Russell Normandin's Final Words

By June 7, 2011, 2:00 am

First, I just wanted to thank everyone for all of the overwhelming support I have received since this journey began. Without all of my friends, the most talented group of golfers on Okinawa: the GAGGLE, the support from the United States Marine Corps, my swing coach of the All-Marine Golf Team, Andy Hinson, and my unbelievable family, none of this would have been possible. To you all I owe the greatest debt of gratitude and a sincere thank you for all that you have done for me!

Being selected for Big Break was a dream come true for the average guy like me. Sitting in my house in Okinawa Japan watching Big Break Dominican Republic my wife asked me why I have never tried out for the show. My immediate response was a laugh with 'guys like me never get picked for that show'! She told me you never know; you are a great golfer and have a great story to tell. Without my wife believing in me, I probably would have never submitted an application. For that baby, I will never forget what you had done for me! Giving a guy who’s a poor kid from Rhode Island the opportunity to potentially fulfill my greatest dream of becoming a professional golfer will never be forgotten.

The final show in which I was eliminated was one for the ages! The first two episodes I did not play particularly well... I was doing just enough to survive and move on, but I was not striking the ball very well. My swing has been rebuilt so many times over the years because of all the injuries I have had in my Marine Corps career. My swing is very flat because my left shoulder will not allow it to get on a higher swing plane because of the surgery I had on it a few years ago. Combine this, the surgery I had on my foot in September, and the very cold weather in the morning, meant I could not get loose. No one really knew this on the show but I was in the hot tub almost every morning around 0500 hours to help loosen up a bit.  That said, by the third episode, I was finally getting into the groove and was looking forward to playing but I did not even need to hit a shot - - SWEET! If anyone were to ask those guys if you would rather had broken glass or be safe to the next show, they all would have told you: 'I'll take safe please'.

My challenge with Will was an exciting one! Will hit a really good tee shot just short of the bunker’s right. I wanted to put some pressure on him so I took a really aggressive line and tried to carry the bunker on the left; that early in the morning that was a big mistake! I had one of the toughest shots in golf: the 40ish yard bunker shot with a 8 foot lip in front and did not pull it off. “Will the Thrill” hit another great shot that he almost holed out which lead me to have to make a shot which I did not. Great job Will; you really impressed me brother!

Now we turn to the Blackjack Challenge... I want to scream like Oren did during the commercial, HAHAH! The viewers will never truly know what is going on through the competitors’ minds when they are hitting these shots. Almost no one knows (except those who were there) that we got to hit two practice shots before the actual challenge. It was at that point where I saw Shank hit to Kings for a 20! I remembered the sound of the shots that he hit during the practice and they were the exact same when the challenge began. I was not far off because the 5 he hit just rolled out of the K which would have been a 20. My failure of that challenge was not the decision to hit on 18 but the first shot I hit a 3; HELLO BONEHEAD! When I decided to hit the fourth shot it was for one reason alone: I wanted to hold my own destiny in my own hands. If I chose to not hit that shot and Shank did have 20 I would have never been able to live with myself. The 3 was the first block in front of me. If it were in the middle of the grid I would have maybe stood but again, I wanted to hold my own destiny in my hands. If Shank did not have 15 but had 20 and I decided to hit again I would have looked like a genius but instead I will be forever remembered for the guy who hit on 18! I told myself that if I did not win the show I wanted to be remembered, not by being a clown on the show but just remembered. Boy, did I accomplish that objective!!!

Going into the final challenge with Dave was a chance at redemption for me. He had beaten me in our last three meetings and I wanted an opportunity for a win. David is an unbelievably talented young golfer and I knew beating him was going to be hard since I knew he was going to have at least a half-shot advantage. I was a little surprised when he purchased the half shot but it led me to my suspicion; he was nervous. I was hoping that he remembered the other times he beat me and I could have been possibly due for a win. The first stage was not that hard, Dave hit a great shot and I hit a little 9 iron bump ‘n run that just let out a little more than it should have; now I am 2 shots with Dave at 0! The second stage was a little tough shot, the rough was gnarly off a side hill lie. Dave hit his first one short and then nailed the second one - - HERE WAS MY CHANCE! I needed to hit a one, which I did. Going into the third shot anything could have happened. Dave hits his first one in by an inch or two. If that one would have been out who knows what would have happened... I missed my first one a little right and the second left and stuffed the third one. All Dave needed to do was hit the green form 180 which he did and the match was over... Well done Dave aka Young One... Keep fighting brother, you are going to do great things in the golf world!

