Dreams for a Sick Father

By Randall MellFebruary 20, 2011, 7:47 am

Northern Trust Open

LOS ANGELES – With rain beginning to fall again Saturday at Riviera Country Club, Annie Na tucked her cell phone under her arm and scrambled for cover on the back steps of the clubhouse.

She knew a very important call from halfway around the world would be coming any moment.

With the third round of the Northern Trust Open now complete, she knew “Papa Na” would be calling.

That’s what they call Annie’s husband, Yong Na, father to PGA Tour pro Kevin Na.

Papa Na’s sick, he’s fighting leukemia, and even though he had to wake before sunrise back in Seoul, South Korea, to follow Kevin’s progress, Annie knew her husband was glued to his computer the entire round. 

Kevin Na
Kevin Na is playing for his father, who is battling leukemia. (Getty Images)

With Kevin posting a 4-under-par 67, Annie knew Papa Na would be thrilled. Kevin will go off Sunday in the final pairing in a bid to win his first PGA Tour event. He’s just one shot behind the leader, Aaron Baddeley. They’ll both be paired with Fred Couples, who at 51 will be the overwhelming favorite among fans wanting to see “Freddie” win this event for the third time.

While this might be Couples’ venue, a course he loves, it’s practically Na’s backyard and just as special to him. Kevin was born in South Korea, but his family moved here when he was 8. He grew up in nearby Rancho Cucamonga. When he was 11 years old, Papa Na brought Kevin to Riviera Country Club, where Kevin got to watch his first PGA Tour event. Kevin followed Couples that week, and he even got an autographed photo of Corey Pavin, the winner that Sunday in 1995. Kevin says he’s still got the photo.

Annie knows all of this makes Papa Na burn to be here.

“Papa Na will call wanting to know how Kevin’s feeling, how he’s looking, how he’s sleeping,” Annie said. “He can see Kevin’s shots on the computer, but he can only see the lines with Shot Link. He’ll want to know about certain shots.”

And as Annie’s saying this, her cell phone begins humming.

“Yes, this is Papa Na now,” Annie said.

There was a lively exchange in Korean, Annie knowing exactly what Papa Na wanted, with Annie promising to call again later with more news.

“This is very therapeutic for Papa Na,” Annie says.

And inspiring for Kevin Na.

“I would really like to send the trophy back over to him,” Kevin said after his round.

Papa Na is 59 – a retired businessman. His oldest son, Austin, Kevin’s only sibling, is a professor in sports management at Kyung Hee University in Seoul. Austin's watching over Papa Na. Annie’s heading back over again next week.

“My father was diagnosed with leukemia at the end of last year when we were in Korea,” Kevin said. “He met a great doctor there who’s really helping him out.

“When we first found out, it was really hard. I want to stay positive, and I just . . . I just try to think of him, that he’s healthy. They don’t really know what’s going to happen, because the next year is very important for him. He needs to take medication exactly on the dot, exactly when he needs to. And if that works out, and if he gets better, it might extend his life. But who knows? I don’t really want to go further than that.”

Kevin, 27, had a wild run up the leaderboard Saturday in a round of seven birdies and three bogeys. He was a gifted junior who turned pro at 17. In seven full seasons on the PGA Tour, he’s steadily become a factor with an improving game. He can be an erratic driver, but he’s got a terrific short game and is a good iron player. He made the Tour Championship the last two seasons and has three times finished runner-up in PGA Tour events.

“Kevin’s got unbelievable imagination around the greens,” said Kenny Harms, Na’s caddie. “And he’s an unbelievable putter.”

Harms was with Hale Irwin for eight years before picking up Na’s bag for the first time at the Canadian Open in 2008. He was Hubert Green’s caddie before that.

“At the Canadian Open, I told Kevin’s father, `Your son has the type of game that wins majors,’” said Harms, who became Na’s full-time caddie in ’09. “He tends to play better on the tougher courses.”

Na’s got a reputation as one of the most intense players on tour. That’s rubbed some players the wrong way and not always served him well. In the final round of the Tour Championship last year, Na got some bad publicity for losing his temper at the 18th tee. After a bad shot, he angrily slammed his driver into the turf, taking a small chunk out of the tee box.

'I'll be honest, yeah, the behavior on 18 wasn't good,” Paul Casey, who was paired with Na and had a chance to win, said at the time. “I don't really care. I think it's bad for the game.'

Like it or not, Na’s intensity is part of the chemistry fueling his rise in the ranks. He’d love to take his largest step yet with a win Sunday.

“Kevin has so much potential,” Harms said. “It’s just a matter of time and experience for him.”

Na hopes his time comes Sunday at Riviera.

Follow Randall Mell on Twitter @RandallMell

Getty Images

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.


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.”