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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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Johnny Newbern writes for GolfWRX from Fort Worth, Texas. His loving wife lets him play more golf than is reasonable and his son is almost old enough to ride in the cart with dad. He is a Scotty Cameron loyalist and a lover of links style courses. He believes Coore/Crenshaw can do no wrong, TMB irons are almost too hot and hole-in-ones are earned, not given. Johnny holds a degree in journalism from Southern Methodist University.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Tracee

    Jul 1, 2019 at 6:35 pm

    I visited several web pages except the audio feature
    for audio songs present at this weeb site is in fact superb.

  2. Tom Keeler

    Jun 25, 2019 at 10:39 am

    Back in the 60’s my high school golf team played its matches st Palmer Park. Great memories and sad to see it closed. Neither Rackham, another Donald Ross course, nor Maple Lane are in the Detroit city limits. Hope Palmer Park can be resurrected.

  3. Gdaddy

    Jun 25, 2019 at 9:18 am

    Used to play Palmer park in college, it was very basic, but always fun. Palmer Park itself is the heart of the city. I used to tell people, to judge Detroit don’t read the news. Just drive past Palmer Park on a Saturday afternoon and see the thousands of people enjoying family picnics. Hopefully, someone with some cash can step up and bring the course back for the first tee.

  4. 15th Club

    Jun 24, 2019 at 8:27 pm

    I live in the Detroit area, and Johnny captured the feel of this story very well. Kudos.

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Mizuno MP-20 SEL: Leftys rejoice!

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Hey you southpaws, I promise I didn’t just flip an image of an MP-20 to wind you up… This is a real deal!

Say hello to the Mizuno MP-20 SEL (Special Edition Lefty) made just for you.

So what makes these SEL’s special? You may remember from the MP-20 piece I referenced the “MP-20 family” and how Mizuno spent a lot of time analyzing set makeup data to fine-tune each club in each model to maximize performance from both an individual set perspective, and to combo. They took all of that data and flipped it on its head, or at least hand, to create a set combining the most requested clubs just for left-handed players.

The MP20 SEL is a combination of 5-PW MP20 (blades) with HMB 3, and 4-irons. All the flow, copper and tech from the right-handed models combined into one. Without getting too far into the logistic of this, it has to be said that unless you’re a maple-syrup drinking, hockey-playing Canuck (don’t worry its not an offensive term) where around 25 percent of golfers play left-handed the global golf population that plays left-handed is still below 10 percent.  Mizuno wants to do everything they can to offer an MP design for lefties, and as the data demonstrated, this was the best option to fit the most players.

For more information on the entire MP20 line up check out the full piece here: ( INSERT MP20 LINK ) 

 

 

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Morning 9: Nothing runs like a Frittelli | Royal Portrush takes center stage

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By Ben Alberstadt (ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com; @benalberstadt on Instagram)

July 15, 2019

Good Monday morning, golf fans.
1 Scottish Open: Wiesberger nabs second W of 2019
(Image above via Wiesberger on Instagram) EuropeanTour.com report…”Bernd Wiesberger…beat Benjamin Hebert in a twilight play-off at the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open.”
  • “The Austrian entered the final day at The Renaissance Club with a two shot lead but found himself trailing after Hebert carded a stunning closing 62 to set the target at 22 under.”
  • “Wiesberger had edged back ahead with two to play but bogeyed the 17th in a 69 before a par on the third play-off hole handed him a sixth European Tour title.”
2. Nothing runs like a Frittelli 
AP report…”While the rest of the leaders faltered, Dylan Frittelli surged to his first PGA Tour title.”
  • “Frittelli won the John Deere Classic on Sunday, closing with a 7-under 64 for a two-stroke victory over Russell Henley. The South African earned a spot next week in the British Open, finishing at 21-under 263 after the bogey-free final round at TPC Deere Run.”
  • “One of eight players within two strokes of the lead entering the lead, Frittelli was looking forward to the tournament’s charter flight to Royal Portrush.”
  • “I’m sure it’s going to be a fun flight,” Frittelli said.

