Natalie and Brad Pitt

By Michael FechterJune 20, 2008, 4:00 pm
Editor's note: Michael Fechter, orphan worker and humorist, has the best job in golf: he's paid to be the Ambassador of Fun for golf courses across America. His 'job' is to make the courses he represents across America more interesting, unique and fun. Enjoy his humorous series on getting back into the game as he struggles to get his game into the shape it was nearly 30 years ago when he won his only personal junior 'major,' the Al Esposito, on America's easiest muni with rounds of 71-71-75.
There's something to be said about learning from the best. So, when Annika Sorenstam came to Charleston, S.C. to host the Ginn Tribute, I knew I had found my new swing coach.
OK, just to make this clear: I'm not going through some ugly divorce from Brian Ferguson, my current (albeit reluctant) swing coach. It's just that after weeks of Brian's brutal honesty, I felt I needed the gentle, nurturing words of a female swing coach.
I figured that if I could get Annika to diagnose just one swing ' to give, at most, a 45-second lesson, I'd be well on my way back to my Junior golf championship form.
So, armed with a stack of Ambassador of Fun business cards courtesy of my official job title at Greenway Golf, I headed over to the Ginn Tribute to pick up my media pass. Being a columnist for does have its benefits.
Unfortunately, those benefits don't include access to the driving range according to LPGA officials. And, they certainly don't include access to Annika. If this were a movie, I would have followed Annika around the tournament for days on end until she finally relented and there, on an airport runway, she would have critiqued my one swing, whispering the word Tempo into my ear before boarding her private plane and jetting off to the next tournament.
The thing is, movies are not like real life and I knew that if I in any way bothered Ms. Sorenstam, I would be looking at a lifetime of cease and desist letters and restraining orders from highly-placed officials of the LPGA. Oh, and they'd probably revoke my press pass. And I'd be out of a job.
And so, armed with the knowledge that I would have to continue to endure the abuses of my current swing coach, I tried to come up with some other way to serve my honorable duties as a member The Fourth Estate.

