Mike Bentley leaves lasting impression

By Lindsey DalterApril 26, 2010, 10:15 pm

More than 30 years ago, a sports reporter in an Atlanta suburb had a vision that would revolutionize junior golf. Creating a national organization based on four basic principles, he transformed the world of golf and has impacted the lives of juniors around the world.

1974

Mike Bentley forms the DeKalb Junior Golf Association.

Ninety players sign up for the first season.

1976

Bentley creates the Atlanta Junior Golf Association.

1978

The American Junior Golf Association holds its first event, the Tournament of Champions, at Inverrary Country Club in Lauderhill, Fla.

Willie Wood, the first Player of the Year, and Denise Hermida, are crowned champions of the event. The first Rolex Junior All- America Team is named.

Chris Haack receives the first-ever Sportsmanship Award. Tom Watson serves as the first honorary chairman.

1979

The AJGA holds a tournament in Florida and a third is added in Texas.

1980

AJGA players Tommy Moore and Tracy Phillips win the Junior World Cup at St. Andrews Old Course.

1981

Digger Smith is named president of the Board of Directors.

Davis Love III tees it up in his first AJGA event.

1983

The first three tournaments are added to the Midwest.

The tournament schedule grows to 17 events.

The first permanent headquarters is established at Horseshoe Bend Country Club in Roswell, Ga.

Mike Bentley, founder of the American Junior Golf Association, passed away April 8, 2010, at age 59. The president and leader of the Association for its first five years, Bentley’s legacy at the AJGA will not be forgotten.

“What a story is there to tell on how we arrived on the golfing scene in our nation,” Bentley wrote in the first AJGA newsletter. “To offer a bit of history, I must go back several years as this has been no hastily conceived, quickly prepared undertaking.”

A sports writer for a small newspaper in DeKalb County, Bentley was covering local high school sports. His passion for golf led him to the realization there were not opportunities for junior golfers in Atlanta, home of the great Bobby Jones, and Bentley vowed to change that. Bentley formed the DeKalb Junior Golf Association in 1974, which eventually expanded into the present-day Atlanta Junior Golf Association. Former players remember him sitting on the first tee with a big glass of sweet tea collecting the minimal entry fee. With a modest budget, he ran six tournaments with 90 participants. In the coming years, the organization worked its way up to three tournaments a week with a season-ending championship at Pinehurst Country Club.

Bentley had bigger plans in mind and recognized the need for junior golf on a national scale. While the USGA, PGA and National Golf Foundation existed, they were devoted to promoting golf on all levels. The country lacked a central organization, dedicated to the support of junior golf. In 1977, the American Junior Golf Association began taking shape. “He was a rebel with a cause,” AJGA executive director Stephen Hamblin said. “He saw that competitive junior golf needed attention. He created a mission and purpose, one we have not deviated from today.” The AJGA was based on four primary goals.

1. Serve as a clearinghouse and information center for junior golfers;

2. Strive for the establishment of junior golf programs in local communities throughout the nations;

3. Foster interest in junior golf through the promotion and attention to those young men and women who demonstrate a desire to participate in the game of golf;

4. Sponsor and conduct national events for the benefit of junior golfers.

“It was a crazy idea,” said the first Tournament Director Jim Heard. “A lot of people didn’t think it had any validity to it or that there was really a place for it.”

The critics were wrong. The AJGA quickly surpassed its first-year membership goal of 2,000 juniors, and it was clear Bentley was on to something.

In August 1978, the AJGA held its first event, the Tournament of Champions (now the Rolex Tournament of Champions), at Inverrary Country Club in Lauderhill, Fla. The Rolex Tournament of Champions and Rolex Junior All-America Awards Banquet remain an integral part of the AJGA schedule today.

“Mike was the father of modern junior golf,” said Georgia men’s golf coach Chris Haack, a former AJGA player and longtime staff member. “He took junior golf to the next level. There are always going to be the local organizations putting on tournaments, but when he raised the level to make a national competition – that is what got them involved. It was the pinnacle of junior golf.”

One of the AJGA’s first milestones was the construction of its first headquarters in 1983 at Horseshoe Bend Country Club in Roswell, Ga. President of the Board, Digger Smith, provided the financial means for the building that would serve as the AJGA home for 17 years. “Having a building gave the organization permanency,” Hamblin said. “You knew it was real.”

By the mid-90s, the AJGA had grown to three times the occupancy of its current headquarters. Funded by private donations, the AJGA moved to its new National Headquarters in September of 2000, approximately a 22,000-square foot building located at Château Élan Resort in Braselton, Ga.

Hamblin noted several of Bentley’s principles that have led to the current structure of junior golf. Bentley was the first to seek out corporate sponsorship in junior golf, beginning with Ann Lee Realty Company as the first event sponsor in 1979.

He believed in having a trained and dedicated staff. The previous mindset viewed junior golf as a volunteer position and no one had a fulltime professional staff devoted solely to the cause. To give the staff credibility, Bentley wanted certified Rules Officials serving as tournament directors.

These ideas created a foundation for the modernday AJGA. In 2010, the Association has over 45 tournament title sponsors, as well as numerous tournament partners and suppliers that make the extensive schedule possible. Bentley’s partnership with the Ben Hogan Company supplied the famous red pants to the staff, while today’s employees are outfitted in Polo Ralph Lauren. The AJGA is made up of 58 full-time staff, including 27 who have scored 92 or higher on the PGA/USGA Rules Exam, and more than 50 interns that assist the organization with tournaments across the country.

Bentley’s vision has impacted more people than he could have ever imagined. Joe Quirk, AJGA Board member and former Atlanta Junior Golf Association player, has watched the influence Bentley has had on golf from the start.

“Just name all of the great golf stars of today, the staff who have come through the organization and moved into the golf industry or become sponsors of the AJGA,” Quirk said.

“Anything that traces itself through the AJGA, past, current and future will forever link to the vision of a national, now global, junior golf organization.” To see Bentley’s legacy, look at any of the 5,000 junior golfers playing in AJGA events. His vision, dedication and perseverance are visible in each of the nearly 1,300 championships that have been conducted. Because of Bentley, the junior golf world has been forever changed.

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More sun, dry conditions expected early at Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 9:14 am

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – An atypically dry Scottish summer is expected to continue this week at The Open.

There’s a possibility of a few showers Thursday and Friday, but otherwise conditions are expected to remain dry with temperatures around 70 degrees and winds in the 15-20 mph range.

The forecast for the opening round at Carnoustie is sunshine with clouds developing later in the day. The high is expected to be around 70 degrees, with winds increasing throughout the day, maxing out at 18 mph.


Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


There’s a chance of rain overnight Thursday and into Friday morning, but it’s not expected to slow down the fiery conditions.

It’s been one of the driest summers in recent memory, leading to fairways that are baked out and fescue rough that is lighter and thinner than in previous years.

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How to watch The Open on TV and online

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 8:40 am

You want to watch the 147th Open? Here’s how you can do it.

Golf Channel and NBC Sports will be televising 182 hours of overall programming from the men's third major of the year at Carnoustie

In addition to the traditional coverage, the two networks will showcase three live alternate feeds: marquee groups, featured holes (our new 3-hole channel) and spotlight action. You can also watch replays of full-day coverage, Thursday-Sunday, in the Golf Channel app, NBC Sports apps, and on GolfChannel.com.  

Here’s the weekly TV schedule, with live stream links in parentheses. You can view all the action on the Golf Channel mobile, as well. Alternate coverage is noted in italics:

(All times Eastern; GC=Golf Channel; NBC=NBC Sports; GC.com=GolfChannel.com or check the GLE app)

Monday, July 16

GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Tuesday, July 17

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Wednesday, July 18

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Thursday, July 19

GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Friday, July 20

GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Saturday, July 21

GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Sunday, July 22

GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

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The Open 101: A guide to the year's third major

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 8:30 am

Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about The Open:

What's all this "The Open" stuff? I thought it was the British Open.

