Golf World Makes it Right for Lefties
Weir was 13, just starting to shift his focus from hockey to golf, when he wrote Jack Nicklaus for advice. The young Canadian lefty wanted to know whether he would be better off swinging from the right side.
``I just told him what I would tell any youngster,'' Nicklaus recalled. ``If you're a natural on one side or the other, I don't recommend changing. It was just a short letter with my advice, but I don't think I've ever sent one to a future Masters champion.''
It might be the last one Nicklaus needs to send.
While the number of left-handed golfers remains low -- industry leaders estimate it anywhere from 4 percent to 7 percent in the United States -- equipment for lefties is becoming available more quickly.
Only two years ago, it was common to see Weir, Steve Flesch, Greg Chalmers and other lefties snooping through each others' bags to see what they were playing. Hot new products made it to the right-handers first. Lefties had to wait as long as two months.
For amateurs, it was even worse.
``When I was starting out in junior golf, the equipment issue was a bit of a factor,'' Weir said. ``That was the tough thing. Now it's not an issue. Fathers changing their sons to right-handed I think is no longer an issue. I think you'll see more lefties out there.''
Manufacturers are doing their part, although it's hard to fault them for not making more left-handed equipment when it represents only about 5 percent of its sales.
``When you're working on a tool or a part (to build a club), it's still a fixed cost,'' said Titleist chief Wally Uihlein, who plays golf left-handed. ``If your market is only 2 percent, you have to make a strategic decision.''
Callaway Golf said 5 percent of its drivers, fairway metals, irons and putters, and 4 percent of its wedges, are made for lefties. Spokesman Larry Dorman said the company had $9.5 million in sales last year.
``It's not a big business, but we're not losing money on it,'' Dorman said.
That's a big change from 20 years ago, when left-handed versions of a club would not become available until the second year of production -- if at all.
That's what led Walter Tripovich to start a national mailing house in Vermont that caters exclusively to left-handed players.
``I got frustrated traveling and not finding any left-handed equipment,'' Tripovich said.
Dick Sponge has a similar operation in Florida that he started two years ago.
``Although there is more equipment available today than ever before, from a left-handed standpoint, it's still not the equivalent of what right-handers get,'' Sponge said.
Left-handed equipment accounts for about 10 percent of sales at Edwin Watts, one of the largest golf retail stores in the country. Computer-assisted design technology has helped speed the production of left-handed equipment, although there is still a waiting period from when right-handed equipment hits the market.
``It used to frustrate us, and I know it frustrated left-handed golfers,'' said John Watts, director of sales at company headquarters in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. ``It doesn't seem to be that long any more. Manufacturers have responded.''
One problem that remains is the selection of left-handed clubs -- again, a result of the small market share.
``From a manufacturing standpoint, it's hard to blame them when you look at the small percent of sales,'' Watts said. ``When you take into consideration how few 48-degree wedges are sold, then flip that to a left-handed club, the percentage really shrinks.''
Tripovich and Sponge, the left-handed club salesmen, don't expect to see an increase in left-handed golfers, although they say improved availability will keep newcomers to the game from switching to the right side.
The outcome at Augusta National was no less satisfying.
Weir became the first lefty to win a green jacket, beating Phil Mickelson as the first to win a major, and joined Bob Charles (1963 British Open) as the only left-handers to win a major championship.
``A win like Mike Weir had at the Masters dramatically raises awareness of left-handed golfers throughout the world,'' Sponge said. ``It proves a lefty cannot only compete, but win on the highest level.''
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia
This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.
The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.
Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.
The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.
A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.
And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.
The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.
Green jacket tour
Man of the people
Ace at 17th at Sawgrass
Departure from TaylorMade
Squashed beef with Paddy
Victory at Valderrama
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com is counting down the top 10 Newsmakers of the Year as voted on by Golf Channel’s writers, editors, reporters and producers. Check out the list below, including future release dates:
No. 4: Dec. 13
No. 3: Dec. 14
No. 2: Dec. 15
No. 1: Dec. 18
Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf
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
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.