Golf Hobby Brings Fascinating Collection

By Associated PressJanuary 2, 2003, 5:00 pm
Tiger Woods used a replica of the gutta percha golf ball during his practice round at St. Andrews for the 2000 British Open.
Gary Wiren has the real thing.
He also has an 88-year-old club with a steel shaft that goes ``Whoosh!'' because it was drilled with holes to make it lighter. Another of his clubs once belonged to Horace Rollins, who won the first U.S. Open in 1895.
Wiren has a driver that presumably would fail U.S. Golf Association standards for springlike effect, even though it was built at a time when ``coefficient of restitution'' could only be found in a physics book.
``It has two rubber balls behind the face,'' said Wiren, a south Florida teaching pro, author, historian and marketer. ``In this day, when you think springlike effect, you think of something entirely different.''
They are all part of his eclectic set of golf collectibles, so fascinating that Wiren figured it was worth sharing.
Lending it to a golf museum would have been too much trouble to catalog. His collection contains more than 2,500 clubs, 1,200 balls, 1,900 books and an assortment of golf-related postcards, stamps and other memorabilia.
Instead, Wiren has produced a 75-minute video called ``The Fascinating World of Golf Collectibles,'' which is available on VHS and DVD.
The video won an Aurora Award this year for sports documentary.
``I'm going to be able to share this with people who can't come to the house,'' said Wiren, whose visitors have included Warren Buffet, Bill Gates and Jack Welch.
Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., was so impressed that he wrote a letter encouraging his friends to take a look.
``I have personally seen the items featured in this work and have been highly entertained by the interesting stories that accompany his amazing collection,'' Buffett said.
The video has another purpose: The collection, valued at about $3.5 million, is for sale.
``I've had a tremendous amount of enjoyment from it by having famous people in my home, but it's time to move on,'' he said. ``I would hope this goes to a private individual who wants to be one of the top 10 collectors in the world immediately.''
Wiren is a master teaching consultant at Trump International in West Palm Beach, Fla. He spent 13 years as the national education director for the PGA of America, and also owns ``Golf Around The World,'' a company that sells golf training devices.
The collectibles business was an accident.
Wiren was working on his Master's degree at the University of Michigan when the head librarian gave him a book, ``The Walter Hagen Story,'' in 1959.
That made him interested in old books, then old clubs, then just about any golf item that was out of the ordinary, and soon the hobby became a passion.
Wiren really got serious in the early '60s while working on his doctorate at the University of Oregon. He bought a collection of 400 clubs from a man Wiren described as an ``old vaudevillian, turn-of-the-century guy.''
One of the clubs featured the ``Laird'' shaft from 1914, one of the first shafts that tried to replace hickory. The problem was there was no steel tubing at the time, just solid steel, making it too heavy to swing a club.
``This guy punched holes in it,'' Wiren said. ``The nickname is 'The Whistler' because it whooshes when you swing it.''
Wiren's collection is not the largest, nor the most valuable.
He knows of one man with more than 74,000 balls with different logos. Alastair Johnston, head of the golf division at IMG, has the largest golf book collection in the world. Jaime Patino, who owns Valderrama Golf Club in Spain, collects only the most expense or most rare items.
``I don't go for the $20,000 club,'' Wiren said. ``I like variety. Everything up on my wall is entirely different.''
Most of the items have a story behind them.
One book was written by a World War II veteran who survived a jump from his plane when his parachute failed to open. The man became a Christian and wrote a book called, ``Golf God's Way.''
When Barbara Nicklaus came by Wiren's office for a visit, he placed ``Golf God's Way'' next to a book written by Jack Nicklaus called, ``Golf My Way.''
``As we were leaving ... I pulled out the book and said, 'Barbara, I go to a higher authority,''' Wiren said with a laugh.
The gutta percha is one of his most valuable possessions, worth an estimated $30,000. The ``gutty'' was a brown, molded rubber ball used by Old Tom Morris in the British Open, only Wiren's ball predates even that.
``It's a Patterson composite, which is smooth and has no lines,'' he said. ``They didn't figure out that you needed markings on it to make lift. It would go, but like a knuckle ball.''
One thing Wiren has learned from more than 40 years of being involved in golf and collecting is that most of the new equipment is really old.
Long shafts on drivers? He can show you a 47-inch shaft made of a fishing rod. He has a perimeter-weighted iron that was made before World War I, and a metal driver from 1930, making it about 50 years ahead of its time.
``You give me new ideas in clubs, I'll show you where it was done 50, 70, 100 years ago,'' he said.
Along with sharing his collection through a video, Wiren said he wants to generate more interest in collecting golf items.
His only advice?
``You'll never get it all,'' he said.
That never stopped him from trying.
Getty Images

Snedeker leads by one heading into final round

By Associated PressAugust 19, 2018, 3:26 pm

GREENSBORO, N.C. – Brandt Snedeker took a one-stroke lead into the final round of the weather-delayed Wyndham Championship after finishing the third round Sunday with a 2-under 68.

