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Walker Cup Five named by USGA

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The United States Golf Association gave precious little notice that it planned to reveal half of its Walker Cup side for 2013 on Wednesday.

The media was alerted less than two weeks ago that John “Spider” Miller — the 1996 and 1999 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion — would be named to succeed two-time captain Jim Holtgrieve in 2015. Miller will captain the team at Royal Lytham (and again, one presumes, at Los Angeles country club in 2017.) No mention was made of the impending revelation of the first five members of Team USA 2013. And then, on Wednesday of U.S. Amateur Public Links/British Open week, the podium went live and the Walker Cup was the topic.

The Walker Cup, first contested in 1922, pits ten-man sides from GBI (Great Britain and Ireland) and the USA. The trophy is named for George Herbert Walker, ancestor of two U.S. Presidents and president of the USGA when the match was initiated. The biennial event will be contested at the National Golf Links of America in September, the 43rd playing of the match.

Never before have two teams so dominated division one college golf in the U.S. It was expected that Alabama and Cal-Berkeley would square off in the match-play final, until Illinois pulled off the upset of the top-ranked Bears in the semifinals (they lost to the Crimson Tide in the championship). Two players each from the Tide and the Bears were named to the USA Walker Cup team. Justin Thomas and Cory Whitsett will represent Alabama, while Max Homa and Michael Kim will carry the colors of California into battle. This quartet will be joined by Patrick Rodgers of Stanford, perhaps the hottest amateur golfer on the planet.

Michael Kim electrified the galleries at Merion golf club in Pennsylvania during the U.S. Open in June. Kim spent some time on the leaderboard before finishing as low amateur, tied for 17th overall. Patrick Rodgers competed in the John Deere Classic in July on the PGA Tour, where he made his first cut in a professional event. He shot in the 60s both weekend days and finish tied for 15th overall.

Cory Whitsett won the Northeast Amateur in Rhode Island in June, after completing his junior year. Whitsett stood out in match play (the format used in the Walker Cup) with three wins at the NCAA championships and a 3-0-1 record at the 2013 Palmer Cup, also a team match-play event.

Justin Thomas has not won an individual amateur event since the 2012 Jones Cup, but he did represent the USA at the 2012 World Amateur Team championship and did reach the semifinals of last year’s US Amateur championship.

Left off the team thus far are Bobby Wyatt of the University of Alabama and Michael Weaver of Cal-Berkeley. Both are in the thick of the race for one of the final three spots designated for the under-25 set. In January, the USGA announced that a minimum of two spots would be reserved for mid-amateurs, players over the age of 25. During the last two Walker Cup matches, Nathan Smith has carried the torch for the older generation, as did Trip Kuehne and George Zahringer before him. The USGA suggested that the presence of wizened competitors matters as much as a win, yet failed to name either selection this week.

Smith is expected to be named to the team in August, given his success in previous competitions and his stature as the only four-time USGA Mid-Amateur champion. Since another slot is up for grabs, many over-25 competitors have registered for events like the Northeast, the Sunnehanna and the Porter Cup, hoping to catch the eyes of Captain Holtgrieve and the selection committee.

The USGA typically names its U.S. Amateur champions to the team, so the remainder of the team is not expected to be named until that tournament concludes in mid-August. The winners of the upcoming Porter Cup and Western Amateur will certainly make a case for their own candidacies.

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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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Golf's Perfect Imperfections

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: Speed release patterns and restriction removals for the best golf of your life

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If you’ve been keeping your head or practicing to steer your golf club towards the target. Or worse, restricting your backswing because you feel a loss of control, you are setting yourself up for constant disappointment because your anatomy was designed to yield.

 

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On Spec: Club fitting isn’t magic! Also, Lydia Ko and Stewart Cink win again

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On this week’s episode, host Ryan Barath covers everything from Lydia Ko’s comeback win on the LPGA tour, to why club fittings aren’t some magical thing that’s going to instantly lower scores.

It also covers Stewart Cink’s win at the RBC Heritage and offers a sneak peek at the GolfWRX Best Iron list of 2021.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) here

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Opinion & Analysis

Fix your golfing back pain, Step 2: Early stage rehab

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This article is co-written with Marnus Marais. Since 2011, Marnus has worked with some of the world’s best players on both the PGA Tour and European Tour, helping them to maintain optimal health and peak physical performance. His current stable of players includes Dustin Johnson, Patrick Cantlay, and Louis Oosthuizen, amongst others. 

You can find more information on Marnus and his work at marnusmarais.com

This article is No. 2 in a 4 part series.

Step 1 – The Importance of Assessment

Step 2 – Early Stage Rehab

Step 3 – Essential Strength and Golf Movement Patterns

Step 4 – Building global strength for prevention of future injury

Introduction

Now that we have identified the source of the back issue through assessment, it’s time to start working on the underlying causes, in order to reduce pain and decrease the likelihood of re-injury further down the track. 

