Notes Green plays on hoping to walk away and smile

By Associated PressMay 26, 2011, 2:34 am
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – There are still times when it feels as if electrodes are hooked to what remains of Ken Green’s right leg.

The nerves in the lower leg he lost in a tragic accident jangle, buzz and hurt.

“I call it being Tasered almost – it’s a constant lower level of Taser and then it gets nasty,” Green said Wednesday, a day before teeing it up in the opening round of the Senior PGA Championship at Valhalla. “And so, it’s been quite a journey.”

The 52-year-old Green, a five-time winner on the PGA Tour, was driving on June 8, 2009, when his RV blew a tire and went out of control down an embankment, ramming into an oak tree. His longtime girlfriend, Jean Marie Hodgin, his brother William and even his beloved German shepherd, Nip, all were killed.

Green’s lower right leg had to be amputated. Months of rehab followed. He now wears a prosthetic.

Yet he is still hopeful of making a living at golf. He entered three Champions Tour events a year ago and made the cut in one. Now he wants to prove that he can still play, that he won’t be beaten down by so much adversity.

“I can’t tell you how bad I want to play one good tournament, and what I mean by that is if I were to finish in the top 20 in any Champions Tour event,” he said. “I could walk away and smile.”

There have not been many smiles lately.

His 21-year-old son Hunter was found dead in his SMU dorm room in January 2010. The death was deemed an accident, due to a lethal mixture of alcohol and prescription drugs.

Green, beset by depression and mental problems during his career on the regular tour, says he’s driven to keep playing by the memory of those he’s lost and also by all those he meets – particularly in the military – who have lost limbs.

“They use golf as a therapy to get them reinvolved,” he says, marveling at their resilience.

He wants each private golf club to admit four wounded veterans. The clubs, he said, would benefit from such a patriotic gesture. And golf would help the veterans adjust to their changed lives.

The pain in his right leg has prevented Green from practicing as much as he would like and as much as he should to maintain his game. But that doesn’t mean he still doesn’t dream.

“That’s the great thing about competition and golf – it comes flying back at you. Your brain still says, ‘You’re good. You can still win,”’ said Green, who will ride in a cart during the tournament. “There’s a part of me that still says that I can pull off a win some day.”

Even if he doesn’t, it means a lot to him to know that others are pulling for him. He encounters fans who aren’t aware of the accident, who don’t know about what he’s been through. A man who was never patient before finds himself explaining it all once again to them.

“It’s a unique story,” he said. “I don’t want to say it’s a good story because good things didn’t happen. But I have to turn it into a good story. That’s what you do when bad things happen.”

RAIN GAUGE: A surplus of rain this spring, and over the past few days, has prevented Senior PGA officials from using low-lying public parking lots across from Valhalla Golf Club.

As a result, fans are parking at nearby businesses and churches and then catching shuttle rides to the course.

All the water is nothing new at Valhalla. The 2004 Senior PGA, won by Hale Irwin, was plagued by heavy rain that turned small streams into rivers, turning the layout into a muddy, dangerous mess.

Heavy rain was expected Wednesday night and scattered thunderstorms are expected throughout the week, with a possible respite on the weekend.

APPROACHING THE END: Hale Irwin won 20 times on the PGA Tour, including U.S. Opens in 1974, 1979 and 1990. He is also one of the most decorated Champions Tour players ever, with 45 wins.

Despite his glittering career, Irwin hasn’t won on the over-50 circuit since 2007. Next week he will turn 66 years old.

He realizes that the days are long since over when he was one of the most feared players at any major championship.

“There is going to be an end,” Irwin said Wednesday, the day before beginning pursuit of his fifth Senior PGA Championship. “Whether it’s a tapering off or whether it’s the cliff, I don’t know. But I do know that I still enjoy the competition. I still like to push myself. I still enjoy going out and playing against the young guys as they come on the tour.”

There are more aches and pains now, of course. Aspects of his game, particularly off the tee and around the green, are reflecting his age.

He believes he can still be a factor.

“People ask me, ‘Is it fun?”’ Irwin said. “Well, it’s not fun to play poorly. But I hit enough good shots along the way to know I can do this. It’s a transition time. I understand that.”

THE DIFFICULT SIXTH: The sixth hole at Valhalla Golf Club is a par-4 measuring 468 yards. That’s not particularly stout for even senior players. But it’s how the hole is laid out that makes it a round-killer for many in the field of the Senior PGA Championship which begins Thursday.

