Arnies Inspiration Open to All

By Randall MellAugust 11, 2009, 4:00 pm
Editor's note: As Arnold Palmer approaches his 80th birthday Sept. 10, we reflect with some of our best Palmer stories.
 
His 80th birthday is a little more than three months away, but Arnold Palmers influence still touches U.S. Open hopefuls today.
 
Fifty-six years after he played in his first U.S. Open, 15 years after he played in his last, Palmer is the common thread unexpectedly stitching together the stories of the oldest and youngest players attempting to make it to the national championship in Mondays sectional qualifiers.
 
Jerry Tucker, 59, of Stuart, Fla., is the oldest player trying to advance to Bethpage Black outside New York City June 18-21. Grayson Murray, 15, of Raleigh, N.C., is the youngest.
 
Theyre among the 767 players competing for 65 or so U.S. Open qualifying spots available in Mondays 13 sectionals across the land.
 
They both credit Palmer for inspiring them.
 
Tucker is a teaching pro who works out of Trump International in West Palm Beach, a former head professional at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis. Hes a four-time South Florida PGA Section Senior Player of the Year who counts playing with Sam Snead and Jack Nicklaus among his favorite moments in golf. His career highlights, however, are the three rounds he played with Palmer at senior events.
 
'Arnold Palmer was my idol, said Tucker, who does short-game work coaching LPGA rookie Vicky Hurst. When Arnold won the Masters in 1962, thats what got me going in the game. I was 13. I told him that when we played together.
 
Tucker was setting up in the rain to play a practice round before 2001 Senior PGA Championship at Ridgewood Country Club when Palmer strolled to the tee.
 
'Who are you playing with? Palmer asked.
 
Just myself, Tucker said.
 
Not anymore, Palmer said.
 
Tucker told Palmer that he was such a devoted follower of Palmers that he only uses red tees, just like the King.
 
At the second hole, Arnie pulls out a yellow Pennzoil tee and uses it, Tucker said. I told him he made an impression on me writing in his book that he only uses red tees and that he drinks Coke in the middle of the night. Arnie says, `Jerry, now I only use yellow tees and I drink beer in the middle of the night. It was great, but I asked him, `Arnie, what am I supposed to do with the 10,000 red tees I have in my garage?
 
Tucker will tee it up Monday at Lake Nona Country Club in Orlando, where he will be among 57 players competing for three U.S. Open spots. He is trying to make it to his third U.S. Open, but his first in 25 years. He qualified in 1981 at Merion and 84 at Winged Foot. He also played his way into two PGA Championships as a club professional. John Cook, the 11-time PGA Tour winner, is the biggest name attempting to make it through Lake Nona.
 
Murray, a rising junior who is a three-time winner at the Callaway Junior Worlds, also counts Palmer as an inspiration.
 
Though Palmer hasnt won a tour event of any kind in Murrays lifetime, Palmer made a giant impact on Murray when they met during a Wake Forest University golf dinner. Murray was 9.
 
Its one of the highlights of my life, Murray said. He told me to keep up the hard work, that the game could take me anywhere I wanted to go in life if I worked at it. Ive never forgotten that, and Ive used it as motivation.
 
Grayson would like to follow Palmers footsteps to Wake Forest.
 
From the moment Grayson met Arnold, theres been no doubt in his mind where he wanted to go to school, said Eric Murray, Graysons father.
 
If you go to the Arnold Palmer Memory Book at the U.S. Golf Association Web site, where the organization is preparing to celebrate Palmers 80th birthday, youll find Murrays memory recounted among so many others.
 
The other thing that Arnold told Grayson was that, more than anything, he should have fun with his golf, Eric said.
 
Murray, who is 15 years and eight months old, will be looking to have the time of his life if he makes it through the sectional qualifier at Hawks Ridge Golf Club outside Atlanta. Forty-three players are competing for three U.S. Open spots there. Murray is bidding to become the second youngest qualifier to make it to a U.S. Open. Tadd Fujikawa was the youngest when he made it at 15 years, five months and seven days old.
 
Graysons going to Atlanta with all cylinders clicking, said Ted Kiegel, Murrays swing coach. He has a great chance.
 
Kiegel also works with PGA Tour pro Webb Simpson, whos also trying to make it through Mondays sectional qualifying.
 
Ive played a lot of golf with Webb and learned a lot from him, Murray said. It would be great if we both made it.
 
Monday is what makes the U.S. Open the most democratic of major golf championships. Two-time U.S. Open winner Lee Janzen will compete with 120 players at Brookside and The Lakes golf clubs in Columbus, Ga. Janzens 10-year U.S. Open exemption expired this year, requiring him to play his way into the field. Janzen has played in 18 consecutive U.S. Opens. David Duval and Davis Love III are other former major champions in a field heavily populated with PGA Tour pros stopping off after playing at the Memorial.
 
