National Golf Day a success on Capitol Hill

By April 19, 2012, 1:10 am

WASHINGTON – In the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Congress took legislative action to provide desperately needed relief to the Gulf Coast. Excluded from the relief bill, was golf and the facilities damaged by a 100-year storm. Golf facilities were ineligible for aid from the bill, lumped together with businesses like massage parlors and casinos.

It was that slight – repeated since in other legislative exclusions – to a game perceived as a niche for well-to-do Caucasian men that coalesced the industry to convince Washington of the widespread positive impact the game has on the economy. Four years later, a golf industry group called We Are Golf convened for the fifth National Golf Day in Washington.

'We don't want to be given special treatment compared to other industries. We just want to play from the same set of tees,' PGA of America CEO Joe Steranka said Wednesday.

The idea behind the day remains the same as the first in 2008: designate a different kind of demo day for Congressional representatives and their staff to share golf as more than an activity for leisure or campaign fundraising.

The day is organized around a two-pronged strategy of work and play.

In the foyer of the Rayburn House Office Building, the coalition built the golf equivalent of a McDonald's Play Place – a golf simulator, brief lessons from Michael Breed of 'The Golf Fix' and a putting contest pitting the two parties against each other. Though California Democrat Joe Baca was among the first to wield the flat stick, the Republicans won the day.

Meanwhile, the game's envoys met behind closed doors to lobby for industry-friendly bills, such as tax cuts supported by representative Eric Cantor (R-VA) and a proposal by Ron Kind (D-WI) and Spencer Bachus (R-AL) to remove the golf exclusion from future disaster relief legislation.

Steranka was one of the ambassadors, making one last, windy trip under, around and throughout Congressional office buildings to praise the golf industry before he steps aside from his post at year's end. He recalled a particular eureka moment emblematic of the broader change the day aims to produce.

'I was telling Congressman Baca earlier that when we first got here (when he was chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus), he was an avid fan of the game, but more the sport. He liked the PGA Tour, watching on TV,' Steranka explained. 'When we dove into the economic impact studies – including the state-by-state numbers – in the state of California, the sport of golf provides some 160,000 jobs. That changed the tone of conversation from golf being a part of the entertainment sector to being a conversation about jobs.'

Stephen Mona, CEO of the World Golf Foundation which organizes National Golf Day, believes the message is sticking.

'I think there's been a sea change here. We came from having no profile here collectively to today, in a number of meetings we're having, the congressmen can almost recite our impact back to us,' he said. 'We feel very good about our ability over the last five years to get out our message and change the dialogue about golf.'

The talking points are recited rote, but bear repeating amid the saturnine tone from many in the game concerning participation.

The industry claims $76 billion of economic impact, leading to billions in philanthropy. The game's green spaces can be environmental sanctuaries.

The average round of golf is $25 with margins stretched almost invisible by the Great Recession – a difficult reality for entrepreneurs running small businesses that employ 40-50 people, summing almost 2 million jobs. 

The downturn no doubt also affected some of the 23 million golfing Americans. That collective is closer to 10 percent of the population than the reviled One Percent. Only one in 10 golfers belong to a private club with more than 85 percent of rounds played at daily fee courses.

Though the mantra appears to have done some good, some representatives can testify to the game's virtue without coaching.

Dan Burton, a Republican representative from Indiana and former chairman of the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform, became the power broker he is today because of his exposure to the game.

'Golf had more to do with changing my life than almost anything. We had very difficult problems when I was a kid and one of my buddies told me that I ought to go caddie. I said, 'What's a caddie?' The first day I caddied, I decided I wanted to learn that game,' he said.

'It's made a big difference. As a matter of fact, it might sound hard to believe, but I don't think I would have become a businessman or a congressman if I hadn't started playing golf when I was a kid because my stepfather wanted me to go into the foundry business. But I didn't want to because I wanted to be like the guys I caddied for.'

For every Burton, there are other representatives not so smitten with the game and its economic footprint, or are frankly focused elsewhere. The work to reach those representatives continues on Capitol Hill as powerful lobbying firm Podesta Group will continue on behalf of We Are Golf until the golf rodeo comes into town again next year.

While the day was deemed a success, like Earth Day, every day is Golf Day.

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Winning on Kerr's mind this week and beyond

By Randall MellMarch 24, 2018, 2:11 am

Cristie Kerr moved into position Friday to do more than win the 21st LPGA title of her career.

She moved into position to claim an LPGA Hall of Fame point this week.

Yes, winning is foremost on her mind at the Kia Classic, where she took the lead with an 8-under-par 64 in the second round, she’s on a larger quest, too.

After turning 40 last fall, Kerr was asked what her goals are.

“The Hall of Fame is attainable, if I stick with it,” she said.

Kerr is five shots ahead of Lizette Salas (67), In-Kyung Kim (69), Hee Young Park (70) and Caroline Hedwall (70).

It’s a good time for Kerr to get on a hot streak, with the year’s first major championship, the ANA Inspiration, next week. She has long been one of the best putters in the women’s game, but her ball-striking is impressive this week. She hit 17 greens in regulation Thursday, and she hit 16 on Friday.

“I like winning,” Kerr said. “I like challenging myself. Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older, with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, `Man, why does my hamstring hurt?’ From working around this hilly golf course.”

Kerr acknowledged Friday that her body is more vulnerable to time’s realities, but her mind isn’t.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

“The golf ball doesn't know an age,” Kerr said. “I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.”

Kerr won two weeks after her 40th birthday last fall, boosting her LPGA Hall of Fame point total to 22. She is five points short of eligibility for induction. A player earns one point for an LPGA victory and two points for a major championship title. So there’s a lot of Hall of Fame ground to gain this week and next.

