Monday, November 8, 2010

Shaq vs. Chuck


I know it was a rerun, but last night, I saw for the first time the episode of Shaq Vs., in which O'Neal played Charles Barkley in a five-hole golf match. Shaq was paired with Anthony Kim, and Barkley played with Bubba Watson in an alternate shot format.

Kim and Watson are two of my favorite golfers, and you gotta love Shaq and Chuck. Shaq was making fun of the way Barkley walked, and Barkley was making fun of the way Shaq putted - on a couple of holes.

Barkley was up two shots heading into the final hole, but he hit his tee shot into the water on the par 3 hole. Then Shaq topped his tee shot, forcing Kim to hit an awkward second shot that stayed on the green, but way above the hole.

O'Neal got the last laugh when he drained a 25-foot putt to win the match.

The bet was that the loser would wear a pair of pink Shaq underwear on a public beach. Barkley, fortunately for everyone, refused and threw the undies into the pond.

Friday, August 13, 2010

PGA Championship

Watching the PGA Championship this week brought back memories of my time at Whistling Straits a few months ago in Wisconsin.

Anyone who has a chance to visit Destination Kohler, stay at the American Club and play the Straits course - or any of the other courses there for that matter - should do so. Although it doesn't have history of Pinehurst or Pebble Beach, that's only because it hasn't been around as long.

The service was impeccable, the facilities top-shelf and the views of Lake Michigan from the golf course spectacular.

I was working on a piece for AAA Living about the then-upcoming tournament, and I sat down with this year's director for the last Major of the year - Barry Deach. Deach also headed up the 2004 PGA Championship in 2004 when it was held at Whistling Straits.

But initially, he hadn't planned on running the 2010 event - until Ryan Jordan resigned as tournament director in June 2009.

"I got a call out of nowhere," Deach said.

And to hear him talk about the facilities and people at Destination Kohler, it made sense that he returned to Whistling Straits for this weekend's tournament. But some of his comments seemed a bit contradictory to me.

Deach talked about how much fun it is to put on a Major tournament, but then he said he might see one or two golf shots during the four-day event. That just doesn't seem like fun because he's missing some pretty good golf shots.

Matt Kuchar, who leads the tournament at 5-under right now, holed out No. 13 from what? 100 yards out or so? Bubba Watson, in a four-way tie one stroke back, had a couple of amazing up and downs from the thick rough to save pars on 17 and 18. Jason Day finished with five birdies and made the turn at 34.

And even Tiger Woods, who played horribly last week, birdied his first two holes en route to a 71 for the first round. After a 3 on the par 4 10th, he blasted a 365-yard tee shot on No. 11, scoring a 4 on the 618-yard par 5.

After watching Woods' meltdown last week and knowing he was headed to Whistling Straits this week, I remembered something Deach said awhile back - even before Woods had returned to golf from his slef-imposed hiatus this year.

"We would welcome him with open arms," Deach said when it still was up in the air whether he'd play this year.

Then I wondered if Deach still wanted him there seeing how poorly Woods was playing. But Woods' answer to a report's question this past week puts that into perspective. The reporter intimated that Woods is the No.1 player in the world playing like the worst player in the world. Woods said that he might be the world's worst player, but he still could beat the reporter.

And even though Woods' 71 is only three strokes better than his opening round 74 at the Bridgestone Invitational, where he finished tied for next-to-last, it appears that he's hitting better shots.

We'll see.

Well, we will. Deach won't. He's having too much fun to watch golf.

Jason Day photo credit: Getty Images

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Pinehurst: an experience


Last week, I scratched an item off my bucket list. I played golf at Pinehurst.

Like most golfers, I had heard stories about golf at Pinehurst. One of my more special memories of Pinehurst No. 2 is watching Payne Stewart sink a 15-foot putt to win the 1999 U.S. Open. Four months later, he was dead.

I had heard that playing golf at Pinehurst is an experience. But what does that mean? An experience. Everything you do is an experience.

And after two days at the resort and two rounds of golf on Nos. 8 and 4, I on top of the world. But I still didn't get the "experience" factor.

Then I stepped onto No. 2. I thought about the history. The tradition. The restoration project to return No. 2 to more like its original Donald Ross design.

That's when I understood. It's not that No. 2 is a great golf course, worthy of its reputation. It's the golfers who came before you. It's knowing that you're standing in the same spot that legends did - Sam Snead, Bobby Jones, Walter Hagan, Frances Ouimet, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer. The list nearly is endless.

Stewart's putt in 1999 and his face-to-face celebration with a young Phil Mickelson are defining moments in Pinehurst history. But there's so much more history. Ben Hogan won his first professional tournament there.

Jones called it the "St. Andrews of United States golf." Ironically, sand from the Old Course's Road Hole bunker was poured into the greenside bunker on No. 18 in 2005 to celebrate the relationship between these two legendary courses.

But there also were less than stellar moments at Pinehurst No. 2. The same year Stewart made history there, John Daly was having one of his legendary meltdowns when he couldn't keep his ball on No. 8 green. Known for its turtleback greens, Pinehurst No. 2 has been confounding golfers just as long as it's been enchanting them.

And that's pretty much what happened to me. I was hitting the ball fairly well on the first two days of my trip, scoring well for me on Nos. 4 and 8. In fact, I shot my best round ever on No. 8 - a 91, just missing breaking 90 for the first time.

With five holes to go, I needed four pars and a birdie to reach this feat. I parred 14, 15 and 16. And because No. 17 was a par 5 and the closing hole a par 4, I knew I needed a birdie on 17 or I was lost.

My third shot on 17 ended up just off the front of the green and about 10 feet from the front-placed pin. I missed the birdie putt by 4 inches. On 18, I missed my par putt by a foot, and ended the hole with a bogey.

My confidence was off the chart, which I figured was good, considering I'd be playing No. 2 the next day.

But after a few holes, I realized that No. 2 was going to kick my butt that day. I think it was the combination of the awe factor and the greens that require pinpoint accuracy. It got to the point where it almost was funny.

Better golfers than me have been humbled by No. 2.

I ended up with a 103, about 10 strokes over my handicap.

Oh, but what an experience.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Northgreen Country Club deals

Northgreen Country Club is offering a couple of deals that I wanted to make everyone aware of.

First, owner Wayne Holloman is selling $100 cards good for five rounds of golf. Obviously, if you do the math, that's $20 a round - even on weekends.

Wayne also announced this week that he has overstocked his inventory of golf balls, so he's offering some incentives in an attempt to move them. And he's letting the buyers create their own deals.

"What incentive or deal could I offer you that would entice you to come and buy a couple dozen balls and get some of these off my hands?" Wayne wrote in his email. "I will sell them to you for less than you can get them at Dick's and give you a reward in addition for your purchase."

One example he used was: buy two dozen balls and get a round of golf for free. But he said he's looking for other possible incentives.

Be creative, he said.

To contact Wayne about the golf ball sale or the punch cards, email him at:

Friday, May 21, 2010

Weekend of the 16-year-olds

On Friday, a pair of teenagers made a little history in North Carolina and Texas.

First, 16-year-old Grayson Murray became the second youngest golfer to make the cut at a Nationwide Tour event.

Also, Jordan Spieth became the sixth youngest golfer to make the cut at a PGA Tour event.

From what I read about Spieth, the reigning U.S. Junior Amateur champion, he is at 4-under after two holes in the third round of the HP Byron Nelson Classic in Irving, Texas. That puts Spieth tied for 22nd.

As for Murray, I didn't have to read about him. I witnessed most of his miraculous run of birdies on the back nine Friday at TPC Wakefield in the Rex Hospital Open in Raleigh.

He birdied five of the last seven holes to for a 66 on the day, good enough for 3-under in the tournament. The final cut line, which had been at 2-under all day, eventually went to 3-under, and Murray was in for the weekend.

So far today, Murray is 1-over after nine holes and is tied for 57th at 2-under.

This has been a whirlwind month for Murray, a long hitter from Raleigh. Two weeks ago, sophomore at Leesville Road High School, won the state 4-A individual championship. Then, he earned a spot in the Nationwide event by winning the Rex Hospital Junior Invitational. He played in a U.S. Open qualifier on Monday.

And then he came to TPC Wakefield Thursday, where he scrambled to a 2-over 73 on the first day. After 11 holes on the second day, it looked as if Murray's wild golf ride was over for awhile - especially after he three-putted the 11th.

But he got mad and told his caddie that he was going to birdie out the round. Well, almost. Five out of seven ain't bad.

And it was good enough to keep him in the tournament.

Photos: Top, Jordan Spieth; bottom Grayson Murray

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Not good enough to get mad

When I first started playing golf a few years back, I promised myself that I wouldn't become one of those crazy, wild-eyed hackers who threw clubs, spouted obscenities and sulked down the fairway after a poor shot.

Initially, it was easy. I'm not supposed to be good, I told myself. I'm supposed to hit all those bad shots. My mantra was: "I'm not good enough to get mad at my game."

And for the most part, I was a happy golfer. A drive that went 20 feet in front of the teebox was embarrassing, but I didn't get mad. Hitting into the water or woods never bothered me. Three- or even four-putting was OK by me. Airmailing a short chip shot over the green resulted in nothing more than a sarcastic smirk and a shake of my head.

I felt badly for my playing partners, to be sure. I hated that they had to suffer through such a round, but I never stewed. I never stormed off the green in anger. No temper tantrums for me.

I wasn't good enough to get mad at my game.

Oh, what a little improvement to your game will do.

Earlier this month, I played a couple of rounds that included triple-free golf. Always, I had scored at least one triple-bogey during a round. It was just a fact of life. Then, all of a sudden, I was hitting the ball better more often. Doubles and bogeys were even becoming fewer and farther between. Three pars in a row made me feel like Payne Stewart or Jack Nicklaus. I even had my first birdie on a par 5.

So, heading into the Carolina Pro-Am event sponsored by Oakley, I was getting excited. Maybe I can contribute a great deal. My handicap still was high, so if I can play well, knock down a few pars and maybe even a birdie, we might score well. Winning even crept into my head.

Big mistake.

During a practice round for the event at Little River Golf and Resort in Carthage, I was hitting the ball so well. To be sure, I still wasn't a good golfer, but I was playing a lot better than I had three months ago.

I tripled the first hole after knocking my tee shot into the water. Then, a par on No. 2 and a par on No. 3, a 510-yard par 5 that's ranked as the fifth hardest hole on the course, put me on top of the world. For the round, 12 bogeys, three pars, two triples and a double en route to a 92, my second-best round ever in my life.

I was ready. I knew it. I was going to help my team and impress my buddy Bryan, a golf pro, who helps me with my game.

The one thing I forgot: I'm not good enough to get mad at my game.

For the first nine holes or so, I played like I did a year ago. Driving the ball off to the left into the woods; topping fairway shots and watching them go about 20 feet; chili dipping; hooking; slicing; hitting the big green ball before I hit the white ball.

And I got mad at myself. I can play better than this. What am I doing? Why am I hitting it so badly? All kinds of negative thoughts ran through my mind. I was sulking, pouting, not talking, grumbling. I was doing things that I had frequently criticized other golfers of doing.

Then, when Bryan asked me: "When are you going to get your head out of your butt?" I remembered, I'm not good enough to get mad at my game.

I apologized to my partners for my behavior. I started having fun again. And then, I started hitting the ball better.

My best shot came on No. 7, a short par 4 with water on the right. We had started on No. 13, so this was halfway through our back nine. It was our second shot on the hole, and we had about 175 yards to the hole. Everyone else was in the water with their approach shot, but I stuck a beautiful 3-hybrid right on the green.

I still wasn't good enough to get mad at my game, but I was good enough to sprinkle in some good shots with the bad - just like I'd always done. It's just now, those good shots are better and more often. I just need to remember that when - not if - I hit a bad shot, it's OK.

Bryan also reminded me that day that I have teammates. And thank goodness for that. Mark and Tyler were pretty good amateurs, and we used Mark's drive fairly often. Bryan, the pro in our group, finished in the Top 10 among professionals at the event. Our net score of 57 still wasn't good enough to win, but we sure had fun.

Except for having to deal with that clown stomping off the fairway after a bad shot. Oh wait, that was me.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Charity events in the Twin Counties

Here is an updated list of charity golf tournaments in the Twin Counties.

If anyone knows of any others not listed here, please let me know.

Saturday, May 15
What: UPS-sponsored golf tournament benefiting the United Way Tar River Region
When: 9:30 a.m. shotgun start
Where: Northgreen Country Club in Rocky Mount
How much: $65 per player includes green fees, carts, lunch and prizes: mulligans and red tee busters at $5 each
Format: Captain's choice
Who it helps: United Way Tar River Region
Contact: UPS Dee Hurley or Parley Potter at 977-0608 or Ginny Mohrbutter at the United Way at 937-2213.

Thursday, May 20 - Friday, May 21

What: Moose Charities Golf Tournament
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday meet and greet celebrities and auction; 8 a.m. Friday shotgun start
Where: Northgreen Country Club in Rocky Mount
How much: $10 entry fee for auction and meet and greet; $300 per team includes green fees, carts, lunch and drinks; $400 per team with celebrity.
Format: Super ball
Who it helps: Mooseheart Charities, which operates residences and schools for teens and children across the country, including North Carolina. Celebrities scheduled to play include Bonecrusher Smith, Ed Bradley, Dick Conn, Abe Jacobs, Bucky Waters, Chuck Ramsey and Billy Ray Barnes.
Contact: Betty and Mike Robinson at 908-2176

Friday, May 21
What: The first Nash Health Care Foundation Golf Classic
When: 8:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. shotgun starts
Where: Benvenue Country Club in Rocky Mount
How much: $150 per player includes green fees, carts, lunch, dinner and drinks
Format: Super ball
Who it helps: Nash Health Care Foundation's proposed Pediatric Emergency Department.
Contact: Brenning Daughtridge 443-8118 - extension 8583 or bjdaughtridge@nhcs.org

Friday, May 21
What: Edgecombe-Martin County EMC 14th Annual 4-H Golf Tournament
When: 11 a.m. shotgun start
Where: The Links at Cotton Valley in Tarboro
Who it helps: Edgecombe County 4-H organization
Contact: Gary Hicks 823-2171 or vivian_turner@ncsu.edu

Friday, May 28
What: The first O.D. Moore Scholarship Golf Tournament
When: 9 a.m. shotgun start
Where: Northgreen Country Club in Rocky Mount
How much: $65 per player includes green fees, carts, range balls, lunch and drinks
Format: Super ball
Who it helps: The O.D. Moore Scholarship Foundation/Nash Central Senior High Alumni Association for graduation high school student.
Contact: Patrick Ford 469-9805; Allegro Cordell 469-1299; Earl Coley 301-523-7889.

