Burk Appealing Ruling

By Golf Channel NewsroomApril 8, 2003, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) -- Martha Burk criticized a judge who barred her group from protesting at the front gate of Augusta National, saying Tuesday that 'party revelers are taking precedence over legitimate protesters.'
 
Burk, who wants Augusta National Golf Club to admit its first female member, plans to appeal two separate rulings by U.S. District Judge Dudley H. Bowen Jr.
 
'I think it's clear they acted in the best interests of the city and the club rather than the best interests of the First Amendment,' Burk said in a telephone interview.
 
Burk, working with the Georgia chapter of the ACLU, will ask a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn Bowen's rulings before her scheduled Masters protest.
 
Time is drawing short. The tournament begins Thursday, and Burk's group is planning to protest during the third round Saturday.
 
'I'm a little surprised,' Burk said. 'I didn't think they would be so blatant acting in the club's interest and not the public interest.'
 
Burk wants to protest outside the main entrance of the club, believing that would give her cause maximum exposure. But the sheriff, citing safety concerns, said her group will be restricted to a site about a half-mile away.
 
City attorney Jim Wall praised the rulings.
 
'Certainly we are pleased the court upheld the validity of the ordinance and the validity of decisions the sheriff made as far as public safety issues,' Wall said.
 
Meanwhile, heavy thunderstorms kept golfers from getting on the course Monday. The gates never opened to fans, either - the first time that's happened during Masters week since 1983.
 
While the skies were still dark and threatening, the rain held off Tuesday morning. Fans were allowed inside and the course opened for practice rounds.
 
Burk, who heads the National Council of Women's Organizations, wanted to post 24 demonstrators outside the front gate of Augusta National and 200 more across the street.
 
Sheriff Ronald Strength, who has broad authority over public protests, said there's too much traffic in front of the club during the tournament to ensure safe protests.
 
Strength told Burk and other groups they must gather at a 5.1-acre site nearly a half-mile from the gate.
 
A group headed by the Rev. Jesse Jackson also has been approved for a second site even further away from the club's main entrance.
 
ACLU lawyers challenged the ordinance, saying it gives the sheriff too much power to approve or deny protests and dictate their location.
 
Bowen sided with the city in two separate rulings Monday.
 
'The ordinance does not discriminate against a particular viewpoint or limit speech to certain subject matters,' he wrote in a 17-page decision.
 
In a second ruling, Bowen said the sheriff acted properly to enforce the ordinance.
 
The judge called the area outside Augusta National 'profoundly congested' during the Masters and said allowing protesters to congregate outside the gate presents 'a realistic, plausible, even probable potential for some accidental injury.'
 
Augusta National maintained that it had no interest in the court case.
 
'As we have said all along, any demonstrations that take place outside our grounds are a matter solely for local authorities,' club spokesman Glenn Greenspan said.
 
The sheriff's office has approved protest permits for eight groups.
 
Burk and Jackson plan to demonstrate against the all-male membership. Two groups have received permits to protest against Burk. Another group plans to protest against Jackson. A one-man faction of the Ku Klux Klan, who lists Tiger Woods as his favorite golfer, will support Augusta National's rights to private membership.
 
Another man wants to demonstrate in support of President Bush's war policy.
 
Then there's Deke Wiggins and his 'People Against Ridiculous Protests.' Their permit has been approved, too.
 
Scott Hoch, comfortably dry in the locker room as rain soaked the course Monday, wasn't concerned about what's going on outside.
 
'We're concerned with how we're going to play here,' he said.
 
The few players who hung around the clubhouse chatted about the rain, the course and the war in Iraq. On the big screen in the grill room, CNN was showing images of the war.
 
'We're thinking and worrying about our people in Iraq,' Hoch said. 'Even the golf tournament is minuscule compared to that.'
 
The sight of American troops under fire in Iraq has cast a somber tone on the tournament, Hoch said.
 
'This is just a game,' he said. 'Over there, they're playing for their lives.'
 
Woods, who will try to become the first player to win three straight Masters, did not show up Monday. Still, it was a good day for him because of all the rain.
 
The damp grass will make the course play even longer than its 7,290 yards, a big advantage for Woods and other big hitters.
 
Some fans milled outside the gates for hours before being told they would not be allowed inside. Masters officials said fans will be sent refunds in May and given preference to buy practice tickets for next year.
 
'We are disappointed that our patrons could not enjoy today's practice round,' Augusta National chairman Hootie Johnson said. 'However, our first concern must be safety.'

 
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Photo by Enrique Berardi/LAAC

Top-ranked amateur Niemann one back at LAAC in Chile

By Nick MentaJanuary 21, 2018, 8:44 pm

Argentina’s Jaime Lopez Rivarola leads the Latin America Amateur Championship at 5 under par following a round of 3-under 68 Saturday in Chile.

The former Georgia Bulldog is now 36 holes from what would be a return trip to Augusta National but his first Masters.

"The truth is that I crossed off on my bucket list playing Augusta [National], because I happened to play there," Rivarola said. "I've played every year with my university. But playing in the Masters is a completely different thing. I have been to the Masters, and I've watched the players play during the practice rounds. But [competing would be] a completely different thing."

He is followed on the leaderboard by the three players who competed in the playoff that decided last year’s LAAC in Panama: Joaquin Niemann (-4), Toto Gana (-4), and Alvaro Ortiz (-3).


Click here for full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship


Chile’s Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who currently holds conditional status on the Web.com Tour and is poised to begin his career as a professional, unless of course he takes the title this week. After a disappointing 74 in Round 1, Niemann was 10 shots better in Round 2, rocketing up the leaderboard with a 7-under 64.

“Today, I had a completely different mentality, and that's usually what happens in my case," Niemann said. "When I shoot a bad round, the following day I have extra motivation. I realize and I feel that I have to play my best golf. The key to being a good golfer is to find those thoughts and to transfer them into good golf."

Niemann’s fellow Chilean and best friend Gana is the defending champion who missed the cut at the Masters last year and is now a freshman at Lynn University. His second-round 70 was a roller coaster, complete with six birdies, three eagles and a double.

Mexico’s Ortiz, the brother of three-time Web.com Tour winner Carlos, was 6 under for the week before three back-nine bogeys dropped him off the pace.

Two past champions, Matias Dominguez and Paul Chaplet, sit 5 over and 7 over, respectively.

The winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship earns an invite to this year’s Masters. He is also exempt into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open sectional qualifying, and Open Championship final qualifying.

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McIlroy gets back on track

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

He is well ahead of schedule.

Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

“Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

“I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

Everything in his life is lined up.

Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.