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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LAAC returning to Casa de Campo in 2019

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 8:23 pm

The Latin America Amateur Championship will return to Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic in 2019 (Jan. 17-20), event organizers announced Saturday in Chile, where this year’s championship is underway.

The LAAC champion receives an invitation to play the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club every spring.

The champion is also exempt into The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event for which he is eligible to compete. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

The championship got its start in 2015 with Chile’s Matias Dominguez winning at Pilar Golf in Argentina. In 2016, Casa de Campo hosted, with Costa Rica’s Paul Chaplet winning. At 16, he became the first player from Central America to compete in the Masters. In 2017, Chile’s Toto Gana won the title at  Club de Golf de Panama.

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Beef's beer goggles: Less drinks = more wins

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 6:07 pm

An offseason spent soul searching is apparently paying quick dividends for Andrew “Beef” Johnston, who is in contention to win Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Johnston acknowledged he was “burning the candle at both ends” last year, playing both the PGA Tour and the European Tour, but he told reporters Saturday that it wasn’t too much golf that hindered his efforts.

It was too much “socializing.”

“I'm a social person,” Johnston said. “If you go out with friends, or you get invited to something, I'll have a beer, please. But I probably had a few too many beers, I would say, to be honest. And it reflected in my golf, and I was disappointed looking back at it. I want to turn that around and have a good season.”

Johnston posted a 6-under-par 66 Saturday, moving into a tie for sixth, three shots off the lead. He said he arrived in Abu Dhabi a week early to prepare for his first start of the new year. It’s paying off with a Sunday chance to win his second European Tour title.

“Last year was crazy, and like getting distracted, and things like that,” Johnston said. “You don't know it's happened until you've finished the season. You’re off doing things and you're burning the candle at both ends. When I got back from last season, sort of had time to reflect on it, I sort of said to myself, 'You've got to keep quiet and keep disciplined and get on with your work.’”


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Johnston finished 189th last year in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup standings. He was 116th in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.

Johnston’s fun-loving personality, his scruffy beard and his big-bodied shape quickly made him one of the most popular and entertaining players in the game when he earned his PGA Tour card before the 2016-17 season. Golf Digest called him a “quirky outlier,” and while he has had fun with that persona, Johnston is also intent on continuing to prove he belongs among the game’s best players.

His plan for doing that?

“Just put the work in,” he said. “I didn’t put enough work in last year. It’s simple. It showed. So, just get down, knuckle down and practice hard.”

Rory McIlroy at the 2018 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship Getty Images

McIlroy making big statement in first start of 2018

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 3:40 pm

Rory McIlroy marched the fairways of Abu Dhabi Golf Club Saturday with that fighter pilot stride of his, with that confident little bob in his step that you see when he is in command of his full arsenal of shots.

So much for easing into the new year.

So much for working off rust and treating these first few months of 2018 as a warmup for the Masters and his bid to complete the career Grand Slam.

McIlroy, 28, is poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

With back-to-back birdies to close his round, McIlroy put up a 7-under-par 65, leaving him just one shot off the lead going into the final round.

“It’s good,” McIlroy said. “I probably scored a bit better today, short game was needed as well, but I hit the ball very well, so all in all it was another great round and confidence builder, not just for this week but obviously for the rest of the season as well.”

McIlroy can make a strong statement with a win Sunday.

If he claims the title in his first start of the year, he sends a message about leaving all the woes of 2017 behind him. He sends a message about his fitness after a nagging rib injury plagued him all of last year. He sends a message about his readiness to reassert himself as the game’s best player in a world suddenly teeming with towering young talent.

After his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro, McIlroy is eager to show himself, as well as everyone else, that he is ready to challenge for major championships and the world No. 1 title again.

“It feels like awhile since I’ve won,” McIlroy said. “I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


A victory would be all the more meaningful because the week started with McIlroy paired with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and reigning European Tour Player of the Year Tommy Fleetwood.

McIlroy acknowledged the meaning of that going into Saturday’s round.

“That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent healthy,” he said. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and one of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

It’s worth repeating what 2008 Masters champ Trevor Immelman said last month about pairings and the alpha-dog nature of the world’s best players. He was talking about Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge, when Immelman said pairings matter, even in off season events.

