Punch Shots: Which Am Tour major makes the best golf vacation centerpiece?

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 27, 2012, 10:30 pm

Left: Ivan Marin shows off his winning crystal from the Puerto Rico Open's Sr. Jones division. Right: Bayonet/Blackhorse hosts the Northern California Championship May 19-20. 

What makes the perfect golf vacation? For some, it's the chance for competition on a world class golf course. 

With major championship season under way on the Golf Channel Am Tour, we asked veteran travel writers Jason Deegan and Mike Bailey which major venue they'd most make the centerpiece of their golf vacation.

Jason Deegan: Kohler, Wisconsin

It’s hard to turn down playing on U.S. Open venues (Chambers Bay and Pinehurst No. 2) and PGA Tour stops (the TPC of Sawgrass, Disney and PGA National), but if I were forced to pick one Am Tour major, I’d tee it up at Blackwolf Run for the Midwest Classic May 19-20. It offers arguably the best combination of tracks on the circuit, although fans of Pinehurst and Troon North could certainly argue their sites are just as good or better.

The Meadow Valleys and River courses at Blackwolf Run are championship tests one hour north of Milwaukee in sleepy Kohler, Wis. Nine holes on each course were recently renovated to create a composite layout that will host the 2012 U.S. Women’s Open. Golf Digest ranks both courses among the 'Top 100 Public Courses in America' (River No. 15, Meadows Valley No. 60). The setting of the River course might look pretty, but the meandering river creates a dangerous place for golf. More elevation changes characterize Meadow Valleys.

Looking for more? There’s a PGA Championship and future Ryder Cup course right down the road in Haven. Just don’t ground your club in any of the thousand or so bunkers on the Straits Course at Whistling Straits.

The five-star digs at the old-world American Club are gorgeous, but too pricey for many. Stay at the resort’s Inn on Woodlake to save a few bucks. It isn’t warm enough in May to truly enjoy the beaches of Lake Michigan. However, it should be just fine for golf. Kohler is the kind of place where players could bring some buddies, the wife or even the entire family. It’s a relatively affordable destination (away from the resort) and packed with great golf. Not everybody will secure victory against these two tough Pete Dye courses, but at least those who play in the event will head home feeling like a winner.  

Mike Bailey: Black Horse at Bayonet in Monterey 

When asked what my favorite golf destination is, more often than not, I point to one region: the Monterey Bay area. It is, of course, where you'll find Pebble Beach, but the location is special for so much more than that, including the site of the Golf Channel Am Tour's Northern California Championship at Bayonet/Black Horse Golf Club in Seaside on May 19-20th.

The tournament will be conducted on the Black Horse Course, considered the easier of the two layouts, but by no means a pushover at more than 7,300 yards. Like its sister course, which has hosted U.S. Open qualifiers as of late, Black Horse was covered by a 2008 $13 million renovation led by architect Gene Bates. This wasn't just a restoration; this was a complete makeover, better than the original. Despite the great history of this 36-hole complex that was once part of the old Fort Ord military base, these two courses have never looked better, especially Blackhorse. What you have now is a beautiful all-bentgrass championship layout with cool fingerling bunkers, wonderfully complicated greens complexes and views of the Pacific that most golfers didn't even know existed before.

As a golf destination, though, the Monterey area is unparalleled. The event takes place in May, and for some of us in the South, it's already unbearably hot, so the sweater weather temperatures of Northern California are already welcome. Add to that the rest of the courses in the Monterey collection: I am particular fond of century-old Del Monte and even some inland gems such as Carmel Valley Ranch, Quail Lodge and Rancho Canada, and you could spend a terrific week of playing golf. And don't forget nearby Pacific Grove, the back nine of which runs along the ocean and shares the same designer as Pebble Beach.

You can also chalk up the charming ambience of Monterey Bay with its cafes, boutique hotels, Cannery Row, Old Fisherman's Wharf and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. There's nothing more beautiful or relaxing.

For a full list of Major Championship venues on the Golf Channel Am Tour, click here

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Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

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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