A Spartan Life

By Mercer BaggsFebruary 22, 2011, 7:57 pm

Editor's note: GolfChannel.com will be following four mini-tour players – Tim Hegarty, Zack Sucher, Benoit Beisser and Jack Newman – over the course of 2011 in our new feature, 'The Minors.' Check in each week for the players' progress, updates, photos and more.

ORLANDO, Fla. – The range balls are all Top-Flites with the red double stripes, worn out like a two-term president. The smell of sunscreen permeates the air and everyone seems dressed for the part – micro-fiber, sweat-soaking shirt; slightly too-tight slacks; and the requisite I’m-so-stylish belt.

Cars in the parking lot are littered with golf clubs and shoes. One guy opens the trunk of his SUV and pulls out a pair of soft spikes – from one of eight wooden, shoe housing compartments.

Some of the faces are familiar. David Gossett is on the range, beating away at those beat-up balls. Some of the names are recognizable, too. Sam Saunders, grandson of Arnold Palmer, is three players down, doing much the same – with an Arnold Palmer Iced Tea next to his bag.

The scene takes place at Rio Pinar Golf and Country Club on the east side of Orlando. The Black course is playing host to the week’s NGA Hooters Tour Winter Series event.

Walking off the par-4 ninth, his final hole of the first round, is Jack Newman. While you can tell by sight that several players practicing their swings and their putting have already reached the pinnacle of their professional success, Newman looks different.

He looks like he belongs – on the Nationwide Tour, on the PGA Tour, anywhere playing golf at a high level.

For one, he’s a handsome, strong kid, standing nearly 6’4”. For another, he’s dressed in more classic attire – his appearance isn’t forced, there is no white belt.

Then there is his attitude. Five under through 17 holes, Newman caught a flier out of the rough on No. 9 and made double bogey.

“That's golf,” he said afterwards. It’s not a care-free response. You can tell he’s unhappy. But he’s not in a sulking mood either. It’s off to Chipotle for lunch.

Newman’s story is nothing unusual. He grew up the youngest of five kids (three brothers and one sister) and used to tag along with his siblings when they’d go out to practice at a public course in Des Moines, Iowa.

He was 5 years old then, hitting a sawed off 5-wood and trying to stay out of everyone’s way. He’s 23 now, a former collegiate star, the 2008 U.S. Amateur Public Links champion and a 2009 Masters Tournament participant.

Well, his story’s not the usual, either.

In Newman’s senior year at Hoover High in Des Moines, he was named the 4A Iowa State Golfer of the Year and won the high school state championship. Not bad for a guy whose first love was basketball.

“I was a tall, slow kid who could only shoot the 3,” he said of his court prowess. “It proved a little too much for me.”

Still, Jack inherited athletic genes from his father, Bob, who played baseball for Illinois State. He even gave swimming a try during his senior year of high school just to get bigger and stronger – and because he had the ability to do so at a competitive level.

It took him a little while to warm up to the idea of trading away other sports to focus solely on golf, but his ultimate dedication paid off.

In 2005, then Michigan State University golf coach Mark Hankins took one look at his video and resume and told him to come on over to East Lansing.

“From the moment I got there, I fell in love with the campus. I also liked the guys on the team and that was it,” Newman said.

In four years, Newman won three tournaments, was voted Second Team All-Big Ten three times and was a three-time member of the Academic All-Big Ten team.

During his junior year, he defeated John Chin, 5 and 3, at Murphy Creek Golf Course in Aura, Colo., to capture the 2008 U.S. Publinx title. With the victory came an invitation to Augusta National.

Newman missed the cut in the 73rd Masters Tournament, but nearly won the Par 3 Contest, finishing tied second behind Tim Clark. He also birdied four of his final five holes in the opening round for an even-par 72.

Unfortunately, the wind picked up in Round 2 and took Newman's score with it – a 4-over 76.

He didn't leave his first major empty-handed, however. John Deere Classic tournament director Clair Peterson offered Newman a sponsor's exemption into the July event held in his native Iowa. Newman accepted and recorded three sub-par rounds on his way to a tie for 39th – and no money, since he was still an amateur.

Now a professional, Newman has a well thought-out plan to make it full time on the PGA Tour.

“I’m playing primarily on the Pro Series (on the Hooters Tour) and will try and Monday qualify on the Nationwide Tour,” he explained. “I just hope to get hot at the right times. If I can get hot, Monday qualify for a few Nationwide Tour events, top 25 and keep rolling.”

Finishing in the top 25 of a Nationwide Tour event gets a player into the following tournament.

Newman is currently living outside Orlando and will stay there while the Hooters Tour contests events in Florida and Georgia to start its main schedule. He’ll then move to Ohio and live with his former Michigan State assistant coach – and current Miami, Ohio head golf coach – Casey Lubahn. Incidentally, Lubahn and his wife, Rachel, were a team on “Big Break X: Michigan.”

Newman just wrapped up play on the Hooters Tour’s Winter Series, where he made seven of 11 cuts and claimed $10,734, good enough for 22nd on the money list out of 181 participants.

