Hegarty Headed Home

By Mercer BaggsApril 19, 2011, 9:29 pm

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

Home. There’s no place like it.

That’s Tim Hegarty’s sentiment, even if he doesn’t wear ruby red slippers.

Hegarty is in Blythewood, S.C., for this week’s eGolf Professional Tour’s Columbia Open. After he takes care of business in the Palmetto State, he’ll head back to his rented residence in Orlando, Fla., pack up his belongings, pick up his girlfriend, and then head north on I-95.

Orlando is a nice enough place. Hegarty’s oldest brother, Matthew, lives there, along with his sister-in-law, niece and nephew. His girlfriend, Amanda, goes to the University of Central Florida, and he knows plenty of people through golf and Matt.

But it’s not home. New York is home. Briar Cliff Manor, specifically.

“I’m jacked, man,” Hegarty said about his impending change in mailing address. “My girlfriend has her finals coming up, so she’s going to be able to come up with me. It’s the whole nine – I have more of a support group up there; I have a friend up there who I train with; better practice facilities; my friends and family are up there. It’s good for me.”

Hegarty grew up in Briar Cliff Manor and his parents, Michael – Big Mike, as Tim calls him – and Anita, still live there.  His swing coach, David Glenz, is nearby in Franklin, N.J., and his new mental coach, Nick Molinaro, is also in Jersey.

Hegarty is looking forward to seeing more of Dr. Molinaro – in person.  “We’ve had three or four sessions over Skype,” he said. “It’s exciting.  We’re working on imagery, internal and external imagery – proprioception.”

Proprioception sounds like an incurable disease, but it’s really the body's sixth sense. Without getting too technical – and overly confusing – it relates to the central nervous system and how the body functions. In Hegarty’s case, this is relevant to the way he swings a club. The brain has what is essentially a “golf swing” program that it employs when you want to hit a ball. Through optimization – what he and Dr. Molinaro are working on – that “golf swing” program can be revised and improved.

It involves neurons and muscle memory, a way in which Hegarty can implement an optimally repetitive swing. In even more simple terms:  Be the ball.

Professionally, Hegarty is fresh off a frustrating couple of weeks in North Carolina. He got a relatively inexpensive flight to travel to an eGolf event in Concord two weeks ago. That tournament was wiped out due to flooding and he had to rebook his ticket for an early return – and airlines don’t do that for cheap.

He drove last week from Orlando to Southport, N.C., for another eGolf event but missed the cut after rounds of 82-71.

A couple of bad swings on his back nine led to two O.B. balls and a pair of triple bogeys. It took him a few holes to regroup mentally, but he finished his first 18 with a birdie and then tacked on four more birdies and an eagle in Round 2.

The weekend wasn’t lost for Hegarty. It allowed him to join some friends for a bachelor party in South Carolina and play some leisure golf in Myrtle Beach.

“It was a good week, overall,” Hegarty said. “I actually feel pretty good. The last 18, 19 holes were promising and it was a good chance to have fun playing golf. It’s not always like that.”

On a serious note, Hegarty has minor surgery scheduled in Orlando, after he competes in Columbia, to remove two moles, which his dermatologist diagnosed as atypical and said could become cancerous if left untreated.

“It’s part of being part Irish and part German, and spending a lot of time in the sun,” Hegarty said.

And then it’s off to New York.

Aside from an eGolf event in Southern Pines, N.C., Hegarty will focus on events in and around the Empire State. He plans on playing a U.S. Open local qualifier at Brae Burn Country Club in Purchase, N.Y., May 17. If he gets past that, he’ll go to Canoe Brook Country Club in Summit, N.J., for sectional qualifying on June 6.

He’s three times advanced to sectionals and should he finally make it through both stages he would fulfill a life-long dream of competing in his National Championship at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md.

The summer months are the busy months for Hegarty as he will also try and qualify for the Westchester Open, N.Y. State Open and some Met Golf Association events, including the Met Golf Association Open Championship, which will be contested at his home course of Sleepy Hollow.

His game isn’t where he would like it to be at the moment, but he’s fine with that. There’s no need to be playing his best in the present, when the future is so filled with meaningful tournaments.

What gives him confidence is that he’s making every effort off the course to be successful on it. He believes in his instructor and his new mental coach, and everything the two are teaching him.

He’s always had a great deal of talent, just not the greatest outlook as he tends to side with anger when he can’t manipulate his ball properly.

“I’ve always been hard on myself,” he said a few months ago. “I know it’s cost me some strokes and caused me to miss some cuts. It’s something I have to work on.”

And now he is.

