Former Georgia players grab PGA Tour cards

By Rex HoggardDecember 5, 2011, 11:59 pm

LA QUINTA, Calif. – As freshman they gathered in the East Campus Village, thrown together by chance more so than choice. They’d compete regularly at Jennings Mill Golf Club or the University of Georgia’s own layout for a precious spot on the Bulldog travelling team.

In between they’d eat, practice and play together. Every step of the way they’d dream of NCAA championships and individual titles and, yes, even PGA Tour cards.

The Coachella Valley will never be confused for cozy Athens, Ga., but for six bone-chilling days the “Brothers Bulldog” turned this year’s PGA Tour Qualifying School Tournament into something that more resembled one of those heated qualifiers and, by and large, fulfilled that ultimate dream.

In order, former Georgia players Brendon Todd (pictured above), Brian Harman, Harris English and Kevin Kisner earned Tour cards, and even Hudson Swafford, the final member of the Bulldog five-some at Q-School who missed his card by two strokes, could appreciate the achievement.

“We had seven guys on that team that could play anywhere week to week,” Swafford said. “Our qualifiers my freshman, sophomore, junior years were as intense as any event.”

And that’s saying something considering this year’s Fall Classic was as intense as any on record. A fierce, cold wind that blew for six days only magnified the normal pressure of Q-School. Not that’s Georgia’s finest seemed to notice.

Todd took medalist honors at 17 under, Harman tied for eighth place at 13 under, Kisner was 11th two strokes back tied with English. It was all enough to soften the blow of the Bulldogs’ loss to LSU in last weekend’s SEC championship game.

“Come on man,” Harman smiled when remained of the loss. “LSU is just good. I think they should play the Packers.”

Some in the field may be thinking the same thing about the Georgia five-some. If some universities have earned the nickname “Quarterback U.,” Georgia is turning into something of a “Tour Player U.,” an accomplishment that begins and ends with head coach Chris Haack.

Before Monday’s final round Haack had eight former players with varying degrees of Tour status, not to mention two NCAA championships. Not bad for a coach that took over the program in 1996 and a testament to a recruiting style that has a simple philosophy.

“I always like finding guys that are players,” Haack said. “I don’t really look at golf swing or technique. I just want that ‘it’ factor.”

To his players Haack was a “player’s coach,” much more interested in course time then range time and the team’s qualifying tournaments were heated clashes between some of college golf’s best.

Kisner recalled a cold December morning when Haack marched into the team room and instructed his squad to suit up. In a freezing rain he informed them, “If you break 40 (on the front nine) you can come in.” Two posted 39 and retreated to the clubhouse. The rest kept going, at least until Haack relented and drove his car out onto the course to retrieve them.

“He didn’t care if you were out there working on your swing every day,” Kisner said. “He just wanted the guy who got the ball in the hole the fastest.”

For Haack it was a simple question of pressure. If they were good enough to earn a spot through one of his Draconian qualifies chances are they were good enough to beat anything the NCAA could throw at them.

The quintessential example of this power through practice philosophy came at the 2009 NCAA Championship when Harman outdueled Tour staple Rickie Fowler down the stretch, closing with three consecutive birdies to win his match.

“There was always a lot of competition, a lot of head-to-head stuff,” Haack said. “What they are going through right now it’s nothing new. We did this in every qualifying round.”

The camaraderie and competition uniquely prepared the Georgia five for the rigors of Q-School and beyond.

The group stayed together at Q-School. English shared a house with Harmon, Swafford roomed with Todd. They had dinner every night, suffered through the SEC loss and even passed along advice and encouragement.

“To be smart you can never stop learning,” Harman said. “And Harris has such a great demeanor on the golf course and that’s something I haven’t been good at in my career.”

As Monday’s fury faded to dusk, all five Bulldogs gathered around the scoring trailer, trading hugs and laughs. Even Chris Kirk, a former Dawg and Tour winner in town for a photo shoot, was there for his teammates.

“All these guys are used to being around each other,” Haack said. “One of the things about our program it was kind of their fraternity. The golf team was there fraternity.”

Now the PGA Tour is their fraternity.

There was talk late Monday that Haack would join the team for the post-Q-School celebration, but the coach was attending a golf coaches convention in Las Vegas and suggested his crew would have a better time with him in Sin City.

“I bet Haack is throwing money all over the place in Vegas,” Kisner laughed.

Why wouldn’t he? After going 4-for-5 at golf’s greatest gamble even the capriciousness of Vegas must feel like a sure thing.

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.

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Rose leads Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose completed the final two holes of his second round early Saturday for a 3-under 69 and a one-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, who had a first-round 62, was among a quarter of the field forced off the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course after weather delays on Friday.

The Englishman, who bogeyed his last hole, had a two-round total of 13-under 131.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who completed his 64 on Friday, was in second place.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters. He has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 1:00 pm

Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.

Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.

None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.

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Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.

An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 12:30 pm