This past week, he tied for 19th in the tour's Members Only Shootout, carding modest rounds of 68-71-71. He was pleased with his first round, but described the other two days as 'so-so.'

As Newman knows well, so-so won't get you where you want to be in professional golf. Case in point: the Shootout. Jesse Hutchins won the event with an 11-under 61 in the final round and a 23-under total over three days.

Hutchins has played in well over 100 Hooters Tour events. This was his first win.

'The depth of talent is great (in all ranks of professional golf), especially on the Hooters Tour. I don't know if people really understand how low the guys can go out here,' Newman said. 'You have to be prepared for stuff like that to happen and be ready to go low yourself.'

In an effort to do just that, Newman recently teamed up with Mike Bender, the 2009 PGA of America Golf Professional of the Year and swing coach for fellow Iowan Zach Johnson.

'We're just getting started, but I think we're headed in the right direction,' Newman said. 'I'm trying to tighten up my swing, get it more rounded. It's a matter of being able to get more consistent.'

Monday afternoon in Orlando, Newman spent time at Orange County National practicing alongside fellow Spartan Matt Harmon.

Harmon, who was a senior when Newman joined the MSU golf team, has won four times on the Hooters Tour over the last four years and has earned nearly $250,000 on the circuit. Yet, like Newman and countless others, he's still an unsettled golf soul searching for one good shot at the big leagues.

'There are thousands of players out there trying to make it (on the PGA Tour),' Newman said. 'You can't get frustrated. You have to be patient. Keep working and keep practicing, and eventually your time will come. You have to believe your time will come.'

South Korean LPGA stars lead KLPGA team

By Randall MellNovember 24, 2017, 10:32 pm

South Korea’s LPGA team of all-stars took the early lead Friday on the Korean LPGA Tour in a team event featuring twice as much star power as this year’s Solheim Cup did.

Eight of the world’s top 20 players are teeing it up in the ING Life Champions Trophy/ Inbee Park Invitational in Gyeongju. There were only four players among the top 20 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings when the United States defeated Europe in Des Moines, Iowa.

Park led the LPGA team to a 3 ½-to-2 ½ lead on the first day.

Park, who has been recuperating from a back injury for most of the second half of this season, teamed with Jeongeun Lee5 to defeat Hye Jin Choi and Ji Hyun Kim, 5 and 4, in the lead-off four-ball match.

So Yeon Ryu and Park, former world No. 1s and LPGA Rolex Player of the Year Award winners, will be the marquee pairing on Saturday. They will lead off foursomes against Ji Young Kim and Min Sun Kim.

Nine of the 11 South Koreans who won LPGA events this year are competing. Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim are the only two who aren’t.

The fourball results:

LPGA’s Inbee Park/ Jeongeun Lee5 def. Hye Jin Choi/Ji Hyun Kim, 5 and 4.

LPGA’s Mirim Lee/Amy Yang def.  Ji Hyun Oh/Min Sun Kim, 3 and 1.

LPGA’s M.J. Hur/Mi Hyang Lee halved Ji Hyun Kim/Ji Young Kim.

KLPGA’s Ha Na Jang/Sun Woo Bae def. Sei Young Kim/Hyo Joo Kim, 5 and 4.

LPGA’s Na Yeon Choi/Jenny Shin halved Jin Young Ko/Da Yeon Lee

LPGA’s In Gee Chun/Eun Hee Ji halved Jeongeun Lee6/Char Young Kim.

NOTE: The KPGA uses numerals after a player’s name to distinguish players with the exact same name.


Cut Line: Lyle faces third bout with cancer

By Rex HoggardNovember 24, 2017, 5:40 pm

In this week’s holiday edition, Cut Line is thankful for the PGA Tour’s continued progress on many fronts and the anticipation that only a Tiger Woods return can generate.

Made Cut

The Fighter. That was the headline of a story Cut Line wrote about Jarrod Lyle following his second bout with cancer a few years ago, so it’s both sad and surreal to see the affable Australian now bracing for a third fight with leukemia.

Lyle is working as an analyst for Channel 7’s coverage of this week’s Emirates Australian Open prior to undergoing another stem cell transplant in December.

“I’ve got a big month coming,” Lyle said. “I’m back into hospital for some really heavy-duty treatment that’s really going to determine how things pan out for me.”

Twice before things have panned out for Lyle. Let’s hope karma has one more fight remaining.

Changing times. Last season the PGA Tour introduced a policy to add to the strength of fields, a measure that had long eluded officials and by most accounts was a success.

This season the circuit has chosen to tackle another long-standing thorn, ridiculously long pro-am rounds. While there seems little the Tour can do to speed up play during pro-am rounds, a new plan called a 9&9 format will at least liven things up for everyone involved.

Essentially, a tournament hosting a pro-am with four amateurs can request the new format, where one professional plays the first nine holes and is replaced by another pro for the second nine.

Professionals will have the option to request 18-hole pro-am rounds, giving players who limit practice rounds to just pro-am days a chance to prepare, but otherwise it allows Tour types to shorten what is an admittedly long day while the amateurs get a chance to meet and play with two pros.

The new measure does nothing about pace of play, but it does freshen up a format that at times can seem tired, and that’s progress.

