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Monday, July 29, 2013

Debut Sites Announced for US Amateur Four-Ball Championships

The inaugural US Amateur Four-Ball Championships will be held in 2015 at two premier West Coast locations, The Olympic Club in San Francisco and Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Bandon, Oregon. The following year, the sure-to-be popular events will move to Winged Foot in Mamaroneck and Streamsong, a new resort southeast of Tampa, Florida.

The new championships, which will be held annually between mid-March and late May, are the first to be added to the USGA championship schedule since 1995, when the USGA Men’s and Women’s State Team Championships were created to mark the Association’s centennial. They replace the Men's and Women's Publinks Championships which the USGA has decided to scrap. While the latter was a widely-criticized move, the four-balls should prove to be wildly popular.

"The four-ball format, which is widely popular at the state and regional levels and at golf clubs around the U.S., is sure to produce a spirited team dynamic and provide enjoyment for both the players and spectators at some of the finest courses in the game,” said USGA VP and Chairman of the Championship Committee Thomas O'Toole, Jr., during the announcement yesterday at the Olympic Club. Having played in many events in that format (and actually won the MGA Senior Four-Ball in 2010), I wholeheartedly agree.

The 2015 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball is scheduled for April 30-May 6, with both courses (Lake and Ocean) at The Olympic Club set to host 36-hole stroke-play qualifying and the club’s famed Lake Course to host the championship’s match-play bracket. Bandon Dunes Golf Resort will host the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball, its fifth USGA championship. The championship will be played the same dates on the resort’s Bandon Dunes Course.

Both the East and West courses at Winged Foot GC will be used for the 2016 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship, with the club’s East Course used as the venue for the championship’s match-play bracket. The 2016 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship is scheduled for May 19-25, and will be the 12th USGA championship conducted at Winged Foot, which is also scheduled to host the U.S. Open on its West Course for the sixth time in 2020.

Streamsong Resort's Blue Course, designed by Tom Doak, will host the 2016 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship, also scheduled for May 19-25. The event will be the first USGA championship for Streamsong, is an outstanding new venue with two courses that opened for play in 2012.

Eligibility for the national four-ball championships will be limited to amateurs, with no age restrictions. Partners comprising teams or sides will not be required to be from the same club, state or country. Entry is limited to individuals with a USGA Handicap Index® not to exceed 5.4 for men and 14.4 for women.

The USGA’s amateur four-ball championships will begin as early as next August with 18-hole sectional qualifying conducted by state and regional golf associations at dozens of sites across the nation. The U.S. Amateur Four-Ball and U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball will consist of 128 and 64 two-player teams, respectively, each playing their own ball throughout the round. Each team’s score will be determined by using the lower score of the partners for each hole. After 36 holes of stroke-play qualifying, each field will be reduced to the low 32 teams for the championship’s match-play bracket, from which the eventual men’s and women’s champions will be determined.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

Wiltwyck Lights Up The Catskills

There's almost nothing I like better than "discovering" a new golf course, especially when it's a gem like the Wiltwyck GC in Kingston, NY. With wonderful views of the Catskills and twisting fairways leading to devilish greens, Wiltwyck offers succor for the soul and challenge for golfer at every level.

photo courtesy of Wiltwyck GC
Wiltwyck is a Robert Trent Jones design that opened at its current location in 1954, although the club itself was founded in 1933 and was forced to move by the construction of the NYS Thruway. Stephen Kay updated the course in 2001, giving it a little more length and plenty more challenge around the greens. Kay didn't lose the Jones "feel" for the routing and shot values, though, so you really get the best of both worlds when you take it on.

The course measures 6,877 yards from the tips, with a stout 74.3 rating and 134 slope that seems a little light given how much trouble a bogey golfer can encounter on several holes. I played from the blues, which at 6,578 yards was enough golf course for me given the number of elevation changes and tough greens.  There are two other sets of tees, including a strong set of reds that measure 5,675.

Unlike many courses in the Hudson Valley, Wiltwyck doesn't ease you into the round with an easy opening hole. Instead, you're faced with a 407-yard (from the blues) test with a bunker cutting into the fairway on the left to devil those who draw the ball and a fairway that slopes right for the faders in the group. If you navigate those delights, you have a long uphill approach to a punchbowl green. Make a par here and you're off to the races.

The second hole, a 491-yard par five, has a typically convulted fairway that slopes left to right off the tee then switches to right to left once you get around the right dog leg. This is the shortest of the par fives on the course. All of them except the 553-yard seventh hole are reachable birdie opportunities for the better player. The seventh, the #1 handicap hole, demands extreme accuracy off the tee since the fairway is essentially crowned, punishing drivers hitting either left or right.

The par threes at Wiltwyck are on the short side by today's standards (144 to 190 yards) but require a well-handled putter to capitalize on their lack of length.

If there is a theme to the playing advice on the par fours, it's "drive straight." Unlike many courses in the area, Wiltwyck still has an over-abundance of trees. When you couple those mature green monsters with lateral hazards to the right of several landing areas and greens that require approaches from the correct angle to leave a make-able two-putt, most players will want to hit the straightest club in their bag, not necessarily the longest.

