Mini-tour players unite to help tornado victims

By Jason SobelMay 30, 2013, 2:46 pm

This is a story about tragedy and the human spirit. No, that’s far too simple. This is a story about tragedy and the human spirit and helping people – people you’ve never even met – in a time of adversity, and doing the courageous thing, the right thing and the honorable thing, and how the game of golf was able to tie it all together.

An entire nation watched last week as one of the worst tornados in recorded history ripped through Moore, Okla., leaving a tight-knit community completely ravaged and the rest of us feeling completely helpless. It would be shortsighted – read that, wrong – to myopically claim that professional golfers were at the forefront of this relief effort for the sake of this story, but like so many others who wanted to contribute somehow, anyhow, they were certainly part of the effort. And not just the professional golfers whose names you already know.

It wasn’t long after the devastation was measured that Mike Dunphy, the player development manager for Cleveland/Srixon, knew some grassroots fundraising could be done at the game’s grassroots level. He texted Paul Apyan, an NGA Pro Golf Tour member and the purveyor of the popular Mini Tour Problems handle on Twitter. “You have an account that can reach a lot of people,” Dunphy told him. “You can do something about this.”

Apyan, 26, from Chattanooga, Tenn., already knew about the disaster. His friend and fellow mini-tour regular Jason Meece had forwarded a video taken by yet another player, Mack Hamilton, showing the tornado ripping through Moore. As Oklahoma natives, both Meece and Hamilton understood the destruction being done in their home state.

It wasn’t long until “5 Percent Moore” was born. The objective behind the idea was exactly what it says in the title. Apyan asked his fellow mini-tour players to donate five percent of their tournament earnings last week to the relief efforts. Just five percent to help out a community struggling to find what was left of their homes through the rubble.

This is the part of the story where the difference needs to be explained between PGA Tour players traversing the country in private jets and mini-tour players living week-to-week on limited funds. “Just to tee it up, to have that opportunity, it’s $900-950,” Apyan explained. “And you’ve got to get there – that’s another $100 in gas. If you don’t have host housing, then you’ll have to go on Priceline trying to outbid guys you’re playing against for a two-star hotel room. Then you’re going to have to feed yourself, maybe $10 per meal, but sometimes you have to think about even doing that.”

Let’s not belittle the contributions of Rickie Fowler, the Oklahoma State product who matched the first $100,000 donated by fans. Or Hunter Mahan, another Cowboy who gave money to the Red Cross. Or Stuart Appleby, who tweeted that since he wasn’t even supposed to play in the Crowne Plaza Invitational last week, he’d give the $16,864 that he received for a share of 48th place. Or the so many other elite players who donated either without much publicity or anonymously.

But quite frankly, those players donating earnings and mini-tour players donating earnings are two entirely different scenarios.

Even so, Apyan was immediately barraged by mini-tour regulars wanting to help. He received text messages. He received tweets. He placed a sign-up sheet at last week’s Knoxville, Tenn., event and 28 players penciled in their names. And those are just the ones he knows about. Apyan keeps hearing from more players on other tours asking how they can join.

In many instances, it’s not a lot of money. A tie for 48th place earned a grand total of $903 for Apyan last week. Do the math and that’s $45.15 – but it’s better than nothing.

“One tank of gas is not make or break for me, but it could really do something for someone,” he said. “It can get people food or water, maybe help a kid in the area. I don’t know. All you can do is try to help out.”

Conrad Shindler hadn’t heard about “5 Percent Moore.” But like so many of his fellow mini-tour golfers – and like so many of his fellow Americans – he felt compelled to contribute to the relief effort. So prior to competing in last week’s Gateway Buick GMC Classic on the Adams Golf Pro Tour Series, the 24-year-old Texas A&M grad pledged to donate his entire paycheck to the Moore school system.

“There was a little extra motivation,” he said. “It was like, let’s try to dig down deep and get up and down or let’s go birdie this hole, because that’s more money I can raise.”

Shindler indeed dug deep and made plenty of birdies, posting scores of 65-69-66-66 to win his first professional title by four strokes. And yes, the entire $15,000 paycheck went right to Oklahoma.

“I just realize where I come from and the opportunities I have,” he continued. “I’m just blessed and fortunate to step on the course every day for my job. I don’t have to sit behind a desk. I get to play a game. There are going to be many more opportunities down the road to make more money. Even though it was a winning check, that’s not going to be the difference maker later on. It’s obviously a big boost of confidence to win at this level, but me receiving this check is not going to be anything that defines future success.”

That’s been the rallying cry for so many mini-tour golfers over the past week, from those donating $15,000 to those donating $45.15 to those donating even less. It’s money that these players need, but it’s also money that they know the people of Moore, Okla., need even more.

