A Week of Highs and Lows

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 20, 2008, 4:00 pm
In Backspin, GolfChannel.com takes a look back on the biggest stories from the past week in golf ' with a spin.

AWAITING WORD: Seve Ballesteros underwent brain surgery last Tuesday to remove a tumor and was listed in stable condition before doctors discovered complications that required the removal of part of his skull to relieve swelling of the brain.
Backspin There was no new news coming from Spain over the weekend, leaving the golfing world on pins and needles. No matter what we hear next this much is clear ' the outpouring of love from golf fans has been felt by Seve. Said Paul Azinger, We had an intense rivalry, but you reach beyond that. Rivalries can be healthy, and maybe they cross the line on occasion. But when real life things happen, people reach out to each other. Well said, Paul.

ALL IN THE FAMILY: Marc Turnesa completed a wire-to-wire win in Las Vegas at the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. He became the eighth rookie to win on the PGA Tour this season and wrapped up his Tour card for the next two seasons.
Backspin It should come as no surprise that Turnesa won a PGA Tour event. The family history in the golf business is pretty impressive: his great-uncle Jim won the 1952 PGA Championship and his late grandfather captured six Tour events and finished second to Ben Hogan in the 1948 PGA Championship. Hogan was always quoted as saying the secret is, in the dirt. We here at Backspin say, it's in the genes.

AIN'T LIFE GRAND?: Jim Furyk won the PGA Grand Slam of Golf, eagling the first playoff hole to defeat Padraig Harrington. Furyk earned $600,000 for the win, which took place on the Mid Ocean Club course in Bermuda.
Backspin This tournament is reserved for the year's major champions. Unless a player wins two majors (like Harrington) or shreads his knee (like Tiger Woods). Furyk and Retief Goosen both got in by being the top players on a qualifying list, which only includes past major winners. Despite winning but one major, Furyk has played in this event four times. And he's pocketed $1.55 million ' for playing in a made-up event, in paradise, in which 75 percent of the time he shouldn't have been eligible. Not that we're jealous or anything.

MAUI WOWIE: Morgan Pressel birdied the final hole of regulation to edge Suzann Pettersen and win the inaugural Kapalua LPGA Classic. It was Pressel's first win of the season and first since her breakout victory at the 2007 Kraft Nabisco Championship.
Backspin Morgan Pressel, who just so happens to represent the Kapalua Resort in Maui, made a 15-footer from off the green on the 72nd hole to win the inaugural event. She had gone 43 starts without a victory, and hadnt even had a top-10 since June. Meanwhile, Annika Sorenstam, who won earlier in the year in Hawaii, opened in 77 and tied for 25th. It looks like it could be a very disappointing end to a brilliant career.

FOR SALE: The LPGA lost another title sponsor last week, when ADT decided not to renew its contract after 2008 for the tours season-ending event at Trump International. It's the fourth sponsor to abandon the LPGA this year.
Backspin The sports world is not immune from economic hardships. Expect a few 'TBD's when the 2009 LPGA schedule is released. But for this tournament in particular, it shouldn't be hard to find another sponsor as it is one of the most unique events in all of golf. The elite field of 32 is cut in half after Rounds 2 and 3, resulting in an eight-woman Sunday shootout for a cool million.

FOR LOVE OF COUNTRY: American Ben Curtis selected Brandt Snedeker to be his partner for the World Cup (check out the teams), which will be played in China during the week of Thanksgiving.
Backspin Six players turned down Curtis' offer to play for their country; though, Snedeker's not exactly leftovers. He may, however, feel like re-heated turkey by the time he makes it to China. Snedeker, who got married this past weekend, plays the Kiwi Challenge in New Zealand on Oct. 28-29. He's then off to Fiji for his honeymoon, followed by a trip to Japan for the Dunlop Phoenix before meeting up with Curtis.

SUTTON SIGHTING: Hal Sutton made his Champions Tour debut at the Administaff Small Business Classic. He finished his first event in a tie for 23rd after rounds of 71-70-72, nine shots behind winner Bernhard Langer.
Backspin It was no coincidence that Sutton made his first foray onto the senior circuit at The Woodlands Country Club in Texas. Not only was it close to his home in Shreveport, La., but Suttons last PGA Tour victory just happened to come at TPC Woodlands in 2001. And no, he wasn't wearing a cowboy hat when he made his way to the first tee on Friday. Oh, and by the way, Langer won the event for the second consecutive time and moved to the top of the Champions Tour money list.

TRAGEDY FOR VILLEGAS: Camilo Villegas' uncle was shot and killed Saturday during a robbery of his business in Colombia. Ernesto Villegas Zuluaga, 56, was killed when two armed men entered his coffee trading enterprise demanding money and he jumped on one of them, according to senior Caldas state official Henry Murillo.
Backspin It's sad news for Villegas, who was enjoying a great deal of recent success on the course, having won his first two PGA Tour events during the FedEx Cup playoffs. Said the Colombian star, '... I am proud to not only call him my uncle, but also my godfather. I will miss him very much.'

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Natalie Gulbis has been out of action for the last two months while taping episodes of Donald Trump's 'Celebrity Apprentice' ... Mark Calcavecchia underwent athroscopic knee surgery last Tuesday ... Titleist is returning to the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Fla., for the first time in seven years ... Golf Channel announced that it will telecast early-hour weekend coverage of 12 PGA Tour events in 2009 ...
Backspin Other 'celebs' include Dennis Rodman, Joan Rivers and a bunch of people we've never heard of. Trump better not fire Natalie early if he wants any ratings ... Calc expects to be back to defend his Merrill Lynch Shootout in December. Geez, Tiger, what's taking you so long to recover? ... This is a big boost for the Merchandise Show, which needs more of the big names to attend ... Don't mean to toot our own horn, but 'Toot.'

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT, PART II: Arjun Atwal won the Nationwide Tour's Chattanooga Classic in a playoff ... Scotland claimed the Eisenhower Trophy, beating runner-up United States by nine strokes... Vicky Hurst captured the season-ending Futures Tour event ' the Duramed Invitational ' and for her fifth Futures Tour title of the year.
Backspin Atwal, who was almost charged with vehicular homicide relating to an auto accident in 2007, will now spending time on the PGA Tour in 2009... Not sure what the trophy looks like but it would be cool if it was an actual bronzed head of Eisenhower himself ... Backspin guarantee: Hurst will not win another Futures Tour event ' ever. Her star will from now on be shining on the LPGA.

Related Links:
  • Full Coverage ' Justin Timberlake SHC Open
  • Full Coverage ' Senior Administaff Small Business Classic
  • Full Coverage ' Kapalua LPGA Classic
  • Full Coverage ' Portugal Masters
  • Full Coverage ' Chattanooga Classic
  • More Headlines
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    Club apologizes for calling cops on black women members

    By Associated PressApril 23, 2018, 11:07 pm

    YORK, Pa. - A golf club in Pennsylvania has apologized for calling police on a group of black women after the co-owner and his father said they were playing too slowly and refused requests to leave the course.

    “I felt we were discriminated against,” one of the women, Myneca Ojo, told the York Daily Record. “It was a horrific experience.”

    Sandra Thompson and four friends met up Saturday to play a round of golf at the Grandview Golf Club, where they are all members, she told the newspaper.

    At the second hole, a white man whose son co-owns the club came up to them twice to complain that they weren’t keeping up with the pace of play. Thompson, an attorney and the head of the York chapter of the NAACP, told the newspaper it was untrue.

    On the same hole, another member of the group, Sandra Harrison, said she spoke with a Grandview golf pro, who said they were fine since they were keeping pace with the group ahead of them.

    Despite that, the women skipped the third hole to avoid any other issues, she said.

    It’s part of golf etiquette that slow-moving players let groups behind them play through if they are holding things up, and often golf courses have personnel who monitor the pace of play, letting golfers know when they are taking too long.

    The five are part of a larger group of local women known as Sisters in the Fairway. The group has been around for at least a decade, and all of its members are experienced players who have golfed all over the county and world, Thompson said. They’re very familiar with golf etiquette, she said.

    After the ninth hole, where it is customary to take a break before continuing on the next nine holes, three of the group decided to leave because they were so shaken up by the earlier treatment, the women told the paper.

    Thompson said the man from the second hole, identified as former York County Commissioner Steve Chronister, his son, club co-owner Jordan Chronister and several other white, male employees approached the remaining two women and said they took too long of a break and they needed to leave the course.

    The women argued they took an appropriate break, and that the men behind them were still on their beer break and not ready to tee off, as seen in a video Thompson gave the newspaper. The women were told that the police had been called, and so they waited.

    Northern York County Regional Police arrived, conducted interviews and left without charging anyone.

    “We were called there for an issue, the issue did not warrant any charges,” Northern York County Regional Police Chief Mark Bentzel said. “All parties left and we left as well.”

    A phone listing for Steve Chronister rang busy on Monday. He told the York Daily Record he didn’t have time to comment on Sunday.

    Jordan Chronister’s wife and co-owner of the club, JJ Chronister, said Sunday she called the women personally to apologize.

    “We sincerely apologize to the women for making them feel uncomfortable here at Grandview, that is not our intention in any way,” she told the newspaper. “We want all of our members to feel valued and that they can come out here and have a great time, play golf and enjoy the experience.”

    She said she hopes to meet with them to discuss how the club can use what happened as a learning experience and do better in the future.

    Thompson said she’s not sure a meeting is what needs to happen.

    “There needs to be something more substantial to understand they don’t treat people in this manner,” she said.

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    Randall's Rant: Augusta has the power to strengthen LPGA

    By Randall MellApril 23, 2018, 9:57 pm

    Augusta National Golf Club is turning women’s golf upside down.

    If you care about the LPGA, that should be your hope, anyway.

    Your hope should be that the investment made in the new Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship announced at the Masters three weeks ago will eventually filter up the women’s ranks.

    While the new amateur event comes with significant challenges for the women’s tour - with its first major (the ANA Inspiration) in a tough spot the same week as the Augusta National Women’s Amateur - there is LPGA seed money being planted in Georgia

    There’s an investment that may grow the women’s game beyond fueling new interest among girls.

    “I just hope corporations start recognizing the value of investing in the women’s game, the way Augusta National does,” two-time major champion Cristie Kerr said. “There are so many corporate sponsors in the men’s game who don’t invest a single dollar in the women’s game. Obviously, that’s their prerogative, but we have a lot of value as a tour.”

    And there’s your hope.

    Augusta National is a collection of power brokers, CEOs and leaders now invested in growing the women’s game.

    They’re taking a special interest in watching these young female amateurs emerge, and it’s only natural to expect they’ll become emotionally invested in where these young players go.

    And a lot of these young players will go on to the LPGA.

    The LPGA is thriving under commissioner Mike Whan’s leadership, with Whan seeing opportunities where others didn’t. He saw Asian interest in the tour as an asset, not the liability so many thought a decade ago.

    The LPGA had withered to 23 events in 2011 with $40 million in total prize money. This year, it's up to 34 events with a tour-record $68 million in prize money. Whan did that with a lot of Asian backing.

    Of the 10 tour events the LPGA has staged so far this year, including this week’s tournament in San Francisco, nine have Asian-based title sponsors. Even the LPGA’s domestic events are thriving on Asian money. 

    All six of the U.S. events staged so far this year have Asian-based title sponsors. You have to move into May and next week’s Volunteers of America Texas Classic before finding an American corporate title sponsor of an American LPGA event.

    That starts changing with summer approaching, but overall there will be 17 Asian-based companies or organizations as title sponsors of LPGA events this year, with 14 American-based entities sponsoring or owning events.

    Whan says that’s a good thing.

    “The diversity of sponsorship on the LPGA makes us a stronger business,” Whan said. “Since I’ve been in office, we’ve worked through recessions in different parts of the world. None of those recessions were crippling to our overall schedule, because we have so many sponsors on board, from so many different places.”

    Whan says American corporate interest is growing considerably, with more American marketing partners joining the LPGA this year. The next steps players would like to see are increased purses and endorsement opportunities for women.

    The winning two-man team at the PGA Tour’s Zurich Classic this week will take home a combined $2,073,000. This week’s LPGA Mediheal Championship features a $1.5 million purse for the entire field.

    “The income gap in golf is as much a concern to me as the corporate income gap is to working women,” 12-time LPGA winner Stacy Lewis wrote in an essay earlier this year for the World Economic Forum.

