Springtime in Tampa brings hordes of Yankees fans

By March 18, 2009, 4:00 pm
Throughout March, GolfChannel.com will spotlight various MLB spring training locations throughout Florida. A total of 16 MLB teams visit Florida each spring during a time when the state's golf season is also in full swing. We highlight the options for golf and baseball in each region, giving you, the fan, the ultimate guide to golf and baseball in the Sunshine State. Play Ball!

 

TAMPA, Fla. – If you happen to be making your way into the Tampa area in late February or early March, whether it be coming east from Orlando or south down Interstate 75, don’t be surprised to look around on the highway and see your fellow travelers donning Yankee caps and shirts, as well as spotting license plates that read JETER NY or YANKFAN.

 

Escaping the cold from up north, thousands of Yankee fans make the annual pilgrimage to Tampa for a wonderful blend of spring training baseball and some long overdue fair-weathered golf.

 

The Yankees call the newly named George M. Steinbrenner Field home during spring training and the fans that flock south have an abundance of activities to choose from once the final out of a game has been made – from horseracing, fishing trips, beach excursions and, of course, plenty of golf and plenty of sunshine.

 

And topping the list of golf in the area is the Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club, located a little northwest of Tampa in Palm Harbor, Fla. Best known as one of the more respected stops on the PGA Tour, Innisbrook is home to not one, not two, not three, but four championship tracks.

 

Often included in Golf Digest’s annual list of ‘Top 100 Courses You Can Play,’ the Copperhead Course is an absolute gem. With rolling terrain and tree-lined fairways, the course gives you much more of a Carolina feel, with giant pines framing almost every hole.

 

The course is in immaculate shape each spring as the PGA Tour event was moved from the fall and into the current Florida Swing. So ask yourself: How often do you get to play one of the best courses in America and with the added bonus of having it set up with PGA Tour-like conditions?

 

The only catch about playing at Innisbrook is that you have to stay at the resort in order to receive playing privileges. But they have made that an easy option as they have spring training/golf packages already set up. They do, however, cater more to the Philadelphia Phillies, as their spring training facilities are located just south in Clearwater.

 

And one thing is clear - both stadiums – Steinbrenner Field for the Yankees and the Phillies’ Bright House Field in Clearwater - are both fantastic venues to watch baseball games. The stadiums themselves and the die-hard fans wandering about are worth the price of admission.

 

'It's not just baseball,' said longtime Yankee and regular spring training fan Dan from Long Island. He was one of many who put together annual golf and spring training trips for large groups of friends.

 

Other courses in the area that don’t require a stay are Fox Hollow, The Eagles and Westchase.

 

Fox Hollow, north of downtown Tampa, holds the enviable distinction of being the last golf course in a long line of world famous courses to be built and designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr. With rolling, undulating fairways, it’s a vintage Jones Sr. design. It also boasts one of Florida’s finest practice facilities.

 

The Eagles Golf Club features two 18-holes courses that offer entirely different personalities. The Lakes Course measures over 7,100 yards and features an abundance of water which, of course, inspired its moniker, as water comes into play on virtually every hole. The Forest Course measures 6,700 yards and features a signature island-green, the par-3 sixth hole, which rivals the famous 17th hole at the TPC at Sawgrass in Jacksonville.

 

Convenient to all parts of the Tampa Bay area including Downtown Tampa, Westshore, Tampa International Airport, St. Petersburg Clearwater Airport, Gulf beaches and only 10 minutes from Raymond James Stadium, Westchase Golf Club is easy to find and has a beautiful and challenging Golf Digest Four Star-rated golf course. Nationally known architect Lloyd Clifton designed Westchase's 6710-yard, par 72 course, which winds through natural wetlands, wooden bridges and bulkheads.

 

And like mentioned above, Tampa Bay Downs, located on the west side of town, offers a daily race card beginning around noon each day. If you plan your day right, this is one heckuva way to spend a day: 18-holes of golf in the morning, a little horse racing in the afternoon, dinner and drinks at sunset overlooking Tampa Bay, and finally a spring training night game.

