A new challenge for President Clinton

By Jay CoffinOctober 14, 2011, 12:45 pm

NEW YORK – You walk into the building at 55 West 125th St. in Harlem and you’re kindly greeted by an intern who knows your name and knows where to take you.

“You’re here for the foundation, correct?” she asks quietly.

You jump into an elevator, take it to the 14th floor and into a place highly guarded by secret service agents. You walk in and feel like everyone is watching your every move because, well, they are. There is no chitchat; you just mosey into a quaint conference room with 12 chairs and a foggy view of the Manhattan Skyline on this dreary day.

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One side of the room is filled with books about everything you can imagine – autobiographies, sports books, political pieces, inspirational literature. The windowsill is covered with keepsakes and awards from around the world that would be a fulltime job to keep dust free.

It feels like a big deal, because it is. You’re one of a select few journalists invited to spend an hour with former President Bill Clinton to discuss his involvement with the Humana Challenge, formerly the Bob Hope Classic.

The nerves build in anticipation as we’re told the president soon will be in the room. Moments later an area in the wooden wall to the left opens and the 42nd President of the United States walks through with a big grin.

First impression is that he’s taller than you’d expect. He walks around the table to shake hands with each person, making sure he makes direct eye contact to let you know he’s in charge.

“Hello, Mr. President, my name is Jay Coffin and I’m with Golf Channel,” I say with a little crack in my voice.

“Hello Jay, nice to meet you,” he says. “One of my great dreams in life is to do an interview with (David) Feherty.”

And with those words, nerves emptied my body and I realized the afternoon was going to be better than imagined. He was there to talk about topics near and dear to his heart – health and golf, with a sprinkle of politics – and he couldn’t wait to charm the room, like he’s done so many times before.

Clinton will be deeply involved in the Humana Challenge next year as the primary focus of the event will be to get people to live healthier lives, an initiative which the William J. Clinton Foundation fully supports. He’ll deliver a keynote address early in the week at a conference that will be focused on health and if his schedule allows he may tee it up.

If Clinton’s involvement doesn’t help draw a more attractive field, perhaps the format changes may. Each of the 144 players will play with a different amateur each day on a different course for three days. On Sunday, the low 70 players will play the final round at the Palmer Private Course at PGA West. So, instead of five days, it’s four, and instead of four courses there are now three.

“I’m excited about this for a couple of reasons,” said Clinton, sitting alongside PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem and Humana CEO Mike McCallister. “First of all, I started playing golf years ago. I loved it. I have a lot of memories of the Hope tournament going over a very long period of time.

“We thought this would be an opportunity to focus on health and wellness of children, and that’s a big part of what my foundation does now.”

Said Finchem: “I think it is a different direction for us, because historically our tournaments are organized for charity. We do an awful lot of things to support what they do for charity. But we’ve never really taken an opportunity to reach our fan base with messaging that asks for change or things that would impact behavioral change.”

This event is also special to Clinton because he got an opportunity to know Bob Hope well over the last 25 years of Hope’s life. Clinton recalls first having dinner with Hope in Arkansas in 1979 and he vividly remembers a time when he was in office and Hope, then 95, called to see if Clinton wanted to play golf.

“He called me one day. He said, ‘I know you’re president, but I want to play golf, so just change your schedule,’ ” Clinton quipped.

So the two played nine holes together at Army Navy Country Club.

Clinton, now 65, looks good in his dark brown tailored suit, light blue shirt with black-and-copper tie. He says he’s lost 25 pounds since leaving the White House 10 years ago and is health conscious today more than ever because he’s battled heart disease, had a quadruple bypass and his daughter, Chelsea, who Clinton says is “a total fitness freak,” is constantly on his case.

The allotted time was seemingly over but Clinton continually ignored the burly man standing over his shoulder telling him his next appointment was waiting.

Clinton said that his dream golf foursome would include Harry Vardon, Bobby Jones and Sam Snead, who invited him to play once before his death but they were never able to work out the details. He said he’s never played Augusta National or Pine Valley, but would love to. He’s had multiple chances to play both but declined because, “you know, I have a wife and daughter that don’t like the ‘no women’ policy, so I dealt with that for several years.”

He recalled his lone ace with a 9-iron but didn’t see the ball drop because the hole was behind a hump and he was quick to point out that he has made two eagles on par-4s. He talked about a round of golf in Chicago a few years ago with Luke Donald and Michael Jordan, where MJ challenged Clinton to play the tees longer than he wanted.

After more nudging from his assistant Clinton stood from the table to take a group photo but continued with stories for another 10 minutes. He shared heartfelt stories of tragedies he discovered while in Rwanda, then reverted back to stories about golf, explaining why he played right handed even though he’s a lefty.

Finally, it was time to leave.

“Thank you all for coming,” he said. “Keep your fingers crossed for us. This might work.”

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McCoy earns medalist honors at Web.com Q-School

By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 am

One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Web.com Tour Q-School.

McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.

It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.

McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Web.com Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).

Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).

Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Web.com Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.

Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

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Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.

 

 

Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."


Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout


Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.