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.

Getty Images

Schauffele just fine being the underdog

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 8:06 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following a breakthough season during which he won twice and collected the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Award, Xander Schauffele concedes his sophomore campaign has been less than stellar, but that could all change on Sunday at The Open.

Schauffele followed a second-round 66 with a 67 on Saturday to take a share of the 9-under-par lead with Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner.

Although he hasn’t won in 2018, he did finish runner-up at The Players and tied for sixth at the U.S. Open, two of the year’s toughest tests.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“Growing up, I always hit it well and played well in tough conditions,” Schauffele said. “I wasn't the guy to shoot 61. I was the guy to shoot like 70 when it was playing really hard.”

Sunday’s pairing could make things even more challenging when he’ll head out in the day’s final tee time with Spieth, the defending champion. But being the underdog in a pairing, like he was on Saturday alongside Rory McIlroy, is not a problem.

“All the guys I've talked to said, 'Live it up while you can, fly under the radar,'” he said. “Today I played in front of what you call Rory's crowd and guys were just yelling all the time, even while he's trying to putt, and he had to step off a few times. No one was yelling at me while I was putting. So I kind of enjoy just hanging back and relaxing.”

Getty Images

Open odds: Spieth 7/1 to win; Tiger, Rory 14/1

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 7:54 pm

Only 18 holes remain in the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie, and the man tied atop the leaderboard is the same man who captured the claret jug last year at Royal Birkdale.

So it’s little surprise that Jordan Spieth is the odds-on favorite (7/4) to win his fourth major entering Sunday’s final round.

Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner, both tied with Spieth at 9 under par, are next in line at 5/1 and 11/2 respectively. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, both four shots behind the leaders, are listed at 14/1.

Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at golfodds.com.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Jordan Spieth: 7/4

Xander Schauffele: 5/1

Kevin Kisner: 11/2

Tiger Woods: 14/1

Francesco Molinari: 14/1

Rory McIlroy: 14/1

Kevin Chappell: 20/1

Tommy Fleetwood: 20/1

Alex Noren: 25/1

Zach Johnson: 30/1

Justin Rose: 30/1

Matt Kuchar: 40/1

Webb Simpson: 50/1

Adam Scott: 80/1

Tony Finau: 80/1

Charley Hoffman: 100/1

Austin Cook: 100/1

Getty Images

Spieth stands on brink of Open repeat

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 7:49 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jordan Spieth described Monday’s “ceremony” to return the claret jug to the keepers of the game’s oldest championship as anything but enjoyable.

For the last 12 months the silver chalice has been a ready reminder of what he was able to overcome and accomplish in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, a beacon of hope during a year that’s been infinitely forgettable.

By comparison, the relative pillow fight this week at Carnoustie has been a welcome distraction, a happy-go-lucky stroll through a wispy field. Unlike last year’s edition, when Spieth traveled from the depths of defeat to the heights of victory within a 30-minute window, the defending champion has made this Open seem stress-free, easy even, by comparison.

But then those who remain at Carnoustie know it’s little more than a temporary sleight of hand.

As carefree as things appeared on Saturday when 13 players, including Spieth, posted rounds of 67 or lower, as tame as Carnoustie, which stands alone as The Open’s undisputed bully, has been through 54 holes there was a foreboding tension among the rank and file as they readied for a final trip around Royal Brown & Bouncy.

“This kind of southeast or east/southeast wind we had is probably the easiest wind this golf course can have, but when it goes off the left side, which I think is forecasted, that's when you start getting more into the wind versus that kind of cross downwind,” said Spieth, who is tied for the lead with Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner at 9 under par after a 6-under 65. “It won't be the case tomorrow. It's going to be a meaty start, not to mention, obviously, the last few holes to finish.”

Carnoustie only gives so much and with winds predicted to gust to 25 mph there was a distinct feeling that playtime was over.

As melancholy as Spieth was about giving back the claret jug, and make no mistake, he wasn’t happy, not even his status among the leading contenders with a lap remaining was enough for him to ignore the sleeping giant.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


But then he’s come by his anxiousness honestly. Spieth has spent far too much time answering questions about an inexplicably balky putter the last few weeks and he hasn’t finished better than 21st since his “show” finish in April at the Masters.

