Come-from-behind victories. Sunday meltdowns. Thrilling major championships. Dominance. An indescribable Ryder Cup.
To many golf fans, 2012 brought a whole new level of excitement to the game. The unpredictability and element of surprise hopefully also attracted new fans to the sport. Either way, everyone who followed professional golf this year had something draw them in.
The 2013 season is on the horizon, teeing off Jan. 4 in Kapalua, and there are tons of storylines heading into the new year. Predicting outcomes for the season ahead is near impossible, but it’s always fun to speculate on a broader range. So, what should we look forward to in 2013 in professional golf? The topics are wide and the lists are long, but here are 10 things to watch for in the upcoming year.
Structural Shake Up
In 2013, the PGA Tour will embark upon its newest schedule set-up which, in effect, alters the Tour’s structure as a whole. The 2013 season will conclude with the final event of the PGA Tour Playoffs for the FedExCup , the Tour Championship in Atlanta on Sept. 22. Then, three weeks later, the 2014 season will begin with the Frys.com Open, the first of the Fall Series events.
Of course, the scheduling change to the Tour also leads to changes for the Web.com Tour and Qualifying School. The Web.com Tour will now be the primary feeder for the PGA Tour, while Q-School will send its top finishers on to the Web.com Tour.
Fifty PGA Tour cards will be awarded to Web.com Tour players: 25 based on the final money list and a final 25 cards based on cumulative earnings from four Finals events. The Web.com’s Finals events will coincide with the FedExCup, with the exception of the last event, which will take place the week after the Tour Championship.
The newly formed PGA Tour Canada Tour, as well as the PGA Tour Latinoamerica Tour, will add additional playing avenues to the equation for professional golfers. The top-5 finishers on both tours gain direct access to the Web.com Tour. Also, Nos. 6 through 10 on the PGA Tour Canada will be exempt into the finals of the Web.com Tour Q-School.
Throwing the Anchor
In late November, the USGA and R&A proposed a rule change to prohibit anchoring the club during the stroke that will likely be approved this spring and go into effect in 2016. With the announcement, a range of storylines surround this topic for the upcoming year. At what point will players make the switch? Will fans support players who decide to continue anchoring? Will the PGA Tour move quickly and make a local rule, eliminating the three-year gap before the rule is changed. Will new techniques develop for putting woes?
Webb Simpson has openly admitted practicing at home with a regular putter and will put it in play when he’s comfortable. Adam Scott has already been seen without his typical flat stick. Keegan Bradley plans to keep his anchored stroke in play and has the option to do so despite already getting flack from a fan at the World Challenge.
Meanwhile, equipment makers such as Odyssey are already marketing forearm-anchored putters, giving belly-length putters a second wind.
As World No. 1 Rory McIlroy departs Titleist for Nike in 2013, his ability to adapt and grow comfortable with his new clubs will be closely watched. Some people downplay the move, saying equipment is similar nowadays. Others, such as Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods, suggest that the change could put a lot on the line and take a lengthy amount of time to get comfortable with.
Whether it is an easy or hard transition for McIlroy, we’ll most likely see his first competitive round with the swooshes in his bag at the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship, Jan. 17-20. From there, he’ll have lofty-as-ever expectations to live up to, after taking 2012’s PGA Tour Player of the Year honors.
Another majorless year has come and gone for Tiger Woods. And while Woods went oh-fer in 2012, he had his chances at getting closer to Jack Nicklaus’ all-time mark of 18 major championships.
Woods was tied for the 36-hole lead at both the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship, and sat in third place through 36 holes at the British Open. However, a weekend scoring average of 72.83 in those three majors knocked Tiger from contention in each event. His best major finish was a tie for third at Royal Lytham & St. Annes where he still sat four shots back of champion Ernie Els.
In 2013, Woods’ best chances at majors will come early. April’s Masters present a great opportunity for Woods due to his historic prowess at Augusta National, but he hasn’t won a Green Jacket since 2005. He has never played Marion Golf Club, the 2013 U.S. Open venue, and doesn’t exactly have fond memories at this year’s British Open and PGA Championship venues. He plummeted out of contention after a third-round 81 at the 2002 British Open at Muirfield and never shot lower than 72 at Oak Hill in 2003’s PGA Championship.
