Benton Harbor puts hope on Nicklaus course

By Associated PressSeptember 1, 2010, 8:19 pm

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. – This city on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan is beset with troubles: violent crime, racial strife, steep unemployment, and neighborhoods dotted with vacant homes and businesses.

In short, Benton Harbor is no one’s idea of a vacation destination. But local leaders are looking for hope from an unlikely source: a huge luxury golf resort under construction just a tee shot away from the half-empty downtown.

Supporters say the Golf Club at Harbor Shores could bring a steady stream of well-heeled tourists, along with jobs, housing and tax revenue. Opponents are skeptical.

Adding to the improbability of the project is the matter of race. The resort dedicated to an overwhelmingly white sport is taking shape in a town that is more than 90 percent black.

The centerpiece of the project is a new Jack Nicklaus-designed course. When complete, the 530-acre resort will also offer 800 cottages, homes and condominiums; restaurants and shops; a boutique hotel and spa; and deep-water marinas.

“Harbor Shores is not a cure-all. It is not a panacea for everything that we have,” Mayor Wilce Cook said. “I think it can serve as an anchor. And we can use that to entice other business and industry.”

For Nicklaus, the project is about giving a helping hand to Benton Harbor, a town of 11,000 about 100 miles east of Chicago.

“This whole golf course was set out from the start to change a community. It had nothing to do with the game of golf, really. It was changing the community through the game of golf,” he said.

The golf course and surrounding developments are owned by a consortium of three nonprofit groups, which, according to Nicklaus, intended to put all the money they make back into the community.

“To have that kind of project, where nobody’s profiting from it except for the people who live here … that’s the important part of it,” he said.

Tom Watson, who played an 18-hole charity exhibition round with Nicklaus and fellow greats Arnold Palmer and Johnny Miller at the course’s recent grand opening, said golf is an inclusive pastime.

“This game has been criticized as an elitist game. If you take anybody of any walk of life, get them with a golf club in their hand, and they get a passion for the game, it doesn’t matter where you’re from or what you do, who you are, what color your skin is,” Watson said.

Benton Harbor long has been considered one of Michigan’s most economically distressed communities. It has lost about 15 percent of its population over the past two decades. On any given night, few cars and even fewer people travel down Main Street, where many of the storefronts are vacant.

Since April, the city has been run with the help of a state-appointed emergency financial manager.

The town was also scarred by unrest in 2003, when racially charged riots broke out following the death of a black motorcyclist during a high-speed police chase. Rioters burned down buildings and attacked police.

Supporters of the resort say 20 to 30 million people live within a half-day’s drive of Benton Harbor, and a significant proportion in the coming years will come to play golf and shop at Harbor Shores. They hope visitors also make their way into town to spend money on Main Street.

Others are not as optimistic.

“It’s not an economic-revitalization program. Everyone knows golf courses are going south. We don’t need another golf course here,” said John Mann, a 60-year-old retiree from Kalamazoo who attended an anti-Harbor Shores demonstration at the grand opening.

Michigan already has more than 800 public golf courses, and many have struggled during the recession. But supporters insist the new course and surrounding development will only become more attractive as the economy recovers.

Benton Harbor agreed to lease a portion of Jean Klock Park on the shore of Lake Michigan to the Harbor Shores development team, angering Mann and others who have fought plans for the course. They claim it’s illegal for public park land to be used for private interests.

Mann said the Klock family deeded the park to the city nearly a century ago with the understanding that it would be set aside for public use.

“That’s the way it should be,” he said as dozens of protesters demonstrated in front of the entrance to the course. They held signs reading “Corporate Theft of Public Land” and “Stop The Racism.”

Few people dispute the aesthetics of the course, where lush green fairways wind through wetlands and sand dunes along the Paw Paw River within chipping distance of the lake. Not long ago, the land was home to abandoned factories and industrial waste.

It’s not the first time a Nicklaus course has been laid over an environmentally troubled site.

In Michigan, a Dearborn course called the TPC of Michigan was built atop an old dump site. The course is now so well-regarded that the Senior Players Championship was held there for years. In Anaconda, Mont., the Old Works Golf Course sits on a former copper smelter that once was polluted by toxic waste.

National golf officials have already given their stamp of approval to Harbor Shores, which was awarded the Senior PGA Championship in 2012 and 2014.

Nicklaus said he is proud to be a part of the project, which he hopes will restore some stability and prosperity to Benton Harbor.

“The community has come together and they said, ‘Hey, we want to work together. We don’t want to just be the poor child on the other side of the river. We want to build that and have it grow up and be one great community again,’ which it was a long, long time ago.”

Getty Images

Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf

By Grill Room TeamDecember 11, 2017, 9:47 pm

Well, this is a one new one.

According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:

“No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”

Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.

“If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.

The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.

“I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”

The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.

Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.

Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.

PGA Tour suspends Hensby for anti-doping violation

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 8:02 pm

Mark Hensby has been suspended for one year by the PGA Tour for violating the Tour’s anti-doping policy by failing to provide a sample after notification.

