Public Access Pebble Beach Golf Links - COPIED

By Randall MellDecember 13, 2010, 8:50 pm
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – It’s one of my favorite moments at Pebble Beach Golf Links.

If you were at the U.S. Open 10 years ago, or witnessed it on TV, you can probably still see Jack Nicklaus sitting by himself on the wooden fence behind the 18th tee in what would be his final round of his final U.S. Open. With the surf pounding Carmel Bay’s craggy shoreline behind him, Nicklaus paused to soak in the grandeur.

In that moment, Nicklaus was more than the greatest player who ever lived. He might have been you. Or me. Or every man, woman or child who has fallen in love with the ruggedly spectacular meeting of land and sea that is Pebble Beach. He was as much spectator as player, mere mortal admiring the collaborative genius of man and a higher power.

“I’ve always said, if I had one round of golf to go play, I’d probably go play at Pebble Beach,” Nicklaus said again at the Memorial last week.

Ten years after Nicklaus’ farewell, I got to walk in a giant’s footsteps, just as you can. I got to play Pebble Beach, just as you can. Near the end of the round, I couldn’t resist wandering to the fence line behind the 18th tee to marvel, just as Nicklaus did. While I might not be able to hit the shots Nicklaus did, I got to make a memorable journey along the same path Nicklaus and so many other champions have marched.

Public access adds a dimension to a U.S. Open that isn’t there at Oakmont, Winged Foot, Shinnecock or other private venues.

It’s what makes this summer different from any major championship summer golf’s ever seen.

For the first summer in history, the U.S. Open, the British Open and the PGA Championship will all be played at venues open to the public.

The prices may be steep, but the common man’s never had more access to golf’s uncommon tests with Pebble Beach, St. Andrews and Whistling Straits hosting.

Chuck Dunbar, the head professional at Pebble Beach, learned the sacrifices the average working man is willing to make to play the game’s great tests. He was working the pro shop one morning when a middle-aged man marched in before his tee time to pay the $300 greens fee required back then. He marched in with a bundle full of rolled up quarters.

“He said he’d been saving a long, long time to play Pebble Beach, throwing spare quarters in a dish at the end of every work day,” Dunbar said. “That’s how he paid for his trip to golf’s Mecca, a quarter at a time, and he said it was important to him to actually pay for the round with those quarters. I thought that was dynamite, but I was also glad he didn’t pay with dimes, nickels and pennies.”

The greens fee today is $495. It’s expensive, but with more than 50,000 rounds played every year it’s a lush playground that’s not restricted to the world’s most gifted ball strikers, richest CEOs and most famous celebrities.

Hubert Allen was there along the 18th tee that day Nicklaus took up his seat on the fence before his final U.S. Open tee shot, but Allen can go one better with his memory in relaying the powerful draw that hole has upon the golfing public. He’s been the Pebble Beach Golf Links pro shop manager for 12 years, a starter for two years before that. Every time a new employee joins his staff, he passes along a story. He tells them about the day he escorted a brother and sister on a special trip to the 18th tee.

“Their father had died, and he wanted his ashes spread there,” Allen said. “We waited until play cleared, and they spread the ashes. They were crying. It was quite emotional.”

When they were done, Allen asked the son and daughter how often their father had come to play Pebble Beach.

“They said he’d never been here, but it was always his dream to come and play,” Allen said. “So bringing his ashes to Pebble Beach was their gift to him. That really hit home with me about what this place means to people.”

Pebble Beach is a patch of heaven even to those who’ve journeyed beyond earth’s realm. Astronaut Alan Shepard, the first American in space, had his ashes scattered from a helicopter above Carmel Bay.

When Allen, 52, began work at Pebble Beach as a starter, he was struck by the emotion he sensed in those who knew they were partaking in a once in a lifetime experience.

“One day this gentleman wandered up to me on his way to the first tee and asked me to pinch him,” Allen said. “He said he had been waiting his entire life for this moment, and he wanted to make sure he was really alive. You feel privileged and humbled to be part of the experience.”

Casey Boyns, 54, grew up in Pebble Beach two miles from the golf course. He won the California State Amateur at Pebble Beach in 1989 and ’93. He played countless junior and high school matches there and used to sneak onto the course with his boyhood pals, Neal Schlegel and Mark DeVincenzi, to play nine holes before dark.

For the last 29 years, Boyns has been a Pebble Beach caddie. While all that time on the course might make it easy to lose the sense of wonder Pebble Beach brings, Boyns says he’s reminded on the first tee every day.

“I see people shaking on the first tee, they’re so nervous,” Boyns said. “I’ve seen people who can’t put the ball on the tee because their hands are shaking so badly. You see them hit shots off the hotel or chunk shots fat. You see how much it means.”

