Recovery Professional Golf Returns to New Orleans

By Mercer BaggsApril 16, 2006, 4:00 pm
Golf Chronicles: After KatrinaNEW ORLEANS -- They stand wired and strapped in atop the New Orleans Superdome, looking like ants trying to rebuild their hill kicked by man. Only this time, the role of unremorseful man was played by Mother Nature. And the men themselves were ants.
 
Not far away, there is a billboard. It reads: What if this can help put the groove back in the city?
 
The sign shows a golfer striking a ball. It is referring to the Zurich Classic, which will be contested at English Turn Golf & Country Club.
 
The tournament will commence April 27 ' nearly eight months to the day after Hurricane Katrina ripped through the Gulf Coast region, resulting in the worst natural disaster in United States history.
 
On one side of the Superdome, which served as a disheveled and putrid sanctuary for thousands of disenfranchised, there is a sign trumpeting its re-opening, 9-25-2006, for a Monday night football game between the New Orleans Saints and their divisional rival Atlanta Falcons.
 
But well before then, the PGA TOUR will be in town to host the first professional, nationally televised network sporting event since 8-29-2005.
 
We want to show the nation that the city is recovering, said Zurich Classic tournament director John Subers. Were vibrant, alive, open for business.
 
English Turn is hosting the event after a years stay at the TPC of Louisiana. The TPC course was supposed to be the permanent site of the tournament, but that changed, as much did, after Katrina.
 
According to Subers and English Turn course superintendent Matt Yount, the TPC of Louisiana sustained significant tree damage and, due to poor drainage, significant flooding, making the venue unsuitable for this years event.
 
In fact, the event itself was in doubt ' but not for long.
 
We had a group of us go to Ponte Vedra (home to PGA TOUR headquarters in Florida) 10 days after the storm, said Mike Rodrigue, Chairman of the Board and Founder of the Fore!Kids Foundation, the tournaments primary beneficiary. We just didnt know what course was going to be available. There was talk of moving it for 2006 to the east coast. But we had a full commitment from Zurich to play the tournament in town.
 
Fortunately, they had English Turn to turn to in this time of need. The course, which hosted this tournament from 1989-2004, did not receive any major damage, including no flooding, during The Storm, as the locals refer to Katrina, making it a viable option.
 
With the TOUR holding a tournament here for so many years, there was pretty much a plan in place, Yount said.
 
We lost about 300 trees, he added, but were able to stand some back up. We replaced others with groups of younger, smaller trees. Hopefully, the course will play similarly to the way they are used to playing it.
 
On the final day of March, members and their guests were playing a tournament at English Turn. Semi-erected hospitality tents lined the 18th fairway and encircled the green.
 
Yount said the course is averaging about 85 rounds a day, almost back to full speed.
 
Zurich Classic of New Orleans
Tournament officials anticipate crowds of around 30,000 on both Saturday and Sunday this year.
Subers expects to see little fallout in relation to the tournament, as well. According to him, there will be 55 open-air sky boxes on the home hole and 12 more around the 16th green. Corporate tents have long been sold out; though, they were reduced in price, some up to 30 percent.
 
He anticipates 30,000 fans on both Saturday and Sunday of the tournament, the same numbers they received a year ago.
 
People will come, Subers said. They want to come.
 
And they need them to come.
 
This event normally provides more than $25 million to the local economy. It also raises about $1 million for charity, much of which goes to Fore!Kids, which raises money for various childrens charities through golf events.
 
This money is desperately desired.
 
When we were deciding if we needed to continue this event, because of all the uncertainties after the storm, there was no question that the children in our community needed it. We needed to continue our mission to do what we needed to do to hold the event in New Orleans, however we could, Subers said.
 
This years event features plenty of star power to entice attendees: Masters champion Phil Mickelson; Louisiana native David Toms; Chris DiMarco; past winner Davis Love III; and Retief Goosen, who is making his first appearance in New Orleans.
 
Subers said that they are working with the PGA TOUR Wives Association to provide guided tours for anyone interested in surveying the many areas of devastation. The wives themselves told Subers that they would like to get their hands dirty and help out however they can prior to the tournament.
 
Subers, now in his third year as tournament director, was in Boston at the Deutsche Bank Championship for a recruiting trip when Katrina struck last year. Usually, trying to get the worlds best players to come play your event is a beggars job. Not so this time.
 
Weve gotten a ton of support from the PGA TOUR. They established the U.S. Golf (Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund). And the players have been compassionate to help anyway they can, he said.
 
Fifty-seven times, dating back to 1938, New Orleans has hosted this event. Past champions include everyone from Bryon Nelson to Jack Nicklaus to Tom Watson to Vijay Singh.
 
And, thanks to unwavering support and dedication, there will be a 58th occasion.
 
For Subers and Co., they always believed that this was the right thing to do. It needed to be done for the community ' to be held in the community. That belief was reinforced a few months ago.
 
We saw a huge success when Mardi Gras came to town, Subers said. That told me personally that this is a great thing; that we are going to have a successful golf tournament.
 
People do want to get out. They want to get their lives back to normal.
 
