Els heads new World Golf Hall of Fame class

By Doug FergusonMay 10, 2011, 4:16 am

World Golf Hall of FameST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Ernie Els followed the trail of South African idol Gary Player by winning golf tournaments all over the world, a journey that took him all the way to the World Golf Hall of Fame.

Els, a three-time major champion and the ultimate global player of his generation, was among six people to be inducted Monday night at the World Golf Village.

The 41-year-old South African, known as the “Big Easy” for his languid swing and soothing smile, won 62 times around the world, including the U.S. Open twice and a British Open at Muirfield.

“It’s been a long journey coming from South Africa,” Els said at the two-hour ceremony.

Even as he still pursues more majors, Els is heavily involved in research and finding a cure for autism. His 8-year-old son, Ben, is autistic, and the boy was escorted into the room as a video of Els’ career was being played, his eyes fixated on the screen. Els later spoke of the joy he feels having his son sit on the range with him as he hits balls.

“He’ll sit there and watch the ball take off in the blue sky,” Els said.

Els was elected on the PGA Tour ballot. Japanese icon Jumbo Ozaki, who won more than 100 tournaments, was voted into the Hall of Fame on the International ballot. Doug Ford and the late Jock Hutchison, both two-time major champions, were selected through the Veterans category. Former President George H.W. Bush and the late Frank Chirkinian, the television golf producer for CBS Sports, were selected through the Lifetime Achievement category.

Their induction brought membership in the Hall of Fame to 136.

Els and Ford were the only inductees at the ceremony. Ozaki has a back injury that makes it difficult to travel, and he felt he needed to be home with his family as Japan recovers from the earthquake and tsunami. Bush also was not able to attend. Chirkinian had a videotaped message that was made just days before he died.

The ceremony included a tribute to another Hall of Famer, Seve Ballesteros, who died Saturday of a cancerous brain tumor.

Players must be at least 40 to be considered for the Hall of Fame, and Els was voted in on his first try. This is the first time since Vijay Singh in 2006 when an active player was inducted. Els practiced Monday morning at the TPC Sawgrass as he prepares for The Players Championship this week.

“I think it’ll be a very special feeling to step on the first tee knowing you’ve made the Hall of Fame,” he before the ceremony. “I’m still trying to win golf tournaments, still trying to win major championships. I think it’s a huge bonus for anybody’s career.”

Els grew up knowing he would have to travel the world to play golf. The example came from Player, who has logged more air miles than any other golfer.

Els won the Junior World Championship in San Diego as a teenager, beating Phil Mickelson. He won nine times on three tours when he broke through in 1994, winning the U.S. Open at Oakmont in a playoff that lasted 20 holes in stifling heat.

He won another U.S. Open at Congressional three years later, and captured the British Open in 2002.

“Coming from South Africa, I didn’t even know there was a Hall of Fame,” Els said. “I look back in the records now, the Hall of Fame has been going since 1940. So obviously, I missed something. My dream was to win majors and to try to do what Gary Player did, win the Grand Slam and win a bunch of golf tournaments, trying to get onto the U.S. tour and things like that.”

Asked what made him unique, Els said he would leave that for others to decide.

“You don’t get inducted in here without doing something to catch people’s attention, whether it’s winning 18 or 19 majors like Jack Nicklaus or building golf courses like Pete Dye,” he said. “There are people here that have done special things in the game of golf. I feel I’ve won my fair share of tournaments around the world, a truly global golfer like my idol, Gary Player.”

The Hall of Fame induction is an awkward one for Ford, who was part of the original Hall of Fame in Pinehurst, North Carolina. He never received enough votes for election on the PGA Tour ballot, but was taken in the Veterans category.

“It’s like waiting for an old girlfriend, I guess. You keep thinking, ‘What did I do wrong?”’ Ford said before the ceremony. “I thought I had some fairly good records, and you just hope that you get here. Of course, it’s an honor. You just go to get here somehow.”

He told of wanting to play baseball for the Yankees, and trying to decide whether to sign with one of its farm teams. Ford said his father asked him how long he could play baseball, and he said about 10 years.

“He said, ‘Why don’t you stay with the golf. You’ll last forever,”’ Ford said. He still plays at age 88.

Ozaki won only one time outside of Japan, yet he inspired a nation of golfers behind him. He captured the Japan Golf Tour money list 12 times and won the Japan Open five times.

Bush becomes the second U.S. president in the World Golf Hall of Fame; Dwight D. Eisenhower was inducted in 2009. Bush was selected for helping to raise the profile of golf, serving as honorary chairman of The First Tee and the Presidents Cup.

Chirkinian died of cancer on March 4, just three weeks after learning he had been selected for induction. He was the foremost golf producer at CBS Sports, leading its coverage of the Masters for nearly four decades. Among his innovations were installing a camera on the blimp and using scores in relation to par to show who was leading tournaments.

The Scottish-born Hutchison won the 1920 PGA Championship and the 1921 British Open among this 14 wins in his career.

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Goat visor propels Na to Colonial lead

By Will GrayMay 25, 2018, 1:29 am

Jason Dufner officially has some company in the headwear free agency wing of the PGA Tour.

Like Dufner, Kevin Na is now open to wear whatever he wants on his head at tournaments, as his visor sponsorship with Titleist ended earlier this month. He finished T-6 at the AT&T Byron Nelson in his second tournament as a free agent, and this week at the Fort Worth Invitational he's once again wearing a simple white visor with a picture of a goat.

"I bought it at The Players Championship for $22 with the 30 percent discount that they give the Tour players," Na told reporters. "It's very nice."

Perhaps a change in headwear was just what Na needed to jumpstart his game. Last week's result in Dallas was his first top-35 finish in his last six events dating back to February, and he built upon that momentum with an 8-under 62 to take a one-shot lead over Charley Hoffman after the first round at Colonial Country Club.

While many sports fans know the "GOAT" acronym to stand for "Greatest Of All Time," it's a definition that the veteran Na only learned about earlier this year.

"I do social media, but they kept calling Tiger the GOAT. I go, 'Man, why do they keep calling Tiger the GOAT? That's just mean,'" Na said. "Then I realized it meant greatest of all time. Thinking of getting it signed by Jack (Nicklaus) next week (at the Memorial)."

Marc Dull (Florida State Golf Association)

Golden: Dull rude, caddie 'inebriated' at Florida Mid-Am

By Ryan LavnerMay 25, 2018, 1:03 am

Jeff Golden has offered more detail on what transpired at the Florida Mid-Amateur Championship, writing in a long statement on Twitter that Marc Dull’s caddie was “inebriated” before he allegedly sucker-punched Golden in the face.

In a story first reported by GolfChannel.com, Charlotte County Police responded to a call May 13 after Golden claimed that he’d been assaulted by his opponent’s caddie in the parking lot of Coral Creek Club, where he was competing in the Mid-Am finals. Golden told police that the caddie, Brandon Hibbs, struck him because of a rules dispute earlier in the round. Hibbs denied any involvement, and police found no evidence of an attack.

Golden posted a 910-word statement on the alleged incident on his Twitter account on Thursday night. He said that he wanted to provide more detail because “others have posed some valid questions about the series of events that led to me withdrawing” from what was an all-square match with two holes to play.

Golden wrote that both Dull and Hibbs were rude and disruptive during the match, and that “alcohol appeared to be influencing [Hibbs’] behavior.”

Dull, who caddies at Streamsong Resort in Florida, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“I’ve never seen an opposing caddie engage in so much conversation with a competitor,” Golden wrote. “On the eighth hole I had become extremely frustrated when my opponent and caddie were talking and moving. I expressed my disappointment with their etiquette to the rules official in our group.”

On the ninth hole, Golden informed the official that he believed Hibbs had broken the rules by offering advice on his putt. Golden won the hole by concession to move 2 up at the turn, and Hibbs removed himself from the match and returned to the clubhouse.

Golden wrote that after the penalty, the match “turned even nastier, with more negative comments from my opponent on the 10th tee.” He added that he conceded Dull’s 15-foot birdie putt on No. 10 because he was “sick of the abuse from my opponent, and I wanted the match to resemble what you would expect of a FSGA final.”

Though there were no witnesses to the alleged attack and police found little evidence, save for “some redness on the inside of {Golden’s] lip,” Golden wrote that the inside of his mouth was bleeding, his face was “throbbing” and his hand was also injured from bracing his fall. X-rays and CT scans over the past week all came back negative, he said.

Golden reiterated that he was disappointed with the FSGA’s decision to accept his concession in the final match. He had recommended that they suspend the event and resume it “at a later time.”

“The FSGA has one job, and that’s to follow the Rules of Golf,” Golden wrote. “Unfortunately, there’s no rule for an inebriated ‘ex-caddie’ punching a player in a match-play rain delay with no witnesses.”

Asked last week about his organization’s alcohol policy during events, FSGA executive director Jim Demick said that excessive consumption is “highly discouraged, but it falls more broadly under the rules of etiquette and player behavior.”

Dull, 32, was back in the news Wednesday, after he and partner Chip Brooke reached the finals of the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship. They lost to high schoolers Cole Hammer and Garrett Barber, 4 and 3.

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D. Kang, M. Jutanugarn in four-way tie at Volvik

By Associated PressMay 25, 2018, 12:50 am

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Amy Olson crossed paths with her coach, Ron Stockton, on her walk to the 18th tee at the Volvik Championship.

''Make it another even $20,'' Stockton said.

The coach was already prepared to give his client $35 for making seven birdies - $5 each - and wanted to take her mind off the bogey she just had at 17.

Olson closed the first round with a 6-under 66, putting her into the lead she ended up sharing later Thursday with Moriya Jutanugarn , Caroline Masson and Danielle Kang.

Do small, cash incentives really help a professional golfer?

''Absolutely,'' said Olson, who graduated from North Dakota State with an accounting degree. ''He'll tell you I'm a little bit of a hustler there.''

Olson will have to keep making birdies - and petty cash - to hold her position at Travis Pointe Country Club.

Jessica Korda, Minjee Lee, Nasa Hataoka, Lindy Duncan, Morgan Pressel, Megan Khang and Jodi Ewart Shadoff were a stroke back at 67 and six others were to shots back.

Ariya Jutanugarn, the Kingsmill Championship winner last week in Virginia, opened with a 69.

The Jutanugarn sisters are Korda are among six players with a chance to become the LPGA Tour's first two-time winner this year.

Moriya Jutanugarn won for the first time in six years on the circuit last month in Los Angeles.

''What I feel is more relaxed now,'' she said. ''And, of course I like looking forward for my next one.''

Olson, meanwhile, is hoping to extend the LPGA Tour's streak of having a new winner in each of its 12 tournaments this year.


Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship


She knows how to win. It just has been a while since it has happened.

Olson set an NCAA record with 20 wins, breaking the mark set by LPGA Hall of Famer Juli Inkster, but has struggled to have much success since turning pro in 2013.

She has not finished best finish was a tie for seventh and that was four years ago. She was in contention to win the ANA Inspiration two months ago, but an even-par 72 dropped her into a tie for ninth place.

If the North Dakota player wins the Volvik Championship, she will earn a spot in the U.S. Open at Shoal Creek in Alabama. If Olson finishes second or lower in the 144-player field, she will enjoy an off week with her husband, Grant, who coaches linebackers at Indiana State.

''I'll make the best of it either way,'' she said.

Olson was at her best in the opening round on the front nine, closing it with four birdies in a six-hole stretch. Her ball rolled just enough to slowly drop in the cup for birdie on the par-3, 184-yard 13th. She had three birdies in five-hole stretch on the back, nearly making her second hole-in-one of the year at the par-3, 180-yard 16th. A short putt gave her a two-stroke lead, but it was cut to one after pulling and misreading a 6-foot putt to bogey the 17th.

Even if she doesn't hold on to win the tournament, Olson is on pace to have her best year on the LPGA Tour. She is No. 39 on the money list after finishing 97th, 119th, 81st and 80th in her first four years.

''Two years ago, I started working with Ron Stockton and whenever you make a change, it doesn't show up right away,'' Olson said. ''That first year was tough, but we've turned a corner and I've just found a lot of consistency in the last year. And, it's a lot of fun to go out there and play golf a little more stress free.''

Stockton helped her stay relaxed, walking along the ropes during her morning round.

''Maybe some people feel a little more pressure when their coach is there,'' she said. ''I'm like, 'Great. If he sees the mistake, he knows what can go wrong and we can go fix it.' So, I like having his eyes on me.''

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Club pro part of 6-way tie atop Sr. PGA

By Associated PressMay 25, 2018, 12:04 am

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - Nevada club professional Stuart Smith shot a 5-under 66 on Thursday for a share of the first-round lead in the Senior PGA Championship.

Smith closed his morning round with a double bogey on the par-4 18th, and Scott McCarron, Tim Petrovic, Wes Short Jr., Barry Lane and Peter Lonard matched the 66 in the afternoon.

One of 41 club pros in the field at Harbor Shores for the senior major, Smith is the director of golf at Somersett Country Club in Reno.


Full-field scores from the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship


McCarron won the Senior Players Championship last year for his first senior major.

Defending champion Bernhard Langer is skipping the event to attend son Jason's high school graduation, and Steve Stricker is playing the PGA Tour event in Texas.