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Dave Donelson Tee To Green has an exciting new home at
Westchester Magazine.

We're still about all things golf, especially those pertinent to golfers in Westchester and the NY Metro, but now we're in a much bigger space!

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Thursday, December 30, 2010

When To Regrip Your Ball Retriever

Next to How To Line Up Your Fourth Putt, Bobby Rusher's latest book, When To Regrip Your Ball Retriever, may be the saddest golf book I've ever read.

Like the original, it's also side-splitting funny, especially when Rusher tells you things like "How To Handle Your Caddie's Hysterial Laughter" and "What To Do If You Find More Balls Than You Lost." He's got plenty of sage advice about scoring, too, such as "How To Hit The Ball On The Roll Without Losing A Stroke." I'm sure you get the drift.

Both tomes are full of pithy golf aphorisms turned inside out and upside down to great humorous effect. A few are also chewed up and spit out, not to mention expelled from other bodily orifices often cited by golfers at various times during their round. One of my favorites is "Why You Should Instruct Your Caddie To Listen For The Ball Off The Tee Rather Than The Traditional 'Watch The Ball.'"

The sad thing about these books is how many of Rusher's characters I recognize from my 45-plus years playing this stupid game. I've even glimpsed one or two of them in the locker room mirror after a round. If I weren't laughing so hard, I'd probably be crying.

To get your copies, as well as the accompanying CD "Music To Shank By," visit www.4putt.com. By the way, don't be confused by the author's name, which may actually be Bobby Runk.

Dave Donelson, author of The Dynamic Manager's Guides a for and

Saturday, October 23, 2010

David Barrett Talks About Ben Hogan and the Miracle At Merion

In an exclusive interview, David Barrett, author of Miracle At Merion, talks about how he came to write the book and what Ben Hogan's story means to him:

DD: Tell me what your book is about.
It is the comprehensive story of the 1950 U.S. Open, one of the greatest events in golf history. To give the story depth, it goes into the background of the players involved and of life on the PGA tour at the time. Most prominently, of course, there is the story of Ben Hogan’s comeback from severe injuries suffered in a 1949 car-bus crash. The narrative of the book starts with Hogan’s victory at the 1948 U.S. Open, hits some key events in the two years leading up to the 1950 U.S. Open, and then gives a detailed account of the championship that proved Hogan was really back.

DD: What drew you to this story?
The touchstone is the inspirational story of Hogan’s comeback and the aura of Hogan in general. I also liked the idea of telling a detailed story about one of the game’s most historic championships. What actually sealed it, for me, was how many other great stories there were. Hogan wasn’t even the only player in the three-way playoff whose career nearly ended because of a crash. Lloyd Mangrum severely injured his shoulder when his Jeep turned over on him during World War II action in France, and was told he might not play golf again. Less heroically, Mangrum missed the first part of the 1950 season after reinjuring the same shoulder in a fight with a neighbor. The third man in the playoff, George Fazio, grew up in suburban Philadelphia, near where the championship was held, and had a scrap-metal business on the side. The tournament was nearly won by a player (Joe Kirkwood Jr.) who spent half his time as an actor, portraying boxer Joe Palooka on the big screen. The list goes on. It was also a chance to document the latter part of the hardscrabble, small-money era in pro golf before Arnold Palmer and television changed the landscape.

DD: What did you learn about Hogan in your research that surprised you?
Not too much about the man himself, since I had read his biographies. One interesting detail I learned was that when he first tried the West Coast part of the tour as a 19-year-old, he ended up subsisting for three days on some oranges he bought for 60 cents. Regarding his comeback, I didn’t fully appreciate that when he headed to California for the Los Angeles Open in 1950 he wasn’t sure if he was going to play or just make an appearance—at that point, he had only played three rounds of golf since his recovery.

There were some surprises about Hogan and the 1950 U.S. Open. For example, on the Saturday and Sunday before the Open, he played in a Pro-Celebrity Tournament in Washington, D.C. Another surprise is that, contrary to his reputation for precision, he actually sprayed the ball around in the third round and only remained in contention thanks to some good scrambling (he even hit a drive out of bounds). He did have putting woes in the final round, to such an extent that his brother, back in Fort Worth, sent him another putter via an airplane pilot friend. The putter arrived at Merion moments before the start of the playoff—but as he didn’t have a chance to warm up with it, Hogan didn’t use it.

DD: How did the accident change him as a person? As a golfer?
Hogan was genuinely moved by the outpouring of support he received from the general public after his accident—there were boxes and boxes of letters at the hospital. Before the accident, he was so grimly focused when he was on the course that he barely noticed the gallery. But at the U.S. Open playoff, Shirley Povich wrote in the Washington Post, “[Hogan] was gallery-conscious, and they liked it. For the first time in his career, he was probably trying to win for the gallery as well as for Hogan.”

As a golfer, there were comments from several observers after his first couple of tournaments back that he had changed his swing to account for less leg action. However, Hogan never talked about a significant post-accident swing change, nor, eventually, did commentators. The main difference was that, due to poor circulation in his legs, he had to limit his play severely. He entered 10 events in his comeback year of 1950, but found that even that was too many and halved that number in following years. But focusing on the big events might have helped him in the major championships—he won six of his nine majors after coming back from the crash.

DD: What’s the biggest difference between the U.S. Open as it was played at Merion in 1950 and today’s tournament?
There were no corporate tents then. Indeed, the idea that in the future there would be something called “corporate tents” at a U.S. Open would have been a hard concept to explain. No merchandise tent either. And a lot fewer people. Ticket records showed less than 10,000 sold for the final day. There was not a single grandstand on the course, nor were the fairways roped off.

There was no national television, but my research revealed the little-known fact that there was a two-hour television broadcast seen in select cities. Even in those cities, a lot of people didn’t have televisions. Whereas today the U.S. Open is viewed by millions, in 1950 it was seen only by thousands live—many of whom didn’t have a good view—and probably only thousands on the tube—watching a limited broadcast, with one camera behind the 18th green. There was a large radio audience, however.

DD: These events took place 60 years ago—why is the story relevant today?
It’s relevant because Hogan’s comeback victory at Merion is part of the fabric of the history of the game. It will be remembered for as long as the U.S. Open is played. And it’s relevant because Hogan still resonates. In fact, mine is not the only book about Ben Hogan to come out this fall.

DD: You’ve covered golf for many years. Are there any parallels to Hogan’s story in today’s game?
There will always be stories of golfers coming back from injury, though Hogan’s tale will be tough to top. Steve Jones won the 1996 U.S. Open after missing more than a year with a thumb injury that was not life-threatening but was career-threatening. And, interestingly, he credited reading Curt Sampson’s biography Hogan just before that Open for inspiring him.

As far as winning a U.S. Open on bad wheels, Tiger Woods in 2008 might have topped Hogan. Woods had severe ligament damage and a hairline fracture; his doctor advised him not to play on a leg needing major surgery that would cause an eight-and-a-half-month absence from the game as soon as that Open ended. But as far as Tiger coming back from a car accident, there’s no comparison there!

Read my review of Miracle At Merion posted yesterday.

Dave Donelson, author of The Dynamic Manager's Guides a for and

Friday, October 22, 2010

Miracle At Merion Brings Hogan's Story To Life

Miracle at Merion: The Inspiring Story of Ben Hogan's Amazing Comeback and Victory at the 1950 U.S. OpenThe Miracle At MerionIn 2008, the world watched agog as Tiger Woods won the U.S. Open on the 91st hole while struggling with a fractured left knee. In the excitement of the moment, little was said about a similar feat of physical endurance and mental strength by Ben Hogan in his epic victory at the 1950 U.S. Open, otherwise known as The Miracle at Merion.

Golf writer David Barrett, who has covered 25 U.S. Opens, presents a thorough and rounded account of Ben Hogan's comeback from a near-fatal car wreck to win the most coveted trophy in the sport. The astonishing story of how Hogan survived a head-on crash with a speeding Greyhound bus, fought through months of life-threatening surgery and painful therapy, then returned to the PGA Tour a year later has been told many times, but Barrett gives the reader both a wide view of the events and people surrounding the story as well as an incisive account of how Hogan the individual was changed by it.

Of particular interest are Barrett's portraits of Hogan's compatriots. Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, and Cary Middlecoff are among the giants of the game with whom Hogan competed. Barrett shows the reader how their careers meshed with Hogan's and, even more importantly, he reveals them not just as golfers but as human beings--just like he does Ben Hogan.

The book also gives a great look at the PGA Tour of Hogan's day. About the only thing today's tour has in common with Hogan's is the use of a little white ball and a four-and-a-quarter-inch hole. Among the many differences, of course, is money. Tiger Woods earned $1,350,000 for his victory in 2008; Hogan's check in 1950 was for a whopping $4,000. The Miracle at Merion brings both Hogan's historic win and the professional game of the era vibrantly to life.

Barrett is first and foremost a journalist, which gives this book a gravitas lacking in many other books on the sport. He not only made extensive use of the USGA archives in Far Hills, NJ, but visited Merion Golf Club itself and conferred at length with the club historian John Capers and archivist Wayne Morrison. He also interviewed many people who were on hand at Merion in 1950 and checked and double-checked media reports of the day--finding several interesting contradictions. The result is a book that deserves a place in the bookcase of any serious student of golf.

Tomorrow, I'll post an exclusive interview with author David Barrett.

Dave Donelson, author of The Dynamic Manager's Guide To Advertising: How To Grow Your Business With Ads That Work a for and

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Play Putnam National Free

Putnam National Golf Club, a daily-fee, 18-hole course in Mahopac, NY, is now offering free golf for the rest of 2010 for those golfers who purchase a 2011 Annual Play Pass before November 1st. The annual pass itself is a bargain--the bonus of free golf in the crisp air and beautiful autumn colors of the rolling landscape of Putnam National for the rest of this year makes it hard to pass up.

A 2011 weekday unlimited membership to the club is $995. The unlimited seven-day-per-week annual pass is only $2299. Seniors (age 50 and above) enjoy an extra 15 percent discount off of these rates. Call (845) 628-4200 or visit www.putnamnational.com for details.

“This is probably one of the best times of the year to play our golf course,” says Putnam National General Manager John Napier. “Not only do we offer the best public golf value in the Hudson Valley, but we also enjoy some of the most picturesque scenery in the region.”

Formerly The Country Club at Lake McGregor, Putnam National Golf Club reopened in the spring of 2004 following its purchase by Putnam County. Located in the lower Hudson Valley town of Mahopac, New York, this daily-fee facility features a 6,804-yard, par-71 golf course that was originally designed by William F. Mitchell. It's operated by RDC Golf Group (RDC).

Dave Donelson, author of The Dynamic Manager's Guide To Advertising: How To Grow Your Business With Ads That Work a for and

Monday, October 11, 2010

Trump Tower Adds Putting Green

Residents of Trump Tower at City Center now have their own personal fairway to heaven--or at least a place to putt someplace closer to it. The luxury high-rise recently added a roof-top golf green to its swimming pool, tennis, bocce and basketball courts, playground, and other recreational facilities high above downtown White Plains, NY.

A young resident of the building with an interest in golf suggested adding a practice green to the area. The idea gained Board approval quickly and Trump hired Westchester resident Michael Lehrer, owner of Home Green Advantage (HGA), to build the 1,500 square foot putting green. Lehrer designed significant elevation changes, tiers and swales to give the green many different breaks and speeds using three different types of synthetic turf. While most of HGA’s work is done in the backyards of suburbia, Lehrer has created over 20 rooftop greens, primarily in Manhattan.

According to Larry Gomez, The Building’s Manager, “Residents are very excited by it. I tried it out as soon as it was completed, and I think it’s great! No other condo complex has anything close.”

Dave Donelson, author of The Dynamic Manager's Guide To Advertising: How To Grow Your Business With Ads That Work a for and

Monday, October 4, 2010

Ham-And-Egg Wins The Golf Tournament

Please pardon me while I toot the old horn a little bit. My buddy Ralph Wimbish and I won the MGA Senior Net 4-Ball Tournament today, marking first-time tournament wins for both of us. As Ralph put it, "We ham and egged perfectly."

That is pretty much exactly what happened. We each played approximately to our handicap with our individual ball, which would have left us well out of the awards if it hadn't been a team event. But when one of us blew a hole, the other was almost always fortunate enough to card a par or better, giving us a tournament-winning net 61. Teamwork is a beautiful thing.

Here's the official announcement from the Metropolitan Golf Association:
Quill & Tee Duo Wins MGA Senior Net 4-ball Tournament

October 4, 2010 – Ralph Wimbish and Dave Donelson of the Quill and Tee Golf Club wrote their way into MGA history today with a victory at the 18th MGA Senior Net Four-Ball Tournament at Scarsdale Golf Club in Scarsdale, N.Y. The event, which was originally scheduled for May 3, was postponed to September 27 and due to rain, was finally completed on Monday, October 4.

Wimbish and Donelson finished one stroke ahead of their nearest competitors, the team of William Sturman and Paul Liubicich of Ridgewood (Conn.). The win marks the first MGA championship for Wimbish and Donelson as well as the Quill and Tee Golf Club.

Rounding out the top four were the teams of John Vergo and George Desimone of Hudson Hills and Hempstead (63) and Joe Gullotta and Mike Morton of North Jersey (64). Four teams came in with scores of net 65 to tie for fifth place. Sturman and Liubicich were the winners of the low gross category with their score of one-under-par 70.

The event is open to male amateur golfers who have reached 50 years of age by September 27, 2010 and maintain a USGA Handicap Index not exceeding 18.0. For more information, please contact Billy Condon (bcondon@mgagolf.org) or Bob Nielsen (bnielsen@mgagolf.org) at the MGA office at 914-347-4653.
Click here for complete tournament results.

Dave Donelson, author of The Dynamic Manager's Guide To Advertising: How To Grow Your Business With Ads That Work a for and

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Scenic Tour Of Ryder Cup's Celtic Manor 2010 Course

Water is in play on 14 holes on the 2010 Course.

2010 Course 3rd Hole - 189 yards - par 3 - All carry with a deep depression in back to punish long shots.

2010 Course 5th Hole - 457 yards - par 4 - A left-to-right dogleg that requires 300 yards to carry to bunkers on the right.

2010 Course Hole 6 - 452 yards - par 4 - Water and sand threaten wayward shots the entire length of the hole

2010 Course Hole 12 - 458 yards - par 4 - A small green reachable only after crossing water twice

2010 Course Hole 14 - 413 yards - par 4 - A short hole that dares long hitters to challenge the water.

2010 Course Hole 15 - 377 yards - par 4 - The green is driveable with a 270 yard shot threaded through the trees.

Wind in the Usk River Valley will be a factor in the Ryder Cup matches, too.

Dave Donelson, author of The Dynamic Manager's Guide To Advertising

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Visit To Ryder Cup Land - Part 3 of 3

No golf trip to Wales or anywhere else in the UK would be complete without at least a sampling of links courses, which to me represent the heart and soul of the game. Royal Porthcawl is as good as links golf gets. How good? Tiger Woods and the rest of the American team went down in defeat there in the 1995 Walker Cup matches. Maybe they were distracted by the views of the sea which you get on every single hole, or the knee-deep rough, or the persistent wind that is as important to the success of every shot as your stance, grip, and swing. Royal Porthcawl has hole after excellent hole, with the 466-yard 15th and 430-yard 16th (both par fours) standing out as prime examples of where sand, grass, elevation, and wind come into play. Both require long tee shots downhill to landing areas constricted by impossible cross bunkers. The second shots are blind and uphill to small greens wearing pot bunker necklaces. One hole plays downwind, the other back into it. These are just a few of the reasons Golf Magazine added Royal Porthcawl to its list of Top 100 Course in the World.

The place to stay when tackling Royal Porthcawl is the Great House at Laleston, which was originally given to the Earl of Leicester by Elizabeth I to use as a hunting lodge (although he’s rumored to have frequently cavorted there with the neighborhood milk maids as well). The restored inn is about fifteen minutes away from the golf course, but the food alone is worth the drive. My fillet (sic) of Welsh beef was fork-tender and perfectly charred with a red center, and the grilled mushrooms and tomatoes were a fabulous touch.

As much as I admired the Twenty Ten Course and enjoyed the struggle to break par at Royal Porthcawl (I wasn’t even close), my favorite round came at Tenby Golf Club, the oldest organized golf club in Wales. Today’s Tenby is a fascinating seaside course full of quirky challenges like the fourth hole, a 436-yard tester where both your drive and second shot must be aimed over striped marker poles because the landing areas are completely hidden. If either ball is stuck off-line, hit a provisional—Tenby’s fairways are the narrowest I’ve ever seen, measuring twenty yards or less in most places (less than the usual U.S. Open width!) and the rough hasn’t been cut since about 1875, when official records show the Tenby town court proceedings were adjourned so the mayor and magistrates could get in a round before returning to the affairs of state.

Not far from Tenby is St. Brides Hotel and Spa, sited on a hillside high above the beach at Carmarthen Bay in Saundersfoot. Even if you are foolish enough to forego a massage after your round, don’t miss the bubbling spa pool overlooking the bay, the sensation chamber where you choose tropical rain, cold mist, or gush showers, the sauna, or the two steam rooms—one aromatic, one with salt water. The Cliff Restaurant was exceptional, too. I went for Whole Black Bream with Garlic Butter and Spinach, one of many dishes prepared almost exclusively with fresh local ingredients. For some fun after dark, take a short walk to the many raucous pubs lining the beach below the hotel.

One of the best parts about a golf trip to Wales is that getting there is easy. We flew into Bristol on a direct flight from Newark and were registering at Celtic Manor less than an hour after our plane landed. Alternatively, Cardiff has an international airport, but is also only a couple of hours by train from London’s Heathrow. If you need a jet-lag break before golf or a place to decompress even further before heading home, try St. David’s Hotel and Spa in Cardiff. Sweeping views of the docks and the Bristol Channel as well as easy access to the revived waterfront shopping and dining district are just a couple of the luxuries in the ten-year-old high-rise masterpiece.

Dave Donelson, author of The Dynamic Manager's Guide To Advertising

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Visit To Ryder Cup Land - Part 2 of 3

There is more to golf at Celtic Manor than just the Twenty Ten Course. The Robert Trent Jones, Jr.-designed Roman Road Course has enough elevation change and highly contoured greens to challenge the best players. At 6,515 yards, it’s long enough, too. The Montgomery Course is a 6,371-yard par 69 layout that features punitive pot bunkers and a few other delights added by designer Colin Montgomery, who happens to be the captain of the European Ryder Cup team this year.

Dining at Celtic Manor is as adventuresome as the golf. The top spot is The Crown, where the prix fixe menu features seared scallops, curried sweetbreads, and cauliflower panna cotta among the many options and amuse bouches are served before every course. For less formal dinners, the Olive Tree has a sumptuous buffet of contemporary European cuisine each evening and the Rafters in the Twenty Ten Clubhouse presents dishes based on local Welsh ingredients. The Lodge Brasserie overlooks the 18th green on the Roman Road Course and the Patio at the Manor House has a relaxed setting and traditional Italian fare.

You have a wide range of places for drinks, too, led by Merlins Bar in the Resort Hotel with its comfortable sofas, snooker table, and terrace overlooking the rooftop gardens. That’s the place for afternoon tea, too, if you prefer something a little more civilized for your after-round libation. The Manor House has the Cellar Bar, a plasma-screen-filled sports bar, as well as the Lounge Bar with its historic theme d├ęcor.

Need to un-kink after your round? Head for the Forum Health Club in the Resort Hotel with its 34-station gym, 20-meter pool, whirlpool, saunas, steam rooms, and luxurious marble changing rooms. For the ultimate in un-kinking (or a place of refuge for the non-golfers in the group), the Forum Spa offers the latest in therapies including massages and facials, hydrotherapy, and manicures and pedicures. For total indulgence, try the Rasul Mud Ritual, a 45-minute exfoliating experience. There’s another full gym and spa in the Lodge, too.

If your game needs a little tune up (or a complete makeover), take advantage of the Celtic Manor Golf Academy. Its staff of teaching professionals gives lessons in state-of-the art swing studios, practice greens, and short play areas, then let you practice what you learned in the 28-bay two-tier driving range.

When you want a break from golf, take advantage of the 1400 acres of parkland surrounding the resort for a hiking or mountain biking adventure. The concierge will also help you schedule a half- or full-day of clay pigeon shooting, salmon fishing in the River Wye or fly fishing on the River Usk. Horseback riding is available, too.

Dave Donelson, author of The Dynamic Manager's Guide To Advertising

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Visit To Ryder Cup Land - Part 1 of 3

Rampant red dragons will join birdies and eagles in golfers’ dreams this year as the Ryder Cup Matches make their debut in Wales, an enchanted land where it is easy to imagine fire-breathing lizards (the country’s symbol) flying down the fairways of some of the finest golf courses in the world. I swear I saw a dragon or two when I played the Twenty Ten Course at Celtic Manor, the site of this fall’s biennial competition between America’s and Europe’s top golfers.

When I hopped across the pond for a look at the course where Tiger Woods and the rest of the American team will defend their title, I discovered an easily-accessible golf paradise any golf traveler should add to their must-play list. Wales has pretty much played fourth fiddle to Scotland, Ireland, and England as a premiere golf destination, but that time is over. Golf in Wales is affordable, the clubs are friendly and accommodating, the courses are challenging, varied, and seldom crowded. There are some fascinating places to stay and the food was fabulous. What more could you want from a golf destination?

But if you’re going, hurry before the word gets out. The Ryder Cup will bring Wales into the golf world spotlight, which was the reason Sir Terry Matthews built the Twenty Ten Course at his Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, just a few minutes from the capital of Cardiff. The course was designed expressly to host the event and promises to provide a stern test for the teams and great vistas for the spectators. The Usk River valley shapes the experience. It serves as a wind tunnel for the sea breezes sweeping up the Bristol Channel and brings water into play on nine of the eighteen holes. Add fairways without a single level lie, rough so thick and high you can’t see your shoes (much less your ball), and you have a world-class golf challenge.

The 2010 Course at Celtic Manor, site of the Ryder Cup

The course has plenty of length, too, measuring 7,493 yards for par 71. The bunkering was designed with today’s big hitters in mind, so no one is going to bomb and gouge their way around the course. Fortunately, multiple tees not only give us hackers a chance to enjoy the track, but also gives the set-up committee options to make several of the par four holes drive-able, although pin-point accuracy and some luck with the wind will be required to take advantage. The sharp right dogleg 377-yard fifteenth hole will be particularly interesting because there is a small gap high in the trees allowing a 270-yard tee-shot straight at the green for the most intrepid players.

The three finishing holes rank with the best championship venues in the world. They all play directly into the prevailing wind and are further complicated by tough bunkers and heart-stopping elevation changes. The16th is a 508-yard par four with a narrow fairway guarded by bunkers on either side. A tee shot even slightly right will end up rolling over a steep embankment. The 17th is an uphill par three measuring 211 yards to a long, narrow green protected by bunkers deep enough to hide a herd of Welsh cattle along the entire front right side.

The finishing hole is a classic risk-and-reward par five. At 613 yards and playing only slightly downhill, it will given even the longest bomber a second shot to think about if he hasn’t closed his match out before he gets there. Even if he carries the bunkers on the left by flying his drive 331 yards, he’ll be left with a downhill lie to a green fronted by a pond that stretches across the entire fairway. The green is elevated, too, with a steep shaved bank that will send any short shot back into the water. My favorite feature of the hole is a big old gnarly oak behind the green that’s probably been there since before the colonies stuck their finger in King George’s eye.

Dave Donelson, author of The Dynamic Manager's Guide To Advertising

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Word To the Wise Golf Marketer

If you're in the golf business and want to reach a significant number of golfers in the New York market, add the 7th Annual Journal News Golf Show to your must-do calendar for 2011. The dates are Saturday and Sunday, March 12 and 13, and it will be held at the Westchester County Center in White Plains, NY.

This is a new name and new dates for the show, which drew 3500 golfers last year despite horrendous weather. They braved the elements to see exhibits by leading manufacturers, courses, resort destinations, and others. There were also nearly continuous free lessons, demonstrations, and dozens of participatory exhibits. The demo area saw a constant stream of players trying out the latest equipment.

This year's event was moved back a week so it coincides with the opening of the Westchester County Courses. Westchester County Parks, which runs six daily fee courses here, is a sponsor of the show. The show also changed names from Lower Hudson Golf Show to The Journal News Golf Show to better brand the Journal News which has been the major sponsor since 2005.

If you'd like more information on exhibiting in the show, contact John Zanzarella at JAZMC@aol.com.

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

Friday, September 17, 2010

Westchester Doubles Down On Golf Honors

Westchester County is not only home to more great golf courses than anyplace I know, it's also home to some of the best club pros the game has ever seen. Nothing says that more than the two national awards recently announced by The PGA of America.  John Kennedy, Jr., Director of Golf at Westchester Country Club in Harrison, has been given the 2010 Horton Smith Award, which recognizes individuals for their outstanding contributions to PGA education. Nelson Long, Head Professional at Century Country Club in Purchase, received the 2010 Bill Strausbaugh Award in honor of his long-time mentoring of other PGA professionals and his service to the community. Both men will receive their honors at The PGA of America Awards Ceremony, Jan. 27, 2011, in Orlando, FL.

John Kennedy, Jr.

Kennedy, 59 and a native of Fairfield, CT, has spent 20 years at Westchester Country Club. He graduated from Fairfield University in 1972 and turned professional that year. He was elected to PGA membership in 1976, when he was an assistant professional at Sleepy Hollow Country Club in Scarborough, N.Y. He is the third member of the Metropolitan PGA Section to be named a recipient of the Horton Smith Award, which honors individuals for outstanding contributions to PGA Education.

In 1980, Kennedy was named PGA director of golf at Cold Spring Country Club in Huntington, N.Y., and served until 1990, before accepting his current position. He is a two-time Metropolitan PGA Merchandiser of the Year award recipient (1983, '91); was the 1997 Section PGA Professional of the Year; the Section 2005 Bill Strausbaugh Award winner; and is a three-time Section Horton Smith Award recipient (1985, '88 and 2009).

Kennedy had a rare link in his work at Westchester to one of the legendary PGA Professionals of all time, Harry "Lighthorse" Cooper, who before his death in 2000 served as an instructor at the club.

A mark of Kennedy's influence on the professional capabilities of his staff is that fifteen of his former assistants have gone on to PGA head professional positions. Among the many education programs he has supported include serving as a consultant to the Bhutan Junior Golf Association, which offers three- and six-month internships for aspiring PGA Professionals to help grow the game in the tiny Himalayan country bordered by India and China.

Introduced to golf through his father, Kennedy first caddied at age 12 at Brooklawn Country Club in Bridgeport, Conn. As a student at Fairfield Prep High School, Kennedy and two close friends practiced and learned the game at Fairchild Wheeler Golf Course, three miles from his home.

Nelson Long

Nelson Long attended Virginia Tech and distinguished his playing career by winning the 1972 Virginia PGA Open as an amateur. He also won the 1973 Virginia State Intercollegiate Championship before turning professional following graduation that year. He is the son of the late PGA Professional, Nelson Long Sr., who spent 40 years at The Homestead's Old Course in Hot Springs, VA.

Long, 59, served his apprenticeship working for his father at The Homestead, and in the spring of 1974 arrived at Century Country Club to serve under PGA Professional Charles Beverage, a two-time Section Horton Smith Award recipient. Following the untimely death of Beverage, Long became the PGA head professional at Century Country Club. He would go on to develop a strong relationship within his club and Section, and earn the nickname, "Uncle Nel," which was fostered by his assistants and former members. He is the second Metropolitan PGA member to receive the national Bill Strausbaugh Award.

Long was the recipient of the Metropolitan PGA 1999 Teacher of the Year Award; 2005 Horton Smith Award; and 2010 Bill Strausbaugh Award.

Long has been an ongoing supporter of the Westchester Caddie Scholarship Fund, the Metropolitan PGA Junior Golf Association, Women-at-Risk and the Columbian Presbyterian Hospital program to aid women with breast cancer. At Century Country Club, he guided the formation of a pro-am fundraiser in 1992 that has spread to multiple area clubs, and has raised millions in research funds to benefit the Dystonia and Parkinson Foundations.

For the past 28 winters, Long has also served as golf director at Tryall Club, while teaming with the Jamaican Tourist Board to aid that nation's tourism efforts. In 1988, Long founded the Tryall Golf School, where he attracted many of America's premier teaching professionals.

Long's tenure at Century Country Club has brought another distinction: He is the only PGA Professional to have mentored three assistants who went on to win PGA Professional National Championships – John Gentile, Darrell Kestner and Ron McDougal. A fourth Century Country Club assistant, Gary Ostrega, was national runner-up in 1984. Two of his current assistants, Frank Bensel and CJ Reeves, are potent competitors today.

I can personally attest to Nelson's prowess as a teacher, too.  He's given me many a lesson about keeping my swing on plane and using an aggressive swing for short trouble shots around the green.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I'm Waiting For My Review Copy

A truly remarkable golf book was released today, but you probably won't find a copy on the discount table at your neighborhood Barnes & Noble. It's “The Golf Links of Scotland,” an ultra-deluxe, hand-tooled leather-bound tome that is the ultimate hole-by-hole tour--at least by price--of the venerable Old Course at St. Andrews as well as a tribute to 18 other top Scottish seaside links. Noted golf photographer and St. Andrews resident Iain Macfarlane Lowe joined forces with golf writer/editor extraordinaire George Peper to produce a limited edition collector’s volume that is now on sale for a mere $4,600. Hurry, though, the price goes up January 1.

Only 150 copies of “The Golf Links of Scotland” will be printed with 145 made available for purchase. In pre-release publicity, it's said, "The artistic blend of Lowe’s exquisite photography with Peper’s elegant and insightful prose transports the reader into an intimate appreciation of the character and nuances of every hole on the Old Course." I haven't received a review copy for some reason, so I can't attest to that, but I'll take their word for it. Novel and informative transparent overlays on aerial shots also provide useful play lines and yardages for all 18 holes and combined with the wisdom of “local knowledge” professional tips serve as a valuable guide to negotiate the course. How well you hit the ball there is up to you.

“The Golf Links of Scotland,” is two books in one. Book One devotes 130 pages to the Old Course while Book Two visits 18 other Scottish coastline gems in the span of 170 pages of descriptive text, playing tips and stunning photography. The highlighted links include: Royal Troon, Royal Dornoch, Carnoustie, Turnberry, Prestwick, Muirfield, Royal Aberdeen, North Berwick and Kingsbarns.

As a further personalized touch to the 145 editions, Lowe has signed and numbered an exclusive, unpublished photograph printed on highest quality fine art paper and bound into each book, making it suitable for removal and framing. “The Golf Links of Scotland” is handsomely presented in a hand-made clamshell case. The oversized book’s leather binding is graced with 23-carat gold leaf inlay that includes four thistles on the cover corners. Lowe, acclaimed as St. Andrews’ “official” golf photographer, spent four years capturing the most majestic shots of the courses represented. Additionally, four spectacular double-gatefolds (50” x 12”) are inserted to give the reader an even closer look at some of these renowned courses.

“The Golf Links of Scotland” costs more than a trip to the Old Course, but it certainly would make an exceptional gift for the historian or avid golf collector. To order your copy, contact Iain Lowe at iain@golflinksofscotland.com or for more information and sample pages visit www.golflinksofscotland.com.

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

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Shennecossett: Golf Elemental

Shennecossett First HoleWhen you strip away all the the folderol, golf nourishes the soul. Perfect emerald green fairways? Sinful! Carts with GPS? Too much information, not enough cardio! Bunkers built with railroad ties? Put those next to the windmill and clown's mouth, please! Give me good, true greens and hard, fast fairways and I'm happy regardless of the score that goes on my card. Add a layout well-designed by Donald Ross and greens fees suitable for a less-than-millionaire, and you have everything necessary to make life worth living. The place where this perfection comes together? Shennecossett Golf Course in Groton, CT. It's a place for golf the way it's meant to be played.

Shenny is a grand old track (the club was founded in 1898) that plays as much like a links course as any you'll find in this country. It also has no frills. You can ride a cart, but that's a waste of fossil fuels since the course is on gently rolling seaside terrain. It's laid out in an old style, too, where most tee boxes are right next to the previous greens. Fairways are hard so you get plenty of roll, but dotted with shaggy bunkers to keep life interesting. Greens have exciting contours and many are accessible to a bump and run, which adds a welcome option to your game. Like any good links course, Shenny also uses the wind off the water to full advantage.

The course even strips away another of golf's non-essentials, yardage markers on every sprinkler head. In fact, all you'll find at Shenny are red, white, and blue markers in the middle of the fairways for 100, 150, and 200 yards. If you can't estimate a distance accurate enough for your game from those, you're either a PGA pro or (more likely) vastly overrating your own abilities.

One of the marks of a great course in my not-so-humble opinion is the variety of holes in the layout. Shennecossett passes that test with flying colors. I used a different club on each of the one-shotters, for example, since the par threes measure 208 (uphill), 175 (level), 125 (uphill), and 195 (downhill). There's a long five par (565) but two reachable ones (490 and 500). About half of the four pars are over 400 yards, the rest under. All told, the course measures 6562 from the blue tees--with enough fescue rough, fairway bunkering, and inconveniently-placed mounds and swales to keep you on your toes.

The real round-wreckers are the Donald Ross greens. I can personally attest that the turtle-backs on the fourth hole (the first par three you face--208 uphill) and fourteenth hole (an otherwise-benign 418-yard par four) will repel anything except a perfect approach. In fact, I managed to putt off the 14th green and pitched back and forth over the fourth an embarrassing number of times.

The finest stretch of holes at Shennecossett are the three by the sea added in the nineties in a land swap with a nearby Pfizer plant. The world may have gotten more Viagra as a result of the deal, but the real gain was by golfers who get to play the 15th, 16th, and 17th holes along the water.

When you walk the links at Shenny, you're treading in the footsteps of the greatest in the game. Francis Ouimet, Bobby Jones, Tommy Armour, Walter Hagen, and Harry Vardon all played matches there. You can read more about them and the rest of the club's very interesting history on the website.

One final note: Shenny may be the best golf value on the East Coast. Weekend, non-resident (the course is owned by the town) greens fees are only $47--and that's the highest number on the rate card. Talk about golf the way it ought to be!

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

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Need More Golfers? Appeal To Women!

As the golf industry stagnates, a recent research study emphatically says that appealing to women is a prudent path to the economic health and well being of the game. Moreover, the study reveals that the majority of those women surveyed said they would pay a premium price to play their “ultimate” facility.

Women find the game costs too much, takes too long to play and is too difficult, according to “The Right Invitation,” a comprehensive research study to guide the golf industry to meaningfully increase women’s golf participation and satisfaction. The study was funded by the Little Family Foundation and conducted for the National Golf Course Owners Association.
“The golf industry needs customers and the obvious group to pursue is women,” the study noted. “There is a great economic opportunity for the golf industry to attract and keep a large underrepresented and underserved portion of the golfing public.”
The Little Family Foundation focused on women in their study because
“they are underrepresented in the golfing public, have discretionary money to spend and often will make the decisions on how family leisure time is spent.”
Arthur Little and his wife, Jann Leeming, learned first-hand about how to attract women (and families) at Province Lake Golf, the course they owned from 1996 to 2005 in Parsonfield, Maine.

As a result of the study, carried out by Jon Last of New York-based Sports & Leisure Research Group, Little and Leeming will be producing a “how-to” guide for golf facilities to follow if they hope to achieve economic success with women. They've also established a new web site, www.golfwithwomen.com, to educate the golf industry on "best practices" for increasing play and enhancing revenue from women and families.

Current players as well as lapsed players were interviewed for the study. Women were asked to detail their “ultimate” golf facility and experience, and it was determined that they would pay an 8 to 15 percent premium once they found a place matching that description.

But the study also found that there were large gaps in the perceived delivery of benefits between women players and facility operators. Specific examples of how the perceptions of women differed from the golf operators who believe their facility is “women-friendly” include:

• Almost one-third of golf facilities are currently charging higher fees than the $50 women expect to pay even for an “ultimate” facility.
• Most facilities have multiple sets of tees, although those that describe their facilities as “woman-friendly” have no more sets than facilities in general.
• While fewer than one quarter of golf facility customers are women, nearly all facilities consider women important to their financial success and to the overall environment at their facility. Yet only two-thirds of facilities consider themselves as “women-friendly” and only a very few of them provide the features that women want in a golf facility.

In a surprising development, the study found the game’s difficulty did not rank as highly by women as the inability to reach greens in regulation, which is a result of limited tee positioning.

According to the study,
“It is critical to remove the intimidation factor by providing tees at the proper yardages for the full range of swing speeds. Properly designed sets of tees reduce round times and makes the sport much less difficult and more enjoyable.”
The study concluded this could be a make-or-break issue for facilities if they expect women to return. For example, for an average woman golfer with a 65 mph swing speed (140-yard drive) the optimal tee yardage is 4,200 to 4,500 yards, and for women with 75 mph swing speeds (165- to 170-yard drive) the best total yardage is 4,800 to 5,100 yards.

Beyond tee positioning, other key issues uncovered by the study include:

• Courses need to be more flexible in providing play options that address both time and cost, such as nine-hole rates, pay-by-the-hole and low junior fees that are part of a family play plan.
• Fifty percent of women who no longer play said if they would continue with the game if they had steady and enjoyable playing partners.
• Childcare must be provided at a reasonable cost, a fact that has been duly recognized by the ski industry for many years.
• Facilities must select personnel, especially in their pro shops, that are receptive to and completely supportive of the issues that are of greatest importance to women. Staff members who are not true believers, the study says, can and will undermine all of the positive programs that a facility adopts.

The complete 84-page study, as well as summaries, can be found by visiting www.golfwithwomen.com. It makes for interesting reading.

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

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Tennis Added To Golf Classic For Children's Museum

I don't often write about tennis (come to think about it, change that to never), but the Westchester Children's Museum has added a tennis event to it's fourth annual golf fundraiser at Quaker Ridge GC in Scarsdale, NY. Headlining the event will be former tennis world champion Jim Courier, who won four Grand Slam singles titles, two at the French Open and two at the Australian Open, during his career. He reached the finals of all four major championships and captured a total of 23 singles titles and six doubles titles, spending 58 weeks ranked as the World No. 1 in 1992 and 1993. He was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2005.

This may be the first year for the tennis event, but it's the fourth for golf. Money raised will support The Westchester Children’s Museum, now under construction at Rye Playland and slated for a soft opening in 2011. The entire project is privately funded, so support for events like this one on September 20 is crucial to its success.

For more information or to purchase tickets to the Tennis Outing, visit www.discoverwcm.org/events or call (914) 421-5050. For Tickets and sponsorship information about the Golf Outing, call The Sports Alliance at 914-941-3366 or information@thesportsalliance.com.

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

Monday, August 23, 2010

Rules Knock Another Pro Out Of Contention

The rules of golf jumped up and bit another pro in the worst possible place again this weekend when Juli Inkster was disqualified from the LPGA Safeway Classic for using a weighted training aid during her round. The 50-year-old Hall of Famer had suffered through a thirty minute wait on the tenth hole at Ghost Creek at Pumpkin Ridge and slipped a "donut" on her nine iron to loosen up before she hit her tee shot.

NO CAN DO! According to LPGA Director of Tournament Competitions Sue Witters, a TV viewer noticed the infraction and contacted tournament officials. The LPGA checked with the USGA to make sure, but they found no wiggle room so Inkster was told of the DQ when she walked off the course after finishing the round.

Inkster left in a hurry, but later issued a terse statement:
"I had a 30-minute wait and I needed to loosen up," she said. "It had no effect on my game whatsoever, but it is what it is. I'm very disappointed."
Ralph Wimbish of the NY Post provides a few more incidents when tournament outcomes--not to mention golfers' brainwaves--were altered by the rules:
Roberto De Vicenzo — At the 1968 Masters, the Argentinian star carded a birdie 3 on the 17th hole but wrote down a 4 on his scorecard. Because he had signed his scorecard, he did not get into a playoff with Bob Goalby and was left muttering, "What a stupid I am."

Ian Woosnam — At the 2001 British Open, Woosy was in contention until he discovered an extra driver, a 15th club, in his golf bag. Once he realized he had violated Rule 4-4a/6, he gave himself a two-shot penalty, yelled at his caddie and threw the extra driver into a tree.

Craig Stadler — At the 1987 Andy Williams (San Diego) Open, Stadler used a towel to kneel on as he hit a shot from underneth a tree. Several TV viewers phoned NBC to say the Walrus had violated Rule 13-3 for building a stance. Stadler had finished second, but his failure to take a two-shot penalty resulted in a DQ and cost him $37,333 in prize money.

Paul Azinger — At the 1991 Doral Ryder Open, he was on the 18th hole when took his stance in a water hazard and used his left foot to kick away several rocks. A TV viewer from Colarado called the PGA Tour and said Azinger had violated Rule 13-4, subsection 3. Azinger, who shot a 69, was DQ’d for failing to assess a two-shot penalty.

Lee Janzen — At the 1998 NEC World Series of Golf, Janzen hung a putt on the lip of the cup and watched for more than the allotted 10 seconds before it dropped into the cup, a violation of Rule 16-2. His failure to take a 4 instead of 3 resulted in a DQ.

Bobby Jones — At the first round of the 1925 U.S. Open, Jones said his ball moved slightly just before he hit a shot of the rough, a violation of Rule 18-1. He called a one-shot penalty on himself and eventually lost a 36-hole playoff to Willie Macfarlane.

Michelle Wie — She’s been DQ’d for taking an improper drop in her pro debut, penalized at the 2006 British Open for grounding her club in a bunker and DQ’d from the 2008 State Farm when she failed to sign her scorecard. She was in second place when she was DQ’d.
Ah those pesky rules of golf.

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

Monday, August 16, 2010

Labritz Wins Club Pro Title At PGA Championship

Let's hear a hearty "Huzzah!" for Rob Labritz, Director of Golf At GlenArbor Golf Club in Bedford and low-scoring club professional at the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. Labritz shared the awards spotlight with Martin Kaymer, the rising European PGA Tour star who won the Wanamaker Trophy.

Last year's low-scoring club pro was also from Westchester, Greg Bisconti, an assistant professional at St. Andrew's in Hastings.

Labritz has been blogging about his experience at the tournament at the NY Post with Ralph Wimbish. Yesterday, he announced he's taking the big plunge this year and heading for Q School in November. His performance at Whistling Straits convinced him he's ready to take his shot on tour.

And a fine performance it was. "HUZZAH!"

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

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Rob Runs Into A Round-Wrecker

We've all had it happen to us. Rob Labritz, the only club pro to make the cut at the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, had an excellent third round going for 17 holes. Then a quadruple bogey jumped up and bit him.

You can read the details of how one of Pete Dye's 1,000 bunkers snagged Labritz's approach shot on the 446-yard par-four ninth hole (his 18th of the round since he started on the back nine) at the blog he's writing with Ralph Wimbish at the NY Post. But we've all had it happen to us...an awkward stance, a bad lie, a little extra adrenaline and the next thing you know your scorecard has a blot on it.

Up until that point, Labritz was cruising. He'd started the round at even par, then scored a birdie on the first hole. Here's some video of the precise second shot that set up the tweeter that put him under par for the tournament.

He poured in this putt for another bird on the 12th hole.

Labritz added yet a another circled number at the 569-yard par-five 16th hole. He dropped a couple of shots in the early going on the back nine, but got one back with another kick-in birdie at the 507-yard par-four 8th hole, his 17th of the day. All together, a much-more-than-respectable round that shows Labritz, the Director of Golf at Bedford's GlenArbor Golf Club, can keep pace with the best.

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

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Labritz Scores At PGA Using Positive Mindset

Rob Labritz, Director of Golf at Bedford's GlenArbor and one of 20 club pros competing in the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, went to bed last night feeling mighty good about his chances for moving up the leaderboard. He told Ralph Wimbish of the NY Post that he felt great calm after finishing the first nine holes of his delayed second round.

Labritz had reason to feel good; he scored two birdies and parred the treacherous 18th hole (his ninth for the day) that had put him over par for the first round. With that out of the way, he went to the course this morning to finish the second round expecting much lighter winds and facing the much easier front nine.

A birdie on the second hole, a 593-yard par 5, gave Labritz a one-under 71 for the round and puts him at even par for the tournament. While there are still players on the course finishing their second rounds as of this writing, that should put Labritz well inside the cut line. We'll be watching (and rooting) this afternoon.

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

Friday, August 13, 2010

Sweet Swing at Whistling Straits

Rob Labritz had a fine first round at the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. The Director of Golf at Bedford's GlenArbor Golf Club shot a one-over 73 in a round that included four birdies on the front nine. He was one under going into the final hole, the treacherous 500-yard par-four 18th, which he told the NY Post's Ralph Wimbish has been his nemesis in the practice rounds.

Here's video of Labritz's tee shot at the 148-yard par-three 12th hole, which he safely two-putted for a par.

For the inside scoop on Labritz's experience at the PGA Championship, visit the blog he's writing for the NY Post with Ralph Wimbish.

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

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Buddy Trip? Try Whistling Straits

Enchanted by the TV coverage of Whistling Straits? Consider it as a destination for a buddy trip.

First you fly to Milwaukee. Milwaukee? You bet. The land of polka fests and cheeseheads also happens to be the home of the Midwest’s only AAA Five-Diamond resort and the site of the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. When they played it there in 2004, you may recall, Vijay Singh won his third career major. The Straits course, which opened in 1998, is two miles of rugged Lake Michigan shoreline sculpted into brutal, windswept links by golf architecture’s bad boy Pete Dye.

At the same complex and just inland from the Straits Course, Dye built the deceivingly tranquil Irish Course, where the grassland and dunes are crossed by four meandering streams. There’s also a flock of Blackfaced sheep complete with bells, which makes for an other-worldly experience when they trot between the pot bunkers as you’re aiming your tee shot. Kohler also offers two slightly more conventional courses at nearby Blackwolf Run, also Pete Dye designs. All the courses—-and everything else in town—-are operated by Destination Kohler, a division of the well-known plumbing fixture company.

There are basically two places to stay in Kohler, a quaint, carefully manicured company town where stately elms line the streets and even the bricks in the old factories look scrupulously clean. The AAA Five-Diamond facility is the distinguished American Club, where every room features a Kohler whirlpool bath (it is a plumbing fixture company), down comforters, and memorabilia honoring famous Americans. Less posh but still comfortable is the Inn on Woodlake, a 121-room hotel overlooking an eleven-acre lake with private beach and its own putting green. The tiny village also offers ten places to dine, including the Whistling Straits Restaurant in the stone clubhouse overlooking Lake Michigan, which received the 2005 Wine Spectator's Award of Excellence.

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

Inside The Ropes At The PGA Championship With Rob Labritz

Only 20 club pros made it to the PGA Championship that starts today at Whistling Straits--Rob Labritz from GlenArbor is one of them. He's chronicling his experience with the help of Ralph Wimbish in a blog for the NY Post.

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

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Eye-Popping Greens At Forsgate

Forsgate Banks Course #15
Scottish immigrant John Forster made many great decisions in his life. He founded Crum & Forster Insurance Company and made a boatload of money. He used some of it to buy 50 bucolic acres of farmland in central New Jersey and developed a dairy farm where he and his family and friends could escape the daily grind of Manhattan. The smartest thing he ever did, though, was buy some additional land and turn that farm into a challenging golf course designed by golf architect Charles Banks. Today, the Banks course is the gem of Forsgate Country Club, a private, non-equity club in Monroe Township, N.J.

The architect, known as "Steam Shovel" Banks due to his fondness for that particular piece of earth-moving equipment, created some of the most dramatic green complexes in the game for Forster's course. Sam Snead said in Golf Magazine that the Banks Course had "the most eye-popping greens" he had ever seen. The course has been upgraded many times since it opened in 1931, but the greens and their protective bunkers, swales, moguls, and fescue rough remain true to Banks' imaginative vision.

The course isn't long, 6,844 yards from the tips with a par of 71, but each hole is unique, making for a fascinating round of golf. Banks drew on his and Forster's favorite holes from other courses they had played around the world. Banks was also an associate of C.B. Macdonald and Seth Raynor, so many of their trademarks can be found on the course as well. The second hole, for example, is a 420-yard par 4 modeled after the 15th hole at Macdonald's National Golf Links while the fifth hole, "Punchbowl," a 417-yard par four, is a copy of the ninth hole at Hoylake, a fixture on many Banks, Raynor, and Macdonald courses.

The greens on Forsgate's Banks course are what you'll revisit in your dreams, though. I don't believe I have ever seen so many different ways to use tiers, terraces, ridges, humps, hog backs, false fronts, and other severe contours. While many courses have difficult putting surfaces, few of them have greens large enough to enable multiple--and fair--pin positions.

The par threes are truly unforgettable. The 216-yard third hole has a healthy ridge that effectively cuts the target area in half and forces you to challenge the deep bunkers on either side of the green to get close to the pin off the tee. Hole #7 is a true Redan and a real challenge at 216 yards.

Forsgate Banks Course #12Number 12 is a manageable 163 yards to a green completely surrounded by bunkers. It's called "Horseshoe" because the green incorporates a horseshoe-shaped ridge that circles the putting surface. The 17th hole is patterned after Willie Dunn's famous par three at Biarritz, France. This one features a long, narrow green divided in two parts by a chest-deep swale. It also plays 239 yards, so par is truly an accomplishment.

Forsgate is an RDC Golf Group property. The club also has a traditional course, the 6,625-yard Palmer Course, as well as family-friendly amenities like a fitness facility, aquatic center, tennis, and excellent dining options.

The practice facility and putting green are first-rate and you won't find a friendlier, more knowledgeable staff of golf professionals. They are led by Director of Golf Carolyn McKenzie Andrews. Also on staff are head pro Scott Barnaby and former PGA Tour and Nationwide player Bobby Gage.

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

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Newsworthy In Wales

Writers love feedback (with the exception of nasty book reviews), so I got a big kick out of this newspaper article from the Tenby Observer:
Tenby Golf Club has proved a big hit in America.
An American journalist, Dave Donelson, recently wrote an article for the Westchester Magazine titled ‘Where Dragons Play, the 2010 Ryder Cup shines a spotlight on Wales - the next great golf destination’.
After playing the Twenty Ten Course at Celtic Manor Resort and Royal Porthcawl, the journalist says his favourite round was at Tenby.
“Today’s Tenby is a fascinating seaside course full of quirky challenges,” wrote Mr. Donelson, who also praised St. Brides Hotel, Saundersfoot, where he stayed.
The article was brought to the attention of Tenby Town Council by Clr. David Morgan, who said there had been American visitors at the golf club this week who had read about the course in the article!
I'll be blogging here about my trip to Wales in September as the Ryder Cup approaches.

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

Friday, July 9, 2010

Nanette Hill Marks First Professional Win

Pelham native Nannette Hill won for the first time on the Duramed Futures Tour at the City of Hammond Classic in Hammond, Indiana.

Hill took home a champion's check of $15,400, outlasting the rest of the field in gusting winds for a two-shot victory. She posted rounds of 70-68-71 for a 7-under total of 209 at Lost Marsh Golf Course, at the fifth annual event presented by Horseshoe Casino Hammond.

The final round on the wind-blown, 6,219-yard course had as much to do with attitude, tenacity and patience as it did with technique. Early in the morning, play was halted for nearly three hours as a vicious thunderstorm ripped through the region, dumping rain and producing heavy lightning. But while players were forced to sit out the storm, Hill was in the clubhouse debating with her peers about "Team Edward" or "Team Jacob" in the popular "Twilight" series. During the storm delay, she even took a poll of those in the room to settle the debate, asking for a show of hands.

The win vaulted her from 50th to 14th on the money list for the Duramed Futures Tour.

No one was prouder of the win than Ken Wang, owner of Pound Ridge Golf Course, who agreed to sponsor Hill this spring.
“Nannette is one of the most competitive golfers to come out of this area, and that she battled the elements to earn her first victory is a testament to that spirit,” says Pound Ridge Golf Club owner Ken Wang. “We congratulate her on this outstanding achievement and wish her continued success in all her endeavors.”
Hill wears the Pound Ridge Golf Club logo on her hat, shirt, golf bag and umbrella while competing on tour.

Hill has done well since joining the Duramed Futures Tour this year. She's made the cut in nine of eleven events so far.

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

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Westchester Native Adds Westchester Sponsor at US Women's Open

When Meaghan Francella tees it up today in the US Women's Open, she'll be sporting the logo of a new sponsor, Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway. The sponsorship is a natural for the Port Chester, NY, native, who grew up just a few miles away from the trotter track that has become one of the most popular gaming destinations in the Northeast.
"This is our first step into the pro athlete sponsorship world, and just in time for the U.S. Open,” said the casino’s Clare Galterio. “This is a great way for us to support a local athlete who has already had great success. Hopefully, it’s our foot in door in the sponsorship area for the casino."
Francella is a good young player to represent the casino given her winning record since turning pro in 2006. The 28-year-old captured the MasterCard Classis in 2007 when she defeated Annika Sorenstam in a sudden-death four-hole playoff for her first career win on the LPGA Tour. She also won the Lakeland Duramed Futures Classic in 2006. She started this year with a spectacular victory in the HSBC LPGA Brasil Cup, a non-LPGA Tour event.

The Empire City logo will be on the side of Francella's cap at Oakmont, where she competes in a field of 156 professionals and amateurs before an expected 125,000 spectators. Pittsburgh's Oakmont has been been the site of 15 USGA Championships. The event will be carried live on ESPN2 and NBC.

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

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

New Owners Bring Brynwood To Life

What a difference good management makes. The new owners at Brynwood Golf and Country Club in Armonk, NY, have taken a ragged, under-developed golf course (formerly the Canyon Club) and turned it into a fine example of the coming thing in club operation. As lead partner Jeff Mendel says, "Brynwood is not your father's country club."

Brynwood Golf & Country Club
Indeed it's not. The new owners originally wanted to name the club "Bushwood" in honor of the iconic setting for Caddyshack, but their lawyers pointed out that might cause some legal problems. To compensate, Mendell plans to play the movie on a continuous loop on a wall-mounted flat screen in the newly-renovated pro shop. That should give you some idea of just what kind of club this is going to be. A new fitness center, rock and hip-hop instead of elevator music on the sound system, and a gigantic fire pit for after-dark gatherings are just a few of the new features added by the new owners. The idea is to offer members a casual, relaxed, family-centric club experience. It's meant to be affordable, too, with non-equity memberships as low as $7500 per year and, for now at least, no initiation fee.

There's tennis, a pool, and other amenities, but the core of the experience is golf, of course. The new owners have made great progress in that regard already, having brought in Troon Golf to manage the facility and conducted initial interviews with several leading golf architects with an eye toward a major upgrade. Right now, the golf course is a 6,348 yard par 70 track with several excellent holes, a few adequate ones, and a couple that should probably be dynamited. Mendell and his partners are seriously committed to turning it into a course that can compete with the best in the metro market, however, and have started the process by whipping the course into near-perfect shape. The day I played, greens were running at a 12 on the Stimp and there wasn't a blade of grass out of place from tee to green.

There's a lot of potential in the property, which is notable for its elevation changes and spectacular views. The second hole, for example, is a 363-yard dog leg right that would be a forgettable par four if it weren't for the perfectly-framed view of the green set next to a lake that greets you as you make the turn down the fairway after your tee shot. It's worth stopping to enjoy before you proceed to hit your approach.

For the most part, there's little "back and forth" routing and fairways are inviting without being overly generous. The green complexes are actually pretty good, with well-planned bunkering protecting mostly elevated putting surfaces with plenty of contours and interesting pin position possibilities. When they are at speed, it's essential that you place your approach shot below the hole for any chance at making a putt. Mendell expects the redesign to lengthen the course to 6,800 yards. There's a good possiblity that more water will be brought into play on several holes and one of the five par-threes will probably become a short par four.

Brynwood's current layout has some challenging holes. The number one handicap hole is the fifth, a 441-yard dog leg right. You hit from an elevated tee down to a fairway that slopes to the left, but a good drive leaves a mid- to long-iron back up to an elevated green. The eighth hole is a 216-yard uphill par three. Plenty of players hit three-woods or even drivers to get up the hill to the rolling green that's guarded by two deep bunkers.

Brynwood has excellent potential. With new ownership dedicated to achieving it fully, Westchester is about to become home to yet another fine place to play the great game.

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

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Labritz Wins Spot In Major Field

Rob Labritz won a spot in the PGA Championship with a never-quit approach to the PGA Professional National Championship in French Lick, Indiana, this week. After a rocky first round of 75, he finished 72, 72, 70, to tie for 15th and secure his slot in the season's last major, the PGA Championship to be played at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisconsin. His last nine holes made the difference. After an opening 37 on the Pete Dye Course at French Lick, he carded four birdies on the back to surge into the top twenty.

Labritz, the Director of Golf at Bedford's GlenArbor Golf Club, is one of 20 club pros who will compete against the PGA Tour's top players at Whistling Straits August 9-15. Joining him from my neighborhood will be Danny Balin from Burning Tree in Greenwich, CT. Other players of note from the Met Section who made their mark in the tournament include Greg Bisconti from St. Andrews in Hastings (T-34) and Frank Bensel from Century (T-66). Keith Dicciani and Craig Thomas (both Metropolis), John Guyton (Trump National Briarcliff), and Charles Meola (Mohansic) all competed as well.

Notable among Labritz's tournament wins is the 2008 NY State Open and the 2006 NY State PGA Championship.

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