The Challenged Tour: Breaking 90 - with one arm

By Al TaysFebruary 27, 2013, 1:00 pm

There are lots of amazing golfers on display this week at PGA National in the Honda Classic – no doubt you've heard of most of them.

There will be lots of amazing golfers on display in August at PGA National in the North American One-Armed Golfer Association Championship – odds are you haven't heard of any of them.

John Barton will get a close-up view of both groups, as head of the Honda's transportation committee and as a founding member of the NAOAGA.

I met Barton (pictured at left, above) at a recent book signing for "Broken Tees and Mended Hearts" by Judy Alvarez, a South Florida pro who works with golfers who have disabilities. Barton is one of the golfers featured in the book and, like all the others, his is an inspiring story.

Barton, 60, was an electrical contractor. On Dec. 22, 1989, he was working on a line atop a 40-foot pole when he fell into a live power line and was electrocuted.

Previous 'Challenged Tour' columns

A surge of 7,460 volts entered his body under his left arm, he told the audience at Willoughby Golf Club in Stuart, Fla. "It lit me up, set me on fire. I woke up about 4 1/2 months later in the burn unit at Jackson Memorial (Hospital) in Miami."

Barton was told he would likely never be able to speak or walk again. Neither pronouncement proved accurate, but his left arm and shoulder had to be amputated, one of 109 surgeries he would undergo after the accident.

During his rehabilitation a therapist, seeing him watching a golf tournament on TV, encouraged him to try to take up the game again.

"My left hip was totally fused, both knees were totally fused, I had very little range of motion at all," he said. "I wasn't walking – I was confined to a chair.

"I looked at that woman like she was totally crazy," thinking "Yeah, right, I'll play golf."

After getting out of the burn unit at Jackson Memorial, Barton went to stay with his sister in Georgia. He often fought depression, and another therapist told him he had to get up out of bed and do something. A neighbor had given him "an old pitching niblick," and from his wheelchair he started hitting pitch shots in his sister's backyard.

When he thought he was ready to return to the golf course, he rented a set of clubs and shot 68 for nine holes. Though he was physically exhausted, "I thought to myself, 'I can do this,' '' he said. He bought a set of golf clubs, joined a club and began playing 27 to 54 holes a day. He eventually got his scores down into the 80s, with a low round of 83. "It was my rehab," he said, "and it's brought me from the chair to walking."

Barton began playing in tournaments put on by the National Amputee Golf Association, and later, feeling it didn't make sense to have golfers with amputated arms compete against golfers with amputated legs, helped found the North American One-Armed Golfer Association.

Which brings us to Joe Hartley. His low round was an 84, but that was when he had both arms. Hartley, 44, lost the left one as a result of a Scud missile attack in Saudi Arabia while serving with the Army during Operation Desert Storm. He also suffered damage to his right arm and hand, and is unable to pronate or supinate his wrist or forearm or fully extend his elbow. That didn't stop him from playing golf again, however.

Hartley, a resident of Monterey, Calif., came to our attention at Golf Channel when he sent a video of himself to SwingFix and asked for advice to help him break 90. He has come tantalizingly close, with a best round of 91, but typically shoots in the mid to high 90s.

Like Barton, Hartley (pictured at right, above) began in golf by hitting wedge shots in a large yard, battled depression after the loss of his limb and taught himself to hit drives well over 200 yards and break 100 while playing one-handed.

Hartley sounds like so many other golfers when he talks about the game's attraction:

"It's a sport that you can be having just a terrible day, and the last shot of the day, you hit it just perfect, and it'll make you want to come back."

Barton's advice to Hartley? "You have to find your own swing, then become consistent with it."

And one more thing: "Practice, practice, practice."

Good advice for any golfer.

For more information: North American One-Armed Golfer Association, National Amputee Golf Association

If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

You don’t believe it, though.

She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

“In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.

CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

“I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

“She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

“She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

“Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

“It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

“No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

“I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Tour finals.

“He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''

The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''

Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.

''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''

First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).

Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.

''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.

''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''