Beef, with family, living the dream at Royal Troon

By Mercer BaggsJuly 16, 2016, 7:19 pm

TROON, Scotland – There he is. The man of the hour. Soaking in the adoration of the crowd. Walking the 18th fairway in the game’s most majestic event.


And there, some 250 yards in arrears, standing on a mound to see over the hundreds and hundreds of applauding fans is his mother.

Jackie smiles. It’s that kind of smile that makes you smile, because you can sense the pride and love. Beside her is her daughter, Beef’s sister, Emily Brinton. Running up and down the mound is Emily’s daughter, Summer.

The family is staying together this week, renting a house a few miles away in Ayr. They’ll be joined by brother James on Sunday.

Andrew Johnston is at 5 under par through 54 holes of The Open at Royal Troon. He is seven shots off the lead, but in solo fourth place. He played alongside Sergio Garcia in Round 3. And while Sergio did what Sergio tends to do on major Saturdays, Johnston held his own. He played a terribly difficult back nine in 1 over and posted a 1-under 70.

“I'm so competitive. That's what it's about,” he said, following his round. “I love the competition and just competing, man. That's what I love.

"I'm just going to go out there [on Sunday] and have fun, enjoy it like I did today. I'm a good ways back, but who knows?"

Johnston addressed in excess of 30 media members, crammed in the corner of a makeshift tent. They all wanted to know his story: about his nickname, his beard, what he has been eating this week, his following. Someone even asked how much he weighed. It’s a good read, if you’re interested.

This is an unusual time for Johnston. A few years ago, he was trying to make enough money to cover the cost of Christmas gifts. Now he’s in the penultimate group on Sunday of The Open.

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“It’s what it’s all about, you know,” he said, using one of his favorite phrases. “I’m loving it. Loving it, man. This is what I’ve dreamed of as a kid, man.”

It’s a shared vision.

In trouble on the par-4 13th and hoping to save par, Johnston chipped in for birdie. After the jubilation died down he looked to his mother. She was crying. Andrew, as she calls him, had to look away before he shed tears, too.

“You made mom cry!” Emily said.

“That was the point!” Andrew replied.

Emily resides in Palm Harbour, Fla. She had been wanting to see her brother play for some time and finally did at this year’s U.S. Open. “Those crowds,” she said. “They loved him. I’ve never seen anything like it, really. All the calls – BEEEEEF!”

Emily is a bit reticent to call Andrew by the nickname a friend of his gave him at age 12.

“From my hair on my head,” Johnston explained. “I grow it out it grows curly. And my mate just went, ‘Look at your hair. It's like a big bit of beef,’ and called me a ‘Beefhead.’ That was it. It's been shortened to beef.”

“I always called him ‘Chunky,’” Emily said. “But, I guess, that’s out the door now.”

There were no yells of Chunky on Saturday, but there was one guy shouting “Caesar salad!”

Johnston said Friday on TV that he was going to have that particular item for dinner and one fan ran with it. “He shouted it at me for like six holes, man” Johnston said. Such is the life of a cult figure.

Outside of that, the shouts weren’t overly original. Just lots and lots of BEEEEF!

“They sound like cows, really,” Emily said. “Like a mooooooo.”

Johnston had quite the following on Saturday. It got so dense after the chip-in at 13 that Emily cried out, “Mother of the Beef, mother of the Beef coming through!”

A herd of people trekked through the shoe-staining mud and under ever-present rain drops, dodging the occasional, hazardous umbrella. They cheered on their new leading man, whether he was making a putt, hitting a drive or exiting a porta-john. And he waved and smiled and gave a thumbs-up. Walking off the 16th green, he slapped hands with a kid as several fans broke attendance policy and recorded the moment on their phones.

“Oh, this is the best,” Johnston said. “Yeah, to have that reception is amazing. I just love it. I really do.”

Said Emily: “I think he remembers being a kid, looking up to the players and wanting autographs. It’s good fun for him now.”

So, too, is hanging out with his 5-year-old niece. They played cards on Thursday, a game called Top Trumps. We’ll let Uncle Beef, as Summer calls him and repeatedly exclaims during rounds, explain:

“You know how you get the cards and it would have like a tiger, and it would say, aggression 10, cuteness 1, and stuff like that. It has like different numbers on there and you have to pick one and then whatever cards the other person's got and whoever is ever higher basically wins and gets that card and go on to the next. It's just a proper kids game.”

On Friday, he read to Summer. “'Goldilocks and the Three Bears', or something like that,” he said.

“I think we’ll play Go Fish later [tonight].”

Summer jokes about Uncle Beef's beard, says it's time for a trim. It's been getting a bit shaggy lately, with his busy schedule, and, according to Emily, at least two bottles of beard oil have exploded in his travel bag.

All of the family time has relaxed Johnston and, at the same time, kept him focused. Emily could sense it Saturday morning, saying to their mother, “He’s on good form today. He’s in that competitive mode.”

As Johnston – Andrew, Uncle Beef, BEEEEEF, Chunky – was walking toward his tee shot off the right side of the fairway at 18 in the evening, seagulls flew overhead under a bruised sky that refused to yield to the sun all day. Drips of rain and windy chill persisted.

Summer hopped on her mother’s umbrella and Emily spun her around like a witch on a broom.

“Again,” Summer cried. “Again.”

Johnston hit his approach shot and then began his walk. He doffed his cap and waved, continued with the thumbs-up, embracing a sudden fame.

“This is absolutely amazing,” his mother said with that smile. “Very emotional.

“You hope that your kids will get to live their dreams. But you never really know if it will happen, do you?”

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Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf

By Grill Room TeamDecember 11, 2017, 9:47 pm

Well, this is a one new one.

According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:

“No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”

Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.

“If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.

The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.

“I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”

The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.

Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.

Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.

PGA Tour suspends Hensby for anti-doping violation

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 8:02 pm

Mark Hensby has been suspended for one year by the PGA Tour for violating the Tour’s anti-doping policy by failing to provide a sample after notification.

The Tour made the announcement Monday, reporting that Hensby will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

The statement reads:

The PGA Tour announced today that Mark Hensby has violated the Tour Anti-Doping Policy for failing to provide a drug testing sample after notification and has been suspended for a period of one year. He will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

Hensby, 46, won the John Deere Classic in 2004. He played the Tour this past year, playing just 14 events. He finished 142nd on the money list. He once ranked among the top 30 in the Official World Golf Ranking but ranks No. 1,623 today.

The Sunshine Tour recently suspended player Etienne Bond for one year for failing a drug test. Players previously suspended by the PGA Tour for violating the anti-doping policy include Scott Stallings and Doug Barron.

The PGA Tour implemented revisions to its anti-doping program with the start of the 2017-18 season. The revisions include blood testing and the supplementation of the Tour’s prohibited list to include all of the substances and methods on the World Anti-Doping Agency prohibited list. As part of this season’s revisions, the Tour announced it would also begin reporting suspensions due to recreational drug use.

The Tour said it would not issue further comment on Hensby's suspension.

Good time to hang up on viewer call-ins

By Randall MellDecember 11, 2017, 7:40 pm

Golf announced the most massive layoff in the industry’s history on Monday morning.

Armchair referees around the world were given their pink slips.

It’s a glorious jettisoning of unsolicited help.

Goodbye and good riddance.

The USGA and R&A’s announcement of a new set of protocols Monday will end the practice of viewer call-ins and emails in the reporting of rules infractions.

“What we have heard from players and committees is ‘Let’s leave the rules and administration of the event to the players and those responsible for running the tournament,’” said Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s senior director of rules and amateur status.


The protocols, formed by a working group that included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and the PGA of America, also establish the use of rules officials to monitor the televised broadcasts of events.

Additionally, the protocols will eliminate the two-shot penalty when a player signs an incorrect scorecard because the player was unaware of a violation.

Yes, I can hear you folks saying armchair rules officials help make sure every meaningful infraction comes to light. I hear you saying they make the game better, more honest, by helping reduce the possibility somebody violates the rules to win.

But at what cost?

The chaos and mayhem armchair referees create can ruin the spirit of fair play every bit as much as an unreported violation. The chaos and mayhem armchair rules officials create can be as much a threat to fair play as the violations themselves.

The Rules of Golf are devised to protect the integrity of the game, but perfectly good rules can be undermined by the manner and timeliness of their enforcement.

We have seen the intervention of armchair referees go beyond the ruin of fair play in how a tournament should be conducted. We have seen it threaten the credibility of the game in the eyes of fans who can’t fathom the stupidity of a sport that cannot separate common-sense enforcement from absolute devotion to the letter of the law.