Two-time major champ John Daly will be among 110 players trying to make it through the qualifier at Germantown and Ridgewood country clubs in Memphis.
 
Related Links:
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  • Palmer recalls memorable shots at Bay Hill
  • Newsmaker of the Year: No. 3, Tiger Woods

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 12:45 pm

    After returning to competition at the Hero World Challenge in December 2016, Woods started the new year with an ambitious slate of tournament starts as he eyed his first full season since 2013. But he made it only three rounds, looking rusty en route to a missed cut at Torrey Pines before withdrawing abruptly in Dubai.

    The “spasms” that led to that withdrawal turned out to be something far more serious, as Woods underwent his fourth and most invasive back surgery in April, a lumbar fusion. It brought with it an extensive rehabilitation, and at the Presidents Cup in September Woods humored the prospect that he might never again play competitive golf.

    At Liberty National he also faced some scrutiny for an off-course incident from months prior. In May he was arrested for suspicion of DUI, an incident that produced a startling roadside video of an intoxicated Woods struggling to follow instructions from the arresting officer after driving erratically.


    Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


    While he was not drinking at the time, Woods was found to have a mix of several prescription medications in his system, including multiple painkillers. He checked himself into a private drug treatment program in July to address his dependency issues, and in October he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of reckless driving.

    But the incident was barely a memory when Woods again made a return to competition in the Bahamas at the tournament he hosts. This time around he exceeded nearly every expectation, twice shooting 4-under 68 while tying for ninth among the 18-man field. Having re-tooled his swing following fusion surgery, Woods appeared relaxed, happy and healthy while briefly taking the lead during the tournament’s second round.

    What lies ahead for Woods in 2018 remains uncertain, as the stop-and-start nature of this past season serves as a cautionary tale. But after a harrowing arrest and another serious surgery, he seems once again focused on his game, intent on chasing down a new crop of elite talent, some of whom are barely more than half his age.

    Woods' initial comeback short-lived, leads to another back surgery

    Article: Woods undergoes "successful" fourth back surgery

    Article: Woods (back spasm) withdraws from Dubai

    Article: Players disappointed Woods withdraws from Dubai

    Really, again: Tiger undergoes fourth back surgery

    Begay on Tiger: Future is 'extremely uncertain'


    Woods arrested for DUI, enters diversion program after getting "professional help"

    Article: Woods arrested for DUI in May

    Article: Police say Woods had 5 drugs in system when arrested

    Article: DUI affidavit states Tiger asleep in parked car

    Dashcam video released of Tiger's DUI arrest

    Begay, Rolfing: Tiger's arrest needs to be wakeup call

    Photos: Tiger Woods' car during DUI arrest

    Tiger Woods at his 2017 DUI court hearing.

    Photos: Tiger Woods in court for DUI hearing

    Article: Tiger gets 'professional help' for prescription meds

    Tiger Woods at his 2017 DUI court hearing.

    Article: Woods pleads in court guilty to reckless driving


    Woods goes from unsure of his pro golf future to resuming full golf activities

    Article: Doctor clears Woods for full golf activity six months after back surgery

    Article: Tiger doesn't know what future holds

    Article: Woods back to making full swings

    Woods admits he might never return to competition

    Making progress: Breaking down Tiger's driver swing


    Woods returns to competition for first time since February at Hero World Challenge

    Article: Hero comeback a success for healthy Woods

    Article: Woods discusses his back: 'No issues at all, none'

    Tiger Tracker: Woods finished T-9 in return to competition

    Chamblee: 'I was wrong' about some of my Woods skepticism

    Tiger, if you were hurting, would you tell us? 'Yeah, I'd tell you'


    Woods out and about in 2017

    Article: Video, images of Tiger's round with Trump

    Article: Woods posts photo as 'Mac Daddy Santa'

    Article: Tiger at U.S. Open sitting in Nadal's box

    Article: Shirtless Tiger holds up a massive lobster

    Getty Images

    Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 12:30 pm
    Getty Images

    NBC Sports' Coverage of LPGA Tour in 2017 Most-Viewed Season Ever for NBC Sports

    By Golf Channel Public RelationsDecember 13, 2017, 8:45 pm

    NBC Sports’ LPGA Tour Coverage Ties 2013 for Most-Watched Year Since 2011

    NBC and Golf Channel Boast Top-6 Most-Watched Women’s Golf Telecasts in 2017

    Beginning with the dramatic playoff finish at the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic in January and concluding with Lexi Thompson winning the $1 million Race to the CME Globe, nearly 22 million viewers tuned in to LPGA Tour coverage across Golf Channel and NBC in 2017. This makes 2017 the most-viewed LPGA Tour season across NBC Sports since Golf Channel joined the NBC Sports Group in 2011. Additionally, 2017 tied 2013 as the LPGA Tour’s most-watched year across NBC Sports since 2011. Coverage drew an average of 221,000 viewers per telecast in 2017 (+24% vs. 2016), according to data released by The Nielsen Company.

