Controversy surrounds Brazils only public golf course

By Associated PressMay 2, 2011, 1:42 am

SAO PAULO – The president of Brazil’s only public golf course is threatening to “lay down kids” in the middle of the fairways to keep government bulldozers from entering the property, constructing a new highway and destroying the course.

As Rio de Janeiro prepares to host the first Olympic golf tournament in more than 100 years, the modest Japeri Golfe Clube – known for social projects that help hundreds of poor children – is in danger of being shut down because of the highway the government says is needed to alleviate traffic in the Rio metropolitan area.

“I’ll lay down kids in the middle of the fairway if needed,” golf course president Vicky Whyte told The Associated Press this week, vowing to protect the course until the end.

The city of Japeri is last in the state’s human development rankings, and the golf school at the course helps more than 100 poor kids – aged 7 to 17 – by providing them with education, food and clothing, along with golf classes. Two times a week they spend half a day at the association and have free access to varied classes and activities. Whyte said there were some 40 kids on a waiting list to participate in the project.

She said the school was key for the future of Brazil’s golf, and that many of the kids who have been with the association are now appearing in Brazil’s junior rankings, becoming players that may end up representing the country when the Olympics finally arrive in 2016.

Whyte will meet with authorities Tuesday to try to solve the issue, but she said she was not optimistic about saving the nine-hole golf course. The land where the course is located has been declared a place of “public interest” – giving the state the right to take over the property to build the highway. She said the state even paid reparations to the city of Japeri, where the club is located some 30 miles from Rio de Janeiro.

Whyte said the Japeri Public Golf Association made a deal with the city through a bidding process in 2002 that secured its use of the land for 25 years, with an option to extend the agreement for another 25. The course opened to the public in 2005.

“It seems city officials betrayed us,” Whyte said. “They should have talked to us to try to re-negotiate the deal.”

City officials said they couldn’t do anything to stop the state from taking over the land. The city’s press office said in a statement that the current administration would do everything possible to keep the golf course running.

But if nothing can be done to keep the state from destroying the course, Whyte said she wanted authorities to build another course on an adjacent piece of land or pay for the new course to be built.

She said Rio de Janeiro state Governor Sergio Cabral personally promised the course would be rebuilt. The state’s press office didn’t respond to AP requests for comment.

Whyte said she was ready to take legal action against the city for breaking the land deal and for not forwarding the reparation money to the association.

The planned highway will link five major roads that go through the metropolitan area of Rio de Janeiro, and officials say it is key to improving congested traffic in the region. Six of the course’s nine holes would be destroyed if the highway was built.

Whyte said she would try to keep the social projects that work with poor youth, but it would be hard to keep funding it properly with only three holes and a driving range.

“We will take a very serious hit,” said Whyte, who has American parents but was born in Rio. “We won’t end the project overnight, but without the green fee money, it will be hard to pay salaries and keep it going.”

Golf hasn’t been a part of the Olympics since the 1904 games in St. Louis. It was voted back into the Games in 2009, and Brazil and the International Golf Federation have been discussing where the course will be built. The event will likely take place on another public course to be constructed in the region where the rest of the games will be played.

Though golf has grown in popularity in Brazil, it remains an elite sport with fewer than 30,000 participants and just over 100 courses, all private and most with high green fees for the public. The Japeri course charges just over $10 for 18 holes on weekdays. Weekend prices are about $30. Japeri city residents can play for free on Mondays and for about $3 the other days.

Officials want to use the Olympic public course to help boost the sport locally and develop it after the games are gone. Beside the course, organizers also want to build training academies and schools to develop golf professionals.

Brazil currently has only one player on the PGA Tour, Alexandre Rocha.

Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

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Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.



Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."

Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout

Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.

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Wie takes shot at LPGA dress code in crop top

By Grill Room TeamDecember 10, 2017, 5:33 pm

The new LPGA dress code got mixed reviews when it was announced in July, and Michelle Wie is taking full advantage of her offseason with no restrictions.

The 28-year-old former U.S. Women's Open champion is keeping her game sharp while back in her home state of Hawaii, but couldn't help taking a shot at the rules while doing it, posting a photo to Instagram of her playing golf in a crop top with the caption, "Offseason = No dress code fine."

Offseason = No dress code fines #croptopdroptop

A post shared by Michelle Wie (@themichellewie) on

Wie isn't the first to voice her displeasure with the rules. Lexi Thompson posted a similar photo and caption to Instagram shortly after the policy was announced.