Most of the players will hit driver or 3-wood off the tee. A large tree on the river bank on the right edge of the fairway cuts off access to the green for a ball that doesn’t travel far enough.

But the work has just begun after a good drive. Then the field will still have at least 225 yards left, over the river and to a small, bunker-surrounded green set back in the woods. The green used to sit just on the other side of the water, but the hole was lengthened when the course hosted the Ryder Cup in 2008.

“You’ve got to hit two of your best shots of the day to make a par because the green’s not very accepting, that’s for sure,” said John Cook. “Anything you can do to get it up and around the green and eliminate the big number (is good). Four will be a really nice score, 5 is not going to hurt you and there will be very few 3s.”

Mark Brooks won the 1996 PGA Championship at Valhalla – before the hole was lengthened. He’s not a fan of the change.

“You wouldn’t really call it a true par-5,” he said. “But it’s more like a 4 1/2 .”

Tom Lehman added, “It’s easily the hardest hole out there. Not even close. If you can make three pars and a bogey, you’re going to be beating the field. If you can make four pars, you’re going to pick up two, two and a half, shots on the field.”

DIVOTS: Larry Nelson’s team won Tuesday’s pro-am. … Lehman, who won the 2010 Senior PGA Championship at Colorado Golf Club, hosted 11 former winners of the Senior PGA and PGA Championship on Tuesday night at the annual champions dinner at The Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville. … Eleven golfers have won both the PGA Championship and the Senior PGA Championship. Former PGA Championship winners Mark Brooks, Nelson, Nick Price, Jeff Sluman, Hal Sutton and Bob Tway could join that fraternity with a win.

Getty Images

Kupcho wins NCAA title; final eight teams set

By Jay CoffinMay 22, 2018, 1:55 am

STILLWATER, Okla. – On one of the more nerve-racking days of the college golf season two important honors were up for grabs at Karsten Creek – the individual title, and the top eight teams attempting to qualify for match play.

Here’s the lowdown of what happened Monday at the women’s NCAA Championship:

Individual leaderboard: Kupcho, Wake Forest (-8); Andrea Lee, Stanford (-6); Bianca Pagdanganan, Arizona (-6); Cheyenne Knight, Alabama (-5); Morgane Metraux, Florida State (-4); Jaclyn Lee, Ohio State (-3).

Team leaderboard: UCLA (+9), Alabama (+9), USC (+16), Northwestern (+21), Stanford (+28), Duke (+30), Kent State (+32), Arizona (+33).

What it means: Let’s start with the individual race. Wake Forest junior Jennifer Kupcho was absolutely devastated a year ago when she made triple bogey on the 17th hole of the final round and lost the individual title by a shot. She was bound not to let that happen again and this year she made five birdies on the last eight holes to win by two shots. Kupcho is the first player with three consecutive top-six finishes at the NCAA Championship since Duke’s Amanda Blumenherst (2007-09).

The team race took an unexpected turn at the end of the day when Arizona junior Bianca Pangdaganan made eagle on the last hole to vault the Wildcats into an eighth-place tie, meaning they would enter a playoff with Baylor for the final spot in the match play portion of the championship.

The Wildcats got a reprieve because they played terribly for most of the day and dropped from third place to 10th at one point. In the playoff, Arizona ultimately defeated Baylor in an anticlimactic finish.

Best of the rest: Stanford played horribly the first round. So bad that it almost seemed like the Cardinal shot itself out of the championship. But they played steady over the next three days and ended with the fifth seed. This is the fourth year in a row that Stanford has advanced to match play.

Round of the day: USC shot a 5-under total on Monday, the best round of the day by six shots. They landed as the third seed and will play Duke in the quarterfinals.

Stanford sophomore Andrea Lee shot a 7-under 65, the best score of the day by three shots. Lee made seven birdies and no bogeys and vaulted up the leaderboard 11 spots to end in a tie for sixth place.

Biggest disappointment: Arkansas, the second-ranked team in the country, missed qualifying for match play by one shot. The Razorbacks shot a 20-over 308 in Round 1 and played only slightly better with a 300 in the second round. Consecutive 1-over-par 289 scores were a good try, but results in a huge miss for a team expected to contend for the team title.

Here are Tuesday morning's quarterfinal matchups:

Cut and not so dry: Shinnecock back with a new look

By Bradley S. KleinMay 21, 2018, 9:22 pm

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. - The last time the USGA was here at Shinnecock Hills, it nearly had a train wreck on its hands. The last day of the 2004 U.S. Open was so dry and the turf so firm that play was stopped in the morning just to get some water on the greens.