Email your thoughts to Mercer Baggs
 
Related Links:
  • Rebuild: The Resurrection of Metairie C.C.
  • Rebirth: History on the Brink of Extinction
  • Golf Channel Airtimes - Golf Chronicles: After Katrina
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    Five-time Open champ Thomson passes at 88

    By Associated PressJune 20, 2018, 1:35 am

    MELBOURNE, Australia – Five-time Open Championship winner Peter Thomson has died, his family said Wednesday. He was 88.

    Thomson had been suffering from Parkinson's disease for more than four years and died at his Melbourne home surrounded by family members on Wednesday morning.

    Born on Aug, 23, 1929, Thomson was two months short of his 89th birthday.

    The first Australian to win The Open Championship, Thomson went on to secure the title five times between 1954 and 1965, a record equaled only by Tom Watson.

    On the American senior circuit he won nine times in 1985.

    Thomson also served as president of the Australian PGA for 32 years, designing and building courses in Australia and around the world, helping establish the Asian Tour and working behind the scenes for the Odyssey House drug rehabilitation organization where he was chairman for five years.

    He also wrote for newspapers and magazines for more than 60 years and was patron of the Australian Golf Writers Association.

    In 1979 he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his service to golf and in 2001 became an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for his contributions as a player and administrator and for community service.

    Thomson is survived by his wife Mary, son Andrew and daughters Deirdre Baker, Pan Prendergast and Fiona Stanway, their spouses, 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

    Funeral arrangements were to be announced over the next few days.

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    Gaston leaves USC to become head coach at Texas A&M

    By Ryan LavnerJune 19, 2018, 11:00 pm

    In a major shakeup in the women’s college golf world, USC coach Andrea Gaston has accepted an offer to become the new head coach at Texas A&M.

    Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

    Gaston, who informed her players of her decision Monday night, has been one of the most successful coaches over the past two decades, leading the Trojans to three NCAA titles and producing five NCAA individual champions during her 22-year reign. They have finished in the top 5 at nationals in an NCAA-record 13 consecutive seasons.

    This year was arguably Gaston’s most impressive coaching job. She returned last fall after undergoing treatment for uterine cancer, but a promising season was seemingly derailed after losing two stars to the pro ranks at the halfway point. Instead, she guided a team with four freshmen and a sophomore to the third seed in stroke play and a NCAA semifinals appearance. Of the four years that match play has been used in the women’s game, USC has advanced to the semifinals three times.  

    Texas A&M could use a coach with Gaston’s track record.

    Last month the Aggies fired coach Trelle McCombs after 11 seasons following a third consecutive NCAA regional exit. A&M had won conference titles as recently as 2010 (Big 10) and 2015 (SEC), but this year the team finished 13th at SECs.

    The head-coaching job at Southern Cal is one of the most sought-after in the country and will have no shortage of outside interest. If the Trojans look to promote internally, men’s assistant Justin Silverstein spent four years under Gaston and helped the team win the 2013 NCAA title.  

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    Spieth 'blacked out' after Travelers holeout

    By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 9:44 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – It was perhaps the most-replayed shot (and celebration) of the year.

    Jordan Spieth’s bunker holeout to win the Travelers Championship last year in a playoff over Daniel Berger nearly broke the Internet, as fans relived that raucous chest bump between Spieth and caddie Michael Greller after Spieth threw his wedge and Greller threw his rake.

    Back in Connecticut to defend his title, Spieth admitted that he has watched replays of the scene dozens of times – even if, in the heat of the moment, he wasn’t exactly choreographing every move.


    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    “Just that celebration in general, I blacked out,” Spieth said. “It drops and you just react. For me, I’ve had a few instances where I’ve been able to celebrate or react on a 72nd, 73rd hole, 74th hole, whatever it may be, and it just shows how much it means to us.”

    Spieth and Greller’s celebration was so memorable that tournament officials later shipped the rake to Greller as a keepsake. It’s a memory that still draws a smile from the defending champ, whose split-second decision to go for a chest bump over another form of celebration provided an appropriate cap to a high-energy sequence of events.

    “There’s been a lot of pretty bad celebrations on the PGA Tour. There’s been a lot of missed high-fives,” Spieth said. “I’ve been part of plenty of them. Pretty hard to miss when I’m going into Michael for a chest bump.”

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    Pregnant Lewis playing final events before break

    By Randall MellJune 19, 2018, 9:27 pm

    Stacy Lewis will be looking to make the most of her last three starts of 2018 in her annual return to her collegiate roots this week.

    Lewis, due to give birth to her first child on Nov. 3, will tee it up in Friday’s start to the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Arkansas. She won the NCAA individual women’s national title in 2007 while playing at the University of Arkansas. She is planning to play the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship next week and then the Marathon Classic two weeks after that before taking the rest of the year off to get ready for her baby’s arrival.

    Lewis, 33, said she is beginning to feel the effects of being with child.

    “Things have definitely gotten harder, I would say, over the last week or so, the heat of the summer and all that,” Lewis said Tuesday. “I'm actually excited. I'm looking forward to the break and being able to decorate the baby's room and do all that kind of stuff and to be a mom - just super excited.”

    Lewis says she is managing her energy levels, but she is eager to compete.

    “Taking a few more naps and resting a little bit more,” she said. “Other than that, the game's been pretty good.”

    Lewis won the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship in 2014, and she was credited with an unofficial title in ’07, while still a senior at Arkansas. That event was reduced to 18 holes because of multiple rain delays. Lewis is a popular alumni still actively involved with the university.