Brandt Snedeker vs. FedEx Cup Curse
Ironically, each of the first five winners of the FedEx Cup have failed to return to the Tour Championship the following year. In 2013, Brandt Snedeker will look to snap that streak and be one of the 30 players who take on Atlanta’s East Lake Country Club for the $10 million FedEx Cup bonus.
It seemed as if Bill Haas would end the trend in 2012, but Haas shot a final-round 78 in the BMW Championship at Crooked Stick. Haas finished 45th in the 70-man field and dropped to 32nd in the FedEx Cup points standings. Haas was positioned to move on, but he bogeyed four of the last five holes, leaving him outside the 30-man Tour Championship field.
If Snedeker wants another shot at the bonus, he’ll have to finish in the top 125 of the points list, then successfully advance on different courses than he did this year. The Barclays moves back to Liberty National in Jersey City, N.J., opening the four-event series. The Deutsche Bank Championship remains at TPC Boston in Norton, Mass., as the second event, while the third leg is the BMW Championship at Conway Farms in Lake Forest, Ill.
Jack Nicklaus’ Muirfield Village will be in the spotlight on two occasions during the upcoming year, as the course will host the 2013 Presidents Cup in addition to its yearly Memorial tournament. Fred Couples and Nick Price will captain their respective teams in the 10th playing of the Presidents Cup, which takes place Oct. 1-6. It will be Couples’ third-straight U.S. captaincy, while Price is getting his first attempt with the International squad.
The U.S. has dominated the cup, winning seven of the nine previous meetings. The International’s sole victory came in 1998 by a 20.5 to 11.5 margin, while the squads tied in 2003. The Presidents Cup may not ignite passion in ways the Ryder Cup does, but it has gained momentum through the years as an exciting and entertaining event.
It is fitting that the event will take place at Nicklaus’ Muirfield Village, given the history behind both the man and the course. Nicklaus has captained the U.S. Presidents Cup team on four occasions (1998, 2003, 2005, 2007) and Muirfield Village has hosted the Memorial Tournament annually since 1976. The venue will become the first club in the world to host the Presidents Cup, Ryder Cup (1987) and Solheim Cup (1998).
Teens took the golf world’s spotlight on several occasions in 2012, especially at the U.S. Open at Olympic Club. Fourteen-year-old Andy Zhang first made news as he became the youngest to compete in the USGA event. Then, 17-year-old Beau Hossler stole the show the first three days, even holding a brief solo lead Friday afternoon at 2-under-par. Unfortunately, a final-round 76 dropped Hossler from contention and the claim of low amateur. That distinction went to 19-year-old Jordan Spieth, who played the weekend in 1-under-par (69-70) and turned professional Dec. 14.
On the ladies’ side, 15-year-old Lydia Ko became the youngest to ever win an LPGA Tour event, claiming the CN Canadian Women’s Open by three shots over Inbee Park. Ko erased Lexi Thompson’s youngest age record — Thompson was 16 when she won the 2011 at the Navistar LPGA Classic in Alabama.
We already know of one teen who will surely be in the golf news in 2013: Guang Tianlang of China. The 14-year-old won the Asia-Pacific Championship this fall to qualify for the Masters. With the youthful talent pool of golf, chances are good that many more teens will make golf headlines in the year ahead.
Furyk’s Bounce Back
Jim Furyk arguably endured a career’s worth of heartache in one season alone. The U.S. Open, WGC-Bridgestone and Ryder Cup certainly left the deepest gashes, while close calls at Transitions, Tour Championship and the McGladrey Classic were added to his list of “what ifs.”
Furyk still has years of PGA Tour experience to use as motivation and can look no further than the 2009 season for similarities. That season, Furyk had five top-five finishes before jumping back into the winner’s circle in 2010.
PGA Tour rookies have performed quite well over the past two years. In 2011, rookies claimed seven victories including major championships from Charl Schwartzel (Masters) and Keegan Bradley (PGA Championship). Four rookies — John Huh, Jonas Blixt, Charlie Beljan and Ted Potter, Jr. – earned victories on the PGA Tour in 2012.