Without doubt, I am cocky at the computer keyboard, however, in person I am can be a bit shy ' especially when faced with tasks for which I have had no training. Subsequently, after half an hour of investigative reporting, all I had discovered was that Miles Kirkpatrick, the caddie for first year player Anna Grzebien, would like the superpower to 'read minds' and would use it most often 'with women, because who knows what they're thinking?' Mel Gibson toyed with this superpower once, and all that came of it was a second-rate movie and later a bunch of Mel crazy talk on his way to the drunk tank. I can't say as I would recommend such powers.
Eventually, I worked up the nerve to move on from caddies and query actual golfers. I spoke briefly with several Korean, Japanese and Swedish players, all of whom said many things witty and wise. However, they spoke in Korean, Japanese and Swede-dish and I understood none of it. Still, I was gaining confidence.
And then, in an effort to avoid some drooling frat boy who claimed to be writing for Maxim Magazine, Natalie Gulbis walked briskly from the practice green right toward me, a bumbling, middle aged reporter still desperately trying to translate Korean.
'Excuse me, Natalie, I said, trying to hide the trepidation I feel when being confronted by a beautiful woman and being way over my head in a new career. I write comedy for the Golf Channel. Could I ask you a few questions?'
'Comedy?' Natalie asked, a bit perplexed because Golf Channel is as well known for comedy as Oscar Meyer is for chocolate.
'I'm too stupid to be a real reporter, I assured her, so I call it comedy.' Natalie sort of laughed, which I took as my signal to investigate away!
I started off with the questions I had honed on caddies and the international players. Apparently, Ms. Gulbis would like the superpower to fly, which I found interesting for a girl that likely has her own private plane.
And, her dream date would be with??? Brad Pitt, said Ms. Gulbis.
Pretty obvious choice for one of America's most beautiful women...going with America's most beautiful man. Couldn't Natalie have chosen Carrot Top. Or me.
Having watched precisely two Barbara Walters Special Interviews in my life, I knew the importance of the follow-up question. 'Do you want Angelina to come along on the date?' Natalie looked at me as if I truly am America's biggest idiot and said No way!! Probing deeper, I asked 'Do you want their kids there?' I envisioned a date with Brad Pitt and Natalie and a gaggle of Bradgelina kids at the local McDonaldland playground.
Natalie obviously had something different in mind. 'No wife. No kids. Just me and Brad.'
OK, I got it. Natalie Gulbis wants Brad Pitt all to herself.
When I asked Natalie if she could change anything about herself, she responded, 'I'd like to be 6 feet tall. Because if I was 6 feet tall, I could hit it further and be leaner.' It makes me wonder if she'd give up the endorsements and constant fawning over by men from 9-90 to gain an extra 20 yards off the tee? I believe she might.
As to whether Miss Gulbis would prefer to have $5 million in the bank or win an LPGA major and have no money, I have the answer. Natalie Gulbis chose the major. The U.S. Open being her preference. I asked Natalie if she would want to win by 1 or 15 shots? and she said she didn't care as long as she gets the victory.
Personally, I'd like to win the U.S. Open by 16... and intentionally hit four balls OB on 18 just for fun. I can say that because, unlike Natalie, my little fantasy of winning the U.S. Open has no basis in reality. Natalie also has a much better chance of dating Brad Pitt than I do. For so many reasons.
When I asked Natalie if she would rather win the Ginn Tribute Hosted by Annika, or come in second in the men's Masters, she clearly wanted to win the Ginn. 'I have no interest in playing with the men,' she added. This is interesting, because I'm guessing Natalie Gulbis would be the overwhelming choice of men over say 36 holes in the heat with Bob May.
As to the most important question of whether Miss Gulbis could possibly be attracted to an older man who works for Orphans and has no money, I didn't even bother to ask. First, I know the answer. Natalie had already exhibited a very strong preference for that Brad Pitt fellow. And secondly, I'm a lousy investigative reporter.
So what if I shot a triple bogey in my attempt to get the 45-second lesson form Annika; I scooped that Maxim reporter guy for a double eagle with my Natalie Gulbis interview. As Ambassador of Fun, it's a very good start to both the tournament week and my new reporting career
Tom Werner contributed to this column.
Email your thoughts to Michael Fecheter
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  • Open Qualifying Series kicks off with Aussie Open

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 4:24 pm

    The 147th Open is nearly eight months away, but there are still major championship berths on the line this week in Australia.

    The Open Qualifying Series kicks off this week, a global stretch of 15 event across 10 different countries that will be responsible for filling 46 spots in next year's field at Carnoustie. The Emirates Australian Open is the first event in the series, and the top three players among the top 10 who are not otherwise exempt will punch their tickets to Scotland.

    In addition to tournament qualifying opportunities, the R&A will also conduct four final qualifying events across Great Britain and Ireland on July 3, where three spots will be available at each site.

    Here's a look at the full roster of tournaments where Open berths will be awarded:

    Emirates Australian Open (Nov. 23-26): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    Joburg Open (Dec. 7-10): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    SMBC Singapore Open (Jan. 18-21): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

    Mizuno Open (May 24-27): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

    HNA Open de France (June 28-July 1): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    The National (June 28-July 1): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

    Dubai Duty Free Irish Open (July 5-8): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    The Greenbrier Classic (July 5-8): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open (July 12-15): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    John Deere Classic (July 12-15): Top player (not otherwise exempt) among top five and ties

    Stock Watch: Lexi, Justin rose or fall this week?

    By Ryan LavnerNovember 21, 2017, 2:36 pm

    Each week on, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.


    Jon Rahm (+9%): Just imagine how good he’ll be in the next few years, when he isn’t playing all of these courses for the first time. With no weaknesses in his game, he’s poised for an even bigger 2018.

    Austin Cook (+7%): From Monday qualifiers to Q-School to close calls on the, it hasn’t been an easy road to the big leagues. Well, he would have fooled us, because it looked awfully easy as the rookie cruised to a win in just his 14th Tour start.