“When you are the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Immelman said. “They want to show this guy, `This is what I got.’”

A victory with Johnson in the field just two weeks after Johnson won the Sentry Tournament of Champions in an eight-shot rout will get the attention of all the elite players.

A victory also sets this up as a January for the ages, making it the kind of big-bang start the game has struggled to create in the shadow of the NFL playoffs.

Johnson put on a tour-de-force performance winning in Hawaii and the confident young Spaniard Jon Rahm is just a shot off the lead this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour. Sergio Garcia is just two off the lead going into the final round of the Singapore Open. Tiger Woods makes his return to the PGA Tour at Torrey Pines next week.

To be sure, McIlroy has a lot of work to do Sunday.

Yet another rising young talent, Thomas Pieters, shares the lead with Ross Fisher. Fleetwood is just two shots back and Johnson five back.

McIlroy has such a good history at Abu Dhabi. Over the last seven years, he has finished second four times and third twice. Still, even a strong finish that falls short of winning bodes well for McIlroy in his first start of the year.

“I have never won my first start back out,” McIlroy said.

A strong start, whether he wins or not, sets McIlroy up well for the ambitious schedule he plans for 2018. He’s also scheduled to play the Dubai Desert Classic next with the possibility he’ll play 30 times this year, two more events than he’s ever played in a year.

“I’m just really getting my golf head back on,” McIlroy said. “I’ve been really pleased with that.”

A victory Sunday will make all our heads spin a little b it with the exciting possibilities the game offers this year.

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Garcia 2 back in weather-delayed Singapore Open

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 3:06 pm

SINGAPORE - Danthai Boonma and Chapchai Nirat built a two-stroke lead over a chasing pack that includes Sergio Garcia and Ryo Ishikawa midway through the third round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open on Saturday.

The Thai golfers were locked together at 9 under when play was suspended at the Sentosa Golf Club for the third day in a row because of lightning strikes in the area.

Masters champion Garcia and former teen prodigy Ishikawa were among seven players leading the chase at 7 under on a heavily congested leaderboard.

Garcia, one of 78 players who returned to the course just after dawn to complete their second rounds, was on the 10th hole of his third round when the warning siren was sounded to abruptly end play for the day.

''Let's see if we can finish the round, that will be nice,'' he said. ''But I think if I can play 4-under I should have a chance.''

The Spanish golfer credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his first major championship title at Augusta National because of the stifling humidity of southeast Asia and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament.


Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore in 2017, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the subsequent week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later. He is feeling confident of his chances of success this weekend.

''I felt like I hit the ball OK,'' Garcia said. ''My putting and all went great but my speed hasn't been great on this green so let's see if I can be a little more aggressive on the rounds this weekend.''

Ishikawa moved into a share of the lead at the halfway stage after firing a second round of 5-under 66 that featured eight birdies. He birdied the first two holes of his third round to grab the outright lead but slipped back with a double-bogey at the tricky third hole for the third day in a row. He dropped another shot at the par-5 sixth when he drove into a fairway bunker.

''It was a short night but I had a good sleep and just putted well,'' Ishikawa said. The ''greens are a little quicker than yesterday but I still figured (out) that speed.

Ishikawa was thrust into the spotlight more than a decade ago. In 2007, he became the youngest player to win on any of the major tours in the world. He was a 15-year-old amateur when he won the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup.

He turned pro at 16, first played in the Masters when he was 17 and the Presidents Cup when he was 18. He shot 58 in the final round to win The Crowns in Japan when he was 19.

Now 26, Ishikawa has struggled with injuries and form in recent years. He lost his PGA Tour card and hasn't played in any of the majors since 2015. He has won 15 times as a professional, but has never won outside his homeland of Japan.

Chapchai was able to sleep in and put his feet up on Saturday morning after he completed his second round on Friday.

He bogeyed the third but reeled off three birdies in his next four holes to reach 9-under with the back nine still to play.

Danthai was tied for 12th at the halfway stage but charged into a share of the lead with seven birdies in the first 15 holes of his penultimate round.