National Golf Day a success on Capitol Hill

By April 19, 2012, 1:10 am

WASHINGTON – In the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Congress took legislative action to provide desperately needed relief to the Gulf Coast. Excluded from the relief bill, was golf and the facilities damaged by a 100-year storm. Golf facilities were ineligible for aid from the bill, lumped together with businesses like massage parlors and casinos.

It was that slight – repeated since in other legislative exclusions – to a game perceived as a niche for well-to-do Caucasian men that coalesced the industry to convince Washington of the widespread positive impact the game has on the economy. Four years later, a golf industry group called We Are Golf convened for the fifth National Golf Day in Washington.

'We don't want to be given special treatment compared to other industries. We just want to play from the same set of tees,' PGA of America CEO Joe Steranka said Wednesday.

The idea behind the day remains the same as the first in 2008: designate a different kind of demo day for Congressional representatives and their staff to share golf as more than an activity for leisure or campaign fundraising.

The day is organized around a two-pronged strategy of work and play.

In the foyer of the Rayburn House Office Building, the coalition built the golf equivalent of a McDonald's Play Place – a golf simulator, brief lessons from Michael Breed of 'The Golf Fix' and a putting contest pitting the two parties against each other. Though California Democrat Joe Baca was among the first to wield the flat stick, the Republicans won the day.

Meanwhile, the game's envoys met behind closed doors to lobby for industry-friendly bills, such as tax cuts supported by representative Eric Cantor (R-VA) and a proposal by Ron Kind (D-WI) and Spencer Bachus (R-AL) to remove the golf exclusion from future disaster relief legislation.

Steranka was one of the ambassadors, making one last, windy trip under, around and throughout Congressional office buildings to praise the golf industry before he steps aside from his post at year's end. He recalled a particular eureka moment emblematic of the broader change the day aims to produce.

'I was telling Congressman Baca earlier that when we first got here (when he was chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus), he was an avid fan of the game, but more the sport. He liked the PGA Tour, watching on TV,' Steranka explained. 'When we dove into the economic impact studies – including the state-by-state numbers – in the state of California, the sport of golf provides some 160,000 jobs. That changed the tone of conversation from golf being a part of the entertainment sector to being a conversation about jobs.'

Stephen Mona, CEO of the World Golf Foundation which organizes National Golf Day, believes the message is sticking.

'I think there's been a sea change here. We came from having no profile here collectively to today, in a number of meetings we're having, the congressmen can almost recite our impact back to us,' he said. 'We feel very good about our ability over the last five years to get out our message and change the dialogue about golf.'

The talking points are recited rote, but bear repeating amid the saturnine tone from many in the game concerning participation.

The industry claims $76 billion of economic impact, leading to billions in philanthropy. The game's green spaces can be environmental sanctuaries.

The average round of golf is $25 with margins stretched almost invisible by the Great Recession – a difficult reality for entrepreneurs running small businesses that employ 40-50 people, summing almost 2 million jobs. 

The downturn no doubt also affected some of the 23 million golfing Americans. That collective is closer to 10 percent of the population than the reviled One Percent. Only one in 10 golfers belong to a private club with more than 85 percent of rounds played at daily fee courses.

Though the mantra appears to have done some good, some representatives can testify to the game's virtue without coaching.

Dan Burton, a Republican representative from Indiana and former chairman of the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform, became the power broker he is today because of his exposure to the game.

'Golf had more to do with changing my life than almost anything. We had very difficult problems when I was a kid and one of my buddies told me that I ought to go caddie. I said, 'What's a caddie?' The first day I caddied, I decided I wanted to learn that game,' he said.

'It's made a big difference. As a matter of fact, it might sound hard to believe, but I don't think I would have become a businessman or a congressman if I hadn't started playing golf when I was a kid because my stepfather wanted me to go into the foundry business. But I didn't want to because I wanted to be like the guys I caddied for.'

For every Burton, there are other representatives not so smitten with the game and its economic footprint, or are frankly focused elsewhere. The work to reach those representatives continues on Capitol Hill as powerful lobbying firm Podesta Group will continue on behalf of We Are Golf until the golf rodeo comes into town again next year.

While the day was deemed a success, like Earth Day, every day is Golf Day.

