Quite the Stable

By Randall MellSeptember 16, 2010, 10:25 pm

The game’s best teachers are making their special marks this year in tournament golf.

Butch Harmon has watched Phil Mickelson win another major, his newest pupil, Dustin Johnson, make a run at PGA Tour Player of the Year honors and his oldest pupil, Fred Couples, dominate on the Champions Tour.

David Leadbetter helped Michelle Wie return to the winner’s circle in a hot, late-summer run.

Jim McLean is a guiding hand in the rise of teen phenom Alexis Thompson.

David Whelan and Paula Creamer
David Whelan with Paula Creamer at the 2007 McDonald's LPGA. (Getty Images)

And Sean Foley’s popularity is soaring with Tiger Woods moving under his watchful eye in the same year Justin Rose and Hunter Mahan have won PGA Tour events.

Big years, for sure, but David Whelan may be trumping them all.

No teacher’s influence reached deeper or wider than Whelan’s this summer.

The evidence is in the variety of champions and championships he touched.

Paula Creamer (U.S. Women’s Open), Peter Uihlein (U.S. Amateur) and Doris Chen (U.S. Girls’ Junior) all won U.S. Golf Association titles under Whelan’s tutelage in a remarkable eight-week span this summer. Jaclyn Sweeney didn’t win the U.S. Women’s Amateur, but she shared medalist honors with Whelan helping her. And if you go back 14 months, you can add Catriona Matthew to Whelan’s list of champions. Whelan helped her win the Ricoh Women’s British Open late last summer.

While fans who follow golf know Whelan’s special gifts, the run of champions he’s touched makes you wonder why he doesn’t get more credit for his influence. Though his pupils sing his praises, the spotlight rarely finds him. And he says that’s the way he likes it.

“David’s had a lot of success,” said David Leadbetter, who first coached and later mentored Whelan. “He’s a really, really good teacher, an excellent communicator who has a great way with people, but he’s a very low-key guy. He’s not into self-promotion.

“But you ask the people who work with him, and he’s very popular. Paula Creamer really leans on him.”

Whelan is the director of instruction at the IMG Leadbetter Golf Academy in Bradenton. It’s where he first met Creamer and Uihlein.

While Whelan is a fixture on the driving range, he isn’t typically around when reporters break out notebooks to interview his students. You follow Creamer, and you’ll see Whelan popping up at the gallery ropes, and trading thoughts with Creamer’s father, Paul, but you won’t often see him around microphones when the day’s done.

“My theory is that it’s all about the player,” Whelan says. “If you are out there for your own reasons and your own reputation, you are doing it for the wrong reasons. In some ways, when the players I’m working with do well, it’s more relief to me than joy. When you are influencing somebody’s game, especially a highly talented athlete, you have to be concerned about them first.”

The concern might never have run higher than his time with Creamer at the U.S. Women’s Open at Oakmont back in July.

Just three months after a doctor cut open Creamer’s left thumb to reconstruct ligaments, tendons and a torn volar plate, Whelan was at Creamer’s side to help with more than her swing. He was instrumental in devising a game plan to help her navigate one of the great American tests of golf and its beastly greens.

In practice rounds at Oakmont, Creamer said Whelan stood on every tee box with her, plotting out strategy.

“His thoughts of becoming `in sync’ with the golf course were very important concepts in the heat of the battle,” Creamer said. “He created a game plan for each hole that sounded good to me. We discussed it, then it was up to me to execute it.”

Creamer, despite obvious pain, won the U.S. Women’s Open by four shots. She won just seven weeks after she began hitting balls following surgery.

“The biggest challenge was not being able to practice as much as Paula normally practices,” Whelan said. “The work that was done to get ready had to be done in very short and intense periods.”

That’s a testament to the level of Whelan and Creamer’s communication.

When Uihlein won the U.S. Amateur at Chambers Bay last month, he credited Whelan with helping him take his game to another level by hitting more fairways and by showing him how to take spin off shots around the greens.

“When you’ve got somebody who generates as much power as Peter does, as much ball speed, the goal is to control that,” Whelan said.

