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Opinion & Analysis

To Mr. Whan: Make Walker Cup Trophy Club a one-and-done

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I’ll be brief: the United States Golf Association should make the $500 Trophy Club ticket a one-and-done for the Walker Cup. Using the COVID-19 pandemic as a lead-in to its limited-spectator policy, the May 2021 edition will eliminate free access to the event. In lieu of the open-arms policy of every other playing of this team competition, the USGA has announced that only those with $500 to spare will pass through the gates of Seminole Golf Club, in Juno Beach, Florida.

I attended the 2009 playing at Merion, and the 2013 matches at National Golf Links of America. I wanted to be at Los Angeles Country Club in 2019, but the odds were not in my favor. Even though I was granted press credentials for both 2009 and 2013, I was gratified to see hundreds, if not thousands, of my fellow golf aficionados in attendance. These were lasses and lads without connections, without memberships, without any other means of access than the largesse of the governing body of golf in this country.

In 2025, the Walker Cup will return to our country, and will be held at storied Cypress Point Club, in Carmel, California. You see the trend here? These are the most historic (and most private) clubs in America. Access to the common man is unavailable, except for events like the Walker and Curtis Cups.

Mr. Whan, you and your association have pledged to expand the game of golf, to welcome people of all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, ages, and identities. Here is one small but important opportunity to put your mouth where your money isn’t. The USGA makes a lot of money at its annual Open championship. Leave the other kids alone, especially the amateur events. Free and easy access ensures that the game outlives us all, just as our foremothers and forefathers envisioned.

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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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Opinion & Analysis

When Bryson lit up the Masters as an amateur (Masters 2016 WITB)

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When a young amateur named Bryson DeChambeau turned up at Augusta National Golf Club in 2016, there was a magnetism of curiosity attached to the 22-year-old.

After all, this was not your typical amateur golfer. 

He donned a Ben Hogan style cap, was known to test his golf balls in epsom salts to check whether their centre of gravity was off and played a unique set of clubs with every iron and wedge cut to the same length as his favoured 7 iron.

In a world with so much conformity, unusualness becomes a force of its own.

That was certainly the case with Bryson at the 2016 Masters, who even had notable names for his 37.5-inch wedges and irons, which were otherwise only distinguishable from their differing lofts.

  • 60-degree wedge – ‘King’ after Arnold Palmer’s 1960 Masters win
  • 55-degree wedge – ‘Mr. Ward’ after the Masters Low-Am 1995 winner
  • 50-degree wedge – ‘Jimmy’ after the 1950 Masters champ Jimmy Demaret
  • 46-degree wedge – ‘Keiser’ after the 1946 Masters winner Herman Keiser
  • 9 iron (42 degrees) – ‘Jackie’ after Jackie Robinson’s famous number 42 (same loft)
  • 8 iron (38 degrees) – ‘8 ball’
  • 7 iron (34 degrees) – ‘Tin Cup’ in honor of the film: 3+4=7
  • 6 iron – ‘Juniper’ after the 6th hole at Augusta
  • 5 iron – ‘Azalea’ after his favorite par 5 (13th hole)
  • 3 iron – ‘Gamma’, which is the third letter in the Greek alphabet

DeChambeau took the trip down Magnolia Lane having, just a year previously, become only the fifth man in history to win the US Amateur Championship and the NCAA Division 1 Championship in the same year.

He had joined Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, and Ryan Moore in doing so.

Inspired by Homer Kelly’s ‘The Golfing Machine’, DeChambeau also revealed on the week of the Masters in 2016 that he had a fascination with Bobby Jones. Jones, who had famously won the Grand Slam in 1930 and had, like Bryson, altered many of his clubs so that they were also the same length.

When DeChambeau spoke about Jones and his achievements in his pre-Masters press conference, the 22-year-old suggested the possibility of doing something special.

For the opening two rounds of the event, DeChambeau was grouped with defending champion Jordan Spieth and Paul Casey – and something special was certainly abound.

While Spieth stormed into the lead with a round of 66, DeChambeau held his own against the course, opening with a level par 72, which would keep him within sight of the lead. But it was in round two where Bryson showed not just his talent but how, even as an amateur, little could faze him.

On Friday, having flown the opening green at one, DeChambeau faced a delicate chip back down the green. He poured it into the back of the cup, and a magical day was underway.

A bogey at the third followed as the scoring became increasingly difficult in the windy conditions, but as his competitors stuttered, Bryson became inspired.

Using his one plane swing, the 22-year-old birdied the seventh before spinning a wedge back to a few feet on the ninth to move to 2-under par for the event.

He would give that birdie back on 10, but despite the poor weather conditions, he would tame Amen corner, beginning with an approach to 9-feet on 11 (which he later admitted to pulling) – a hole which saw just six birdies on that Friday.

At the 12th, DeChambeau fared even better, knocking his tee shot to 2-feet. He was one off the lead.

He stayed within one of the lead after 35 holes before it all came unstuck on the 18th hole. DeChambeau pulled his tee-shot on the last and found an unplayable lie off the tee – he ended up making a triple bogey 7.

It was a sour finish that left him T8 on the leaderboard, four strokes back.

Speaking on the drive on 18, and the subsequent one which followed, DeChambeau said

“No, I hit two pulled drives. I don’t like the left-to-right wind on that hole and ultimately with this closed gap, I thought seeing those flags out there on 1 right where the leaderboard is blowing to the right,

I thought it was going to move it right, and subconsciously I came a little bit over the top and had a closed clubface. It was only two degrees closed. That’s what does it.”

A third round 77 took DeChambeau out of contention, but the youngster showed his metal on Sunday, hitting back with a round of level par thanks to a birdie on the 72nd hole.

The T21 finish gave Bryson the low-amateur award that year as well as the best finish from an amateur at Augusta since Ryan Moore finished 15th back in 2005.

The 22-year-old was as candid back then as he is today and revealed following the tournament that he had “messed up” his preparation for the event by practicing too much earlier in the week.

“Again, going back to preparation, the only thing I would change is how I spent my time resting, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. Unfortunately messed up and, you know what, I’m 22, I’m still young and learning how to manage my time. That’s the one thing that I think I’d change.

Ultimately my body took a toll this week and my hip. Really haven’t talked about it too much, but my hip gave out the second round, on 15, and ultimately led me to pull those two shots. I wouldn’t say that’s the full reason, but at the same time, it did affect me. It was unfortunate, but again, it’s a learning experience.”

It was the week Bryson introduced himself on the world stage and showed the massive amount of potential and determination he possessed, which would ultimately see him become a major champion.

In the next few days DeChambeau will return to Augusta National and will of course draw more attention than any other player in the field.

His introduction was one of intrigue and potential, but when he takes the trip down Magnolia Lane next week, the focus will be on whether Bryson can block out the noise, pressure and expectancy, and fulfil his destiny of becoming a Masters champion.

As a 22-year-old Bryson said after his first Masters experience:

“I think people talk about how every five years, you change as a human being, and that is absolutely true.  I mean, I’ve totally changed and what I would tell younger Bryson is, be patient and keep learning every day. Those are the two things that I would tell him.”

You probably don’t need reminding. It’s been 5 years since Bryson first stole the show at Augusta National.

Bryson DeChambeau 2016 Masters WITB

Driver: Cobra King F6+ Pro (7 degrees)
Shaft: Oban Kiyoshi Tour Limited 70X
Length: 45 inches (tipped 2.5 inches)
Weight Setting: Sliding weight removed

3 wood: Cobra King F6 (14.2 degrees actual loft)
Shaft: Oban Kiyoshi Tour Limited 70X
Length: 43 inches (tipped 2 inches)
Lie Angle: 61.5 degrees

Utility: Cobra King Utility (18.5D)
Shaft: Project X HZRDUS Black Hybrid 6.5X (105 grams)

Irons: Cobra Fly-Z+ (3, 5), Edel Forged Prototype (6-9)
Shafts: KBS C-Taper Lite 115X
Length, Lie: 37.5 inches, 73 degrees
Head weight: 280 grams
Lofts: 20 (3), 25 (4), 30 (5), 34 (6), 38 (7), 42 (8), 46 (9)

Wedges: Cobra King (46, 50, 55 and 60 degrees)
Shafts: KBS Hi-Rev 135X
Length, Lie: 37.5 inches, 73 degrees
Head weight: 280 grams

Putter: Edel “The Brick” prototype
Grip: SuperStroke Slim 3.0 (Blue/White)

Ball: Bridgestone B330-S

 

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Club Junkie

Club Junkie: Wilson Staff wedge and Bushnell Wingman review

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It’s a short one this week, but I’m reviewing the new-er Wilson Staff Model wedge and the Bushnell Wingman GPS and speaker. The Staff Model is a solid forged wedge that offers good feel, spin, and turf interaction for a slightly lower price. The Bushnell Wingman is a golf GPS and a bluetooth speaker in one. It has a TON of golf stuff built into it, but can also be used off the course to listen to your favorite tracks!

