Nicklaus donates course design for disabled vets
The Army lieutenant colonel, paralyzed below both knees, is propped up inside a “SoloRider,” a specially designed cart with a seat that tilts up to support disabled golfers when they swing. He takes the new club, leans over the ball and follows the legend’s instructions.
The white ball soars into the sunny Northwest sky, past lush evergreens and lands about 150 yards down the driving range.
Dudek’s drive – specifically the dedication and promise for renewal it represents – is why Nicklaus is here outside Tacoma, Washington. The golf great is donating his expertise to design what will perhaps be the most appreciated course he’ll ever build.
Nicklaus is helping U.S. combat veterans by redesigning and expanding the American Lake Veterans Golf Course. It’s going to be a one-of-a-kind, 18-hole layout geared specifically for disabled golfers.
“All projects are very important to me. But this one is out of love,” said Nicklaus, who has designed more than 300 courses around the world and has 100 more in the works. “I’m a hired gun to do things a lot of places. But I’m not a hired gun here. I’m doing this because I want to do it.”
Nicklaus wasn’t at Pebble Beach this week with the rest of the American golf establishment for the U.S. Open, a tournament he won four times as part of his record 18 major championships. He wasn’t getting paid to put on another clinic.
He was taking time from a trip to Asia to give back to a military in which he never served by helping some of America’s wounded veterans rebuild their lives.
“You know, I was married and had children before I even got out of college, so I was never in the service,” Nicklaus said. “I never knew what these guys have gone through, and it’s just something to be behold. I had a lot of friends who were in and went to Vietnam. They came back and their lives were scarred in a lot of ways. So to be able to give back – even though I couldn’t contribute from that standpoint, I sure can from this standpoint.”
Nicklaus is donating his expertise to build a new back nine and tweak the front nine holes at American Lake. The course was originally constructed as a nine-hole place of respite – not rehabilitation – in 1955, on the grounds of the Veterans Administration hospital near Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
On Monday, he conducted a 45-minute clinic for soldiers and civilians after flying from Florida and New York earlier in the day. Wearing black slacks and a yellow, American Lake sweater vest over a light-blue golf shirt, he pulled clubs out of a black bag with his trademark golden bear on it.
The 70-year-old Nicklaus, who says he now only plays five or so times a year, held his audience enraptured. A few soldiers in desert camouflage uniforms and black berets bellowed from behind the ropes, “HOO-AHH, Jack! HOO-AHH!”
Then Dudek teed up. The colonel and commander of the Warrior Transition Battalion at Joint Base Lewis-McChord for soldiers returning from war walks with the aid of braces strapped to each arm. An improvised explosive device detonated into his back in 2007 while he was an artillery officer deployed to Iraq.
Dudek, satisfied with his first swing of the day, smiled. So did Nicklaus.
“Did you play golf before you were injured?” Nicklaus asked. “You had to.”
Dudek admitted he did.
“It kind of doesn’t compute, it doesn’t make sense: I’m standing in front of Jack Nicklaus!” Dudek marveled.
There was no place Nicklaus would rather have been.
“I’m delighted,” he said.
Nicklaus got involved at the urging of Ken Still, his good friend and a teammate at the 1969 Ryder Cup.
Still and his American Lake committee wanted to enlarge their course and make it specifically for wounded veterans. But that vision needed funding, expertise – and a big name to attract donations and credibility.
They don’t get much bigger than Jack Nicklaus.
“Ken Still is a pretty solid guy,” Nicklaus said. “He says, ‘Jack, you need to be involved out here.’ I said, ‘What do you what me to do Kenny?’ He says, ‘I want you to come out and design a golf course for these guys.”’
That was all Nicklaus needed to hear.
After the clinic, he led an invitation-only reception, part of American Lake’s efforts to raise the $3 million it needs to begin turning the course into an 18-hole getaway for the wounded and disabled.
“When you lose a limb, lose an arm, all of a sudden you feel like you are ostracized from society. This puts these guys back into society. It gives them self-worth,” Nicklaus said. “To us, their self-worth will never be questioned. But to them, sometimes they worry about that … golf gives them a new lease on life.”
“It’s great. I’m just so pleased to be involved and help out in any way that I can.”
Tuesday, he saw for the first time the land he will design into the final nine holes. Driving a cart past stunned veterans golfing on the front nine, Nicklaus and two of his senior designers spent more than three hours unfurling blueprints and sketching hole layouts. He was covered in dust as he talked about moving trees and dealing with power lines. He pondered how he will turn dirt and brush and deep green forest into perhaps the most needed course he’ll ever build.
He’ll have to modify some of his usual concepts. His notoriously deep sand traps with steep lips will have to be shallower so the special carts can access them.
“My usual sea bunkers aren’t going to work here, are they?” Nicklaus said.
Asked for the other modifications he will have to make, Nicklaus shrugged.
“I don’t know. It’s all uncharted for me,” he said.
