Thanks and Remembrance
That feeling of true gratitude, the what-would-I-have-done-without notion, the idea that you can never repay completely, yet no discomfort in thatits rare. Sure, its easy to look around at a collection of things, at the solidity of your house, at creature comforts, and feel grateful. You can even be thankful to have chosen golf over, say, tennis or skiing, because you have discovered you get more of a spiritual boost out of golf.
But that deeper feeling of gratitude most often involves people. Perhaps a person you were glad to know.
I have one in mind, and it so happens I met him through golf. You would have liked him.
Sal Lupo was one of the original McHenry Boys. McHenry, the far northwestern suburb of Chicago, was the hometown of Gary Adams, father of the modern metal wood. Sal, a marketing communications whiz, had an agency in Chicago. He helped Adams get Taylor Made (now TaylorMade-adidas Golf) off the ground in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Sal moved to California with Gary, sticking with him through his subsequent companies ' Founders Club and McHenry Metals ' and through the long wrestle with pancreatic cancer that Adams eventually lost with a champions grace.
Even after Sal had slowed down his business activities, I spoke with him occasionally. He had moved back to Prospect Heights, near Chicago, to be closer to his grandkids. And whenever we spoke, he was always as cordial ' yet warm and informal ' as anyone I have ever met. And thats no surprise, because Sal was that way from the moment I entered the business in 1993 as a former lawyer with golf reporting ambitions. There was never any youre-a-rookie-with-dues-to-pay treatment. Sal was always a gentleman.
Thats why the shock lingers from Sals death last month. He fell, injuring his head, and never recovered. One revelation met with surprise ' the fact that Sal was past 80, a fact belied by his continued vigor.
The thing about Sal was, it was never about Sal. He was as generous with his time and effort as he was with his smile, and he always seemed to be looking out for someone else. In the year before he died, he asked me to join with other industry veterans in a letter-writing campaign to encourage the leaders of the World Golf Hall of Fame to consider admitting Gary Adams for his contributions to the game. (Look at your favorite metal wood. Remember how good it feels to pure it. Nuff said.)
Evidently, helping out was Sals stock in trade.
He was a wonderful father and just a great guy, said Patti Lupo, one of his daughters, when she informed TaylorMade executives of her fathers death. He was always so proud of the work that he did for Taylor Made and for the tremendous success of the company. As you know, he was there from the very beginning in Gary Adams garage in McHenry, when metal woods were completely new to the golf industry.
To see how that dream transformed the golf industry and to be a part of that and the game he loved so much was a source of joy for him.
Sal was unique, except in one respect: This is a game, and an industry, filled with Sals. Men and women who habitually extend a hand both to shake and to offer help. People of principle but not severity or undue formality. You know what I mean. You have met such people on the tee at your regular muni, at your club, on your kids high school team, across the bracket in an amateur tournament. Ive been at this in various forms for more than a decade now, and the supply of Sals, thank goodness, appears to be endless.
So thats where I will direct a substantial portion of this years thanks ' after wife, kid, dog, parents, friends, comfortable and happy home. Then comes the game, and especially the people it has allowed me to meet.
And, alas, miss.
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Lexi looks to shine as LPGA season begins next week
Lexi Thompson may be No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but in so many ways she became the new face of the women’s game last year.
That makes her the headliner in a fairly star-studded season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic next week.
Three of the top four players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are scheduled to tee it up on Paradise Island, including world No. 1 Shanshan Feng and co-Rolex Player of the Year So Yeon Ryu.
From the heartache at year’s start with the controversial loss at the ANA Inspiration, through the angst in the middle of the year with her mother’s cancer diagnosis, to the stunning disappointment at year’s end, Thompson emerged as the story of the year because of all she achieved in spite of those ordeals.
Next week’s event will mark the first time Thompson tees it up in an LPGA tournament since her season ended in stunning fashion last November with a missed 2-foot putt that cost her a chance to win the CME Group Tour Championship and the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and become the world No. 1.
She still walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for the season’s low scoring average.
She also walked away sounding determined to show she will bounce back from that last disappointment the same way she bounced back from her gut-wrenching loss at the year’s first major, the ANA, where a four-shot Sunday penalty cost her a chance to win her second major.
“Just going through what I have this whole year, and seeing how strong I am, and how I got through it all and still won two tournaments, got six seconds ... it didn’t stop me,” Thompson said leaving the CME Group Tour Championship. “This won’t either.”
Thompson was named the Golf Writers Association of America’s Player of the Year in a vote of GWAA membership. Ryu and Sung Hyun Park won the tour’s points-based Rolex Player of the Year Award.
With those two victories and six second-place finishes, three of those coming after playoff losses, Thompson was close to fashioning a spectacular year in 2017, to dominating the tour.
The new season opens with Thompson the center of attention again. Consistently one of the tour’s best ball strikers and longest hitters, she enjoyed her best year on tour last season by making dramatic improvements in her wedge play, short game and, most notably, her putting.
She doesn’t have a swing coach. She fashioned a better all-around game on her own, or under the watchful eye of her father, Scott. All the work she put in showed up in her winning the Vare Trophy.
The Pure Silk Bahamas Classic will also feature defending champion Brittany Lincicome, as well as Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Brooke Henderson, I.K. Kim, Danielle Kang and Charley Hull.
One & Done: 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge
Beginning in 2018, Golf Channel is offering a "One & Done" fantasy game alternative. Choose a golfer and add the salary they earn at the event to your season-long total - but know that once chosen, a player cannot be used again for the rest of the year.
Log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to start your own league and make picks for this week's event.
Here are some players to consider for One & Done picks this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, where Hudson Swafford returns as the defending champion:
Zach Johnson. The two-time major champ has missed the cut here three years in a row. So why include him in One & Done consideration? Because the three years before that (2012-14) included three top-25s highlighted by a third-place finish, and his T-14 at the Sony Open last week was his fifth straight top-25 dating back to September.
Bud Cauley. Cauley has yet to win on Tour, but that could very well change this year - even this week. Cauley ended up only two shots behind Swafford last year and tied for 14th the year prior, as four of his five career appearances have netted at least a top-40 finish. He opened the new season with a T-7 in Napa and closed out the fall with a T-8 at Sea Island.
Adam Hadwin. Swafford left last year with the trophy, but it looked for much of the weekend like it would be Hadwin's tournament as he finished second despite shooting a 59 in the third round. Hadwin was also T-6 at this event in 2016 and now with a win under his belt last March he returns with some unfinished business.
Charles Howell III. If you didn't use him last week at the Sony Open, this could be another good spot for the veteran who has four top-15 finishes over the last seven years at this event, highlighted by a playoff loss in 2013. His T-32 finish last week in Honolulu, while not spectacular, did include four sub-70 scores.
David Lingmerth. Lingmerth was in that 2013 playoff with Howell (eventually won by Brian Gay), and he also lost here in overtimei to Jason Dufner in 2016. The Swede also cracked the top 25 here in 2015 and is making his first start since his wife, Megan, gave birth to the couple's first child in December. Beware the sleep-deprived golfer.
DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.
The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.
''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''
In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.
''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''
The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.
''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''
The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.
Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member
Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.
Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:
Matt Kuchar— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) January 17, 2018
"It's been a passion of mine to explore & see the world, and I'll now be joining the European Tour as an Affiliate Member, which is very exciting." pic.twitter.com/7wDbuGXz8j
As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.
Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.