Connect with us

Opinion & Analysis

Mark Parsinen: A friend’s tribute to a lesser known genius

Published

on

Golf has always elevated course architects to exalted status. From Mackenzie, Ross and Tillinghast to Fazio, Jones (Robert Jr. and Rees), Hanse and Coore-Crenshaw, golf’s version of rock stars make their name in the dirt and are lauded by writers and players worldwide.

Similarly, patrons of the game like Johnny Morris have ascended in the industry as they have translated their financial fortunes and love of golf to facilitate the creation of destinations like Big Cedar Lodge; they are the Medicis of golf’s new Golden Age. But I can only think of only a few who combine the skill and sensibility of a great designer with the vision and passion of a great patron. One who is well-known is Mike Keiser. Although lesser-known, Mark Parsinen was another.

I was introduced to Mark Parsinen by another good friend, Robert Trent Jones Jr. Bobby had worked with Mark at Granite Bay; he knew that Mark was in Washington, DC for a family event and thought that we should meet. I met Mark in the lobby of his hotel along with his wife Dede, his daughter Jenny and a bunch of their friends, including the actor Taye Diggs. Someone wanted to get a picture of the family and I moved over to the side to make way. As they were forming up, Mark called to me, “Hey Michael, come join the picture!”

I had known him for all of five minutes and he insisted that I be a part of a shared memory. That was our friendship. That was Mark Parsinen.

Mark grew up in Minnesota, the son of Finnish immigrants. He liked to joke that while there were many Nordic immigrants in Minnesota, the Finns were the lowest in the pecking order. He maintained a sense of humility from his parents’ immigrant roots, but he also inherited a work ethic that would enable him to accomplish things that others could or would not. Work was not work for Mark; he liked the idea of every moment being spent purposefully. If something took fifteen minutes to do properly, so be it. If it was fifteen hours, fine. His gift was the ability to envision an outcome and progress towards it with a combination of stamina and joy.

He went to the London School of Economics and went on to become a partner in the Boston Group, one of the nation’s leading consulting firms. In his role with the Boston Group he had a hand in guiding a wide range of companies and products to success. A little-known fact I that he was instrumental in the creation of light beer; he laughed when I told him that was nothing to be happy about.

An accomplished player, Mark was self-trained in course design. He moved to the West Coast and wanted to join a club but couldn’t get a spot in any club that he liked so he built his own, Granite Bay Golf Club near Sacramento, California. It was his first golf course project, a collaboration with Jones, Jr.  Said Bobby, “[Mark] didn’t know much about golf course design when we started working together, but I knew what he liked and wanted. The expertise came later.” Granite Bay won praise immediately and Mark was off and running.

Kingsbarns Golf Links

He is best known for his courses in Scotland, Kingsbarns (2000 with Kyle Phillips) and Castle Stuart (2009 with Gil Hanse). Both courses were heralded as among the world’s best courses virtually from the moment of their opening. After playing Castle Stuart, Phil Mickelson was so impressed that he said that it should be studied by anyone who is planning to build a golf course before they turned a shovel of earth.

Castle Stuart Golf Links

Mark’s genius was the ability to work with the best golf architects in the world and challenge them to greatness. He taught himself to be able to read topographical maps and to understand soil samples (skills he encouraged me to acquire). He came to master the art, science, logistics and the operations of a golf course; of course, he had quality people around him who specialized in their expertise, but Mark had a knack for taking something known, tilting it and saying “Could it be better this way?”. To Mark, the world was a big kaleidoscope, and he was fascinated by how you could make something beautiful just by looking at it differently.

His legacy, along with his family, will certainly be or the golf courses that he built. They are treasures that will only grow in stature very time. But what I know from the hours we spent talking about golf and golf courses is that he loved golfers even more than he loved golf courses. His primary influence for golf course design was the Old Course at St. Andrews, a course that he and played over 200 times in his life. He wrote eloquently about the Old Course:

“I have become a devotee of the Old Course where I’ve come to see the golf experience there as definitely not a sequence of tests, but rather a sequence of opportunities to decide whether or not to take risk to gain an advantage with a subsequent shot or to defer the risk by playing a safe shot thereby taking on a greater risk and challenge with a subsequent shot – AND at the same time, the Old Course seems to allow players the freedom to find their own path to the green to suit their own game and their own propensities.  I’ve come to cherish this type of experience in contrast with having to face a sequence of pre-determined tests where one’s game may or may not be suited to the challenge that must be confronted with little or no option or likelihood of success. Being the prisoner of a narrowly defined path can often feel quite oppressive compared with the freedom of a more open playing field with many avenues to the green available for evaluation and selection.”

