Free Golf Priceless

By Mercer BaggsJune 30, 2009, 4:00 pm
 Golf in America
It’s April 29. It’s a shade over 50 degrees, winds are blowing steadily at 10-15 mph, and the ground is muddied from previous days’ rain.
It’s the cusp of the golfing season in Michigan and this is about as good as it’s going to get for now.
Mark Mayes isn’t complaining. After nine years as a transport truck driver for Chrysler he was laid off three weeks ago. Not only is he playing golf; he’s doing so for free.
“Hey, free stuff – I like free stuff,” he says.
Mayes is at Wesburn Golf Course in South Rockwood, Mich., about 30 minutes south of Detroit. The course is offering complimentary golf on this day to all those in the state who are currently unemployed.
Over 500,000 people, literally, could have taken advantage of the offer. Michigan, according to the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor & Economic Growth, had an unemployment rate of 12.9% in April, the highest in the nation (in May, according to the department statistics, that number rose to 14.1 percent).
Wesburn employees were expecting about 75 people to show up. Instead, they got 184.
“I’m not even sure how some of them found out about it,” says course owner Richard Dalley. “We had people all the way from St. Clair Shores and Jackson. That surprised me.”
People were willing to drive more than an hour to play a 6,100-yard public course because, as more than one person told Dalley, “It’s free golf!”
Ron Parsons was there. Wesburn is his home course. But the 40-year-old estimates he has cut his rounds played per year from 120 to 40.
“You have to pick and choose when you want to play,” he says, “when the pocketbook permits.”
Parsons, a former steel mill worker in Detroit, hasn’t had a job in 18 months.
“It’s brutal. I have a degree but there’s just nothing out there,” he says.
Parsons, like so many others, plans on going back to school under Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm’s “No Worker Left Behind” program.
Under the plan, any person over the age of 18 who is currently unemployed, has received notice of termination or layoff from employment, or who is employed but has a family income of $40,000 or less per year, can receive up to two years worth of free tuition at any community college, university or other approved training provider in Michigan.
The idea is to give people a chance to gain new credentials and skills, to find careers in “high-demand occupations, emerging industries, or to start a business.”
Parsons is eyeing the medical field or possibly Information Technologies.
Mayes, 43, said he is going to take advantage of this educational opportunity. So, too, is 38-year-old Tom Klimek.
Klimek plays regularly with Parsons, and today he’s “kicking his a**.” At least according to Kilmek.
Klimek, a welder, says he was let go last October from his job when he had to undergo colon surgery for diverticulosis. He’s been through four more surgeries since then – the state helps pay his medical expenses – but has yet to find another job.
He used to play golf two or three times a week. But physical and financial impositions have served to considerably scale back that number.
“Trying to get my swing back,” Klimek says on this day. “This is the start of the golf season.”
Dalley says golf in Michigan starts to bloom along with the azaleas at Augusta, which was when this concept began to materalize.
“On the first day of the Masters we had a beautiful day out here and I heard so many people saying they were having a great time but they didn’t know when they would be able to come back,” Dalley recalls.
'We wanted to come up with a way to change that.'
Course manager Jerry Ward asked Dalley what he thought about a discounted day of golf, maybe even a free one. It was a risk, to be sure, as individuals aren’t the only ones hurting in this economy; businesses – golf courses – are as well.
“It’s scary,” says Dalley. “Since 9-11 we’ve seen a downward trend in income. How much can you give away? In the end, though, it was a good business decision.”
Dalley has been running the course since 1998, when his father-in-law, who purchased the layout 40 years earlier, passed away. As he stated, the venture worked out well for his course – it received some publicity from local TV stations and newspapers, and has seen an increase in attendance since that day.
In addition to the free round, Dalley and company decided to give all of those who showed up – and produced an unemployment check stub – a senior discount rate for the remainder of the year. That allows those 184 people the chance to play from the hours of 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. for $20 (compared to the normal fee of $32).
“That (time frame) is normally a dead time. Since this has happened we’ve picked up at least 20 extra people (a day),” says Steve Stover, who has worked in the pro shop at Wesburn for five years. “It’s been a win-win for everybody.”
Dally agrees.
“It’s helped the course and we think we’ve helped out some people, too,” he says. “In situations like these you just hope you’re doing something good.”
Those who got a chance to play this Wednesday in April had nothing but good things to say. They enjoyed the course, said the staff was friendly, and didn’t seem to mind the cold, the wind or the squishy ground.
“Oh, heck yeah it’s worth it,” responds Mayes when asked whether or not he is glad he came out on this day.
“You betcha,” replies Klimek, even more succinctly, when asked the same thing.
This was a day for Klimek, Mayes, and the 182 others on hand, to cast their troubles aside for a few hours. It was a chance to share and compare their personal experiences with one another. And, quite simply, it was a chance to play golf again – something once experienced regularly for a feasible sum, but now considered a luxury.
“You don’t know until you’ve been there,” says Parsons, “what 30 bucks can really mean.”
'Golf in America' airs on Golf Channel Tuesdays at 10:30 p.m. ET.
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    Alabama faces 'buzzsaw' Arizona for NCAA title

