Monday, December 14, 2009

Tiger troubles

I've tried to stay away from opining about Tiger Woods because I think this is a non-story - or at most, a one-cycle story. And I know it might be unpopular to say that my opinion about Tiger Woods hasn't changed, but it hasn't.

Don't get me wrong. I don't condone infidelity. Tiger Woods messed up royally with his numerous affairs after he was married and started a family. He has admitted all this, and he's taking a break from professional golf in an effort to save his marriage. But if you believe some news reports, the divorce is inevitable, and the couple will split after the holidays.

I say good luck. I hope Tiger and Elin and the two kids come out of this as unscathed as possible. Again, I'm not calling for Tiger's head like a lot of people I've talked to.

And I think it's because I've never held Woods up as my role model for family values. When making decisions about life, family or children, I never once thought to myself, "I wonder what Tiger would do" or "What did Woods teach me about life?"

No, I looked - and still look - to Tiger Woods as a golfer, pure and simple. He's one of my go-to guys for golf, not for fidelity and faithfulness.

And it's not like he held himself up as some great role model. If you really watched his actions on the golf course, you'd know that he curses loudly and sometimes throws clubs. He's doesn't always display a modicum of decorum that many of you would like to believe.

I think there's probably two kinds of people with opinions about the Woods scandal - those who look at him as a golfer and those who look at him as a celebrity. And I believe a recent poll bears this out.

Most golf fans still have a positive opinion of Woods, while overall public opinion has dropped dramatically since news of the affairs came to light. And that's how I view him - as a golfer.

I certainly can understand some of the outrage directed at Woods. I'm boycotting the NFL because of the Michael Vick, the dog-killer.

But Woods didn't take a life. He cheated, and he got caught. But no matter how much he sucks because of his lack of faithfulness to his wife and children, he's still the No. 1 golfer in the world.

That will only change on the golf course - not in the bedroom or the car or wherever else he's had sex.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Women and golf

I had an interesting phone conversation the other day with Nisha Sadekar. She runs Play Golf Designs, a company that provides female professional golfers for events across the country. Charity events, corporate outings, private tournaments, etc.

I'm trying to pitch this as part of a story idea, and I wanted to get some information about what she does and what golfers could expect if they contract with her company.

All of her golfers are female, and most are on the Futures Tour, which is the female equivalent of the Nationwide Tour. Several have been on the Golf Channel's Big Break, and there are a couple of LPGA Tour players.

I think it's a great idea. In fact, I tried to set something up for my recent family reunion, but I couldn't draw enough interest.

But apparently, there are critics of what Nisha and her roster of female golfers do.

During our conversation, a Time article came up, and Nisha took umbrage with some of the things in the piece - particularly this part: "At first glance, it's easy to wonder if the site is advertising some kind of golf-escort service."

Nisha counters that it's about golf and fashion, and combining the two is natural in the women's world.

Now I know I have a man's perspective, and I'm definitely on Nisha's side. Why can't a woman be fashionable on the golf course while she's crushing 270-yard drives off the tee? I know that if I was at an Play Golf Designs event, and one of the pros was wearing the latest from whoever, I would be thinking more about her short game instead of her short skirt.

Maybe I have a golfer's perspective instead of a man's perspective.

The point is that no one says anything when guys like Camilo Villegas wears skin-tight golf shirts or Adam Scott makes Golf Channel's sexiest golfers list. Actually, Villegas made it, too. Double standard?

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for good-looking women on the golf course. But I don't think a woman diminishes herself by dressing a certain way if she can out-drive, out-chip and out-putt a man.

At the end of the day, it's still about golf.

Photos: Aree Song, top, and Ashley Prange, are two of the two dozen or so golfers on the Play Golf Designs roster.
Courtesy of LPGA

Friday, October 16, 2009

Tip of the week - putting drills

Teaching professional Bryan Bush talks about putting drills, saying work on the green is the most important part of your golf game.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Florida trip

I'm back. I was fortunate enough to spend a week in Florida, and I played four great courses while I was there.

  • Slammer & Squire at World Golf Village
  • The King and the Bear at World Golf Village
  • Old Palms Golf Club in Palm Beach Gardens
  • PGA National Champion course in Palm Beach Gardens
I was trying to decide which was my favorite, but they're all so different, it was a little difficult to come up with a definitive answer.

Slammer & Squire, named for Sam Snead and Gene Sarazen, who consulted with course architect Bobby Weed, was a good first stop for me. Wide open fairways, five sets of tee boxes and some pretty neat par 3s, the Slammer & Squire got me off to good start on my trip. The course features plenty of views of the woodlands, and on the back nine, the World Golf Hall of Fame is visible throughout. My score was 97.