    U.S. Solheim Cup captain and LPGA Hall of Famer Juli Inkster started wearing a San Francisco Giants cap this year with no endorsement deals on her bag or shirt. She has become more outspoken about the lack of corporate support for all female golf pros.

    “I'm going to say it right now, and I probably shouldn't say it, but I just don't understand how all these companies get away with supporting PGA Tour events and not supporting the LPGA,” Inkster said at the last Solheim Cup. “It makes me a little upset, because I think we've got a great product. We deserve our due.”

    With Augusta National investing in young amateur women, it may only be a matter of time until corporate America significantly steps up support. The game’s greatest power brokers appear ready to grow with the young women they will begin investing in next year. That should be the hope for anyone who cares about the LPGA.

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    Report: Tour close to finalizing Detroit tournament

    By Will GrayApril 23, 2018, 7:07 pm

    With the final pieces of the 2019 schedule falling into place, the PGA Tour appears on the verge of returning to Michigan for the first time in nearly a decade.

    According to a Detroit News report, the Tour is "believed to be close" to an agreement to bring a tournament to the Motor City beginning in 2019, reportedly likely to take place at Detroit Golf Club near downtown.

    While the specifics remain undisclosed, the prime candidate for such a move appears to be The National. The Washington, D.C.-area event, which benefits Tiger Woods' TGR Foundation, was sponsored by Detroit-based Quicken Loans from 2014-2017. This year the tournament will be conducted at TPC Potomac without a title sponsor.

    According to a Detroit News report in September, Quicken Loans CEO Dan Gilbert was open to continuing his company's sponsorship of the event if it shifted to Detroit.

    In addition to The National, the only other current PGA Tour event without a title sponsor is the Houston Open. On Monday Charles Schwab was introduced as the new title sponsor of the Fort Worth Invitational beginning in 2019.

    The PGA Tour has not held an event in the state of Michigan since 2009, the final year of the now-defunct Buick Open at Warwick Hills Golf and Country Club. While the final details of a revamped schedule have yet to be announced, the Tour is expected to unveil its itinerary for the 2018-19 season at The Players next month.

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    Inbee Park quietly reclaims world No. 1

    By Randall MellApril 23, 2018, 6:44 pm

    Inbee Park moved back to No. 1 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings in about as ho-hum fashion as you’ll ever see a player take the top spot.

    It isn’t that she doesn’t care about the top ranking. It just wasn’t a priority in her return to golf this year, after missing big portions of the last two years with injuries.

    With an Olympic gold medal and seven major championship titles, the LPGA Hall of Famer isn’t done trying to top the scoreboards that matter most to her.

    “To be honest, I never really think about being No. 1 again,” Park said early last week, before tying for second at the Hugel-JTBC LA Open. “If it comes to me, great. If not, it doesn't matter.”

    It came to her for the fourth time in her career.

    Park, 29, reigned at No. 1 for 59 weeks in her longest run on top, back in the 2013 and ’14 seasons.

    Oddly, this run to No. 1 almost comes as a surprise to Park, who didn’t need long to get back to the top spot after returning to the tour. She won the Bank of Hope Founders Cup last month in her second after missing seven months with a back injury.

    Park last lost the No. 1 ranking in October of 2015, doing so to Lydia Ko.

    In six starts this year, Park has finished T-3 or better four times. She leads the tour in scoring average (69.13) and is second in greens in regulation (77.5 percent).

    Just wait until her putter heats up.

    Yeah, Park’s not very satisfied with her putting. She’s one of the greatest putters who ever played the women’s game, but she has been frustrated with the inconsistency of her stroke much of this season. Of course, her standards are high. She ranks second in putts per greens in regulation so far this year.

    On Sunday, this is how Park summed up her putting in 2018: “Some days, I’ve been really good. Some days, I’ve been really bad.”

    Park has led the LPGA in putts per GIR in five of the last 10 years. She switched from her preferred mallet-style putter to a blade earlier this season and won with a Toulon Madison blade at the Founders Cup last month. She was back with an Odyssey White Hot 2-Ball mallet this past week. That’s the putter she used to win the gold medal in Rio de Janeiro two years ago. She used an Odyssey Sabertooth winged mallet in her 2013 run of three consecutive major championship victories.