Am Tour Nationals bring Vermont father and San Diego son together

By Mike BaileySeptember 12, 2014, 5:31 am

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- James Smith and his son Jamie have been playing golf together the last three days – 11 miles apart.

If you're wondering how that's possible, all you have to do is put it in perspective. The elder Smith lives in Vermont. Jamie lives in San Diego. They are about 3,000 from one another most of the year, so yeah, 11 miles is together.

The Smiths qualified for the Golf Channel Am Tour National Championship, thanks in large part to a second-place finish in the "Duel in the Desert" Am Tour event in Las Vegas as a team.

This week, they're playing in different flights, so while Jamie (in the Sarazen flight, 12-15.9 handicap) teed it up at Talking Stick on Wednesday, James was over at Grayhawk. Ironically, they both had the same tee time, 12:19 p.m., and eventually met up later at Talking Stick Resort for the nightly GC Am Tour reception and a couple of beers watching Thursday Night Football.

James is the better of the two golfers is in the Hogan flight (handicap 8-11.9). He actually qualified for the Am Tour Senior National Championship, which will be played next week here, but he wanted to play at the same time as his son, so he opted for the Open division this week. While they may not be on the same course together during competition, they're using this week to get closer.

"It's been absolutely amazing," Jamie said. "You look at these father-son opportunities – and I have a son - and you just cherish these moments. It just means the world to me to spend time with him. It's been kind of a boys' trip - the wives and kids are at home - and we just have a really good time."

James, who does come out to San Diego each year for a few weeks with his wife to visit his Jamie's family, agreed that sharing their experiences at the Golf Channel Am Tour Nationals is special.

"Even though we're not playing in the same flight, we're together," James said. "We're sharing social time, sharing the stories, sharing dinner, breakfast. I think that's important to both of us. "

Early on this week, Jamie had every reason to be proud of his dad. Neither are in contention to win their flights really, but on Monday, James shot 74 at Grayhawk, just one year over his age. All week, that round has stood up as the lowest in his flight, and James was honored at Monday night's reception with a prize and award.

But as proud as they are of each other, they are also competitive, and the elder Smith usually comes out on top.

"I'm 38 years old, and I've beat him one time," Jamie said. "And I've shot 79 or 80. You'd think there would be times when I would have a good round, and he would blow up, but that really hasn't been the case. There have been times when I'd be watching the scorecard and think to myself, 'I beat him on the front; it's going to happen this time.' But he would just grind it out on the back."

The one time Jamie beat his dad came during the Duel in the Desert in February. Jamie fired a 79 to edge his father by one stroke in a practice round.

James, in fact, coached his son on his high school golf team. (James was a high school math teacher). And Jamie was the top player on that team. But as Jamie pointed out, the golf season is extremely short in Vermont so high school golf isn't nearly as competitive as it is in other states. Instead, Jamie focused on other sports, and he was quite good at them, just like his older sister Jessica. Both of them played college basketball – Jamie at Keene State College in New Hampshire where he was a captain, and Jessica at the University of Rhode Island.

A career and family have certainly kept Jamie from working much on his golf game in recent years, so he has an excuse to not being at his father's level. Meanwhile, James has played a lot of golf since retirement 15 years ago and works at Farm Neck Golf Club on Martha's Vineyard, Mass., in the summers, giving him a chance to really hone his skills. 

Jamie says he tries to emulate his dad's skills.

"His short game is unbelievable," Jamie said. "He swings so steady. He's so smooth. He's very patient with his swing."

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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.