Mother Nature Wildlife Gaining Respect On Courses

By Associated PressJuly 2, 2005, 4:00 pm
When Hugh Williams began golfing in his 20s, he was overwhelmed by the Lowcountry beauty that surrounded almost every shot that day at Crooked Oaks Course on Johns Island.
 
'Somebody's got to maintain this and keep it around,' Williams thought, and a vocation came to life.
 
Williams, now superintendent at Oldfield Club in Okatie, is part of a growing wave of golf course superintendents, owners and industry leaders who value wildlife and natural habitat as much as low scores and regular customers.
 
'I think golfers want more than golf these days,' said Jen Peak with Crescent Resources, which builds homes on the Oldfield property.
 
Williams' course recently was named a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary, a designation achieved by fewer than 2 percent of layouts around the world.
 
Oldfield became the 13th course in South Carolina to get the stamp of approval from Audubon International, and the group's Shawn Williams says the numbers are increasing. In the Palmetto State, 49 courses are registered with Audubon on the way to certification, Williams said.
 
Audubon International, which is not affiliated with the National Audubon Society, is an environmental education organization dedicated to sustainable development.
 
Decades ago, course construction often consisted of bulldozing land and mapping out holes with little regard for what was there before. Wildlife? It could find somewhere else to live.
 
Marvin Bouknight, Oldfield's naturalist, said his wife once took a recreational management position in Charleston County up the coast. That county 'has golf courses,' Bouknight recalled complaining. 'You can bet there won't be any wildlife out there.'
 
Now, Bouknight can look almost anywhere on Oldfield's 860 acres, including the 18 holes designed by Greg Norman, and find something natural to enjoy.
 
There might be an osprey grasping a fish as it glides over the 11th fairway or bobcat footprints in bunkers or cheery colorful plants next to landing areas. On a recent wildlife tour, Bouknight found an atamasco lily, also known as the 'naked lady,' next to one hole and was as excited as if he'd notched a double eagle.
 
'This is a good find, a real good find,' he said, smiling.
 
Audubon certification involves six ongoing steps, including satisfying questions about safe environmental planning, water conservation and wildlife and habitat management.
 
'The new-school superintendents, the younger guys coming up, are taught more' about environmental awareness, Shawn Williams said. 'What I consider the baby boomer generation, they take a lot of pride in their yards, are more socially aware. They take more awareness about golf's evolving nature.'
 
Eric Antebi, a spokesman for the Sierra Club, says the organization hopes golf courses always use environmentally sound tactics and adds that people should not be fooled into thinking courses are part of the natural order of things.
 
'The real question is whether or not golf courses are a net positive for the environment, and by and large they are not,' Antebi said by phone from the group's San Francisco headquarters.
 
Chuck Borman is executive director of the Carolinas Golf Course Superintendents Association and was chief operating officer for the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America. He said superintendents and course owners always were strong environmental stewards, but did not have the choices available today.
 
Fertilizers that kept fairways lush were potentially harmful to natural habitat and water runoff routes were not as precisely planned as is possible with more modern courses, he said.
 
Superintendent budgets, which can range from $100,000 a year for a routine public course to $1 million or more for a high-profile resort layout, also play a role in how environmentally conscious a course can be.
 
Hugh Williams said letting areas such as banks of water hazards and collection spots around greens remain as they might have been before course construction helps maintain costs and save wildlife.
 
'Those are areas where you don't need things like fertilizers and pesticides,' he said.
 
For those areas that do need maintenance, Oldfield picks out individual spots instead of the scatter-gun spray method seen in years past. A computer system allows Williams to control watering time. Sensors tell staffers when watering should stop.
 
An irrigation system collects runoff water and filters it so it can be used again. The Ocean Course, Pete Dye's famed layout on Kiawah Island, uses a similar filtering technique to conserve water.
 
These days, wildlife often makes good business sense, too.
 
Oldfield's golfers - the course has a relatively modest 12,000 rounds a year, Williams said - are treated to sights you're not going to find at the local muni.
 
'People love to see wildlife on golf courses,' Borman said. 'They love to see birds. They love to see trees.'
 
Oldfield goes a step further.
 
On one side of the course yardage guide are the usual golf tips such as avoiding the live oak on the front side of the sixth green. On the other side, there are notes about natural attractions.
 
'The wildlife found in this area includes foxes, white-tailed deer, fox squirrels and a diverse population of birds including wild turkeys, wood storks and tricolored herons,' the guide says.
 
Borman says his organization holds seminars and lectures about the advantages of Audubon's certification programs. He links interested course owners and superintendents with others who've gone through the process.
 
Oldfield's Williams is ready to pass on what he knows.
 
'You can't play a round of golf out here without seeing something you'll remember,' he said. 'That's what we want.'
 
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

"He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

"I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

"From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

"And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

"There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."

Move over Lydia, a new Ko is coming to LPGA

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 5:11 pm

Another gifted young South Korean will be joining the LPGA ranks next year.

Jin Young Ko, the Korean LPGA Tour star, informed the American-based LPGA on Sunday night that she will be taking up membership next year. Ko earned the right by winning the LPGA’s KEB Hana Bank Championship as a nonmember in South Korea in October.