The lessons learned from that debacle are now on display three weeks before Shinnecock gets another U.S. Open. And this time, the USGA is prepared with all sorts of high-tech devices – firmness meters, moisture monitors, drone technology to measure turf temperatures - to make sure the playing surfaces remain healthy.

Players, meanwhile, will face a golf course that is 548 yards longer than a dozen years ago, topping out now at 7,445 yards for the par-70 layout. Ten new tees have assured that the course will keep up with technology and distance. They’ll also require players to contend with the bunkering and fairway contours that designer William Flynn built when he renovated Shinnecock Hills in 1930.

And those greens will not only have more consistent turf cover, they’ll also be a lot larger – like 30 percent bigger. What were mere circles averaging 5,500 square feet are now about 7,200 square feet. That will mean more hole locations, more variety to the setup, and more rollouts into surrounding low-mow areas. Slight misses that ended up in nearby rough will now be down in hollows many more yards away.

The course now has an open, windswept look to it – what longtime green chairman Charles Stevenson calls “a maritime grassland.” You don’t get to be green chairman of a prominent club for 37 years without learning how to deal with politics, and he’s been a master while implementing a long-term plan to bring the course back to its original scale and angles. In some cases that required moving tees back to recapture the threat posed by cross-bunkers and steep falloffs. Two of the bigger extensions come on the layout’s two par-5s, which got longer by an average of 60 yards. The downwind, downhill par-4 14th hole got stretched 73 yards and now plays 519.

“We want players to hit driver,” says USGA executive director Mike Davis.

The also want to place an emphasis upon strategy and position, which is why, after the club had expanded its fairways the last few years, the USGA decided last September to bring them back in somewhat.

The decision followed analysis of the driving statistics from the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills, where wide fairways proved very hospitable to play. Players who made the cut averaged hitting 77 percent of fairways and driving it 308 yards off the tee. There was little fear of the rough there. “We didn’t get the wind and the dry conditions we anticipated,” says Davis.

Moving ahead to Shinnecock Hills, he and the setup staff wanted to balance the need for architectural variety with a traditional emphasis upon accuracy. So they narrowed the fairways at Shinnecock Hills last September by seven acres. They are still much wider than in the U.S. Opens played here in 1986, 1995 and 2004, when the average width of the landing areas was 26.6 yards. “Now they are 41.6 yards across on average,” said Davis. So they are much wider than in previous U.S. Opens and make better use of the existing contours and bring lateral bunkers into play.

This time around, with more consistent, healthier turf cover and greens that have plenty of nutrients and moisture, the USGA should be able to avoid the disastrous drying out of the putting surfaces that threatened that final day in 2004. The players will also face a golf course that is more consistent than ever with its intended width, design, variety and challenge. That should make for a more interesting golf course and, by turn, more interesting viewing.

Driven: Oklahoma State Cowboys Documentary Series Continues Tonight at 8 p.m. ET on Golf Channel

By Golf Channel Public RelationsMay 21, 2018, 8:27 pm

Monday’s third installment in the four-part series focuses on the Big 12 Championships and NCAA Regional Championships

Reigning NCAA National Champion Oklahoma Sooners and Top-Ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys Prepare for Showdown Friday at the 2018 NCAA Men’s Golf National Championships

ORLANDO, Fla., May 21, 2018 – Tonight’s third episode of the critically-acclaimed documentary series Driven: Oklahoma State Cowboys (8 p.m. ET) wraps up the conclusion of the 2017-18 regular season and turns to post-season play for the top-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys and reigning NCAA National Champions Oklahoma Sooners.

Drivenwill take viewers behind the scenes with the conclusion of regular season play; the Big 12 Conference Championship, where Oklahoma captured their first conference championship since 2006; and the NCAA Regional Championships, where Oklahoma State and Oklahoma – both No. 1 seeds in their respective regionals – were both victorious and punched tickets to the NCAA Men’s Golf National Championships.

The episode also will set up the showdown starting Friday at the NCAA Men’s Golf National Championships, where Oklahoma State will attempt to dethrone Oklahoma as national champions, all taking place at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla., Oklahoma State’s home course. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State will be paired together for the first two rounds of individual stroke play Friday and Saturday.

Driven’s fourth and final episode will air on NBC on Saturday, June 16 at 5 p.m. ET, recapping all of the action at the NCAA Golf National Championships and the two programs’ 2017-18 golf seasons.

