A son's burden

By Rex HoggardJune 18, 2011, 8:54 pm

BETHESDA, Md. – A handful of hopefuls will set out Sunday afternoon onto the toughest test in major championship golf under the most unforgiving pressure and yet somehow they will be getting off easy, at least when compared with the burdens carried by others.

What is the intensity of Grand Slam glory when compared with the emotional abyss of sorrow and loss and even guilt? Majors are won and lost in a moment, memories, for better or worse, never take a respite.

“I think about him every day, man. Every day,” says Christo Greyling of his late father Iaan.

Christo GreylingFor Greyling, a former prodigy turned project who is playing his first U.S. Open, Congressional is a silver lining loaded with mental minefields. This was the tournament Iaan Greyling wanted his son to play, and maybe even win someday, when he uprooted his family from their farm in search of the American dream.

So forgive Greyling, and the other members of this heavy-hearted club, if Open Sunday takes an occasional back seat to Father’s Day and all the emotional detours that come with the grieving process.

On a picture-perfect summer day Greyling beams when asked what his dad would make of his son’s first major championship start: “He’d be going crazy.”

Greyling hasn’t smiled much lately, not since his phone rang one October morning in 2009. On the other end of the line was his mother, Katinka, with the news that Iaan had hanged himself. He was 53.

“I just remember my mom’s frantic voice,” Greyling recalls.

On Oct. 14, 2009, Christo’s 27th birthday, Iaan was buried. Greyling and his family have been looking for answers ever since.

Iaan Greyling’s golf real estate business had all but crashed along with most of the nation’s housing market. Engaging and affable to the extreme, Iaan Greyling has had been quietly battling demons for years since his days on the battlefield as a member of the South African army. The economic crash was fate’s final haymaker.

The elder Greyling arranged a meeting with a friend at 11 a.m. to assure no one in his family was haunted by the images of such a grisly discovery.

With tears emerging from behind a pair of wrap-around sunglasses, Christo Greyling circles back to familiar territory. How did he miss the warning signs, depression, anxiety and even what Greyling now calls a “fake suicide” in 2008?

“It’s been tough for us to deal with the guilt,” he says. “We all felt we could have done something more.”

U.S. Open fairways, what little there is of them, are no place for self-reflection. For Greyling, Congressional is every bit a cathartic journey, another milestone in a program with an infinite number of steps, including birdies on three of his last four holes in Round 2 to make the cut.

“We felt so betrayed. We all got very depressed,” he admits. “I got a little taste of finding out what it’s like to feel like you’re never going to be happy again. Not to have any energy. Not care about anything. I took it personal in the beginning, but that was just his time.”

It’s no small irony that October 2009 was also Dave Adamonis’ “time.” The college golf coach and champion of Rhode Island junior golf had battled three types of cancer before he finally succumbed surrounded by family and friends in a New England hospice.

“He died peacefully,” reasons Brad Adamonis, Dave’s son who also made the 111th U.S. Open his first national championship start.

Not that Congressional was unfamiliar ground to Adamonis. He Monday qualified for the 2005 Booz Allen Classic with Dave on his bag and the two golf junkies spent much of the week exploring the iconic American club.

“We had a friend taking pictures of us, this was a U.S. Open course. It would have been great to have him out and caddying for me on Father’s Day,” Adamonis pauses. “Or just have him out here . . .”

Call it a son’s burden, particularly when your occupation and your relationship with your father are anything but mutually exclusive. Since Adamonis could swing a golf club his father was motoring him around New England to junior events or to a practice tee to perfect his homemade swing. Dave Adamonis was equal parts swing coach, sports psychologist, caddie and competitive conscience.

During a difficult opening 77 at Congressional a lifetime of teachings swirled through Adamonis’ head. Simple things that Dave Adamonis would use to help his son focus like “PPO,” patience pays off, or “PPT,” power of positive thinking.

“Numerous times today I thought about getting a little quick at the top and he would say just wait for it,” remembers Adamonis, who missed the cut. “I’ve been playing in the (U.S. Open) qualifier for 25 years because he was always pushing me to play. Thanks to him, I have the opportunity.”

Davis Love III can relate. In fact he wrote a book entitled “Every Shot I Take” as an ode to his father, famed swing coach Davis Jr. who died in a 1988 plane crash.

“Hitting balls just now,” Love gestures toward the practice tee, “I’m thinking, ‘What would Harvey Penick tell my dad?’ I’m hitting drivers at 70 percent and thinking that’s exactly what my dad would do.”

At a U.S. Open, more so than any other championship, those memories persevere, fueled in part by the tournament’s traditional Father’s Day finish and a bond created by a shared interest in the game.

Congressional is Jonathan Byrd’s fourth U.S. Open, but it’s the first he’s played since his father, Jim, lost his battle to brain cancer in July 2009. For Byrd it’s less a memory than it is a milestone.

Jim Byrd never strays far from his son’s consciousness, but this U.S. Open has been a particularly eventful, and emotional, exercise. On three occasions this week he has been approached by someone who was touched by Jim and each time Byrd was transported back to that summer day in 2009 when his father died.

“I watched my dad take his last breath,” he says quietly.

For Byrd those memories are a form of emotional currency he has learned to embrace over time. Like Greyling, Adamonis and Love he’s discovered there’s no escaping or expediting the grieving process.

“I teed it up a couple times this week just thinking about how much he’d want to be here and I’ve kind of teared up because I have joyful memories of my dad and that’s a good thing,” says Byrd, who missed the cut.

Not that it’s become any easier. Jim Byrd is always in his thoughts, but this week has opened, and maybe even closed, a new chapter in the healing process.

“Walking around on Tuesday with Mark Wilson, his dad was inside the ropes, and I got kind of teary with that because I was kind of jealous,” Byrd admits. “I think about him more this week than I have all year.”

Yet as painful as it all seems it’s a journey Byrd would never trade.

By nature, U.S. Open Sundays are the dominion of frayed nerves and struggling to stay in the moment. For the heartbroken it’s a matter of perspective and embracing the memories, however painful.

“I picked the right one to make it to, this being Father’s Day and all that. It’s been real tough on my family,” Greyling says. “This will help heal the scars.”

There will be competitive heartbreak on Sunday, always is, the byproduct of 4-inch rough and the prospect of a life-changing victory. Greyling & Co. may not win the 111th U.S. Open but for them this Father’s Day is an emotional victory, by any measure.

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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.

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.

Amen.

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.”