US Am champion Uihlein on the slow road to the PGA Tour

By Doug FergusonApril 6, 2011, 3:05 am

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Contrary to popular belief, Peter Uihlein’s first golf club was not a Titleist.

It was a Fisher Price.

“My parents have footage of me in a walker, swinging a plastic club,” he said. “I’ve been playing golf ever since I can remember.”

Uihlein brings stout credentials to his debut at Augusta National. He qualified for the Masters by winning the U.S. Amateur on his 21st birthday last summer at Chambers Bay. Two years ago, he was picked for the Walker Cup team and delivered a 4-0 record to help lead the Americans to victory. He is No. 1 in the world amateur ranking.

Uihlein also brings more name recognition than most amateurs at the Masters.

He is the son of Wally Uihlein, one of the more powerful figures in the golf industry as the chief executive of Acushnet, the parent company of Titleist. It is not quite the burden of being the son of Jack Nicklaus or the grandson of Arnold Palmer. Even so, Uihlein has had to deal with the perception of privilege for most of his junior golf career.

“It’s hard to miss it,” said Uihlein, who is finishing his junior year at Oklahoma State.

Clubs, balls and shoes, however, can only take a kid so far.

Passion for golf can’t be taught.

Both of Uihlein’s sons, Jonathan and Peter, took to golf at an early age. Dad tried to make it fun, calling it a “stick-and-ball” game with no promises where it would lead. Peter still remembers the games they played that kept golf interesting. He was allowed to essentially set up his own course and make his own par.

“He moved me from the 80-yard marker to the 100-yard marker, and as I got better, 150 and 200 yards,” Uihlein said. “We had games that kept me interested, and if I made a par or made a birdie, it kept me excited. I do remember making what I believed was a hole-in-one. It was from 80 or 100 yards. I hit a driver and it went in. I was pretty young.”

When he was 9, Uihlein started to win 12-and-under tournaments. What really got his father’s attention was when the boy had not played for three months because of school and the New England winter, then went to a junior event at Doral. At age 10, he did well enough to get into the final group with a kid from Northern Ireland named Rory McIlroy. Uihlein finished third.

Before long, Uihlein was bent on a career in golf and asked his parents if he could attend the IMG Leadbetter Golf Academy in Florida.

“It was tough for the family,” Uihlein said. “It split them up a little bit. But I wanted to play with some of the best players. I wanted to be one of the best. And I figured I could do that six months out of the year. I love New England. But it’s hard to get work in and be ready for competition. Golf is what I wanted to do, and they let me follow my dream.”

His mother moved to Florida and missed seeing her older son grow up. His father travels so much on business that at times, his brother would fly into Massachusetts to look after Jonathan.

“It was tough,” Wally Uihlein said. “It worked for us. We would not recommend it unless you went into the process eyes wide open.”

The education continues, on and off the golf course.

Like most U.S. Amateur champions, Uihlein faces a busy summer. He wants to win an NCAA title for Oklahoma State. Then comes the U.S. Open, a spot at the AT&T National on the PGA Tour, a week of vacation in Britain before the British Open, the Western Open and then his title defense at the U.S. Amateur.

The toughest decision after that? Which classes to take for his senior year at Oklahoma State.

It’s rare these days for a prominent amateur to finish all four years and get a degree. Uihlein is majoring in economics. He said he will stay all four years. “If I can go more, I would,” he said.

Ryan Moore was the last big-time amateur to stay in school. Matt Kuchar, a U.S. Amateur champion who starred at the Masters and U.S. Open in 1998, finished up at Georgia Tech and debated staying an amateur. Phil Mickelson won a PGA Tour event as an amateur and stayed all four years at Arizona State.

Far more common are the accomplished amateurs who turn pro. Rickie Fowler left Oklahoma State after two years, and he went from Q-school to the Ryder Cup in one year.

“A lot of guys play well in a tour event – one event – and they think they’re ready,” Uihlein said. “Look at Justin Rose. How many cuts did he miss. It’s impressive to get where he is. And I’m sure he wasn’t even that far off. These guys are really good. They’re all great. I don’t see anything wrong with wanting to stay four years and getting an education. The PGA Tour is not going anywhere.”

