Childs Play at the Masters

By Associated PressApril 10, 2008, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Boy, does Browning Benton have a story for his pals when he goes back to school.
 
I got to see Tiger Woods, the 8-year-old gushed Thursday. Up close!
 
At the Masters no less.
 
The best part? His grandfather didnt have to pay a thing to get him in. Well, aside from that barbecue sandwich Browning ate for lunch and the big bag of souvenirs his grandfather was carrying.
 
Augusta National is hosting quite possibly the coolest play date ever this year, letting youngsters 8 to 16 in for free as long as they come with a paying patron. Toughest ticket in the sports world? Its childs play for the teen-and-tween set thanks to the new Junior Pass Program.
 
Thats one of the single best things I ever saw, three-time Masters champion'and very proud grandfather'Gary Player said. The youth of the nation are trustees of posterity. These are your future golfers.
 
Industry reports indicate the number of U.S. golfers has decreased in recent years, and Masters chairman Billy Payne has made it a priority to reverse that trend. Getting kids hooked on the game is the easiest way.
 
The Royal & Ancient has been admitting juveniles to the British Open for free the last few years when theyre accompanied by an adult, and Payne decided a similar initiative would work at Augusta National. Under the Junior Pass Program, each Masters tournament badge holder is allowed to bring one child free of charge. The Masters and British Open are the only majors that allow kids in free.
 
Despite the new policy, dont expect Amen Corner to be the site of a Chuck E. Cheese birthday party anytime soon. After all, this is still Augusta National. But the place had a definitive bounce to it as little people'mostly boys, but a few girls'mixed in with the genteel patrons whove been coming here for decades.
 
Golf Mini-Mes arrived looking spit-shined and polished in polos and khakis and clutching an adults hand so they wouldnt get lost in the crowds. Every one of them wanted to go see Tiger'Mr. Woods, some politely called him.
 
I thought it was the best thing theyve ever done, said David Clark, who brought his 9-year-old son, also named David. Ive been trying to talk him into playing golf and hes never been interested. Now that hes come out here, hes already asking if we can go play.
 
Which is the whole point.
 
Golf rounds are going down. The average golf course is getting so long. All the clubs you go to are making their golf courses longer and longer, so all the costs are going up and up, Player said. Golf is going to have to do a lot of thinking in the future. Thats why we need a lot of young people to be playing golf.
 
Augusta National has never really been adults-only. Season ticket-holders could bring a baby if they really wanted to'provided that child had an official Masters badge affixed somewhere. David Smither of Aubrey, Texas, was 8 when he came to his first Masters back in 1970, and hes come back about every other year since then.
 
But that meant a friend or a golf buddy'or worse, another family member' got shut out.
 
That was the most refreshing thing Ive heard, Smither said, referring to the Junior Pass Program. It just opens up an opportunity for all the kids who ordinarily wouldnt get a ticket.
 
Like his son, Jake.
 
The 7-year-old made his Masters debut this year. He had his own ticket'the trip was his reward for getting to the final of a U.S. Kids Golf tour event. Next year, his dad plans to bring Jakes 87-year-old grandfather, but thanks to the new program, Jake will still get to go.
 
Next year, Jake will be here without a badge, Smither said. Hes going to be able to come with me and my dad. Thats a nice thing. It allows the three generations to come together.
 
When Larry Roberson heard about the program, he immediately made plans to take Browning, his oldest grandson. Browning started hitting golf balls when he was 2, and it was Roberson who took him to play his first nine holes.
 
This is his first tournament, and the first tournament he came to was the Masters, Roberson said as Browning sat in front of him near the second green. Its amazing. Its very exciting.
 
And very hectic for Ron Draper.
 
The Augusta resident has two sons, 8-year-old Samuel and 7-year-old Paul, and there was no way he could take one and not the other. Both boys are golf fans and play at a local club. Paul is even a graduate of a golf etiquette course. So Draper brought Paul with him in the morning, and his wife was going to drop Samuel off in the afternoon.
 
They each get two hours, Draper said. My wife is doing the minivan swap.
 
Theres an idea for Payne for next year: Car pool lanes.
 
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  • Day (68) just one back at Australian Open

    By Nick MentaNovember 24, 2017, 6:40 am

    Jason Day posted a second-round 68 to move himself just one off the lead held by Lucas Herbert through two rounds at the Emirates Australian Open. Here’s where things stand after 36 holes in Sydney.