Count this reporter among the nervous first-timers. After watching Dunbar, the head pro, pound his tee shot straight down the middle of the first fairway, I blocked mine right into the trees.

I didn’t feel so bad, though, when my caddie, Patrick Wood, relayed how he felt hitting his first tee shot back in the fall.

Wood, who used to own a hotel near the Old Course at St. Andrews, got a rare call to action when a foursome was a player short and asked if any of the caddies were available to play. Wood is a decent player who toured the Old Course 103 times in the four years he ran his hotel there, but he felt like a high-handicapper racing to the first tee at Pebble Beach.

“It was a very big deal to get to play,” Wood said. “About 25 to 30 caddies came out to watch me tee off, the pro and the assistant pro came out. My knees were shaking.”

Wood barely got a 3-wood off the ground but delighted in his chance to play.

Dunbar, 46, is the quintessential dream come true at Pebble Beach. He didn’t start playing golf until he was in his 20s but rose to become head pro when he was 34. After graduating from UC-Sacramento in ’88, his father tried to talk him into joining him in the insurance business.

A bartender at the time, Dunbar had other ideas, but they didn’t exactly bowl over the rest of the family. He wanted to be a game show host.

In a not-so subtle hint that it was time to find a career, Dunbar’s father bought him a suit upon graduation.

“It was a classic case of fight or flight,” Dunbar cracked. “I flew.”

Dunbar took flight in the Club Med chain, where he eventually landed as a bartender at Club Med Sand Piper in Port St. Lucie, Fla. At 25, he bought his first set of golf clubs.

“I asked a guy what they did for fun down there, and he said they played golf all day, so I bought a $199 set of Wilson golf clubs at Costco before I left home for the job,” Dunbar said.

Dunbar mixed drinks at night and played golf in the day, shaving his handicap from a 30 to a 12 in a year without a single lesson. After marrying, leaving Club Med and returning home to California, he faced another crossroads.

“I’m married, and I’m thinking I better find something I can make a paycheck in,” Dunbar said.

Vacationing in Aptos, Calif., he spied a want ad in a local newspaper. Seascape Golf Club was looking for an assistant pro. By that time, Dunbar was about a 6-handicap player.

“Somehow, I talked my way into the job,” Dunbar said.

From there, Dunbar earned his PGA certification, and that would lead to an interview with the Pebble Beach Co. in 1995 and a job as an assistant pro at Spanish Bay.

“I remember thinking, 'I’m out of my league. I have no golf pedigree. I didn’t play high school golf or college golf. How the hell did I land this job?’” Dunbar said.

But he quickly proved himself more than worthy, working his way to head pro at Pebble Beach in four years.

As head pro, Dunbar has met President Bill Clinton, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, actors Clint Eastwood and Nicole Kidman, rocker Bono and other famous people, but he understands what it was like for Nicklaus to sit on that fence at the 18th and gaze into Carmel Bay. He understands as well as anyone the wonder of a place like Pebble Beach, where we can all marvel at the uncommon path our lives can take us.

Cut and not so dry: Shinnecock back with a new look

By Bradley KleinMay 21, 2018, 9:22 pm

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. - The last time the USGA was here at Shinnecock Hills, it nearly had a train wreck on its hands. The last day of the 2004 U.S. Open was so dry and the turf so firm that play was stopped in the morning just to get some water on the greens.

The lessons learned from that debacle are now on display three weeks before Shinnecock gets another U.S. Open. And this time, the USGA is prepared with all sorts of high-tech devices – firmness meters, moisture monitors, drone technology to measure turf temperatures - to make sure the playing surfaces remain healthy.

Players, meanwhile, will face a golf course that is 548 yards longer than a dozen years ago, topping out now at 7,445 yards for the par-70 layout. Ten new tees have assured that the course will keep up with technology and distance. They’ll also require players to contend with the bunkering and fairway contours that designer William Flynn built when he renovated Shinnecock Hills in 1930.

And those greens will not only have more consistent turf cover, they’ll also be a lot larger – like 30 percent bigger. What were mere circles averaging 5,500 square feet are now about 7,200 square feet. That will mean more hole locations, more variety to the setup, and more rollouts into surrounding low-mow areas. Slight misses that ended up in nearby rough will now be down in hollows many more yards away.



The course now has an open, windswept look to it – what longtime green chairman Charles Stevenson calls “a maritime grassland.” You don’t get to be green chairman of a prominent club for 37 years without learning how to deal with politics, and he’s been a master while implementing a long-term plan to bring the course back to its original scale and angles. In some cases that required moving tees back to recapture the threat posed by cross-bunkers and steep falloffs. Two of the bigger extensions come on the layout’s two par-5s, which got longer by an average of 60 yards. The downwind, downhill par-4 14th hole got stretched 73 yards and now plays 519.

“We want players to hit driver,” says USGA executive director Mike Davis.

The also want to place an emphasis upon strategy and position, which is why, after the club had expanded its fairways the last few years, the USGA decided last September to bring them back in somewhat.

The decision followed analysis of the driving statistics from the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills, where wide fairways proved very hospitable to play. Players who made the cut averaged hitting 77 percent of fairways and driving it 308 yards off the tee. There was little fear of the rough there. “We didn’t get the wind and the dry conditions we anticipated,” says Davis.

Moving ahead to Shinnecock Hills, he and the setup staff wanted to balance the need for architectural variety with a traditional emphasis upon accuracy. So they narrowed the fairways at Shinnecock Hills last September by seven acres. They are still much wider than in the U.S. Opens played here in 1986, 1995 and 2004, when the average width of the landing areas was 26.6 yards. “Now they are 41.6 yards across on average,” said Davis. So they are much wider than in previous U.S. Opens and make better use of the existing contours and bring lateral bunkers into play.

This time around, with more consistent, healthier turf cover and greens that have plenty of nutrients and moisture, the USGA should be able to avoid the disastrous drying out of the putting surfaces that threatened that final day in 2004. The players will also face a golf course that is more consistent than ever with its intended width, design, variety and challenge. That should make for a more interesting golf course and, by turn, more interesting viewing.

Driven: Oklahoma State Cowboys Documentary Series Continues Tonight at 8 p.m. ET on Golf Channel

By Golf Channel Public RelationsMay 21, 2018, 8:27 pm

Monday’s third installment in the four-part series focuses on the Big 12 Championships and NCAA Regional Championships

Reigning NCAA National Champion Oklahoma Sooners and Top-Ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys Prepare for Showdown Friday at the 2018 NCAA Men’s Golf National Championships

ORLANDO, Fla., May 21, 2018 – Tonight’s third episode of the critically-acclaimed documentary series Driven: Oklahoma State Cowboys (8 p.m. ET) wraps up the conclusion of the 2017-18 regular season and turns to post-season play for the top-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys and reigning NCAA National Champions Oklahoma Sooners.

Drivenwill take viewers behind the scenes with the conclusion of regular season play; the Big 12 Conference Championship, where Oklahoma captured their first conference championship since 2006; and the NCAA Regional Championships, where Oklahoma State and Oklahoma – both No. 1 seeds in their respective regionals – were both victorious and punched tickets to the NCAA Men’s Golf National Championships.

The episode also will set up the showdown starting Friday at the NCAA Men’s Golf National Championships, where Oklahoma State will attempt to dethrone Oklahoma as national champions, all taking place at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla., Oklahoma State’s home course. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State will be paired together for the first two rounds of individual stroke play Friday and Saturday.

Driven’s fourth and final episode will air on NBC on Saturday, June 16 at 5 p.m. ET, recapping all of the action at the NCAA Golf National Championships and the two programs’ 2017-18 golf seasons.

Golf Channel is airing back-to-back weeks of live tournament coverage of the NCAA Women’s and Men’s Golf Championships. Golf Channel’s coverage begins today (4-8 p.m. ET) to crown the individual national champion and track the teams attempting to qualify for the eight-team match play championship. Golf Channel’s coverage on Tuesday and Wednesday, May 22-23 will include all three rounds of team match play, ultimately crowning a team national champion. Next week (May 28-30), the same programming schedule will take place for the NCAA Men’s Golf National Championships.

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Mann's impact on LPGA felt on and off course

By Randall MellMay 21, 2018, 8:00 pm

Just a few short hours after winning the U.S. Women’s Open in 1965, Carol Mann was surprised at the turn of emotion within her.

She called her friend and mentor, Marlene Hagge, and asked if they could meet for a glass of wine at the Atlantic City hotel where players were staying.

Hagge was one of the LPGA’s 13 founders.

“I’ll never forget Carol saying, `I don’t mean to sound funny, because winning the U.S. Women’s Open was wonderful, but is that all there is?’” Hagge told GolfChannel.com Monday after hearing news of Mann’s death.

It was one of the many defining moments in Mann’s rich life, because it revealed her relentless search for meaning, within the game, and beyond it.

Mann, an LPGA and World Golf Hall of Famer, died at her home in Woodlands, Texas. She was 77.

“Carol was a very good friend, and a really sincere and good person,” Hagge said. “She was intelligent and insightful, the kind of person who always wanted to know the `why’ of things. She wasn’t content to be told this is the way something is. She had to know why.”