A former European Tour pro from Newcastle in England, Whelan once beat Nick Faldo in a playoff at the Barcelona Open. That was back in 1988. The victory came a couple years after Whelan turned to Leadbetter for help with his game, a connection that would eventually lead Whelan into teaching as a Leadbetter disciple.

After 10 years as the European director of instruction for the David Leadbetter Golf Academy, Whelan moved to the United States in 2003 to work for Leadbetter in Bradenton.

“I started with David Whelan when I was 15 years old and have never even considered any other coach since that first day,” Creamer said.

Creamer said she respects Whelan’s studious approach, the way he observes and evaluates without feeling the need to quickly “fix” something. She also likes the fact that he competed at the highest level.

“David learned early on with me that I am a more visual learner,” Creamer said. “When I see something done properly, it is easier for me to imitate the movement, or shot, than to just be told how to do it. Because David has such an incredible short game, for example, when he sees me struggle, he will ask for the club and execute the shot repeatedly. I almost get the `feel’ of the shot through him.”

While Whelan learned Leadbetter’s swing principles, he says he’s keenly aware of how everything must be adapted to the uniqueness of every player’s swing. Ask him to detail his method, and Whelan will tell you it depends on the player. Whether he’s teaching Creamer, Uihlein, Matthew, Chen or anyone else, he takes into account a player’s individuality, knowing there are different paths to the same successful ends.

“I try to keep it very simple,” Whelan said. “I try to talk to players in a language they understand, that’s always different. I have feel players, technical players, those who learn by seeing, those by listening. It’s about getting to know your students, assessing that `This is where you are,’ and `This is where you need to be,’ and `This is how you get there. So, let’s get on with a plan and stay focused on it.’”

That approach is proving a winning method.

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Randall's Rant: Tiger vs. Phil feels like a ripoff

By Randall MellOctober 15, 2018, 7:45 pm

Usually, you have to buy something before you feel like you were ripped off.

The wonder in the marketing of Tiger vs. Phil and “The Match” is how it is making so many people feel as if they are getting ripped off before they’ve shelled out a single penny for the product.

Phil Mickelson gets credit for this miscue.

Apparently, the smartest guy in the room isn’t the smartest marketing guy.

He was a little bit like that telemarketer who teases you into thinking you’ve won a free weekend getaway, only to lead you into the discovery that there’s a shady catch, with fine print and a price tag.

There was something as slippery as snake oil in the original pitch.

In Mickelson’s eagerness to create some excitement, he hinted back during The Players in May about the possibility of a big-money, head-to-head match with Woods. A couple months later, he leaked more details, before it was ready to be fully announced.

So while there was an initial buzz over news of the Thanksgiving weekend matchup, the original pitch set up a real buzzkill when it was later announced that you were only going to get to see it live on pay-per-view.

The news landed with a thud but no price tag. We’re still waiting to see what it’s going to cost when these two meet at Shadow Creek in Las Vegas, but anything that feels even slightly inflated now is going to further dampen the original enthusiasm Mickelson created.

Without Woods or Mickelson putting up their own money, this $9 million winner-take-all event was always going to feel more like a money grab than real competition.

When we were expecting to see it on network or cable TV, we didn’t care so much. Tiger and Phil’s hands would have felt as if they were reaching into corporate America’s pockets. Now, it feels as if they’re digging into ours.

Last week, there was more disappointing news, with the Las Vegas Review-Journal reporting that tickets won’t be sold to the public, that the match at Shadow Creek will only be open to select sponsors and VIPs.

Now there’s a larger insult to the common fan, who can’t help but feel he isn’t worthy or important enough to gain admittance.

Sorry, but that’s how news of a closed gate landed on the heels of the pay-per-view news.

“The Match” was never going to be meaningful golf in any historical sense.

This matchup was never going to rekindle the magic Tiger vs. Phil brought in their epic Duel at Doral in ’05.

The $9 million was never going to buy the legitimacy a major championship or PGA Tour Sunday clash could bring.

It was never going to be more than an exhibition, with no lingering historical significance, but that was OK as quasi silly-season fare on TV on Thanksgiving weekend (Nov. 23), the traditional weekend of the old Skins Game.

“The Match” still has a chance to be meaningful, but first and foremost as entertainment, not real competition. That’s what this was always going to be about, but now the bar is raised.