After a refreshingly solid start to his week on Thursday imploded with a double bogey-bogey-par-bogey finish he appeared closer to an early ride home on Friday than he did another victory lap, but he slowly clawed his way back into the conversation as only he can with one clutch putt after the next.

“I'm playing golf for me now. I've kind of got a cleared mind. I've made a lot of progress over the year that's been kind of an off year, a building year,” said Spieth, who is bogey-free over his last 36 holes. “And I've got an opportunity to make it a very memorable one with a round, but it's not necessary for me to prove anything for any reason.”

But if an awakened Carnoustie has Spieth’s attention, the collection of would-be champions assembled around and behind him adds another layer of intrigue.

Kisner, Spieth’s housemate this week on Angus coast, has led or shared the lead after each round this week and hasn’t shown any signs of fading like he did at last year’s PGA Championship, when he started the final round with a one-stroke lead only to close with a 74 to tie for seventh place.

“I haven't played it in that much wind. So I think it's going to be a true test, and we'll get to see really who's hitting it the best and playing the best tomorrow,” said Kisner, who added a 68 to his total on Day 3.

There’s no shortage of potential party crashers, from Justin Rose at 4 under after a round-of-the-week 64 to 2015 champion Zach Johnson, who also made himself at home with Spieth and Kisner in the annual Open frat house and is at 5 under.

Rory McIlroy, who is four years removed from winning his last major championship, looked like a player poised to get off the Grand Slam schneid for much of the day, moving to 7 under with a birdie at the 15th hole, but he played the last three holes in 2 over par and is tied with Johnson at 5 under par. 

And then there’s Tiger Woods. For three magical hours the three-time Open champion played like he’d never drifted into the dark competitive hole that’s defined his last few years. Like he’d never been sidelined by an endless collection of injuries and eventually sought relief under the surgeon’s knife.

As quietly as Woods can do anything, he turned in 3 under par for the day and added two more birdies at Nos. 10 and 11. His birdie putt at the 14th hole lifted him temporarily into a share of the lead at 6 under par.

“We knew there were going to be 10, 12 guys with a chance to win on Sunday, and it's turning out to be that,” said Woods, who is four strokes off the lead. “I didn't want to be too far back if the guys got to 10 [under] today. Five [shots back] is certainly doable, and especially if we get the forecast tomorrow.”

Woods held his round of 66 together with a gritty par save at the 18th hole after hitting what he said was his only clunker of the day off the final tee.

Even that episode seemed like foreshadowing.

The 18th hole has rough, bunkers, out of bounds and a burn named Barry that weaves its way through the hole like a drunken soccer fan. It’s the Grand Slam of hazardous living and appears certain to play a leading role in Sunday’s outcome.

Perhaps none of the leading men will go full Jean Van de Velde, the star-crossed Frenchman who could still be standing in that burn if not for a rising tide back at the 1999 championship, but if the 499 yards of dusty turf is an uninvited guest, it’s a guest nonetheless.

It may not create the same joyless feelings that he had when he returned the claret jug, but given the hole’s history and Spieth’s penchant for late-inning histrionics (see Open Championship, 2017), the 18th hole is certain to produce more than a few uncomfortable moments.

Getty Images

Wandering photographer costs McIlroy on 16

By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 7:44 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy bogeyed two of his last four holes Saturday to fall four shots off the lead at The Open.

One of those mistakes might not have entirely been his fault.

McIlroy missed a short putt on the par-3 16th after a photographer was “in a world all his own,” wandering around near the green, taking photos of the crowd and not paying attention to the action on the green.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“It’s fine,” McIlroy said after a third-round 70 put him at 5-under 208, four shots off the lead. “It’s one of those things that happens. There’s a lot of people out there, and it is what it is. It’s probably my fault, but I just didn’t regroup well after it happened.”

McIlroy also bogeyed the home hole, after driving into a fairway bunker, sending his second shot right of the green and failing to get up and down.

“I putted well,” he said. “I holed out when I needed to. I just need to make the birdies and try to limit the damage tomorrow.”