Katrina Aftermath a Reminder of What Matters

By Associated PressApril 25, 2006, 4:00 pm
2006 Zurich ClassicNEW ORLEANS -- Scott Verplank walked past a long row of shiny courtesy cars and stepped into an office to register for the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, a routine he follows just about every time he plays on the PGA Tour.
 
Once inside, however, it didn't take long to realize the focus this week goes far beyond golf.
 
Behind him on a wall was a bright orange poster with photos showing the destruction from Hurricane Katrina -- a house that had been gutted, water nearly reaching the eaves of another house, a river running through Canal Street, where players stayed in hotels only a year ago. On a table next to him was a photo album showing more damage, including black-and-blue splotches of mold in the home of Sammy Culotta, who handles the computer operations at the tournament.
 
And on the desk in front of him was a green sheet of paper allowing players to donate a portion of their earnings from the $6 million tournament to Katrina charities, or to any other charity the player chooses.
 
Once he signed in, Verplank headed to the practice range at English Turn to hit balls.
 
No, this isn't just another stop on the PGA Tour.
 
'It has a different feel to it,' Verplank said. 'It has a different attitude about it. These people have been devastated by an unbelievable act of nature. And yet they want to get the word out that things are moving forward.'
 
Olin Browne didn't need to look at any pictures.
 
He went fishing Monday with Paul Azinger, and they took a detour through some of the hardest-hit sections of New Orleans. Browne said he saw a boat in the middle of a field, and countless slabs of concrete where houses had been destroyed.
 
Browne is staying in the same downtown hotel he was in last year, which he considers a minor miracle.
 
'They've done a pretty heroic job putting it back together,' he said.
 
Once the tournament starts Thursday morning, the goal is still to shoot the lowest score. That hasn't changed.
 
But there is a feeling among players that it's time to give back to a tournament renowned for treating them like royalty.
 
One reason New Orleans was a favorite stop for so many players was all the charm the Big Easy had to offer, and the hospitality shown by the tournament staff. There were organized fishing trips. There was no shortage of the finest restaurants.

'It's like we shouldn't be here because of all the things that have gone on,' Steve Stricker said. 'We're having a golf tournament with a big purse. We're able to donate money back, which is good. But it almost feels like there are more important things to do. They showed us these pictures at registration, these homes ... and here we are playing golf for all that money.'
 
No one holds that against them.
 
No one seems to mind that the winner goes home with $1.08 million, minus whatever he gives back.
 
Most folks are simply glad to see the PGA Tour in town. The Zurich Classic is the first major sporting event in New Orleans since Katrina, and perhaps another step toward returning the city to some small degree of normalcy.
 
'It's getting us out of the daily thought of what we're living in,' said Anne Barnes, who's in charge of player services this week.
 
If there were any questions how much it meant having a PGA Tour event this year amid such chaos and tragedy, look no further than the volunteers, without whom any tournament could not run.
 
Tournament director John Subers began contacting last year's volunteers soon after the hurricane, not only to see if they were OK, but if they were still around. He wound up with a volunteer force approaching 1,000.
 
'A tremendous outpouring of support,' he said.
 
But then, Subers never had a doubt that golf would return.
 
He was at the Deutsche Bank Championship outside Boston when the Category 5 arrived in New Orleans, and each update was more horrifying. The TPC of Louisiana, where the tournament moved last year, lost nearly 4,000 trees and some holes were submerged by flooding for more than two weeks. It will not open until September at the earliest.
 
That meant a move to English Turn, which hosted the tournament the previous 16 years. Through it all, Subers never had a doubt that the PGA Tour would -- or should -- return.
 
And he's even more convinced now, ticking off a number of reasons why.
 
'This will bring some normalcy back to New Orleans,' he said. 'It's invaluable to what we do in raising money for Fore Kids Foundation, a children's charity that now, more than ever, needs the funds we raise. And it's invaluable for the national exposure.'
 
The message New Orleans wants to send this week is that it is still around and getting better.
 
The 156 players at English Turn are doing their part simply by showing up.
 
'We're here to support this area,' Browne said. 'If you have an opportunity to help out, you should. I think there are guys here who came back for this very reason. We want to see how it is. We want to feel how it is. And we want to help establish a normalcy.'
 
The field includes Phil Mickelson, making his first appearance since winning the Masters, and two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen. The Zurich Classic has four of the top 10 players from the PGA Tour money list.
 
Why does golf matter this week?
 
'It gives them their escape,' Verplank said. 'They can dream about other things.'
 