    Ariya (+6%): Her physical tools are as impressive as any on the LPGA, and if she can shore up her mental game – she crumbled upon reaching world No. 1 – then she’ll become the world-beater we always believed she could be.  

    Tommy Fleetwood (+4%): He ran out of gas in Dubai, but no one played better on the European Tour this year than Fleetwood, Europe’s new No. 1, who has risen from 99th to 18th in the world.   

    Lexi (+1%): She has one million reasons to be pleased with her performance this year … but golf fans are more likely to remember the six runners-up and two careless mistakes (sloppy marking at the ANA and then a yippy 2-footer in the season finale) that cost her a truly spectacular season.


    J-Rose (-1%): Another high finish in Dubai, but his back-nine 38, after surging into the lead, was shocking. It cost him not just the tournament title, but also the season-long race.  

    Hideki (-2%): After getting blown out at the Dunlop Phoenix, he made headlines by saying there’s a “huge gap” between he and winner Brooks Koepka. Maybe something was lost in translation, but Matsuyama being too hard on himself has been a familiar storyline the second half of the year. For his sake, here’s hoping he loosens up.

    Golf-ball showdown (-3%): Recent comments by big-name stars and Mike Davis’ latest salvo about the need for a reduced-flight ball could set up a nasty battle between golf’s governing bodies and manufacturers.

    DL3 (-4%): Boy, the 53-year-old is getting a little too good at rehab – in recent years, he has overcome a neck fusion, foot injury, broken collarbone and displaced thumb. Up next is hip-replacement surgery.

    LPGA Player of the Year (-5%): Sung Hyun Park and So Yeon Ryu tied for the LPGA’s biggest prize, with 162 points. How is there not a tiebreaker in place, whether it’s scoring average or best major performance? Talk about a buzzkill.

    Titleist's Uihlein fires back at Davis over distance

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 12:59 am

    Consider Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein unmoved by Mike Davis' comments about the evolution of the golf ball – and unhappy.

    In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, the outlet which first published Davis' comments on Sunday, Uihlein took aim at the idea that golf ball distance gains are hurting the sport by providing an additional financial burden to courses.

    "Is there any evidence to support this canard … the trickle-down cost argument?” he wrote (via “Where is the evidence to support the argument that golf course operating costs nationwide are being escalated due to advances in equipment technology?"

    Pointing the blame elsewhere, Uihlein criticized the choices and motivations of modern architects.

    "The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate," he wrote.

    The Titleist CEO even went as far as to suggest that Tiger Woods' recent comments that "we need to do something about the golf ball" were motivated by the business interersts of Woods' ball sponsor, Bridgestone.

    "Given Bridgestone’s very small worldwide market share and paltry presence in professional golf, it would seem logical they would have a commercial motive making the case for a reduced distance golf ball," he added.

    Acushnet Holdings, Titleist's parent company, announced in September that Uihlein would be stepping down as the company's CEO at the end of this year but that he will remain on the company's board of directors.

    Class of 2011: Who's got next?

    By Rex HoggardNovember 20, 2017, 9:00 pm

    The sprawling legacy of the Class of 2011 can be traced to any number of origins, but for some among what is arguably the most prolific class ever, it all began in June 2009.

    The 99-player field that descended on Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, N.C., for the AJGA’s FootJoy Invitational included Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth and so many others, like Michael Kim, who up to that moment had experienced the weight of the ’11 class only from afar.

    “It was that year that Justin won the FootJoy Invitational and that got him into [the Wyndham Championship]," Kim recalled. "That was my first invitational and I was like 'these guys are so good’ and I was blown away by what they were shooting. I remember being shocked by how good they were at that time.”

    Tom Lovelady, who like former Cal-Berkeley Bear Kim is now on the PGA Tour, remembers that tournament as the moment when he started to realize how special this particular group could be, as well as the genesis of what has become lifetime friendships.

    In the third round, Lovelady was paired with Spieth.