Tweet of the week: @Love3d (Davis Love III‏) “Thanks to Dr. Flanagan (Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center) for the new hip and great care! Can’t wait to get back to (the PGA Tour).”

Love offered the particularly graphic tweet following hip replacement surgery on Tuesday, a procedure that he admitted he’d delayed because he was “chicken.”

The surgery went well and Love is on pace to return to the Tour sometime next spring. As for the possibility of over-sharing on social media, we’ll leave that to the crowd.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Distance control. The Wall Street Journal provided the octagon for the opening blows of a clash that has been looming for a long time.

First, USGA executive director Mike Davis told The Journal that the answer to continued distance gains may be a restricted-flight golf ball with an a la carte rule that would allow different organizations, from the Tour all the way down to private clubs, deciding which ball to use.

“You can’t say you don’t care about distance, because guess what? These courses are expanding and are predicted to continue to expand,” Davis said. “The impact it has had has been horrible.”

A day later, Wally Uihlein, CEO of Acushnet, which includes the Titleist brand, fired back in a letter to The Journal, questioning among other things how distance gains are putting a financial burden on courses.

“The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate,” Uihlein wrote.

For anyone paying attention the last few years, this day was inevitable and the likely start of what will be a drawn out and heated process, but Cut Line’s just not sure anyone wins when it’s over.

Tiger, take II. Tiger Woods’ return to competition next week at the Hero World Challenge was always going to generate plenty of speculation, but that hyperbole reached entirely new levels this week as players began giving personal accounts of the new and improved 14-time major champion.

“I did talk to him, and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years,’” Day said as he prepared for the Australian Open. “If he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.”

Rickie Fowler added to the frenzy when he was asked this month if the rumors that Woods is driving the ball by him, by 20 to 30 yards by some reports, are true?

“Oh, yeah,” he told Golf.com. “Way by.”

Add to all this a recent line that surfaced in Las Vegas that Woods is now listed at 20-1 to win a major in 2018, and it seems now may be a good time for a restraint.

Golf is better with Woods, always has been and always will be, but it may be best to allow Tiger time to find out where his body and game are before we declare him back.

Missed Cut

Searching for answers. Twelve months ago, Hideki Matsuyama was virtually unstoppable and, regardless of what the Official World Golf Ranking said, arguably the best player on the planet.

Now a year removed from that lofty position, which featured the Japanese star finishing either first or second in six of his seven starts as the New Year came and went, Matsuyama has faded back to fifth in the world and on Sunday finished fifth, some 10 strokes behind winner Brooks Koepka, at the Dunlop Phoenix.

“That hurt,” Matsuyama told the Japan Times. “I don’t know whether it’s a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well. It seems there are many issues to address.”

Since his last victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Matsuyama has just two top-10 finishes on Tour and he ended his 2016-17 season with a particularly poor performance at the Presidents Cup.

While Matsuyama’s take seems extreme considering his season, there are certainly answers that need answering.

Trump playing 'quickly' with Tiger, DJ

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 24, 2017, 1:33 pm

Updated at 11:14 a.m. ET

An Instagram user known as hwalks posted photos to her account that included images of Tiger Woods, President Trump and Dustin Johnson Friday at Trump National, as well as video of Woods' swing.

Here are some other social media posts that have surfaced:

Original story:

Tiger Woods is scheduled to make his return to competition next week at his Hero World Challenge. But first, a (quick) round with the President.

President Donald Trump tweeted on Friday that he was going to play at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Fla., alongside Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Woods and President Trump previously played last December. Trump, who, according to trumpgolfcount.com has played 75 rounds since taking over the presidency, has also played over the last year with Rory McIlroy, Ernie Els and Hideki Matsuyama.

Chawrasia leads major champs in Hong Kong

By Associated PressNovember 24, 2017, 1:19 pm

HONG KONG – S.S.P. Chawrasia extended his lead at the Hong Kong Open to two strokes Friday after a 4-under 66 in the second round.

Chawrasia, who had led by one at the Hong Kong Golf Club, is at 9-under 131 overall and took as much as a five-stroke lead at one point.

''Yesterday I was putting very well, and today, also I make some up and downs. I saved a couple of short putts. That's why I think I'm leading by two shots most probably,'' the Indian said. ''The next two days, I'm just looking forward.''

Full-field scores from the UBS Hong Kong Open

Thomas Aiken (64) is second, followed by Alexander Bjork (66), Joakim Lagergren (66), Poom Saksansin (68) and Julian Suri (67) at 5 under 135.

Aiken's round was the lowest of the tournament.

''It is tough out there. The greens are really firm. You've got to hit the fairway,'' Aiken said. ''If you get above the holes, putts can get away from you.''

Justin Rose (69) had six birdies, but three bogeys and a double-bogey at the par 3 12th kept him at 3 under for the tournament.

Masters champion Sergio Garcia (71), playing for the first time in Hong Kong, was at even par, as was defending champion Sam Brazel (71) and 2014 champion Scott Hend (67).

''I have to play better,'' Garcia said. ''The way I felt like I played, it's difficult. This kind of course, you need to play well to shoot a good score.''