Golf's a kid's game

By Jason SobelSeptember 27, 2011, 3:36 pm

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Charlie Reiter isn’t quite sure how many golf trophies he owns. Maybe 60 or 70. Lots of medals and other sorts of celebratory trinkets, too. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 or so.

Hey, it makes sense. He can’t even keep track of his wins. His father, Michael, thinks he won 18 times in a 24-start span in “either 2009 or 2010.” His instructor, Tom Anton, maintains that he claimed 30 titles in 35 total events last year. This year he’s taken “about 15 or 18 or 20 – somewhere in there,” says his dad.

And Charlie? Well, he just shrugs and shakes his head in bewilderment.

After all, that’s a lot of math for a 12-year-old.

The preteen from nearby Palm Desert is competing in an otherwise adult field at this week’s Golf Channel Amateur Tour national championships, which would be remarkable if not for his past achievements at this event. Two years ago, he easily triumphed in his flight.

And no, it doesn’t take any complicated math to realize he was just 10 years old at the time.

“We’re trying to teach him about context and how to play. That’s why he’s playing with the adults,” says Anton, who has worked with Charlie for four years. “I want him comfortable in crowds. I want him comfortable so if he’s a rookie and he’s playing with Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, it will be like he’s 12 years old and playing with the adults.”

That’s right. Despite being just 5-feet tall and 82 pounds “if he eats a large pizza,” his dad jokes, Charlie is already thinking big. Currently playing to a 7.1 index, he makes no bones about his long-term dreams and desires.

“I want to get onto the PGA Tour,” he boldly states, “and I want to win a lot.”

There is no foolproof method for reaching the sport’s most elite level, but Michael is attempting to draw up the blueprint for his son. Charlie plays golf every single day and often travels hundreds of miles to compete in tournaments on the weekends. During the summer months, they hike a nearby mountain every morning at 6 a.m. And just this year, he started working with noted putting guru Dave Stockton, Jr. on his short game.

If that sounds more like the schedule of a seasoned professional than a kid in middle school, well, there’s good reason for that. It’s all about the end result.

“I’m right along there for the ride,” explains Michael, who was once a scratch player. “I worked at it hard and never quite got there, but Charlie’s got the opportunity. He’s got the talent, he’s got the swing. But you’ve got to have mental toughness out there. I mean, those PGA Tour guys are tough. … But if that’s what he wants to do, I’m backing him all the way. I think he can do it. No doubt about it.”

At such a young age, though, it’s no certainty, either.

“Right now, he’s 12. He’s an adolescent. He hasn’t gone into puberty yet,” Anton says. “The brain chemistry in his brain hasn’t changed yet. So when all that’s happening, the reinforcement that he’s getting is about course management, self-management, expectations. How good do I think he can be? I think he can be as good as he believes he can be.

“I’m just barely smart enough to know to stay out of his way. This kid is wonderfully skilled and talented. He is a prodigy in as much as I show him once how to hit a shot and the next time I see him, he’s mastered it like he’s been doing it all his life.”

While it may seem like Charlie eats, breathes and sleeps golf, he owns plenty of other interests, as well.

“He likes to play his Wii and skateboard and bicycle. He’s on a baseball team,” says his mother, Susan Conti. “He is very mature at certain times, but then he pulls back to being a typical 12-year-old. I think he can relate to more mature people and he can relate to children his own age.”

It’s been easy to spot Charlie on the course this week – and not because he’s the only kid in the field who’s barely taller than a belly putter. His heroes in golf are Ben Hogan and Payne Stewart – he’s watched old videos of each – and he’s mimicked their sartorial style ever since first playing competitively, donning a Tam o’ Shanter and knickers whenever he plays.

Not coincidentally, Anton was very good friends with the late Stewart, who once gave him the hat he wore during Round 3 of the 1999 U.S. Open Championship as a gift. The instructor paid the gesture forward two years ago, rewarding Charlie with that hat when he won the Am Tour championship.

That’s one trophy of which he’ll never lose count. 

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.