Uihlein will tee it up Thursday with Mickelson – the defending champion always plays with the U.S. Amateur champion – and Geoff Ogilvy, who already has seen the kid play. They had a practice round at Innisbrook last month and when asked for a scouting report, Ogilvy watched Uihlein rip a 3-iron stinger off the tee and said, “What more do you need?”

“I’ve seen plenty of ‘can’t miss’ players who miss,” Ogilvy said. “But he’s got as good a chance as anyone else. I haven’t played with a young kid who doesn’t hit it miles. But Peter is special. He’s a sensible kid. He doesn’t look like he gets overwhelmed.”

Uihlein has set modest goals for the week. He wants to soak up the experience and have fun. He wants to make the cut, and being low amateur would be ideal. One of these days, he wants to return with a green jacket on his mind.

“Just being here is pretty special,” he said.

Getting back would be even better.

The kid has been swinging away since he had a plastic club in his hand. Golf is all he ever wanted to do.

But he’s in no hurry.

Getty Images

Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf

By Grill Room TeamDecember 11, 2017, 9:47 pm

Well, this is a one new one.

According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:

“No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”

Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.

“If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.

The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.

“I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”

The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.

Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.

Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.

PGA Tour suspends Hensby for anti-doping violation

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 8:02 pm

Mark Hensby has been suspended for one year by the PGA Tour for violating the Tour’s anti-doping policy by failing to provide a sample after notification.

The Tour made the announcement Monday, reporting that Hensby will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

The statement reads:

The PGA Tour announced today that Mark Hensby has violated the Tour Anti-Doping Policy for failing to provide a drug testing sample after notification and has been suspended for a period of one year. He will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

Hensby, 46, won the John Deere Classic in 2004. He played the Web.com Tour this past year, playing just 14 events. He finished 142nd on the money list. He once ranked among the top 30 in the Official World Golf Ranking but ranks No. 1,623 today.

The Sunshine Tour recently suspended player Etienne Bond for one year for failing a drug test. Players previously suspended by the PGA Tour for violating the anti-doping policy include Scott Stallings and Doug Barron.

The PGA Tour implemented revisions to its anti-doping program with the start of the 2017-18 season. The revisions include blood testing and the supplementation of the Tour’s prohibited list to include all of the substances and methods on the World Anti-Doping Agency prohibited list. As part of this season’s revisions, the Tour announced it would also begin reporting suspensions due to recreational drug use.

The Tour said it would not issue further comment on Hensby's suspension.

Good time to hang up on viewer call-ins

By Randall MellDecember 11, 2017, 7:40 pm

Golf announced the most massive layoff in the industry’s history on Monday morning.

Armchair referees around the world were given their pink slips.

It’s a glorious jettisoning of unsolicited help.

Goodbye and good riddance.

The USGA and R&A’s announcement of a new set of protocols Monday will end the practice of viewer call-ins and emails in the reporting of rules infractions.

“What we have heard from players and committees is ‘Let’s leave the rules and administration of the event to the players and those responsible for running the tournament,’” said Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s senior director of rules and amateur status.

Amen.

The protocols, formed by a working group that included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and the PGA of America, also establish the use of rules officials to monitor the televised broadcasts of events.

Additionally, the protocols will eliminate the two-shot penalty when a player signs an incorrect scorecard because the player was unaware of a violation.



Yes, I can hear you folks saying armchair rules officials help make sure every meaningful infraction comes to light. I hear you saying they make the game better, more honest, by helping reduce the possibility somebody violates the rules to win.

But at what cost?

The chaos and mayhem armchair referees create can ruin the spirit of fair play every bit as much as an unreported violation. The chaos and mayhem armchair rules officials create can be as much a threat to fair play as the violations themselves.

The Rules of Golf are devised to protect the integrity of the game, but perfectly good rules can be undermined by the manner and timeliness of their enforcement.

We have seen the intervention of armchair referees go beyond the ruin of fair play in how a tournament should be conducted. We have seen it threaten the credibility of the game in the eyes of fans who can’t fathom the stupidity of a sport that cannot separate common-sense enforcement from absolute devotion to the letter of the law.

In other sports, video review’s timely use helps officials get it right. In golf, video review too often makes it feel like the sport is getting it wrong, because timeliness matters in the spirit of fair play, because the retroactive nature of some punishments are as egregious as the violations themselves.  