That was the idea behind “5 Percent Moore.” It’s part of a story about tragedy and the human spirit, but that’s not the entire story. There’s so much more to it – and the game of golf was able to tie it all together.

Anyone wishing to join the “5 Percent Moore” pledge may contact the NGA TOUR offices at 800-992-8748 or mail their donations to the NGA TOUR c/o #5PercentMoore at 550 Hwy 9 E, Unit B, Longs, S.C., 29568.

USGA/Chris Keane

Even with broken driver, Salinda beats Hagestad at U.S. Am

By Ryan LavnerAugust 17, 2018, 2:52 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – With a trip to the U.S. Amateur quarterfinals on the line, and with the Pacific Ocean staring him in the face, Isaiah Salinda piped a 330-yard drive down Pebble Beach’s 18th hole.

Not a bad poke with a replacement driver.

Salinda’s Round of 16 match against Stewart Hagestad got off to a rocky start Thursday afternoon with an awkward tee shot on the second hole.

“The ball came out weird, with no spin,” said Salinda’s caddie and former Stanford teammate, Bradley Knox. “He said, ‘Yeah, that felt weird.’”

Salinda looked at the bottom of his Callaway Epic driver and noticed a crack.

Worried that they'd have to play the rest of the round with only a 3-wood, Knox called a Callaway equipment rep, told him the issue, and was relieved to hear he'd meet them at the back of the third tee. Salinda teed off the next hole with a 3-wood – he’d taken driver there all week – and wound up in a tricky spot, on the side of a mound, leading to a bogey.

“Then they came over and cranked the driver,” Knox said. “It was like a NASCAR pit crew.”

The replacement driver was nearly identical – same head, same loft, same weighting – except for the lie angle. The new one was a degree flatter than his gamer, which led to a few more pulled shots than usual.

“It took a little while to recover the mindset that we’d had the rest of the week,” Knox said.

Match scoring from U.S. Amateur

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Salinda downplayed the equipment malfunction – “I just had to adjust, and it wasn’t really a problem” – but he didn’t play well early. After trailing for just one hole during his first two matches, he was 4 over par and 2 down through 10 holes against Hagestad, the 2017 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion who’d finally made match play after eight previous failed attempts.

On 11, Salinda finally got going, stuffing a wedge shot to 10 feet and recording his first birdie. He followed with three clutch pars before another good approach on 15, leading to a conceded birdie to square the match.

On the home hole, Salinda bombed his drive about 30 yards past Hagestad and had 220 yards to the flag. It was a perfect 4-iron distance, and he sent a rocket into a blinding sunset.

“I never saw it,” Salinda said. “I told my caddie: ‘Where is that? I have no idea.’ But it felt good.”

A lone voice shrieked as the ball landed on the green. They knew the shot had to be tight. Years ago, Stanford senior Chris Meyers had made an albatross on 18 for a walkoff victory with Lee Janzen at the PGA Tour Champions’ First Tee Open. Knox thought they’d come close to duplicating the feat.

“Probably almost had a Chris Meyers,” Knox said, chuckling, as they walked up the fairway.

The shot never had a chance to drop – turns out the spectator was well-lubricated – but it still was only 35 feet away, for eagle. Salinda cozied his putt to a few feet and could only watch as Hagestad’s last-ditch 25-footer stopped a rotation short of the cup.

The Round of 16 victory continued a breakout summer for Salinda. His 15th-place showing at the NCAA Championship kick-started a three-month stretch in which he’s finally taken his game to the next level.

“He’s shown flashes of brilliance before,” Knox said, “and he’s had the game. But now he has the consistency and the confidence that it’ll come back time and time again.”

Salinda shot 62 in the third round and won the Pacific Coast Amateur, which boasts one of the strongest fields of the summer. Then he finished third in stroke play at the Western Amateur before a quarterfinal loss in match play.

Now he’s one step closer to his biggest victory yet – even with a backup driver.

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Salas (62) leads LPGA's Indy Women in Tech

By Associated PressAugust 17, 2018, 12:50 am

INDIANAPOLIS - Lizette Salas' waited 77 minutes to line up her 4-foot putt to take the lead Thursday at the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

She refused to let the weather delay get to her.

When the 29-year-old California player returned to the course, she quickly rolled in the birdie putt, finished her round with another birdie at No. 18 and took a two-shot lead over Angel Yin and Nasa Hataoka with a course record-tying 10-under 62.

''I didn't even think about it the entire time,'' Salas said. ''I was hanging out with Danielle (Kang) and she was giving me her silly dad jokes. So it definitely kept my mind off of it. I was really excited to be back and to finish off with a birdie, from off the green, was the icing on the cake.''

It's the lowest score by a female player at the Brickyard Crossing.