 

That my friends, is what is meant by hitting for the cycle.

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Landry turns close calls into maiden win at Valero

By Will GrayApril 22, 2018, 11:15 pm

After years of close calls and near-misses, Andrew Landry now has a signature victory.

Sharing the lead Zach Johnson, the 30-year-old was hardly considered a favorite heading into the final round of the Valero Texas Open. He certainly lacked the pedigree of a two-time major champion, and the other player in the day's final group, Trey Mullinax, had just set a new course record at TPC San Antonio the day prior.

But thanks in part to the lessons he learned from close-but-not-quite finishes in the past, Landry got over the finish line in convincing fashion.

"I was playing some good golf, and I knew that I was going to be in good shape this week," Landry told reporters. "We just came out and had some fun, and that was kind of the strategy this week is just have some fun and be patient, because this golf course can bite you in a hurry."

Landry didn't grow up at a country club like many of his PGA Tour peers. He described the rugged nine-hole course where he learned the game in Port Groves, Texas, affectionately known as the "Pea Patch," as a "goat ranch." But he displayed plenty of game there, and was a three-time All-American at Arkansas.

It was during his time in Fayetteville that Landry had his first brush with near-greatness. Pitted against Texas A&M's Bronson Burgoon in a match that would decide the 2009 NCAA title, Landry rallied back from a 4-down deficit to square the match heading to the final hole. But he could only watch as Burgoon stuffed his final approach, sealing a memorable win for the Aggies.

The feelings were similar in January, when Landry believed he had played well enough to earn his maiden victory at the CareerBuilder Challenge. But that week in Palm Springs he ran into a buzzsaw named Jon Rahm, who finally ended things with a birdie on the fourth extra hole to break Landry's heart as darkness crept over the Coachella Valley.

"We're all here for reasons, because we worked really hard and we're really good at what we do," Landry said. "I think that all of those kinds of things really help every player, whenever you get in a situation and you fail and you continue to fail, you're learning every single time that you do something."

Then there was the 2016 U.S. Open, which to date remains Landry's only start in a major. His opening-round 66 at Oakmont sent reporters shuffling through their media guides to learn more about the unheralded leader. He earned a spot in Sunday's final pairing alongside Shane Lowry, but tied for 15th after a final-round 78. Another lesson.

According to Landry, his brush with major glory taught him to focus on pace: with his swing, with his stride, and with his breathing. Faced with another opportunity Sunday, this time in his home state with plenty of family support, Landry didn't blink.

He birdied the opening hole, then the next, and the next. Birdies on four of his first six holes proved to be all the margin he needed, as he played the remaining holes in even par but still finished two shots clear of Trey Mullinax and Sean O'Hair.

"I mean, whenever I play good golf, I think I can win out here," Landry said. "Obviously I just showed that, so it's fun that I'm in this situation right now."

Following his playoff loss to Rahm, Landry missed four straight cuts. He then took a break as his wife gave birth to the couple's first child, Brooks, last month. He didn't get back to work until last week at the RBC Heritage, where he tied for 42nd after playing his final nine holes in 4 over to tumble out of contention.

This time around, his wife and newborn son were both on hand to watch as he finished the job, making only one bogey over his final 36 holes while playing in the final group both days.

"Andrew played great, specifically the start, and yesterday was obviously very solid, too," Johnson said. "You have a worthy champion, clearly."

Despite his stunning performance at Oakmont, Landry wasn't able to keep his card in 2016 and spent last year back on the Web.com Tour. He quickly earned a promotion back to the big leagues, and after a breakthrough performance in San Antonio he's exempt through 2020.

That stat of one career major start will soon triple, as he's exempt into both the 2018 PGA Championship and 2019 Masters. He's also got spots in The Players, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and Sentry Tournament of Champions. It's an impressive haul for a player who can now point to a trophy instead of a string of close calls.

"It just shows that it doesn't really matter where you come from, it just matters the determination and hard work," Landry said. "Anything that you put your mind to, you can accomplish."