Indeed. Full piece.

3. Goose is loose at Senior Players 
AP report on Goosen’s win at one of the low-key best venues for watching professional golf…”Retief Goosen birdied the final two holes to win the Bridgestone Senior Players Championship on Sunday at Firestone Country Club for his first PGA Tour Champions title.”
  • “The 50-year-old Hall of Famer from South Africa broke a tie for the lead with a 15-foot putt on the par-4 17th and made a 10-footer on the par-4 18th for a 2-under 68 and a two-stroke victory over 65-year-old Jay Haas and Tim Petrovic.”
4. Kim outduels Thompson 
AP report…”I’m very happy to win, especially this tournament, because Marathon has a lot of history,” Kim said.
  • “With five birdies in the middle of her round, Kim pulled away from Lexi Thompson in their head-to-head duel at Highland Meadows Golf Club outside Toledo, Ohio.”
  • “She played some amazing golf,” Thompson said. “There was a stretch there, mid-round, where she stuck every shot.
  • “Had under 5 feet [for birdie] about four times in a row. So, it was a very well-deserved win by her.”
5. If only Tony Romo played playoff football as well as he does the American Century Championship…
(Kidding, Cowboys fans)
Golf Channel’s Adam Woodard…”Tony Romo is the man to beat in Lake Tahoe.”
  • “The former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and current CBS NFL analyst has staked his claim as best celebrity golfer by defending his title at the 2019 American Century Championship, winning with a score of 71 points. Former MLB All-Star Mark Mulder (61) finished second, followed by tennis Olympic medalist Mardy Fish and another former MLB All-Star Derek Lowe (57). Actor Jack Wagner rounds out the top five with 55 points.”
6. *Points to Collin Morikawa* You get a tour card!
Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine…”A week after Matthew Wolff earned his PGA Tour card by winning the 3M Open, Collin Morikawa locked up membership for next season.”
“The 22-year-old Cal product, in just his fifth pro start, tied for fourth Sunday at the John Deere Classic to collect 122.5 non-member FedExCup points and run his season total to 456.5. With just three weeks left in the regular season, that number, which currently would slot Morikawa at 88th, will assuredly be more than No. 125 in the final standings, meaning Morikawa can count on earning his card for the 2019-20 season.”
7. Portrush to center stage
Golf Channel’s Will Gray…”Much has changed since The Open last visited the coastal links of Royal Portrush. It’s been 68 years, in fact, since Max Faulkner scooped 300 pounds for winning the tournament despite never breaking 70. But that remains the only time the oldest major in golf was held somewhere other than England or Scotland.”
  • “That is, until this week. Long viewed as one of the best courses in the world, Royal Portrush now has a chance to shine in front of a global audience like never before.”
  • “And chances are, she’s going to put on quite a show.”
8. In a similar vein… 
James Corrigan at The Telegraph files his look ahead…
  • “Yet things change, as do politics, finance, perception and even dusty old men in blazers, and here we are in Open week. Everywhere you walked in Portrush on Saturday, with a big wheel spinning and looking down on families eating ice creams, and the brave dipping their toes in the grey ocean, it was clear that this was not a normal weekend. For, as the doors swing open, Tiger Woods is turning up on the Sunday morning and, no, that is not an everyday occurrence.”
  • “Perhaps Graeme McDowell summed it up best in a spectacular blog post on the European Tour website. “It’s been amazing to see the Open Championship evolve in the sleepy little town where I was born,” he said. “For anyone who has never been there, Portrush is on the very northern tip of the island of Ireland and is a very raw, beautiful, rugged landscape which feels very remote. To see an Open being staged there is mind-blowing for many of the local people.”
9. Fun yields win for Frittelli  
Good bit from Cameron Morfit going a level beyond the game story for PGATour.com…”It was mentality clarity,” Frittelli said, when asked to explain the difference at the Deere.
  • “With his attention divided and his career flagging, the 29-year-old with the prescription glasses found himself feeling stressed as this season wore on. His European Tour membership was running out, and he found himself in danger of losing his PGA TOUR card, too. That would mean going back to the Korn Ferry Tour Finals, where nothing is guaranteed except for the fact that it would preclude his playing in some big overseas events.”
  • “The clock was ticking, and Frittelli had to find a way to tune it out. Enter sports psychologist Jay Brunza, who helped Frittelli finally accept that he couldn’t affect outcomes, at least not positively, by obsessing over them. When he three-putted the 14th hole after driving the green Sunday, he not only forced himself to slow down and not overreact, he smiled.”
  • “I think I was the only one on the course who smiled after a three-putt,” he said.
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Tour Rundown runs toward Open with Frittelli, Kim, Goosen victories