Pay per view does that.

“You get what you pay for” is an adage that doesn’t apply to free (or already-paid for) TV. It does to pay per view. Expectations go way up when you aren’t just channel surfing to a telecast. So the higher the price tag they end up putting on this showdown, the more entertaining this has to be.

If Phil brings his “A-Game” to his trash talking, and if Tiger can bring some clever repartee, this can still be fun. If the prerecorded segments wedged between shots are insightful, even meaningful in their ability to make us understand these players in ways we didn’t before, this will be worthwhile.

Ultimately, “The Match” is a success if it leaves folks who paid to see it feeling as if they weren’t as ripped off as the people who refused to pay for it. That’s the handicap a history of free golf on TV brings. Welcome to pay-per-view, Tiger and Phil.

Celia Barquin Arozamena Iowa State University athletics

Trial date set for drifter charged with killing Barquin Arozamena

By Associated PressOctober 15, 2018, 7:28 pm

AMES, Iowa – A judge has scheduled a January trial for a 22-year-old Iowa drifter charged with killing a top amateur golfer from Spain.

District Judge Bethany Currie ruled Monday that Collin Richards will stand trial Jan. 15 for first-degree murder in the death of Iowa State University student Celia Barquin Arozamena.

Richards entered a written not guilty plea Monday morning and waived his right to a speedy trial. The filing canceled an in-person arraignment hearing that had been scheduled for later Monday.

Investigators say Richards attacked Barquin on Sept. 17 while she was playing a round at a public course in Ames, near the university campus. Her body was found in a pond on the course riddled with stab wounds.

Richards faces life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted.

LeBron's son tries golf, and he might be good at everything

By Grill Room TeamOctober 15, 2018, 5:36 pm

LeBron James' son seems well on his way to a successful basketball career of his own. To wit:

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Finally got it down lol

A post shared by Bronny James (@bronnyjames.jr) on

But with just a little work, he could pass on trying to surpass his father and try to take on Tiger and Jack, instead.

Bronny posted this video to Instagram of him in sandals whacking balls off a mat atop a deck into a large body of water, which is the golfer's definition of living your best life.

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How far, maybe 400 #happygilmore

A post shared by Bronny James (@bronnyjames.jr) on

If you listen closely, at the end of the clip, you can just barely hear someone scream out for a marine biologist.

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Sponsored: Callaway's 'Golf Lives: Home Course'

By Grill Room TeamOctober 15, 2018, 4:20 pm

In this original series, Callaway sets out to profile unique golf locations around the country based on their stories, communities and the characters that surround them. The golf cultures across the series are remarkably diverse, yet in all cases it's the course itself that unifies and ignites the passions of those who play.

“Golf Lives: Home Course” focuses on three distinct home courses across the country – one in D.C., one in Nebraska and one in Portland, Ore. All have very different golf cultures, but are connected by a deep love of the game.

Click here for a look at all three episodes in the series, as well as past Golf Lives films (check out the trailer below).

And here’s a breakdown of the three courses in focus: 


Langston Golf Course (Washington, D.C.)

Opened in June 1939, Langston is steeped in a rich history. Known for its triumphant role in the desegregation of public golf, the course has been integral to the growth of the game’s popularity among African Americans. With its celebratory feel, Langston shows us golf is not unifies individuals, but generations. 


Edgefield Golf Course (Portland, Ore.)

The air is fresh, the beers are cold and the vibes are electric at Edgefield. You'd be hard pressed to find a more laid back, approachable and enjoyable environment for a round. Overlooking stunning panoramic views of northeast Portland, two par-3 pub courses (12 holes and 20 holes) wind through vineyards, thickets of blackberry bushes and a vintage distillery bar. All are welcome at Edgefield, especially those who have never swung a club. 


Wild Horse Golf Club (Gothenburg, Neb.)

In 1997, the locals and farmers living in the tight-knit town of Gothenburg decided to build a golf course. A bank loan, a couple of tractors, and a whole lotta sweat-equity later, their prairieland masterpiece is now considered one of the best in the country. Wild Horse is the soul of the community, providing unforgettable memories for all who play it.