Dorneyville and Arnie

By Rich LernerOctober 31, 2010, 12:45 am

In the mid-1950s the idea of an Arnold Palmer Golf Center was certainly appealing. But when my father learned of the cost of linking his dream with a budding superstar, Dorneyville Golf Center was born instead, named for the tiny borough on the edge of Allentown, Pa.

Les Lerner built Dorneyville with three friends – Jack Lesavoy, Sheldon Merman and Murray Saltzman –  creating a fully-lighted par-3 course, miniature golf, driving range, hot dog stand and pinball room.

In the aftermath of World War II, the Sheldons and Murrays – college educated sons of the Abes and Sols who had made good from their meager immigrant lot – were free to take swings at what must have seemed to their fathers to be such frivolous pursuits. But it made some sense.

In fast growing suburban locales like Allentown, two hours west of New York City, men could actually hold down jobs at Mack Trucks and Bethlehem Steel for 30 years. They’d have spending money and leisure time.  

Les Lerner
Rich Lerner's father, Les (right) ran the Dorneyville Golf Center.

Meanwhile, golf was enjoying a surge in popularity thanks to President Eisenhower and a rugged bull-of-a-man from Western Pennsylvania. Arnold Palmer embodied the can-do spirit of a country eager to get on with the simple job of enjoying its hard-won freedom.

Business was slow in the early years. My dad jokingly called Dorneyville the first fully lighted cemetery in America. When asked if he took out ads in the local paper he’d crack, “We did but we might as well have taken out ads in the Anchorage Alaska Daily News.”

But by the early ‘70s Dorneyville Golf Center was fully entrenched in the community. My three brothers and I were coming of age and through our teenage years we ran Dorneyvillewith a bunch of our friends. We operated the cash registers, picked up trash, drove the range picker, vacuumed the carpets on the mini golf course and cleaned balls.

On slow summer mornings we also listened to the old pro, Frank Stocke, tell stories. Frank worked in a battery plant by night and hustled $5 lessons by day at Dorneyville. He made Tin Cup look soft.

“One year I lead the Reading Open,” he once told me, with an unfiltered Pall Mall dangling from his mouth like an appendage.

“You lead a real pro tournament, Frank?” I asked.

“Why certainly. Shot 69 the opening round,” he said.

“Well, who was in the tournament?” I demanded to know.

“How ‘bout Nelson, Hogan and Snead, in case your innerested,” he shot back, with the absence of the “t” in “interested” existing in the language of Frank.

“Wow, you shot 69 in a tournament with Nelson, Hogan and Snead. What happened in the next round?” I asked.

Sixty-ish with slicked back silver hair, an impeccable tan from years of giving lessons, Frank took a deep drag on his cigarette, his eyes becoming slits. With his thick fingers he flicked the butt as far as I hit a 7-iron, a stream of smoke racing through his nostrils. Then he dropped the hammer.

“Went out that night got drunk, got %&*#, came back shot 81 and missed the #^* cut.”

I was 15 at the time. You don’t forget a story like that when you’re 15.

Four brothers, a raunchy old pro, a father who hated to see hot dog wrappers floating through the parking lot, and a window to a working class city that seemed to show up all at once on a perfect summer night. That’s where I grew to love the game, over countless Dorneyville days and nights.

And though we never did affiliate with Mr. Palmer, I would end up going to work for him here at the network he helped to found – Golf Channel.

It’s a really good job, unquestionably, but also a really good platform for giving back to a game that’s given my family and I a good life. So for 10 years my wife Robin and I, with help from a number of generous Tour pros like Rocco Mediate, Chris DiMarco, Lee Janzen, Andy Bean, Jim Thorpe, Graeme McDowell, Bruce Fleisher and Larry Nelson, as well as my Golf Channel pals like Brandel Chamblee, Frank Nobilo, Kelly Tilghman, Charlie Rymer, Steve Sands and Mark Lye, have staged a charity tournament each December.

The December Classic has raised money for battered women and children, mentally challenged adults, Boys and Girls Clubs, a food bank and, this year, the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Winnie Palmer Hospital in Orlando.

It’s there that I’ve come to know the Arnold Palmer of baby doctors, Dr. Gregor Alexander.

“He’s an amazing man,” said Julie Davis, wife of Tour pro Brian Davis.

Julie’s sentiment is shared by tens of thousands of mothers whose own children survived the harrowing days and weeks of premature birth.

In 2008, Julie came to the Palmer Hospital for the delivery of their daughter, Madeline.

“As a mother you don’t think anything is going to be wrong with your child,” said Julie. “I took a tour of the Winnie Palmer Hospital two months before I gave birth and you see all these children and your heart goes out to them, but you don’t think you’ll ever be in that position yourself. So when it actually happened we were devastated.”

Brian recalls how quickly it all deteriorated. “Both of Madeline’s lungs collapsed and she had to have emergency surgery. But thanks to the hospital and Dr. Alexander, she made it through and we’ll be forever thankful for that.”

Madeline is now 2-years-old, a healthy and beautiful little girl.

“She’s our angel,” Julie said. “And Daddy’s little girl, too.”

If Dr. Alexander pours his soul into saving life every day, it’s because he knows first hand the value of one life, the difference one life can make.

After his grandparents perished in the Holocaust, his parents escaped Nazi Germany to South America. Had they not made it, Dr. Alexander would never have arrived in this country in 1972 with two pieces of luggage and a dream.

“I had the dream of being a baby doctor,” he says. “And I fulfilled that dream in America in this field of dreams, a place that is greater than life.”

When the neonatal unit opened in the mid-70s, a 2 lb. baby had only a 10 percent chance of survival. Today that 2 lb. baby has a 99 percent chance of survival.

“We are not only giving them the chance to survive,” explained Dr. Alexander, “but we’re giving them the chance to survive with a good quality of life. These premature babies are going to be very productive individuals in this community, and will make a difference.”

Dr. Alexander estimates that in the roughly 30 years he’s been at the hospital, 28,000 babies have been cured.

“Some of our babies are now working as nurses with us,” he said.

As the doctor spoke a young mother tended to her baby nearby. Indira was born weighing less than two pounds but is now on the road to recovery.

“Indira,” said the mother, “…the name speaks for itself.

“Indirah Gandhi was the Prime Minister of India. I think my Indira’s going to surprise the world with what she’s going to be in the future.”

Every parent and every child should be able to dream that big. Dr. Alexander did, and now he and his staff are ensuring that others have that same chance.

Looking back, Mr. Palmer’s name was always too big to fit on the front of a small-town golf center. It belonged on major trophies and important hospitals – a hospital we’re happy to help.

Note: For more information on how you can help or even play in the December Classic, visit: Watch Rich Lerner's piece Sunday evening on Golf Channel in the Golf Central series on the Power of Human Energy.

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Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.