You can hear the excitement in his voice when he talks about the upcoming months. He’s ready to put to work all the mental and physical practice he’s going through. He’s got a positive vibe, his girlfriend by his side and he’s headed home.

“I like it,” Hegarty said about summer time in New York. “There’s something about being [at home] that makes me feel more accountable, like all eyes are on me and I have to play well. It’s a good time for all of this in my life.”

Thomas Wolfe wrote, “You Can Never Go Home Again.” Certainly, the dynamics of home life change as you grow older and one can never truly recreate one’s youth. But as Maya Angelou countered, “You can never go home again, but the truth is you can never leave home, so it's all right.”

Briar Cliff Manor, N.Y., isn’t just a place for Hegarty to lay his head, not just a place where his parents live and his friends reside nearby. It’s in his heart. The kid’s a New Yorker – a Met and a Jet. And the heart never feels more fulfilled than when it’s surrounded by love and friends and support – when it’s home.

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LAAC returning to Casa de Campo in 2019

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 8:23 pm

The Latin America Amateur Championship will return to Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic in 2019 (Jan. 17-20), event organizers announced Saturday in Chile, where this year’s championship is underway.

The LAAC champion receives an invitation to play The Masters at Augusta National Golf Club every spring.

The champion is also exempt into The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event for which he is eligible to compete. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by The Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

The championship got its start in 2015 with Chile’s Matias Dominguez winning at Pilar Golf in Argentina. In 2016, Casa de Campo hosted, with Costa Rica’s Paul Chaplet winning. At 16, he became the first player from Central America to compete in The Masters. In 2017, Chile’s Toto Gana won the title at  Club de Golf de Panama.

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Beef's beer goggles: Less drinks = more wins

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 6:07 pm

An offseason spent soul searching is apparently paying quick dividends for Andrew “Beef” Johnston, who is in contention to win Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Johnston acknowledged he was “burning the candle at both ends” last year, playing both the PGA Tour and the European Tour, but he told reporters Saturday that it wasn’t too much golf that hindered his efforts.

It was too much “socializing.”

“I'm a social person,” Johnston said. “If you go out with friends, or you get invited to something, I'll have a beer, please. But I probably had a few too many beers, I would say, to be honest. And it reflected in my golf, and I was disappointed looking back at it. I want to turn that around and have a good season.”

Johnston posted a 6-under-par 66 Saturday, moving into a tie for sixth, three shots off the lead. He said he arrived in Abu Dhabi a week early to prepare for his first start of the new year. It’s paying off with a Sunday chance to win his second European Tour title.

“Last year was crazy, and like getting distracted, and things like that,” Johnston said. “You don't know it's happened until you've finished the season. You’re off doing things and you're burning the candle at both ends. When I got back from last season, sort of had time to reflect on it, I sort of said to myself, 'You've got to keep quiet and keep disciplined and get on with your work.’”

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Johnston finished 189th last year in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup standings. He was 116th in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.

Johnston’s fun-loving personality, his scruffy beard and his big-bodied shape quickly made him one of the most popular and entertaining players in the game when he earned his PGA Tour card before the 2016-17 season. Golf Digest called him a “quirky outlier,” and while he has had fun with that persona, Johnston is also intent on continuing to prove he belongs among the game’s best players.

His plan for doing that?

“Just put the work in,” he said. “I didn’t put enough work in last year. It’s simple. It showed. So, just get down, knuckle down and practice hard.”

Rory McIlroy at the 2018 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship Getty Images

McIlroy making big statement in first start of 2018

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 3:40 pm

Rory McIlroy marched the fairways of Abu Dhabi Golf Club Saturday with that fighter pilot stride of his, with that confident little bob in his step that you see when he is in command of his full arsenal of shots.

So much for easing into the new year.

So much for working off rust and treating these first few months of 2018 as a warmup for the Masters and his bid to complete the career Grand Slam.

McIlroy, 28, is poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

With back-to-back birdies to close his round, McIlroy put up a 7-under-par 65, leaving him just one shot off the lead going into the final round.

“It’s good,” McIlroy said. “I probably scored a bit better today, short game was needed as well, but I hit the ball very well, so all in all it was another great round and confidence builder, not just for this week but obviously for the rest of the season as well.”

McIlroy can make a strong statement with a win Sunday.

If he claims the title in his first start of the year, he sends a message about leaving all the woes of 2017 behind him. He sends a message about his fitness after a nagging rib injury plagued him all of last year. He sends a message about his readiness to reassert himself as the game’s best player in a world suddenly teeming with towering young talent.

After his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro, McIlroy is eager to show himself, as well as everyone else, that he is ready to challenge for major championships and the world No. 1 title again.

