Giving thanks

By Jason SobelNovember 24, 2011, 3:45 am

Whenever I return to my hometown of Islip, N.Y., for the Thanksgiving holiday, I try to tee it up with family and friends.

A few years ago, I got a little carried away, playing 45 holes in 30-degree weather the day before Turkey Day. Dad joined me for the first 18, followed by a conglomeration of cousins and buddies. Others have undoubtedly played more golf in colder conditions, but for me personally, on that course, that was the day heaven froze over. (You know, if heaven was an overpriced muni that lacked enough bunker rakes.)

Sitting at the dinner table 24 hours later, though, I found I had plenty for which to be thankful. Great relatives and friends. The game that we all love. And, perhaps more than anything, regained feeling in my frostbitten fingertips.

The following is a list of 50 things – in no particular order – to be thankful for in golf this year. And it’s preceded by thanks to many Twitter friends who chimed in on the assignment, too.

Discussion: What are you thankful for?

The perfect swing tip. For every 99 little pieces of advice that don’t compute, there’s that one tip that unlocks the secret to a better move through the ball. For a few holes, at least.

The second guy. You know, the one who makes that 4-foot putt every single time.

The handicap system. You want to tee it up against world No. 1 Luke Donald? Mark up the scorecard and it's a fair fight.

“Caddyshack.” More than three decades after it was released, it remains side-splittingly hilarious.

“Caddyshack II.” Yes, it’s awful … but doesn’t that fact help make you appreciate the genius of the original film even more?

Play-for-pay. If a baseball player has a terrible season, his bank account isn't affected. That doesn't happen in golf.

@_p_n_k: early morning dew on the green! It's the perfect way to read a putt.

@sallyoRI: Living next to a par 3 for an endless supply of golf balls.

@pwand03: Wind in your face on 1 means wind at your back on 18.

Pro golfers on Twitter. Unfiltered thoughts – from their thumbs to your eyes.

Michael Whan. After years of front office futility, the LPGA is in good hands. 

Q-School. Every professional sport should have it. Play well enough over a finite period and you get to join the most elite level of your profession. Pressure personified.

Caddies. Not talking about the Steve Williams variety, but the high school kids who earn some spending money lugging clubs while learning valuable lessons about the game.

@jgolf1: I'm thankful for 460CC club heads. That's the only way my swing would produce 280-yard drives.

@deucerolle: I'm thankful that we have 3 inches of snow in Minnesota and I am able to go 5 months without hitting a bad shot

@MrSmiles19: patience, perseverance, providing a sanctuary of peace...and mulligans for my balls in the drink

Cloudy and 62 degrees. Shhh. Here’s a little secret, fellow golfers: When it’s overcast and slightly chilly, most of the fair-weather hackers are too scared to play. These are the days you can fly around the course, maybe even get in 36 holes.

RBC and Boeing Company. It may sound overly NASCAR to thank the sponsors, but these two are responsible for saving the Heritage and keeping a PGA Tour event at Harbour Town, one of the best venues on the annual schedule.

@dreemjar: I'm thankful for 'concrete' evidence that golf gods exist...only in the form of long, favorable bounces.

@dtstewart: thankful for some extra cash in my pocket #birdieon18=$

@justinkittle: No CBA or players union! Independent contractors FTW!

Yani Tseng’s success. Eleven worldwide wins this season, seven in LPGA-sanctioned events. Pure domination.

Yani Tseng’s potential. She owns five major titles at age 22. She may not become the greatest player of all time, but it will be a blast watching her try.

Augusta National Golf Club. If you have to ask why, you’ve come to the wrong place.

Finding “it” at the range. Like winning the lottery – and not having to share the prize with anyone else.

The emergence of Luke Donald. The world’s No. 1-ranked player doesn’t bomb it a mile off the tee, doesn’t look like an NFL linebacker and isn’t intimidating. In today’s age, when most courses are beefed up beyond recognition, it’s good to see hard work and perseverance pay off more than brute strength.

@joejablonski27: Thankful that Tiger has finally seemed to genuinely have fun in a team competition. That smile was the best in a long time

@mps1968: In no particular order...I'm thankful for Gold Bond, Bandon Dunes and Natalie Gulbis on Twitter.

@Ebud867: I am thankful to live in the greatest place on earth to be a golfer. Northern California

Reverse sandbaggers. That guy in the next cubicle who brags he’s a 7, but plays to a 14? Let him talk. Then take his cash.

Drive for show, putt for dough. The 320-yard drive counts for one stroke, just like the 10-foot knee-knocker.

No trades, no free agency. Got a favorite golfer? Your allegiances will never change because he left to play in for another city.

Twilight rates. It’s like Happy Hour for golfers, quickly followed by Happy Hour.

@MarkHasenjager: Every round of golf with your dad; you never know which one will be the last.

@beniswinning: PGA Tour players are non-union contractors, decide their own fate/schedule & have a great pension & can't strike

@CoreyTaft: The new Pinehurst # 2. Coore and Crenshaw brought it back to life.

Jason Kokrak on the PGA Tour. A few years back, I informally polled a handful of Nationwide players as to whom amongst them would be the next PGA Tour star. They all said Jason Day – which has turned out to be a pretty good pick. Common consensus for the upcoming season is Kokrak, who could challenge Gary Woodland as the longest hitter out there.

The 19th hole. The last hole of the day is where every golfer can prove he’s a scratch handicap.

Every sentence Lee Trevino has ever spoken. Like this: “You can talk to a fade, but a hook won’t listen.”

@jkjones21: Thankful I didn't have a 'Kevin Na 16' all golf season despite my best efforts.

@tylerag97: Steve Williams for being such a jerk that he made Tiger look like a good guy!

@JeffOBrienJOB: thankful for pencils with erasers

The perfect yardage. Those times when you step up to the ball, know it’s exactly a stock 8-iron, then strike it to pin-high.

Amateur golf. Russell Henley and Harris English won Nationwide Tour events while still in school. Patrick Cantlay posted a 60 on the PGA Tour. Tomorrow’s stars are getting better every day.

Lame golf jokes. Sure, you roll your eyes, but a day on the links with some stranger is always a little more fun when he tells one such as this: “A man and a friend are playing golf one day at their local golf course. One of the guys is about to chip onto the green when he sees a long funeral procession on the road next to the course. He stops in mid-swing, takes off his golf cap, closes his eyes, and bows down in prayer. His friend says: “Wow, that is the most thoughtful and touching thing I have ever seen. You truly are a kind man.” The man then replies: “Yeah, well, we were married 35 years.”

Fashion-conscious pros. Whether you like the looks of players like Rickie Fowler and Ian Poulter, you can at least credit them for having a personal sense of style.

Metal spikes. Most courses won’t let you wear ‘em anymore – and for good reason. But nothing sounds better than a pair of metal spikes click-clacking down the cartpath.

@David4242: I am thankful for Erik Compton, a guy who gives the word 'heart' both a figurative and literal meaning.

@mcd3putt: regardless of triple digits... thankful for rounds at spyglass and pebble with dad and two brothers in October.

@dfols18: thankful for golf... time spent with my dad before he passed and now the time spent with my daughter teaching her the game.

Getty Images

Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

Getty Images

Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.


Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.


Masters victory


Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative


Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ


Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket


Man of the people


Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief


Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together


Ace at 17th at Sawgrass


Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018


Departure from TaylorMade


Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade


Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'


Victory at Valderrama


Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm