Kohler becomes a big name in world of golf

By Doug FergusonAugust 7, 2010, 6:13 pm

2010 PGA Championship

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Herb Kohler still isn’t sure how a stack of suggestion slips wound up on his desk, or what possessed an employee from the accounting office at his Kohler Company to put them there.

“That’s what got us into this mess,” he said with laughter that rumbled from his thick chest.

Any golf enthusiast would love a mess like this.

Sipping on a cup of coffee as the third round of the British Open was just starting, Kohler looked across the landscape of St. Andrews from a conference room on the fourth floor of the Old Course Hotel, which he bought six years ago. Next to the Royal & Ancient clubhouse is another property he now owns, Hamilton Hall, a five-story Victorian building of red brick that has become a landmark behind the 18th green at the home of golf.

It gets even better next week for the final major of the year.

The PGA Championship returns to Whistling Straits, one of four golf courses Kohler built in Wisconsin along the shores of Lake Michigan. By the end of the decade, it will have hosted three PGAs and a Ryder Cup.

Rex HoggardGolfChannel.com senior writer Rex Hoggard catches up with Herb Kohler in this Q&A as the season's final major gets set to take place at Whistling Straits.

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All this from the leader of a business conglomerate known for its kitchen and bathroom fixtures.

“He got into the game at a late age,” USGA executive director David Fay said. “When you think about how he wasn’t a golfer, and you consider the courses he’s involved with and the golf properties, it’s pretty remarkable.”

Kohler would be the first to agree with that.

His only venture into golf used to be an occasional game using his father’s wooden shaft clubs. He now counts among his favorite memories that cutthroat match – a $1 Nassau – he had with a two-time Masters champion (Ben Crenshaw), a three-time U.S. Open champion (Hale Irwin) and the 41st president of the United States (George H.W. Bush).

Last month, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem presented Kohler with an oil painting to commemorate his hole-in-one on the 11th hole at St. Andrews. This wasn’t a token gesture. Finchem was playing with him that day, along with Fay and NBC Sports president Ken Schanzer.

“We’re lucky to have him in the game,” Finchem said. “I just wish it didn’t take him so long to get in.”

What got Kohler into golf is nothing short of remarkable.

“It wasn’t because I had any knowledge of golf, or a passion for golf,” Kohler said, still amazed after three decades where a logical response to a recurring question has taken him.

Attribute it all to that pile of suggestion slips.

The Kohler Company, founded by his grandfather, took a dormitory that once housed European immigrant factory workers and transformed it into a five-diamond resort hotel an hour north of Milwaukee. The American Club opened in 1981 and was an overnight sensation, pulling guests in from all over the Midwest who were looking for a weekend getaway from the big city.

“I was convinced that the level of service would be visible to people across the street in manufacturing as to what they had to do in selling products,” Kohler said. “I wanted them to see what five-diamond service really meant. And I was convinced that it would reflect well upon the company. And it would match the level of quality of the engines, generators and plumbing products that we were trying to sell under the name Kohler.”

It offered just about every amenity except one that Kohler never considered – until he saw the suggestion slips.

With some 3,500 acres around the village, why wasn’t there a golf course?

“Guests would write these suggestions out at the front desk and they in turn went to the accounting office,” Kohler said. “Every once in a while, the general manager or someone would go through them and try to collect them by topic. This particular pile had gone for a little more than two years and had gotten to be some size. Some young analyst was wondering who to bring it to— the general manager couldn’t respond to it. And he had the courage to bring it up to the CEO.

“He dumped this pile on my desk and I said, ‘I’ve got to do something here.”’

Kohler eventually hired Pete Dye, the start of a relationship stretching over three decades. He was impressed that Dye could build something as penal as the TPC Sawgrass, yet also create a natural course such as The Honors in Tennessee.

First came Blackwolf Run, where Se Ri Pak won her first U.S. Women’s Open in 1998 and thus inspired a nation of golfers. Later that year, Whistling Straits officially opened and went after a U.S. Open.

The USGA could only promise that Whistling Straits would be a finalist for 2005 (eventually awarded to Pinehurst No. 2). Kohler instead decided on the 2004 PGA Championship, won by Vijay Singh.

And then came a defining moment for his golf course in Wisconsin.

He said the USGA floated the idea of a Women’s Open in 2007, a Senior Open in 2009 and a U.S. Open in 2011. Wanting more than just another major, he negotiated a deal with the PGA of America to bring back the PGA Championship in 2010 and 2015, followed by the Ryder Cup in 2020.

“The toughest phone call I ever had to make was to call David Fay and tell him we were disinviting the USGA for a U.S. Open,” Kohler said.

Whether it’s selling bathroom fixtures or renovating golf properties, Kohler is big on relationships. Not long after Dye complete the first course, Kohler figured he better take the game more seriously. He has that ace on the 11th hole at St. Andrews. His low round is a 78 on a small course in Wisconsin. But his handicap never got lower than 15.

Even so, it’s the people he has met and the places he goes that makes it all so rewarding.

He was along the fairways of South Africa in 2003 watching the Presidents Cup. Three years later, he was in a golf cart with the former president George H.W. Bush at the Ryder Cup. He counts among his most respected friends Sir Michael Bonallack and Peter Dawson, the last two chiefs at the R&A.

“I love the game because of the people associated with the game,” Kohler said. “Some of the finest people I’ve ever met in my life are associated with the game and have devoted their lives to it. And I love the game because of the spotlight it created on what we do. It shines on this company and reflects on its products and services like nothing else could have done.”

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Arizona caps an improbable journey with a title

By Ryan LavnerMay 24, 2018, 3:49 am

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.


NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Team scoring

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Individual scoring


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.”

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Pac-12 continues to dominate women's golf

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 24, 2018, 3:04 am

Arizona's national women's golf championship marked the fourth consecutive year in‌ which the women's Division I national title was won by a Pac-12 Conference 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.

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High school seniors win U.S. Amateur Four-Ball

By Associated PressMay 24, 2018, 1:44 am

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.

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Watch: Pumped up Beef deadlifts 485 lbs.

By Grill Room TeamMay 24, 2018, 12:19 am

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!

@beefgolf with a new deadlift PB 220kg ! #youcantgowronggettingstrong

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