Eight Weeks of Improvement

By August 9, 2004, 4:00 pm
Natural Golf Makeover ChallengeThe eighth and final installment of the Natural Golf Makeover Challenge came to a end on Monday as the Fab Five had come full circle, arriving back in Orlando for their much-anticipated final exams.

The crew was flown in from all over the country and put up in the swanky Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Studios Orlando. The fivesome enjoyed a little R&R at the theme parks and were treated to a luau before their big day arrived at the Reunion Golf Resort and Spa. During their final 18-hole test each would have serious questions to answer and demons to face.

But before they began their rounds, the Fab Five received one last go around from the team of Natural Golf Makeover Challenge gurus.

Fitness guru Kelly Blackburn led a series of stretches to get them loose and warmed up to play. Fashion guru Marty Hackel did one last wardrobe change, while motivational guru Lou Holtz offered some words of encouragement. Finally, swing guru Ed Woronicz told them to trust what they had learned and to have confidence in their new games.

Of the five participants, the one who may have benefited the most from the eight-week program was police officer Ralph Sanzeri. In addition to losing a whopping 26 lbs., thanks in part to the guidelines of Blackburn, Ralph also had drastically improved his distance and control off the tee. Playing with an old friend at the final exam, Ralph broke 90 by hitting eight greens in regulation while losing no strokes lost to penalties.

I was excited and terrified all in one, but I had gotten some really great instruction during the makeover, so I had to just get out there and trust it, said Ralph about his final 18 holes.

Summer Davidson-Jones on the other hand, was last seen struggling and somewhat frustrated with her game. Playing with her husband James - whom she wanted to defeat as one of her goals - Summer started strong but ultimately couldnt keep pace. Despite the loss, she found comfort in her tremendous accuracy off the tee and what the program has brought to her game and to her life.

My true reward is within and I have learned and grown so much through this experience. I feel comfortable I can now come out here and say Im a golfer, which I would have never said before, said Summer on her eight-week journey.

In one of the days most anticipated showdowns, marketing rep Kevin Odberg faced his longtime nemesis Alex, otherwise known as the evil goalie. It didnt, however, live up to the pre-round hype, as Kevin crushed his most daunting foe with a nifty 83 - 18 strokes better than the evil goalies 101.

There was a lot of competition between us. We were both excited, saying whatever happens this is going to be great, said Kevin about his thoughts before the round. But secretly, I knew it was going to be really great if I got to kick his butt!

Meanwhile, disc jockey Ken Dashow put on a golfing display that even surprised himself, beating his buddy with a solid 83 that included one birdie and five pars. It wasnt a certain shot or a certain club that had Ken excited but his newfound confidence that he attributes to carrying him through the day.

Im now playing the golf course. Im looking at it with an understanding of how to attack the hole, where do I want to land this, wheres my target area, said the delighted Ken. (Now) I can aim for a target and hit it as opposed to just swinging and praying.

And finally there was Wild Bill, the Harley-loving Vietnam vet from California who had just recently taken up the game. The ultimate challenge for him was simple: win enough holes during the round to come out on top and win the all-important beer bets that he usually places with his buddy Al. In spite of struggling down the stretch and the nervousness of playing in front of the cameras, Wild Bill was able to hold off Al and collect on his beer bets.

As the day concluded and the final assessments were made, there was just one more little surprise to throw at the group. And no, it was not one last free cram session with a swing instructor, but instead an all-expense paid trip for two to Myrtle Beach, S.C., for the DuPont World Amateur Championship in late August.

I cant wait to showcase my game when we get there. People are probably going to follow us in particular since theyll know us from the show, said Kevin on the prospects of going to Myrtle Beach.
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    Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

    By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

    SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

    Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

    He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

    Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

    Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

    The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

    ''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

    Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

    He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

    Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

    Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

    ''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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    13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

    Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

    Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

    “An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

    Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

    Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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    McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

    It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

    Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

    Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    “I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

    Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

    “Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

    This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014. 

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    Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

    Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

    While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

    He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

    "A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

    Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

    "If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."