As of this week, I will be heading to Afghanistan for another deployment with 3rd Battalion 6th Marines. I once again get the great opportunity to serve with some of the greatest Americans this country produces! Please keep them in your prayers and for a safe return home! Where the rest of my life goes from here will be much clearer after this deployment. The excitement, pain, sorrow etc... that comes with a deployment like this is indescribable but it is what Marines do best. Many of the Marine-isms that I used on the show were for entertainment value but is the mindset of a Marine: One Mind Any Weapon. You do not take your foot off them until the match is over. Yes, it is golf, but you are in a metaphorical 'fight' on the golf course...

To all of the golfers on Big Break Indian Wells, well done gentlemen... You are great golfers so please continue the dream of chasing happiness, to play on the PGA Tour! As Quintus Horatius Flaccus said 'Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero!” The viewers will never know how close of a group we all became in the short time we were there. You all are truly fine gentlemen and you are part of the reason why I have served my country for the last 18 years.

Finally, I would like to say to my children.. You are great kids and make my life that much more meaningful! I know you do not truly grasp what dad was trying to do on the TV right now but you will later in life. I wanted the opportunity to potentially give my children a life with their dad having to leave with the fear of him never coming home. That is why I was teary-eyed at the end of the show; I felt like I let them down... I love you JoJo and KiKi more than you will ever know!!!

Semper Fidelis

Master Sergeant Russell Normandin

United States Marine Corps



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J. Korda fires flawless 62, leads by 4 in Thailand

By Associated PressFebruary 23, 2018, 12:48 pm

CHONBURI, Thailand – Jessica Korda shot a course-record 62 at the Honda LPGA Thailand on Friday to lead by four strokes after the second round.

Playing her first tournament since having jaw surgery, Korda fired eight birdies and finished with an eagle to move to 16 under par at the halfway point, a 36-hole record at the tournament.


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Korda, who is the daughter of former tennis player Petr Korda, leads fellow American Brittany Lincicome, who carded a 65 to go 12 under.

Minjee Lee of Australia is third and a shot behind Linicome on 11 under after a 67. Lexi Thompson, the 2016 champion, is fourth and another shot behind Lee.

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Simpson, Noren share Honda lead after challenging Rd. 1

By Doug FergusonFebruary 23, 2018, 1:25 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. - Tiger Woods had what he called ''easily'' his best round hitting the ball, and he didn't even break par at the Honda Classic.

Alex Noren and Webb Simpson shared the lead at 4-under 66 in steady wind on a penal PGA National golf course, and felt as though they had to work hard for it. Both dropped only one shot Thursday, which might have been as great an accomplishment as any of their birdies.

''When you stand on certain tee boxes or certain approach shots, you remember that, 'Man, this is one of the hardest courses we play all year, including majors,''' said Simpson, who is playing the Honda Classic for the first time in seven years.

Only 20 players broke par, and just as many were at 76 or worse.

Woods had only one big blunder - a double bogey on the par-5 third hole when he missed the green and missed a 3-foot putt - in an otherwise stress-free round. He had one other bogey against three birdies, and was rarely out of position. Even one of his two wild drives, when his ball landed behind two carts that were selling frozen lemonade and soft pretzels, he still had a good angle to the green.

''It was very positive today,'' Woods said. ''It was a tough day out there for all of us, and even par is a good score.''

It was plenty tough for Adam Scott, who again stumbled his way through the closing stretch of holes that feature water, water and more water. Scott went into the water on the par-3 15th and made double bogey, and then hit into the water on the par-3 17th and made triple bogey. He shot 73.


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Rory McIlroy was at even par deep into the back nine when he figured his last chance at birdie would be the par-5 18th. Once he got there, he figured his best chance at birdie was to hit 3-wood on or near the green. Instead, he came up a yard short and into the water, made double bogey and shot 72.

Noren, who lost in a playoff at Torrey Pines last month, shot 31 on the front nine and finished with a 6-foot birdie on the ninth hole into a strong wind for his 66.

The Swede is a nine-time winner on the European Tour who is No. 16 in the world, though he has yet to make a connection among American golf fans - outside of Stillwater, Oklahoma, from his college days at Oklahoma State - from not having fared well at big events. Noren spends time in South Florida during the winter, so he's getting used to this variety of putting surfaces.

''I came over here to try to play some more American-style courses, get firmer greens, more rough, and to improve my driving and improve my long game,'' Noren said. ''So it's been great.''

PGA champion Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger and Morgan Hoffmann - who all live up the road in Jupiter - opened with a 67. There's not much of an advantage because hardly anyone plays PGA National the other 51 weeks of the year. It's a resort that gets plenty of traffic, and conditions aren't quite the same.

Louis Oosthuizen, the South African who now lives primarily in West Palm Beach, also came out to PGA National a few weeks ago to get a feel for the course. He was just like everyone else that day - carts on paths only. Not everyone can hole a bunker shot on the final hole at No. 9 for a 67. Mackenzie Hughes of Canada shot his 67 with a bogey from a bunker on No. 9.

Woods, in his third PGA Tour event since returning from a fourth back surgery, appears to be making progress.

''One bad hole,'' he said. ''That's the way it goes.''

It came on the easiest hole on the course. Woods drove into a fairway bunker on the par-5 third, laid up and put his third shot in a bunker. He barely got it out to the collar, used the edge of his sand wedge to putt it down toward the hole and missed the 3-foot par putt.

He answered with a birdie and made pars the rest of the way.

''I'm trying to get better, more efficient at what I'm doing,'' Woods said. ''And also I'm actually doing it under the gun, under the pressure of having to hit golf shots, and this golf course is not forgiving whatsoever. I was very happy with the way I hit it today.''

Woods played with Patton Kizzire, who already has won twice on the PGA Tour season this year. Kizzire had never met Woods until Thursday, and he yanked his opening tee shot into a palmetto bush. No one could find it, so he had to return to the tee to play his third shot. Kizzire covered the 505 yards in three shots, an outstanding bogey considering the two-shot penalty.

Later, he laughed about the moment.

''I was so nervous,'' Kizzire said. ''I said to Tiger, 'Why did you have to make me so nervous?'''

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Players battle 'crusty' greens on Day 1 at Honda

By Randall MellFebruary 22, 2018, 11:52 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods called the greens “scratchy” on PGA National’s Champion Course.

Rory McIlroy said there is “not a lot of grass on them.”

Morgan Hoffmann said they are “pretty dicey in spots, like a lot of dirt.”

The first round of the Honda Classic left players talking almost as much about the challenge of navigating the greens as they did the challenge of Florida’s blustery, winter winds.

“They looked more like Sunday greens than Thursday,” McIlroy said. “They are pretty crusty. They are going to have a job keeping a couple of them alive.”

The Champion Course always plays tough, ranking annually among the most challenging on the PGA Tour. With a very dry February, the course is firmer and faster than it typically plays.

“Today was not easy,” Woods said. “It's going to get more difficult because these greens are not the best . . . Some of these putts are a bit bouncy . . . There's no root structure. You hit shots and you see this big puff of sand on the greens, so that shows you there's not a lot of root structure.”


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Brad Nelson, PGA National’s director of agronomy, said the Champion Course’s TifEagle Bermuda greens are 18 years old, and they are dealing with some contamination, in spots, of other strains of grasses.

“As it’s been so warm and dry, and as we are trying to get the greens so firm, those areas that are not a true Tifeagle variety anymore, they get unhappy,” Nelson said. “What I mean by unhappy is that they open up a little bit . . . It gives them the appearance of being a little bit thin in some areas.”

Nelson said the greens are scheduled for re-grassing in the summer of 2019. He said the greens do have a “crusty” quality, but . . .

“Our goal is to be really, really firm, and we feel like we are in a good place for where we want them to be going into the weekend,” he said.

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McIlroy, Scott have forgettable finish at Honda

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 22, 2018, 11:03 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Rory McIlroy and the rest of his group had a forgettable end to their rounds Thursday at the Honda Classic.

McIlroy was even par for the day and looking for one final birdie to end his opening round. Only two players had reached the par-5 finishing hole, but McIlroy tried to hold a 3-wood up against the wind from 268 yards away. It found the water, leading to a double bogey and a round of 2-over 72.  

“It was the right shot,” McIlroy said. “I just didn’t execute it the right way.”

He wasn’t the only player to struggle coming home.


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Adam Scott, who won here in 2016, found the water on both par 3s in the Bear Trap, Nos. 15 and 17. He made double on 15, then triple on 17, after his shot from the drop area went long, then he failed to get up and down. He shot 73, spoiling a solid round.

The third player in the group, Padraig Harrington, made a mess of the 16th hole, taking a triple.

The group played the last four holes in a combined 10 over.