Notes Bad Round Good Memories

By Associated PressJune 14, 2007, 4:00 pm
2007 U.S. OpenOAKMONT, Pa. -- U.S. Senior Open champion Allen Doyle took quadruple bogey on his last hole for an 81, but the 58-year-old had no regrets playing the toughest test in golf against players young enough to be his son.
The Senior Open winner traditionally gets a spot in the field, although not all of them take it. Doyle was encouraged to play by his daughters, and one of them, Erin, caddied for him the second straight year. He missed the cut at Winged Foot a year ago.
'This can't take away from what I've done,' Doyle said.
The memories go beyond his Champions Tour career, which has been stellar. Doyle was devoted to amateur golf in his prime, although he rarely tried to qualify for the U.S. Open because he had limited resources. It was a good life, though, and he ran in fast company, such as a World Amateur Team event with Tiger Woods.
He also recalls playing with a young Phil Mickelson at the Sunnehanna, a prestigious amateur event in Pennsylvania.
'Phil wanted to play a practice round with me,' he said. 'We get to the fourth hole, a par 3, and I told him, 'Don't fool with the pin.''
He said he was paired with Lefty for 36 holes on a Saturday, and both times Mickelson tried to go at the flag, only to make bogey.
'I said, 'What didn't you understand about me telling you in the practice round not to go at the pin?'' Doyle remembered. 'He said, 'I thought I could hit the shot.' These kids were just kids. We had course knowledge. They had strong wills.'
Boo Weekley and Bubba Watson, alumni at tiny Milton High School in the Florida Panhandle, were in the same group for their U.S. Open debut and acquitted themselves nicely. Watson shot an even-par 70, Weekley a 72.
'We're not big with these bright lights and these big tournaments, so for us to be able to talk and see a familiar face, it's fun,' Watson said. 'We've never played together, I don't think.'
They live 20 miles apart, Watson claiming Bagdad as his residence, Weekley in Jay. Watson describes his hometown as having a post office, a few stop signs, an elementary school and 'good ol' Southern people.'
Did they make the home folks proud?
'A lot of people are rooting for us,' Weekley said. 'And a lot couldn't give a flying donkey about us.'
Bob Rittberger was on the practice green waiting for a miracle that he knew would never arrive. The assistant pro at Garden City Golf Club knew his hopes for playing in the U.S. Open ended 10 days ago with the worst kind of luck.
Rittberger was the fourth alternate at Oakmont. It should never have come to that.
He needed a par on the final hole of sectional qualifying at Century Country Club in New York, and his approach was so perfect that it hit the flag and ricocheted off the green. Unaware there was a sprinkler beneath his ball in the rough, he chipped poorly, then compounded the problem with a three-putt double bogey.
That allowed Ricky Barnes to capture the third and final spot.
As if he needed a reminder, when Rittberger pulled up at his hotel in Pittsburgh this week, Barnes was in the car in front of him.
'I've thought about it,' Rittberger said. 'But there's not a whole lot you can do.'
Alternates are not allowed to play practice rounds until they are in the field, and Rittberger really never had a chance. David Howell of England was the only player to withdraw this week.
Rittberger wound up settling for the driving range and the putting green. He also signed about 300 autographs, which is about 300 more than he has ever signed. And he kept a good attitude.
'You're dying to get out there,' he said. 'But it's just not your turn.'
No, Ben Curtis didn't lose a bet. Wearing that Steelers shirt and visor was his choice.
The lifelong Cleveland Browns fan makes no secret of his allegiance. But he knows better than to wear orange and brown in Pittsburgh, whose Steelers have as bitter a rivalry as they come with the Browns. So Curtis, who has a deal with Reebok to wear NFL team gear, broke out the hometown colors for the first round.
'You get used to it,' he said, sounding resigned. 'They were chanting 'Steelers' all day out there.'
Curtis made the mistake of wearing a Browns shirt a few years ago at the 84 Lumber Classic, which is played at the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, about 75 miles outside Pittsburgh. He got booed everywhere he went.
Last year, he bowed to the fans' wishes and wore a Steelers shirt. Lo and behold, he won the tournament.
'I might put Browns (gear) on Saturday,' he said. 'But not Sunday.'
There weren't many Oakmont Country Club members more excited about the U.S. Open than Bob Heltzel.
Heltzel, a longtime steel company executive, used to coach the golf team at John F. Kennedy High School in Warren, Ohio. One of his former players, amateur Jason Kokrak, is in the field this week, and they played Oakmont together before tournament week.
'Being the father of five daughters and no sons, it was special playing a practice round with Jason at the U.S. Open,' Heltzel said, breaking into a smile. 'He's a young man with a lot of ability and a bright future as an individual and young man, let alone the golf aspect.'
Kokrak, the Ohio prep golfer of the year in 2003, just finished up at Xavier, where he was honorable mention All-America. He tied for first in his qualifying group to earn a spot in the Open, where he shot a 6-over 76 Thursday.
'When I first came to Oakmont, I played at the U.S. Amateur in 2003 and missed the cut,' he said. 'I walked off the golf course and said, `I guess I'm just going to have to make the Open in '07.'
And he's making the most of it. Heltzel walked the course with him during practice rounds, pointing out little trouble spots that players might not be aware of. Because Warren is a mere 90 minutes from Pittsburgh, Kokrak has a large cheering section. When the ball lipped out from the fairway on the par-4 17th, costing him an eagle, the cheers were as loud as if it had gone in.
'I have so much support here,' he said. 'I couldn't even tell you how many.'
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    Lesson with Woods fetches $210K for Harvey relief