Ko, 22, no relation to Lydia Ko, first burst on to the international spotlight with her run into contention at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry two years ago. She led there through 54 holes, with Inbee Park overtaking her in the final round to win.

With 10 KLPGA Tour titles, three in each of the last two seasons, Ko has risen to No. 19 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.

Ko told GolfChannel.com Sunday afternoon that she was struggling over the decision, with a Monday deadline looming.

“It’s a difficult decision to leave home,” Ko said after the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, when she was still undecided. “The travelling far away, on my own, the loneliness, that’s what is difficult.”

Ko will be the favorite to win the LPGA’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award next year. South Koreans have won that award the last three years. Sung Hyun Park won it this year, In Gee Chun last year and Sei Young Kim in 2015. South Korean-born players have won the last four, with New Zealand’s Lydia Ko winning it in 2014. Ko was born in South Korea and moved to New Zealand when she was 6.

Ko released this statement through the LPGA on Wednesday: 

"It has been my dream since I was young to play on the LPGA Tour and I look forward to testing myself against the best players on a worldwide stage. I know it is going to be tough but making a first win as an LPGA member and winning the Rolex Rookie of the Year award would be two of the biggest goals I would like to achieve next year."

Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:22 pm

Gerina Piller, the American Olympian golfer and three-time Solheim Cup veteran, is pregnant and will not be rejoining the LPGA when the 2018 season opens, the New York Times reported following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller, 32, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is due with the couple’s first child in May, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz reported.

Piller declined an interview request when GolfChannel.com sought comment going into the CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller told the New York Times she has no timetable for her return but that she isn’t done with competitive golf.

“I’m not just giving everything up,” Piller said.

As parity reigns, LPGA searching for a superstar

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:00 pm

Apologies to the LPGA’s golden eras, but women’s golf has never been deeper.

With the game going global, with the unrelenting wave of Asian talent continuing to slam the tour’s shores, with Thailand and China promising to add to what South Korea is delivering, it’s more difficult than ever to win.

That’s a beautiful and perplexing thing for the women’s game.

That’s because it is more difficult than ever to dominate.

And that’s a magic word in golf.

There is no more powerful elixir in the sport.

Domination gets you on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on ESPN SportsCenter, maybe even on NBC Nightly News if the “D” in domination is dynamic enough.

The women’s best chance of moving their sport to another stratosphere is riding the back of a superstar.

Or maybe a pair of superstar rivals.


Photos: 2017 LPGA winners gallery


A constellation of stars may be great for the devoted regular supporters of the women’s game, but it will take a charismatic superstar to make casual fans care.

The LPGA needs a Serena Williams.

Or the reincarnation of Babe Zaharias.

For those of us who regularly follow the LPGA, this constellation of stars makes for compelling stories, a variety of scripting to feature.

The reality, however, is that it takes one colossal story told over and over again to burst out of a sports niche.

The late, great CBS sports director Frank Chirkinian knew what he had sitting in a TV production truck the first time he saw one of his cameras bring a certain young star into focus at the Masters.

It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” Chirkinian once told me over lunch at a golf course he owned in South Florida.  “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’

“The thing about golf, more than any other sport, it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where people will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

And they go gaga when it’s one star so radiant that he or she dominates attention.

“It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading, or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”

The LPGA is in a healthy place again, with a big upside globally, with so much emerging talent sharing the spotlight.

Take Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

The back nine started with Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie making the turn tied for the lead. There is no more powerful pairing to sell in the women’s game today, but there would be no duel. It would have been too far off script as the final chapter to this season.

Parity was the story this year.

Sunday in Naples started with 18 players within two shots of the lead.

Entering that back nine, almost a dozen players were in the mix, including Ariya Jutanugarn.

The day ended with Jutanugarn beating Thompson with a dramatic birdie-birdie finish after Thompson stunned viewers missing a 2-foot putt for par at the last.

The day encapsulated the expanding LPGA universe.

“I’ve never seen such crazy, brilliant golf from these ladies,” said Gary Gilchrist, who coaches Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng. “It was unbelievable out there. It was just like birdie after birdie after birdie, and the scoreboard went up and down. And that’s why it’s so hard to be No. 1 on this tour. There’s not one person who can peak. It’s all of them at a phenomenal level of golf.”

If Thompson had made that last 2-footer and gone on to win the CME, she would have become the sixth different world No. 1 this year. Before this year, there had never been more than three different No. 1s in a single LPGA season.

Parity was the theme from the year’s start.

There were 15 different winners to open the season, something that hadn’t happened in 26 years. There were five different major championship winners.

This year’s Rolex Player of the Year Award was presented Sunday to So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park. It’s the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

Thompson won twice this year, with six second-place finishes, with three of those playoff losses, one of them in a major championship. She was close to putting together a spectacular year. She was close to dominating and maybe becoming the tour’s one true rock star.

Ultimately, Thompson showed us how hard that is to do now.

She’s in a constellation we’re all watching, to see if maybe one star breaks out, somebody able to take the game into living rooms it has never been, to a level of popularity it’s never been.

The game won’t get there with another golden era. It will get there with a golden player.