Golf services include a driving range and large practice green, clinics and lessons from Chad Maes, PGA, and his staff, and reciprocal privileges at most of the finest private clubs in the Hudson Valley. As a casual but well-appointed country club, Wiltwyck offers nice family amenities including a pool and tennis, not to mention dining facilities that equal anything in the region and attract functions ranging from intimate dinners to weddings for several hundred guests.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Re-Live The War By The Shore

The Ryder Cup packs more excitement into the game than any event in golf. Curt Sampson captured all that excitement and then some in The War By The Shore: the Incomparable Drama of the 1991 Ryder Cup. His immensely readable account explores all the intrigue leading up to the event, all the out-sized personalities who played in it, and especially the sheer brutality of the ultimate Ryder Cup venue, Pete Dye's Ocean Course at Kiawah Island.

The intensity of Raymond Floyd, the almost physical clashes between Paul Azinger and Seve Balesteros, the crushing collapse by Mark Calcaveccia, the often-overlooked performance of David Feherty, the ever-so-tightly-wound play of Bernhard Langer that lead to the climactic last putt--Sampson brings it all home to the reader in a delightfully entertaining, informed account. He talked to nearly everyone involved in the event and, although the passage of time may have obscured a few details and more than a few axes are still being ground, he did an exemplary job of telling us what was happening in their heads as well as on the course.

The stories are well known, but Sampson makes them come alive with refreshingly cliche-free prose. As a golf writer myself, I particularly appreciate his ability to set the scene, describe the characters, and carry the reader through the action with original verbiage you'll never (unfortunately) see on the sports pages.

The 1991 Ryder Cup is often cited as a turning point in the long history of the event. Sampson takes some issue with that conclusion and I agree with him. There is no question, though, that the War By The Shore woke up America to the powerful spectacle that team golf can be.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

Friday, July 26, 2013

Hot Tournament Week For Local Standouts

It's been a busy week for local standout golfers at championship tournaments across the country.

Cameron Young
Cameron Young at US Junior Amateur Championship
photo by USGA/Steve Gibbons
Just a few minutes ago, Cameron Young advanced to the Quarter Finals in the US Junior Amateur Championship in a 24-hole match that was delayed by weather yesterday afternoon. He defeated George Cunningham of Tucson, AZ, with a birdie on the sixth playoff hole in what was (so far) the longest match of the tournament this week.

Young, 16, tees off against Doug Ghim or Arlington Heights, IL, in the Quarter Final match that will be telecast by Golf Channel midday. The championship is being held at Martis Camp Club in Truckee, CA. Eliminated in the round of 16 was Jim Liu, 17, or Smithtown, NY, was won the event in 2010 and was last year's runner up.

Yesterday, Burning Tree Assistant Pro and mini tour player Danny Balin won his second consecutive NY State Open at Bethpage Black. The 31-year old finished the three rounds seven under par, two ahead of Andrew Guiliani, and pocketed $17,500 in the process.

Nicole Morales, the 16-year-old  from South Salem who plays out of GlenArbor, got nipped one down in the round of 32 at the US Girls' Junior Amateur Championship. Bethany Wu of Diamond Bar, California eliminated Morales.

Max Buckley and Cameron Wilson two under after two rounds and were T-14 at the Porter Cup at Niagara Falls when play in the three-round tournament resumed this morning. Mike Miller was at even par. US Walker Cup Captain Jim Holtgrieve is scouting the tournament as the committee prepares to fill out the final five spots on the American side for the biennial event against Great Britain and Ireland.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Cure My Slice....Please!

The most common problem faced by golfers since the featheries were the ball of choice is the dreaded slice. Mark Braziller from Manhattan's Drive 495 joins Anthony Renna from Five Iron Fitness to explain how to fix it.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Morales and Young Advance to Match Play in Jr Ams

Both Nicole Morales of South Salem and Cameron Young of Scarborough moved through two rounds of medal play to win spots in the six-round match play sections of the US Junior Girls' Amateur and US Junior Amateur Championships staged by the USGA.  Now the real fun begins as each of the youngsters spends four days on the edge in the single-elimination rounds.

Young took second in the medal rounds, finishing with a two-round total of 138 by adding a two-under 70 to his first-round 68. Young made an eagle on the par-5 10th when he sank an 80-foot putt that broke left to right over a ridge. He made up for a hooked 3-wood at the par-4 16th with a 20-foot putt for birdie and ended the round with a 7-foot par putt on No. 18.

“I played really well yesterday but not quite as strong today,” said Young, who added that he is comfortable with the course and has a good feel for his distance at the 6,000-foot altitude. “I will be more aggressive tomorrow, take on more bunkers off the tee, and go at a lot more flagsticks.”

 Jim Liu, 17, of Smithtown, N.Y., shot a 5-under-par 67 on Tuesday to earn medalist honors for the second consecutive year in the 2013 U.S. Junior Amateur Championship at the par-72, 7,740-yard Martis Camp Club. Liu, who carded a 69 in the first round, finished at 8-under 136.

