Notes Carts Returning to Monday Pro-Ams

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2006 Sony OpenHONOLULU -- When the PGA Tour was fighting Casey Martin's lawsuit for the right to ride, it eliminated the use of carts for all players in Monday pro-ams designed to raise additional revenue for tournaments and their charities.
 
Six years later, and with Martin no longer playing competitive golf, carts are back.

'What we're doing is trying to work with tournaments to facilitate a more successful Monday pro-am,' said Henry Hughes, chief of operations for the PGA Tour. 'As long as there's not a competition, it's for charity only with no prize money, that's an unofficial event that does not prohibit them from using carts.'
 
Except for a hilly, expansive course like Kapalua, players still must walk during the official pro-am Wednesday, where 36 players keep score and compete for $10,000 in prize money.
 
Most tournaments also have a Monday pro-am for lesser-known players, or for sponsor's exemptions, that raise additional money for the overflow of amateurs that want to play with pros.
 
The tour argued in court that walking was an integral part of the competition, although the courts sided with Martin in a decision ultimately affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court.
 
Hughes said carts were not allowed in Monday pro-ams during the Martin lawsuit, largely because the tour was concerned it might harm the image of its players.
 
Lately, however, tournaments have had trouble filling the field for Monday pro-ams, especially on a tough course to walk such as the Reno-Tahoe Open or the Texas Open. Some players who competed the previous week could fly to the next stop, but their caddies were driving and could not get there in time.
 
Hughes also said the Monday pro-ams are no longer about competition -- in other words, there's no prize money.
 
'We didn't think it compromised anything,' he said of using carts. 'It's a social round of golf to support the title sponsor and charity. The other thing we had is when the professionals walk and the amateurs are in carts, there was no interaction among the players.'
 
Olin Browne was among the strongest proponents of walking during the Martin lawsuit. Browne has played plenty of Monday pro-ams the last two years, and he said carts on Monday were no reflection on tour's policy or its philosophy about walking.
 
'It's purely an aid to the tournament, to help them generate revenue, to make sure players are able to play,' Browne said. 'I don't think it has anything to do with competition. It has nothing to do with the tournament. I think it's more logistical than anything else.'
 
Browne said if amateurs walk, pros should walk. But when amateurs are in carts, the point of the pro-am is lost.
 
'The whole point is to interact with the group,' he said. 'If amateurs are driving down the fairway and they're 250 yards ahead of a guy, there's no chance for any interaction. In a perfect world, we'd walk all the time, everywhere. But it's not a perfect world, and we're trying to make the best of it.'
 
RELIEF AWARD
Louisiana natives Kelly Gibson, Hal Sutton and David Toms have been given the Bartlett Award by the Golf Writers Association of America for raising more than $2 million after Hurricane Katrina for victims and the disaster workers.
 
The award is given to professional golfers for unselfish contributions for the betterment of society.
 
Gibson, who lives in New Orleans, fed more than 50,000 disaster-relief officials and raised more than $400,000 for the catering. Toms, from Shreveport, raised more than $1.5 million that helped some 600 families relocate to furnished apartments. Sutton, also from Shreveport, gave $65,000 for schools to buy textbooks, and collected thousands of items of clothing for evacuees.
 
They will be honored April 5 in Augusta, Ga., at the GWAA's annual dinner.
 
WIE DROP REVISITED
The last time Michelle Wie played in the United States, she was disqualified for taking a drop that was deemed closer to the hole. Criticism has been placed on Wie for taking the bad drop, and on Sports Illustrated writer Michael Bamberger for waiting a day to confront a rules official.
 
The other party involved was Wie's playing partner, Grace Park, who paid no attention to Wie when she was taking her drop in the third round of the Samsung World Championship.
 
Brad Faxon showed how it's supposed to be done at the Mercedes Championships.
 
Jason Gore hit an approach that sailed over the third green and disappeared into the thick, knee-high grass. A marshal found his ball, but it was unplayable.
 
'I want to see what he does with this,' Faxon said as he looked on from the back of the green, 'because I'm not sure he can drop it no closer to the hole.'
 
After a few minutes, Gore called him over. Faxon stood over the ball holding his putter to give Gore a reference point, and they determined that a drop on the edge of the grass would not be closer to the hole.
 
Faxon reminded Gore that if the ball rolled beyond the drop area, he would have to place it. Then, they inspected the area a third time to make sure it was the right spot.
 
Gore held out his arm -- shoulder-length -- dropped the ball, and it hopped back slightly toward the thick grass, leaving him not much of a backswing.
 
'That's a bad bounce,' Faxon said.
 
'Ball in play?' Gore said to him.
 
'Ball in play,' Faxon confirmed, and Gore went about his business making triple bogey.
 
DIVOTS
The Nissan Open at Riviera has raised its prize money to $5.1 million, up $300,000 from last year. ... One reason Stuart Appleby won the Mercedes Championships last week is that he made nine putts over 10 feet. Vijay Singh made one putt at that distance. ... Appleby was a victim of flight delays leaving the tiny Kapalua airport, and it took him six hours to get to Honolulu. 'I've got jet lag,' he said.
 
STAT OF THE WEEK
Jason Gore finished 36 shots out of the lead at the Mercedes Championships, the largest margin ever in the eight years at Kapalua.
 
FINAL WORD
'We're definitely getting off to a slow start on the Vardon Trophy.' -- Mark Calcavecchia at Kapalua, where the average score was 74.9.
 
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