The 2013 class, made up of Web.com money leaders and graduates of Q-School, features a variety of heralded players. Luke Guthrie, Russell Henley, Ben Kohles, Morgan Hoffmann, Scott Langley and Patrick Reed, to name a few, have gained attention in the professional realms already and look to excel during their first year on Tour. There are also many experienced European Tour players such as Nicolas Colsaerts, Ross Fisher and Martin Kaymer who will each take up PGA Tour membership for the first time next year.
Golf on the Global Stage
Golf’s worldwide popularity has been on an upward trend over the last decade or so, and we are now seeing the effects of it being a global sport. More and more young, elite players are beginning to display their talents on the world stage and one could expect that to continue with golf being part of the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
The PGA Tour’s support for the global game will step up a notch during the latter part of 2013, as three of the first six events for the 2013-14 season will take place outside the United States. Most notably, the CIMB Classic in Malaysia and the WGC-HSBC Champions in China will both be official Tour events for the first time. While each of those events have drawn the biggest names, entrants are also qualifiers from the Asian Tour or hold other special distinctions.
Additionally, the success of young talents will continue to push the game to new heights. It seems as if Ryo Ishikawa has been in the spotlight for years and years, yet he’s still just 21 years old. With other young players such as Andy Zhang, Lydia Ko and Guang Tianlang being successful on the world stage, we can only expect more to come in the future.
Legend Rees Jones speaks on designing Danzante Bay in Mexico
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The Book That Almost Wasn’t a Book: Ben Hogan’s “Five Lessons”
“Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf,” written by Ben Hogan and Herbert Warren Wind, continues to be the largest selling golf instructional book in history. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the book, which was first published in 1957.
The story of how the book was published revolves around Sports Illustrated, which was owned by Time Magazine. The weekly magazine launched in 1954 as an experiment to see if an all-sport publication could survive. In 1956, the publication was on the brink of disaster, having yet to find its audience.
This is the backdrop against which Sydney James, the magazine’s managing editor, received a call from Ben Hogan. Hogan had an idea for an article. Would Sports Illustrated be interested?
James promised to get back to him shortly with an answer. And he did, telling him that the magazine would be very interested in collaborating with him, and that he would begin making the necessary arrangements to get the project off the ground.
James explained his plan to Hogan, which was to arrange for the magazine’s most talented writer, Herbert Warren Wind, and top-rated freelance illustrator, Anthony Ravielle, to visit Hogan in Fort Worth to further discuss his idea.
“Would that be agreeable” he asked?
“Yes,” Hogan replied. He would make himself available as needed.
Writer and Illustrator
Herbert Warren Wind, a graduate of Yale University, was not just a writer, but a literary craftsman. He was without question the finest writer of his time, contributing regularly as a columnist for The New Yorker magazine from 1941-47.
For his part, Ravielle was quickly earning a reputation as one of the most talented illustrators in the country. His expertise was drawing the musculature of the human body in life-like detail. And then having the unique ability to convey a sense of motion with the human form.
A Single Idea
A few weeks later, the two met with Hogan at his office in Fort Worth, Texas. They then made their way to Colonial Country Club. And once there, they walked out to a part of the course where they would not be disturbed. And then Hogan began to explain to the two men what he had in mind.
As they listened to his ideas for the article, they suggested that he consider a five-part series. What they proposed was a sequential pattern of lessons beginning with the grip, the setup, the backswing, and the downswing. The fifth chapter would be a summary and review of what had been presented in the first four chapters.
Hogan liked the idea and agreed immediately.
As Hogan began to explain his thoughts on the swing, Wind began to scribble in his notebook, not wanting to miss a single word. (In later years, when interviewing a subject, modern-day reporters would use a tape recorder, but at that time it had not yet been invented.)
Wind would at times stop Hogan to ask a question or to clarify an important point. And when he reached the point at which he couldn’t possibly absorb another thought, Wind gave way to Ravielle, who armed with a still camera, snapped one photograph after another, capturing the various positions that would ultimately mirror Hogan’s thoughts.
During the next few days, Hogan continued to elaborate on his theories about the golf swing and the logic behind them. As they finished, the three men agreed that they would meet again, either at the end of 1956 or after the first of the year.
