lewis and Piller simultaneously tweeted a video on Monday that shows their toddlers setting up a “play date” for their mothers.”
  • “Lewis’ daughter, Chesnee, is 8 months old. Piller’s son, AJ, is a year old. The children are frequently together at the Smuckers LPGA Child Development Center, a daycare for tour moms.”
8. Getting off the ground…
Golf Digest’s Dave Shedloski on the effort to establish new PGA Tour events…
  • “This week, Detroit gets its first taste of a regular tour event with the Rocket Mortgage Classic at Detroit Golf Club. The $7.3 million event is sponsored by Quicken Loans, which for the last few years was title sponsor of the tournament Tiger Woods hosted outside Washington, D.C. Immediately behind it is another newbie, the $6.4 million 3M Open at TPC Twin Cities in suburban Minneapolis, not to be confused with the 3M Championship, a PGA Tour Champions event held at the same site the last 18 years.”
  • “Though Minneapolis hosted the Ryder Cup in 2016 at Hazeltine National, site of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship that ended Sunday, it last saw a PGA Tour event in 2009 when Y.E. Yang upset Woods in the PGA Championship at Hazeltine. Detroit’s last taste of tour golf was the 2008 PGA Championship and the 2004 Ryder Cup, both at Oakland Hills. The area also held the Buick Classic up the road in Grand Blanc until 2009. Meanwhile, the Senior Players Championship was held in nearby Dearborn from 1990-2006.”
9. WOTW
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).”
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Tiger Woods’ name dropped from wrongful death lawsuit

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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.”

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Detroit Golf City

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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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