Liu, who shared medalist honors with two other players at last year’s U.S. Junior Amateur, becomes the third player in the championship’s history to twice earn the stroke-play medal, joining Willie Wood and Tiger Woods. Liu fashioned a bogey-free second round, one stroke off the course record.

Morales, like the rest of the field in the Junior Girls' Am at Sycamore Hills Golf Club in Fort Wayne, Indiana, struggled with the wind and shot a four-over 76 to go with her first-day score of 69 for a T-11 145. Tuesday’s steady winds wreaked havoc with scores, with the field average at 79.19, up nearly two strokes from Monday’s 77.37. Only six players managed under-par rounds on Tuesday, as opposed to 16 on Monday. Bailey Tardy posted two 69s to earn medalist honors

Nine players competed for the final match-play spot, with Abbey Carlson earning the 64th seed on the second playoff hole. In a wonderful display of sportsmanship, Morales finished her round, then caddied for Carlson in the playoff.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Strong Starts for Young and Morales at Jr Ams

Cameron Young
Cameron Young     Photo courtesy USGA/Steve Gibbons
Cameron Young and Nicole Morales posted strong first round scores in the US Junior Amateur and US Girls' Junior Championships. While it's way early to celebrate in both events, the Westchester teens are in excellent positions.

Young, the 16-year-old son of Sleepy Hollow CC pro David Young and his wife Barbara, a former pro herself, was just one behind the leaders in the 156-player field at the par-72, 7,740-yard Martis Camp Club. with a 4-under 68. He started on the 10th hole and birdied No. 14 before making eagle at No. 15 when he hit a 4-iron 240 yards to 2 feet. Young kept his round going by getting up and down for par at No. 11 and two-putting from 65 feet for another save at the 218-yard, par-3 third.

“I am playing conservatively off the tee,” said Young, who took three weeks off in June to recover from a shoulder injury. “I am picking my spots when I am going at flagsticks and at the middle of greens.”

Jim Liu, the 2010 U.S. Junior Amateur champion, was just one stroke back with a 3-under 69. Liu, 17, of Smithtown, N.Y., who is playing in his fifth Junior Amateur and was the runner-up last year, had it to 5-under after 15 holes but bogeyed Nos. 16 and 18. He pulled his driver to the left on the 16th, a drivable par-4, and his chip went over the green. Liu lipped out a 6-foot par putt on his final hole.

“It was a good score; you have to feel somewhat decent about it,” Liu said. “You are trying not to dig a hole for yourself. It starts all over in match play.”

Scottie Scheffler, 17, of Dallas, and Corey Eddings, 17, of Roseville, Calif., fired rounds of 5-under-par 67 Monday to share the lead on the first day of stroke-play qualifying. One more day of stroke play will be followed by match play that culminates in the final round Saturday.

Nicole Morales
Nicole Morales
Photo courtesy USGA/Fred Vuich
Nicole Morales, was T4 in the first round of the Girls' Amateur being played this week at Sycamore Hills GC in Fort Wayne, IN. Morales, who plays out of GlenArbor GC in Bedford, NY, was one of seven players who carded a 69 on the 6,312-yard Nicklaus designed course. 

Morales, a native of South Salem, N.Y., looked to her Junior PGA experiences to bolster her championship efforts, but for far different reasons that most of her competitors. After numerous flight delays, an unforeseen overnight stay in Atlanta and a set of golf clubs that arrived in Fort Wayne after she did, Morales was unable to practice at Sycamore Hills prior to her Monday-morning tee time.

“I feel like I was very patient with myself all day,” said Morales, who will attend the University of Alabama in the fall. “I gave myself a lot of opportunities.”

Morales had to get up and down just to save par on the par-4 first hole. With that opening scare behind her, the 17-year-old, competing in her fifth and final Girls’ Junior, converted birdies on the ensuing two holes and cruised from there.

“I felt really confident, which is exactly the opposite of what I felt like going into this week,” said Morales, winner of the 2013 Thunderbird International Junior and No. 12 in the WWAGR. “This is my last U.S. Girls’ Junior, so I’m going to try and go for big.”

Andrea Lee shot a 5-under-par 67 and holds a one-stroke lead following Monday’s first round of stroke-play qualifying. Another round of stroke play today will narrow the field for match play, with the final scheduled for Saturday.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

Golf Architect's Top 100

There is no lack of top 100 lists when it comes to golf courses. You can slice them and dice them anyway you like, however, but you'll not find a more thoughtful list by authoritative experts than the Golf Course Architecture Top 100 Courses list.

And what is the first thing you do after you see the list? Count how many you've played, of course. Here's my personal tally:
  • 96 Torrey Pines (South)
  • 95 Olympic Club (Lake)
  • 92 Fisher's Island
  • 84 Bandon Trails
  • 83 Pasatiempo
  • 76 Harbour Town
  • 69 Mid Ocean Club
  • 65 Casa de Campo (Teeth of the Dog)
  • 60 Maidstone
  • 57 Spyglass Hill
  • 47 Whistling Straits
  • 46 Bethpage Black
  • 35 TPC Sawgrass (Stadium)
  • 33 Kiawah Island (Ocean)
  • 32 Crystal Downs
  • 31 Winged Foot (West)
  • 24 Carnoustie
  • 23 Lahinch
  • 20 Pacific Dunes
  • 19 Kingsbarns
  • 15 Pinehurst #2
  • 13 Ballybunion (Old)
  •  8 Pebble Beach
  •  5 National Golf Links of America
  •  1 St Andrews (Old)
Still a lot of great golf courses to be played!