After returning to New York, Wind began writing a rough draft of the five-part series. At the same time, Ravielle started working from the photographs that he had taken earlier. He began by drawing pencil sketches that he would later show to Hogan for his approval before moving on to the final version.
The three gathered together again for a week-long session in January 1957. Hogan was extremely impressed with Ravielle’s sketches, believing that he had managed to capture the very essence of what he was attempting to covey to his would-be readers.
The pencil sketches would be transformed a final time using a “scratch-board” technique that Ravielle had mastered. The scratch-board technique created a uniquely vivid picture, which invited the reader to reach out and touch the seemingly life-like image on the page.
Wind’s spirits were buoyed after meeting with Hogan a second time as he wrote, “Hogan had gone into a much more detailed description of the workings of the golf swing then we had anticipated. Moreover, he had patently enjoyed the challenge and had given it everything he had.”
On returning to New York, Wind and Reveille begin working together, side by side, laying out the text, the illustrations, and captions in page form for each of the five chapters.
As Wind recounted, “When an installment was completed and had gone through the production department, we airmailed photostats of the pages to Hogan, who was in Palm Beach getting ready for the Masters. I would telephone Ben at his apartment at an appointed time each week, and we would go over each paragraph line by line. A session usually took between 45 minutes to an hour.”
During these sessions, as they reviewed the copy, Hogan was insistent that each word and phrase precisely communicate exactly what he intended to say. Wind recalls one example, when he had written “that at a certain stage of the swing the golfer’s weight had shifted to his left side.” Hogan corrected, “Let’s not say left side,” Adding “That isn’t accurate. In golf, there’s no such thing as a player’s left side. At this point in the swing most of the golfer’s weight is on his left foot and left leg.”
Wind found these discussions exhausting as Hogan worked his way through the copy with a “fine-tooth comb.” As wind wrote, “After these protracted checking sessions with Hogan, I did some deep-breathing exercises to relax myself, but I also had the bracing feeling that even Sherlock Holmes wouldn’t be able to detect a smudged adjective or a mysterious verb in the text.”
As they were nearing completion of their work, Hogan asked Wind if he had any suggestions for the series name. As Wind recalls, “I thought for a long moment and then tossed up ‘The Fundamentals of Modern Golf?’”
Hogan mulled it over for a moment and then asked, “How about ‘The Modern Fundamentals of Golf?’” Wind agreed that the reversal in wording was a definite improvement. The series now, for the first time, had both a name and an identity.
The Magazine and the Book
The series was very successful, of course, boosting not only the sales of the magazine but also its circulation. The content of what would eventually become the book appeared in five installments beginning with the March 11, 1957 issue, which in Wind’s exact words, “sold like hotcakes.“
The book was released some five months later in September as a joint venture between Hogan and the magazine.
A Triple Play
Why has the book endured?
The first reason is because of the public’s fascinated with Hogan, not only as player, but as a man. He was a great ball-striker, maybe the best of all time, but there was more to the man than his ability to play golf. He is one of the more complex sports figures in the pantheon of great players. He was a man of secrets who preferred the shadows to the light.
The second reason is the wonderful prose of Herbert Warren Wind, which flows with ease from one paragraph to another, giving the reader at times the feeling of floating on air from one sentence to another.
The third reason is the illustrations of Anthony Ravielle, which describe in dramatic fashion the essence of what Hogan wanted to convey to the reader.
“Five Lessons” was then the collaboration of three men, each one of them the very best in their fields. They were, through luck and circumstance, thrown together in space and time. And maybe once joined together, they sensed the opportunity to create something very special with one purpose in mind — to write one of the best golf instruction books ever. And they succeed.
Bag Chatter: An Interview with Uther Supply
Bag Chatter is a series of interviews that spotlights brands around the golf industry and the people behind them. We’re looking to make this a regular thing, so please comment and share through your medium of choice. If you have a brand and are interested in participating in these interviews, you can email email@example.com for consideration. This interview is with Daniel Erdman of Uther Supply.
Tell us about Uther. How do you pronounce that? What are you all about? How did you start?
