Channeling his energy: Veteran eyes career in golf

By Al TaysMarch 14, 2015, 8:00 am

The way Angel Morales Jr. sees it, watching Golf Channel saved his life.

In July 2014 Morales was one of thousands of former veterans struggling to cope with becoming a civilian. His whole life had revolved around the military. His relatives had served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. When he had turned 19, “It was my turn.”

For most of the next two decades, he served in the Army. He was part of Operation Desert Storm in the 1990s and was stationed in Kosovo after 9/11. But a knee injury ended his military career. “The Army told me ‘You have to go,’” he said.

The knee was probably the least of his wounds. “I got scars and some injuries,” he said, “but my bigger injuries were the mental stuff, the friends that I lost.”

Civilian life was a mystery to Morales. He tried to go to school, “but I couldn’t finish it. I couldn’t focus.” He couldn’t deal with his own family. A sister took out a restraining order against him.


Chat on airplane led to founding of vets' group


Feeling suicidal, Morales checked himself into a VA hospital, but returned to his downward spiral after being released. He had no job prospects and was abusing his pain medication. Thoughts of suicide were never far from his mind.

Watching golf on TV was one of the few things that gave him pleasure. On July 4, 2014, while watching “Morning Drive” in his Milwaukee home, Morales saw host Gary Williams interviewing Tom Underdown about his Fairways for Warriors organization.

“I saw Tom and it was like a light turned on,” Morales said. “He was saying how there was a place you can go, play golf, not just play golf but there’s a family there – you know, they take care of each other. And I said, ‘I need that.’”

He packed everything he could cram into his 2010 Toyota Corolla. What he couldn’t fit, he gave away to fellow veterans. A friend from high school offered him an affordable place to live near Orlando.

“The doors began to open,” he said. “I got here literally in a week. The first person I called was Tom. I explained my situation. He said ‘Come on down this weekend.’ We started playing golf, and my life has completely turned around.”

Like all of the Fairways for Warriors members, Morales can cite the Department of Veterans Affairs statistic on suicides by veterans – 22 per day. “I [would have been] one of them,” he said. “But through the Golf Channel, through Tom, through the camaraderie that we have with the other soldiers I was able to get out of that list.

“Since I’ve been here, the pain medications, I don’t abuse those, I’m clean from that; [I’m] alcohol-free, once in a while a glass of wine, but nothing like it used to be. I’m focused, I’m going to school, I just recently put in an application to work with Marriott Grande Vista.”

Morales is currently attending the Core Golf Academy at Orange County National, training to become a golf pro. The formal instruction he’s receiving is a far cry from his origins in the game.


Veterans group seeks to build golf course


Growing up in Puerto Rico, he lived in an area where there was only one course, and it was private. But the game fascinated him. He would press his face against the fence, watching the rich members swat these little white balls. “Sometimes they threw the balls over the fence and I kept them,” he said. He built his own mini-course in his backyard. “I cut the grass, I put a hole,” he said. He wasn’t able to pursue the game, further, though. “They didn’t have any golf programs in the school there,” he said. “It was only baseball.”

In the Army, he could use real equipment. “The first day I went out I chipped one ball in the hole and I was hooked for life,” he said. “I went and bought clubs, I got shoes, clothes, everything.”

Now Morales wants to combine his two loves – golf and his fellow veterans.

“I see the soldiers that come to Fairways for Warriors - triple amputees, double amputees, one of our guys is blind. I see them, I see hope. So now I’m committed to help – whatever it takes.

“My mission is to work [at the Warrior Golf Club] and get those [suicide] numbers down.” 

Lexi 'applaud's USGA, R&A for rules change

By Randall MellDecember 11, 2017, 5:15 pm

Lexi Thompson’s pain may prove to be the rest of golf’s gain.

David Rickman, the R&A’s executive director of governance, acknowledged on Golf Channel’s "Morning Drive" Monday that the new protocols that will eliminate the use of TV viewer call-ins and emails to apply penalties was hastened by the controversy following Thompson’s four-shot penalty at the ANA Inspiration in early April. The new protocols also set up rules officials to monitor TV broadcasts beginning next year.

“Clearly, that case has been something of a focus point for us,” Rickman said.

Thompson reacted to the new protocols in an Instagram post.

“I applaud the USGA and the R&A for their willingness to revise the Rules of Golf to address certain unfortunate situations that have arisen several times in the game of golf,” Thompson wrote. “In my case, I am thankful no one else will have to deal with an outcome such as mine in the future.”

Thompson was penalized two shots for improperly returning her ball to its mark on a green during Saturday’s round after a viewer emailed LPGA officials during Sunday’s broadcast. She was penalized two more shots for signing an incorrect scorecard for her Saturday round. Thompson ultimately lost in a playoff to So Yeon Ryu.

The new protocols will also eliminate the additional two-shot penalty a player receives for failing to include a penalty when a player was unaware of the penalty.

Shortly after the ANA Inspiration, the USGA and R&A led the formation of a video review working group, which included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and PGA of America.

Also, just three weeks after Thompson was hit with the four-shot penalty, the USGA and R&A released a new Rules of Golf decision decision (34-3/10) limiting video evidence in two ways:

1. If an infraction can’t be seen with the naked eye, there’s no penalty, even if video shows otherwise.

2. If a tournament committee determines that a player does “all that can be reasonably expected to make an accurate estimation or measurement” in determining a line or position to play from or to spot a ball, then there will be no penalty even if video replay later shows that to be wrong.

While the USGA and R&A said the new decision wasn’t based on Thompson’s ANA incident, LPGA players immediately began calling it the “Lexi Rule.”

Getty Images

PGA Tour, LPGA react to video review rules changes

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 1:32 pm

The USGA and R&A announced on Monday updates to the Rules of Golf, including no longer accepting call-ins relating to violations. The PGA Tour and LPGA, which were both part of a working group of entities who voted on the changes, issued the following statements:

PGA Tour:

The PGA Tour has worked closely with the USGA and R&A on this issue in recent years, and today's announcement is another positive step to ensure the Rules of Golf align with how the game is presented and viewed globally. The PGA Tour will adopt the new Local Rule beginning January 1, 2018 and evolve our protocols for reviewing video evidence as outlined.

LPGA:

We are encouraged by the willingness of the governing bodies to fully vet the issues and implement real change at a pace much quicker than the sport has seen previously. These new adaptations, coupled with changes announced earlier this year, are true and meaningful advances for the game. The LPGA plans to adopt fully the protocols and new Local Rule as outlined.

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Sharma closes on Monday, wins Joburg Open

By Associated PressDecember 11, 2017, 12:43 pm

JOHANNESBURG – Shubhankar Sharma won his first European Tour title by a shooting 3-under 69 Monday in the final round of the weather-delayed Joburg Open.

The 21-year-old Indian resumed his round on the eighth green after play was halted early Sunday afternoon because of storms. He parred that hole, birdied No. 9 and made par on every hole on the back nine.


Full-field scores from the Joburg Open


Sharma finished at 23-under 264, three strokes ahead of the pack, and qualified for next year's British Open, too.

''I actually wasn't going to come here about a week ago ... so I'm really happy that I came,'' said Sharma, who shot 61 in the second round. ''I don't think I'm ever going forget my first time in South Africa.''

Erik van Rooyen (66) was second, three strokes ahead of Shaun Norris (65) and Tapio Pulkkanen (68).

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 pm