“Hopefully this is a prototype for a lot of places around the country.”
Nicklaus’ work is the centerpiece of the $4.5 million project at American Lake called “A Course in Courage: Healing America’s Veterans through Golf.” His design will start becoming reality once American Lake raises about $2 million more.
It’s estimated that eight of every 10 golfers who play American Lake have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. And those who play keep coming back. Many older veterans now volunteer on the course’s maintenance crews.
More than 12,000 rounds of golf were played at American Lake between April and August of 2009. The demand is expected to grow soon, as the largest number of homecoming of veterans in 30 years arrives back from Iraq and Afghanistan. Many will have severe injuries and emotional trauma.
Gen. John Shalikashvili, the retired former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, suffered a massive stroke in 2004 and is in a wheelchair. The resident of nearby DuPont, Wash., was among those golfing from a SoloRider during Nicklaus’ visit.
“I think it’s terrific,” Shalikashvili said of the course. “Because it shows that no matter what the injury is, it’s not life-ending.”
Arizona caps an improbable journey with a title
STILLWATER, Okla. – Five hours before the final match at the NCAA Women’s Championship, Arizona coach Laura Ianello sat cross-legged on a couch in the Holiday Inn lobby and broke down four times in a half-hour interview.
It’s been that kind of exhausting season.
From poor play to stunning midseason defections to a stroke-play collapse, Ianello has felt uneasy for months. She has felt like she was losing control. Felt like her carefully crafted roster was coming apart.
So to even have a chance to win a NCAA title?
“I know what this team has gone through,” she said, beginning to tear up, “and you don’t get these opportunities all the time. So I want it for them. This could be so life-changing for so many of them.”
A moment that seemed impossible six months ago became reality Wednesday at Karsten Creek.
Arizona continued its magical run through the match-play bracket and knocked off top-ranked Alabama to capture its third NCAA title, with junior Haley Moore – who first rose to fame by making the cut at an LPGA major as a 16-year-old – rolling in a 4-footer to earn the clinching point in extra holes.
All throughout nationals Arizona was fueled by momentum and adrenaline, but this was no Cinderella squad. The Wildcats were ranked ninth in the country. They won twice this spring. They had four medalists. They were one of the longest-hitting teams in the country.
But even before a miracle end to NCAA stroke play, Arizona needed some help just to get here.
On Christmas Day, one of the team’s best players, Krystal Quihuis, texted Ianello that she was turning pro. It may have been a gift to her parents, for their years of sacrifice, but it was a lump of coal in Ianello’s stocking.
“I was absolutely heartbroken,” she said. “It was devastating.”
Even more bad news arrived a few weeks later, when junior Gigi Stoll told Ianello that she was unhappy, homesick and wanted to return to Portland, Ore. Just like that, a promising season had gone off the rails.
Ianello offered her a full release, but Stoll looked around, found no other suitors and decided to remain with the team – as long as she signed a contract of expected behavior.
“It was the most exhausting two months of my life,” Ianello said. “We care so much about these freakin’ girls, and we’re like, Come on, this is just a small, little picture of your life, so you don’t realize what you’re possibly giving up. It’s so hard to see that sometimes.”
Stoll eventually bought in, but the rest of the team was blindsided by Quihuis’ decision.
“We became even more motivated to prove we were a great team,” said junior Bianca Pagdanganan.
It also helped that Yu-Sang Hou joined the squad in January. The morale immediately improved, not least because the players now could poke fun at Hou; on her fourth day on campus she nearly burned down the dorm when she forgot to add water to her mac-and-cheese.
Early on Ianello and assistant Derek Radley organized a team retreat at a hotel in Tucson. There the players created Oprah-inspired vision boards and completed exercises blindfolded and delivered 60-second speeches to break down barriers. At the end of the session, they created T-shirts that they donned all spring. They splashed “The Great Eight” on the front, put the state of Arizona and each player’s country of origin on the sleeves, and on the back printed their names and a slogan: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
“I can’t think of anything else that better embodies this team,” Radley said.
This spring, they rallied together and finished no worse than fourth in a tournament. Through three rounds of stroke play here at the NCAA Championship, they used their distance advantage and sat third in the standings. Then they shot 17 over par in the final round, tumbling outside the top-8 cut line.
They were down to their final chance on the 72nd hole, needing an eagle to tie, as Pagdanganan lined up her 30-footer. She dramatically drained the putt, then gathered her teammates on the range.
“This means we were meant to be in the top 8,” she said. Less than an hour later, they beat Baylor in the team playoff to earn the last match-play berth.
Ianello was so amped up from the frenetic finish that she slept only three hours on Monday night, but they continued to roll and knocked off top-seeded UCLA in the quarterfinals, beating a pair of Player of the Year contenders, Lilia Vu and Patty Tavatanakit, in the process. In the afternoon semifinals, they jumped all over Stanford and won easily.
It was a cute story, the last team into the match-play field reaching the final match, but a stiffer challenge awaited the Wildcats Wednesday.
