Tour makes somber return to Bellerive

By Associated PressSeptember 3, 2008, 4:00 pm
BMW ChampionshipST. LOUIS ' Padraig Harrington cleaned out his locker at the TPC Boston, signed a stack of flags from the British Open and PGA Championship, then headed to St. Louis to play on a course that brought mixed emotions.
 
It had nothing to do with his golf.
 
Harrington was among the first to arrive at Bellerive Country Club, where he has to finish fifth at the BMW Championship to avoid becoming the first double major winner to be ineligible for the TOUR Championship.
 
Amid whatever pressure he might face, perspective comes easily.
 
A journalist asked me a few weeks ago to talk about the golf course, Harrington said. Even what little I remember, I cant even talk about that. Because it all relates to Sept. 11. How can I talk about the golf course when its all so insignificant? Yes, it will be awkward to go back.
 
The last time Bellerive hosted the best players in golf was seven years ago for a World Golf Championship, and the city was humming. St. Louis had not seen this caliber of tournament golf since the 1992 PGA Championship. The course was in perfect shape. The sun was blazing. Even for a Tuesday morning, grandstands were filled.
 
Harrington had left his hotel and was headed to the course. Tiger Woods was out early, as usual, playing a practice round with Mark Calcavecchia. Vijay Singh had boarded his private plane in Florida, on the tarmac waiting to take off.
 
It was Sept. 11, 2001.
 
As soon as I got to the course, I went to the locker room and someone said, Quick, come watch on TV. Something has happened, Robert Allenby said. The first plane had just hit the tower.
 
Golf never felt so meaningless.
 
The rest of that Tuesday, players sat in front of the television and tried to fathom what had happened. Some went to the practice range or chipping area to take their minds off it. PGA TOUR officials tried to figure out the next step. One day later, the American Express Championship was canceled.
 
For so many players at the BMW Championship, there always will be an emotional connection to Sept. 11.
 
It will be kind of strange, Allenby said. I think its good that were going back, primarily because its such a good golf course. But its sad were going back because of the reason we didnt play the first time.
 
Even for those who werent in St. Louis the last time, the golf still might be meaningless.
 
Singh has won the first two playoff events, in a three-man playoff at The Barclays and with a final-round 63 to win by five shots at the Deutsche Bank Championship. He has a 12,225-point lead in the chase for the FedExCup, and could wrap up the $10 million prize this week.
 
Its bad enough the drama is missing. So is the No. 1 player in golf.
 
Just their luck, a big event finally returns to St. Louis in a year that Woods has season-ending surgery on his left knee in June and is out for the rest of the year.
 
They saw him only briefly in 2001. Woods was on the course shortly after dawn. Joe Corless, the head of PGA TOUR security, was walking with Woods and Calcavecchia and giving them updates on the Twin Towers in New York, the Pentagon, and a fourth plane that mysteriously crashed in western Pennsylvania.
 
The whole day was pretty much a blur, Woods said earlier this year.
 
Woods was in the locker room after that practice round when he looked at his arm, filled with goose bumps. The next event on his schedule was the Ryder Cup at The Belfry in England, and so began a debate whether to postpone the matches. They were played a year later.
 
Also at Bellerive that day was Dean Wilson, the American hardly anyone knew. Wilson had been playing on the Japan PGA TOUR, and he finished high enough on its money list in 2000 to qualify for this World Golf Championship.
 
It was his second time playing a PGA TOUR event. It was his first tournament with no cut and a guaranteed check. The purse was $5 million, among the largest in golf.
 
The next day, after tour officials canceled the event, Wilson was in the parking lot, quietly loading his clubs into the trunk, wondering if he would ever get another chance like this.
 
I was excited to play in a World Golf Championship, be alongside all the great players, Wilson said. Then to have it come to such a weird ending, it was kind of surreal, being concerned with playing a golf tournament, then being concerned with what really was going on with these attacks.
 
Wilson earned his PGA TOUR card through Q-school later that year, captured his first PGA TOUR victory in 2006, and returns this year at No. 41 in the FedExCup standings, hopeful of making it to the final round of the playoffs.
 
Even now, he remembers leaving Bellerive, the future uncertain in so many ways.
 
What are we going to do now? We cant even fly, he said. Then I was thinking about what was happening in New York. I didnt have a clue to the magnitude of it all.
 
Harrington has no qualms about plunging from No. 4 to No. 44 in the FedExCup standings after missing the last two cuts. It has helped being at Bellerive so early, a chance to return his focus to golf ' trying to get into the Tour Championship, the Ryder Cup in two weeks.
 
But it will be hard to think about anything but Sept. 11, he said. There will always be that connection for us. There will always be a reminder that there are bigger things than golf events.
 

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    Caddies drop lawsuit; Tour increases healthcare stipend

    By Rex HoggardOctober 18, 2018, 3:33 pm

    After nearly four years of litigation, a group of PGA Tour caddies have dropped their lawsuit against the circuit.

    The lawsuit, which was filed in California in early 2015, centered on the bibs caddies wear during tournaments and ongoing attempts by the caddies to improve their healthcare and retirement options.

    The caddies lost their class-action lawsuit in U.S. District Court and an appeal this year.

    Separately, the Association of Professional Tour Caddies, which was not involved in the lawsuit but represents the caddies to the Tour, began negotiating with the circuit last year.

    “I told the guys, if we really want a healthy working relationship with the Tour, we need to fix this and open the lines of communication,” said Scott Sajtinac, the president of the APTC.

    In January 2017, Jay Monahan took over as commissioner of the Tour and began working with the APTC to find a solution to the healthcare issue. Sajtinac said the Tour has agreed to increase the stipend it gives caddies for healthcare beginning next year.