Thursday, June 10
What: The Chamber Annual Golf Classic
When: 8:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. shotgun starts
Where: Northgreen Country Club in Rocky Mount
How much: $400 per team includes green fees, carts, lunch and drinks; $700 co-sponsor includes team.
Format: Super ball
Who it helps: The Chamber
Contact: Bobbi Booth 973-1202 or bbooth@rockymountchamber.org

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tiger's mental game


I think people are reading way too much in the break-up between Tiger Woods and Hank Haney.

It's not that split that's caused Woods' game to go south. It's more likely that the root of his problems - in addition to his physical ailments - is the break-up between him and his wife, Elin.

You know the old saying: "Golf is a game of inches, and the most important are the 6 between your ears." Of course, if Stewie Griffin or that football head kid from Hey Arnold ever picked up a golf club, I guess you'd have to the 11 or 12 inches between the ears.

Now, I know what you're thinking. This sounds just like the Gil Gerard speech. Wait, never mind. That's not important.

Tiger's competitive golf experience over the past six months has included three tournaments. He finished in the Top 10 at the Masters; he missed the cut at Quail Hollow; and he withdrew from The Players Championship because of a bulging disc. That was disc.

During this time, he's endured intense media scrutiny because of his infidelities. It's no wonder that he's struggling. In addition to being rusty and having a bad back, he's also trying to get his life back on track, deal with an impending divorce, win back fans and sponsors and deal with the media.

I know he dealt with much of this when he was on top of the golf world. But the layoff and injury combined with the stress of a divorce make it difficult to play your best golf.

That's why the split with Haney, I think, is not a big deal. Tiger knows the mechanics of golf. He knows how to play the game. To be sure, a coach helps.

But right now, Woods is in need of a mental coach more than a swing coach.

Photo credit: Reuters

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Charity events in the Twin Counties

A few weeks ago, I helped organize the 2nd Annual Operation Nineveh Charity Golf Tournament at Northgreen Country Club.

And I've said this before: helping put together a charity golf event is no easy task. With that said, I want to help out others who are doing the same thing by promoting local golf tournaments here in this blog.

So here are a few events coming up, including two set for Friday.

Friday, May 7
What: 13th Annual Our Lady of Perpetual Help School Golf Tournament
When: 8 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. shotgun starts
Where: Northgreen Country Club in Rocky Mount
How much: $75 per player includes green fees, cart, lunch and drinks
Format: Superball, double shotgun start
Who it helps: Our Lady of Perpetual Help School and scholarships
Contact: David Sherrod 908-7376 or david.sherrod@ncfbins.com

Friday, May 7
What: 11th Annual Chris Griffin Memorial Golf Tournament
When: 1 p.m. shotgun start
Where: The Links at Cotton Valley in Tarboro
How much: $300 per team includes green fees, carts, mulligans, lunch and drinks
Format: Captain's choice
Who it helps: East Carolina University athletics through the Chris Griffin Endowment. "Griffin, a Rocky Mount native, was a graduate of East Carolina University and a devoted fan of ECU Athletics. He was an avid golfer and a tireless supporter of the Pirate Club." Cancer took Griffin at age 46.
Contact: Kelley Tyndall - fax: 446-0443

Thursday, May 20 - Friday, May 21
What: Moose Charities Golf Tournament
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday meet and greet celebrities and auction; 8 a.m. Friday shotgun start
Where: Northgreen Country Club in Rocky Mount
How much: $10 entry fee for auction and meet and greet; $300 per team includes green fees, carts, lunch and drinks; $400 per team with celebrity.
Format: Super ball
Who it helps: Mooseheart Charities, which operates residences and schools for teens and children across the country, including North Carolina. Celebrities scheduled to play include Bonecrusher Smith, Ed Bradley, Dick Conn, Abe Jacobs, Bucky Waters, Chuck Ramsey and Billy Ray Barnes.
Contact: Betty and Mike Robinson at 908-2176

Friday, May 21
What: The first Nash Health Care Foundation Golf Classic
When: 8:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. shotgun starts
Where: Benvenue Country Club in Rocky Mount
How much: $150 per player includes green fees, carts, lunch, dinner and drinks
Format: Super ball
Who it helps: Nash Health Care Foundation's proposed Pediatric Emergency Department.
Contact: Brenning Daughtridge 443-8118 - extension 8583 or bjdaughtridge@nhcs.org

Friday, May 21
What: Edgecombe-Martin County EMC 14th Annual 4-H Golf Tournament
When: 11 a.m. shotgun start
Where: The Links at Cotton Valley in Tarboro
Who it helps: Edgecombe County 4-H organization
Contact: Gary Hicks 823-2171 or vivian_turner@ncsu.edu

Friday, May 28
What: The first O.D. Moore Scholarship Golf Tournament
When: 9 a.m. shotgun start
Where: Northgreen Country Club in Rocky Mount
How much: $65 per player includes green fees, carts, range balls, lunch and drinks
Format: Super ball
Who it helps: The O.D. Moore Scholarship Foundation/Nash Central Senior High Alumni Association for graduation high school student.
Contact: Patrick Ford 469-9805; Allegro Cordell 469-1299; Earl Coley 301-523-7889.

Thursday, June 10
What: The Chamber Annual Golf Classic
When: 8:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. shotgun starts
Where: Northgreen Country Club in Rocky Mount
How much: $400 per team includes green fees, carts, lunch and drinks; $700 co-sponsor includes team.
Format: Super ball
Who it helps: The Chamber
Contact: Bobbi Booth 973-1202 or bbooth@rockymountchamber.org

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Northgreen Country Club deals


Northgreen Country Club once was the place to play golf in Rocky Mount.

The ACC Championships were held at Northgreen, where players like David Duval, Fred Funk and Stewart Cink roamed the fairways and greens.

After a period of lackluster maintenance, new owners Wayne Holloman and his dad Ed are in the process of putting Northgreen back in its place as a premiere golf club in this area. They've refurbished the greens, which are top-shelf now.

And the fairways are looking better than ever.

To be sure, more work needs to be done, but it's getting there.

If you haven't been to Northgreen in awhile, you should definitely check it out.

Right now, Wayne is considering offering a platinum membership at the club for $199 a month. The price would include unlimited green fees and cart fees, as well as a free bucket of range balls per round.

"By rack price, you would only have to play six rounds in a month to break even on the deal," Wayne said in an email. "This is a great deal, and I am considering it and will probably give it a try if I get enough interest."

Contact Wayne via email if you're interested:

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Energy bars and balls

Last week, I played in the Operation Nineveh charity golf tournament at Northgreen Country Club.

I know, that's not news. I helped organize it, and I've been promoting it for weeks.

But what is news is what I discovered at the event: energy bars and ball that I like.

You know how you play in some charity golf tournaments, and you'll get a bag full of pencils, rulers and refrigerator magnets? Stuff that you'll either throw away or never use?

Well, thanks to my friend, Bryan Bush, I discovered a brand of golf balls - other than TaylorMade - that I like. I also discovered an energy bar that was pretty tasty.

Srixon might not be my first choice of golf balls when I ask my Mom for a Christmas present, but it's definitely my second favorite. And I believe it's a better ball than any Titleist I've played, which include the Pro V1 and Pro V1X.

SCNS Sports Foods makes an energy bar called 10th Tee Back Nine, and it comes in two flavors - chocolate peanut caramel and chocolate peanut honey. Both are good, and if you get a chance, check them out.