    “We kind of hit it off and became friends after that," Lovelady recalled. "The final round I got paired with Justin Thomas and we became friends. On the 10th hole I asked [Thomas], ‘Where do you want to go to school?’ He said, ‘Here. Here or Alabama.’ My first reaction was, ‘Don’t go to Alabama.’ He’s like, ‘Why?’ I wanted to go there. I knew the class was strong and they only had so many spots, but that’s where I really wanted to go.”

    Both ended up in Tuscaloosa, and both won an NCAA title during their time in college. They also solidified a friendship that endures to this day in South Florida where they live and train together.

    While the exploits of Thomas, Spieth and Daniel Berger are well documented, perhaps the most impressive part of the ’11 class is the depth that continues to develop at the highest level.

    To many, it’s not a question as to whether the class will have another breakout star, it’s when and who?

    There’s a good chance that answer could have been found on the tee sheet for last week’s RSM Classic, a lineup that included Class of ’11 alums Lovelady; Kim; Ollie Schniederjans, a two-time All-American at Georgia Tech; Patrick Rodgers, Stanford's all-time wins leader alongside Tiger Woods; and C.T. Pan, a four-time All-American at the University of Washington.

    Lovelady earned his Tour card this year via the Tour, while Schniederjans and Rodgers are already well on their way to the competitive tipping point of Next Level.

    Rodgers, who joined the Tour in 2015, dropped a close decision at the John Deere Classic in July, where he finished a stroke behind winner Bryson DeChambeau; and Schniederjans had a similar near-miss at the Wyndham Championship.

    To those who have been conditioned by nearly a decade of play, it’s no surprise that the class has embraced a next-man-up mentality. Nor is it any surprise, at least for those who were forged by such an exceedingly high level of play, that success has seemed to be effortless.

    “First guy I remember competing against at a high level was Justin. We were playing tournaments at 10, 11 years old together,” Rodgers said. “He was really, really good at that age and I wasn’t really good and so he was always my benchmark and motivated me to get better.”

    That symbiotic relationship hasn’t changed. At every level the group has been challenged, and to a larger degree motivated, by the collective success.

    By all accounts, it was Spieth who assumed the role of standard-bearer when he joined the Tour in 2013 and immediately won. For Rodgers, however, the epiphany arrived a year later as he was preparing to play a college event in California and glanced up at a television to see his former rival grinding down the stretch at Augusta National.

    “Jordan’s leading the Masters. A couple years before we’d been paired together battling it out at this exact same college event,” he laughed. “I think I even won the tournament. It was just crazy for me to see someone who is such a peer, someone I was so familiar with up there on the biggest stage.”

    It was a common theme for many among the Class of ’11 as Spieth, Thomas and others emerged, and succeeded, on a world stage. If familiarity can breed contempt, in this case it created a collective confidence.

    Success on Tour has traditionally come slowly for new pros, the commonly held belief being that it took younger players time to evolve into Tour professionals. That’s no longer the case, the byproduct of better coaching, training and tournaments for juniors and top-level amateurs.

    But for the Class of ’11, that learning curve was accelerated by the economies of scale. The quality and quantity of competition for the class has turned out to be a fundamental tenet to the group’s success.

    “Since the mindset of the class has been win, win, win, you don’t know anything other than that, it’s never been just be good enough,” Lovelady said. “You don’t think about being top 125 [on the FedExCup points list], you think about being as high as you can instead of just trying to make the cut, or just keep your card. It’s all you’ve known since you were 14, 15 years old.”

    It’s a unique kind of competitive Darwinism that has allowed the class to separate itself from others, an ever-present reality that continues to drive the group.

    “It was constantly in my head motivating me,” Rodgers said. “Then you see Jordan turn pro and have immediate success and Justin turn pro and have immediate success. It’s kind of the fuel that drives me. What makes it special is these guys have always motivated me, maybe even more so than someone like Tiger [Woods].”

    The domino effect seems obvious, inevitable even, with the only unknown who will be next?

    “That’s a good question; I’d like for it to be myself,” Lovelady said. “But it’s hard to say it’s going to be him, it’s going to be him when it could be him. There are just so many guys.”