Many, many golfers and Golf Channel viewers have stepped up to send golf balls to Iraq, where soldiers, sailors, Marines and other personnel hit them in their down time to relieve the stress of a difficult 'sometimes disheartening ' mission.
In my column from September 16, I introduced you to Capt. David Sifferd, an Army Reserve chaplain stationed in Iraq. David, an old high school friend of mine, was characteristically thinking of others when he answered an e-mail in which I had asked what he needed over there.
I can really get most everything I need here, David said, except for golf balls. If you run across any groups that might want to donate old used golf balls, could you send me the address? I have a few clubs in my office that I let soldiers use to hit balls into the field behind our headquarters. Problem is that they are usually irretrievable. Great stress relief, though!
I put the word out, and golf responded. Some generous folks e-mailed me to report on their efforts. Heres a tip-of-the-iceberg sample.
I read you article concerning Capt. Sifferd. It was an answer to my wife's prayer. Golf balls all over the place (31 lbs.).They arrived rather quickly in Iraq and Chaplain Sifferd responded with a thank-you letter. John Vener
My friend worked some magic. Between a group of golfers, her husband's hunting buddies, and a bowling league (elderly ladies on fixed incomes, no less), she collected enough donations to mail around 2000 golf balls. What an accomplishment! This eliminated the golf course's collection of old range balls, so we're working now to gather more. My son is also serving in Iraq, so I find it especially comforting and encouraging to see such awesome support from so many segments of our civilian population. Elizabeth Radabaugh
Your article hit home because my son, Lt. Douglas Huttenlocker, just returned from Sather AFB in Baghdad and one of the photos he sent me was him hitting golf balls in the desert while in his Air Force desert uniform. I hope others are doing this for our troops as well. Kudos to you and Capt. Sifferd! John Huttenlocker, North Tonawanda, N.Y.
I have a soldier deployed with [Capt. Sifferd] and forwarded your article to the parents of the other soldier in the picture. What fun to see our guys! I sent them a bucket of balls (and tees) a week or so ago...maybe others will send more. Laurie Weissbrod
Here I am, supposedly a grizzled old soldier, with over 24 years in the Army.and your article put a lump in my throat! You hit Chaplain Sifferds character and mannerisms to a 'tee!' Thank you for helping David take care of these troops out here in harms way. Hooah! Command Sgt. Major Jim Allen,
Camp Victory, Iraq
Ive got 200 balls headed to Captain Sifferd. My son served in Iraq and thank God, came home in one piece. I appreciate what Captain Sifferd and all of our troops do and 200 golf balls is the least that I can do. Thanks. Gary Ward,
I work part time as a ranger at a nearby course and have a five gallon bucket filled with golf balls I've found while making my rounds. My wife keeps asking me what I'm going to do with them. Now I have a perfect place for them. God bless our troops. I'm a Vietnam Vet and know all about stress relief when you're many thousands of miles from home and in harm's way to boot. Bill Monger, Brighton, Mich.
To save shipping costs, I took a bag containing about 20 dozen used golf balls and I threw in an old sand wedge and 7-wood and dropped them off at the local Marine Corps recruiting station. They agreed to send them overseas to their troops in Iraq. In addition, I put one local course in touch with an Army recruiter so that they could donate their used range balls to the troops. The recruiter agreed to pick them up at the course and get them shipped overseas. I think this is a great way to help support the troops regardless of our political beliefs or our feelings about the war. Steve Broome, Eugene, Ore.
Mr. Broome solved the problem of shipping costs, which are daunting to some. But every half dozen counts, so theres no package thats too small. If you choose to go the mail route, however many you choose to send, domestic postage rates apply ' the Army takes over once you get the balls to the U.S.-based Army Post Office (APO). Theres a simple customs form to fill out at the post office.
Heres the address again:
CH (CPT) DAVID SIFFERD
15th PSYOP BN
APO AE 09342
Dave has contacted me a number of times, in between his duties as chaplain, to thank us for the parade of boxes that has crossed his desk. Here's an excerpt from the camp newsletter:
'[F]ollowing the article, people from across the country started sending boxes of used golf balls. We've received more than 40 boxes to date. We've also received clubs and other accessories. Even the non-golfers are getting in on the fun. I've set up some old carpets and rubber tees behind our headquarters and soldiers whack away at the balls every day, hitting them into the empty field behind our headquarters. '
And dont worry, the golf industry is getting into the act, too. The folks at Top-Flite, one of Callaway Golfs brands, quietly sent 800 dozen balls over ' quietly, because they werent seeking publicity, just doing the right thing. I promised not to mention the names of the execs responsible ' but they know who they are.
And thanks to the efforts of so many of you, U.S. and Canadian troops in Iraq and Afghanistan know who you are ' golfers. Which is to say, generous lovers of the greatest sport.
Thanks, and keep up the good workuntil those faraway foursome-mates can come home and pat you on the back themselves.
Email your thoughts to Adam Barr
Four players vying for DJ's No. 1 ranking at Open
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Four players have an opportunity to overtake Dustin Johnson for world No. 1 this week.
According to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robinson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm all can grab the top spot in the world ranking.
Thomas’ path is the easiest. He will return to No. 1 with either a win and Johnson finished worse than solo third, or even a solo runner-up finish as long as Johnson finishes worse than 49th.
Twenty years after his auspicious performance in The Open, Rose can get to No. 1 for the first time with a victory and Johnson finishing worse than a two-way tie for third.
Kopeka can rise to No. 1 if he wins consecutive majors, assuming that his good friend posts worse than a three-way tie for third.
And Rahm can claim the top spot with a win this week, a Johnson missed cut and a Thomas finish worse than solo second.
Johnson’s 15-month reign as world No. 1 ended after The Players. He wasn’t behind Thomas for long, however: After a tie for eighth at the Memorial, Johnson blew away the field in Memphis and then finished third at the U.S. Open to solidify his position at the top.
Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, GolfChannel.com writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:
The Monday morning headline will be …
REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.
RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.
MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.
JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.
Who or what will be the biggest surprise?
HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.
LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.
BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.
COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.
Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?
HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.
LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.
BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.
COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.
What will be the winning score?
HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.
LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.
BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.
COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.
Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty
Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.
Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.
This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):
While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:
Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.
McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.
Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.
“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”
McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.
“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”
He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.