Mann’s search for meaning in the sport took her outside the ropes. She was a towering presence, at 6 feet 3, but her stature was more than physical. She won 38 LPGA titles, two of them major championships, but her mark on the game extended to her leadership skills.

From 1973 to ’76, Mann was president of the LPGA, leading the tour in challenging times.

“Carol was a significant player in the growth of the LPGA,” LPGA Hall of Famer Judy Rankin said. “She was involved when some big changes came to the tour. She was a talented woman beyond her golf.”

Mann oversaw the hiring of the tour’s first commissioner, Ray Volpe, a former NFL marketing executive. Their moves helped steer the tour out of the financial problems that threatened it.

“Carol was willing to do something nobody else wanted to do and nobody else had the brains to do,” Hagge said. “She loved the LPGA, and she wanted to make it a better place.”

At the cost of her own career.

Juggling the tour presidency with a playing career wasn’t easy.

“My golf seemed so secondary while I was president in 1975,” Mann once told author Liz Kahn for the book, “The LPGA: The Unauthorized Version.”

That was a pivotal year in tour history, with the LPGA struggling with an ongoing lawsuit, a legal battle Jane Blalock won when the courts ruled the tour violated antitrust laws by suspending her. With the tour appealing its legal defeats, a protracted battle threatened to cripple LPGA finances.

It was also the year Mann led the hiring of Volpe.

“I could barely get to the course in time to tee off,” Mann told Kahn. “There was so much other activity. I burned myself out a bit.”

Still, Mann somehow managed to win four times in ’75, but she wouldn’t again in the years that followed.

“I had launched a ship, and then I had to let it go, which was not easy,” she said of leaving her tour president’s role. “I was depressed thinking that no one on tour would say thank you to me for what I had done. Some would, others never would, and 10 years later players wouldn’t give a damn.”

Mann’s reign as a player and a leader aren’t fully appreciated today.

“A lot of players in the ‘60s haven’t been fully appreciated,” Rankin said.

Mann won 10 LPGA titles in 1968, the same year Kathy Whitworth won 10. Mann won the Vare Trophy for low scoring average that year. She won eight times in ’69 and was the tour’s leading money winner.

“Those were the toughest times to win,” Hagge said. “You had Kathy Whitworth and Mickey Wright, who is the best player I ever saw, and I saw them all. You had so many great players you had to beat in that era.”

Mann’s good humor came out when she was asked about her height.

“I’m 5-foot-15,” she liked to say.

After retiring from the tour at 40, Mann stayed active in golf, working as a TV analyst for NBC, ABC and ESPN. She found meaning in her Christian faith, and she was active supporting female athletes. She was president of the Women’s Sports Foundation for five years. She wrote a guest column for the Houston Post. She devoted herself to the World Golf Hall of Fame, taught at Woodlands Country Club and became the first woman to own and operate a course design and management firm.

“I’ve walked on the moon,” Mann once said. “I enjoy being a person, and getting old and dying are fine. I never think how people will remember Carol Mann. The mark I made is an intimate satisfaction.”

 

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Nelson win moves Wise to 12th in Ryder Cup race

By Will GrayMay 21, 2018, 7:12 pm

Aaron Wise received plenty of perks with his title Sunday at the AT&T Byron Nelson, but the victory also brought with it a healthy bump in the latest U.S. Ryder Cup standings.

The 21-year-old notched his maiden win at Trinity Forest in impressive fashion, holding off Marc Leishman in near-darkness. After starting the week at No. 46 in the points race for Paris, Wise is now all the way up to 12th with the top eight players after the PGA Championship qualifying automatically for the team.

Jimmy Walker moved from 18th to 15th with a top-10 finish in Dallas, while an idle Tiger Woods dropped one position to No. 32.

Here's a look at the updated standings, as the top 11 names remained in order this week:

1. Patrick Reed

2. Justin Thomas

3. Dustin Johnson

4. Jordan Spieth

5. Bubba Watson

6. Rickie Fowler

7. Brooks Koepka

8. Phil Mickelson

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9. Webb Simpson

10. Matt Kuchar

11. Brian Harman

12. Aaron Wise

It was also a quiet week on the European side of the race, where the top four from both the European Points and World Points list in August will join a roster rounded out by four selections from captain Thomas Bjorn.

Here's a look at the latest European standings:

European Points

1. Tyrrell Hatton

2. Justin Rose

3. Jon Rahm

4. Ross Fisher

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5. Matthew Fitzpatrick

World Points

1. Rory McIlroy

2. Tommy Fleetwood

3. Sergio Garcia

4. Alex Noren

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5. Ian Poulter