    NBC SPORTS GROUP CLAIMS TOP-6 MOST-WATCHED WOMEN’S GOLF TELECASTS IN ‘17

    For the first time ever in televised women’s golf, Sunday’s final round of the RICOH Women’s British Open (Sunday, Aug. 6, 2017, 1.1 million viewers) delivered the most-watched and highest-rated women’s golf telecast of the year. NBC’s Saturday (Day 2) coverage of the Solheim Cup in August placed second with 968,000 viewers, followed by Sunday’s Solheim Cup coverage on NBC with 946,000 viewers. Golf Channel’s live coverage of Sunday’s final day of the Solheim Cup drew 795,000 viewers, the most-watched women’s golf event on cable in eight years.

    Rank

    Network

    Event

    Day

    Avg. Viewers P2+

    1

    NBC

    RICOH WOMEN'S BRITISH OPEN

    Sunday

    1,100,526

    2

    NBC

    SOLHEIM CUP

    Saturday

    968,202

    3

    NBC

    SOLHEIM CUP

    Sunday

    946,387

    4

    NBC

    KPMG WOMEN'S PGA CHAMPIONSHIP

    Sunday

    839,983

    5

    NBC

    RICOH WOMEN'S BRITISH OPEN

    Saturday

    808,578

    6

    GOLF

    SOLHEIM CUP

    Sunday

    795,000

    ADDITIONAL VIEWERSHIP MILESTONES FOR WOMEN’S GOLF IN 2017

    • ANA Inspiration - The LPGA’s first major championship delivered thefifth most-watched LPGA final round in Golf Channel history with 551,000 viewers when So Yeon Ryu defeated Lexi Thompson in a playoff following Thompson being assessed a four-stroke penalty earlier in the final round.
    • KPMG Women’s PGA Championship – The LPGA’s second major was seen by 6.6 million viewers across Golf Channel and NBC, the largest audience for the event on record (2006-17). Sunday’s final round on NBC, which saw Danielle Kang win her first LPGA Tour event over defending champion Brooke Henderson, also was the most-watched telecast in the event’s history with 840,000 average viewers.
    • RICOH Women’s British Open – NBC’s Sunday coverage of the RICOH Women’s British Open delivered the most-watched and highest-rated women’s golf telecast in 2017 (.78 U.S. HH rating, 1.1 million viewers). In total, 7 million unique viewers tuned in to coverage across Golf Channel and NBC, the most-watched RICOH Women’s British Open in the past 10 years and the most-watched among the five women’s major championships in 2017.
    • Solheim Cup – Seen by a total audience of 7.3 million viewers across Golf Channel and NBC, the Solheim Cup posted the largest total audience for women’s golf since the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open on ESPN/NBC. Golf Channel’s live coverage of the final day drew 795,000 average viewers, becoming the most-watched women’s golf telecast on cable in the last eight years, since the final day of the 2009 Solheim Cup.

    GOLF CHANNEL DIGITAL POSTS RECORD STREAMING CONSUMPTION

    Golf Channel Digital posted record numbers of LPGA streaming consumption with 11.9 million live minutes streamed across LPGA Tour telecasts in 2017 (+563% vs. 2016).

    • Solheim Cup – Three-day coverage of the Solheim Cup saw 6.3 million minutes streamed across NBC Sports’ Digital platforms, trailing only the 2016 Rio Olympics (9 million) as the most-ever for a women’s golf event airing on Golf Channel / NBC.
    • RICOH Women’s British Open – Four-day coverage of the RICOH Women’s British Open saw 2 million minutes streamed, +773% vs. 2016.

    NBC Sports Group combined to air 31 LPGA Tour events in 2017 and a total of 420 hours of coverage, the most in LPGA history. The exclusive cable home to the LPGA Tour, Golf Channel aired coverage of four of five women’s major championships in 2017, with three majors also airing on NBC: the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, RICOH Women’s British Open and The Evian Championship. The biennial Solheim Cup also returned to network television for the first time in 15 years with weekend coverage on NBC.

    Source: Nielsen 2017 Live+Same Day DVR vs. prior available data. Persons 2+ avg 000’s and/or Persons 2+ reach w/six-minute qualifier. Digital Metrics from Adobe Reports & Analytics. Details available.

