Golf continues to grow globally

By Doug FergusonOctober 9, 2012, 10:02 pm

The best measure of how much golf is growing around the world can be found in Turkey, of all places.

And not just because that's where the stars have come to play.

Never mind that Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy are among eight elite players in an exhibition called the ''World Golf Finals'' that began Tuesday. It's mostly for show (four players wore shorts during the opening round of medal matches) and plenty of dough ($1.5 million for the winner).

No doubt, this can only help Turkey's bid to land the Olympics in 2020 and present itself as a golfing destination. And having the biggest names in golf, even for a few days, might inspire more interest in the game.

Far more significant, however, was the tournament that left town with little fanfare.

The World Amateur Team Championship wrapped up Sunday, with the United States winning for the first time since 2004. What made this significant was not who posed with the Eisenhower Trophy, rather who didn't get to play. For the first time in the tournament's 54-year history, there was an alternate list.

Television executive Neal Pilson once said the financial health of the PGA Tour was best measured by the waiting list of potential sponsors, and the same can be said of the World Team Amateur. It began in 1958 with 29 teams at St. Andrews. This year, there was a full field of 72 teams - from the U.S. to Ukraine, from Bermuda to Bulgaria - on the Sultan and Faldo courses at Antalya.

Among those on the waiting list, which was determined by when they signed up, were Saudi Arabia, Mauritius, Namibia and Lebanon.

''We had our biennial meeting of all member organizations and the accent and emphasis on the Olympics was very evident,'' said Peter Dawson, chief executive of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club who serves as president of the International Golf Federation. ''The interest is there. It's amazing that in these countries they think of Olympic sports, instead of golf as its own sport. It's certainly starting to serve to grow the game.''

It's too convenient to attribute the growth of the World Amateur Team to golf being approved as an Olympic sport for 2016. Golf was approved for the Olympics only three years ago, not nearly enough time for some countries to develop a reasonable infrastructure - golf courses, practice facilities, instruction, corporate involvement and, perhaps most important, a strong middle class.

The numbers have been trending in this direction for the last decade - 63 teams in 2002 at Malaysia, 70 teams in 2006 in South Africa. And it helps that Turkey is centrally located for some African and Asian nations.

But it illustrates how far golf has come - and how much more room there is to grow.

''I thought this was a good, inevitable outcome,'' said David Fay, the former USGA executive director who spent 30 years working the World Amateur Team. ''It confirms the game is going global, in large part because golf is an Olympic sport. There are more countries playing now, and they look at Olympic sports differently than they look at other sports. There's so much evidence. When tennis became a medal sport (in 1988), that's when they invested more money in tennis, and you saw what the outcome was - all the champions produced by the former Soviet Union.''

The first time Fay worked the World Amateur Team was in 1980 at Pinehurst, where he saw a 17-year-old Fijian named Vijay Singh ''who couldn't break 90.'' Singh now is in the World Golf Hall of Fame.

One of the early concerns was that emerging golf nations might get embarrassed competing against more polished players, and there's still plenty of evidence. Just last week, Azamat Maksytbekov of Kyrgyzstan made only one par in 54 holes. He had rounds of 128-125-125 to finish 163-over par. Only the top two scores from the three-man teams count, so he was bailed out by his teammates - Konstantin Surikov was 95 over and Alexey Konev was 117 over.

Macedonia fielded a team for the first time, and 17-year-old Peter Stojanovski opened with a 71 - the same score (on a different course) as U.S. Amateur champion Steven Fox. Stojanovski followed with two rounds in the 80s. Macedonia wound up in 63rd place.

''The original objective when the Eisenhower Trophy began was friendship through sport, and that thread has stayed,'' Dawson said. ''Teams tend not to stay at the bottom forever. Nobody feels embarrassed. Everyone is very tolerant of the newcomers.''

John Cook played on the 1978 team, when the Americans won just about every year. South Korea finished last among 24 teams, 128 shots behind.

''That tells you the direction of golf and how much it's grown,'' Cook said. ''Korea is one of the top countries now.''

There have been some interesting moments along the way.

Fay recalled India having to pull out in consecutive years, the first time in 1982 in Switzerland when the team reached London and its embassy realized South Africa (during the apartheid era) was in the field. ''They told their team to go home,'' Fay said. Two years later, the India team was practicing in Hong Kong when its prime minister, Indira Gandhi, was assassinated by two Sikh bodyguards. Fay was told to find out if the team still planned to play.

''I thought, 'This is going to be interesting,''' Fay said. ''There were three Hindus and a Sikh on that team. And the first question they asked me was, 'Who was responsible?' I ducked the question. I said, 'I'm not sure.'''

Fay looks back fondly at the World Amateur Team. There were stars from the golf-rich nations such as the U.S. (Woods, Jack Nicklaus) and Britain (Colin Montgomerie). There were promising players from smaller countries like what was then Rhodesia (Nick Price).

''It really was the United Nations of golf,'' Fay said.

And the membership keeps growing.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

Getty Images

Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.

Getty Images

Rose leads Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose completed the final two holes of his second round early Saturday for a 3-under 69 and a one-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, who had a first-round 62, was among a quarter of the field forced off the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course after weather delays on Friday.

The Englishman, who bogeyed his last hole, had a two-round total of 13-under 131.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who completed his 64 on Friday, was in second place.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters. He has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 1:00 pm

Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.

Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.

None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.


Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.

An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.


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