    “It took a year and a half, but it turned out to be a good result,” Sajtinac said. “Our goal is to close that window for the guys because healthcare is such a massive chunk of our income.”

    The Tour did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the agreement or the end to the lawsuit.

    Caddies have received a stipend from the Tour for healthcare for some time, and although Sajtinac wouldn’t give the exact increase, he said it was over 300 percent. Along with the APTC’s ability to now negotiate healthcare plans as a group, the new stipend should dramatically reduce healthcare costs for caddies.

    “It’s been really good,” said Sajtinac, who did add that there are currently no talks with the Tour to created a retirement program for caddies. “Everybody is really excited about this.”

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    PGA Tour Latinoamerica moving season finale to Doral

    By Nick MentaOctober 18, 2018, 2:36 pm

    PGA Tour Latinoamérica announced Wednesday that it will play its season finale, the Latinoamérica Tour Championship-Shell Championship, at Trump National Doral from Nov. 29-Dec. 2.

    The limited-field event will feature the top 60 players on the circuit's money list competing on Doral's Golden Palm Course.

    “We are very happy that we will continue playing the Latinoamérica Tour Championship-Shell Championship in South Florida, and Doral is a tremendous community that we know will open its arms to our players and this tournament,” PGA Tour Latinoamérica president Jack Warfield said in a statement.

    The PGA Tour ended its more than 50-year relationship with Doral and the resort's Blue Monster course back in 2016, when Cadillac's title sponsorship of the World Golf Championship lapsed as then-candidate Donald Trump was mounting his bid for the presidency.

    “We continue to stand by our earlier statement, and the statement of other golf organizations, that Mr. Trump's comments are inconsistent with our strong commitment to an inclusive and welcoming environment in the game of golf,” then-PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said in December 2015, referring to Trump's campaign rhetoric concerning Mexicans and Muslims.

    The event was moved to Mexico City in 2017 and renamed the WGC-Mexico Championship.

    The Latinoamérica Tour Championship was staged the last two years at Melreese Country Club in Miami, where David Beckham is currently attempting to build a stadium for his Major League Soccer expansion club, Inter Miami.

    PGA Tour Latinoamérica's release states that the move to Doral "keeps the event in this part of the Sunshine State and allows the tournament to maintain its ties to The First Tee of Miami as a charitable recipient and sponsor." Melreese, the city's only public golf course, is home to the First Tee of Miami, which naturally opposes Beckham's efforts to close the facility and repurpose the land.

    A November referendum will ask voters to decide if the city should negotiate a no-bid lease with Beckham's ownership group, which seeks to create a $1 billion dollar complex comprising of the proposed stadium, youth soccer fields, a park, commercial and retail space, and a hotel.

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    Im wins Web.com Player and Rookie of the Year awards

    By Nick MentaOctober 18, 2018, 1:22 pm

    Sungjae Im on Thursday was named the Web.com Tour's 2018 Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year.

    Im won twice on the Web.com this year, taking the season opener in January, The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic, and the season finale in August, the WinCo Foods Portland Open, to become the first player in history lead the circuit's money list wire-to-wire.

    Im is the first Korean-born player to win the Web's POY award and, at 20 years old, its youngest recipient.

    In a player vote, Im bested Anders Albertson, Sam Burns, Kramer Hickok and Martin Trainer, 2018's only other two-time winner, for POY honors, and Burns, Hickock, Trainer and Cameron Champ for ROY honors.

    “My first year on the Web.com Tour was an incredibly happy time for me,” Im said, “and it’s pretty surreal that I was able to win the first and last tournament of the season. I honestly thought I would spend about two to three years on the Web.com Tour before making it to the PGA Tour, so I’m happy to have achieved my goal so soon. I’m grateful to have earned the Player of the Year honors and I hope to finish the remainder of the PGA Tour season on a good note.”

    In his first PGA Tour start, Im tied for fourth at the Safeway Open, earning $241,280, a little less than half of the $534,326 he amassed in 25 starts as the Web's regular-season money winner.

    Playing this week's CJ Cup in his native South Korea, Im opened with a 1-over 73 Thursday.

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    Former DJ advisor found guilty in embezzlement case

    By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 18, 2018, 12:38 pm

    A federal jury has found Nathan Hardwick, a former advisor to Dustin Johnson, guilty of embezzling $26 million in funds from his now-bankrupt real estate closing firm, Morris Hardwick Schneider.

    Per Golf.com, citing Law.com, a 12-person jury convicted Hardwick of "one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, 21 counts of wire fraud and one count of making false statements to federally insured banks."

    As for where exactly the money went, The Sun News of Myrtle Beach, once again citing Law.com, has the details:

    "The alleged spending included $18.47 million on gambling, private jet travel and women from 2011 through August 2014. The prosecution submitted two binders of documentation as evidence that Hardwick spent $4.39 million on “female social companions,” including one testifying witness who claimed to have met him through SugarDaddy.com."

    "Other alleged expenditures described in testimony include more than $7 million at casinos, more than $3 million with a bookie, $680,000 for a luxury condo at The St. Regis Atlanta, $273,000 on a diamond ring, $186,000 on a deposit for a party on a private island, and $635,000 on a trip to the 2014 British Open for golfing buddies that included a customized jet and round at St. Andrews."

    Johnson in 2014 sued Morris Hardwick Schneider over a $3 million loan he believed to be an investment. Instead, Johnson argued, the money was going to make up for shortages created by Hardwick's embezzlement. Johnson later amended his suit to argue that Hardwick, who previously served on the board of the Dustin Johnson Foundation, was being used as a "pawn" by the firm's other partners. 

    That suit was settled in 2016 for $2 million.