The King and the Bear was named for legends Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, the only course co-designed by these two superstars in the golf world. It's a little more difficult that the Slammer & Squire, thanks to plenty of water hazards. I won't say I had to carry water on every hole, but it seemed that way. My score was 99.

Overall, the World Golf Village was impressive, with impeccable customer service and chilled apples on holes 1 and 10 on both courses. Nice touch.

Old Palms Golf Club is a private course in Palm Beach Gardens. My cousin, Jeff Neal, arranged for a round of golf there. Jeff is the director of golf for the Puntacana Resort and Club in the Dominican Republic.

Old Palms' turf is Paspalum, a eco-friendly grass that has high salinity tolerance, drought resistance and low fertilizer requirements. It's used in a lot of courses in tropical regions. My front nine at Old Palms was pretty good for me - a 46, which included a par on the No. 1 handicap hole, the 525-yard par 5 No. 4, and a chip-in birdie from behind the green on hole 5. We also let Camilo Villegas and his father Fernando play through on No. 9, but not before they stopped off for a quick picture with my group. Pretty cool. But then I imploded on the back nine and ended my round with a 103.

My last round was at PGA National Champion course where they hold the Honda Classic. It was also the first Neal Family Reunion Invitational. The teams:

  • Tas Sipowski and J. Eric Eckard
  • Jeff Neal and Bill Neal
  • Ty Neal and Mark Neal
Tas started us off with a nice start, with birdies on five of the first six holes. I contributed with a net eagle on No. 6, thanks to a par and two strokes with my handicap. On the Bear Trap - holes 15, 16 and 17 - I went par, double-bogey, par. Arguably harder than Amen Corner at Augusta, the Bear Trap confounded many of the best players in the world at the 2008 Honda Classic, netting scores of 356 over par, 102 strokes more than the previous year. Granted, those guys play from the tips, and I was playing from the white tees. But still, par, double-bogey, par is something to write home about.

Tas and I won the event with a team score of 61. Jeff and Bill shot a 64, and Ty and Mark ended with a 70.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Leonard Thompson

Unless you're a ultra hardcore golf fanatic, you might not have heard of Leonard Thompson.

He doesn't show up atop leaderboards like Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson do almost each week. But Thompson has played more professional golf tournaments than both Woods and Mickelson combined.

The SAS Championship marked Thompson's 1,000th tournament, combining both the PGA and Champions tours.

He joined an elite group Friday, becoming one of 10 golfers to play at least 1,000 professional golf tournaments - Miller Barber, Dave Eichelberger, Charles Coody, Arnold Palmer, Dale Douglass, J.C. Snead, Gay Brewer, Gene Littler and Jim Colbert.

There was a time when you did see Thompson's name on leaderboards alongside more recognizable names like Hale Irwin, Payne Stewart and Curtis Strange. He won three times on the PGA Tour, his first coming in 1974 at the Jackie Gleason-Inverrary Classic, where he beat Irwin by one stroke. He won the 1977 Pensacola Open by two strokes over Strange; and he topped Stewart, Billy Andrade and Doug Tewell by one stroke at the 1989 Buick Open.

I caught up with Thompson, 62, in the clubhouse at Prestonwood Country Club Friday after
Irwin and John Morse presented Thompson with a huge cake to mark the historic event.

He was sharing his cake with the wait staff in the clubhouse, getting a couple of pieces to go and leaving the bulk of the chocolate delight behind.

As we walked outside, he just shook his head and said he had no idea that a cake would be waiting for him on the 18th green after his first round of the tournament.

"Pretty nice," he said.

Thompson, a North Carolina native and Wake Forest graduate, said 1,000 tournaments isn't something you set out to do. The Champions Tour, previously called the Seniors Tour, was nine years away.

"But once I knew I was going to do it, I tried to arrange to do it here," said Thompson.

He grew up in Laurinburg; played his first tournament at Pinehurst; went to Wake Forest; and played in 20-plus Greater Greensboro Opens.

"Anything in North Carolina has special meaning," he said.

He said he had the chance to do a West Coast swing of Champions Tour events, but his 1,000th would have taken place somewhere in California. He didn't want that. He wanted to do it in his home state.

"Four or five things have to happen to make it to 1,000," he said. "You have to stay healthy; you have to have an understanding wife; you have to have an organization in place to have enough events to play to reach 1,000."