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Niemann finishes sixth at Valero in pro debut

By Will GrayApril 22, 2018, 10:40 pm

Joaquin Niemann wasted little time in making his mark as a professional.

Having turned pro this week at the Valero Texas Open, the former top-ranked amateur made the most of a sponsor invite by closing with rounds of 67-67 over the weekend at TPC San Antonio, including birdies on each of his final three holes during the final round. At 12 under, he finished the week alone in sixth place, five shots behind Andrew Landry, and took home a check of $223,200 in his pro debut.

"I mean, I was playing good. I never thought I was going to finish how I played this week, but I can't be more happy than this," Niemann told reporters. "Just try to keep it up and hope to play well for the next weeks."

The 19-year-old Chilean had plans to turn pro earlier this year, but then he won the Latin American Amateur which brought with it a spot in the Masters as long as he remained an amateur. But now he's off to a fast start on the play-for-pay scene, having finished the week ahead of noted veterans like Ryan Moore, Billy Horschel and Brandt Snedeker.

Only days into a blossoming pro career, Niemann is hardly short on confidence.


Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos


"I feel like a veteran right now, I feel like a Tour player now," Niemann said. "I know I can beat these guys, and just going to wait for my week and try to win."

In addition to the six-figure check, Niemann also earned 100 non-member FedExCup points which will help in his quest to earn status for the 2018-19 season. He needs at least 269 non-member points to unlock special temporary membership, which would allow him to accept unlimited sponsor invites for the rest of the season.

At worst, his current point total likely guarantees him a spot in the Web.com Tour Finals this fall where he can vie for a PGA Tour card. Niemann has sponsor invites lined up for the Wells Fargo Championship, AT&T Byron Nelson and Memorial Tournament, but thanks to his top-10 finish in San Antonio he won't have to use the second of his allotted seven invites at Quail Hollow in two weeks.

"I think this is going to give me a lot of confidence to try to do my card for this year," Niemann said. "Thing is I've got a couple more tournaments coming, and I just can't wait for it."

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Landry prevails in Texas for first Tour win

By Associated PressApril 22, 2018, 10:39 pm

SAN ANTONIO - Andrew Landry won the Valero Texas Open on Sunday for his first PGA Tour victory, pulling away with early birdies and holding on with par saves.

The 30-year-old Texan parred the final seven holes for a 4-under 68 and a two-stroke victory over Trey Mullinax and Sean O'Hair. Landry finished at 17-under 271 at TPC San Antonio.

Landry took a two-stroke lead to the par-5 18th after Mullinax chunked a flop shot and bogeyed the short par-4 17th. Landry hit a 55-foot putt over a ridge to 3 feet for par on 17 and made an 8-footer on 18 after running a 50-foot downhill birdie try past.


Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos


Mullinax closed with a 69 a day after breaking the AT&T Oaks Course record with a 62. O'Hair shot 66.

Tied for the third-round lead with Zach Johnson, Landry birdied the first three holes and added two more on Nos. 6 and 10. He bogeyed the par-4 11th before the closing par run.

Landry won in his 32nd PGA Tour start. He earned his Tour card last year on the Web.com Tour, and lost a playoff to Jon Rahm in January in the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Landry played at Arkansas after starring at Port Neches-Groves High School east of Houston. He now lives in the Austin area.

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Watch: 'Statue' hilariously scares celebs at Jeter's event

By Grill Room TeamApril 22, 2018, 10:05 pm

The Derek Jeter Celebrity Invitational usually provides the golf world a highlight or two; it's no surprise with that much star power gathered in Las Vegas.

But this year's best moment came at the expense of the celebrities themselves, courtesy of a “statue.”

The Players Tribune captured the living statue scaring everyone who decided to pose for a picture near it, including former pro athletes Ray Allen and Ed Reed, news anchor Leeann Tweeden, anti-bullying advocate Paige Spiranac and even Jeter himself.

The DJCI benefits the Miami Marlins CEO's Turn 2 Foundation, which works to help young people reach their full potential by creating and supporting initiatives that promote leadership development, academic achievement, positive behavior, healthy lifestyles and social change.