Related Links:
  • Golf Chronicles: After Katrina
  • Full Coverage ' Zurich Classic of New Orleans
     
    Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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    Garcia leads as Valderrama Masters extends to Monday

    By Will GrayOctober 21, 2021, 3:52 pm

    Weather continues to be the enemy at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters, where Sergio Garcia remains in front as the tournament heads for a Monday finish.

    European Tour officials had already ceded the fact that 72 holes would not be completed this week in Spain, but players were not even able to finish 54 holes before another set of thunderstorms rolled in Sunday afternoon to once again halt play. Garcia remains in front at 10 under, having played seven holes of the third round in even par, while Lee Westwood is alone in second at 7 under.

    Officials had previously stated an intention to play at least 54 holes, even if that meant extending the tournament to Monday, given that this is the final chance for many players to earn Race to Dubai points in an effort to secure European Tour cards for 2019. Next week's WGC-HSBC Champions will be the final event of the regular season, followed by a three-event final series.


    Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters


    Garcia, who won the tournament last year, started the third round with a four-shot lead over Ashley Chesters. He balanced one birdie with one bogey and remains in position for his first worldwide victory since the Asian Tour's Singapore Open in January.

    Westwood, who has his son Sam on the bag this week, made the biggest charge up the leaderboard with four birdies over his first eight holes. He'll have 10 holes to go when play resumes at 9:10 a.m. local time Monday as he looks to win for the first time since the 2015 Indonesian Masters.

    Shane Lowry and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano are tied for third at 6 under, four shots behind Garcia with 10 holes to play, while Chesters made two double bogeys over his first four holes to drop into a tie for sixth.

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    Austin wins Champions tour's playoff opener

    By Associated PressOctober 21, 2018, 9:35 pm

    RICHMOND, Va. -- Woody Austin knew Bernhard Langer was lurking throughout the final nine holes, and he did just enough to hold him off.

    Austin shot a 3-under 69 for a one-stroke victory Sunday in the PGA Tour Champions' playoff-opening Dominion Energy Charity Classic.

    Langer, the defending tournament champion and series points leader, made the turn one shot off the lead, but eight straight pars kept him from ever gaining a share of the lead. Austin's birdie from 6 feet on the closing hole allowed him to hang on for the victory.

    ''It seemed like he couldn't quite get it over the hump,'' Austin said about Langer, who also birdied No. 18. ''I'm not going to feel bad for the guy. The guy's kind of had things go his way for the last 12 years. Now he sees what it's like to have it happen.''

    The 54-year-old Austin finished with an 11-under total for three rounds at The Country Club of Virginia's James River Course. He won his fourth senior title and first since 2016, and said windy and cool conditions that made scoring difficult played to his advantage.

    ''I was happy to see it. I really enjoy a difficult test,'' he said. ''... I enjoy even par meaning something. That's my game.''

    Langer closed with a 70. The winner last week in North Carolina, the 61-year-old German star made consecutive birdies to finish the front nine, but had several birdie putts slide by on the back.


    Full-field scores from the Dominion Energy Charity Classic


    ''I made a couple important ones and then I missed a couple important ones, especially the one on 16,'' Langer said. ''I hit three really good shots and had about a 6-footer, something like that, and I just didn't hit it hard enough. It broke away.''

    Austin dropped a stroke behind Jay Haas and Stephen Ames with a bogey on the par-3 14th. He got that back with a birdie from about 5 feet on the par-4 15th and then got some good fortune on the final hole when his firmly struck chip hit the flag and stopped about 6 feet away.

    ''I always say usually the person that wins gets a break on Sunday,'' he said. ''That was my break.''

    The 64-year-old Haas, the second-round leader after a 65, had a 74 to tie for third with Fran Quinn (69) and Kent Jones (70) at 9 under. Haas was bidding to become the oldest winner in the history of the tour for players 50 and older.

    ''Disappointed, for sure,'' Haas said. ''Not going to get many more opportunities like this, but it gives me hope, too, that I can still do it.''

    The top 72 players qualified for the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs opener. The top 54 move on to the Invesco QQQ Championship next week in Thousand Oaks, California, and the top 36 after that will advance to the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix.

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    After Further Review: American success stories

    By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 21, 2018, 8:35 pm

    Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

    On the global nature of Koepka's rise to No. 1 ...

    Brooks Koepka is an American superstar, and a two-time winner of his national open. But his rise to world No. 1 in, of all places, South Korea, emphasizes the circuitous, global path he took to the top.

    After winning the CJ Cup by four shots, Koepka was quick to remind reporters that he made his first-ever start as a pro in Switzerland back in 2012. He cracked the top 500 for the first time with a win in Spain, and he broke into the top 100 after a good week in the Netherlands.

    Koepka languished on the developmental Challenge Tour for a year before earning a promotion to the European Tour, and he didn’t make a splash in the States until contending at the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst.

    It’s a testament to Koepka’s adaptability and raw talent that he can handle the heights of Crans-Montana as well as the slopes of Shinnecock Hills or rough of Nine Bridges. And as the scene shifts to China next week, it highlights the global nature of today’s game – and the fact that the best in the world can rise to the occasion on any continent. - Will Gray


    On the resurgence of American women  ...

    American women are on a nice roll again. Danielle Kang’s victory Sunday at the Buick LPGA Shanghai was the third by an American over the last five events. Plus, Annie Park and Marina Alex, emerging American talents looking for their second victories this season, tied for second. So did American Brittany Altomare. Two years ago, Americans won just twice, their fewest victories in a single season in LPGA history. Overall, women from the United States have won seven times this season.

    The Americans are making their move with Stacy Lewis on maternity leave and with Lexi Thompson, the highest ranked American in the world, still looking for her first victory this year. Yes, the South Koreans have won nine times this season, but with four LPGA events remaining in 2018 the Americans actually have a chance to be the winningest nation in women’s golf this year. With all the grief they’ve received the last few years, that would be a significant feat. - Randall Mell

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    In Buick win, Kang overcame demons of mind and spirit

    By Randall MellOctober 21, 2018, 3:33 pm

    Danielle Kang beat three of the most formidable foes in golf Sunday to win the Buick LPGA Shanghai.

    Anxiety.

    Frustration.

    Anger.

    Kang overcame these demons of mind and spirit to win for the second time on tour, backing up her KPMG Women’s PGA Championship victory last year.

    “I’ve been going through a lot mentally,” Kang said.

    Kang birdied four of the last eight holes to close with a 3-under-par 69, coming from one shot back in the final round to win. At 13-under 275, she finished two shots ahead of a pack of seven players, including world No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn (71) and former world No. 1 Lydia Ko (66).

    It hasn’t been easy for Kang trying to build on her major championship breakthrough last year. She started the fall Asian swing having missed three cuts in a row, five in her last six starts.

    “I had to go through swing changes,” Kang said. “I had the swing yips, the putting yips, everything possibly you could think of.

    “I was able to get over a lot of anxiety I was feeling when I was trying to hit a golf ball. This week I just kept trusting my golf game.”

    Through her swoon, Kang said she was struggling to get the club back, that she was getting mentally stuck to where she could not begin her takeaway. She sought out Butch Harmon, back at her Las Vegas home, for help. She said tying for third at the KEB Hana Bank Championship last week felt like a victory, though she was still battling her demons there.

    “Anxiety over tee balls,” Kang said. “People might wonder what I'm doing. I actually can't pull the trigger. It has nothing to do with the result. Having to get over that last week was incredible for me. Even on the first round, one shot took me, I think, four minutes.”

    Kang, who turned 26 on Saturday, broke through to win last year under swing coach David Leadbetter, but she began working with Harmon while struggling in the second half this year.


    Buick LPGA Shanghai: Articles, photos and videos


    “I was actually very frustrated, even yesterday,” Kang said. “Things just weren't going my way. The biggest thing that Butch tells me is to stay out of my own way. I just couldn't do that. If I had a short putt, I just kept doubting myself. I couldn't putt freely.”

    Kang said her anger and frustration built up again on the front nine Sunday. She made the turn at 1 over for the round. She said her caddie, Oliver Brett, helped her exorcise some anger. After the ninth hole, he pulled her aside.

    This is how Kang remembered the conversation:

    Brett: “Whatever you need to do to let your anger out and restart and refresh, you need to do that now.”

    Kang: “Cameras are everywhere. I just want to hit the bag really hard.”

    Brett: “Here's a wedge. Just smash it.”

    Kang did.

    “Honestly, I thank him for that,” Kang said. “He told me there are a lot birdies out there. I regrouped, and we pretended we started the round brand new on the 10th hole. Then things changed and momentum started going my way. I started hitting it closer and felt better over the putts.”

    Kang said the victory was all about finding a better place mentally.

    “I'm just so happy to be where I'm at today,” Kang said. “I'm just happy that I won.

    “More so than anything, I'm finally at a place where I'm peaceful and happy with my game, with my life . . . . I hope I win more. I did the best I can. I'm going to keep working hard and keep giving myself chances and keep putting myself in contention. I'll win more. I'll play better.”