In other sports, video review’s timely use helps officials get it right. In golf, video review too often makes it feel like the sport is getting it wrong, because timeliness matters in the spirit of fair play, because the retroactive nature of some punishments are as egregious as the violations themselves.  

We saw that with Lexi Thompson at the ANA Inspiration this year.

Yes, she deserved a two-shot penalty for improperly marking her ball, but she didn’t deserve the two-shot penalty for signing an incorrect scorecard. She had no idea she was signing an incorrect scorecard.

We nearly saw the ruin of the U.S. Open at Oakmont last year, with Dustin Johnson’s victory clouded by the timing of a video review that left us all uncertain if the tournament was playing out under an incorrect scoreboard.

“What these protocols are put in place for, really, is to make sure there are measures to identify the facts as soon as possible, in real time, so if there is an issue to be dealt with, that it can be handled quickly and decisively,” Pagel said.

Amen again.

We have pounded the USGA for making the game more complicated and less enjoyable than it ought to be, for creating controversy where common sense should prevail, so let’s applaud executive director Mike Davis, as well as the R&A, for putting common sense in play.

Yes, this isn’t a perfect answer to handling rules violations.

There are trap doors in the protocols that we are bound to see the game stumble into, because the game is so complex, but this is more than a good faith effort to make the game better.

This is good governance.

And compared to the glacial pace of major rules change of the past, this is swift.

This is the USGA and R&A leading a charge.

We’re seeing that with the radical modernization of the Rules of Golf scheduled to take effect in 2019. We saw it with the release of Decision 34/3-10 three weeks after Thompson’s loss at the ANA, with the decision limiting video review to “reasonable judgment” and “naked eye” standards. We’re hearing it with Davis’ recent comments about the “horrible” impact distance is having on the game, leading us to wonder if the USGA is in some way gearing up to take on the golf ball.

Yes, the new video review protocols aren’t a panacea. Rules officials will still miss violations that should have been caught. There will be questions about level playing fields, about the fairness of stars getting more video review scrutiny than the rank and file. There will be questions about whether viewer complaints were relayed to rules officials.

Golf, they say, isn’t a game of perfect, and neither is rules enforcement, though these protocols make too much sense to be pilloried. They should be applauded. They should solve a lot more problems than they create.

Lexi 'applaud's USGA, R&A for rules change

By Randall MellDecember 11, 2017, 5:15 pm

Lexi Thompson’s pain may prove to be the rest of golf’s gain.

David Rickman, the R&A’s executive director of governance, acknowledged on Golf Channel’s "Morning Drive" Monday that the new protocols that will eliminate the use of TV viewer call-ins and emails to apply penalties was hastened by the controversy following Thompson’s four-shot penalty at the ANA Inspiration in early April. The new protocols also set up rules officials to monitor TV broadcasts beginning next year.

“Clearly, that case has been something of a focus point for us,” Rickman said.

Thompson reacted to the new protocols in an Instagram post.

“I applaud the USGA and the R&A for their willingness to revise the Rules of Golf to address certain unfortunate situations that have arisen several times in the game of golf,” Thompson wrote. “In my case, I am thankful no one else will have to deal with an outcome such as mine in the future.”

Thompson was penalized two shots for improperly returning her ball to its mark on a green during Saturday’s round after a viewer emailed LPGA officials during Sunday’s broadcast. She was penalized two more shots for signing an incorrect scorecard for her Saturday round. Thompson ultimately lost in a playoff to So Yeon Ryu.

The new protocols will also eliminate the additional two-shot penalty a player receives for failing to include a penalty when a player was unaware of the penalty.

Shortly after the ANA Inspiration, the USGA and R&A led the formation of a video review working group, which included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and PGA of America.

Also, just three weeks after Thompson was hit with the four-shot penalty, the USGA and R&A released a new Rules of Golf decision decision (34-3/10) limiting video evidence in two ways:

1. If an infraction can’t be seen with the naked eye, there’s no penalty, even if video shows otherwise.

2. If a tournament committee determines that a player does “all that can be reasonably expected to make an accurate estimation or measurement” in determining a line or position to play from or to spot a ball, then there will be no penalty even if video replay later shows that to be wrong.

While the USGA and R&A said the new decision wasn’t based on Thompson’s ANA incident, LPGA players immediately began calling it the “Lexi Rule.”