The Tour made the announcement Monday, reporting that Hensby will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

The statement reads:

The PGA Tour announced today that Mark Hensby has violated the Tour Anti-Doping Policy for failing to provide a drug testing sample after notification and has been suspended for a period of one year. He will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

Hensby, 46, won the John Deere Classic in 2004. He played the Web.com Tour this past year, playing just 14 events. He finished 142nd on the money list. He once ranked among the top 30 in the Official World Golf Ranking but ranks No. 1,623 today.

The Sunshine Tour recently suspended player Etienne Bond for one year for failing a drug test. Players previously suspended by the PGA Tour for violating the anti-doping policy include Scott Stallings and Doug Barron.

The PGA Tour implemented revisions to its anti-doping program with the start of the 2017-18 season. The revisions include blood testing and the supplementation of the Tour’s prohibited list to include all of the substances and methods on the World Anti-Doping Agency prohibited list. As part of this season’s revisions, the Tour announced it would also begin reporting suspensions due to recreational drug use.

The Tour said it would not issue further comment on Hensby's suspension.

Good time to hang up on viewer call-ins

By Randall MellDecember 11, 2017, 7:40 pm

Golf announced the most massive layoff in the industry’s history on Monday morning.

Armchair referees around the world were given their pink slips.

It’s a glorious jettisoning of unsolicited help.

Goodbye and good riddance.

The USGA and R&A’s announcement of a new set of protocols Monday will end the practice of viewer call-ins and emails in the reporting of rules infractions.

“What we have heard from players and committees is ‘Let’s leave the rules and administration of the event to the players and those responsible for running the tournament,’” said Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s senior director of rules and amateur status.

Amen.

The protocols, formed by a working group that included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and the PGA of America, also establish the use of rules officials to monitor the televised broadcasts of events.

Additionally, the protocols will eliminate the two-shot penalty when a player signs an incorrect scorecard because the player was unaware of a violation.



Yes, I can hear you folks saying armchair rules officials help make sure every meaningful infraction comes to light. I hear you saying they make the game better, more honest, by helping reduce the possibility somebody violates the rules to win.

But at what cost?

The chaos and mayhem armchair referees create can ruin the spirit of fair play every bit as much as an unreported violation. The chaos and mayhem armchair rules officials create can be as much a threat to fair play as the violations themselves.

The Rules of Golf are devised to protect the integrity of the game, but perfectly good rules can be undermined by the manner and timeliness of their enforcement.

We have seen the intervention of armchair referees go beyond the ruin of fair play in how a tournament should be conducted. We have seen it threaten the credibility of the game in the eyes of fans who can’t fathom the stupidity of a sport that cannot separate common-sense enforcement from absolute devotion to the letter of the law.

In other sports, video review’s timely use helps officials get it right. In golf, video review too often makes it feel like the sport is getting it wrong, because timeliness matters in the spirit of fair play, because the retroactive nature of some punishments are as egregious as the violations themselves.  

We saw that with Lexi Thompson at the ANA Inspiration this year.

Yes, she deserved a two-shot penalty for improperly marking her ball, but she didn’t deserve the two-shot penalty for signing an incorrect scorecard. She had no idea she was signing an incorrect scorecard.

We nearly saw the ruin of the U.S. Open at Oakmont last year, with Dustin Johnson’s victory clouded by the timing of a video review that left us all uncertain if the tournament was playing out under an incorrect scoreboard.

“What these protocols are put in place for, really, is to make sure there are measures to identify the facts as soon as possible, in real time, so if there is an issue to be dealt with, that it can be handled quickly and decisively,” Pagel said.

Amen again.

We have pounded the USGA for making the game more complicated and less enjoyable than it ought to be, for creating controversy where common sense should prevail, so let’s applaud executive director Mike Davis, as well as the R&A, for putting common sense in play.

Yes, this isn’t a perfect answer to handling rules violations.

There are trap doors in the protocols that we are bound to see the game stumble into, because the game is so complex, but this is more than a good faith effort to make the game better.

This is good governance.

And compared to the glacial pace of major rules change of the past, this is swift.

This is the USGA and R&A leading a charge.

We’re seeing that with the radical modernization of the Rules of Golf scheduled to take effect in 2019. We saw it with the release of Decision 34/3-10 three weeks after Thompson’s loss at the ANA, with the decision limiting video review to “reasonable judgment” and “naked eye” standards. We’re hearing it with Davis’ recent comments about the “horrible” impact distance is having on the game, leading us to wonder if the USGA is in some way gearing up to take on the golf ball.

Yes, the new video review protocols aren’t a panacea. Rules officials will still miss violations that should have been caught. There will be questions about level playing fields, about the fairness of stars getting more video review scrutiny than the rank and file. There will be questions about whether viewer complaints were relayed to rules officials.

Golf, they say, isn’t a game of perfect, and neither is rules enforcement, though these protocols make too much sense to be pilloried. They should be applauded. They should solve a lot more problems than they create.

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.”