    By Will GrayDecember 13, 2017, 2:51 pm

    A charity event featuring more than two dozen pro golfers raised more than $1 million for Hurricane Harvey relief, thanks in large part to a hefty price paid for a private lesson with Tiger Woods.

    The pro-am fundraiser was organized by Chris Stroud, winner of the Barracuda Championship this summer, and fellow pro and Houston resident Bobby Gates. It was held at Bluejack National in Montgomery, Texas, about an hour outside Houston and the first Woods-designed course to open in the U.S.

    The big-ticket item on the auction block was a private, two-person lesson with Woods at Bluejack National that sold for a whopping $210,000.

    Other participants included local residents like Stacy Lewis, Patrick Reed and Steve Elkington as well as local celebrities like NBA All-Star Clyde Drexler, Houston Texans quarterback T.J. Yates and Houston Astros owner Jim Crane.

    Stroud was vocal in his efforts to help Houston rebuild in the immediate aftermath of the storm that ravaged the city in August, and he told the Houston Chronicle that he plans to continue fundraising efforts even after eclipsing the event's $1 million goal.

    "This is the best event I have ever been a part of, and this is just a start," Stroud said. "We have a long way to go for recovery to this city, and we want to keep going with this and raise as much as we can and help as many victims as we can."

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    LPGA schedule features 34 events, record purse

    By Randall MellDecember 13, 2017, 2:02 pm

    The LPGA schedule will once again feature 34 events next year with a record $68.75 million in total purses, the tour announced on Wednesday.

    While three events are gone from the 2018 schedule, three new events have been added, with two of those on the West Coast and one in mainland China.

    The season will again start with the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic on Paradise Island (Jan. 25-28) and end with the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Fla., (Nov. 15-18).

    The LPGA played for $65 million in total prize money in 2017.

    An expanded West Coast swing in the front half of the schedule will now include the HUGEL-JTBC Championship in the Los Angeles area April 19-22. The site will be announced at a later date.

    The tour will then make a return to San Francisco’s Lake Merced Golf Club the following week, in a new event sponsored by L&P Cosmetics, a Korean skincare company. Both new West Coast tournaments will be full-field events.

    The tour’s third new event will be played in Shanghai Oct. 18-21 as part of the fall Asian swing. The title sponsor and golf course will be announced at a later date.

    “Perhaps the most important aspect of our schedule is the consistency — continuing to deliver strong playing opportunities both in North America and around the world, while growing overall purse levels every year,” LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said in a statement. “There is simply no better [women’s] tour opportunity in the world, when it comes to purses, global TV coverage or strength of field. It’s an exciting time in women’s golf, with the best players from every corner of the globe competing against each other in virtually every event.”

    While the Evian Championship will again be played in September next year, the tour confirmed its plans to move its fifth major to the summer in 2019, to be part of a European swing, with the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open and the Ricoh Women’s British Open.

    The Manulife LPGA Classic and the Lorena Ochoa Invitational are not returning to the schedule next year. Also, the McKayson New Zealand Women’s Open will not be played next year as it prepares to move to the front of the 2019 schedule, to be paired with the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open.

    The U.S. Women’s Open will make its new place earlier in the summer, a permanent move in the tour’s scheduling. It will be played May 31-June 3 at Shoal Creek Golf Club outside Birmingham, Ala. The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship (June 28-July 1) will be played at Kemper Lakes Golf Club on the north side of Chicago and the Ricoh Women’s British Open (Aug. 2-5) will be played at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in England.

    For the first time since its inception in 2014, the UL International Crown team event is going overseas, with the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club in Incheon, South Korea, scheduled to host the event Oct. 4-7. The KEB Hana Bank Championship will be played in South Korean the following week.