So next time you go to a charity golf event, look for Srixon - or TaylorMade - balls and 10th Tee Back Nine energy bars. And leave the rulers in the cart.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Operation Nineveh charity golf tournament

Well, it's over.

Helping put on a charity golf event is a lot harder than I thought. But everything came together, and I think it was a success.

We raised some money for Operation Nineveh, a planned homeless shelter and soup kitchen in Rocky Mount.

We got the word out about the organization.

We played golf at Northgreen Country Club. Here are some photos of the event.

And there were plenty of prizes, food and drinks to make the day even better.

I'd like to thank everyone who helped out with donations, as well as the players who participated. I believe Operation Nineveh's Web site will be posting a sponsors and participation list this week.

And although my team - at 8-under - didn't win, we had some good times out there. Chip read about the event in the Rocky Mount Telegram, and he showed up to help out. And Tony delayed his trip back to Alaska so he could play.

Trevor Seibert, sports writer at the Telegram, rounded out our team. And everyone contributed.

Chip was pretty steady on the tee; Trevor carried us on the front nine; Tony bombed several drives on the back nine; and I chipped in for eagle from beside the green on No. 7 and nailed a long birdie putt, as well.

But there was more than playing golf for me. Making phone calls, picking up prizes, recruiting teams, setting up and tearing down tables at the club. Afterward, I was exhausted. But it was worth it, primarily because it was for a good cause.

Well, now that it's over, I guess it's time to start planning for the Fall Classic.

Anyone want to play golf and help out the homeless?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Tiger's not the only one at the Masters - or is he?

Watching the first round of the Masters, you'd think the only guy out there was a man named Tiger.

I'm glad the players realized that wasn't true.

Oh yeah, the wall-to-wall coverage from the Golf Channel and then ESPN talked about all the old guys playing well. Tom Watson, 60, led early. Fred Couples, 50, finished the day in the lead. In all, five players over the age of 50 shot under par.

And thank goodness the players paired with Woods showed up. K.J. Choi and Matt Kuchar both played well, and thanks to their pairing with Tiger, we got to see many of their shots.

But all of that was more of an afterthought. The big news was Tiger.

We saw every step; every smile; every chat with a fellow player; every frustrated club drop. And all of it was analyzed. He seems more at ease. He seems more focused. He seems the same old Tiger. He seems like a new Tiger.

The analyses were varied and endless.

Actually, his fairway shot on No. 9 was pretty incredible. And the club drop on 14 was really the only time he overtly showed any frustration. But what did he really have to be frustrated about.

He shot an opening round 68 - his best ever first-round Masters score - and ended Thursday two strokes behind the leader, Couples. And that's what everyone was talking about - Tiger's back.

But it really didn't matter what Tiger did. If he had shot a 78, everyone would have been talking about how his scandal and layoff adversely affected his play. He's still the story.

Even in this post, I've spent most of it talking about how Tiger isn't the only player on the course at Augusta National.

Well, he might not be the only one, but he's the only one we're talking about - including me.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Tiger talks


I think I was probably like most people who watched Tiger Woods' press conference today at Augusta National - curious.

Curious about what he'd say. Curious about what reporters would ask. Curious about his demeanor.

I know there are people out there who don't like him because of what he's done, but I have to admit that he was pretty impressive today. America loves a good apology. And if his February statement wasn't enough for them, then today's continued mea culpa definitely should have been.

Regular readers of this blog know I really don't care about Tiger's personal life. But if I did, then I think I'd see someone who screwed up royally, got caught, realized his astronomical mistakes and is now trying to rectify that.

Woods really did seem like a different person today, but he did have some of the same Tigerisms that he displayed while he was living his life of lies.

He smiled when he talked about the game of golf. He seemed more relaxed when he was questioned about the game. And he appeared genuine when he said he was having fun again. But then again, this is only the first day, and he hasn't actually competed. I guess the crowd reaction and the greetings from the other players today really were positive.

There were actually several things Tiger said during the 34-minute event stood out for me.

First, he apologized to the other PGA Tour players, acknowledging that they're probably tired of answering questions about Woods. Tiger, although the No. 1 golfer, is not the only player on the Tour, and each one of them are trying to do the same thing he is - win tournaments.

Secondly, he said he was going to "try" to tone down his negative outbursts on the course. He followed that up by saying that if he did become more reserved when he hit a bad shot, he probably would be more reserved when he hit a good shot or won an event.

I'm not completely on board with that. Yes, the club throwing and cussing is bad. But fist-pumping and celebrating is not. We'll see how that goes. He said he was going to try, and maybe he won't be able to check his emotions on either end of the spectrum.

Thirdly, Tiger impressed me most when he said that what has happened put things more in perspective as far as winning championships. He was asked about his thoughts on chasing Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 Majors, and Woods said it's more about how you live your life than how many championships you win. Bingo.

And lastly, there were a few questions he danced around, which is what I meant about seeing some of his Tigerisms showing up at the press conference. One in particular stood out when he was asked about rationalizing his sense of entitlement. Perhaps, he didn't understand the question - it was a little unclear. But what he should have said was: "I thought I was entitled to have sex with any woman I wanted because I'm the best golfer on the planet."

He then could have followed that up with: "But I now realize that winning golf tournaments doesn't preclude you from playing by the rules of morality and integrity."

But that's just me. He did just fine on his own.

Now that the curiosity factor has been quenched - and I hope it has for everyone - let's see how he plays golf.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

More Tiger Woods detractors come forward


When I started writing this post about Tiger Woods' kindergarten teacher coming forward this week to accuse him of lying, my first reaction reaction was: enough is enough.

I didn't want anyone to think I was defending him or his infidelities. I just wanted people to know that I'm so tired of everyone Tiger bashing.

People who regularly read my blog know how I feel about Woods. Yes, he's a bad husband, and he made multiple mistakes by having numerous affairs over the years. But that's none of my business, and my opinion of him never changed because I never looked to him as a role model for family values.

After his Thanksgiving week revelations of the series of lies he obviously was telling, I shied away from any of the sensational stories about the women, where he did it or who allegedly knew about it. I really don't care.

Then I read about Maureen Decker stepping into media spotlight to say that an incident he's been telling for years never happened. In a couple of books and several interviews, Woods said that on his first day of kindergarten, he was attacked by 6th-graders, who tied him to a tree, spraypainted the N-word on him and threw rocks at him.

He also said the teacher didn't do much about it.

I don't think the teacher was ever named in the books or interviews, but Decker is assuming that he was talking about her. And she says he needs to come clean, apologize to her and retract the story.

So, my first reaction was: give it a rest. He hasn't told that story in years that I'm aware of; the last book in which it was published came out in 2005; and it's the media that is retelling the story because of his notoriety and upcoming Masters appearance.

But then I started thinking: what if the story isn't true? How would I feel if one of my heroes fell from grace and I discovered that he told a pack of lies?

I've always looked up to Dean Smith, arguably the greatest basketball coach of all time. Reading his books, watching him coach the Tar Heels and meeting him a few times, I've tried to take some lessons from philosophies and teachings.

He was the first to implement pointing to a teammate who passed the ball that led to a basket, in essence thanking the passer. The lesson is that you always recognize others who help you attain goals.

Smith also implemented the free throw huddle to talk strategy after the shot. The lesson is that we should make sure everyone around us is on the same page, so we can move forward to attain goals. Never assume that everyone else knows what's expected of them.

I would have a hard time if Coach Smith's reputation was tarnished. But Woods is no Coach Smith.

I understand that sports figure become role models whether they want to or not. But Woods has never been a role model for me - except when he's playing golf. I respect the way he hits the ball, and I'd love to be able to do what he does on the course. But that's where the love affair ends.

And now after Woods' integrity about topics that have occurred off the course have come under scrutiny, I realize that people have the legitimate right to question his oft-told tale about the kindergarten attack.

But now after thinking about the whole situation, I guess I go back to my original thought. Who cares?

If the story isn't true, then Woods should say so in public and apologize to Decker. Obviously, she feels slandered, and rightfully so if the incident never happened.

But if it turns out that he lied about the attack, my opinion still won't change. We already know he's a liar and a cheater. But as far as I know, he still can hit a golf ball better than anyone else. And that's the lesson I want to take away from Woods' exploits, not how many or who or where he bagged women.

If people want to focus on that stuff, that's up to them. As for me, I'll still look at what he's doing inside the ropes, not inside the sheets.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Not all celebrities act like celebrities

I was sitting outside the clubhouse at the King and Bear course at World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Fla., this weekend, watching celebrities file in and out of the entrance. They were getting ready for the 10th Annual Murray Brothers Caddyshack Celebrity Golf Tournament.

Bill Murray was there. His brothers, Brian Doyle Murray, Joel Murray and others I didn't recognize also were there. Sports figures David Garrard, Jack Del Rio, Kenny Lofton and others walked past me.

Then a guy walked up to me, stopped and started talking to me. I recognized him. I'd seen him on TV, but his name escaped me. To him, I was some random guy sitting on a bench outside the clubhouse.

We started talking about the weather, specifically about the sunny skies after a night of rain. Then the conversation turned to the crazy storms during the winter in New York, where he said he'd been working fairly often over the past few months.

He talked about his home in Minnesota, where he would caddy as a youngster at Town and Country Club in St. Paul. And he mentioned how he would drive regularly in Minnesota's snowstorms.

"I'd get in my two-wheel drive Impala and just go," he said.

"Yeah, people in the South don't know how to drive in the snow," I said.

It was a brief conversation, and it didn't have to happen. He could have walked right past me just like the rest of the well-known figures who had gathered in St. Augustine this past weekend to help the Murray brothers raise money for the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind.

But he didn't. And that's why I'm a fan of Chris Mulkey.

You might not recognize the name, but I'm sure you'll remember the face. He's been in at least 60 feature films and countless TV show, including Magnum, P.I., NCIS, Friday Night Lights, Law & Order and a show in 1990s with Brian Doyle Murray called Bakersfield, P.D.

As a journalist, I've met and interviewed a bunch of celebrities over the years. Many of them talk to you only because they want or need the publicity for some show, movie, book or whatever they're promoting. Few will stop and chat with you.

It was refreshing when Chris stopped to talk about something as mundane as the weather. Granted, he's not a household name - no offense. But he's still recognizable and a well-known actor, even if it is by face only to many people.

"It's about the kids," Mulkey said when asked why he took time out of his work schedule to fly to Florida for a day of golf.

Paula Trickey, whose TV credits include One Tee Hill, The O.C. and Baywatch, said she also was impressed with the students at the blind and deaf school who performed the night before the tournament.

OuttaSight played for the golfers, which brought Bill Murray out on the dance floor at one point.

"Did you see the kid playing Johnny Cash?" Trickey said. "It blew my mind."

Trickey said she plays in about a half dozen charity golf events each year, and the Murray brothers event is one of her favorites.

"It's all about the children," she said.

True, but it's also all about being down to earth. Some celebrities get it, and some don't.


video video

David Mobley, long drive champion from Charlotte - Bill Murray dancing to OuttaSight

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Charity golf tournaments in North Carolina


You know the old saying: "One paycheck away from being homeless." It's been around ever since I can remember, and I know plenty of people who really live paycheck to paycheck.

And with so many people who have lost their jobs in the past couple of years, I wonder how many of those people really did turn up homeless. I don't know any personally, but I did read about one man who lost his high-paying job and his house, but still has a nice roof over his head every night.

So what does this have to do with golf?

In April, my friend, Bryan Bush, is putting together a charity golf tournament in Rocky Mount, N.C., to raise money for a new homeless shelter and soup kitchen. The shelter will be called Operation Nineveh, and the tournament will be held April 16 at Northgreen Country Club.

We're going to have some great prizes and great golf for a great cause.

I've been talking this tournament up for the past couple of months, and I started thinking about other causes that are just as important as homelessness.

So I thought I'd throw a little publicity out there for some other charity golf events coming up in Eastern North Carolina.

  • This week, Northgreen will host a skills challenge to help raise money for the local American Red Cross' HEROES campaign. For $20, golfers will compete in four categories: driving, chipping, putting and an 150-yard approach shot. Scroll down on the Red Cross' Web site for more information.

These are just a few of the charity events coming up in the next month. If anyone knows of any others, let me know.

Obviously, I'm lobbying for the Operation Nineveh event, but take a look at all of them. There are a lot of people out there who need help.

Friday, March 12, 2010

When will Tiger return?

Earlier this week, "sources" said Tiger Woods would play at the upcoming Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.

Now, there are "sources" who say Woods will return in April at the Masters in Augusta.

I'm guessing that tomorrow, there will be "sources" who say he's playing at the CA Championship at Doral as Charl Schwartzel
in some elaborate disguise designed by the top Hollywood special effects artist.

But I guess I can see why the speculation is running rampant. After word leaked out that Woods would make his return at Bay Hill, the phones started ringing, and ticket sales went up.

A few weeks ago, I was in Kohler, Wisc., having lunch with the 2010 PGA Championship tournament director Barry Deach, and Woods name inevitably came up.

"We wish him all the best, and we would welcome him with open arms," Deach said.

The PGA Championship isn't until August, and chances are that Woods will be back by then. But who knows?

But even so, Deach said, "The Majors are a little less affected" by Woods' decision to play.

He's right. Non-Majors try to field the best players available to get better television ratings and attendance. And for the past 15 years, Woods has been the biggest draw at those non-Majors, particularly the Bay Hill event, which he hasn't missed since he started playing pro. Actually, he's been the biggest draw in golf, but you get the picture.

The Majors - Masters, U.S. Open, Open Championship and PGA Championship - have the built-in draw that they are the major tournaments of the golf season.

But I'm guessing that Woods isn't going to base his decision on how it's going to affect a particular golf tournament's bottom line or TV ratings. I would hope his decision is based on equal parts of how it affects him and his family.

If he needs more time to get his house in order, then wait. If things are good at home enough for him to play in a couple of weeks at Bay Hill, then do that. If the Masters is the right one, then wait for April.

And if he really is playing at Doral as Charl Schwartzel, then you heard it here first.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Bear Trap


Two par 3s and a par 4.

It doesn't sound like much, but this weekend, the best players in the world might find it a little challenging. Well, they did last year - and every year that PGA National has hosted the Honda Classic, actually. At least that's what the hype says.

But are the holes really that hard?

Holes No. 15, 16 and 17 at the PGA National Champion course will be spotlighted, I'm sure, during the 2010 Honda Classic, which begins Thursday. Nicknamed the Bear Trap, they've been called the toughest three holes on the PGA Tour, and that's a pretty bold statement, considering Amen Corner at Augusta, the last three holes on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass and 14-16 at Bay Hill.

On paper, the holes don't appear hard at all, except for the fact that No. 16 is the course's No. 2 handicap hole. But 15 and 17 are par 3s that play 179 and 172 and are ranked the third easiest and easiest holes on the scorecard, respectively.

But water and wind play huge roles when you actually get out there and play the holes. You have to carry your tee shots over water on both par 3s, and the 434-yard par 4 16th has water down the entire right side. Yes, that is intimidating.

Originally designed by Tom and George Fazio, it has hosted a Ryder Cup, PGA Championship and 18 Senior PGA Championships. In 1990, Jack Nicklaus redesigned the Champion course, and it's been hosting the Honda Classic since 2007. In honor of Nicklaus, the 15-17 three-hole stretch was dubbed the Bear Trap.

It's interesting to watch the ads for this weekend's Honda Classic. You know, the one with Sergio Garcia, Ernie Els and Y.E. Yang - if I remember correctly - knocking ball after ball into the water during play on the Bear Trap holes.

I played the Champion course at PGA National in November. I hit the greens on both par 3s and two-putted for pars, but I double-bogeyed No. 16. I never hit the water, but I just hit a couple of bad shots en route to my 6. Granted, I was playing from the white tees, which means the holes played 143, 353 and 131, but I still had to hit the shots. After that good stretch of golf, I was smiling. And even after I teed off on No. 18, (see photo to the right), I still was smiling.

Of course, I should have been a little more focused because even if you make it through the Bear Trap relatively unscathed, you have the Champion course's finishing hole with which to contend. For the pros, it has another tee shot over water and plays 556 yards. For me, I got to tee off on the other side of the water hazard, but it still was 507 yards. I carded a snowman on the hole.

But I didn't get caught in the Bear Trap.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Whistling Straits

There's only one bad things about heading to Whistling Straits, site of the 2010 PGA Championship, next week. The weather.

Unfortunately, my schedule forced me to visit what's been called "a masterpiece in the world of golf." I checked the weather for Kohler, Wisc., and it's supposed to snow today and tomorrow, so there should be snow on the ground when I arrive Monday.

But that should be the only downside to my visit. With plenty of interviews on tap, including one with tournament director, Barry Deach, I should get a good idea why the PGA chose to bring this year's Championship event to Whistling Straits.

That's not all though. The 2015 PGA Championship and 2020 Ryder Cup also will be held at Whistling Straits.

If anyone has anything they'd like to know about this course, let me know.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Tiger talks


I've been holding off all day on this, wondering whether I should even bother. I guess I'll throw my 2 cents into the mix if for no other reason than to say I did.

For the three people on the planet who didn't watch Tiger Woods this morning, he came out of hiding, read a statement to the world, hugged some people and left. If I sound a little cynical, it's probably because I've been reading so many opinions about what Woods said.

And what he didn't say.

And what he should have said or done.

But there are others out there who didn't skewer Woods today. And some who still believe in the "good Tiger."

As for me, at the risk of repeating myself: I DON'T CARE ABOUT HIS PERSONAL LIFE.

I watched the latest in the Woods drama because I was hoping he'd make some kind of announcement regarding his return to golf. He didn't, other than to say he probably would at some future date. That was disappointing.

But most of the other stuff that he said was just filler for me. I will say that I think he had a lot of guts to say the things that he did. Whether they were sincere or not, whether they were from the heart or not, whether it was all a PR ploy or not, just the words coming out of his mouth impressed me.

He manned up and said he was sorry. He apologized several times in numerous ways. He called himself selfish and foolish. He admitted that because of his celebrity status - and I'm paraphrasing - he believed that he didn't have to live by the same rules and moral code as us regular folk.

As far as I can tell, everything he said about what's happened so far was true. He said he brought this on himself; he said he lost sight of his values as a Buddhist; he said he was the one who deserves all the blame.

As far as what he said about the future, that's a little harder to sort out.
"I do plan to return to golf one day, I just don't know when that day will be. I don't rule out that it will be this year."
Sooner rather than later would make me happy. But I guess Woods isn't going to base his decision on what makes me happy.

But what he said right after the above quote was what I thought the most important part of Woods' statement. And he said it almost in passing.
"When I do return, I need to make my behavior more respectful of the game."
Does that mean no more cussing and throwing golf clubs? Perhaps that statement was for Tom Watson's benefit, who recently criticized Woods for his past on-course behavior. Regardless, that part impressed me most.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

David Duval - Still good after all these years

I remember David Duval when he was a kid. Well, when I say kid, I mean a force in the world of college golf. Fiery and focused might have described him best, but many thought arrogant and aloof were better descriptors of the young Duval.

In a story by Jim Sumner of theACC.com, legendary Georgia Tech golf coach Puggy Blackmon told a story about Duval's first ACC golf tournament, which was held at Northgreen Country Club in Rocky Mount, N.C.

Duval finished second in the ACC Tournament as a freshman in 1990, one stroke behind Duke’s Jason Widener, while Tech finished fifth in the team competition, eight strokes off the lead. Tech’s Trip Isenhour, approached Duval to congratulate him on his individual play. Duval snapped at Isenhour, “I didn’t win and the team didn’t win and if my teammates had played worth a damn and given me some help, we would have won.”

That fire and drive - plus a bunch of talent - helped Tech win the team conference title for the next three years, and Duval took the individual titles in 1991 and 1993. I was a young reporter for the Rocky Mount Telegram - back then, called the Evening Telegram - when Duval was playing in his final conference tournament. Returning to Northgreen Country Club for that 1993 event, Duval then had future PGA Tour star Stewart Cink on his Tech team.

I wasn't as obsessed with golf back then as I am now. And I guess I didn't appreciate spending time following those two future greats on the course. Looking back now, I remember Duval as a bit standoffish. He signed a few autographs, but he didn't talk a lot to the media or the fans. At least, that's my recollection.

By the time 1999 rolled around, Duval was at the top of the golf world. He was No. 1 in the world golf rankings, and his eagle on No. 18 at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic was good enough for a 59 for the final round and a one-shot victory. Two years later, he won the Open Championship and was the Masters runner-up.





But then, his well-publicized spiral began. In 2003, he took an extended break from the game. Injuries and a lack of confidence have plagued him as he's made numerous comeback attempts since then.

Now, after second-place finishes in both last summer's U.S. Open and this past weekend's AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, his return to form seems closer than it has been in a long while. Stan Awtrey wrote a piece about Duval for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Web site this week, and one his quotes shows a maturity that probably wasn't there in 1990.
“I’m feeling very comfortable and very confident in what I’m doing,” Duval said. “And, you know, in a kind of strange way, it makes me proud. I feel like I kind of have given the folks who have given me starts this year good firepower for why they did it. That makes me feel good, too.”
Duval never was a fan favorite when he was winning all the time, but his struggles during the past decade have made him a little more endearing, in my eyes, at least. I always watched for his name on the leaderboard because of my brush with him at Northgreen so many years ago, although I never really cared whether he won or not back then. But now, I watch for his name because I want him to win.

If he keeps playing like he has been lately, it won't be much longer.

Photo credit: PGA Tour

Monday, February 15, 2010

Tiger who?

Don't tell me golf isn't exciting without Tiger Woods.

This weekend at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, we had plenty of drama that makes for a good final round in a golf tournament.

Two golfers in contention - including the leader - completely wrecked their chances at victory with excruciatingly painful 9s on the par-5 14th hole at Pebble Beach. Paul Goydos held a one-shot lead on eventual champion Dustin Johnson before his debacle that hurt me to watch. I can't even imagine what Goydos felt.

David Duval continues to periodically wow and amaze us. After his well-publicized fall as the world's best golfer a decade or so ago, Duval has turned up near the top of a few leaderboards here and there. For the fans who want to see him succeed, he did so again this weekend by finishing tied for second, one stroke behind Johnson. Duval's birdie putt on No. 17 was the highlight for me.

J.B. Holmes also made a charge at the end with an amazing second shot on No. 16, which he birdied. A near birdie miss on 18 was the only thing that kept the tournament from heading into overtime.

Then, we had the winner - Johnson, whose final round 74 was nothing to write home about. But it included an eagle on 6 and a double on 9. And when he needed a shot, he got it. His chip out of the bunker on 18 to within less than 4 feet from the hole won the tournament for him. He mucks up that chip or misses the short putt, and we're in a playoff.

Now, that's exciting.

Yes, TV ratings go up with Woods in the field. Yes, he makes things more competitive. And yes, I'll be glad when he returns.

But don't tell me golf isn't exciting without him.

Friday, February 12, 2010

K.J. Choi in second


I have a reason to follow K.J. Choi more closely than other golfers. We've actually hugged.

I was fortunate enough to play in the Buick Open Pro-Am this past year thanks to Travel Michigan, and my team was partnered with Choi. Before then, I knew of Choi by name only.

But afterward, I was a fan. I pick him every week on my fantasy golf team, and on Thursday, he came through for me - and himself, of course. At the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, he carded a seven-under 65 for a tie for second in the opening round. So far after three holes today, he's even and still tied for second behind Dustin Johnson. Here's what Choi said after his first round at Pebble Beach, which is one of Choi's favorite courses.

I wrote a story for the Rocky Mount Telegram last year about my experience at the Buick Open Pro-Am, and you can find it on my new Web site under the clips header. It was definitely one of the highlights of my golf-writing career.

My pro-am team didn't win, but we all contributed to our score - even me. I had an eagle opportunity on one of the par 5s at Warwick Hills in Michigan (thanks to my handicap, of course.) I missed the putt, but tapped in for birdie, and we used my score on that hole.

That's when I got a hug from Choi. Hope there are plenty more of those to go around for Choi for the rest of the Pebble Beach tournament.

Photo: K.J. Choi tees off during the 2009 Buick Open Pro-Am. Credit: J. Eric Eckard

Monday, February 8, 2010

Interactive golf #CKJR



Twitter, blogs galore, Facebook and just about every social media network on the Internet has been raving about CKJR. And for anyone who hasn't heard, it was the Twitterific battle between one of the world's top female golfers - Christina Kim - and PGA Tour hopeful, John Raser.

John ultimately won the match, chipping in on the 18th for birdie and winning the final hole of the match play impromptu event. Unfortunately, the shot that won the match was undocumented. The two iPhones used for streaming went dead before the final hole. I'm not saying there was a conspiracy because I saw Christina's facial expression in a Tweetpic immediately afterward, posted by John, of course.

But until the final hole, viewers witnessed a match that rivaled some of the best and more well-known golf events - primarily because of the interaction available between the golfers and the fans. I was among the viewers who tuned into the Ustream feed. Here are some highlights from John's Ustream video clips and Christina's Ustream video clips. And although it didn't always work, I sat and waited for it to return so I could see what happened next.

The match was casual, as it had to be considering Christina and John kept passing iPhones back and forth while filming and playing. They also tweeted when the video feed went down. But what made it even more special was that the fan were able to "chat" with the golfers. And Christina and John read many comments aloud, playing off them and each other. The chemistry between the two was pretty awesome, which is special because the two had just met a week or so before Sunday's CKJR matchup.

A chance meeting at the PGA Merchandise Dow in Orlando led to Christina and John setting up what started out as a casual round of golf. But after a little good-natured trash-talking, the two ramped up the event, and it took on an Internet life of its own.

The two eventually settled on a wager: the loser would caddy for the winner at some future tournament. John was in danger of working Christina's bag at an LPGA event in New Jersey, but because of John's come-from-behind win - he was down two holes with four to go - Christina will be caddying for John at a Tar Heel Tour event.

Afterward, Ryan Ballengee conducted a waggleroom.com interview of the hottest two reality golf show stars of the week.

I hope the two continue CKJR. They both said they want to turn it into a quarterly event, complete with a real video crew next time so we can see the entire match. And I hope to make it to the Tar Heel Tour event to see Christina caddying for John.

Photos: Via John Raser and Christina Kim on Twitter

Sunday, February 7, 2010

#CKJR

Apparently, Kyle Busch, a race car driver, didn't think too much of Twitter. But I read Saturday from my friend, Jeff Gluck, a NASCAR beat writer sbnation.com, that Busch now is on Twitter and immediately had 3,000 followers within the first day.

Why should I care about a NASCAR driver's Twitter account? Well, I don't. But I'm illustrating part of why I'm sitting here waiting for a golf match to start. No, it's not the Northern Trust Open or any other big name tournament.

It's called #CKJR, a private match between LPGA golfer Christina Kim and PGA Tour hopeful John Raser. What started out as plans between these two friends on Twitter to meet for a round a golf turned into a Battle Royale complete with a wager that will see the loser caddying for the winner in an upcoming tournament.

The trash-talking was rampant, and it spread to many of the followers who interact with Kim and Raser on Twitter. I even threw in a jabs at Raser - although I spelled his name wrong a couple of times. A mortal sin for a journalist, I know.

Now, a friendly match between two people on a private golf course without TV coverage or a huge gallery typically doesn't attract interest. But considering Kim has almost 7,000 followers on Twitter and Raser has more than 6,000, this match has the makings of a Major.

Yes, I do believe that social networking sites are here to stay. And I can say that because I'm sitting here in front of my computer on a Sunday morning waiting for two random people to tee it up for no other reason than I watched the beginnings of the match unfold on Twitter.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Little girls on the PGA Tour?


I didn't know that the PGA had allowed little girls to join its ranks. But apparently after listening to Scott McCarron accuse Phil Mickelson of cheating, it made me think of a whiny little baby.

I'm sure everyone has heard the controversy. The USGA banned square-grooved clubs at the beginning of the season, but a few golfers found a loophole in the rule change that allows them to use vintage Ping Eye 2 wedges because of a lawsuit filed decades ago.

But that didn't stop McCarron, who finished in the Top 10 just three times last year, from blasting Mickelson for using square-grooved clubs at this weekend's Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines.

“It’s cheating, and I’m appalled Phil has put it in play,” McCarron told The San Francisco Chronicle.

Come on, Scott. Are you sure that this has more to do with the fact that you missed the cut and Mickelson is tied for 10th at the start of today's third round? You didn't call John Daly a cheater. You didn't call Hunter Mahan a cheater. Or Brad Adamonis. Those guys reportedly also used the old Ping wedges. Could it be because Daly and Adamonis both missed the cut too, and Mahan is barely in the Top 40 in the tournament?

Mickelson has a target on his back. He's possibly the heir-apparent to the No. 1 spot in golf with Tiger Woods' return to competition up in the air. No offense to Steve Stricker. So, it should come as no surprise that Lefty will be scrutinized significantly this season. But to accuse the man of cheating because he's using clubs that are legal in the eyes of the governing body is unfair.

McCarron said that Mickelson is violating the "spirit of the rules." Whatever. If all we had to go on was the spirit of the rules, we wouldn't need any real rules. The USGA has a set of guidelines that golfers must follow to compete fairly. One of those guidelines allows the use of the Ping Eye 2 clubs. I agree with Mickelson. How are you supposed to interpret the spirit of the rules when you have actual rules in place?

“It’s not my job or the job of any of the players to try to interpret the spirit of the rule or the intent," Mickelson said. "I understand approved or not approved. I didn’t make this rule. I don’t agree with the rule, but I’m abiding by it.”

And I don't know if the club made that much difference. Mickelson isn't leading the tournament. Others who have used the Pings didn't make the cut.

Scott McCarron should keep his mouth shut about what other golfers are doing and worry about his own game. Or maybe he should pick up an old Ping wedge for his next start. Either that, or just wear a dress for his next tee time.

Whiny little girl.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

North Coast Golf Show - golf giveaways

Most of the time, I hate drawings for giveaways. They want you to fill out a form with your name, telephone and email, and you never win. Well, it seems that way in my case. Then, you get inundated with junk mail and telemarketers' calls.

But during the North Coast Golf Show, I decided to sign up for every drawing available - from the trip to Branson, Mo., to the Chevy car giveaway to the Mini raffle. The majority of drawings however were for golf trips to random resorts that had booths set up at the show.

The place was packed so I didn't always get a chance to hear their sales pitches before dropping my name in the hat or barrel or glass container. But there were a few that sounded fairly interesting. Please remember that I haven't played any of these courses so I'm not touting them. I'm merely telling you what their reps told me, what I've found in their brochures and what's available online.

So here goes:

Probably the most intriguing promotion came from Treetops Resort in Gaylord, Mich., which is in the northern part of the state. The rep passed out a card with spaces to write a golfer's "bucket list." You post your list online, and the best one picked gets five nights accommodations for two people, five rounds of golf each on any of our 18-hole championship courses with cart. Plus, both guests will receive 9-holes of on-course instruction with a Rick Smith Academy Instructor.

Treetops has five courses, one designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr., another by Tom Fazio and three more done by Rick Smith.

The best brochure at the event was one for Hawk's Eye Golf Resort in Bellaire, Mich., which also is in Northern Michigan. It read FREE BEER on one side and FREE GOLF on the reverse. Who could ask for anything more? You get a chance for free golf if you sign up for the resort newsletter. The free beer comes in when you book a golf package, which comes with coupons to redeem for beer at the resort.

Hawk's Eye Resort has two championship courses: Hawk's Eye and The Chief. The Hawk's Eye course was voted fourth best in the state by Michigan Golf Magazine. And considering that Michigan has more golf courses than any other state besides Florida and California, that's impressive.

Probably the resort with the best pedigree at the golf show was The Resorts of Tullymore and St. Ives. Located in Stanwood, Mich., which is in the central part of the state just northeast of Grand Rapids, this resort has won awards for its two golf courses, clubhouse and pro shop. And these awards are from Golf Digest, which listed them as one of the top 100 courses in the country and 14th best public and resort course. Other awards came from Golf Magazine, Golf for Women and Golfweek.

This giveaway also requires a newsletter sign-up. The difference is that this is a monthly drawing, with a annual giveaway that features 12 rounds of golf.

Grand Traverse Resort and Spa features a Jack Nicklaus course and a Gary Player design. Located in Williamsburg, Mich., near Traverse City, Grand Traverse Resort also includes a third course, as well as a long list of accolades from national magazines like Golf Digest, Links, Golf for Women and Golf Magazine.

Wisconsin also was represented at the golf show with Hawk's View Golf Club in Lake Geneva, The House on the Rock Resort in Spring Green and Rolling Meadows Golf Course in Fond Du Lac.

Hawk's View features two courses - Como Crossings and Barn Hollow. Como Crossings hosted the 2005 Wisconsin State Open Qualifier and was named Top 25 new courses in 2002 by Golf Magazine.

The House on the Rock was built in the 1940s, and it has turned into a tourist attraction that has been turned into a resort. The golf courses were added later - an 18-hole RTJ Sr. design in the 1970s and a nine-hole Roger Packard/Andy North collaboration in 1994.

Rolling Meadows was redesigned in the 1990s when Dick Nugent turned an 18-hole course into 27 holes of championship play. With six sets of tees, it appears that any level of golfer can have fun at Rolling Meadows.

So, that's it. I'll keep you posted on whether I win any golf packages. If I do, maybe I'll take you with me.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Brian Pavlet


Many times, personal Web site exaggerate tremendously. He's the best at this. She's wonderful at that. This product is the greatest on the market.

But after seeing Brian Pavlet on Saturday at the North Coast Golf Show in the Chicago area, one sentence in the biography section of his Web site told the tale perfectly.

"His engaging personality and performance make him one of golf’s premier showmen."

I sat in the audience and listened to Pavlet, a former RE/MAX World Long Drive champion. He was engaging, and he did perform well. And as far as showmanship was concerned, he made me laugh out loud several times. Besides, anyone who can stand before a bunch of golfers and say, "Putting is overrated," better be a good showman. We've all heard the line before: Drive for show and putt for dough. It's ingrained in most of our heads.

But when Pavlet directly contradicted that, it seemed OK because of the way he said it. With a smirk and a chuckle, he turned the world of golf tips upside-down. He mocked pre-shot routines and scoffed at the importance of using your lower body to get more distance.

To illustrate the latter, he told a story about how he was added to a longtime threesome at some golf course at the last minute. It was a set-up because these three never wanted a stranger added to their group, and they were focused and serious about beating each other, not wanting a fourth to foul things up. They had no idea that Pavlet was a long-drive champion.

So Pavlet strolled up to the first tee, he said, and they were looking at him with disdain. When he pulled out a 30-inch training driver, they thought he was strangest person on the planet. But then he started outdriving them with a 30-inch driver. (Most drivers are in the 45- or 46-inch range or so.) What makes this even more impressive is that he has to squat down so far just to hit the ball. He hit a few on stage, and you could see that he was almost in a split. He pointed out that you can't generate much lower-body strength to the swing when your stance is so wide open.

Anyway, he kept telling the audience," This is how I know that we (golfers) will try anything if we think it will work." The story went on that by the 9th hole, he was consistently outdriving the threesome, who were no longer looking at him condescendingly. And finally, one of them walked up to him and asked, "Where did you get that? I want one."

But probably the funniest story he told revolved around watching a guy, with a crazy pre-shot routine. Finally, after a few head rolls and waggles, the guy addressed the ball, and it looked like he was ready to hit it. But then he stepped away from the teebox, ran to his bag and started pulling out golf magazines until he found the one with the driver tip. He did a quick read, went back to the ball and whiffed it.

Pavlet's presentation, however, wasn't just about funny tales and comic relief. He did have good advice for golfers who wanted to get better. He said one way to beat your opponent is to intimidate him by getting a golf bag with your name on it. They'll look at it and say, "Oh, this guy is good. His name is on his bag."

And then there was the tip on the downswing. He said that people ask him all the time about how to start the downswing. He said teachers talk about "ringing the bell," pushing your pocket toward the target, throwing your right knee toward the target, stomping your left heel and many more. He said that when he gets to the top of his swing, the one thing that pops into his mind is: "GO THE OTHER WAY."

During his presentation - which included drives that nearly reached 400 yards - he said that all golfers want to hit the ball farther and that distance sometimes takes a back seat to accuracy. Even today's pros have that mentality, with their "slash and gouge" philosophy off the tee, Pavlet said.

"They hit it as far as they can off the tee, gouge it out of the rough onto the green and make the putt," he said.

Yeah, that works for the pros, but when I hit in the rough, I typically can't gouge it out onto the green. But I'm sure if Pavlet ever saw me try, I'd end up as a story in one of his presentations.