Saturday, October 1, 2011

Pros or amateurs - we all get frustrated

I'm at the SAS Championship in Cary this weekend, and I had the chance to ask Nick Price a few questions after his opening round of 66, one shot back of first-round leader Corey Pavin.

Price is a former No. 1 player in the world, and he's won three majors - an Open Championship and two PGA Championships. This year on the Champions Tour, he has eight Top 15 finishes, including a win at the Toshiba Classic in March. So, the guy can play.

But in the past few weeks, he admitted that he hasn't been playing well. After his nearly flawless performance in round 1 of the SAS, he said he might have figured something out. And that's what's so frustrating for Price - and the rest of us, as well.

"This game, it's so frustrating. The amateurs, you know, the guys I play with in pro‑ams, go, you just don't understand the frustration. Well, we get frustrated just as much as anyone else. It's funny, you know, you go through phases, and you think you learn, but for some reason I started looking at my divot pattern. You know, this is after literally six really poor tournaments, and the thing that I worked the hardest on the last two years I just neglected, and then I got back to doing it, and everything sort of fell into place again."

I think that just proves that professionals are just like us. They have to think about those 1,000 things during a swing, just like we do. Of course, I don't think I could figure out what my problem is just from a divot pattern. Now that Price has lengthened his backswing, his divots are straighter and more shallow.

"It's just giving it a little more room and it seems to lengthen my backswing and just give me a little more time to get back to the ball. So I hope it lasts. I never know in this game."
Neither do I, Nick. Neither do I.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Tom Kite plays in 1,000th tournament

In 1971, Tom Kite qualified for the Masters, marking the beginning of a long run for the Texan. Now, 40 years later, he'll be playing his 1,000th professional golf event at the SAS Championship in Cary.

I talked to Tom Kite Thursday after he played a pro-am round prior to the SAS Championship, and he said luck played some role in his longevity. But in 1971, playing golf at 61 wasn't in his mind.

"I was wondering if I would get to two when I played the first tournament there," Kite said of the 1971 Masters. "I was an amateur, qualified for the Masters because of my finish in the U.S. Amateur, and quite honestly, that was the furthest thing from my mind.

My goal was to get on the PGA Tour and try to become a pretty good player out on the tour."

Mission accomplished.

Kite has had 38 victories over the years, including the 1992 U.S. Open. Between 1989 and 1994, he spent 175 weeks in the Top 10 of the World Golf Rankings, and he's played on seven Ryder Cup teams.

Success or longevity never really entered his mind though.

"I just wanted to play, and fortunately I've been relatively healthy through the 40 years or 39 years that I've been out here, so I haven't missed many tournaments because of some injuries, and so all of a sudden 38 years later, 39 years later, here we are and it's 1,000." Kite said.

SAS Championship officials presented Kite with a cake marking the historic event as he teed off this morning at Prestonwood Country Club for the first round. It was the second time in three years that Prestonwood was the site of a player's 1,000th career start. In 2009, Leonard Thompson made his 1,000th combined-career start at the SAS Championship.

And Kite, who has six Top 25 finishes this year on the Champions Tour, said he has no plans to hang up his clubs.

"As I told a buddy of mine back home when he heard that I was having 1,000, I said yeah, 'I'm just older than dirt,'" Kite said. "He said, 'Yeah, you're older than dirt, but you're not in it yet.' I said, 'Yeah, that's a good point.'

As long as I can stay out of the dirt and stay healthy, who knows how many this will get up to."

But it is getting tougher, he said.

"I'm still trying to compete, and there's this endless supply of 50‑year old rookies that keep coming at you" he said. "It's like a treadmill, it just keeps coming and coming and coming. In this particular case, there's no on/off button, it just keeps coming. So I'm going to try to stay on that treadmill as long as I can."

Congratulations, and good luck at the SAS.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Nike Dri-Fit socks

I never really put much thought into socks. They've always been just a unseen part of my attire when playing golf.

But after trying a pair of Nike Dri-Fit socks, I'm a changed man. Thanks to a blend of cotton, nylon, polyester and spandex, I've found the best socks I've ever worn.

I think the key is the spandex. The Nike socks form to your feet like a mold - almost like they were made with your feet in mind. They say one size fits all. Well, I think these really do fit all sizes of feet.

The mesh fabric on the top of the sock allows lots of breathing room for your foot. And the fabric allows the sweat to evaporate rather than stay stuck inside the sock, which causes smelly feet. Reinforced heel and toe areas top off the form-fitting Nike Dri-Fit sock.