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Something quite brilliant was in the air this week on the world’s golf tours. A new course debuted in Scotland, South Africa stood tall with two champions, and the world anticipated a return to a legendary, northern course that has not seen an Open Championship since 1951. The American tours are drawing to a close, and plans for 2019-2020 are firming up. Five events caught our attention this week, from Gullane to Toledo, from Iowa to Colorado. Plug in your charger and settle in for a nice read of this week’s Tour Rundown.

Scottish Open chalice rests in Wiesberger’s hands

Interesting stories envelope the Austrian golfer, Bernd Wiesberger. After a many-month layoff to rehab a wrist injury this season, 2 victories have come his way, including last week’s Scottish Open. The first 3 playoffs of his European Tour career all ended in defeat. In 2011, 2014 and 2015, he lost in extra holes at the Johnnie Walker, the Lyoness, and the Irish Open. Since then, he’s 2-0 in extra time. During the days leading into the 2016 and 2018 Ryder Cups, the 6-time Euro champ always seemed on the edge of breaking through to the European squad, but tailed off in the stretch run. On Sunday, under great pressure, he broke through for his finest triumph to date.

Soft ground and zero wind made The Renaissance Club an easy target during its championship debut. Wiesberger took advantage in round two, posting a course-record 61 to seize the lead. He held the top spot after 54 holes, placing all pressure squarely on his shoulders as round 4 began. It didn’t help that England’s Andrew Johnston had signed for a 62 before the Austrian pegged his opening tee shot. It also didn’t help that Benjamin Hebert of France was in the midst of his own 62, climbing the leaderboard. Ultimately, the duo of Wiesberger and Hebert would trade counters through the closing holes. After the Austrian holed a gutty, 7-feet effort at the last for a spot in the playoff, Hebert’s sound game betrayed him. He bogeyed the 2nd playoff hole, when par would have won, then 3-putted the 3rd go-round to finish 2nd.

As consolation, Hebert, Johnston and Italy’s Nino Bertasio earned the final 3 spots in this week’s Open Championship at Royal Portrush.

@ScottishOpen     @EuropeanTour     @Renaissancegc     @BWiesberger

John Deere Classic is Frittelli’s 1st PGA Tour victory

The 3rd weekend of July redefined the careers of its tournament winners. Dylan Frtitelli has long been a quality golfer, since before his days at the University of Texas. Frittelli found himself uncertain of his status for the 2019-2020 campaign. His major-tour memberships were at risk, and a return to the triple-A tours was not his number-one comfort blanket. Everything changed on Sunday, in the middle of the American continent, when Frittelli surged past 3rd-round leader Andrew Landry with 64. As Landry fell to 3rd spot, Frittelli reached 21-under par. His work wasn’t finished, however. After a 4-under opening nine in round 4, the kind that gets you into the top 10, Russell Henley continued to make birdies. He made 6 more coming home, including a marvelous one at the final hole. Henley reached 19-under, claiming 2nd spot for himself. Frittelli didn’t falter. He made 4 at the par-5 17th, one of the few holes Henley failed to birdie in his march to the green. Ultimately, the win was vindication, security, and an unexpected trip to Royal Portrush for this week’s Open Championship. Breathe easy, Dylan.