It’s actually pronounced “other.” We’ve gotten that question a lot and, to be honest, we’re kind of OK with it. We wanted to brand ourselves as unique, so we think it fits well. We want to create products that no one else creates. That could be towels in unique prints or some other golf goods outside of that. We’re targeting the customer that wants to be different as well…people who want to demonstrate their unique personalities.
Forgive me for being a little direct, but golf towels may not strike a lot of people as being something a lot of people would start a business with. Were you seeing a lack of something in the marketplace somehow? What prompted you to start this company selling golf towels?
It may not be conventional and I definitely recognize that. Some of my friends have laughed at me for starting a golf towel business. I guess it hit me when I was working at private clubs (I have worked at The Thornhill Club and Ladies’ Golf Club of Toronto). When you work in the back shop and storage facility, you handle a lot of golf bags. I just noticed rows and rows of bags that all look the same and I thought it made a lot of sense to inject some personality into it. You know, people go crazy for how all the pros personalize their wedges and their bags. They buy towels and bag tags from courses like TPC Sawgrass and Pebble Beach to personalize their stuff, but in the end it all kind of blends together. Billy Horschel’s octopus-print pants at the 2013 US Open was something that always stuck out in my mind and in that moment when I was staring at all those bags, it all kind of came together in a way. I thought we could really add something to the marketplace.
What do you think differentiates your products from others in the marketplace? Why do you think people would buy your products?
We’ve already addressed the fact that we offer different and bold prints, but that’s obviously the first thing that most customers will notice. Beyond that, though, we put a lot of attention to detail into our products. We went through 40 different suppliers to get things right. My grandparents had a really successful flooring mat company when I was growing up. Watching them run the family business gave me the bug at a very young age to start my own business. It also taught me how much quality matters and getting the right suppliers and materials. It was so much more difficult back then without the internet, but now, a quick google search just does so much of the legwork for you.
Something that I think is very interesting here is you’re very young at only 22 years old. A lot of the people I’ve talked to recently have been in their twenties as well. Tell me a little bit about what it took to start this company. Did you have to secure an investment? A lot of people shy away from starting a company for fear of the hill being too steep to climb, if you will. Since you’re in the process of climbing it, what’s that actually like?
It definitely was difficult. The only outside funding I got were some grants and loans from business accelerator programs. Those helped tremendously. I remember having to place a very large order at my supplier at the same time my one of my funding opportunities was being processed. That particular one only had like a 20 percent acceptance rate, and if I didn’t get it, I honestly wasn’t sure how I was going to fund the order. The way everything happened to be timed, I had to I place my order before I heard back from my funding application to meet a deadline. It turned out I was accepted, so that was a relief, but it was definitely pretty stressful. You know, in the beginning, you’re working for months before you generate any income. You’re doing everything for the first time like sending stuff through customs, dealing with suppliers, collecting transactions, you name it. You’re bound to make mistakes along the way and when you have zero money coming in, the mistakes you make hurt so much more. You have no processes or systems in place. It’s something you need to accept for what it is and grind through it. Social media helped accelerate things quite a bit (including meeting my sales partner Luke through Instagram). Selling on Amazon and going to the PGA show last year gave us a boost as well. It’s hard to say what the hardest part is specifically. It’s just the grind in the beginning trying to get momentum behind it. Once you get over the hump, it’s really exciting and fun, but getting up to that point is definitely not easy.
It should also be mentioned that you’re based out of Canada. A lot of people would assume being in the Great White North would make the game of golf a challenging proposition. How long/short is your golf season in Ontario? How do you stay sharp over the Canadian winters? And what’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done to play golf when it’s far too cold for most of us? To what lengths will you go?
It can get interesting for sure. I first started golfing because of my hockey friends. Yes, a lot of us do play hockey up here. It was a natural transition for a lot of us to play hockey in the winter and golf in the summer. However, if you do happen to get a golf itch in the winter, you will have to get creative. It’s pretty easy to go to just an indoor simulator to practice. Sometimes I would go to Golf Town (our version of Golf Galaxy) to pretend to demo clubs in order to practice my swing. That can get you by for a while, but it’s not the same as hitting an actual golf ball and watching it fly through the air, you know? So when you get to that point, there’s a nice indoor/outdoor range near me with covered, heated hitting bays. Our golf season is from like April through October, so that leaves a lot of time in between. Golf vacations become necessary sometimes.