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

Monday, July 22, 2013

Two Incisive Takes On Phil's Open Championship

Frequent contributor Mike Diffley, head pro at Pelham CC, had this to say in his newsletter about Phil Mickelson's win in the Open yesterday:

Muirfield - Wow, we haven't seen anything like that in a while. The commentators said that it is the least quirky and rewards the purest golf shots of all the courses in the Open rotation. The speed of the greens were Augusta and US Open like to go along with the speed of the fairways which were both described as 11.5 on the stimp. Links golf which is associated with a course along a coastal area with dunes and undulating surfaces. It is associated with firm turf and a running game. The grass is short and lacks moisture, the rough is wispy long grass. Muirfield certainly was all of the above. You think! If you look at the past Champions in the modern era at Muirfield, Phil fits right in with Player, Nicklaus, Trevino, Watson, Faldo and Els.

Phil Mickelsen - The riverboat gambler pulls a straight flush on the last hand. Phil played what he called the best round of his life on Sunday. He birdied 4 of the last 6 holes with his up and in on 16 probably being more important than any. He hit a great iron in but just missed carry it to the top of a ledge and his ball rolled back 30 plus yards to a tough pitch. He wedged it to 7 feet and made it. A great recovery mentally to not let the disappointment of getting a bad break affect him. He kept his momentum going!

Give Phil credit for going over to play in the Scottish Open the week before to get himself adjusted to the style of play needed on links.

Phil played his 2nd major in a row without a driver. The ability to hit an iron off of most tees and I believe a hybrid on the last hole let him keep it in play. Approach shots of 200 yards in were common, but they were hit with short to mid irons. His short game has no rival and he putted incredible the last day. He never seemed to be in the high grass as almost everyone else was. He was out in front of the leaders and was not in protection mode. That is how he likes to play, protecting a lead is very different than freewheeling an hour in front of the leaders. He kept going, his 2nd shot on 18 was a yard from the bunker and turned out perfect. Phil can't play safe, it's not in his golf DNA.

Mental Notes- Phil played his game and seems to know he can't play the other way (conservative). He found golf clubs to put him in the fairway and let his strengths carry him home. Playing from behind allows a player to freewheel, some players are great at that. Phil is, Tiger is not. Tiger has won all 14 majors while holding the lead going into the last day. Phil is better being a little behind, it fits him and his aggressive style. Be who you are, sometimes it works out, sometimes not but that is the beauty of sports. you never know what is going to happen, but you better be true to yourself and putt good!

Finally, just a thought, yes Phil played great and it's easy to smile and look like your having fun when good stuff is happening but not one other player looked like they were enjoying the experience of being in the hunt of a major.

Tom Patri had some interesting thoughts, too. Tom is President of TP Golf LLC. The following is reprinted from his Naples News article:

As many of you know I have often in this column been critical of Phil and errors he has made at critical junctures during various championships. This past week however Mickelson was flawless not only in his mechanical execution of his ball flight and shot selection but his management of the golf course was that of the Phil I would love to see on the golf course every week!

I think both Phil and Bones have together matured in their view of Phil's enormous talent and how best to use it. Major championship golf on the world stage is an evolution. We have watched so many young talents struggle early on learning to win. Some have gone through their tour careers only winning on certain types of courses and certainly never winning any major championship . Andy Bean comes to mind. Others had trouble with both certain types of courses as well as the heat only to mature and overcome their weaknesses! Tom Watson comes to mind as a player who figured it all out and went on to win in a wide variety of venues.

My hat is off to Mickelson and as one of his biggest critics I'm extremely happy for him. This past week in my opinion he changed his place in golf history with his final round execution at Muirfield. Give Bones his due as well. They are a great team and have grown together. Another round of loud applause must be given to Butch Harmon. Funny how Butch shows up in a players camp and that player plays major championship golf well ! Hmmmmm--make no mistake about it the Harmon DNA is a powerful tool .

The other player of clear note is of course Tiger. Remember when Phil couldn't find a fairway or manage a golf course and now it seems its Tiger who doesn't control his ball in the heat of Sunday majors? It's amazing how much a world class coach really does matter! Butch Harmon is a stud in the swing analysis department but even better as a prep coach in getting his horse ready for any given race.

Jack's major championship record seems safer with each passing major. With each weekend at a major when the Thursday-Friday Tiger slips into the Saturday-Sunday Tiger the record of The Golden Bear seems safer from the once weekend Tiger turned pussyca ?!  Will he catch Jack? Mathematically certainly still possible. Does he look and act like the Tiger who once amazed us? Not even a shadow of the once dominant champion, at least at majors.

Stayed tuned here comes The PGA Championship !

---Thanks for the thoughts, guys.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

Dunning Engineers Better Bottoms

If you're like me, you take a fair amount of time trying various shirts, sweaters, jackets, and pullovers to make sure they don't interfere with your golf swing. Pants and shorts, though, tend to get a quick once-over in the fitting room mirror--if at all. The results are not only often not pretty, but they leave a lot to be desired in the performance department.

Ralph Dunning of Dunning Golf explains why we should take a little more time to choose well-engineered technology for the lower half of our body as well:

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Berger Completes Personal Golf Quest

We all need goals to make life worth living, right? My friend Dan Berger accomplished one of his several days ago by playing all 53 public and private golf courses in Westchester County. Don't know what will keep him going now, but I'm sure he (or his wife) will think of something.

Danny Berger and Chuck Stogel
photo by Michael Kimmel
Chuck Stogel, shown here presenting Berger with his award (?), has kept careful tally of the mileposts along the way. He says "The course log includes clubs with two courses, such as Winged Foot and Westchester CC, the par 32 executive course at Pleasantville Country Club and the very worthy par 31 Executive Course at Sleepy Hollow designed by CB Macdonald in 1914." He adds that it took Berger and playing partner Michael Kimmel (who provided this photo), a mere 4 hours and ten minutes to play the final round at Sprain Lake, a public course in Westchester County. Scores are available, but not really publishable in deference to the players' egos.

Berger hosted a lavish luncheon for all the media who showed up to cover the event, which consisted entirely of Stogel. Some of us weren't invited, which is another story that is best left untold.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

Celebrate the British Open with a FREE Grand Slam Howl

There may not be a Grand Slam winner this year (at least on the men's circuit!), but that doesn't mean there aren't great stories about the ultimate golf achievement. My version, as weird as they come, is available FREE today in celebration of the final day of the British Open.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Cameron Young Lofts Met Junior Trophy

Cameron Young    photo courtesy of MGA
This week's heat didn't stop Cameron Young from decisively winning the 96th Met Junior Championship sponsored by MetLife at Fairview Country Club in Greenwich, CT. The 16-year old junior at Fordham Prep won six total matches in absolutely brutal conditions. He finished with a 3 & 1 win over Jeremy Wall, of Brielle, NJ.

The Met Junior is the oldest junior championship in the country. It starts with a field of 64, which narrows down in 18-hole matches over three day event. The field is composed of juniors who have not yet turned 19 and who have not yet started college.

Young, the son of Sleepy Hollow CC head pro David Young, won all three of his first three matches 7 & 5, then beat Ethan Wall, Jeremy's brother, 5 & 4 in the quarterfinals, and Clancy Waugh of Quogue, NY 3 & 1 in the semis earlier in the day. In an interesting aside, Young played 36 holes the day before the Met Junior started in the US Amateur sectional qualifier. He'll be playing at the Country Club in Brookline, MA, next month.

Young and Wall (along with several other Met Area juniors) will also compete in the US Junior Championship which begins Monday at Martis Camp Club in Truckee, CA. For inspiration, they might look to Jordan Spieth, who won the John Deere Classic last week to earn a spot in the British Open. Spieth won the US Junior in 2011 and 2009.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Pound Ridge To Host ESPN NY Golf Classic

photo by Jim Krajicek
Pound Ridge Golf Club will host the 9th Annual “Tee it up with ESPN New York Golf Classic” on August 12, 2013. ESPN and Golfsmith will co-host the day.

Since its inception in 2004, the event has raised more than $100,000 for charity, including The V Foundation for Cancer Research honoring the late Jim Valvano. ESPN celebrities slated for participation in the day’s events include: Cris Carter, Mike Golic, Mike Greenberg, Mike Lupica, Linda Cohn, Trey Wingo, Stephen A. Smith, Ryan Ruocco, Michael Kay, Sean McDonough, and Don LaGreca.

Tri-State area golfers can enter to win a spot in the ESPN New York Golf Classic at 12 Golfsmith locations throughout the metro area, or by visiting ESPNNewYork.com. Five grand-prize winners will be selected to invite two friends to round out their foursome with someone from the all-star roster of ESPN talent.

“The V Foundation is a game changer in the battle against cancer, funding over $100 million in research since 1993 and impacting lives world-wide,” says Pound Ridge Golf Club owner Ken Wang. “We are honored and excited to team up with ESPN New York and Golfsmith to further its mission of beating this awful disease.”

Located under an hour from New York City and minutes from White Plains, Stamford and Greenwich, Pound Ridge is the only Pete Dye design in the state. The daily fee layout is quintessential Dye, with all the legend’s renowned touches on display: rhythmic routing, dramatic mounding and subtle deception meld to create an exciting and challenging golf experience. Pound Ridge reflects the best in contemporary course design and is unique in a region filled with classic courses.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Labritz Grabs Second Major Title of Year

Rob Labritz stepped up with three birdies in a row to win the Metropolitan PGA Professional Championship yesterday at Manhattan Woods. The win came not long after a miraculous hole-out in a playoff at the PGA Professional National Championship that earned him a spot in the PGA Championship at Oak Hill next month and matched his triumph in the POLO GOlf Met PGA Head Professional Championship at the Tuxedo Club in May.