Alabama was the top-ranked team in the country. The Tide were a whopping 110 under par for the season, boasting three first-team All-Americans who were so dominant in their first two matches that they trailed for only two of the 99 holes they played.
Ianello already seemed to be bracing for the result on the eve of the final match.
“Win or lose,” she said, “this has been a hell of a ride.”
But their wild ride continued Wednesday, as Hou won four holes in a row to start the back nine and defeat Alabama’s best player, Lauren Stephenson, who had the best single-season scoring average (69.5) in Division I history.
Then sophomore Sandra Nordaas – the main beneficiary after Quihuis left at the midway point of the season – held on for a 1-up victory over Angelica Moresco.
And so Arizona’s national-title hopes hinged on the success of its most mercurial player, Moore. In the anchor match against Lakareber Abe, Moore jumped out to a 2-up lead at the turn but lost the first three holes on the back nine.
By the time Radley sped back to help Moore, in the 12th fairway, she was frazzled.
“But seeing me,” Radley said, “I saw a sense of calm wash over her.”
Moore played solidly for the rest of the back nine and took a 1-up lead into the home hole. She didn’t flinch when Abe hit one of the shots of the entire championship – a smoked 3-wood to 12 feet to set up a two-putt birdie and force extras – and then gave herself 4 feet for the win on the first playoff hole. She sank the putt and within seconds was mobbed by her teammates.
In the giddy aftermath, Ianello could barely speak. She wandered around the green in a daze, looking for someone, anyone, to hug.
The most trying year of her career had somehow ended in a title.
“At some moments, it felt impossible,” she said. “But I underestimated these young women a little bit.”
Pac-12 continues to dominate women's golf
Arizona's women's golf championship marked the fourth consecutive year in which the women's Division I national title was won by a Pac-12 team. All four championships were won by different schools (Stanford, 2015; Washington, 2016; Arizona State, 2017; Arizona, 2018). The Pac-12 is the only conference to win four straight golf championships (men or women) with four different schools.
Here are some other statistical notes from the just-concluded NCAA Div. I Women's Golf Championship:
• This is the second time that Arizona has won the national title the year after rival Arizona State won it. The last time was 1996.
• Arizona now has three women's golf national championships. The previous two came in 1996 and 2000.
• Arizona is only the sixth school to win three or more Div. I women's golf championships, joining Arizona State (8), Duke (6), San Jose State (3), UCLA (3) and USC (3).
• Arizona's Haley Moore, who earned the clinching point on the 19th hole of her match with Alabama's Lakareber Abe, was the only Arizona player to win all three of her matches this week.
• Alabama's Kristen Gillman and Cheyenne Knight also went 3-0. Gillman did not trail in any match.
• Since the match-play format was instituted in 2015, Arizona is the lowest seed (8) to claim the national title. The seeds claiming the national championship were Stanford (4) in 2015; Washington (4) in 2016; and Arizona State (3) in 2017.
High school seniors win U.S. Amateur Four-Ball
TEQUESTA, Fla. - The 18-year-old Hammer, from Houston, is set to play at Texas next fall. Barber, from Stuart, Fla., also is 18. He's headed to LSU.
''Growing up watching U.S. Opens and U.S. Amateurs on TV, I just knew being a USGA champion is something that I desperately wanted,'' said Hammer, who qualified for a U.S. Open three years ago at 15. ''And to finally do it, it feels incredible. It feels as good, if not better, than I thought it would. And especially being able to do it with Garrett. It's really cool to share this moment.''
Hammer and Cole won the par-4 eighth with a birdie to take a 2-up lead. They took the par-4 10th with a par, won the par-5 13th with an eagle - Barber hit a 4-iron from 235 yards to 3 feet - and halved the next two holes to end the match.
''Cole didn't want me to hit 4-iron,'' Barber said. ''He didn't think I could get it there. I was like, 'I got it.' So I hit it hard, hit pretty much a perfect shot. It was a crazy shot.''
The 32-year-old Dull is from Winter Park, Fla., and the 42-year-old Brooke from Altamonte Springs, Fla.
''Cole Hammer is a special player,'' Brooke said. ''Obviously, he's going to Texas (and) I'm not saying he is Jordan Spieth, but there are certain things that he does.''
In the morning semifinals, Hammer and Barber beat Idaho high school teammates Carson Barry and Sam Tidd, 5 and 4, and Brooke and Dull topped former Seattle University teammates Kyle Cornett and Patrick Sato, 4 and 3.
Watch: Pumped up Beef deadlifts 485 lbs.
Andrew "Beef" Johnston has been playing some solid golf on the European Tour this season, and he is clearly pumped up for one of the biggest weeks of the year at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.
Judging from the video below, Beef will have no problems lifting the trophy on Sunday as he reportedly deadlifted 220 kg ... (Googles kilogram to pounds converter, enters numbers) ... that's 485 lbs!