Snedeker was at 16-under 194 through three rounds of the final PGA Tour event of the regular season. Brian Gay and David Hearn were at 15 under, with Gay shooting a 62 and Hearn a 64.

Thirty players were on the course Saturday when play was suspended because of severe weather. After a delay of 3 hours, 23 minutes, organizers chose to hold things up until Sunday morning.

Snedeker, who shot an opening-round 59 to become just the 10th tour player to break 60, is chasing his first victory since 2016 and his second career win at this tournament.

Getty Images

Olesen edges past Poulter in Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayAugust 19, 2018, 3:10 pm

With only two weeks left in the qualification window, Thorbjorn Olesen is now in position to make his Ryder Cup debut.

Olesen finished alone in fourth place at the Nordea Masters, two shots out of a playoff between Thomas Aiken and eventual winner Paul Waring. Olesen carded four straight rounds of 68 in Sweden, including a final-round 67 that featured three birdies over his final seven holes.

It's a tight race for the fourth and final Ryder Cup spot via the World Points list, and Olesen's showing this week will allow him to move past Paul Casey and Ian Poulter, both of whom didn't play this week, into the No. 4 slot. Olesen is now also less than 40,000 Euros behind Tommy Fleetwood to qualify via the European Points list.

The top four players from both lists on Sept. 2 will qualify for next month's matches, with captain Thomas Bjorn rounding out the roster with four selections on Sept. 4. Poulter and Casey will both have a chance to move back in front next week at The Northern Trust, while the final qualifying week will include the PGA Tour event at TPC Boston and Olesen headlining the field in his homeland at the Made in Denmark.

Even if Olesen fails to qualify automatically for Paris, the 28-year-old continues to bolster his credentials for a possible pick from his countryman, Bjorn. Olesen won the Italian Open in June, finished second at the BMW International Open three weeks later and has now compiled four top-12 finishes over his last five worldwide starts including a T-3 result at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational earlier this month.

In addition to the players who fail to qualify from the Olesen-Poulter-Casey trio, other candidates for Bjorn's quartet of picks will likely include major champions Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson.

Getty Images

Thompson bounces back from rule violation

By Randall MellAugust 19, 2018, 2:22 am

If Lexi Thompson’s trouble in the sixth fairway brought back any painful memories Saturday at the Indy Women in Tech Championship, she shook them off in a hurry.

If the approach of another rules official amid a spirited run of brilliant play rattled her, she didn’t show it.

Thompson posted an 8-under-par 64 in the third round despite another awkward rules infraction.

Her round was impressively bogey free but not mistake free, and so her work will be a little harder Sunday chasing Lizette Salas.

After incurring a one-shot penalty for violating a local rule in effect for preferred lies, Thompson will start the final round five shots back instead of four.

She knows she’s fortunate she isn’t six back.

If a rules official hadn’t witnessed Thompson in the middle of committing the infraction, she could have been assessed an additional penalty shot for playing from the wrong spot.

Thompson got the penalty after stepping on the 10th tee and blowing her drive right, into the sixth fairway. She got it after picking up her ball over there and lifting, cleaning and placing it. She got it because she wasn’t allowed to do that in any other fairway except for the fairway of the hole she was playing.

The preferred-lie rule was distributed to players earlier in the week.

The story here isn’t really the penalty.

Full-field scores from Indy Women in Tech Championship

It’s Thompson’s reaction to it, because she opened this week in such heartfelt fashion. After skipping the Ricoh Women’s British Open to take a month-long “mental break,” Thompson revealed this week that she has been struggling emotionally in the wake of last year’s highs and lows. She opened up about how trying to “hide” her pain and show strength through it all finally became too much to bear. She needed a break. She also candidly shared how the challenges of being a prodigy who has poured herself into the game have led her to seek therapists’ help in building a life about more than golf.

That’s a lot for a 23-year-old to unload publicly.

Last year may have been the best and the worst of Thompson’s career. She said dealing with that controversial four-shot penalty that cost her the ANA Inspiration title, watching her mother battle cancer and losing a grandmother were cumulatively more difficult to deal with than she ever let on. There was also that short missed putt at year’s end that could have vaulted her to Rolex world No. 1 for the first time and led to her winning the Rolex Player of the Year title. She still won twice, won the Vare Trophy for low scoring average and was the Golf Writers Association of America Player of the Year.

That’s a lot of peaks and valleys for a young soul.

