Blackwolf Run gearing up for U.S. Women's Open

By Randall MellMay 3, 2012, 9:36 pm

It’s back to the Enchanted Forest for women’s golf.

That is what Blackwolf Run feels like as host to the U.S. Women’s Open.

With the championship just nine weeks away, the U.S. Golf Association is busy with the Kohler Co. in a bid to once more make Blackwolf Run the most bewitching and beautiful challenge in the women’s game.

Fourteen years ago, Herb Kohler introduced the sport to his beguiling design carved through the woods of Wisconsin. Blackwolf Run was as picturesque as it was wicked in its debut as host of the U.S. Women’s Open in 1998. With players sparring with golf goblins all week, Blackwolf Run delivered a fairytale ending. It delivered amateur Jenny Chuasiriporn’s 72nd-hole dramatics to force a playoff with South Korean sensation Se Ri Pak ultimately winning.

“I was afraid of the golf course,” Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez remembers from her adventure there in ‘98. “I had won a lot of golf tournaments, and it intimidated me quite a bit.”

So much so that Lopez, Meg Mallon and Jane Geddes stuck towels on the end of their golf clubs and waved them like white flags as they walked the 18th hole at the end of the second round. They were cumulatively 44 over par and all headed home with missed cuts.

“The great surrender,” Kohler remembers today.

Those white flags remain a defining image from the championship.

Mallon took a 9 on the championship’s opening hole of the opening round.

“I’ll never forget that,” Kohler said. “I admire Meg a lot, and it was sort of ghastly watching her start like that. I think it impacted the psychology of all the players.”

At one point early in the first round, Lopez said her caddie sensed her uneasiness.

“Can I get you something?” he asked her.

“Two valiums,” Lopez answered.

Pak ultimately won in a playoff despite shooting 75-76 on the weekend. She and Chuasiriporn finished at 6 over for 72 holes. You have to go back 36 years to find a higher 72-hole score by a winner in a U.S. Women’s Open. You have to go back to Winged Foot (+7) in 1974 to find a higher 72-hole score by a winner in any major.

A word of caution for the women headed to Blackwolf Run for the July 5-8 championship. The early word is it will be just as bedeviling as it was in ’98.

The course will play to 6,984 yards, more than 500 yards longer than it played in ’98.

While it won’t be the longest U.S. Women’s Open venue in history, it will feel like the longest. The Broadmoor in Colorado played to a record 7,047 yards last year, but the high altitude didn’t make it feel that long.

The USGA is cutting the women a break this time around Blackwolf Run. It will play as a par 72 instead of a par 71. The seventh hole will play as it was naturally designed, as a par 5 instead of a par 4.

That doesn’t mean the test won’t still be fierce. Kohler ordered a renovation of Blackwolf Run’s grasses in 2009 and ‘10. With new A4 bentgrass on the greens and Memorial bentgrass on the fairways, the course can play a lot firmer and faster, given Mother Nature’s cooperation.

“This will definitely be the toughest test of the women’s year, and rightfully so,” said the USGA’s Ben Kimball, director of the U.S. Women’s Open.

Kimball wasn’t there to see how Blackwolf Run played in ’98 – he was a freshman in college – but he has studied recordings of NBC-TV’s telecast.

“It looked like it played the way we expect and want for a national open championship,” Kimball said. “It was a physical and mental grind all the way to the end. I expect we will get another grind out of Blackwolf Run in 2012.”

Blackwolf Run made a powerful first impression and launched Kohler’s emergence as a force in major championship golf. Whistling Straits, already home to two PGA Championships, was officially opened on the Monday that Pak beat Chuasiriporn in a playoff. In a test of his improvisational skills, Kohler managed to shuttle major golf dignitaries to Whistling Straits in the morning and then back to see Pak win.

“It was such a dramatic impact, this whole thing, on me, on the company, on our opening at Whistling Straits,” Kohler said. “And then to have a conclusion like we had with these players, it was a fairytale that you couldn't write. You couldn't make up. It was our first major, and it was absolutely remarkable.”

Blackwolf Run’s strong first impression paved the way for more majors on Kohler’s courses.

“I didn’t see it coming back then,” said Michael Lee, superintendent of the Blackwolf Run and Whistling Straits courses. “I don’t think anyone did, except maybe Mr. Kohler, and I won’t speak for him. When we hosted the Andersen Consulting Championship three years prior to the U.S. Women’s Open, I told the staff to enjoy the week, because I thought that would be the largest event we would ever host. I was wrong. Mr. Kohler had a vision I didn’t see.”

That vision plays out some more at Blackwolf Run this summer.

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Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

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Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

Masters victory

Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative

Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ

Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket

Man of the people

Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief

Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together

Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018

Departure from TaylorMade

Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'

Victory at Valderrama

Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm