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Morning 9: Battle of brains & brawn? | Tiger 2 under | BK bites back | Nicklaus, Player sound off

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

April 12, 2019

Good Friday morning, golf fans.
1. “Brains and brawn”
ESPN’s mark Schlabach on the two very different gentlemen tied for the lead after round 1 in Augusta.
  • “Brains and brawn share the top spot on the leaderboard heading into the second round of the 83rd Masters at Augusta National Golf Club.”
  • “Bryson DeChambeau, with a physics degree from Southern Methodist University, fired an opening-round 66, with nine birdies and three bogeys.”
  • “Brooks Koepka, who is known to spend as much time in the gym as on the practice green, posted the same 6-under score with a flawless bogey-free round.”
2. Tiger 2 under
PGATour.com’s Mike McAllister…”From a historical perspective, Tiger Woods was quite content to shoot a 2-under 70 in Thursday’s opening round of the Masters.”
  • “I’ve shot this number and won four coats, so hopefully I can do it again,” Tiger said.
  • “Technically, it was just the first three of his four green jackets that were fueled by an opening 70, in 1997, 2001 and 2002. The last time Woods won at Augusta National, he opened with a 2-over 74 before getting back into the mix with rounds of 66-65.”
  • “Of course, maybe his factual gaffe was his way of foreshadowing a fourth opening-70 victory. Woods was certainly solid for most of the day and was definitely in a groove off the tee.”
3. BK defiant
Golf Channel’s Ryan Lavner…”Asked to respond to the recent criticism surrounding his weight, Koepka echoed some of his critics when he said: “I lift too many weights, and I’m too big to play golf. And then when I lose weight, I’m too small.”
  • “He added: “I’m going to make me happy. I don’t care what anyone else says.”
  • Then he looked up at the electronic leaderboard in the Masters press building, where he’s tied at the top.”
  • “I’m doing it for me, and obviously it seems to work.”
4. Day shoots 70, despite back injury
Golf Channel’s Ryan Lavner with the report on Jason Day’s back…
  • “Day did not speak with the media following the opening round and instead received treatment. His wife, Ellie, said that Day threw out his back before the round, when he bent down to kiss his 3-year-old daughter, Lucy, on the practice putting green. She said he had been receiving treatment all week.”
  • “On the second hole, Day was seen getting worked on by a physiotherapist. He was able to continue the round, ultimately getting to 3 under for the day before a bogey on the 17th…Day has been plagued by back issues for years, but the injury flared up again last month at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he withdrew during the first round. He said then that an MRI revealed an injury to his L4-L5 discs.”
5. Lefty
ESPN’s Bob Harig on Mickelson’s strong start…”Mickelson, 48, opened the tournament with his best first round since shooting the same score in 2010, when he won the third of his three green jackets. There is a long way to go, but a victory at the Masters would make Mickelson the oldest to win a major championship in the game’s history, surpassing the record held since 1968 by Julius Boros.”
  • “It was great. It was a lot of fun,” said Mickelson, who is in third place, one stroke behind leaders Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka. “And it’s fun to finish off the round. It’s fun to make a good par save on 17 and birdie the last. It’s fun to finish a good round off rather than leak one here or there coming in. So it was a good day.”
6. Cheers, Cup and Tee Committee
Geoff Shackelford lauded the work of the Cup and Tee crew in setting up ANGC…
  • “The Cup and Tee Marker Placement Committee dug into their bag of tricks on day one of the Masters to fend off a birdie onslaught. For a while, they contained scoring with help from Mother Nature’s swirling winds.”
  • “But as the already slow-for-Augusta greens slowed and the winds calmed down, the course yielded a 72.874 scoring average, with 28 of 87 players posting rounds under par. For perspective, the record first round came 10 years ago when 38 of 96 were in red numbers.”
  • “About as tough as they can get,” Nick Faldo noted of the flagstick locations during the broadcast in response to Peter Kostis declaring the hole locations as the most difficult 18-hole set he’d seen in years.
7. 5 things
Our Ron Montesano rounds up 5 things we learned on day 1 at Augusta
Among them…
  • For a very long time on Masters 2K19: Day 1, 69 appeared to be the top score for the opening 18. This made Tiger Woods fans ecstatic, as the growler sat but one shot back, having signed for an opening 70. The afternoon wave of golfers caught fire late. Two of the game’s top young talents shared the lead at 6-under par. As Masters veterans know, not much is decided on Thursday, beyond the recipients of crystal for daily low score, eagles, and the like. Still, the message sent by Dechambeau and might be one of concern for those more than 4 back.
  • The best thing for Tiger is …“Phil. Nothing drives the furry one like his number-one rival. Despite having bested the lefthander on most occasions over the years, Tiger has no plans to let up. The longer Phil hangs around, the more likely Tiger is to lock in and go low. Cheer for the 40-somethings and you just might see major #15 and Masters #5 from the golfer formerly known as Eldrick.”
8. Nicklaus, Player on distance, green-reading books…
Our Gianni Magliocco…”Nicklaus has long been outspoken about the dangers that modern technology could cause the game, and on Thursday, the 18-time major champion railed against the modern day golf balls, believing the extra distance they now provide players with has gotten out of hand.”
  • “The golf ball has gotten ridiculous. I have so many things on that. The golf ball from 1930 to about ’95 gained about six yards. From 1995 to 2005, about 15 yards, and that’s a big difference. Probably the organizations won’t tell you that, but that’s exactly about what happened.”
  • “Like Nicklaus, Player believes the current technological innovations are damaging to the sport, and the three-time Masters champion fired a stark warning on Thursday concerning the possible consequences of a lack of action on the issue from the game’s organizations.”
  • “”We’d better start thinking. They are going to hit wedges to all the par-5s, and golf courses like St. Andrews, this marvelous golf course, is completely obsolete. They can drive probably six greens. So I don’t know where we’re going.”
  • “And our leaders of such have got to get together now and form a ball for professionals that’s different to the amateurs. Let the amateurs have anything they’d like. … But we have got to stop this, otherwise it’s going to be a joke, in my opinion.”

Full piece.

9. Technology compromising charm?
An interesting suggestion from Golf Digest’s Brian Wacker on the heels of the new Masters digital offerings…
  • “It helps to have pockets as deep as Augusta National, which in recent years has dropped $200 million snatching up property all around its borders with no plans of stopping anytime soon. Tech isn’t cheap, either, and this latest unveiling has now set the standard for all other sporting events going forward.”
  • “Except this isn’t like any other sporting event, which begs a question: Did the Masters lose a little bit of its magic with all this too-good-to-be-true at-your-fingertips technology?”
  • “In CBS’ first broadcast of the tournament in 1956, the network provided just a half hour of coverage on Friday with one hour each on Saturday and Sunday. Chris Schenkel and Bud Palmer were behind the mics, and CBS only covered holes 15 through 18, with all of its cameras stationary and most pointed at the greens.”
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Bubba Watson makes $20,000 donation to First Tee of Detroit to honor Dan Gilbert

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Bubba Watson, who is teeing it up at this week’s inaugural Rocket Mortgage Classic at Detroit Golf Club, has donated $20,000 to The First Tee of Greater Detroit, wanting to honor what Quicken Loans founder and chairman Dan Gilbert has done for the city of Detroit.

According to The Detroit News, the multiple Masters champion decided to make the $20,000 donation following Monday’s youth clinic at the club.

“With Dan Gilbert, the Rocket Mortgage team, the tournament, I wanted to honor him somehow and the only way I could think of it, because of golf, is I’m going to donate $20,000 to The First Tee of Greater Detroit. I saw the (youth) clinic yesterday. So, sometime today a check will be going out for 20-grand coming here to Detroit and being here for The First Tee in honor of Dan Gilbert.”

Gilbert suffered a stroke at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak last month. Last week, company officials said Gilbert was discharged from the hospital and had now been moved to an in-patient facility, which is the typical next step in the recovery process of those who have suffered a stroke.

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, a close friend of Gilbert, spoke in glowing terms after hearing of Watson’s donation, stating

“That’s awesome. I think what a lot of athletes don’t get credit for is there are so many things they do and so many people pulling at them. A little here, a little there and it adds up. So many of these guys do so many cool things for so many people.

It makes me feel good for a superstar like that to care about an area that he has no real connection here. I think that tells you the human element of this thing.”

Watson tees off in the Rocket Mortgage Classic on Thursday at 7.25 AM ET alongside Hideki Matsuyama and Billy Horschel.

And if you want to join Bubba, you can donate to the First Tee of Greater Detroit here

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Morning 9: ANWA keeps same date | WGHOF’s credibility issues? | Maria Fassi is coming

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

June 26, 2019

Good Wednesday morning, golf fans.
1. Keeping the date
AP report…“The LPGA Tour will have a new tournament in Florida at the start of next year — and likely another one in the late spring. The Asian swing of limited-field events at the start of the year is adding a tournament with a full field and a cut.”
  • “And perhaps the most important piece of the puzzle: The ANA Inspiration is staying put. It again will be one week before the Masters and the same weekend as the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, which stole the spotlight from the LPGA Tour’s first major, not to mention some of the amateurs.”
  • “Still to be determined is whether it stays that way.”

Full piece.

2. Credibility issues? 
Geoff Shackelford…”A big congratulations to LPGA rookie Hannah Green on her first win and first major win in the KPMG LPGA Championship, nearly doubling her career earnings and already bringing her within one major win of World Golf Hall of Fame eligibility.”
  • As the World Golf Hall’s Twitter account reminded us:”
  • The tweet: “Hannah Green is one Major Championship closer to Hall of Fame qualification…

Full piece.

