October is Long Drive Month on Golf Channel, Led by 2016 World Long Drive Championship Oct. 11-12 in Primetime

By Golf Channel Public RelationsSeptember 15, 2016, 2:05 pm

Golf Channel Featuring Long Drive-Themed Programming Across News, Instruction and Digital Platforms Throughout October

Renowned Orange County Choppers Partners with Golf Channel to Build New Winner’s Belt for the Champion; Product of 100+ Hours of Hand-Crafted Labor

Towering tee shots, exorbitant swing speeds, and enormous adrenaline collide as Golf Channel once again will celebrate “Long Drive Month” in October. The month of programming will center around back-to-back nights of the 2016 World Long Drive Championship (8-10 p.m. ET on Golf Channel), Tuesday-Wednesday, Oct. 11-12, live and under the lights from WinStar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, Okla. Throughout the month, Golf Channel also will integrate the long drive theme into its instruction, studio and digital platforms in celebration of the long ball.

2016 WORLD LONG DRIVE CHAMPIONSHIP: The World Long Drive Championship (Oct. 6-12), will feature an 80-man match play bracket, which will be narrowed to 16 competitors ahead of Golf Channel’s back-to-back nights of coverage, with the champion earning a $125,000 first place prize. The winner also will be presented with a new, custom-designed Championship belt, built by renowned Orange County Choppers, featured on the popular reality TV show on Discovery, American Chopper. The belt itself is the result of more than 100 hours of craftsmanship with hand-tooled leather and precision machined 6061-T6 aluminum.

Golf Channel’s expanded coverage of the Championship will be featured across its on-air and digital news platforms, with results of the qualifying rounds, Oct. 6-10, leading up to live on-air coverage of the competition Oct. 11-12.

“Long Drive is a fascinating segment of the sport, and by showcasing the pure adrenaline of hitting it long, Golf Channel simultaneously will provide our viewers with live golf competition on back-to-back nights outside of the traditional tournament week schedule,” said Phil Piazza, Senior Vice President, Programming, Golf Channel. “Through expanded coverage of the Championship across our Golf Channel platforms, fans will have an opportunity to witness the tremendous talents of the longest golfers in the world playing out in primetime and under the lights.

FORMAT: Competitors will have an opportunity to hit eight (8) drives within a 3-minute time limit in head-to-head matches. The Open Division will consist of 80 players competing in a match play bracket. The field will be made up of exempt competitors, regional qualifiers, tour event winners and international representatives. 53 of the 80 players have already gained entry into the Championship, while the remainder of field will be rounded out by 27 of the 76 entrants scheduled to compete in a “Last Chance Qualifier,” taking place Thursday, Oct. 6 on the first day of the World Long Drive Championship. For a full list of player rankings (and criteria) visit HERE.

The Senior Division (age 45+) will be made up of a field of 41 competitors, also being contested in a match play bracket that consists of exempt competitors, regional qualifiers and international representatives. The Ladies Division will be comprised of 16 competitors, who will compete in a points merit format that will determine the eight players advancing to match play. Golf Channel on-air personality Blair O’Neal will be among the 16-player Ladies Division field, where she’ll look to lean on her reputation for length off the tee dating back to her college golf career at Arizona State. During her freshman year while competing for the Sun Devils, O’Neal won the long drive competition staged in conjunction with the 2000 NCAA Women’s Golf Championships.

The 2016 Long Drive season welcomed the return of local and regional qualifying for the World Long Drive Championship, staged as part of the Callaway World Long Drive Qualifying Series, where competitors had an opportunity to earn an exemption into the field at WinStar. The Series also introduced a new ball to Long Drive competition, with Volvik’s Vista iV becoming the official golf ball of Long Drive competition, with its signature offering of golf balls in four different color options.

LONG DRIVE MONTH THEMED PROGRAMMING: Golf Channel will integrate the long drive theme across its instructional and news programming featuring tips and other dedicated segments throughout the month. The shows also will welcome Long Drive competitors to share their secrets:

  • The Golf Fix, Monday, Oct. 10 at 7 p.m. ET: Host Michael Breed (and World Long Drive Championship analyst) will be joined by two-time World Long Drive winner, and defending champion Tim Burke (2013, 2015). The show will focus on adjustments amateur golfers can make to add distance to their drives.
  • Playing Lessons, Monday, Oct. 10 at 10 p.m. ET: A special encore presentation of Playing Lessons will air on Monday, Oct. 10 at 10 p.m. ET, featuring World Long Drive champions Joe Miller (2010) and Jamie Sadlowski (2008, 2009) joining Golf Channel host Charlie Rymer in Southern California to offer insight on how to increase distance off the tee.
  • PGA TOUR Champions Learning Center: Throughout the month, several PGA TOUR Champions players will be featured onPGA TOUR Champions Learning Center to provide insight on getting longer off the tee. Players expected to be featured include: John Daly, Tom Lehman, Bernhard Langer and Fred Funk.
  • School of Golf: Co-hosts Martin Hall and Sara Brown will incorporate the Long Drive theme in eachSchool of Golf episode airing throughout October.
  • Morning Drive: Morning Drive throughout 2016 has welcomed Long Drive participants in-studio to showcase their distance on-air in addition to regularly featuring segments focusing on the longest drives of the week on the PGA TOUR. In anticipation of the World Long Drive Championship, Morning Drive will welcome long drivers Ryan Reisbeck (tomorrow, Sept. 15), and two-time Champion Tim Burke (Tuesday, Oct. 4).
  • Golf Central: Golf Channel’s evening news program will feature daily updates the week of the Championship (Oct. 6-12) following each stage of the competition.
  • Golf Channel Digital: In the weeks leading up to Golf Channel’s coverage of the World Long Drive Championship Oct. 11-12, Golf Channel Digital will feature dedicated Long Drive tips and analysis preparing viewers for back-to-back nights of the Championship. Coverage will be featured across the network’s Digital platforms, including the Golf Channel Academy instruction App.

For more information, visit: http://www.longdrivers.com

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Garcia 2 back in storm-halted Andalucia Masters

By Associated PressOctober 18, 2018, 7:08 pm

SOTOGRANDE, Spain  -- Ashley Chesters was leading on 5-under 66 at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters when play was suspended because of darkness with 60 golfers yet to complete their weather-hit first rounds on Thursday.

More than four hours was lost as play was twice suspended because of stormy conditions and the threat of lightning at the Real Club Valderrama in southern Spain.

Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters

English journeyman Chesters collected six birdies and one bogey to take a one-shot lead over Gregory Bourdy of France. Tournament host and defending champion Sergio Garcia was on 68 along with fellow Spaniards Alvaro Quiros and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, and Australia's Jason Scrivener.

''It's a shame I can't keep going because the last few holes were the best I played all day. Considering all the delays and everything, I'm very happy with 5 under,'' Chesters said. ''The forecast for the rest of the week is not very good either so I thought I'll just make as many birdies as I can and get in.''

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Caddies drop lawsuit; Tour increases healthcare stipend

By Rex HoggardOctober 18, 2018, 3:33 pm

After nearly four years of litigation, a group of PGA Tour caddies have dropped their lawsuit against the circuit.

The lawsuit, which was filed in California in early 2015, centered on the bibs caddies wear during tournaments and ongoing attempts by the caddies to improve their healthcare and retirement options.

The caddies lost their class-action lawsuit in U.S. District Court and an appeal this year.

Separately, the Association of Professional Tour Caddies, which was not involved in the lawsuit but represents the caddies to the Tour, began negotiating with the circuit last year.

“I told the guys, if we really want a healthy working relationship with the Tour, we need to fix this and open the lines of communication,” said Scott Sajtinac, the president of the APTC.

In January 2017, Jay Monahan took over as commissioner of the Tour and began working with the APTC to find a solution to the healthcare issue. Sajtinac said the Tour has agreed to increase the stipend it gives caddies for healthcare beginning next year.

“It took a year and a half, but it turned out to be a good result,” Sajtinac said. “Our goal is to close that window for the guys because healthcare is such a massive chunk of our income.”

The Tour did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the agreement or the end to the lawsuit.

Caddies have received a stipend from the Tour for healthcare for some time, and although Sajtinac wouldn’t give the exact increase, he said it was over 300 percent. Along with the APTC’s ability to now negotiate healthcare plans as a group, the new stipend should dramatically reduce healthcare costs for caddies.

“It’s been really good,” said Sajtinac, who did add that there are currently no talks with the Tour to created a retirement program for caddies. “Everybody is really excited about this.”

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PGA Tour Latinoamérica moving season finale to Doral

By Nick MentaOctober 18, 2018, 2:36 pm

PGA Tour Latinoamérica announced Wednesday that it will play its season finale, the Latinoamérica Tour Championship-Shell Championship, at Trump National Doral from Nov. 29-Dec. 2.

The limited-field event will feature the top 60 players on the circuit's money list competing on Doral's Golden Palm Course.

“We are very happy that we will continue playing the Latinoamérica Tour Championship-Shell Championship in South Florida, and Doral is a tremendous community that we know will open its arms to our players and this tournament,” PGA Tour Latinoamérica president Jack Warfield said in a statement.

The PGA Tour ended its more than 50-year relationship with Doral and the resort's Blue Monster course back in 2016, when Cadillac's title sponsorship of the World Golf Championship lapsed as then-candidate Donald Trump was mounting his bid for the presidency.

“We continue to stand by our earlier statement, and the statement of other golf organizations, that Mr. Trump's comments are inconsistent with our strong commitment to an inclusive and welcoming environment in the game of golf,” then-PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said in December 2015, referring to Trump's campaign rhetoric concerning Mexicans and Muslims.

The event was moved to Mexico City in 2017 and renamed the WGC-Mexico Championship.

The Latinoamérica Tour Championship was staged the last two years at Melreese Country Club in Miami, where David Beckham is currently attempting to build a stadium for his Major League Soccer expansion club, Inter Miami.

PGA Tour Latinoamérica's release states that the move to Doral "keeps the event in this part of the Sunshine State and allows the tournament to maintain its ties to The First Tee of Miami as a charitable recipient and sponsor." Melreese, the city's only public golf course, is home to the First Tee of Miami, which naturally opposes Beckham's efforts to close the facility and repurpose the land.

A November referendum will ask voters to decide if the city should negotiate a no-bid lease with Beckham's ownership group, which seeks to create a $1 billion dollar complex comprising of the proposed stadium, youth soccer fields, a park, commercial and retail space, and a hotel.

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Im wins Web.com Player and Rookie of the Year awards

By Nick MentaOctober 18, 2018, 1:22 pm

Sungjae Im on Thursday was named the Web.com Tour's 2018 Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year.

Im won twice on the Web.com this year, taking the season opener in January, The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic, and the season finale in August, the WinCo Foods Portland Open, to become the first player in history lead the circuit's money list wire-to-wire.

Im is the first Korean-born player to win the Web's POY award and, at 20 years old, its youngest recipient.

In a player vote, Im bested Anders Albertson, Sam Burns, Kramer Hickok and Martin Trainer, 2018's only other two-time winner, for POY honors, and Burns, Hickock, Trainer and Cameron Champ for ROY honors.

“My first year on the Web.com Tour was an incredibly happy time for me,” Im said, “and it’s pretty surreal that I was able to win the first and last tournament of the season. I honestly thought I would spend about two to three years on the Web.com Tour before making it to the PGA Tour, so I’m happy to have achieved my goal so soon. I’m grateful to have earned the Player of the Year honors and I hope to finish the remainder of the PGA Tour season on a good note.”

In his first PGA Tour start, Im tied for fourth at the Safeway Open, earning $241,280, a little less than half of the $534,326 he amassed in 25 starts as the Web's regular-season money winner.

Playing this week's CJ Cup in his native South Korea, Im opened with a 1-over 73 Thursday.