Governing bodies need to come together like it's 1951

By Rex HoggardApril 24, 2013, 5:41 pm

FAR HILLS, N.J. – Tucked into a corner of the USGA’s Golf House is an exhibit unlike any other in the association’s sprawling museum.

The simple display doesn’t honor a player or tournament or career, but a pivotal moment in time when golf had reached a contentious crossroads, a time when the game was ruled by regional factions with sometimes competing interests.

Sound familiar?

The display reads, simply, “The 1951 Rules conference.” But what happened over four days in the spring of ’51 unified the game through its rules.

The conference, which began in London before adjourning to St. Andrews, Scotland, included a dozen of the game’s leaders from the USGA, R&A, Royal Canadian Golf Association and Australian Golf Union. Born from those four days and 12 open minds was a unified Rules of Golf for the entire planet.

“For four days those 12 men explored every phase of the rules,” wrote Joe Dey, the executive director of the USGA at the time. “There were no axes to grind, no ultra-nationalistic views. They were just golf lovers and they worked together in complete harmony.”

Anchored-putter debate: Articles, videos and photos

It seemed strangely apropos that on the same day your scribe stumbled upon the exhibit, R&A chief executive Peter Dawson made the best case to date for a similar détente between golf’s powerbrokers.

“People have taken positions that they will now have to back off from or maintain. The negotiating table is no place for rule-making,” Dawson told The Independent. “Obviously, feelings are strong. We shall have to see where it goes. … The bodies in golf have always been working well together and mutually respectful of each other's position. But this latest incident has set this back.”

This being the USGA and R&A’s proposed plan to ban anchoring, perhaps the most contentious issue golf has faced since that ’51 meeting in the United Kingdom.

Only the players have changed. On one hand there are the established rule makers, the USGA and R&A, and their conclusion “that anchored strokes threaten to supplant traditional strokes.”

It’s not the relatively sudden success of the anchored stroke at the game’s highest level – Adam Scott completed the Anchored Slam at this month’s Masters, giving anchored strokes four wins in the last six majors – that the rule makers say is concerning, but the widespread use of longer-than-standard-length putters at the grassroots level.

On the other side of the philosophical divide are the PGA Tour and PGA of America, which both came out against the proposed ban on anchoring during the 90-day comment period earlier this year.

“We feel strongly that going down that road would be a mistake,” Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said in February.

PGA of America president Ted Bishop was even more pointed, warning that any rule that inhibits the already weak growth of golf simply won’t do.

“Bifurcation seems destined if (the proposed ban) is implemented,” he wrote in a column in March. “It has become one of the most divisive issues that modern-day golf has seen.”

What the ’51 rules-conference dozen built seems in peril if the USGA and R&A move forward with the ban, unless those involved can reach a similar accord. It’s that harsh reality that has likely stalled a final decision on the proposal, which was supposed to be made this spring.

But as the azaleas begin to fade and golf charges into summer, no final announcement seems imminent. Perhaps Mike Davis, the USGA’s thoughtful executive director, is using the extra time to sway Finchem and Bishop’s seemingly rigid stance on the issue.

In some ways, Davis is the modern embodiment of Dey, a pragmatist and consensus builder who is not blind to the realities of the modern game which is driven from the top (the Tour) down. And, at least in Finchem’s case, there seems to be room for an accord, which is not surprising considering that before he took over in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., the commish was a Washington lobbyist.

In February the Tour chief dismissed the growing notion of a “donnybrook” between the Tour and the USGA and R&A, and left the door open for compromise.

The display honoring Dey and the other members of the ’51 conference is less than a 9-iron from Davis’ office in Far Hills. All it would take is a stroll over to Golf House, and the will to pull together the principals in the anchoring debate for an open and honest discussion.

Or, as Dey said more than 60 years ago, commence a gathering where, “There were no axes to grind, no ultra-nationalistic views. They were just golf lovers and they worked together in complete harmony.”

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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
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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.