Labritz, the GlenArbor Director of Golf, carded five birdies in eight holes in his final round at Manhattan Woods to post an 8-under 132 for the tournament. His steady, precise play--no bogeys on the card for the second round--gave him a three stroke margin over Rob Corcoran of Poxabogue, who had posted a spectacular 61 earlier in the day. Here's how the top of the field finished:

Rob Labritz 
GlenArbor Golf Club
Rob Corcoran
Joe Gothmann
Ardsley CC
Danny Balin 
Burning Tree CC
Frank Bensel
Century CC
Christopher Toulson
Sunningdale CC
Jamie Kilmer
Wheatley Hills
Mike Gilmore
Winged Foot GC
Grant Sturgeon
Winged Foot GC
Anthony Casalino
Willow Ridge
Philip Cardwell
Quaker Ridge GC
Colin Amaral
Metropolis CC

All these players qualified for the PGA Professional National Championship in Myrtle Beach next June. Labritz and Danny Balin were already exempt.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

Long Island National To Go Private

Pub links players at Long Island National, Riverhead, NY, will have some choices to make when Donald Zucker closes on the bankrupt course in the near future. The new owner says he'll keep RT Jones, Jr. design open for daily fee play through the end of this season, but then plans to take it private. Since he'll be getting a list of every player who ever trod the course from the old owners, he expects to market memberships to them.

When the club goes private, "It will be strictly golf," Zucker says. "We hope to attract really good golfers since it's such a tough track." Tom Doak, who recently completed renovation of Zucker's other course, North Shore CC, will be called upon to tweak Long Island National soon after the closing, although Zucker doesn't expect to see major changes. He's still in the planning stages, but knows he will improve the locker rooms and practice areas and address some of the routing issues on the course itself.

The 6,838-yard track went into bankruptcy last year. Zucker said he expected to see competitors bidding for the premium property but was pleasantly surprised to be the sole bidder. He reportedly paid $6 million for it.

Zucker expects to operate the club at a profit, although he told me that's not his prime motivation for buying it. "One of the things you can do when you're successful," he said, "is the things you want to do. This is not a venture done to make money. My best hope for Long Island National is to break even on it." He added, though, that he hopes to be pleasantly surprised as he was with the response to his takeover of North Shore CC.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Look At the Target for Putting Distance Control

Debbie Jacobs-Dungee from the Round Hill Club offers a great exercise for mastering distance control on your putts in this video with Anthony Renna of Five Iron Fitness.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

Monday, July 15, 2013

North Shore Sets New Model for Modern Country Clubs

Donald Zucker
Donald Zucker
Three years is the blink of an eye in the 99-year history of North Shore Country Club in Glen Head, NY, but that's all it took for real estate developer Donald Zucker and star architect Tom Doak to rejuvenate the Long Island institution. Zucker rescued the club from financial collapse in late 2009 by buying it from the members and immediately brought in Doak to renovate the short, tired course. Doak built on the original design concepts of Seth Raynor and CB Macdonald while Zucker aggressively moved to bring younger members into the club. The results of both may well serve as a model for club management in the modern era.

Zucker said he gave Doak just one instruction when it came to using the 165-acre property: "Give us a great finishing hole." In response, Doak scrapped two lackluster par fours in favor of a quirky 125-yard seventeenth hole with a radical green and a daunting 639-yard par five eighteenth.

Doak worked some similar magic with the two opening holes, setting the tone for the course early. North Shore may be on the short side at 6,543 yards from the tips, but its outrageous greens more than adequately protect par. The 71.8 rating and 136 slope give some indication of the level of play necessary to score low.

Several Raynor/Macdonald trademarks were restored during the renovation. Doak brought back the 236-yard fifth hole, a par 3 Biarritz, and punched up the punchbowl green on the 435-yard sixth. The bunkering was revived on several holes and numerous trees were eliminated to open up vistas, define shot lines, and improve turf conditions--a process that was carried further by last year's storms. The overall result is a tester that rewards creative shot placement off the tee and demands pinpoint accuracy around the greens.

Perhaps the biggest change Zucker brought to North Shore, however, is a serious commitment to getting youngsters into the game. "I wanted to have the most kid-friendly club on Long Island," he says. With seven kids and fourteen grandkids, the club owner has a good idea of what young families want in a country club. In addition to renovating the golf course, one of his first moves was to build a playground near the swimming pool. the club also boasts kid-friendly tennis, a fitness center, and memberships designed for affordability. The club runs golf and tennis camps for kids--both sold out this year. Zucker also says youngsters are encouraged to play the course, adding "If it's open, they should be playing on it."

General Manager Ben Ghesquiere says these efforts are playing off. The most recent twenty memberships signed, according to him, were for people under age 45. "Three of them are families with seventeen kids between them." He adds that the club actually has three full golf memberships bought by parents who don't play golf for their kids who do.