    Hensby takes full responsibility for violation

    By Rex HoggardDecember 13, 2017, 5:28 pm

    The PGA Tour’s Anti-Doping Program manual covers 48 pages of details, from the pressing to the mundane, but for Mark Hensby the key section of the policy could be found on Page 5.

    “The collector may allow you to delay reporting to the testing area for unavoidable obligations; however, you will be monitored from the time of notification until completion of the sample collection process,” the policy reads. “A failure to report to the testing area by the required time is the same as a doping violation under the program.”

    Hensby, a 46-year-old former Tour winner from Australia, didn’t read that section, or any other part of the manual. In fact, he said he hasn’t received the circuit’s anti-doping manual in years. Not that he uses that as an excuse.

    To be clear, Hensby doesn’t blame his anti-doping plight on anyone else.

    “At the end of the day it’s my responsibility. I take full responsibility,” he told GolfChannel.com.

    Like Doug Barron, Scott Stallings and even Vijay Singh before him, Hensby ran afoul of the Tour’s anti-doping policy because, essentially, of a clerical error. There were no failed tests, no in-depth investigations, no seedy entourages who sent Hensby down a dark road of performance-enhancing drug use.

    Just a simple misunderstanding combined with bad timing.

    Hensby, who last played a full season on Tour in 2003, had just completed the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship when he was approached by a member of the Tour’s anti-doping testing staff. He was angry about his play and had just used the restroom on the 17th hole and, he admits, was in no mood to wait around to take the urine test.

    “Once I said, ‘Can I take it in the morning,’ [the Tour’s anti-doping official] said, ‘We can’t hold you here,’” Hensby recalled. “I just left.”

    Not one but two officials called Hensby that night to ask why he’d declined to take the test, and he said he was even advised to return to the Country Club of Jackson (Miss.) to take the test, which is curious because the policy doesn’t allow for such gaps between notification of a test and the actual testing.

    According to the policy, a player is considered in violation of the program if he leaves the presence of the doping control officers without providing the required sample.

    A Tour official declined to comment on the matter citing the circuit’s policy not to comment on doping violations beyond the initial disclosure.

    A week later, Hensby was informed he was in violation of the Tour’s policy and although he submitted a letter to the commissioner explaining the reasons for his failure to take the test he was told he would be suspended from playing in any Tour-sanctioned events (including events on the Web.com Tour) for a year.

    “I understand now what the consequences are, but you know I’ve been banned for a performance-enhancing drug violation, and I don’t take performance-enhancing drugs,” Hensby said.

    Hensby isn’t challenging his suspension nor did he have any interest in criticizing the Tour’s policy, instead his message two days after the circuit announced the suspension was focused on his fellow Tour members.

    “I think the players need to read that manual really, really well. There are things I wasn’t aware of and I think other players weren’t aware of either,” he said. “You have to read the manual.”

    It was a similar message Stallings offered following his 90-day suspension in 2015 after he turned himself in for using DHEA, an anabolic agent that is the precursor to testosterone production and banned by the Tour.

    “This whole thing was a unique situation that could have been dealt with differently, but I made a mistake and I owned up to it,” Stallings said at the time.

    Barron’s 2009 suspension, which was for a year, also could have been avoided after he tested positive for supplemental testosterone and a beta-blocker, both of which were prescribed by a doctor for what were by many accounts legitimate health issues.

    And Singh’s case, well that chapter is still pending in the New York Supreme Court, but the essential element of the Fijian’s violation was based on his admitted use of deer-antler spray, which contained a compound called IGF-1. Although IGF-1 is a banned substance, the World Anti-Doping Agency has ruled that the use of deer-antler spray is not a violation if an athlete doesn’t fail a drug test. Singh never failed a test.

    The Tour’s anti-doping history is littered with cases that could have been avoided, cases that should have been avoided. Despite the circuit’s best educational efforts, it’s been these relatively innocent violations that have defined the program.

    In retrospect, Hensby knows he should have taken the test. He said he had nothing to hide, but anger got the best of him.

    “To be honest, it would have been hard, the way I was feeling that day, I know I’m a hothead at times, but I would have probably stayed [had he known the consequences],” he admitted. “You’ve got to understand that if you have too much water you can’t get a test either and then you have to stay even longer.”

    Hensby said before his run in with the anti-doping small print he wasn’t sure what his professional future would be, but his suspension has given him perspective and a unique motivation.

    “I was talking to my wife last night, I have a little boy, it’s been a long month,” said Hensby after dropping his son, Caden, off at school. “I think I have a little more drive now and when I come back. I wasn’t going to play anymore, but when I do come back I am going to be motivated.”

    He’s also going to be informed when it comes to the Tour’s anti-doping policy, and he hopes his follow professionals take a similar interest.