That’s the kind of year that can make you feel like an old soul in a hurry.

So seeing a rules official approach her on Saturday, you wondered about Thompson gathering herself so quickly. You wondered what she was thinking stepping up and ripping her next shot 215 majestic yards, about her hitting the green and saving par. You wondered about how she  bounced back to birdie 13 and 14 and finish bogey free.

With this week’s soul bearing, you wondered a lot about what rebounding like that meant to her.

We’re left to wonder from afar, though, because she wasn’t asked any of those questions by local reporters afterward. The transcript showed three brief answers to three short questions, none about the penalty or the challenge she met.

Of course, there were other questions to be asked, because local rules have been an issue this year. Did she read the local notes with the preferred lies explanation? She got hit with another local rules issue in Thailand this year, when she hit her ball near an advertising sign and moved the sign, not realizing a local rule made the sign a temporary immovable obstruction.

Of course, there were other good stories in Indy, too, with Sung Hyun Park poised to overtake Ariya Jutanugarn and return to Rolex world No. 1, with Salas holding off Park so brilliantly down the stretch Saturday.

Thompson, though, is the highest ranked American in the world. She’s the face of American women’s golf now. A face more tender, resolute and vulnerable than we have ever seen it.

Folks along the ropes watching her on the back nine in Indy Saturday got to see that better than any of us.

Getty Images

Salas capitalizes on Park gaffe to take Indy lead

By Associated PressAugust 19, 2018, 2:07 am

INDIANAPOLIS – Lizette Salas waited patiently for Sung Hyun Park to make a rare mistake Saturday.

When the South Korean mishit her approach shot into the water on the par-4 16th, Salas capitalized quickly.

She rolled in her birdie putt then watched Park make double bogey – a three-shot swing that gave Salas the lead and the momentum heading into the final round of the Indy Women in Tech Championship. Salas closed out her 8-under 64 with a birdie on No. 18 to reach 21 under – two shots ahead of Park and Amy Yang.

“I have been striking the ball really well, and I just had to stay patient,” Salas said. “And yeah, putts dropped for sure. I just really felt comfortable.”

If she keeps it up one more day, Salas could be celebrating her first tour win since the 2014 Kingsmill Championship and her second overall. With five of the next six players on the leader board ranked in the world’s top 30, Salas knows it won’t be easy.

The changing weather conditions weather might not help, either. If the forecast for mostly sunny conditions Sunday holds, the soft greens that have kept scores at near record-lows through the first three rounds could suddenly become quicker and less forgiving.

But the 29-year-old Californian seems to have the perfect touch for this course, which weaves around and inside the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

She shot three sub-par rounds and finished tied for fifth last year here. This year, she has three more sub-par rounds including a course record-tying 62 on Thursday and has been atop the leader board each of the first three days.

“I have been so confident the whole year,” Salas said. “I have a different mentality, I’m a different player. So I’m just going to go out and play as if I’m behind.”

Full-field scores from Indy Women in Tech Championship

Salas’ toughest challenge still could from Park, who spent most of Saturday flirting with a 54-hole scoring record.

She birdied the last four holes on the front side and made back-to-back birdies on Nos. 13 and 14 to reach 21 under with a chance to become the sixth LPGA player to ever finish three rounds at 23 under.

The miscue at No. 16 changed everything.

She never really recovered after dropping two shots, settling for par on the final two holes for a 66 after shooting 68 and 63 the first two days. Yang finished with a 65 after going 68 and 64.

“I was a little weary with right-to-left wind,” Park said. “I think a little bit of weariness got to me, but overall, it’s OK.”

Defending champion Lexi Thompson was five shots back after completing the final nine of the second round in 2 under 34 and shooting 64 in the afternoon.

She made up ground despite being assessed a one-stroke penalty after hitting her tee shot on No. 10 into the sixth fairway and lifting the ball without authority. Rules officials had implemented the preferred lies rule because more than an inch of rain had doused the course.

Thompson still made her par on the hole though it temporarily broke her momentum after making six birdies on the front nine in her first appearance since taking a monthlong break to recover from physical and mental exhaustion.

“Twenty-seven holes, I definitely had a few tired swings toward the end,” said Thompson, who finished each of the first two rounds with 68s. “But overall, a lot of positives. I hit it great. I made some really good putts.”

Three players – Nasa Hataoka of Japan, Jin Young Ko of South Korea and Mina Harigae – were tied at 15 under. Ko started the third round with a share of the lead but had three bogeys in a round of 70.

Now, all Salas has to do is cash in one more time.

“I’ve been knocking on the door quite a bit in the last four years, haven’t been able to get it done,” Salas said. “I’ve got good players behind me, I’ve just got to play my game.”