Before starting Uther, you alluded to your experience working at golf courses. First off, you must have some good stories. No need to mention any names, but what’s your favorite story from that stage of life? Also, what was it like to go from working at a club to having to court those golf clubs to become your customer, stock your products, etc? Was that really easy or really difficult?
Well, I have a bunch of stories involving golf carts. Just in case the old golf directors read this, I won’t give too many details. Working at a course is great. You can’t get a better “office” than going to the course every day. There’s nothing like watching the sunrise on a dew-covered golf course, especially when you’re being paid. Some of my best memories were after tournaments where three of us guys would clean like 80 golf carts. We would all have fun and get to know each other. It didn’t really feel like work.
In both instances (working for a course and now selling to them), it doesn’t really feel so much like work. It does take a lot of work, don’t get me wrong, but it doesn’t feel like drudgery, that’s for sure. The difference is that there’s a lot more behind the scenes work that I’m doing now. We recently did a towel for the San Francisco Public Golf Alliance in collaboration with State Apparel. It took us a lot of back and forth to get that product right, but once we did, we came up with a custom, one-off product that our customers really loved. And watching them react to it was incredible. Stuff like that really keeps you going.
This question is unabashedly inspired by (ahem…lifted from) one of Rick Shiels’ recent posts. (Giving credit where it’s due here). If you had to “Tin Cup” it (i.e. play a round of golf with only one club), what club would it be and how many extra strokes do you think it would take? So, if you were to play your home course, your normal score is what? And what would your “Tin Cup” score be, you think?
If I had to choose one club for a Tin Cup round, I think it would be a five iron. My home course (and the public golf course I worked for) is Richmond Hill Golf Club. It’s only like 6,000 yards, so I feel like I could totally get by with a five iron and get on any green in 3. I typically shoot like an 80-85. I don’t think I would be that far off the number honestly. I trust the five iron, but also, I know my course pretty well and I think that club would suit it nicely. Now that you ask, though, I feel like I’m dying to try it!
What tour pro would you most like to have a beer with? Not necessarily the guy you’d want to play golf with or pick his brain about the game. Who do you think is the most likeable guy on tour? Who would you most like to befriend, if you will?
I would definitely have to go with Rickie Fowler. He’s got a bold style for sure, but he owns it and I really dig that. I love that he congratulates the other guys on tour and is supportive of them when they win tournaments. He seems so humble. He’s also really adventurous. He’s into motocross. I’m not into motocross, but I love the adventurous spirit. He just seems like a really cool guy from what I can tell.
It’s almost hard to believe, but the PGA Merchandise Show is fast approaching (January 23-26, 2018 in Orlando, FL for those who don’t know). Will you be exhibiting? What are you most looking forward to? That question is, of course, about what steps you think Uther will take, but also, are you looking forward to anything specific from other manufacturers? What companies’ booths are you planning on going to?
We will definitely be at the show and we’re really looking forward to it. Come see us at booth 3988! I walked the show last year but wasn’t exhibiting, so I would go up to potential customers and pitch my products to them. That was a lot of work and it was quite stressful being out on a limb like that. We’ve been working on this year’s show since August and I think it’s going to be a ton of fun. We’ve got some really cool stuff planned. You also get to meet so many people there, which is just a blast. As far as other stuff I’m looking forward to, Greyson Clothiers is definitely at the top of the list. Charlie’s story is so interesting and I just love their products.
Lastly, what do you guys have in the works? Are there any product releases forthcoming? Tell people how to find you on website, social media, etc.
So, the big news is that we will be expanding beyond golf towels. We will be launching some gloves and hats that I’m really excited about. We have six different golf gloves as well as bucket and baseball hats we’ll be rolling out in some very fun prints and colors (because that’s what we do). Definitely a good idea to check out our website, which is www.uthersupply.com. The website has a link to sign up for our email list which will send out some discount codes from time to time. There will also be some exclusive and limited-edition products on the website at times too. @Uthersupply is our handle on all social media platforms. Business customers can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org to collaborate with us on custom products. We’d love to have people come see what we’re about!
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