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Monday, July 13, 2009

National Championship Golf -- Free!

If you want to watch some great golf without spending a hundred bucks for a ticket, parking a hour away from the course and elbowing your way through 50,000 spectators, check out the 2009 U.S. Junior Amateur and U.S. Girls' Junior Championships next week at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, NJ. They're played concurrently over the two courses July 20-25. Admission is free, there's plenty of free parking, and the golf is guaranteed to be as good as you're going to see anywhere.

But these are kids, right? Yes they are--and fine golfers, too. Entrants must be 17 or under to play in these USGA events, but boys are required to have a handicap index no higher than 6.4 and the girls an 18.4. These may not match U.S. Open requirements, but some of the best players in the game compete in these tournaments. The Girls' Junior helped launch the careers of Mickey Wright, JoAnne Gunderson Carner, Nancy Lopez, Amy Alcott, and Hollis Stacy, who won three consecutive titles from 1969 to 1971. More recent winners include Michelle McGann (1987), Brandie Burton (1989), Aree (Wongluekiet) Song (1999), and 2008 US Women's Open Champion, Inbee Park.

Another three-time title holder is Tiger Woods, who took it in 1991-1993, then turned around and won the U.S. Amateur the next three years. Woods was 15 years, six months, and 28 days old when he won in 1991, making him the youngest champion so far. Other Junior winners include Johnny Miller (1964), Gary Koch (1970), David Duval (1989), and defending champion Kevin Tway (2005), son of professional golfer Bob Tway.

And here's a little bit of history: The first U.S. Junior Championship was played in 1948 and was won by Dean Lind of Rockford, IL, who defeated future U.S. Open champion and legendary golf commentator, Ken Venturi.

The Trump courses won't be baby-fied for these events. The Old Course will play at 7,100 yards and a 75.8 rating and 146 slope for the Junior Am while the New Course will clock in at 7,159 yards with a 74.3/144. They'll play at 6,203 yards (Old) and 6,294 yards (New) for the Girls' Junior. Both courses require accurate games off the tee and masterly putting.

The first two rounds will be played as stroke play, with match play beginning Wednesday, July 22. Two rounds of match play are scheduled for each day, Thursday through the Saturday final. Players will alternate courses, with the boys ending on the New Course and the girls on the Old. If you can't make it in person, the Golf Channel will carry the semifinals on July 24 and the finals on July 25. NBC will air highlights of the tournaments on August 1, 2-3 PM.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Friday, July 10, 2009

A Swing In The Balance

Connecting your brain to your body sounds like a dangerous approach to the golf swing, especially if you're like me and try very hard to eliminate swing thoughts. But I recently experienced a brief demo of a workout regimen that promises to make that connection the right way--by using bio-mechanical feedback to increase your stability, strength, and flexibility--and I have to say it makes a lot of sense.

It's the Flexor Swing Training Method developed by sports physiologist Skip Latella. The system is based on a set of exercises and movements that train proper position and movement patterns to improve your balance, a key component in a solid golf swing.

In the demo, Latella had me take a few warm up swings, then take the club back to the top of my backswing and hold it for a moment while he touched me lightly on the back, almost knocking me over. It was a shock how tenuous my balance was at that key moment, although considering how erratic my driving has been lately, it shouldn't have come as any surprise.

Then he put me through three short exercises with a three-foot foam roll while standing on two inflatable balance disks. Each movement replicated the golf swing in increasingly difficult patterns, although the hardest part was staying steady on the balance disks. After just three reps of each movement, he had me take the driver back to the top again, then pushed me from behind. I stayed stable, which convinced me that the method has a lot of promise.

I could see how a longer workout would build strength and flexibility, too, since just staying upright on the balance disks is a chore. Latella's program consists of a minimum of six sessions with a certified trainer (several club pros offer it now), with practice workouts between to reinforce the lessons the body is learning. He's offering the program at Club 1133 in White Plains, NY, which is where I saw it.

I've fought an unfortunate sway in my swing for years. From just this brief demo, I can see how the Flexor training could help eliminate that problem while building a stable base for better control and greater distance.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Good Luck To Francella and Hill

Two women golfers I've followed for several years are competing in this week's U.S. Women's Open at Saucon Valley in Bethlehem, PA. My best wishes for a successful tournament go to both of them.

Meaghan Francella of Port Chester, NY, came onto the LPGA Tour in 2007 with a bang by defeating defending champion Annika Sorenstam in a four-hole sudden death playoff at the MasterCard Classic in Mexico City, just her third tournament after moving up to the big show.
“I was a little intimidated when I first shook her hand on the tee,” she told me at the time. “But after that I just tried to stay in my game and play patient.”
It was an auspicious debut that led her to 29th on the money list that year. She also scored three other top-ten finishes in 25 events, taking home over $500,000 in winnings for the year.

Twenty-two-year-old Nan Hill qualified her way into the Open this year. Nan's no stranger to competition, having tied for sixth at the 2009 NCAA Division I Championship and finished fourth at the 2009 Atlantic Coast Conference Championship. She also won the 2007 Landfall Tradition, leading Wake Forest to its first team title since 2004.

I talked to her the first time when she was a senior at Pelham (NY) High School, where she anchored the boys golf team. By that time, Nan had won the NY State Girls Amateur three times.
"I love the pressure. I love that it's just me out there. No matter whether it's golf or whatever sport I play, I think I would always try to be the best because that's always how I am."
She'll have a great chance to test her mettle this week at Saucon Valley.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Friday, July 3, 2009

Trump Waits For Economy In Scotland

I had an interesting conversation recently with real estate impresario Donald Trump, who uses "The Greatest" in a sentence more often than Muhammad Ali. "What's up with the project in Scotland?" I asked. Here's what he said:
"We have all the permits and everything is ready to go, but I'm not going to build anything until the depression is over."
That's too bad, since I was really looking forward to visiting Trump International Golf Links, which is scheduled to have two world-class golf courses and a luxury hotel sited on 1400 acres of sand dunes at Balmedie Beach in the northeast part of the country.

Martin Hawtree is to design the courses. He's known for his expertise in links courses and worked on Royal Birkdale, Portmarnock, Lahinch and Carnoustie to name but a few. Tom Fazio II, nephew of designer Tom Fazio, did some original routing work on the Aberdeen property, but Hawtree took over when Fazio turned his attention to the New Course at Trump Bedminster.

Trump went through some battles to get permission to build on the property, fighting farmers and others who want to preserve the property in its present state. The chance to bring new tourist dollars to the area--with the accompanying jobs in construction and resort operation, won the day, however, and Trump's project is now clear for takeoff as soon as the economy permits.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the