    By Ryan LavnerMay 23, 2018, 2:00 am

    STILLWATER, Okla. – There was no way Laura Ianello could sleep Monday night, not after that dramatic ending at the NCAA Women’s Championship. So at 12:15 a.m., the Arizona coach held court in the laundry room at the Holiday Inn, washing uniforms and munching on mozzarella sticks and fried chicken strips from Sonic, her heart still racing.

    Ianello got only three hours of sleep, and who could blame her?

    The Wildcats had plummeted down the team standings during the final round of stroke-play qualifying, and were 19 over par for the day, when junior transfer Bianca Pagdanganan arrived on the 17th hole.

    “Play the best two holes of your life,” Ianello told her, and so Pagdanganan did, making a solid par on 17 and then ripping a 6-iron from 185 yards out of a divot to 30 feet. There was a massive leaderboard positioned to the right of the par-5 18th green, but Pagdanganan never peeked. The only way for Arizona to force a play-five, count-four playoff with Baylor and reach match play was to sink the putt, and when it dropped, the Wildcats lost their minds, shrieking and jumping over the ropes and hugging anyone in sight.

    Watching the action atop the hill, Alabama coach Mic Potter shook his head.

    “I was really glad we didn’t win the tiebreaker for the No. 1 seed,” he said, “because they’re a buzzsaw with a lot of momentum.”

    Given new life, Arizona dispatched Baylor by three strokes in the playoff, then turned its attention to top-seeded UCLA in the quarterfinals on Tuesday morning.

    NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Scoring and TV times

    NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Full coverage

    Facing two first-team All-Americans, the Wildcats beat them, too, continuing the curse of the medalist. In the afternoon, worried that the adrenaline would wear off, Ianello watched her squad make quick work of Stanford, 4-1.

    “They’ve got a lot of great momentum, a lot of great team energy,” Stanford coach Anne Walker said. “They thought they were going home, and now they’ve got a chip on their shoulder. They’re playing with an edge.”

    After a marathon doubleheader Tuesday at Karsten Creek, Arizona now has a date with Alabama in the final match of this NCAA Championship.

    And the Wildcats better rest up.

    Alabama looks unstoppable.

    “They’re rolling off a lot of momentum right now,” Ianello said. “We know Alabama is a good team. But they’re super excited and pumped. It’s not the high of making it [Monday]; now they’ve got a chance to win. They know they have to bring it.”

    Even fully rested, Arizona will be a significant underdog against top-ranked Alabama.

    After failing to reach match play each of the past two years, despite being the top overall seed, the Tide wouldn’t be stopped from steamrolling their competition this time.

    They roughed up Kent State, 4-1, in the quarterfinals, then frontloaded their lineup with three first-team All-Americans – Lauren Stephenson, Kristen Gillman and Cheyenne Knight – in their semifinal tilt against Southern Cal.

    Potter said that he was just trying to play the matchups, but the move sent a clear signal.

    “It gets pretty tedious when you never miss fairways and hole a lot of putts and your opponent knows that you’re not going to spray it,” Potter said. “That’s tough to match up against.”

    They breezed to the first three points, draining any drama out of the semifinals. Of the 99 holes that Bama’s Big 3 played Tuesday, they trailed after only two.

    “We’re always consistent,” Stephenson said, “and that’s exactly what you need in match play. Someone has to go really low to beat us.”

    That Arizona even has that chance to dethrone the Tide seemed inconceivable a few months ago.

    The Wildcats had a miserable fall and were ranked 39th at the halfway point of the season. On Christmas Day, one of the team’s best players, Krystal Quihuis, sent a text to Ianello that she was turning pro. Once she relayed the news, the team felt abandoned, but it also had a newfound motivation.

    “They wanted to prove that they’re a great team, even without her,” Ianello said.

    It also was a case of addition by subtraction: Out went the individual-minded Quihuis and in came Yu-Sang Ho, an incoming freshman whom Ianello described as a “bright, shining light.”

    Because incorporating a top-tier junior at the midway point can be intimidating, Ianello organized a lively team retreat at the Hilton El Conquistador in Tucson, where they made vision boards and played games blindfolded.

    They laughed that weekend and all throughout the spring – or at least until Pagnanganan made that last-ditch eagle putt Monday. Then tears streamed down Ianello’s face.

    Folding uniforms after midnight, she regaled Alabama assistant coach Susan Rosenstiel with stories from their emotional day on the cut line, not even considering that they might face each other two days later for a national title. She was too delirious to ponder that.

    “I feel like a new mother with a newborn baby,” Ianello said. “But we’re going off of adrenaline. This team has all the momentum they need to get it done.”

    Yes, somehow, the last team into the match-play field might soon be the last team standing.

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    Pairings, tee times set for championship match

    By Jay CoffinMay 23, 2018, 1:02 am

    STILLWATER, Okla. – Alabama coach Mic Potter has three first-team All-Americans on this team. It’s little surprise that all three are going out first in the Crimson Tide’s championship match against Arizona Wednesday at Karsten Creek.

    Potter tinkered with his lineup in both the quarterfinal victory over Kent State and the semifinal win over USC. But with the NCAA title on the line, this one was a no brainer.

    “We don’t want to sacrifice anything,” Potter said. “We just want to give ourselves a chance to win every match.”

    Arizona kept its lineup the same all day Tuesday in defeating Pac-12 foes UCLA and Stanford in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively. That meant junior Bianca Pagdanganan, the Wildcats grittiest player this week, was in the last match of the day. She won twice.

    Now, with all the marbles riding on the championship match, Arizona coach Laura Ianello moved Pagdanganan up to the third spot to assure that her match is key to the final outcome.

    Junior Haley Moore, Arizona’s best player all year, is in the fifth spot and will face Alabama senior Lakareber Abe.

    “Win or lose tomorrow, this has been a helluva ride,” Ianello said.

    Alabama (2) vs. Arizona (8)

    3:25PM ET: Lauren Stephenson (AL) vs. Yu-Sang Hou (AZ)

    3:35PM ET: Kristen Gillman (AL) vs. Gigi Stoll (AZ)

    3:45PM ET: Cheyenne Knight (AL) vs. Bianca Pagdanganan (AZ)

    3:55PM ET: Angelica Moresco (AL) vs. Sandra Nordaas (AZ)

    4:05PM ET: Lakareber Abe (AL) vs. Haley Moore (AZ)

    Getty Images

    Women's NCAA finals: Arizona vs. Alabama

    By Jay CoffinMay 22, 2018, 11:49 pm

    STILLWATER, Okla. – It’s the SEC vs. the Pac 12 for the women’s NCAA Championship; Alabama vs. Arizona, to be more specific.

    Both the Crimson Tide and Wildcats cruised in their respective semifinal matches Tuesday at Karsten Creek. Alabama easily beat USC, 3-1-1; Arizona defeated match-play juggernaut Stanford, 4-1.

    Alabama’s top three players, Lauren Stephenson, Kristen Gillman and Cheyenne Knight were unstoppable forces in both matches on the marathon day. Stacked in the top three positions in the semifinals all three won their matches on the 17th hole, making the last two matches inconsequential.

    NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Scoring and TV times

    NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Full coverage

    Arizona, the eighth seed, won as decisively as second-seeded Alabama, but needed a miracle to be in this position in the first place.

    Junior Bianca Pagdanganan drained a 30-footer for eagle on the last hole of stroke play on Monday to get the Wildcats into a playoff against Baylor, which they won on the second hole. Then on Tuesday, presumably running on fumes, they downed top-seeded UCLA in the morning, then crushed Pac-12 foe Stanford in the afternoon.

    Pagdanganan, Gigi Stoll and Hayley Moore each won both matches for Arizona on the hot, draining day.

    “I don’t want to let them down so I do my best to rise to the occasion,” Pagdanganan said.

    Said Arizona coach Laura Ianello: “How many players, when you tell them under pressure that you need them, can really handle it,” Ianello said about Pagdanganan. “This kid can.”

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    NCAA DI Women's Champ.: Scoring, TV times

    By Golf Channel DigitalMay 22, 2018, 11:30 pm

    The NCAA Division I Women's Golf Championship is underway at Kartsen Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.

    After three days of stroke play, eight teams advanced to the match-play portion of the championship. Quarterfinals and semifinals were contested Tuesday, with the finals being held on Wednesday. Golf Channel is airing the action live.

    Wake Forest junior Jennifer Kupcho won the individual title. Click here for live finals action, beginning at 4 p.m. ET.


    TV Times (all times ET):

    4-8PM: Match-play finals (Click here to watch live)