@JDCLASSIC     @PGATOUR     @TPCDeereRun     @Dylan_Frittelli

Sei Young Kim takes 2nd win of LPGA season at Marathon Classic

Sei Young Kim offered an LPGA marketing tutorial on how to pronounce her name (So Young!) a season or two ago. On Sunday, the 26-year old Korean golfer earned her 9th LPGA title by 2 strokes, over Lexi Thompson of the USA. Kim made 7 birdies over her first 15 holes, establishing a healthy lead as the tournament headed for home. Bogey at the 16th reduced her margin of victory to 2, but also served to secure trivia on the week: Kim’s scorecard’s were 64, 65, 66 and 67. A hand that would do some damage at the card table, also worked well at the Toledo LPGA stop. Thompson nor anyone else ever threatened the front-runner on day four. Thompson had too many bogies (2) and not enough birdies (also 2) on the outward nine, to mount an early challenge. 3 more birdies plus 1 additional bogey through the 16th, brought her even with Stacy Lewis for 2nd spot. Thompson closed fiercely, with birdie at 17 and eagle at the last. Her torrid finish made the final score appear closer than actuality. In truth, it was the Sei Young show all day long, a fitting tribute to a stellar performance.

@MarathonLPGA     @LPGA     @HMGCgrounds     @SY_KIM_lpga

Colorado Championship earns Ledesma a ticket to the show in 2019-2020

Argentina’s Nelson Ledesma had won on this level before. He triumphed at the LECOM in 2019, but that victory was not enough to propel him to the PGA Tour. In a campaign highlighted by higher, more consistent finishes, Ledesma’s victory on Sunday was enough to earn him a card on the golf world’s grandest dance stage. The walk home wasn’t easy on Sunday. Ledesma dueled with fellow southern-hemisphere golfer Brett Coletta the entire round. Ledesma went -1 on each of his 9s, but they could have differed more. On the outward half, the Platense was all over the place: 4 birdies, 1 bogey, 1 double. On the inward half, all pars until the last. Coletta might look back on Sunday and wonder, what went wrong on the par 5 holes. He doubled the first, bogeyed the 5th, and failed to birdie the 13th and 15th. A late birdie at 17 tied him with Ledesma, setting the stage for the 20-feet birdie putt that would settle the matter and send the champion to new heights.

@TPCColorado     @KornFerryTour     @TPCColoradoChampionship     @nelsonledesmaok

Senior Players Championship is Goosen’s 1st on senior circuit

There was a time, in the early 2000s, when a lead in Goosen’s hands was nearly as secure as a Tiger one. Then came the US Open of 2005, when his final-round lead simply went far, far away. Since those days, family, injuries and new challengers brought him back to the pack. Goosen won 4 more events on the European tour, never again on the US side of the water, until Sunday. Having followed Friday’s 62 with a Saturday 75, the South African found himself in 2nd spot, behind the 2019 story of the year, Scott Parel. This time, it was Goosen who hung on and the leader, that faltered.

Parel came out of the gate limping. He was plus-two through 14 holes in round four. Needing to make something happen to put pressure on his playing partner, Parel birdied the 14th and 17th holes. Unfortunately for him, sandwiched in between were another bogey and a double. He fell to a tie for 4th spot, 4 behind Goosen. In other groupings, Tim Petrovic and Jay Haas were making noise. Each closed to within 2 of Goosen, but neither had the firepower to gain any more ground. The pair tied for 2nd at 4-under par. As for Goosen, it was anything but steady or consistent. He had an eagle and 4 birdies on the day, including chirps at the final two holes, to seal the deal. He also had 2 bogies, along with a double at the 11th. It seems that excitement and thrills are part of the new normal for the formerly-unwavering champion. As long as the recipe results in victories, he’ll certainly cook something up.

@ChampionsTour     @SeniorPlayers     @BridgestoneGolf    

 

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