In our experience, mechanical back pain in golfers caused by physical issues is most often caused by one or more of the the following 4 issues, with many amateur players displaying the entire collection!

– Lack of Mobility at the Hips and Mid / Upper Back

– Poor Posture

– Misalignment and Muscle Imbalances

– Weak Core Muscles

Because pain is likely still a factor at this stage, we need to proceed with caution and focus on rehab work that is low intensity and has a low risk of causing a pain flare up.

With that in mind, in ‘Step 2: Early Stage Rehab’ we are going to address Mobility, Posture and Misalignment / Muscle Imbalances. These 3 areas can be improved upon, and should have a positive impact on pain reduction, even if back discomfort is still restricting larger, more global movements.

Step 2.1 – Improving Mobility in Hips and Mid / Upper back

Certain areas in the body need to be more stable, and others need to be more mobile. The lumbar spine (lower back) falls into the stable category, partly due to its limited capacity for rotation and lateral flexion (side bending). We know the unnatural golf swing movement imparts both rotational and side bending forces on the spine, so it’s an area we need to keep stable and protected.

In order to avoid excessive low back rotation forces in life and especially in the golf swing, it’s very important that we try to maximize the range of movement in other areas, most notably the joints above and below the low back, where the majority of rotation in the golf swing should take place:

Hips

We need sufficient range of movement to turn into, and out of, both hips. For example, if we can’t turn and load into our lead hip due to a lack of internal rotation mobility, we tend to compensate with excessive rotation and side-bending in the lower back.

Suggested Exercise Circuit – Hip Mobility

1) Self Massage Glutes – 45 secs each side

2) Cross Leg Glute Stretch – 30 secs each side

3) Prone Glute Stretch – 30 secs each side

4) 90 90 Hip Mobility – 5 reps each side

Thoracic Spine (mid to upper back)

Having sufficient rotation in our thoracic spine to both left and the right is extremely important. The thoracic spine has significantly greater rotational capabilities compared to the lumbar spine (low back). If we maximise our mobility here, we can help protect the lower back, along with the cervical spine (neck).

Suggested Exercises – Thoracic Mobility

1) Self Massage Mid / Upper back – 60 seconds

2) Upper Back Extension – 30 seconds

3) All Fours Rotation – 5 reps each side

Step 2.2 – Improving Posture

Posture can be described as the proper alignment of the spine, with the aim of establishing three natural curves (low back, mid/upper back and neck).

The 3 major spinal curves: 1 – Cervical, 2 – Thoracic, 3 – Lumbar

Modern lifestyles and the associated muscle imbalances have pushed and pulled our spines away from those three natural curves, and this has had a damaging effect on our spinal health. Our backs are designed to function optimally from the neutral illustrated above, and the further we get away from it, the more stress we put on our protective spinal structures.

Aside from promotion of pain, poor posture also does terrible things for our golf swings; reducing range of motion in key areas (hips, mid back and shoulders) and creating inefficiencies in our swing action, to give us a double whammy of back pain causes.

The muscles responsible for holding your posture are located deep in the body and close to the spine. Strengthening them can be tricky, as we don’t really have a lot of conscious control over their activation. Hence posture being such a difficult thing to remember! The combination of the 4 exercises featured below help provide the stimulus to those deep muscles that, if trained often enough, will automatically hold your posture in a good position.

Suggested Exercises – Strengthening posture muscles

1) Wall Posture Check – 30 secs

2) Posture Cue – 60 secs

3) Posture Cue Knee Lifts – 10 reps each side

4) Arm Press – 15 reps

Step 2.3 – Fixing Alignment Issues and Muscle Imbalances

Imagine a car with wheel alignment issues; front wheels facing to the right, back wheels facing to the left. Not only will the tires wear out unevenly and quickly, but other areas of the car will experience more torque, load or strain and would have to work harder. The same thing happens to the lower back when we have body alignment issues above and / or below.

For example, if we have short / tight / overactive hip flexors (muscles at the front of the hips that bend our knees to our chest) on one side of the body; very common amongst golfers with low back pain, then this would rotate the pelvis forward on one side, which can create a knock-on effect of imbalance throughout the body.

If the pelvis rotates in one direction, the shoulders naturally have to rotate in the opposite direction in order to maintain balance. Our low back is subsequently caught in the middle, and placed under more load, stress and strain. This imbalance can cause the low back to bend and rotate further, and more unevenly, especially in the already complex rotation and side bending context of the golf swing!

Below is a pelvic alignment technique that can help those with the afore mentioned imbalance.

In the next article; Step 3: Essential Strength and Golf Movement Patterns, we will show you the progression of exercises and key technique principles to build up the strength and movement patterns to return to regular exercise and golf.

If you would like to see how Marnus can help with your golfing back pain, then check out the resources below:

Marnus Marais – marnusmarais.com

If you would like to access training programs designed for elite and recreational players, then check out the following resources and services from Nick at Golf Fit Pro:

Articles
Golf Fit Pro App (iOS)
Online Training
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