Special Olympics tournament concludes

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 26, 2011, 4:49 am

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. – The 12th annual Special Olympics national golf tournament concluded Sunday, with Tyler Whitehurst of Palm Harbor, Fla., winning the gold medal in the men’s top division.

Whitehurst shot 84-91-80—255 in the men’s Level 5 competition, which consisted of three rounds of individual stroke play.

In the women’s top division, Grace Ann Braxton, 39, of Fredericksburg, Va., won the gold medal with scores of 83-92-94—269. 

The Level 4 (9-hole individual stroke play) winner was Danny Peaslee, 15, of Souris, Manitoba, Canada, with 41-42-46—129.

Scott Rohrer of York, S.C., partnered with his father, Jeff, to win Level 3 (18-hole unified sports team play, with 80-78-79—237 for the gold medal.  Scott Rohrer was the record-setting gold medalist at last year’s tournament when he shot the 18-hole and 54-hole record of 71-75-75—221 in Level 5.

In Level 2 (9-hole alternate-shot team play), the team of Andrew Martinez (athlete) and Michael Martinez (partner) of Kansas City, Mo., scored a one-shot win with 48-45-48—141.

In Level 1 (competition in six individual skills, where the highest score wins), Phillip Shepard of Mount Airy, Md., won with 65-84-84—233.

Tyler Whitehurst’s stepmother, Amy Whitehurst, described what playing golf has meant to Tyler, who is autistic.

'When Tyler started playing golf, he only had endurance for about four holes,” Amy Whitehurst said.  “When we signed him up for Special Olympics, he had to learn and build up the stamina to play nine holes. And he did that in three months time – that’s how driven and focused he was. He won at Regionals and went on to States (in golf) and he won the silver medal. When he came down off the podium and looked at Jim (his dad), he said ‘I’m so proud of myself, I could cry.’

“What’s so amazing about that is that he’d never had an opportunity to set a goal, and get that sense of self and feeling of pride to reach it. Special Olympics has given that to him and from that moment forward, it changed his life. He went from playing 9 to 18 holes. The manners he’s learned through golf, the etiquette, having a great attitude and being positive … all of it, Special Olympics totally changed his life.” 

“It feels awesome,” Tyler Whitehurst said, “because, at my first state championship, I won a silver medal and this is my first national tournament and I won gold – it’s totally different – a whole new level of competition and accomplishment for me. I just want to keep getting better.” 

Jeff Rohrer talked about how quickly his son Scott, who is autistic, took to golf.

 “He’s always played with me,” Jeff Rohrer said.  “He started when he was 7.  Soon after we found out he had autism. We got him playing and it’s something he really excelled at because it’s an individual sport. He’s never had a swing lesson; he has the same swing now he’s always had. I just love watching him hit good shots.  He’s the better golfer of the two of us; he has the lower handicap. A couple weeks ago we played at Myrtle Beach and he shot a 75 from the back tees at Myrtle Wood. I shot an 86. 

“Golf is something he’s really keyed in to; he’s totally focused when he’s out here. You don’t even notice he’s autistic. It’s really helped him to relate to others where we play at home. The other guys have so much respect for him and his game – he’s accepted. Special Olympics and golf have really helped him to excel. I know he’s proud of what he’s able to do. It’s definitely given him an avenue to succeed.”

Full results are available at www.pgamediacenter.com.


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USGA receives more than 9,000 U.S. Open entries

By Will GrayApril 26, 2018, 4:31 pm

The field of contestants for golf's most democratic major has been set.

The USGA announced that it received 9,049 entries for this year's U.S. Open, with the deadline for entry expiring at 5 p.m. ET Wednesday. That total includes 515 applications on the final day, 115 in the final hour and a buzzer-beater from Drew Caudill, a 32-year-old pro from Mount Vernon, Ohio, who beat the entry deadline by only 23 seconds.

This marks the seventh straight year that the USGA has received more than 9,000 entries, but the total marks the second straight year of a decline in applications. At least 9,860 players entered each year from 2013-16, topping out in 2014 when 10,127 applications were received. But last year there were 9,485 entries for Erin Hills, and this year's return to Shinnecock yielded only one more application than the USGA got in 2005.

For the vast majority of entrants, the next step is a spot in 18-hole local qualifying which begins April 30 and runs through May 17. The fortunate few advance from there to 36-hole sectional qualifiers, played May 21 in Japan and June 4 across 11 other sites in the U.S. and England.

A total of 54 players are already exempt into the 156-man field, including 12 former winners. The only remaining ways to earn an exemption from qualifying are to win either The Players or BMW PGA Championship next month, or be ranked inside the top 60 in the Official World Golf Rankings on either May 21 or June 11.

The U.S. Open will be played June 14-17 at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y., which is hosting the event for the first time since 2004.

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Report: Houston Open may move to Memorial Park in '19

By Will GrayApril 26, 2018, 3:48 pm

Still without a permanent spot on the PGA Tour schedule, the Houston Open appears to be on the move.

According to a report from the Houston Business Journal, there is a proposal in place to shift the tournament downtown in 2019, returning to Memorial Park Golf Course which previously hosted the event from 1951-1963.

While formal relocation plans have not been announced, the tournament officially reached the end of an era this week when the Golf Club of Houston, which has hosted the event since 2003, informed the Houston Golf Association that it would no longer serve as tournament host moving forward.

"We received notice this week from the Golf Club of Houston regarding the club's decision to no longer host a PGA Tour event," read an HGA statement obtained by GolfChannel.com. "Currently, the HGA's focus is on securing a long-term title sponsor. The Golf Club of Houston has been a great venue for the Houston Open dating back to 2003 and we look forward to maintaining a great relationship with the club."

Such a move would be a win for Houston mayor Sylvester Turner, who has expressed an interest in returning the tournament within city limits. The Golf Club of Houston is located in Humble, a suburb 20 miles northeast of downtown.

"This move would place the tournament on center stage in downtown Houston, creating a central location for the city to rally around," read marketing materials cited in the Business Journal report. "Houston Proud Partners of the Houston Open would have the opportunity to collaborate with the Houston Golf Association on this historic move and make a lasting statement that would be seen for generations."

The Houston Open's lineage dates back to 1946, but its future remains in question. Shell Oil ended its 26-year sponsorship of the event in 2017, and this year it was played without a title sponsor and financed in part by the HGA.

The tournament has also carved out a niche with its pre-Masters slot on the schedule, where it has been played every year but once since the advent of the FedExCup in 2007. But next year that coveted position will go to the Valero Texas Open, leaving Houston's place on a revamped 2019 schedule in question.

The Houston Open remains one of only two tournaments on the current Tour calendar without a title sponsor. Earlier this week Charles Schwab signed a four-year deal to sponsor the Fort Worth Invitational beginning in 2019, and a report this week indicates the other unsponsored event, The National, may be on the verge of moving from the Washington, D.C. area to Detroit.

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With baby on the way, Piller WDs from Zurich

By Ryan LavnerApril 26, 2018, 2:45 pm

AVONDALE, La. – With wife Gerina set to give birth to their first child, Martin Piller figured he’d need to check his phone every few holes at the Zurich Classic.

He didn’t even make it that far.

Piller withdrew before the start of the first round Thursday.

Piller’s partner, Joel Dahmen, who only got into the field because of Piller’s status as the team’s A player, was allowed to remain in the event.

Piller was replaced in the field by Denny McCarthy. The new team of McCarthy-Dahmen will tee off at 2:36 p.m. ET.

The format change at the Zurich should make things easier for the new teammates. The first round is now best ball, not alternate shot.

The only event that Gerina, a three-time U.S. Solheim Cupper, has played this season was the Diamond Resorts Invitational in January. The couple’s baby was due May 3, and she said that she plans to take off the entire year.

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China's Jin (64) leads by one in Beijing

By Associated PressApril 26, 2018, 12:28 pm

BEIJING – Daxing Jin took a one-stroke lead at the China Open after shooting an 8-under 64 Thursday in the first round.

Jin's bogey-free round at the Topwin Golf and Country Club included six birdies and an eagle on the par-5 eighth. The 25-year-old Jin is playing in only his eighth European Tour event and has made the cut only once.

Matt Wallace (65) had an eagle-birdie finish to move into a tie for second with Nino Bertasio, who also produced a bogey-free round. Alexander Bjork and Scott Vincent (66) were a further stroke back.

Defending champion Alexander Levy, who won last week's Trophee Hassan II in Morocco, is in a large group five shots off the lead at 3 under.