    Here is the LPGA's schedule for 2018:

    Jan. 25-28: Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic; Paradise Island, Bahamas; Purse: $1.4 million

    Feb. 15-18: ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open; Adelaide, Australia; Purse: $1.3 million

    Feb. 21-24: Honda LPGA Thailand; Chonburi, Thailand; Purse: $1.6 million

    March 1-4: HSBC Women's World Championship; Singapore; Purse: $1.5 million

    March 15-18: Bank of Hope Founders Cup; Phoenix, Arizona; Purse: $1.5 million

    March 22-25: Kia Classic; Carlsbad, California; Purse: $1.8 million

    March 29 - April 1: ANA Inspiration; Rancho Mirage, California; Purse: $2.8 million

    April 11-14: LOTTE Championship; Kapolei, Oahu, Hawaii; Purse: $2 million

    April 19-22: HUGEL-JTBC Championship; Greater Los Angeles, California; Purse: $1.5 million

    April 26-29: Name to be Announced; San Francisco, California; Purse: $1.5 million

    May 3-6: Volunteers of America LPGA Texas Classic; The Colony, Texas; Purse: $1.3 million

    May 17-20: Kingsmill Championship; Williamsburg, Virginia; Purse: $1.3 million

    May 24-27: LPGA Volvik Championship; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Purse: $1.3 million

    May 31 - June 3: U.S. Women's Open Championship; Shoal Creek, Alabama; Purse: $5 million

    June 8-10: ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer; Galloway, New Jersey; Purse: $1.75 million

    June 14-17: Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Purse: $2 million

    June 22-24: Walmart NW Arkansas Championship presented by P&G; Rogers, Arkansas; Purse: $2 million

    June 28 - July 1: KPMG Women's PGA Championship; Kildeer, Illinois; Purse: $3.65 million

    July 5-8: Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic; Oneida, Wisconsin; Purse: $2 million

    July 12-15: Marathon Classic presented by Owens-Corning and O-I; Sylvania, Ohio; Purse: $1.6 million

    July 26-29: Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open; East Lothian, Scotland; Purse: $1.5 million

    Aug. 2-5: Ricoh Women's British Open; Lancashire, England; Purse: $3.25 million

    Aug. 16-19: Indy Women in Tech Championship presented by Guggenheim; Indianapolis, Indiana; Purse: $2 million

    Aug. 23-26: CP Women's Open; Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada; Purse: $2.25 million

    Aug. 30 - Sept. 2: Cambia Portland Classic; Portland, Oregon; Purse: $1.3 million

    Sept. 13-16: The Evian Championship; Evian-les-Bains, France; Purse: $3.85 million

    Sept. 27-30: Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Purse: $1.8 million

    Oct. 4-7: UL International Crown; Incheon, Korea; Purse: $1.6 million

    Oct. 11-14: LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship; Incheon, Korea; Purse: $2 million

    Oct. 18-21: Name to be Announced; Shanghai, China; Purse: $2.1 million

    Oct. 25-28: Swinging Skirts LPGA Taiwan Championship; New Taipei City, Chinese Taipei; Purse: $2.2 million

    Nov. 2-4: TOTO Japan Classic; Shiga, Japan; Purse: $1.5 million

    Nov. 7-10: Blue Bay LPGA; Hainan Island, China; Purse: $2.1 million

    Nov. 15-18: CME Group Tour Championship; Naples, Florida; Purse: $2.5 million

    Newsmaker of the Year: No. 4, Jordan Spieth

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 13, 2017, 1:00 pm

    Dismissed because he’s supposedly too short off the tee, or not accurate enough with his irons, or just a streaky putter, Jordan Spieth is almost never the answer to the question of which top player, when he’s at his best, would win in a head-to-head match.

    And yet here he is, at the age of 24, with 11 career wins and three majors, on a pace that compares favorably with the giants of the game. He might not possess the firepower of Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, but since he burst onto the PGA Tour in 2013 he has all that matters – a better résumé.

    Spieth took the next step in his development this year by becoming the Tour’s best iron player – and its most mentally tough.

    Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

    Just a great putter? Oh, puhleeze: He won three times despite putting statistics (42nd) that were his worst since his rookie year. Instead, he led the Tour in strokes gained-approach the green and this summer showed the discipline, golf IQ and bounce-back ability that makes him such a unique talent. 

    Even with his putter misbehaving, Spieth closed out the Travelers Championship by holing a bunker shot in the playoff, then, in perhaps an even bigger surprise, perfectly executed the player-caddie celebration, chest-bumping caddie Michael Greller. A few weeks later, sublime iron play carried him into the lead at Royal Birkdale, his first in a major since his epic collapse at the 2016 Masters.

    Once again his trusty putter betrayed him, and by the time he arrived on the 13th tee, he was tied with Matt Kuchar. What happened next was the stuff of legend – a lengthy ruling, gutsy up-and-down, stuffed tee shot and go-get-that putt – that lifted Spieth to his third major title.

    Though he couldn’t complete the career Grand Slam at the PGA, he’ll likely have, oh, another two decades to join golf’s most exclusive club.

    In the barroom debate of best vs. best, you can take the guys with the flair, with the booming tee shots and the sky-high irons. Spieth will just take the trophies.


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    Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 13, 2017, 12:30 pm