Thompson has officially retired from the Champions Tour, but he plans to play some events as long as he remains competitive.

And those competitive juices were apparent on Friday. After a round of 74, I suggested that he was probably just happy to be playing.

"I ain't as happy I would have been if I had shot a 65," he said.

Hale Irwin (L) and John Morse (R) present Leonard Thompson a
cake marking Thompson's 1,000th tournament during the first
round of the SAS Championship Friday at Prestonwood
Country Club in Cary. (Photo by Michael Cohen/Getty Images)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Trevino out

Lee Trevino said he hit too many 5 woods during two rounds of Pro-Ams leading up to the SAS Championship in Cary and was forced to withdraw because of his back.

Trevino, a crowd favorite anywhere he plays, flew out this morning shortly before his 10:40 a.m. tee time. Alternate John Morse took Trevino's spot in the SAS.

When the announcement went out over the loudspeaker that Trevino had withdrawn, you could hear the groans ripple throughout the crowd at Prestonwood Country Club, which by the way is pretty large for a Friday.

Trevino, who turns 70 in December, still plays a half dozen events or so each year.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Preview Day

The day before the SAS Championship starts, golfers were mentally preparing themselves for the weekend. Just like a pre-shot routine in which golfers picture a straight and long drive or a putt dropping into the hole, golfers this weekend were talking about winning.

Fred Funk, Charles Schwab Cup points leader, said he's been playing pretty well of late, and he wants to win to build momentum heading into the Senior Players Championship next week in Baltimore where the points double.

Eduardo Romero, last year's SAS Champion, said he's ready to put some poor showings behind him. "I came here to win."

Monday, September 21, 2009

SAS Championship

Come on, how can you not get excited with the likes of Lee Trevino, Hale Irwin, Fuzzy Zoeller, Lanny Wadkins, Tom Kite, Tom Lehman, J.C. Snead, Craig Stadler, Curtis Strange, Hal Sutton, Fred Funk ... ?

I could go on. But you get the point - I hope. I'll be at the SAS Championship this week in Cary, covering the tournament for AP.

There's a good story on the SAS Championship Web site about how some dozen or so golfers in the field have ties to North Carolina, including Mike Goodes and David Eger, a couple of fellow UNC-Chapel Hill alums.

Here's the link.

So, if you're in the Triangle area this weekend, come on out. These are the guys who put golf where it is today.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Tip of the week - bunker play part 2


Bryan Bush, teaching professional from Charlotte, returns to finish his tip on bunker play.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Fallen firefighters tournament

Anytime I play in a best ball tournament, my goal is to use at least one of my shots because usually, I'm playing with golfers who are much better than I am.

Thursday was no different.

I was lucky enough to latch onto a team with three good players, including Jason Bland, a Rocky Mount firefighter; Scott, a volunteer firefighter in Nash County; and Mr. Glover, an 82-year-old man who still can play the game..

We played Ford's Colony in Rocky Mount, a nice course that's fairly wide open, but can play long - more than 7,000 yards from the tips. We played from the white tees, giving my teammates a chance to drive the green on a couple of the shorter par 4s.

But at the par 3s, I stepped up. There were closest to the pins contests at the four par 3s, and I had short-lived leads on two of the holes. My best shot probably came at No. 16, which played 169 yards from the white tees over water. I stuck it below the hole on the right side, about 10 feet from the pin.

We used a couple of my drives on longer holes, and at least three of my putts. I was putting pretty well Thursday.

We ended up with a 60, 12 under par. But that was only good enough for fifth place. The winning team - one of two fielded by Tarheel Auto Sales - which carded a 56 for the day. Plus, there were three 57s.

But it was for a good cause - a fundraiser for North Carolina firefighters who have been killed seriously hurt. Organizers still were tallying up the total money riased, so I'll update you guys later on that.

I'd call it a success. About two dozen teams turned out, and they had some extra contests that seemed pretty successful, too.

I know I had a good time, and I'd like to play Ford's Colony again. It was my second round there, but it's definitely one of the better courses in Eastern North Carolina.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Fallen firefighters charity tournament

The first N.C. Fallen Firefighters Foundation Memorial Championship golf tournament is scheduled for Thursday afternoon at Ford's Colony in Rocky Mount, and I'm going to mosey over there to see if I can join a team.

Organizers aren't taking individual players, and I didn't put together a team. So we'll see. Obviously, if anyone wants to play, let me know.

Here's a link to the Web site.

It's definitely a good cause. The money goes to an organization that helps families of firefighters who have been killed or seriously injured. There have been three firefighter deaths so far this year in North Carolina, including a Salem volunteer firefighter who died of a heart attack in March.

Hopefully, I'll find a team tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Pick your favorite foursome

If you could three golfers to round out a foursome, who would you choose? Living or dead, makes no difference.

There are so many from which to choose. Lee Trevino, who once threw a rubber snake at Jack Nicklaus before teeing off an 18-hole playoff at the 1971 U.S. Open; the great ball-striker Ben Hogan; Bobby Jones, the greatest amateur ever; smooth-swinging Slammin' Sam Snead; Walter Hagen, Gene Sarazen, Arnold Palmer, Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus.

Well, you get the picture.

I was having so much trouble just picking three so I divided my lists into different categories. First, golfers no longer with us; second, golfers who are retired from competitive play; third, golfers now playing on a Tour; and lastly, female golfers.

So let's get to it.

I'd first choose Payne Stewart, Bobby Jones and Sam Snead.

I remember exactly where I was while watching Stewart win the 1999 U.S. Open, just four months before he died. My goal is to one day play consistently enough to dress like Stewart in honor of him.

Jones once called a penalty on himself at the 1925 U.S. Open after his ball moved slightly in the rough. Because no one saw the infraction, officials left the call up to him. He said it moved, incurred a two-stroke penalty and lost by one.

Snead comes from rural Virginia near the border of West Virginia, my home state, so I have sort of a connection there. Plus, he's the winningest golfer in PGA history.

For the next category, I'd choose Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino and Arnold Palmer.

Nicklaus and Palmer were part of the Big Three (along with Gary Player) in the 1960s. They typically battled head to head and raised golf's popularity significantly. Nicklaus won 18 Majors, more than anyone else, and he actually had more Major runner-up finishes (19) than any other golfer. Palmer gave us Arnie's Army and that popular drink named in his honor - iced tea and lemonade.

And as far as Trevino goes. Come on. Anyone who will throw a rubber snake at his opponent just before a playoff ... I wanna party with him. Actually, the real story goes that Trevino forgot he had the toy in his bag and that Nicklaus saw it and told Trevino to throw it to him.

But the legend is far more funny.

Third picks go to Padraig Harrington, Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate.

Arguably, the greatest golfer of all time, Woods still is chasing Nicklaus on the Majors wins' list and both Snead and Nicklaus for all-time wins. But he's close.

After seeing Mediate up close at the Buick Open this year, I think he's pretty loose on the golf course. And funny, too.

I don't know why I'd choose Harrington. He had a great run in the Majors last year, but this year, he's had bad luck at a couple of holes in tournaments that put him out of contention. But he never cried foul.

Lastly, I'd go with Michelle Wie, Christina Kim and Paula Creamer.

OK, many of you might be wondering why I left off Natalie Gulbis. Well, if I had said "hottest golfers," she would on the list. I'm not saying that Wie, Kim and Creamer aren't hot; I'm saying the category is female golfers.

Kim is one of the more flamboyant players on the LPGA Tour, and I want to have fun on my round of golf. Plus, she can play.

I think Wie is coming into her own after breaking all the age records in women's golf. She's still a teenager - she'll be 20 in October - but she really showed me something at the Solheim Cup last month in Illinois. As impressive as she was as a kid competing against adults, I think she'll be more impressive as an adult competing against other adults.

And Creamer. Although she's been on the Tour for just four years, she's already won nine times and near the top 25 in earnings. Nice.

So there you have it. That's who I'd pick.

Who would you pick?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Hickorly Meadows Golf Course

It's no Augusta National or even a match for any of the courses at the Kingsmill in Williamsburg, Va.

But it's not supposed to be.

Hickory Meadows is a 30-year-old municipal golf course straddling Interstate 95 on one side and farmland on the other. And many golfers might overlook Hickory Meadows when looking for a place to play in the Rocky Mount area, but they'd be missing out.

It's a nicely designed, wide open, well-maintained course that is basically very forgiving for those of us who might hit an errant tee shot into an adjoining fairway. I've played the course three times in the past few months, and that happened to me a few times.

But even when you're in trouble - lying two in another fairway - you still have a good chance of getting back on track and making par.

Don't get me wrong. There are some challenges to Hickory Meadows. Although the fairways are wide open, even the first cut of rough is tall. A couple of times, I felt like I was at a U.S. Open event.

And with three par 3s, three par 5s and 12 par 4s - all but two less than 400 yards - it plays pretty short (6,423 yards from the tips.)

My favorite hole is the closing hole - a short par 4 with water just in front of the green. Long hitters can go for it and make birdie fairly easily. My least favorite hole is No. 16, a crazy dogleg with water all the way down the inside of the leg.

Yes, you can find better courses nearby. But I like it, and if you get a chance to play Hickory Meadows, you shouldn't pass it up.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Tip of the Week - bunker play - part 1

Teaching professional Bryan Bush talks about shaving strokes off your score with good bunker play.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Patriot Golf Day

Last year, I played Grand Haven Golf Club, and I discovered I was at the course where Patriot Golf Day got its start. Fighter pilot and golf course owner Dan Rooney started Patriot Golf Day - which now is a weekend - two years ago to raise money for Fallen Heroes Foundation and Wounded Warriors Inc.

Here is the story from the USGA.

Rooney and his father bought Grand Haven Golf Club in 1998, and renovated it into a very nice course. Tall trees surround tight fairways, making it a bit of a shotmaker's course.

But that's not important right now. What's important is letting everyone know that this year's Patriot Golf Day is scheduled for this weekend - Friday through Sunday. At public courses across the country, $1 in all greens fees will be donated to the two military groups. And private courses are expected to add $5 from each member's monthly dues.

The first year, the nationwide event raised about $1.2 million. In 2008, it raised $2 million. In 2009, let's shoot for $3 million.

Interestly, I was watching TV the other day when a commercial aired about Patriot Golf Day. Two young boys appeared on the screen, saying they'd be playing for their father, Capt. Chris Cash, who was killed in 2004 while serving with the N.C. National Guard in Iraq.

I had done several stories on Cash and his death, and I remember talking to his two sons. I was lucky - I had my dad around for almost 40 years. They weren't even out of school when their father was killed.

I guess because I played the course where it all started, and a couple of kids who I know are playing for someone special in their lives, I feel an attachment to the event. Plus, my niece just returned from tour of duty in Iraq; and my dad served in World War II; and many of my other family members served or are serving in the military.

There are a few courses in the Rocky Mount area from which to choose, but with more than 4,000 courses participating, I'm sure you can find somewhere to play this weekend.

Here's a list:

So, what do you say? I'll be playing. Will you?

Photo is of Tim Hygh on No. 13 at Grand Haven Golf Club, a nice 153-yard par 3 with a huge waste bunker in the front and right of the green.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Tip of the Week - hitting the fairway on the first tee

Bryan Bush - a teaching professional from Charlotte - talks about a drill that will help you take hitting the ball straight on the driving range to hitting the ball straight on the first tee.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Golf balls and tees giveaway

Here's my first giveaway. I'm starting out small to see how this works. The winner gets a sleeve of two Titleist golf balls with Ford's Colony logo and tees. You don't have to sign up to leave a comment to be eligible for the prize. Just leave a comment, and you're in.

I'd like to try this once a week, but we'll see. If it works out, the prizes will get larger, such as a Michael Jordan multi-function golf tool, a golfer's cooler for the course and plenty of hats with logos of golf clubs from across the country. And these are virgin hats. You know me, I only wear UNC hats.

Anyway, here's what you're playing for. Good luck.

OK, here are the rules. Leave your favorite golf joke - or just favorite joke - on the post about the giveaway. Let's keep it semi-clean, please. No profanity. And make sure it’s not just a lame comment, like “Hi,” Love this” or “good job.” Those will be disqualified.

Please leave some way of me contacting you.

Winners will be picked by an Internet random generator.

At this point, U.S. addressees only are eligible.

Contest ends at midnight Eastern time Sunday, Aug. 30, 2009.

Disclaimer: Second Golfer and its author assume no liability for damages associated with any prizes awarded here or contents contained therein. Prizes lost in the mail or those not delivered by sponsors are not the responsibility of Second Golfer or its author. Prizes not claimed within two weeks of notification to the winner will have to be forfeited.

Entrants must be 18 years of age or older to enter, and entrants must follow state and local laws concerning sweepstakes.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Sea Scape Golf Links

It makes sense that this course has links in its name. Much like Nags Head Links, Sea Scape Golf Links in Kitty Hawk features a Scottish links-style layout because of its proximity to both the sound and the ocean. But unlike Nags Head Links, no holes skirt the water, but you can see the Atlantic from a couple of the holes.

That brings wind into play, and I'm using that as an excuse on a couple of holes in which my shots came up short of the pin. And I know I hit good shots.

Regardless, I had the best round of my life. Even with three triple bogeys, I managed to finish with a 91. Granted, the par 70 Sea Scape is a short course - 6,131 yards from the tips - and features six par 3s and and two of its four par 5s are in the high 400-yard range. But I had six pars, including three in a row on the front nine.

Putting, I think, was the key. I was up and down six times on the front for a 44. Putting once on a green is pretty special, and several were from at least 6 feet or better. Putting on the back nine was not as good, but still not terrible.

The fairways are pretty wide open, but there's plenty of uneven lies along the way. And the waste bunkers full of sea grass and sand make it fairly challenging.

The picture of me is on No. 18 just after the round.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Nags Head Links

The name is dead on. Links style for sure.

The highlight of playing Nags Head Links today definitely was the back 9. With the bulk of the holes passing along the Roanoke Sound, the vistas are much better than the houses that you have to navigate on the front 9.

Nags Head Links is a shot-makers' course. With fairways that often narrow in the middle, plenty of forced carries and tall grass that reminds me of the heather in the U.K., accuracy is more of a premium than the long ball.

And the 360-yard par 4 No. 8, with its extreme broken dogleg, has several blind shots. In fact, in lieu of fore caddies, I think playing the course at least two or three more times would be the way to go.

I played the course with three new friends, Louie, Dave and Rick. And it's a good thing, too. If not for them, I wouldn't have heard such jewels as "That shot was either good or bad" and "If you hit it in the middle, then the fairway is wide enough." Thank goodness for new friends.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

OBX charity golf tournament

I just discovered another charity golf tournament that I'd like to let people know about. It's called the Mulligans Golf Classic, and it's set for Oct. 5 at Nags Head Golf Links in Nags Head. The tournament, a fundraiser for the Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters in Virginia, is a best-ball format and is limited to 25 teams.

The owner of Mulligan's Bar and Grille, Gus Zinovis, started the tournament three years ago because his grandson spent a month there after he was born prematurely. Gus said he wanted to give something back to the hospital after the care his grandson received.

So if you're in the Outer Banks area in October, try to make it out there. To play, call Shannon Moody at 252-207-5391.

Here's a link to Mulligan's Web site:

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tip of the Week - Irons - the downswing

This is the long-awaited next installment of golf tips from Bryan Bush, a teaching professional from Charlotte - the downswing.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Charity golf tournament

I'll be playing in a charity event in October at Northgreen Country Club. It's a fundraiser to help raise money so Tommy Ivey, a Rocky Mount pastor, can start a new homeless shelter in the city.

I'll have more information later, but I wanted to go ahead get the word out so you can save it on your calendars.

Oct. 16 at Northgreen Country Club
Noon registration
1 p.m. shotgun start

$50 per person; $200 a team
Mulligans will be available for sale, and prizes will be given for longest drives and closest to the pin.

For more information, call Bryan Bush at 704-302-4774

Thursday, August 6, 2009

More Buick Open Pro-Am

This is a story in the Rocky Mount Telegram about my experience in the pro-am.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

TGX Golf Radio

I was on a radio talk show today with host Ed Wanambwa, a golf guru/journalist/broadcaster/entrepreneur from Atlanta. We talked about the Buick Open, my recent trip to Europe, the Phil Ford Golf Classic and golf in general.

Plus, he had some other guests that brought up some interesting points about Tiger Woods, faith and golf and other interesting tidbits. It was a good show.

No more Buick Open

Well, it's official - Buick pulled it sponsorship from both the Buick Open a Warwick Hills in Grand Blanc, Mich., and the Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines in San Diego, citing financial woes.

The Buick Open has been a staple on the PGA Tour for the past 51 years, so it's pretty sad. I know times are tough for General Motors, and I guess it was inevitable that this would happen.

The PGA said it was "very interested" in keeping a tournament in Michigan, so all is not lost for the area right now. But rumors are that the Greenbrier in West Virginia will be the site of a new PGA Tour event next year to replace the Buick Open slot.

The Flint/Grand Blanc/Detroit area is suffering through some tough times, and the Buick Open seemed like an oasis in their expanse of economic woes. And it's good that people remember and recognize this. The players certainly do.

Here's what a few of them said while I was in Michigan covering the first two days of the tournament when the rumors were flying and GM had yet to officially confirm that this would be the last Buick Open.

Tiger likened it a little to the Masters, in that the same volunteers show up year after year.

"It would be unfortunate," said Tiger Woods, who won his third Buick Open on Sunday. "Obviously this area's been struggling a bit, and as I said, I think the atmosphere, all the players have really enjoyed playing in front of the fans here. It is very intimate. You see the same people at same holes each and every year, and it is a venue that we don't get to play in front of very often. It's much more personal here.

"I think it's just how the people are. It's a smaller town. I think, as I said, you see the same people on the same greens, on the same tees each and every year. You kind of get to know them, say hi to them, how's everything going. You don't get to say that in any other tournament, except for maybe the Masters because some people have been going to the Masters for 50-plus years in the same seat. But that's basically the only tournament I've ever experienced that in."

Steve Lowery, who led after the first round, said he's been playing the tournament for the past 20 years, and he's disappointed.

"I think a lot of the players look forward to coming here," Lowery said. "The people are really nice. The golf course is enjoyable. I think guys look forward to it. I've been doing this out here for 20 years, and it's a place that I look forward to coming.

"You know, and it's just enjoyable. It'll definitely be missed. It's a great community, great place to play golf."

Jim Furyk talked about even seeing some of the same fans every time he came back.

"A lot of the same marshalls on a lot of the same holes," Furyk said. "Yeah. I've seen the fans. Definitely one, maybe two or three different places where the same fans, a lot of the same marshalls on the same holes, same rowdy people on 17."

Woody Austin said the longevity of the Buick Open is a testament to its quality.

"It's such a great event," Austin said. "An event can't be at a place for 51 years if it's not a good event, so there's obviously a lot of support in the community. There's obviously good people. Obviously Buick's been a great sponsor. So it's sad to see that it could possibly go away because it wouldn't have been here this long and be this popular if it wasn't."

And he also talked about the fans on No. 17 - the party hole. They added bleachers this year, and a beer tent was close by.

"I guess it was my first - since it was my rookie year, it was kind of my first experience with a rowdy crowd on 17," Austin said. "And I'd been playing with Freddie Couples the first couple days and having to hear 'Freddie, Freddie' always.

"So on Sunday when they were yelling 'Woody, Woody,' that was my first really good feeling of having a big crowd yelling my name. So I thought that was really cool. So I'll never forget that."

And I don't think anyone who had any connection with the Buick Open - whether they be fans, players, marshalls, standard-bearers or any other volunteer, official or reporter - will forget the Buick Open.

Monday, August 3, 2009

MNM Celebrity Golf tournament

I found out about this when I was talking to David Noel this weekend at Phil Ford's event. Looks like a good cause.

What a week

Actually, it's more like: "What a month."

In June, I was in Europe, playing golf at some very nice courses, particularly the ones near London.

Then, I was fortunate enough to play in the Buick Open Pro-Am tournament with K.J. Choi. I also covered the first two rounds of the Buick Open, watching Tiger Woods go for nearly worst to nearly first. He eventually won the tournament by three strokes, his 69th PGA win.

On Saturday, I spent the day, covering the Phil Ford Golf Classic, hanging around former Coach Bill Guthridge, Phil Ford, Walter Davis and David Noel.

Pretty nice month for me.

W.Va. Golf Hall of Fame opens

Phil Ford Golf Classic photo gallery 3

Phil Ford Golf Classic photo gallery 2

Phil Ford Golf Classic photo gallery 1

Phil Ford Golf Classic

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Phil Ford Golf Classic

I spent the day at the Phil Ford Golf Classic in Nashville, and now I'm writing a story for the Rocky Mount Telegram. I'll post some pictures later tonight.

Friday, July 31, 2009

John Senden leads the Buick Open

John Senden is the leader heading into the final two rounds of the Buick Open at Warwick Hills, with a 14-under.

He nearly dropped a shot on No. 9 when he hit his tee shot into a fairway bunker. But he hit out to about 40 yards from the hole and had a nice up and down.

He said he thinks that should help some for the weekend.

"I played solid," Senden said. "I didn't have any bogeys, and getting a little awkward lie on the 9th hole and having to chip out pretty much and then nice up-and-down was a good momentum boost for scoring going into tomorrow.

"And every shot's important, so I need to feel like I can treat the weekend - try to feel the same as I did the last two days by staying focused on what I need to do."

But just remember: Tiger is on the prowl.

"With Tiger going out and shooting low, I think that shows his class, being the best player in the world," Senden said. "I think that him starting out on fire is fantastic for the game this week, the golf tournament, and you know, he's basically the best player in the world. It was great to see that he was doing what he was doing."

K.J. Choi watch

It looks like K.J. Choi, my playing partner in the pro-am, is going to miss the cut. He's at 3-under for the tournament, and the projected cut is 4-under.

Photo courtesy PGA Tour

No birdie on 9

John Senden scored a par 4 on the 9th at Warwick Hills to go to 14-under in the Buick Open. With just a couple of groups left on the course, it looks like Senden will be your second-round leader.

Par on the 8th

John Senden stayed at 14-under with a par 3 on No. 8. And his tee shot on the 9th went into a fairway bunker. He'll have to hit a mighty nice shot to birdie this hole. But he's only 162 yards out so it is possible.

John Senden

John Senden moved to 14-under after a birdie on the 584-yard par 5 7th. He drove the green in two and two-putted from 14 feet. Holes 8 and 9 are definitely birdie territory so he could theoretically extend his lead.

Tiger talking

So I'm in the interview room at the Buick Open, watching Tiger Woods, chatting, smiling and just appearing in a lot better mood than he was after Thursday's miserable first-round performance.

Today, he shot a very nice 9-under to go 10-under for the tournament. And at this moment, he's in a tie for third, just three strokes back.

During the question-and-answer session of the post-round interview, a reporter asked Tiger about two putts that he barely missed. One was on No. 1 for an eagle, and the other was on No. 3, which would have been for birdie.

Tiger dismissed the putt at No. 3, saying that he missed his mark on No. 3 and that "it really probably shouldn't have gone in."

But the eagle attempt on the first hole?

"1 was a good putt," he said with his head tilted and that Tiger smile, like, "Yeah, it should have gone in."

Of course, had he not shot 9-under today, perhaps he wouldn't have been smiling so much.

Lowery headed the wrong way

After starting the day at 9-under and holding the first-round lead at the Buick Open, Steve Lowery is 2-over for the day and has dropped to 7-under for the tournament and into a tie for 25th. He's at the 17th tee.

John Senden still is in the lead at 13-under with four holes to play.

John Senden on the move

John Senden birdied holes 1 and 2 to move into the lead at the Buick Open. He's now at 13 under for the tournament, one shot ahead of Michael Letzig.

John Senden

John Senden moved into a second place tie with Vaughn Taylor at the Buick Open after finishing his nine holes at 3 under. Senden and Taylor are both at 11-under for the tournament, one shot behind leader Michael Letzig.

Both Letzig and Taylor are in the clubhouse, and Senden still has the back nine to play.

There's still a four-way tie for third, including Steve Lowery, Tiger Woods, Kevin Stadler and Roland Thatcher. Woods was on fire today, shooting a 9-under for the day.

Photo courtesy of PGA Tour

Steve Lowery

Steve Lowery, the first-round, leader at the Buick Open, birdied the first hole and he's played par golf since. He's now in a four-way tie for third with Tiger Woods, Kevin Stadler and Roland Thatcher.

One stroke ahead is Vaughn Taylor, and Michael Letzig still has the lead at 12 under.

Tiger back in contention

For many of us, we'll hit the practice range or the putting green aftre a bad round.

For Tiger Woods, he didn't deviate from his game plan after turning in what he called one of his worst putting days ever.

"Same routine," Woods said after scoring a 9-under 63 to pull within two of the lead. "I didn't change a thing."

Plus, he was mad.

"I was a little bit hot yesterday," he said with a smile.

He was in danger of missing his second straight cut, but a slew of birdies and an eagle has Woods back on the prowl for a Buick Open title. But like Michael Letzig - the leader right now at 12 under - Woods knows that he can't get it all back at once.

"You have to look at it like a process," the No. 1 player in the world said. "I was so far back yesterday.

"I'll just try to put a dent in that every day. But at least I'm back in the tournament."

Woods is a little happier today - except for his 3-putt on No. 18 - and the galleries are a little happier, as well, I think.

"It's nice to have everyone excited," Woods said. "I played well, and people started getting excited about it."

If he shoots another 63 tomorrow, the excitement will grow significantly.

Another Tiger charge

Tiger birdied the last two holes - 7 and 8 - to put himself at 10 under for the tournament. He's headed to No. 9, just two strokes behind the leader, Michael Letzig.


Michael Letzig

Michael Letzig just finished his round, and he's the leader in the clubhouse at 12 under.

But he's well aware that there's plenty more golf to be played.

"Steve Lowery could go out and shoot 9 under again, and I'd be way behind," Letzig said.

Lowery, who tees off in about 10 minutes, was the first-round leader at 9 under.

Back on track

After five straight pars, Tiger finally birdied another hole. He's now at 8 under for the day and 9 under for the tournament, three strokes off the pace.

Photo courtesy of PGA