Golf Channel is airing back-to-back weeks of live tournament coverage of the NCAA Women’s and Men’s Golf Championships. Golf Channel’s coverage begins today (4-8 p.m. ET) to crown the individual national champion and track the teams attempting to qualify for the eight-team match play championship. Golf Channel’s coverage on Tuesday and Wednesday, May 22-23 will include all three rounds of team match play, ultimately crowning a team national champion. Next week (May 28-30), the same programming schedule will take place for the NCAA Men’s Golf National Championships.

Getty Images

Mann's impact on LPGA felt on and off course

By Randall MellMay 21, 2018, 8:00 pm

Just a few short hours after winning the U.S. Women’s Open in 1965, Carol Mann was surprised at the turn of emotion within her.

She called her friend and mentor, Marlene Hagge, and asked if they could meet for a glass of wine at the Atlantic City hotel where players were staying.

Hagge was one of the LPGA’s 13 founders.

“I’ll never forget Carol saying, `I don’t mean to sound funny, because winning the U.S. Women’s Open was wonderful, but is that all there is?’” Hagge told Monday after hearing news of Mann’s death.

It was one of the many defining moments in Mann’s rich life, because it revealed her relentless search for meaning, within the game, and beyond it.

Mann, an LPGA and World Golf Hall of Famer, died at her home in Woodlands, Texas. She was 77.

“Carol was a very good friend, and a really sincere and good person,” Hagge said. “She was intelligent and insightful, the kind of person who always wanted to know the `why’ of things. She wasn’t content to be told this is the way something is. She had to know why.”

Mann’s search for meaning in the sport took her outside the ropes. She was a towering presence, at 6 feet 3, but her stature was more than physical. She won 38 LPGA titles, two of them major championships, but her mark on the game extended to her leadership skills.

From 1973 to ’76, Mann was president of the LPGA, leading the tour in challenging times.

“Carol was a significant player in the growth of the LPGA,” LPGA Hall of Famer Judy Rankin said. “She was involved when some big changes came to the tour. She was a talented woman beyond her golf.”

Mann oversaw the hiring of the tour’s first commissioner, Ray Volpe, a former NFL marketing executive. Their moves helped steer the tour out of the financial problems that threatened it.

“Carol was willing to do something nobody else wanted to do and nobody else had the brains to do,” Hagge said. “She loved the LPGA, and she wanted to make it a better place.”

At the cost of her own career.

Juggling the tour presidency with a playing career wasn’t easy.

“My golf seemed so secondary while I was president in 1975,” Mann once told author Liz Kahn for the book, “The LPGA: The Unauthorized Version.”

That was a pivotal year in tour history, with the LPGA struggling with an ongoing lawsuit, a legal battle Jane Blalock won when the courts ruled the tour violated antitrust laws by suspending her. With the tour appealing its legal defeats, a protracted battle threatened to cripple LPGA finances.

It was also the year Mann led the hiring of Volpe.

“I could barely get to the course in time to tee off,” Mann told Kahn. “There was so much other activity. I burned myself out a bit.”

Still, Mann somehow managed to win four times in ’75, but she wouldn’t again in the years that followed.

“I had launched a ship, and then I had to let it go, which was not easy,” she said of leaving her tour president’s role. “I was depressed thinking that no one on tour would say thank you to me for what I had done. Some would, others never would, and 10 years later players wouldn’t give a damn.”

Mann’s reign as a player and a leader aren’t fully appreciated today.

“A lot of players in the ‘60s haven’t been fully appreciated,” Rankin said.

Mann won 10 LPGA titles in 1968, the same year Kathy Whitworth won 10. Mann won the Vare Trophy for low scoring average that year. She won eight times in ’69 and was the tour’s leading money winner.

“Those were the toughest times to win,” Hagge said. “You had Kathy Whitworth and Mickey Wright, who is the best player I ever saw, and I saw them all. You had so many great players you had to beat in that era.”

Mann’s good humor came out when she was asked about her height.

“I’m 5-foot-15,” she liked to say.

After retiring from the tour at 40, Mann stayed active in golf, working as a TV analyst for NBC, ABC and ESPN. She found meaning in her Christian faith, and she was active supporting female athletes. She was president of the Women’s Sports Foundation for five years. She wrote a guest column for the Houston Post. She devoted herself to the World Golf Hall of Fame, taught at Woodlands Country Club and became the first woman to own and operate a course design and management firm.

“I’ve walked on the moon,” Mann once said. “I enjoy being a person, and getting old and dying are fine. I never think how people will remember Carol Mann. The mark I made is an intimate satisfaction.”