What you call it has historically depended on where you were. If you were in the U.S., you called it the British Open, just as Europeans refer to the PGA Championship as the U.S. PGA. Outside the U.S. it generally has been referred to as The Open Championship. The preferred name of the organizers is The Open.

How old is it?

It's the oldest golf championship, dating back to 1860.

Where is it played?

There is a rotation – or "rota" – of courses used. Currently there are 10: Royal Birkdale, Royal St. George's, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham and St. Annes, all in England; Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Turnberry and Muirfield, all in Scotland. Muirfield was removed from the rota in 2016 when members voted against allowing female members, but when the vote was reversed in 2017 it was allowed back in.

Where will it be played this year?

At Carnoustie, which is located on the south-eastern shore of Scotland.

Who has won The Open on that course?

Going back to the first time Carnoustie hosted, in 1931, winners there have been Tommy Armour, Henry Cotton (1937), Ben Hogan (1953), Gary Player (1968), Tom Watson (1975), Paul Lawrie (1999), Padraig Harrington (2007).

Wasn't that the year Hogan nearly won the Slam?

Yep. He had won the Masters and U.S. Open that season, then traveled to Carnoustie and won that as well. It was the only time he ever played The Open. He was unable to play the PGA Championship that season because the dates conflicted with those of The Open.

Jean Van de Velde's name should be on that list, right?

This is true. He had a three-shot lead on the final hole in 1999 and made triple bogey. He lost in a playoff to Lawrie, which also included Justin Leonard.

Who has won this event the most?

Harry Vardon, who was from the Channel Island of Jersey, won a record six times between 1896 and 1914. Australian Peter Thomson, American Watson, Scot James Braid and Englishman J.H. Taylor each won five times.

What about the Morrises?

Tom Sr. won four times between 1861 and 1867. His son, Tom Jr., also won four times, between 1868 and 1872.

Have players from any particular country dominated?

In the early days, Scots won the first 29 Opens – not a shocker since they were all played at one of three Scottish courses, Prestwick, St. Andrews and Musselburgh. In the current era, going back to 1999 (we'll explain why that year in a minute), the scoreboard is United States, nine wins; South Africa, three wins; Ireland, two wins; Northern Ireland, two wins; and Sweden, one win. The only Scot to win in that period was Lawrie, who took advantage of one of the biggest collapses in golf history.

Who is this year's defending champion?

That would be American Jordan Spieth, who survived an adventerous final round to defeat Matt Kuchar by three strokes and earn the third leg of the career Grand Slam.

What is the trophy called?

The claret jug. It's official name is the Golf Champion Trophy, but you rarely hear that used. The claret jug replaced the original Challenge Belt in 1872. The winner of the claret jug gets to keep it for a year, then must return it (each winner gets a replica to keep).

Which Opens have been the most memorable?

Well, there was Palmer in 1961and '62; Van de Velde's collapse in 1999; Hogan's win in 1953; Tiger Woods' eight-shot domination of the 2000 Open at St. Andrews; Watson almost winning at age 59 in 2009; Doug Sanders missing what would have been a winning 3-foot putt at St. Andrews in 1970; Tony Jacklin becoming the first Briton to win the championship in 18 years; and, of course, the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977, in which Watson and Jack Nicklaus dueled head-to-head over the final 36 holes, Watson winning by shooting 65-65 to Nicklaus' 65-66.

When I watch this tournament on TV, I hear lots of unfamiliar terms, like "gorse" and "whin" and "burn." What do these terms mean?

Gorse is a prickly shrub, which sometimes is referred to as whin. Heather is also a shrub. What the scots call a burn, would also be considered a creek or stream.