It’s a long-term goal that motivates Kerr to take care of her body.

“I don't think the golf changes,” Kerr said. “I think, physically, it gets harder as you get older. Like I said, I've got tape on my hamstring. I strained it, just a little bit yesterday, walking around this golf course. It's tough as you get older, just being fresh and rested. I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.”

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Big names chasing Kerr into the weekend at Kia Classic

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 1:55 am

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Cristie Kerr shot an 8-under 64 on Friday in the Kia Classic to take a five-stroke lead into the weekend.

The 40-year-old Kerr had eight birdies in her second straight bogey-free round to reach 13-under 131 at rain-softened Aviara.

''I like winning. I like challenging myself,'' Kerr said. ''Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, 'Man, why does my hamstring hurt?' From working around this hilly golf course. The golf ball doesn't know an age. I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.''

She has 20 LPGA victories, winning at Aviara in 2015. She won twice last year and helped the U.S. beat Europe in her ninth Solheim Cup appearance.

''It's tough as you get older just being fresh and rested,'' Kerr said. ''I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.''

Lizette Salas, In-Kyung Kim, Hee Young Park and Caroline Hedwall were tied for second. Salas shot 67, Kim 69, and Park and Hedwall 70.

''I really like this golf course. I really like the environment,'' said Salas, the former University of Southern California player from Azusa. ''My family gets to come out. So much confidence at the beginning of the week, and definitely showed the first two days.

Jeong Eun Lee was 7 under after a 69, and defending ANA champion So Yeon Ryu had a 70 to get to 6 under.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Ariya Jutanugarn (72), Brooke Henderson (70) and 2016 winner Lydia Ko (71) were 5 under. Shanshan Feng (68) was another stroke back, and Singapore winner Michelle Wie (72) was 1 under.

Lexi Thompson was 2 over after a 74, making the cut on the number in the final event before the major ANA Inspiration next week at Mission Hills.

Kerr opened with birdies on the par-5 10th and par-3 11th, added birdies on the par-4 16th, 18th and second, and ran off three in a row on the par-3 sixth, par-4 seventh and par-5 eighth.

''I don't think you can fall asleep on one shot,'' Kerr said. ''It's a really good golf course. I think I play better on courses that demand the focus, so I think that's why I've played well here in the past. ... I'm trying not to put limits on myself right now. I've got some good things going on with my swing.''

She has long been one best putters and green-readers in the world.

''I can see the subtleties that a lot of people can't,'' Kerr said. ''It's a gift from God being able to do that. I've always had that, so I'm lucky.''

Laura Davies withdrew after an opening 82. The 54-year-old Davies tied for second last week in the Founders Cup in Phoenix, playing through painful left Achilles and calf problems.

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DJ hits 489-yard drive, but it doesn't count for history

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 12:22 am

AUSTIN, Texas – Dustin Johnson is no stranger to big drives, but even for DJ this one was impressive.

Trailing in his Day 3 match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Johnson launched a drive at the par-5 12th hole that traveled 489 yards, but that number comes with an asterisk.

“He got lucky it hit the road,” smiled Kevin Kisner, who was leading the world No. 1, 3 up, at the time. “I thought he would make an eagle for sure, he only had 80 yards [to the hole]. He didn’t hit a very good putt.”

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Johnson’s drive, which was 139 yards past Kisner’s tee shot, is the longest recorded on the PGA Tour in the ShotLink era, surpassing Davis Love III’s drive of 476 yards in 2004 at the Tournament of Champions.

The drive will not go into the record books, however, because the Tour doesn’t count statistics from the Match Play.

It should also be noted, Kisner halved the 12th hole with a birdie and won the match, 4 and 3, to advance to the round of 16.

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Durant leads Champions event in Mississippi

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 12:21 am

BILOXI, Miss. - Joe Durant had three straight birdies in a back-nine burst and a shot 6-under 66 on Friday to take the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' Rapiscan Systems Classic.

Durant birdied the par-4 11th and 12th and par-5 13th in the bogey-free round at breezy and rain-softened Fallen Oak. Because of the wet conditions, players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairway.

''It just sets up nice to my eye,'' Durant said. ''It's a beautiful golf course and it's very challenging. The tee shots seem to set up well for me, but the greens are maybe as quick as I've ever seen them here. You really have to put the ball in the right spots. I played very nice today. With the wind swirling like it was, I'm really happy.''

He won the Chubb Classic last month in Naples, Florida, for his third victory on the 50-and-over tour.

Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

''Done this long enough, Friday's just one day,'' Durant said. ''Especially in a three-day tournament, you've got to go out and shoot three good numbers. Fortunate to put one on the board, but I know I have to back it up with a couple of good days because you can get passed very quickly out here.''

Mark Calcavecchia was a stroke back. He won last month in Boca Raton, Florida

''It's probably my best round I've ever had here and it was a tough day to play,'' Calcavecchia said. ''The greens are just lightning fast. They're pretty slopey greens, so very difficult to putt.''

Steve Stricker was third at 68. He took the Tucson, Arizona, event three weeks ago for his first senior victory.

''Just getting it around and managing my game I think like I always do,'' Stricker said. ''You get in the wrong position here with the greens being so fast and you're going to be in trouble. I did that a couple times today.''

Billy Mayfair, Billy Andrade and David McKenzie shot 69. Jerry Kelly, the winner of the season-opening event in Hawaii, was at 70 with Wes Short Jr., Glen Day, Gene Sauers and Jesper Parnevik.

Bernhard Langer opened with a 71, and two-time defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez had a 72.

Vijay Singh, coming off his first senior victory two weeks ago in Newport Beach, California, had a 73.