A Long Trip Across the Pond With No Guarantees

By Associated PressJuly 12, 2005, 4:00 pm
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- Bob Estes thought the phone call was a prank. The Scottish brogue was so thick that he didn't catch the man's name or half of what he was trying to say. There was something about an alternate list and travel plans, whether he was interested in coming. Estes wasn't sure what to make of all this until he saw the phone number.
'I realized that it matched the number on the entry form of the British Open,' he said.
That was Monday morning in Austin, Texas.
Twenty-four hours later, Estes was dressed in blue jeans and a shirt as he stood outside the Royal & Ancient Golf Club, soaking up a sun-splashed view of St. Andrews Bay and anticipating a chance to play the Old Course.
He might have to settle for only a practice round.
What makes this appearance so compelling is that Estes wasn't even guaranteed a spot in the field when he decided to fly through the night across the Atlantic Ocean.
He was the second alternate when he left Texas. By the time he arrived in Scotland, Padraig Harrington had withdrawn following the death of his father, and Estes was next in line.
The 39-year-old Texan still might not being teeing it up Thursday, but so what?
'I wasn't worried that I might not get in. I would be more concerned if my number was called and I wasn't there,' Estes said. 'This is the most prestigious championship in the world, played on the most famous course in the world. And it was killing me that I wasn't here.'
Estes played his first major in 1990 at the British Open, when he qualified at nearby Ladybank, then missed the cut at St. Andrews. He returned in 1995 and finished three shots out of a playoff, done in by a three-putt late in the final round. Five years ago, he played four consistent rounds and tied for 20th.
He loves St. Andrews.
More than that, Estes has deep respect for golf's oldest championship. He would have risked flying 5,000 miles as an alternate even if this Open were held at Royal Birkdale or Carnoustie.
The same can't be said for some other Americans.
Some of them didn't even bother trying to qualify, even though the R&A has made it easy by staging final rounds of qualifying in the United States. A year ago, 52 tour players didn't show up for the 36-hole qualifier at Congressional, and six players snubbed the R&A further by not calling to say they weren't coming.
The R&A even offered a spot for the highest finisher in two straight PGA Tour events, the Western Open and the John Deere Classic, and two spots for PGA Tour players atop a special money list. Billy Mayfair captured one of those spots, then decided not to go to St. Andrews because he had 'personal and professional' commitments to honor.
'I love Billy,' Estes said. 'But he just doesn't get it. And it's a shame. I feel sorry he's not here.'
Arnold Palmer must feel the same way.
The King restored the Open to its glory when he came over to St. Andrews in 1960, leading a resurgence of American interest. Jack Nicklaus never thought twice about coming, recalling how Bobby Jones once told him that a great champion's career is not complete until he wins a British Open at St. Andrews.
Estes wants that chance, and a transoceanic flight with no guarantee he would play sure wasn't going to stop him.
Ditto for Brad Faxon.
Faxon couldn't play in the U.S. qualifier this year because it was opposite his CVS Charity Classic, a two-day event that has raised some $3 million.
Instead, he flew to St. Andrews with the odds against him. Faxon had to play 36 holes on the links of Lundin, where only three spots were available for 96 players. He made it by one shot.
'If you win a tournament like this, it changes your whole life,' Faxon said. 'And I'm not going to win it staying at home. There is a special feeling playing these links courses and competing in the oldest major in the world.'
Turns out Faxon did not have to qualify. Because five players have withdrawn through injury or a death in the family, he would have made it on his world ranking, which was above Estes.
Estes was in search of something to eat and then on his way to the practice range when Faxon, of all people, walked out of the clubhouse with his bag over his shoulder.
He looked at Estes and smiled, two Americans with a common love for the British Open.
'It's awesome that he came over,' Estes said.
Even more impressive was Estes' willingness to play, even realizing that his 17-hour trip to St. Andrews might turn into a waste of time.
Of course, Estes doesn't see it that way.
'I imagine there are some players who look back on their career and are kicking themselves that they didn't come over here more often,' he said. 'This is like the world championship of golf. In my opinion, this is the most important championship you can win.'
And what if he doesn't get into the tournament? How will he feel flying home?
Estes turned toward the Old Course and gazed out at the rolling links where golf has been played for 500 years.
'At least I get to play St. Andrews,' he said. 'And you never know when you're going to get that chance again.'
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    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.


    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.”