Ghims form special father-son team at U.S. Am

By Ryan LavnerAugust 18, 2017, 2:22 am

LOS ANGELES – Doug Ghim was firmly in control of his Round of 16 match Thursday when he sailed his drive into the right rough on Riviera’s 13th hole.

Sizing up his options, he determined that he needed to hook his 200-yard second shot up and around a row of trees. It was his only chance of holding a green that slopes severely from back to front and right to left.

Ghim’s father and caddie, Jeff, handed him a 5-iron.

“Too much,” Doug said.

Hooking a 5-iron, he explained, would de-loft the club too much and send his ball screaming over the green. Instead, he asked for a 7-iron, and he ripped the shot through the trees and onto the back edge of the green.

Watching in awe, Jeff Ghim approached his son, cupped his face in his hands and laughed.

“Holy moly,” Jeff said later. “Amazing!”

This is likely Doug Ghim’s final U.S. Amateur appearance before he turns pro next summer, and the 21-year-old is cherishing every moment alongside the man who has played a multitude of roles in his life.

After growing up in South Korea, Jeff didn’t pick up a club until he was about 30. Instantly he was hooked, and it took him only six months to become a single-digit handicap. Jeff harbored ambitions of playing professionally until he woke up one morning and couldn’t move. Doctors later determined that he needed a laminectomy, his first of three back surgeries. These days, he only plays sparingly.

With his pro dreams dashed, Jeff focused on teaching the game to others. His most promising student became his only son, Doug.

Three months after he first started hitting balls, and only after promising to quit baseball so he didn’t mix two wildly different swings, Doug, then 6, won his first tournament – in the 10-12 age division.

“Maybe this boy was meant to play golf,” Jeff said.

But the family fell on hard times, and Doug’s parents couldn’t afford to buy him a junior membership or enter him in any tournaments near their home in Arlington Heights, Ill., about 40 minutes northwest of Chicago.

So they improvised. Jeff built his son a hitting bay in the backyard. For years, all Doug knew were the afternoon sessions beating balls into a tennis net three feet away.

“In hindsight, it was probably the best thing for me,” Doug said. “I’d beg my dad to let me play tournaments, but there was no pressure of winning. I practiced because I loved it, and it was all about my growth. That was an advantage for me. That’s why I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder to get better.”

A few years later, the Ghims took full advantage of The Arboretum Club’s twilight rates. Most afternoons, Doug would change into golf clothes before his final class of the day, and his dad would be waiting outside with the rest of the parents, his passenger-side door already open.

They’d speed to the course and play 18 as quick as they could, making pit stops only to hit pitch shots around the 17th green or fish Pro V1s out of the pond.

The AJGA offers an ACE Grant program to families in need of financial assistance, and Doug took full advantage of those extra playing opportunities, rising to No. 5 in the high school class of 2014 when he committed to play at Texas.

But arriving in Austin, and competing against players who grew up in the TrackMan era, was an eye-opening experience.

“I didn’t grow up with a range. I had so much to learn,” Doug said. “That’s why I’ve seen the improvement that I have over the past couple of years, learning how to effectively practice and what works for me.”

Indeed, Ghim has become one of the most consistent college players over the past three years, and last season he earned Big 12 Player of the Year honors. The Longhorns senior is currently ranked No. 7 in the world.

Ghim has enjoyed plenty of success in USGA events, too. He reached the semifinals of the 2013 U.S. Junior. He lost in the finals of the 2014 U.S. Amateur Public Links (with a Masters berth on the line), when he blocked his tee shot out of bounds on the final hole and eventually lost in a playoff. And now he has reached the quarterfinals of the U.S. Amateur at Riviera.

His dad is the only swing coach Doug has ever had, and one of the only caddies he has used in these amateur tournaments.

Doesn’t that dynamic ever get awkward?

“No,” Jeff said, “he’s a really good boy.”

Well, there were a few incidents …

Jeff said there was one six-month period when father and son butted heads.

“Puberty,” he said with a smile.

And Doug said he was playing in a junior tournament once when he went for a par 5 in two, found the water, and looked over to see his dad kicking the base of a tree in frustration. Later, when he saw his dad limping, Doug smiled and said, “What’s wrong?”

“Ah,” Jeff said, shaking it off, “I must have stepped on something wrong.”

Oh, and there was that time they accidentally swapped wedges. Jeff receives all of Doug’s hand-me-downs, and somehow an old 60-degree wedge – the shaft was about 15 grams lighter – found its way back into Doug’s bag before the start of the Trans-Miss Amateur. Doug spent the first round avoiding 100-yard shots and shot 7 over.

“It’s fun to have him on the ride,” he said. “He knows me better than anyone. I know him. We have a lot of chemistry, so there’s no awkwardness.

“But the disadvantage is that it’s family. We both want it so bad, and he arguably wants it more than I do. But we ride this rollercoaster together. When it gets going in the wrong direction, sometimes it’s tough, as you can imagine. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

This week at the U.S. Amateur, Jeff has expertly played the role of dutiful caddie. He judges the wind. He reads every putt. And he celebrates enthusiastically, bumping fists and hollering, “Let’s go!” and “Yes!” and “That’s what I’m talking about!” after his son makes birdie.

When Doug closed out his Round of 16 opponent, Joey Vrzich, 3 and 2, Jeff held his boy tight and planted a kiss on his cheek.

“After I started in golf, that was my dream,” Jeff said. “And now he does that for me. He does my dream. When I walk with him in the fairway, I’m most happy.”

Jeff turns 58 on Sunday, and Doug still hasn’t found him a gift.

Then it hit him.

“It’s tall and shiny and has lots of names on it,” he said.

Yes, for this father-son team, the Havemeyer Trophy would make the perfect present.

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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 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.”