NBC Sports Group Kicks Off 2016 LPGA Season With the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic

By Golf Channel Public RelationsJanuary 25, 2016, 11:05 pm

Live Coverage of 8 LPGA Events on Golf Channel in Next 10 Weeks Heading into Golf’s First Major of 2016, ANA Inspiration

Following a 2015 season where Golf Channel and NBC combined to air more than 550 hours of LPGA Tour coverage – the most ever in a single year – NBC Sports Group will continue to ride the wave of momentum as the 2016 LPGA season begins this week with the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic, airing live on Golf Channel Thursday-Sunday, Jan. 28-31.

This year, NBC Sports Group will broadcast 31 LPGA Tour events in the season-long Race to the CME Globe, featuring live coverage of four of the five women’s major championships and the biennial UL International Crown. And in August, women’s golf returns to the Olympics for the first time in more than 100 years.

“Golf Channel’s coverage of the LPGA Tour last year was fueled by the most live hours ever, showcasing the game’s emerging and established stars through storytelling via our news, live tournaments and digital platforms,” said Molly Solomon, Golf Channel executive producer. “We will continue to build on this momentum as we embark on a momentous year in 2016 on the LPGA Tour with 10 months of coverage of the Race to the CME Globe, nearly all of the major championships and the UL International Crown as well as golf’s return to the Olympics.”

“Our relationship with Golf Channel continues to grow thanks to their significant promotion, production value, and coverage of our accessible and personable players,” said Brian Carroll, LPGA Senior Vice President of TV and New Media. “With the amount of great events on our schedule, we are very excited about 2016.”

PURE SILK BAHAMAS LPGA CLASSIC: The event begins a series of eight LPGA tournaments airing live on Golf Channel over the next 10 weeks leading into golf’s first major championship of 2016, the ANA Inspiration. Inbee Park, Stacy Lewis and Lexi Thompson, Nos. 2-4 in the Rolex Rankings, headline an international field in the Bahamas that also includes Paula Creamer, Cristie Kerr, Alison Lee, Gerina Piller, Yani Tseng, Michelle Wie and 2017 U.S. Solheim Cup Captain Juli Inkster. Eventual 2015 Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Sei Young Kim captured the 2015 event in a playoff for her first of three LPGA wins in 2015.

Live coverage of the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic will air on Golf Channel Thursday and Friday from 11:30 am-2:30 p.m. ET, and will continue on Saturday and Sunday from 3-5 p.m. ET.

COATES GOLF CHAMPIONSHIP: The LPGA Tour will head to the continental U.S. next week for the Coates Golf Championship in Ocala, Fla., a Wednesday-Saturday event that will feature the 2016 debut of Rolex Rankings No. 1 Lydia Ko. Na Yeon Choi defeated Ko by one stroke in the inaugural Coates Golf Championship in 2015, which served as the kickoff to the season.

ANA INSPIRATION, GOLF’S FIRST MAJOR OF 2016: Following the Coates Golf Championship, the LPGA Tour will travel to Australia, Thailand and Singapore for a three week stretch before returning to the U.S. in March for three weeks, concluding with the ANA Inspiration, golf’s first major championship of 2016 (Thursday-Sunday, March 31-April 3). Taking place at historic Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif., Golf Channel will air comprehensive news and tournament coverage ANA Inspiration week, headlined by 20 hours of live tournament action.

GOLF CHANNEL BROADCAST TEAM: Hall-of-Famer Judy Rankin returns as lead analyst for Golf Channel’s LPGA tournament coverage in 2016, and will be joined by Whit Watson as play-by-play host for the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic. Tom Abbott will serve as a hole announcer with Jerry Foltz and Kay Cockerill reporting from the course.  Lisa Cornwell will conduct post-round interviews and provide reports for Golf Central.

Major champion Karen Stupples and play-by-play host Terry Gannon will join the broadcast team at the Coates Golf Championship. Stupples will serve as a course reporter and also will rotate with Rankin as lead analyst at select events in 2016.

NBC SPORTS GROUP’S 2016 MARQUEE LPGA EVENTS: 2016 is set up to be a transformational year for NBC Sports Group’s coverage of the LPGA Tour. With the addition of the RICOH Women’s British Open in July, Golf Channel will have coverage of four of five women’s major championships. Three majors will air on NBC: the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, RICOH Women’s British Open – returning to broadcast television in ’16 – and The Evian Championship. The biennial UL International Crown also returns in 2016, with weekend coverage on NBC, and in August, Golf Channel and NBC will air live coverage of women’s golf in the 2016 Summer Olympics from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

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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 Web.com 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.

Amen.

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.”