In an era when participation in the game seems to be declining and economic weakness threatens the survival of many tradition-bound clubs, it's absolutely refreshing to see how North Shore Country Club is leading us into a happier future.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Two Local Junior Standouts Place Fourth in Rolex Tournament of Champions

Nicole Morales, a 17-year-old from South Salem who plays out of GlenArbor GC, landed in a tie for fourth place in the AJGA Rolex Tournament of Champions at Lancaster (PA) CC this week. She finished with a 5-over total of 285, nine strokes behind Alison Lee, a UCLA-bound youngster who has won all three AJGA events she entered this year.

Morales had won the AJGA's prestigious Thunderbird International earlier this year at Grayhawk GC in Scottsdale (AZ).

Theo Humphrey, Greenwich (CT), also tied for fourth in the boys' division. He had entered the final round in the lead, but posted a final round 72. Humphrey plays out of Sleepy Hollow CC.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Nan Hill on Comeback Trail with Met Open Win

Nan Hill, a sparkling young golfer I first profiled when she was a high school standout, won the Lincoln Women's Met Open Championship at Scarsdale CC this week. The 26-year-old professional from Pelham Manor shot a 3-under 141 to post a come-from-behind win over Kelly Shon, an amateur who plays out of Bethpage.

Hill's win was particularly satisfying, coming just months after elbow surgery--her third since 2011.  It's been a tough period where injury and recuperation resulted in the loss of her LPGA card and hours and hours of rehab. She credits her coach, Pelham CC head pro Mike Diffley, with keeping her mentally as well as physically on the right track.

Other local players in the top ten include Carla Wasienko (Sleepy Hollow), Julie Peluso (Sunningdale), Michelle Dobek (Fairview), and Alicia Dibos (Winged Foot).   Amateur Jennifer Lee of the host club captured 13th place.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Sweetspot Captures the Golf Obsession

Golf is a sport, a gentle pastime, an innocent game. But for Tom, the protagonist of John O'Hern's novel Sweetspot: Confessions of a Golfaholic, golf is an obsession, a sickness, a life-altering addiction that wrecks his career and nearly destroys his marriage--all in a comedic way. Those of us immersed in the game will recognize the symptoms. Hopefully, like O'Hern, we can laugh at them.

Sweetspot is an outrageous take on all things golf, from the way an accidentally perfect shot makes us go weak in the knees to the ridiculous lies we tell our wives and bosses to cover up the quick nine we played that afternoon when we were supposed to be visiting customers. There's a sleazy womanizing club pro, a bunch of play-at-every-opportunity obsessives, and several long-suffering golf widows including especially Tom's wife Carol. Golfers will recognize them and get a laugh or two out of their shenanigans on and off the course.

O'Hern plays the foibles of the game for all they are worth. He stretches a few golf customs for comedic effect or to move the plot along, which is fine by me: after all, I wrote a short story about Superman and Batman playing a grudge match at Pebble Beach in my book, Weird Golf. About the only problem I had with the novel was O'Hern's choice of Ben Hogan as the evil spirit that guides Tom down the path to perdition. Given Hogan's reputation, that just doesn't ring true.

Sweetspot is a fun, easy read that should appeal to non-golfers as well as those of us obsessed with the game.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

McDade Grabs Westchester Open

Colin McDade
photo courtesy of Richmond Athletics
Colin McDade became the first amateur in over forty years to win the Westchester Open when he slipped past Cameron Wilson in a three-hole playoff. McDade, who plays out of Winged Foot, also became the first player to hold the Westchester Golf Association's amateur and open titles in the same year since 1962, when it was accomplished by Ralph Ginsberg.

McDade posted 67-68 on the final day of the championship at Manhattan Woods, propelled by an eagle on the 491-yard fifteenth hole. That put him in a tie in regulation with Wilson, who recently captured the MGA's Ike Championship. McDade's finishing putt for the tie, a two-footer on the eighteenth hole, was held up by an hour-long rain delay. Even then, he had to wait for the rest of the field to finish before he knew he was going into the playoff.

Wilson struggled on the third playoff hole, requiring four strokes to reach the green after putting his drive into the fescue and his next shot into an environmental hazard. McDade just missed the fairway with his tee shot, but put his approach safely on the green.

Third place went to Westchester Country Club member Max Buckley. Amateur Dylan Newman of Bonnie Briar stumbled a bit in the third round to end up T7. Low pros in the field were Curtis Loop, who turned pro just before the tournament, and Carl Alexander, the Director of Golf at the Golf Club of Purchase. They split $10,000.

Past champions of the event include Claude Harmon, Doug Ford, Paul Runyon, and Ben Hogan. The Westchester Golf Association has raised over $9 million for the Westchester Caddie Scholarship Fund since it's founding in 1956.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

Beer and Golf: The Swing Oil Myth Exposed!

Beer and Golf
It’s one of the great burning questions in golf: does alcohol make you play better or just think you play better? In other words, should you drink while playing? According to Dr. Phil Striano, “It all boils down to whether you want to shoot the lowest possible score or to have the best possible time.” Guess which choice involves loading a cooler into your golf cart?