“It feels like awhile since I’ve won,” McIlroy said. “I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

A victory would be all the more meaningful because the week started with McIlroy paired with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and reigning European Tour Player of the Year Tommy Fleetwood.

McIlroy acknowledged the meaning of that going into Saturday’s round.

“That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent healthy,” he said. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and one of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

It’s worth repeating what 2008 Masters champ Trevor Immelman said last month about pairings and the alpha-dog nature of the world’s best players. He was talking about Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge, when Immelman said pairings matter, even in off season events.

“When you are the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Immelman said. “They want to show this guy, `This is what I got.’”

A victory with Johnson in the field just two weeks after Johnson won the Sentry Tournament of Champions in an eight-shot rout will get the attention of all the elite players.

A victory also sets this up as a January for the ages, making it the kind of big-bang start the game has struggled to create in the shadow of the NFL playoffs.

Johnson put on a tour-de-force performance winning in Hawaii and the confident young Spaniard Jon Rahm is just a shot off the lead this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour. Sergio Garcia is just two off the lead going into the final round of the Singapore Open. Tiger Woods makes his return to the PGA Tour at Torrey Pines next week.

To be sure, McIlroy has a lot of work to do Sunday.

Yet another rising young talent, Thomas Pieters, shares the lead with Ross Fisher. Fleetwood is just two shots back and Johnson five back.

McIlroy has such a good history at Abu Dhabi. Over the last seven years, he has finished second four times and third twice. Still, even a strong finish that falls short of winning bodes well for McIlroy in his first start of the year.

“I have never won my first start back out,” McIlroy said.

A strong start, whether he wins or not, sets McIlroy up well for the ambitious schedule he plans for 2018. He’s also scheduled to play the Dubai Desert Classic next with the possibility he’ll play 30 times this year, two more events than he’s ever played in a year.

“I’m just really getting my golf head back on,” McIlroy said. “I’ve been really pleased with that.”

A victory Sunday will make all our heads spin a little b it with the exciting possibilities the game offers this year.

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Garcia 2 back in weather-delayed Singapore Open

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 3:06 pm

SINGAPORE - Danthai Boonma and Chapchai Nirat built a two-stroke lead over a chasing pack that includes Sergio Garcia and Ryo Ishikawa midway through the third round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open on Saturday.

The Thai golfers were locked together at 9 under when play was suspended at the Sentosa Golf Club for the third day in a row because of lightning strikes in the area.

Masters champion Garcia and former teen prodigy Ishikawa were among seven players leading the chase at 7 under on a heavily congested leaderboard.

Garcia, one of 78 players who returned to the course just after dawn to complete their second rounds, was on the 10th hole of his third round when the warning siren was sounded to abruptly end play for the day.

''Let's see if we can finish the round, that will be nice,'' he said. ''But I think if I can play 4-under I should have a chance.''

The Spanish golfer credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his first major championship title at Augusta National because of the stifling humidity of southeast Asia and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore in 2017, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the subsequent week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later. He is feeling confident of his chances of success this weekend.

''I felt like I hit the ball OK,'' Garcia said. ''My putting and all went great but my speed hasn't been great on this green so let's see if I can be a little more aggressive on the rounds this weekend.''

Ishikawa moved into a share of the lead at the halfway stage after firing a second round of 5-under 66 that featured eight birdies. He birdied the first two holes of his third round to grab the outright lead but slipped back with a double-bogey at the tricky third hole for the third day in a row. He dropped another shot at the par-5 sixth when he drove into a fairway bunker.

''It was a short night but I had a good sleep and just putted well,'' Ishikawa said. The ''greens are a little quicker than yesterday but I still figured (out) that speed.

Ishikawa was thrust into the spotlight more than a decade ago. In 2007, he became the youngest player to win on any of the major tours in the world. He was a 15-year-old amateur when he won the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup.

He turned pro at 16, first played in the Masters when he was 17 and the Presidents Cup when he was 18. He shot 58 in the final round to win The Crowns in Japan when he was 19.

Now 26, Ishikawa has struggled with injuries and form in recent years. He lost his PGA Tour card and hasn't played in any of the majors since 2015. He has won 15 times as a professional, but has never won outside his homeland of Japan.

Chapchai was able to sleep in and put his feet up on Saturday morning after he completed his second round on Friday.

He bogeyed the third but reeled off three birdies in his next four holes to reach 9-under with the back nine still to play.

Danthai was tied for 12th at the halfway stage but charged into a share of the lead with seven birdies in the first 15 holes of his penultimate round.