Day (68) just one back at Australian Open

By Nick MentaNovember 24, 2017, 6:40 am

Jason Day posted a second-round 68 to move himself just one off the lead held by Lucas Herbert through two rounds at the Emirates Australian Open. Here’s where things stand after 36 holes in Sydney.

Leaderboard: Herbert (-9), Day (-8), Cameron Davis (-7), Anthony Quayle (-6), Matt Jones (-4), Cameron Smith (-4), Nick Cullen (-4), Richard Green (-4)

What it means: Day is in search of his first worldwide victory of 2017. The former world No. 1 last visited the winner’s circle in May 2016, when he won The Players at TPC Sawgrass. A win this week would close out a difficult year for the Aussie who struggled with his game while also helping his mother in her battle with cancer. Day’s last victory on his native soil came in 2013, when he partnered with Adam Scott to win the World Cup of Golf for Australia at Royal Melbourne.

Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

Round of the day: Herbert followed an opening 67 with a round of 66 to vault himself into the lead at The Australian Golf Club. He made six birdies, including four on his second nine, against a lone bogey to take the outright lead. The 22-year-old, who held the lead at this event last year and captured low-amateur honors in 2014, is coming off a runner-up finish at the NSW Open Championship, which boosted him from 714th to 429th in the Official World Golf Ranking. His 5-under score was matched by Dale Brandt-Richards and Josh Cabban.

Best of the rest: Matt Jones, who won this event over Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott two years ago, turned in 4-under 67. Jones is best known to American audiences for his playoff victory at the 2014 Shell Houston Open and for holding the 36-hole lead at the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, which was eventually won by Day. Jones will start the weekend five shots off the lead, at 4 under par.

Biggest disappointment: Spieth has a lot of work to do this weekend if he expects to be in the title picture for the fourth year in a row. Rounds of 70-71 have him eight shots behind the lead held by Herbert. Spieth made a birdie and a bogey on each side Friday to turn in level par. The reigning champion golfer of the year has finished first, second and first at this event over the last three years.

Storyline to watch this weekend: The Australian Open is the first event of the 2018 Open Qualifying Series. The leading three players who finish in the top 10 and who are not otherwise exempt will receive invites into next summer’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.

Ogilvy urges distance rollback of ball

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 8:49 pm

Add Geoff Ogilvy to the chorus of voices calling for a distance rollback of the golf ball.

In an interview before the start of the Emirates Australian Open, Ogilvy said a "time-out" is needed for governing bodies to deal with the issue.

"It's complete nonsense," he said, according to an Australian website. "In my career, it’s gone from 300 yards was a massive hit to you’re a shorter hitter on tour now, legitimately short. It’s changed the way we play great golf courses and that is the crime. It isn’t that the ball goes 400, that’s neither here nor there. It’s the fact the ball going 400 doesn’t makes Augusta work properly, it functions completely wrong.’’

Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

Ogilvy used an example from American baseball to help get his point across to an Australian audience.

“Major League Baseball in America, they use wooden bats, and everywhere else in baseball they use aluminium bats,’’ he said. “And when the major leaguers use aluminium bats they don’t even have to touch it and it completely destroys their stadiums. It’s just comedy.

“That’s kind of what’s happened to us at least with the drivers of these big hitters; We’ve completely outgrown the stadiums. So do you rebuild every stadium in the world? That’s expensive. Or make the ball go shorter? It seems relatively simple from that perspective.’’

Ogilvy, an Australian who won the 2006 U.S. Open, said he believes there will be a rollback, but admitted it would be a "challenge" for manufacturers to produce a ball that flies shorter for pros but does not lose distance when struck by recreational players.

The golf world celebrates Thanksgiving

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 6:01 pm

Here's a look, through social media, at how the golf world celebrates Thanksgiving.

Lexi Thompson:

Baking time!!

A post shared by Lexi Thompson (@lexi) on

David Feherty:

Jack Nicklaus:

GC Tiger Tracker:

Steve Stricker:

Golf Channel:

Frank Nobilo:

Ian Poulter:

Tyrone Van Aswegen:

Happy Thanksgiving: Biggest turkeys of 2017

By Grill Room TeamNovember 23, 2017, 3:00 pm

Thanksgiving brings us golf's biggest turkeys of the year. Donald Trump, Grayson Murray and a certain (now-former) tournament director headline the list. Click here or on the image below to check out all the turkeys.