We saw that with Lexi Thompson at the ANA Inspiration this year.

Yes, she deserved a two-shot penalty for improperly marking her ball, but she didn’t deserve the two-shot penalty for signing an incorrect scorecard. She had no idea she was signing an incorrect scorecard.

We nearly saw the ruin of the U.S. Open at Oakmont last year, with Dustin Johnson’s victory clouded by the timing of a video review that left us all uncertain if the tournament was playing out under an incorrect scoreboard.

“What these protocols are put in place for, really, is to make sure there are measures to identify the facts as soon as possible, in real time, so if there is an issue to be dealt with, that it can be handled quickly and decisively,” Pagel said.

Amen again.

We have pounded the USGA for making the game more complicated and less enjoyable than it ought to be, for creating controversy where common sense should prevail, so let’s applaud executive director Mike Davis, as well as the R&A, for putting common sense in play.

Yes, this isn’t a perfect answer to handling rules violations.

There are trap doors in the protocols that we are bound to see the game stumble into, because the game is so complex, but this is more than a good faith effort to make the game better.

This is good governance.

And compared to the glacial pace of major rules change of the past, this is swift.

This is the USGA and R&A leading a charge.

We’re seeing that with the radical modernization of the Rules of Golf scheduled to take effect in 2019. We saw it with the release of Decision 34/3-10 three weeks after Thompson’s loss at the ANA, with the decision limiting video review to “reasonable judgment” and “naked eye” standards. We’re hearing it with Davis’ recent comments about the “horrible” impact distance is having on the game, leading us to wonder if the USGA is in some way gearing up to take on the golf ball.

Yes, the new video review protocols aren’t a panacea. Rules officials will still miss violations that should have been caught. There will be questions about level playing fields, about the fairness of stars getting more video review scrutiny than the rank and file. There will be questions about whether viewer complaints were relayed to rules officials.

Golf, they say, isn’t a game of perfect, and neither is rules enforcement, though these protocols make too much sense to be pilloried. They should be applauded. They should solve a lot more problems than they create.

Lexi 'applaud's USGA, R&A for rules change

By Randall MellDecember 11, 2017, 5:15 pm

Lexi Thompson’s pain may prove to be the rest of golf’s gain.

David Rickman, the R&A’s executive director of governance, acknowledged on Golf Channel’s "Morning Drive" Monday that the new protocols that will eliminate the use of TV viewer call-ins and emails to apply penalties was hastened by the controversy following Thompson’s four-shot penalty at the ANA Inspiration in early April. The new protocols also set up rules officials to monitor TV broadcasts beginning next year.

“Clearly, that case has been something of a focus point for us,” Rickman said.

Thompson reacted to the new protocols in an Instagram post.

“I applaud the USGA and the R&A for their willingness to revise the Rules of Golf to address certain unfortunate situations that have arisen several times in the game of golf,” Thompson wrote. “In my case, I am thankful no one else will have to deal with an outcome such as mine in the future.”

Thompson was penalized two shots for improperly returning her ball to its mark on a green during Saturday’s round after a viewer emailed LPGA officials during Sunday’s broadcast. She was penalized two more shots for signing an incorrect scorecard for her Saturday round. Thompson ultimately lost in a playoff to So Yeon Ryu.

The new protocols will also eliminate the additional two-shot penalty a player receives for failing to include a penalty when a player was unaware of the penalty.

Shortly after the ANA Inspiration, the USGA and R&A led the formation of a video review working group, which included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and PGA of America.

Also, just three weeks after Thompson was hit with the four-shot penalty, the USGA and R&A released a new Rules of Golf decision decision (34-3/10) limiting video evidence in two ways:

1. If an infraction can’t be seen with the naked eye, there’s no penalty, even if video shows otherwise.

2. If a tournament committee determines that a player does “all that can be reasonably expected to make an accurate estimation or measurement” in determining a line or position to play from or to spot a ball, then there will be no penalty even if video replay later shows that to be wrong.

While the USGA and R&A said the new decision wasn’t based on Thompson’s ANA incident, LPGA players immediately began calling it the “Lexi Rule.”