Defending champion Lexi Thompson opened last year's inaugural tournament with a 63, one shot off of Mike McCullough's 62 in the PGA Champions Tour's 1999 Comfort Classic.

But the way the saturated 6,456-yard course played Thursday, Salas needed virtually every putt of her career-best round to reach the top of the leaderboard.

The morning starters took advantage of overnight rain by shooting right at the pins.

And nobody made a bigger early splash than Yin, the 19-year-old Californian who finished second in last year's rookie of the year race.

She opened with five straight birdies and shot 8-under 28 on the front nine. Only a par on No. 6 prevented her from becoming the sixth LPGA player to shoot 27 on nine holes. South Korea's Mi Hyang Lee did it most recently at the 2016 JTBC Founders Cup.

Yin also tied the third-lowest nine-hole score in relation to par in tour history.

Her only bobble came with a bogey on No. 13 and she closed out her best career round with a birdie on No. 18.

Full-field scores from Indy Women in Tech Championship

''I have never done that before,'' she said. ''I had nine putts, I think, on the front nine, which is incredible. I've never had that many little putts. But it just felt good. Everything was working.''

Last year's runner-up for rookie of the year has never won an LPGA Tour title in her home country though she did win in a playoff at Dubai on the Ladies European Tour.

Everybody seemed to find their groove Thursday.

Eighty-eight of the 143 players shot under par and 54 were 3-under or better.

And with more rain in the forecast Thursday night and Friday, the scores could go even lower as a star-studded cast chases down Salas, Yin and Hataoka.

Four players, including Kang and Jane Park, are three shots behind.

Seven players, including last year's tournament runner-up Lydia Ko, are four shots back. Ko was tied with Yin for the lead - until she knocked her tee shot on the par-4, 16th into the water. She wound up with a double bogey and birdied the final hole to finish with 66.

After taking a monthlong break to recover from physical and mental exhaustion, Thompson looked relaxed and comfortable in her return to the course. She shot 68.

''It was hard for me to take the break because I didn't want to show weakness,'' she said. ''But at the same time, it takes a lot of strength to acknowledge that you need that kind of break and just take time for yourself, especially when you're in the spotlight like this.''

Salas, meanwhile, started fast with an eagle on the par-5 second and finished with a flurry.

She birdied three straight holes on the front side to get to 5-under, added birdies at Nos. 12 and 14 to get to 7-under and then birdied the final three holes - around the approaching storm - to put herself in contention for her first title since the 2014 Kingsmill Championship.

''I have been just striking the ball really well this entire year, and just glad some more putts dropped today,'' she said. ''I was really refreshed. I didn't practice at all last week, and I was just really eager and excited to be back.''

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Sordet opens with 62 to grab lead at Nordea Masters

By Associated PressAugust 16, 2018, 11:23 pm

GOTHENBURG, Sweden - Clement Sordet opened with four straight birdies to shoot 8-under 62 and take the first-round lead of the Nordea Masters on Thursday.

Sordet says ''I wasn't really focusing on the score, I was just enjoying it.''

The Frenchman, who shot his lowest European Tour round, has a two-stroke lead over Scott Jamieson of Scotland and Lee Slattery of England.

Hunter Stewart is the highest-placed American after a 5-under 65 left him on a four-way tie for fourth with Christofer Blomstrand, Tapio Pulkkanen and Richard Green.

Defending champion Renato Paratore's hopes of becoming the first player to successfully retain the title look in doubt after the Italian shot 9-over 79 at Hills Golf Club.

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Peterson confirms plans to play Finals

By Will GrayAugust 16, 2018, 9:17 pm

After flirting with retirement for much of the summer, John Peterson confirmed that he will give it one more shot in the upcoming Tour Finals.

Peterson, 29, had planned to walk away from the game and begin a career in real estate in his native Texas if he failed to secure PGA Tour status before his medical extension expired. His T-13 finish last month at The Greenbrier appeared to be enough to net the former NCAA champ at least conditional status, but a closer look at the numbers revealed he missed out by 0.58 points in his last available start.

Full-field scores from Wyndham Championship

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But Peterson was buoyed by the support he received from his peers at The Greenbrier, and when he got into the Barbasol Championship as a late alternate he decided to make the trip to the tournament. He tied for 21st that week in Kentucky, clinching enough non-member FedExCup points to grant him a spot in the four-event Finals.

Last month Peterson hinted that he would consider playing in the Finals, where 25 PGA Tour cards for the 2018-19 season will be up for grabs, and Thursday he confirmed in an Instagram post that he will give his pro career "one last push."

The Finals kick off next week in Ohio with the Nationwide Children's Hospital Championship and will conclude Sept. 20-23 with the Tour Championship. Peterson will be looking to rekindle his results from 2013, when he finished T-5 or better at each of the four Finals events while earning fully-exempt status as the top money earner.