3. BMW coming back
Golf Digest’s Brian Wacker…”The BMW Championship, one of the PGA Tour’s three FedEx Cup Playoff events, will have a new name in 2020, a source confirmed to Golf Digest on Tuesday.”
  • “The luxury automaker’s contract with the tour and Western Golf Association runs through this year’s tournament in August at Medinah Country Club outside Chicago, and the source said the company will not stay on as title sponsor beyond that. Efforts are underway to find a replacement for BMW ahead of next year’s event.”

Full piece.

4. Dire straits
...more “no money for anything” than “money for nothing”…
Bill Speros with even more on Zach Sucher’s breakthrough (via Fore Play)
  • “I can’t even wrap my head around it, to be honest. Two months ago, we had two credit cards wrapped up. We talked about taking out loans on our house,” Sucher said in an interview with the Fore Play podcast from Barstool Sports.”
  • …”We can do two interest-free credit cards and we can max them out. When they’re maxed out, we’ll let them sit there and we will have 12 months to pay them off. And in 12 months we might be in a terrible place that we don’t even want to think about, but we bet on ourselves,” he told the Fore Play podcast.
5. 81 years old: 2 aces in 6 holes
Golf Digest’s Joel Beall…”Last week 81-year-old Chuck Miller made two aces at the Cortez Course in Hot Springs, Ark. The first came on the 12th hole, a 135-yard par 3, the second at the 138-yard 17th. In both instances, Miller used a 6 iron.”
  • “When the first one went in on the 12th hole, I was really excited,”Miller told KARK.com. “It was a great shot over the front bunker onto the green; it bounced once or twice and went into the cup. We all jumped and shouted.”
6. Fassi cometh
AP report…[Maria Fassi and family]…”lived near the Club de Golf in Pachuca, about an hour north of Mexico City, and their mother wanted them active in as many sports as possible. Lorena Ochoa was just starting her rise to No. 1 in the world. Even so, golf was never a priority in soccer-mad Mexico.”
  • “I don’t think it’s a sport a kid would say, ‘Hey, Dad, I want to play golf,'” Fassi said. “We lived at a golf course in Pachuca, nine holes. I would go with my brothers to watch them hit. From there, the head pro says, ‘You come here, but you never hit.’ So I started swinging at it. And I really liked it.”
  • “And now the golf world is watching her, curious what her dynamic swing and personality can do for the LPGA Tour.”
7. The best golf club innovations? 
Terry Koehler, our resident “Wedge Guy” reflects…
“Thinking about this innovation or that got me pondering my own list of the most impactful innovations in equipment over my lifetime (the past 60 years or so). I want to offer this analysis up to all of you for review, critique, and argument.”
“Woods: I would have to say that the two that made the most impact on the way the game is played is the introduction of the modern metal wood by TaylorMade back in the 1980s, and the advent of the oversized wood with the Callaway Big Bertha in the 1990s. Since then, the category has been more about evolution than revolution, to me at least.”
“Irons: Here again, I think there are two major innovations that have improved the playability of irons for recreational golfers. The first is the introduction of the numbered and matched set, a concept pioneered by Bobby Jones and Spalding in the 1930s. This introduced the concept of buying a “set” of irons, rather than picking them up individually. The second would be the introduction of perimeter weighting, which made the lower lofted irons so much easier for less skilled golfers to get airborne. (But I do believe the steadfast adherence to the concept of a “matched” set has had a negative effect on all golfers’ proficiency with the higher-lofted irons)”

Full piece.

8. J.B. on the athletic tape putter grip
Solid work by Andrew Tursky getting the scoop on arguably the Tour’s most curious grip
  • “…Holmes’ SuperStroke Traxion Pistol GT 1.0 putter grip is wrapped with athletic tape that can be found in your local sporting goods store or pharmacy.”
  • About two years ago, Holmes says he started using athletic tape around his putter grip to combat sweaty hands.”
  • “Actually, Holmes doesn’t apply the tape himself, nor does he have a putter maker from the equipment trucks do it. Instead, he trusts his caddie, Brandon Parsons, to apply the athletic tape.”
9. Bagpipes out, Irish flute in for The Open…more programming notes
The Forecaddie writes Yanni’s “Celebration of Man” is getting some Irish flavor
  • “The theme, as you undoubtedly recall, was NBC’s longtime introduction for U.S. Open coverage. It was updated by Yanni when NBC took the music overseas for its coverage of the British. But with the event going to Northern Ireland for the first time since 1951, Yanni has woven in a more Irish sounding flute in place of the bold bagpipes used in re-imagining the catchy, dare The Forecaddie say, beloved theme music.”
  • “As for the important stuff: NBC and Golf Channel plan more than 200 hours of “linear programming” including 50 live hours of the actual golf. That’s easily more than any event on the calendar by TMOF’s calculations. Besides loads of coverage on Golf Channel’s Morning Drive and Live From, there will be a documentary commemorating the 10th anniversary of Tom Watson’s near-win at Turnberry (July 8, 9 p.m. ET on Golf Channel) and a Sky Sports documentary chronicling “The Road To Royal Portrush” (July 15, 9 p.m. ET).”

 

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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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