    Leaderboard: Herbert (-9), Day (-8), Cameron Davis (-7), Anthony Quayle (-6), Matt Jones (-4), Cameron Smith (-4), Nick Cullen (-4), Richard Green (-4)

    What it means: Day is in search of his first worldwide victory of 2017. The former world No. 1 last visited the winner’s circle in May 2016, when he won The Players at TPC Sawgrass. A win this week would close out a difficult year for the Aussie who struggled with his game while also helping his mother in her battle with cancer. Day’s last victory on his native soil came in 2013, when he partnered with Adam Scott to win the World Cup of Golf for Australia at Royal Melbourne.


    Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open


    Round of the day: Herbert followed an opening 67 with a round of 66 to vault himself into the lead at The Australian Golf Club. He made six birdies, including four on his second nine, against a lone bogey to take the outright lead. The 22-year-old, who held the lead at this event last year and captured low-amateur honors in 2014, is coming off a runner-up finish at the NSW Open Championship, which boosted him from 714th to 429th in the Official World Golf Ranking. His 5-under score was matched by Dale Brandt-Richards and Josh Cabban.

    Best of the rest: Matt Jones, who won this event over Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott two years ago, turned in 4-under 67. Jones is best known to American audiences for his playoff victory at the 2014 Shell Houston Open and for holding the 36-hole lead at the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, which was eventually won by Day. Jones will start the weekend five shots off the lead, at 4 under par.

    Biggest disappointment: Spieth has a lot of work to do this weekend if he expects to be in the title picture for the fourth year in a row. Rounds of 70-71 have him eight shots behind the lead held by Herbert. Spieth made a birdie and a bogey on each side Friday to turn in level par. The reigning champion golfer of the year has finished first, second and first at this event over the last three years.

    Storyline to watch this weekend: The Australian Open is the first event of the 2018 Open Qualifying Series. The leading three players who finish in the top 10 and who are not otherwise exempt will receive invites into next summer’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.

    Ogilvy urges distance rollback of ball

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 8:49 pm

    Add Geoff Ogilvy to the chorus of voices calling for a distance rollback of the golf ball.

    In an interview before the start of the Emirates Australian Open, Ogilvy said a "time-out" is needed for governing bodies to deal with the issue.

    "It's complete nonsense," he said, according to an Australian website. "In my career, it’s gone from 300 yards was a massive hit to you’re a shorter hitter on tour now, legitimately short. It’s changed the way we play great golf courses and that is the crime. It isn’t that the ball goes 400, that’s neither here nor there. It’s the fact the ball going 400 doesn’t makes Augusta work properly, it functions completely wrong.’’


    Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open


    Ogilvy used an example from American baseball to help get his point across to an Australian audience.

    “Major League Baseball in America, they use wooden bats, and everywhere else in baseball they use aluminium bats,’’ he said. “And when the major leaguers use aluminium bats they don’t even have to touch it and it completely destroys their stadiums. It’s just comedy.

    “That’s kind of what’s happened to us at least with the drivers of these big hitters; We’ve completely outgrown the stadiums. So do you rebuild every stadium in the world? That’s expensive. Or make the ball go shorter? It seems relatively simple from that perspective.’’

    Ogilvy, an Australian who won the 2006 U.S. Open, said he believes there will be a rollback, but admitted it would be a "challenge" for manufacturers to produce a ball that flies shorter for pros but does not lose distance when struck by recreational players.

    The golf world celebrates Thanksgiving

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 6:01 pm

    Here's a look, through social media, at how the golf world celebrates Thanksgiving.

    Lexi Thompson:

    Baking time!!

    A post shared by Lexi Thompson (@lexi) on

    David Feherty:

    Jack Nicklaus:

    GC Tiger Tracker:

    Steve Stricker:

    Golf Channel:

    Frank Nobilo:

    Ian Poulter:

    Tyrone Van Aswegen:

    Happy Thanksgiving: Biggest turkeys of 2017

    By Grill Room TeamNovember 23, 2017, 3:00 pm

    Thanksgiving brings us golf's biggest turkeys of the year. Donald Trump, Grayson Murray and a certain (now-former) tournament director headline the list. Click here or on the image below to check out all the turkeys.