To be completely transparent, I've never tried the Adidas Climalite sock, which touts itself as a sock that provides maximum sweat protection and comfort. And it's true that I'm a TaylorMade guy - clubs, balls and Adidas golf shoes.

But I usually find something I like and stick with it. I can't imagine finding a better sock than the Nike Dri-Fit.

We'll see though.

Monday, June 13, 2011

2011 Rex Hospital Open

Some call the Nationwide Tour the minor leagues of professional golf. And technically, that's true.

But that doesn't mean you're not going to see plenty of good golf - and excitement, as well. This past weekend at the Rex Hospital Open at TPC Wakefield in Raleigh, the tournament came down to the final group, with two players barely missing birdie putts that would have forced a playoff with the eventual winner.

Kyle Thompson won the event, moving into the Top 10 of the Nationwide Tour money list.

It definitely was a treat for me to cover the event, which included interviewing players, snapping photos and watching some of the future stars of golf.

Here are the links to my coverage. I hope you enjoy.

Tournament officials rearrange the course for the tournament.
15-year-old gets to play with the pros
Rex Hospital Open turns into a U.S. Open tune-up for qualifiers
Three tied after the first round
Former Tarboro golfer struggles on first day
Scott Brown leads after 36 holes
Spence Fulford rallies for round of par on second day
Three-way tie after 54 holes
Thompson wins with birdie on 18

I've covered PGA Tour and Champions Tour events in the past, but the 2011 Rex Hospital Open was one of the more exciting tournaments I've seen as a reporter.

Now, I can hardly wait until next year.

Photo: Eliot Gealy finished tied for 11th at the Rex Hospital Open, and he's competing in the U.S. Open this weekend at Congressional.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The first one's free

So, I was playing golf the other day at Birchwood Country Club thanks to my pal, Lynwood Roberson. Birchwood pro Randy Davis played nine holes with us, and after my first tee shot, Randy asks me: "Do you want me to say anything about your swing, you know, to help you?"

Knowing that I need all the help I can get, I immediately said, "YES."

From experience, I know a lot of golfers hate when someone tries to "fix" them during a round of golf. Practice is for the driving range, they say. Not me, man. I take as many tips as I get - as long as they come from someone I trust.

I trust Randy. He's a good guy.

So, part of my problem - according to Randy - is that I don't break my wrists much at the top of my backswing. And then, I don't turn them over on my downswing, which makes most of my shots go right.

In other words, a very stiff-armed swing.

My fix has been to overcompensate by either aiming left or starting out with my clubhead turned over dramatically.

Randy's tip during the first nine holes was to hinge my wrists more and try to turn them over at impact. He said if I did this correctly, my shots will start going up and left.

I asked how to fix that, and he said, "One thing at a time."

So I did what he said, and I was consistently hitting everything left. But by then, Randy had ditched us.

I got a good lesson, and I appreciate it. But now what? I sent Randy a message about what to do next.

Nothing. Just my luck - the first one is always free.

My next plan - try to make a trade. To be sure, Birchwood needs some help with a newsletter or marketing or something.

Or maybe I can wash his car.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The future of golf looks bright

This was a press release sent out on

I don't think this ranks up there with Bobby Jones at the 1926 U.S. Open, but it does give us hope about the future of golf.

RALEIGH - Jonathan Price, a sophomore at Granville Central High School and a member of the Tarheel Junior Golf Tour, did something most people at his age would never think to do.

With a 6-inch tap-in putt for par, Price intentionally forfeited his opportunity to participate in the N.C. High School State Championship. High school junior golfers dream of winning the state championship, but Price had a different plan. A plan so amazing, that it included Michael Pope, a senior at Granville Central High School.

Price and Pope were forced to enter a playoff for the last possible individual qualifier for the state championship. After Pope three-putted the playoff hole, Price was left with an easy 6-inch tap-in putt for par to win the playoff.

However, Price never made the putt. He picked up his ball and disqualified himself so Pope, his friend and teammate, could attend the state championship as a senior. This act of sportsmanship showed tremendous character and heart.

Congratulations, Jonathan Price for being a true winner.

Eric Murray, tour director for the Tarheel Junior Golf Tour, said that this level of sportsmanship is rare but not surprising. Murray went on to say, “the members of the Tarheel Junior Golf Tour amaze me every day. The junior golfers that I’m around are amazing golfers, but they also have life skills that are way beyond their years. Jonathan’s act of unselfishness and sportsmanship exemplifies that.”

I agree.