 

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Anyone can be a better putter

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I began my golf industry career in the putter category as an ad agency account executive. The first new account I landed was Ray Cook putters, which in the 1960s and 1970s had experienced much success and earned quite a following in the pro ranks with the likes of Billy Casper, Bruce Crampton, Dave Stockton, Nancy Lopez, and many others.

Being naturally curious and “techy”, I was always drawn to the back end of the operation, figuring the more I knew about how and why putters worked, the better marketer I would become.

As I became more and more interested and knowledgeable about how putters worked, I also became somewhat obsessed by the study of the great practitioners of the “art” of putting. I read every book on putting I could find dating back to the early 1900s, and made a study of the techniques employed by the best putters on tour … but also those in the ranks of the recreational golfers I have observed. And I can tell you that some of the best putters I have seen come from both groups.

I should admit my father and brother were both excellent putters of the ball, but my own passion was for the ball-striking and shot-making side of the game. To be honest, I didn’t really like putting, much preferring to bang thousands of balls from my shag bag into the ninth fairway of that little 9-hole golf course that was my world growing up.

So, it shouldn’t surprise you that my putting was always the weakest part of my game–neglect will do that, right? I have struggled with the yips and sub-standard putting most of my golf life, which is rather strange, considering I have designed over a hundred putters and penned a full-length manuscript called “The Natural Approach to Better Putting”. I have never pursued publishing it, but should probably do so, as a recent return to that manuscript has proven very helpful to me.

You see, I have set a goal for myself to shoot my age this year at 69. [I saw a quote the other day that went, “it’s funny being the same age as ‘old people”, and I can totally relate.] To achieve that goal, I am simply going to have to become a better putter of the ball, so I have made that a mission. And it started by returning to my manuscript and buying a simple putting mat to facilitate daily work on my technique and stroke mechanics.
I began my putting overhaul at home by simply paying close attention to my own technique as I stroked putts “my way”. What I learned was that my grip was too tight and not fundamentally sound. That causes my right (master) hand being overactive, which in turn tends to make my stroke much too quick and right-hand dominated (borderline yippy). I also noticed that my shoulders tended to be open to the target line, so those poor fundamentals lead to these errors:

  1. A poor grip prevents the putter from traveling on a simple, natural arc back and through.
  2. The grip being too tight causes a quick, jerky stroke, which leads to “the yips”.
  3. Open (or closed) shoulders cannot pivot parallel to the target line – only across the line. So, that explains an overwhelming dominance of misses to the left.

With these fundamental flaws identified, the fix was rather academic. I’ve always compared a round of golf to painting the inside of the house, in that the closer you get to finishing, the slower and more careful you work.

The last step in painting is the trim, and a painter uses a smaller more precise brush and works very slowly and with great precision. Kind of like wedge play and putting …

In addition to the house painter, think of surgeons, computer technicians, fine artists…any activity that requires feel and precision demands a light touch on the tools and a careful and s-l-o-w action. Putting is no different.

So, now I’m working on repetition. Stroking 5-10 putts at a time throughout each day and evening, with acute focus on shoulder alignment, hand position and grip pressure, and making a very slow and rhythmic back-and-through “stroke”, not a “hit” of the ball. And my progress is coming very quickly.

I know I can’t fix everyone’s putting with this one article, but if you are not putting as well as you think you should, my bet is that one or more of these three basic fundamentals is the foundation of your problems–grip/grip pressure, shoulder alignment and pace of the stroke. And the good news is that they can all be fixed rather quickly with only a bit of practice, which you can do at home with a $50 putting mat if you don’t have putter-friendly carpet.

I’m working on grooving my putting technique at home, so that on the course all I have to think about is making the putt. Every great putter I’ve known, observed, or talked with said the same thing—all you should be thinking about is your target line and speed. Your technique has to be second-nature and sound.

And you can perfect that at home.

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