The Old Course at St. Andrews

Mark wanted golf to be a challenge, not a double-dog dare. His courses represent his reverence for the principles of the Old Course and a genuine affection for the golfer and the quality of their experience. We had much fun one day with his theory that there were Catholic courses and Protestant courses. Catholic courses were like St. Andrews, where you could make huge mistakes but there was almost always a chance for redemption. Carnoustie was a Protestant course, where the path to success was straight and narrow, and mistakes were severely punished. It was the kind of intellectual exercise that Mark loved because there was no right or wrong, just a liberating exchange of ideas and information.

The last time I saw Mark was when I visited him at his home in Inverness on the 14th hole at Castle Stuart. We spent the final day of the trip surveying the work that was being done on the new 9-hole course at Castle Stuart, which had not yet been completed. We sifted through handfuls of sand to determine their density; like any good golf course designer, Mark loved dirt. He explained the dozens of flags that were placed in the ground to guide the bulldozers and shapers.

At one point, he was explaining the shape of the surrounds of a green when he turned to me and asked, “What do you think?” I was reluctant at first to give voice to a thought lest it be rejected or even ridiculed. After some prompting, I gave him my thoughts on the severity of slope on one side of a green. He looked at the green, then looked at me and smiled broadly. “You are right…that makes sense.” He flagged down one of the lads on a shaper and shared my thoughts. “Michael, we’ll have to get you on a tractor when we do the next eighteen.” I couldn’t have been prouder if I had won the Open Championship.

Construction on the 9-hole course at Castle Stuart

Mark was surrounded in his life by people who were devoted to him. Our final night in Scotland we made dinner at home and drank local gin (me) and red wine (him) along with Elspeth, the Food and beverage Manager at Castle Stuart who has become as essential to the course as the tee markers and flagsticks. We talked about everything from our favorite golf courses to the people that had shaped our lives. We laughed until the wee hours and next day, Mark and I made our way back to the States. We talked many times after that; just last week he had invited me to come spend time with him and the family at their vacation home in Nevada. “Dede and everyone would love to see you,” he said, “and we can go play some golf and talk about what we can do together.” We did have plans; for books, for films, for new courses. So many plans…

His study in Inverness

Mark was 70 years old and a very accomplished man, but he was in many ways just getting started. He built Granite Bay, Kingsbarns, and Castle Stuart. He was an intellectual, a visionary and a raging success at everything he did. He loved golf, but more importantly he loved golfers and did everything he could to make sure that his properties were fun on the course and off. He was a devoted husband to his beloved wife Dede and exemplary father to his children. He leaves behind a host of people in the golf industry who admired and respected him. He was my mentor and my friend. We saw golf and life in very much the same way. I am heartbroken. I will miss him so very much.

 

 

Your Reaction?
  • 64
  • LEGIT2
  • WOW14
  • LOL0
  • IDHT1
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK0

Williams has a reputation as a savvy broadcaster, and as an incisive interviewer and writer. An avid golfer himself, Williams has covered the game of golf and the golf lifestyle including courses, restaurants, travel and sports marketing for publications all over the world. He is currently working with a wide range of outlets in traditional and electronic media, and has produced and hosted “Sticks and Stones” on the Fox Radio network, a critically acclaimed show that combined coverage of the golf world with interviews of the Washington power elite. His work on Newschannel8’s “Capital Golf Weekly” and “SportsTalk” have established him as one of the area’s most trusted sources for golf reporting. Williams has also made numerous radio appearances on “The John Thompson Show,” and a host of other local productions. He is a sought-after speaker and panel moderator, he has recently launched a new partnership with The O Team to create original golf-themed programming and events. Williams is a member of the United States Golf Association and the Golf Writers Association of America.

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Mike DiCarlo

    Jun 10, 2019 at 9:23 am

    Michael,
    Great story about a terrific man. I can’t say that we are friends though it felt that way. For a six month period, we talked 3-4 times a week and those conversations usually lasted 90+ minutes. I looked forward to those conversations because they were always about golf but at the same time about life. He will be greatly missed. My best to his wife and children.

  2. BJ

    Jun 9, 2019 at 12:28 pm

    Granite Bay is great. If your a club corp member its a must play

  3. Sam

    Jun 7, 2019 at 4:41 pm

    Two great and fun filled Scottish courses. Nothing better after a round at Kingsbarns than sitting outside with a beer betting on whether a golfer playing the last would clear the burn. Sadly now pretty much out of our price range but it is now firmly on the tourists circuit, so fair enough. He always gave the impression of being a genuine person. Thanks

  4. Jaime

    Jun 7, 2019 at 3:13 pm

    What’s Kyle Phillips going to do now?

  5. Dave

    Jun 6, 2019 at 2:56 pm

    Great read and tribute! I’ll be more aware when I play Granite Bay in 11 days…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: What really makes a wedge work? Part 1

Published

on

Of all the clubs in our bags, wedges are almost always the simplest in construction and, therefore, the easiest to analyze what might make one work differently from another if you know what to look for.

Wedges are a lot less mysterious than drivers, of course, as the major brands are working with a lot of “pixie dust” inside these modern marvels. That’s carrying over more to irons now, with so many new models featuring internal multi-material technologies, and almost all of them having a “badge” or insert in the back to allow more complex graphics while hiding the actual distribution of mass.

But when it comes to wedges, most on the market today are still single pieces of molded steel, either cast or forged into that shape. So, if you look closely at where the mass is distributed, it’s pretty clear how that wedge is going to perform.

To start, because of their wider soles, the majority of the mass of almost any wedge is along the bottom third of the clubhead. So, the best wedge shots are always those hit between the 2nd and 5th grooves so that more mass is directly behind that impact. Elite tour professionals practice incessantly to learn to do that consistently, wearing out a spot about the size of a penny right there. If impact moves higher than that, the face is dramatically thinner, so smash factor is compromised significantly, which reduces the overall distance the ball will fly.

Every one of us, tour players included, knows that maddening shot that we feel a bit high on the face and it doesn’t go anywhere, it’s not your fault.

If your wedges show a wear pattern the size of a silver dollar, and centered above the 3rd or 4th groove, you are not getting anywhere near the same performance from shot to shot. Robot testing proves impact even two to three grooves higher in the face can cause distance loss of up to 35 to 55 feet with modern ‘tour design’ wedges.

In addition, as impact moves above the center of mass, the golf club principle of gear effect causes the ball to fly higher with less spin. Think of modern drivers for a minute. The “holy grail” of driving is high launch and low spin, and the driver engineers are pulling out all stops to get the mass as low in the clubhead as possible to optimize this combination.

Where is all the mass in your wedges? Low. So, disregarding the higher lofts, wedges “want” to launch the ball high with low spin – exactly the opposite of what good wedge play requires penetrating ball flight with high spin.

While almost all major brand wedges have begun putting a tiny bit more thickness in the top portion of the clubhead, conventional and modern ‘tour design’ wedges perform pretty much like they always have. Elite players learn to hit those crisp, spinny penetrating wedge shots by spending lots of practice time learning to consistently make contact low in the face.

So, what about grooves and face texture?

Grooves on any club can only do so much, and no one has any material advantage here. The USGA tightly defines what we manufacturers can do with grooves and face texture, and modern manufacturing techniques allow all of us to push those limits ever closer. And we all do. End of story.

Then there’s the topic of bounce and grinds, the most complex and confusing part of the wedge formula. Many top brands offer a complex array of sole configurations, all of them admittedly specialized to a particular kind of lie or turf conditions, and/or a particular divot pattern.

But if you don’t play the same turf all the time, and make the same size divot on every swing, how would you ever figure this out?

The only way is to take any wedge you are considering and play it a few rounds, hitting all the shots you face and observing the results. There’s simply no other way.

So, hopefully this will inspire a lively conversation in our comments section, and I’ll chime in to answer any questions you might have.

And next week, I’ll dive into the rest of the wedge formula. Yes, shafts, grips and specifications are essential, too.

Your Reaction?
  • 23
  • LEGIT7
  • WOW1
  • LOL1
  • IDHT2
  • FLOP2
  • OB1
  • SHANK2

Continue Reading

Golf's Perfect Imperfections

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: Amazing Session with Performance Coach Savannah Meyer-Clement

Published

on

In this week’s episode, we spent some time with performance coach Savannah Meyer-Clement who provides many useful insights that you’ll be able to implement on the golf course.

Your Reaction?
  • 0
  • LEGIT0
  • WOW0
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK0

Continue Reading

19th Hole

Vincenzi’s 2024 RBC Heritage betting preview: Patrick Cantlay ready to get back inside winner’s circle

Published

on

Just a two-hour drive from Augusta National, the PGA TOUR heads to Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head Island, S.C. Hilton Head Island is a golfer’s paradise and Harbour Town is one of the most beautiful and scenic courses on the PGA TOUR.

Harbour Town Golf Links is a par-71 that measures 7,121 yards and features Bermuda grass greens. A Pete Dye design, the course is heavily tree lined and features small greens and many dog legs, protecting it from “bomb-and-gauge” type golfers.

The field is loaded this week with 69 golfers with no cut. Last year was quite possibly the best field in RBC Heritage history and the event this week is yet another designated event, meaning there is a $20 million prize pool.

Most of the big names on the PGA Tour will be in attendance this week with the exceptions of Hideki Matsuyama and Viktor Hovland. Additionally, Webb Simpson, Shane Lowry, Gary Woodland and Kevin Kisner have been granted sponsors exemptions. 

Past Winners at Harbour Town

  • 2023: Matt Fitzpatrick (-17)
  • 2022: Jordan Spieth (-13)
  • 2021: Stewart Cink (-19)
  • 2020: Webb Simpson (-22)
  • 2019: CT Pan (-12)
  • 2018: Sotoshi Kodaira (-12)
  • 2017: Wesley Bryan (-13)
  • 2016: Branden Grace (-9)
  • 2015: Jim Furyk (-18)

In this article and going forward, I’ll be using the Rabbit Hole by Betsperts Golf data engine to develop my custom model. If you want to build your own model or check out all of the detailed stats, you can sign up using promo code: MATTVIN for 25% off any subscription package (yearly is best value).

Key Stats For Harbour Town

Let’s take a look at key metrics for Harbour Town Golf Links to determine which golfers boast top marks in each category over their past 24 rounds.

Strokes Gained: Approach

Strokes Gained: Approach is exceedingly important this week. The greens at Harbour Town are about half the size of PGA TOUR average and feature the second-smallest greens on the tour. Typical of a Pete Dye design, golfers will pay the price for missed greens.

Total SG: Approach Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+1.27)
  2. Tom Hoge (+1.27)
  3. Corey Conners (+1.16)
  4. Austin Eckroat (+0.95)
  5. Cameron Young (+0.93)

Good Drive %

The fairways at Harbour Town are tree lined and feature many dog legs. Bombers tend to struggle at the course because it forces layups and doesn’t allow long drivers to overpower it. Accuracy is far more important than power.

Good Drive % Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Brice Garnett (88.8%)
  2. Shane Lowry (+87.2%)
  3. Akshay Bhatia (+86.0%)
  4. Si Woo Kim (+85.8%)
  5. Sepp Straka (+85.1%)

Strokes Gained: Total at Pete Dye Designs

Pete Dye specialists tend to play very well at Harbour Town. Si Woo Kim, Matt Kuchar, Jim Furyk and Webb Simpson are all Pete Dye specialists who have had great success here. It is likely we see some more specialists near the top of the leaderboard this week.

SG: TOT Pete Dye per round over past 36 rounds:

  1. Xander Schauffele (+2.27)
  2. Scottie Scheffler (+2.24)
  3. Ludvig Aberg (+2.11)
  4. Brian Harman (+1.89)
  5. Sungjae Im (+1.58)

4. Strokes Gained: Short Game (Bermuda)

Strokes Gained: Short Game factors in both around the green and putting. With many green-side bunkers and tricky green complexes, both statistics will be important. Past winners — such as Jim Furyk, Wes Bryan and Webb Simpson — highlight how crucial the short game skill set is around Harbour Town.

SG: SG Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Jordan Spieth (+1.11)
  2. Taylor Moore (+1.02)
  3. Wyndham Clark (+0.98)
  4. Mackenzie Hughes (+0.86)
  5. Andrew Putnam (+0.83)

5. Greens in Regulation %

The recipe for success at Harbour Town Golf Links is hitting fairways and greens. Missing either will prove to be consequential — golfers must be in total control of the ball to win.

Greens in Regulation % over past 24 rounds:

  1. Brice Garnett (+75.0%)
  2. Scottie Scheffler (+69.9%)
  3. Corey Conners (+69.0%)
  4. Shane Lowry (+68.3%)
  5. Patrick Rodgers (+67.6%)

6. Course History

Harbour Town is a course where players who have strong past results at the course always tend to pop up. 

Course History over past 24 rounds:

  1. Patrick Cantlay (+2.34)
  2. Cam Davis (+2.05)
  3. J.T. Poston (+1.69)
  4. Justin Rose (+1.68)
  5. Tommy Fleetwood (+1.59)

The RBC Heritage Model Rankings

Below, I’ve compiled overall model rankings using a combination of the five key statistical categories previously discussed — SG: Approach (24%), Good Drives (20%), SG: SG (14%), SG: Pete Dye (14%), GIR (14%), and Course History (14%)

  1. Shane Lowry
  2. Russell Henley
  3. Scottie Scheffler
  4. Xander Schauffele
  5. Corey Conners 
  6. Wyndham Clark
  7. Christiaan Bezuidenhout
  8. Matt Fitzpatrick
  9. Cameron Young
  10. Ludvig Aberg 

2024 RBC Heritage Picks

Patrick Cantlay +2000 (FanDuel)

With the exception of Scottie Scheffler, the PGA Tour has yet to have any of their star players show peak form during the 2024 season. Last week, Patrick Cantlay, who I believe is a top-5 players on the PGA Tour, took one step closer to regaining the form that’s helped him win eight events on Tour since 2017.

Cantlay limped into the Masters in poor form, but figured it out at Augusta National, finishing in a tie for 20th and ranking 17th for the week in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking. The former FedEx Cup champion will now head to one of his favorite golf courses in Harbour Town, where he’s had immaculate results over the years. In his six trips to the course, he’s only finished worse than 7th one time. The other finishes include three third places (2017, 2019, 2023) and one runner-up finish (2022). In his past 36 rounds at Harbour Town, Cantlay ranks 1st in Strokes Gained: Total per round at the course by a wide margin (+2.36).

Cantlay is winless since the 2022 BMW Championship, which is far too long for a player of his caliber. With signs pointing to the 32-year-old returning to form, a “signature event” at Harbour Town is just what he needs to get back on the winning track.

Tommy Fleetwood +3000 (FanDuel)

I truly believe Tommy Fleetwood will figure out a way to win on American soil in 2024. It’s certainly been a bugaboo for him throughout his career, but he is simply too talented to go another season without winning a PGA Tour event.

At last week’s Masters Tournament, Fleetwood made a Sunday charge and ended up finishing T3 in the event, which was his best ever finish at The Masters. For the week, the Englishman ranked 8th in the field in Strokes Gained: Approach, 10th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking and 16th in Strokes Gained: Putting.

Harbour Town is a perfect layout for Fleetwood, and he’s had relative success at this Pete Dye design in the past.  In his four trips to the course, he’s finished inside of the top 25 three times, with his best finish, T10, coming in 2022. The course is pretty short and can’t be overpowered, which gives an advantage to more accurate players such as Fleetwood. Tommy ranks 8th in the field in Good Drive % and should be able to plot his way along this golf course.

The win is coming for Tommy lad. I believe there’s a chance this treasure of a golf course may be the perfect one for him to finally break through on Tour.

Cameron Young +3300 (FanDuel)

Cameron Young had a solid Masters Tournament last week, which is exactly what I’m looking for in players who I anticipate playing well this week at the RBC Heritage. He finished in a tie for 9th, but never felt the pressure of contending in the event. For the week, Young ranked 6th in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee and 6th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking.

Despite being one of the longest players off the tee on the PGA Tour, Young has actually played some really good golf on shorter tracks. He finished T3 at Harbour Town in 2023 and ranks 20th in the field in Good Drive% and 16th in Greens in Regulation in his past 24 rounds. He also has strong finishes at other shorter courses that can take driver out of a players hand such as Copperhead and PGA National.

Young is simply one of the best players on the PGA Tour in 2024, and I strongly believe has what it takes to win a PGA Tour event in the very near future.

Corey Conners +5500 (FanDuel)

Corey Conners has had a disappointing year thus far on the PGA Tour, but absolutely loves Harbour Town.

At last week’s Masters Tournament, the Canadian finished T30 but ranked 20th in the field in Strokes Gained: Approach. In his past 24 rounds, Conners ranks 3rd in the field in Strokes Gained: Approach, 3rd in Greens in Regulation % and 24th in Good Drive %.

In Conners’ last four trips to Harbour Town, his worst finish was T31, last season. He finished T4 in 2021, T12 in 2022 and ranks 8th in Strokes Gained: Total at the course over his past 36 rounds.

Conners hasn’t been contending, but his recent finishes have been encouraging as he has finished in the top-25 in each of his past three starts prior to The Masters, including an impressive T13 at The PLAYERS. His recent improvement in ball striking as well as his suitability for Harbour Town makes Conners a high upside bet this week.

Shane Lowry (+7500) (FanDuel)

When these odds were posted after Lowry was announced in the field, I have to admit I was pretty stunned. Despite not offering much win equity on the PGA Tour over the last handful of years, Shane Lowry is still a top caliber player who has the ability to rise to the top of a signature event.

Lowry struggled to score at The Masters last week, but he actually hit the ball really well. The Irishman ranked 1st for Strokes Gained: Approach on the week and 7th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking. As usual, it was the putter that let him down, as he ranked 60th in the field in Strokes Gained: Putting.

Harbour Town is most definitely one of Lowry’s favorite courses on the PGA Tour. In his six starts there, he’s finished in the top 10 three times, including third twice. Lowry is sensational at Pete Dye designs and ranks 7th in Strokes Gained: Total in his past 36 rounds on Dye tracks. 

Lowry is perfect for Harbour Town. In his past 24 rounds, he ranks 5th in Strokes Gained: Approach, 2nd in Good Drive% and 5th in Green in Regulation %. If he figures it out on the greens, Shane could have his first win in America since 2015.

Lucas Glover +12000 (FanDuel)

This is one of my weekly “bet the number” plays as I strongly believe the odds are just too long for a player of Glover’s caliber. The odds have been too long on Glover for a few weeks now, but this is the first event that I can get behind the veteran being able to actually contend at. 

Glover is quietly playing good golf and returning to the form he had after the understandable regression after his two massive victories at the end of 2023. He finished T20 at The Masters, which was his best ever finish at Augusta National. For the week, Lucas ranked 18th for Strokes Gained: Approach and 20th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking.

Over his past 24 rounds, Glover ranks 9th in Strokes Gained: Approach and 13th in Good Drive %. Harbour Town is a short course that the 44-year-old will be able to keep up with the top players on Tour off the tee. He’s played the course more than 20 times, with mixed results. His best finishes at Harbour Town include a T7 in 2008, but recently has a finish of T21 in 2020.

Glover has proven he can contend with the stars of the Tour on any given week, and this number is flat out disrespectful.

Your Reaction?
  • 30
  • LEGIT5
  • WOW2
  • LOL1
  • IDHT1
  • FLOP2
  • OB0
  • SHANK2

Continue Reading

WITB

Facebook

Trending