Putting the whoop-it-up factor to one side for a minute, we decided to find out just how alcohol affects your golf swing. We turned to Striano, a Titleist Performance Institute certified chiropractor and avid, low-handicap golfer, to apply some science to the question in his golf studio at Rivertowns Chiropractic in Dobbs Ferry. Under (barely) controlled conditions, we asked a dozen pretty average golfers to hit some golf balls into a net, drink a few beers, hit some more balls, drink some more beer, hit more balls, drink, hit, drink, hit, etc. The test grew a little raucous, but the goals of science were eventually served.

Striano and Keith Melnik, assistant pro at Ardsley Country Club, used some of the latest technology, the K-Vest, which plots the movement of the body during the golf swing, and the TrackMan radar system, which measures swing speed, shot distance, accuracy, and a bunch of other metrics, to analyze the groups’ performance. We used a conversion chart to estimate blood alcohol levels based on their body weight, consumption, and time spent drinking.

The guinea pigs were golfers just like you and me. They ranged in age from 25 to 64, handicaps from 0 to 25, and number of rounds played per year from 10 to 50. Every one of them said they drank while playing—at least sometimes—and most said they felt more relaxed when they did. Most of them figured a little “swing oil” improved their game although more than one confessed they really didn’t know. Or care.

Our volunteers didn’t shirk their responsibilities. They consumed anywhere from three to eight beers (yes, we were counting!) and hit 229 balls (not including warm-ups and goofing around) for the test. By the time they finished, five of them were over the DUI limit of 0.08% blood alcohol and most of the rest were really, really close to it.

The results? Not surprisingly, the more beer you drink, the worse you play. Quite frankly, though, especially considering how many of the volunteers were slurring their words and telling raunchy, pointless jokes by the end of the test, the impact on their swings wasn’t too bad. The distance they hit the ball suffered the most, with the average loss of 8.2 yards in carry using a six iron, although three of the twelve gave up more than 20 yards.

Accuracy actually improved a bit for the group after they’d had a few, at least as measured by how far the ball landed from an imaginary target. The average was about two yards closer, although five of the players got worse while seven became just slightly better—or luckier. When you combine distance and accuracy, average player performance went down by about 4% when alcohol was involved.

There was a clear correlation between blood alcohol levels and golf ability. As more pickling agent hit the blood stream, the golf swing became more erratic. Incidentally, high handicappers suffered proportionately more, as did older golfers.

Striano and Melnick analyzed the K-Vest data to see just how the golf swing responds to a suds bath. “When you start drinking, a whole lot of things happen. Beginning with alignment, the golfer becomes erratic,” Striano said. “Plus, there’s no question that there is a definite swing oil effect. Most of the guys got a lot looser and there was more turn in their hips and shoulders.”  Yes, but did it help?  “That made their swings longer, which actually reduced how far they hit the ball.”

We couldn’t measure the effects of beer on the golfer’s judgment, although given the way many of them were acting after a few, we suspect it doesn’t get more conservative. Carry that water hazard with this three wood off a down-hill lie? Sure—why not!  Equally un-measureable was the attitude factor, although our test subjects were certainly happier at the end of the test than when they began, regardless of how—or where—they hit the ball.

Perhaps the best guidance about booze on the golf course came from a real aficionado of both, Dean Martin, who once said “If you drink, don't drive. Don't even putt.”

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Unique Take On Putting Aid

Who says there's nothing new under the sun? There's a cute new gizmo to replace that clunky old putting cup you've got in the corner of your office or den. It's the Putt-A-Round Ball Target, which, as the name implies, catches balls from any direction--assuming they're hit to the cup, of course. Check out the video to see how they work.

Putt-A-Round comes in several color and flag combinations. You can even get a custom flag with your own design to make a great gift for somebody who has everything.  Prices start at $39.97 from Anne Stone Products.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

Friday, July 5, 2013

Local Talent Heads for US Senior Open

Nelson Long
Nelson Long
Next week's U.S. Senior Open will have some local talent in the field at Omaha Country Club in Omaha, NE. Nelson Long, head pro at Century CC in Purchase, NY, landed a slot by shooting a 70 in the Sectional Qualifier at Garden City Country Club on June 27.

Also shooting 70s to qualify were Mark Mielke, head pro at the Mill River Club in Oyster Bay, NY, and Bruce Zabriski, who played on the PGA and European PGA Tours before a long career in the Met area, where he was Met PGA Player of the year five times and served as assistant pro at both Winged Foot and Westchester Country Club before decamping for Florida.

The Francis D. Ouimet Memorial Trophy
(John Mummert/USGA)
George Zahringer, one of the Met area's leading amateurs, also qualified. It will be his eighth appearance in the event.

The USGA says 2,746 players entered to play in the 2013 edition of the championship. The field includes 12 former champions among the 78 players who are fully exempt. Past champs include Roger Chapman (2012) who withdrew from this year's tournament, Olin Browne (2011), Bernhard Langer (2010), and Fred Funk (2009).  Among the headliners in this year's field are Fred Couples, Hale Irwin, Tom Kite, Colin Montgomerie, and Kenny Perry.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf