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.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

North Coast Golf Show

I know it's not the big PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, but I'll be at the North Coast Golf Show in the Chicago area this weekend. Some of the highlights include a long-putt contest, closest to the pin competition and a $25,000 hole-in-one opportunity.

Featured pros are Dan Boever and Brian Pavlet, a couple of long-drive champions.

I'll be tweeting and blogging from the show this weekend, so be on the lookout.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Tip of the week - Putting surfaces

With the start of the new PGA Tour season this week at the SBS Championship in Hawaii, it's time to get the year started with a golf tip on the most important part of the game - putting.

Charlotte golf pro Bryan Bush talks about the different putting surfaces you might encounter during golf trips, from bentgrass to bermuda - and what to do to conquer them.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The future of golf is good - with or without Tiger

Golf has been around for hundreds of years, and all the so-called experts who have rung the sport's death knell because of Tiger Woods need to check their history.

It's true that 2009 was bad for golf. It was bad for many sports. But that had more to do with the economy that Tiger Woods, still the world's No. 1 golfer. Real estate prices at golf communities tumbled; advertising and sponsorship dollars dwindled; and play across the country declined.

Woods missed the first part of the 2009 PGA Tour season while he recovered from knee surgery, but I think that had little effect on the overall picture of golf. And by the time news of his infidelity spread like wildfire, the season was over.

The point is that golf - and any sport for that matter - will survive even through the most heinous scandal.

Pete Rose didn't take down baseball. Michael Vick won't be the end of football. Tim Donaghy's gambling and organized crime ties can't stop basketball.

And Tiger Woods will not hurt golf - whether he plays or not.

My prediction is that he'll return to professional golf, and the sport will blossom again. But I don't think of that as a cause and effect issue. One has little to do with the other.

In fact, I feel more confident in predicting a better year for golf than I do about Woods' return to professional play.

The economy has started to rebound, meaning purse strings will loosen for fans, advertisers, sponsors, real estate developers and casual players.

Woods has been playing professional golf for less than 15 years. Yes, he's the greatest golfer of this past decade, and The Associated Press recently named him top athlete of the past 10 years.

But athletes come and go in the world of sports. In golf, after Bobby Jones and Ben Hogan, there was Gary Player, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. And now, there's Tiger Woods.

No, there wasn't the controversy surrounding those past greats like there has been with Woods. But they stepped away from playing professionally just the same.

Many blog posts, news reports and magazine articles that have jumped on this Tiger Woods circus have pretty much decided it's time to take golf off its life support system and let it die - especially if Woods walks away forever. But I think most of these people know Woods as a celebrity, not a golfer.

Woods might not ever hold the celebrity status he once held when he was on the top of the golf world and the realm of celebrities. But those are two different arenas. And Woods still is on the golf summit.

Now again, I believe Tiger will return.

But if he doesn't, golf will continue - and it will prosper.

Photo credit: Getty Images