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Club pros will bear brunt of anchoring ban

PGA of America
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This much is certain, Keegan Bradley will be fine. Ditto for Adam Scott, Carl Pettersson and Tim Clark.

The ban on anchoring – which was adopted, however begrudgingly, by the PGA Tour on Monday – will be, for lack of a better term, an annoyance for Tour types who use long putters.

Scott, Pettersson & Co. will figure out a new, conforming method and in 2016 move on. For Kory Reitz the transition will not be as painless.

Reitz is one of the 27,000 club professionals who must now take the USGA and R&A mandate to the people, to their customers. If you think the Tour’s anchoring set has been vocal about the ban, wait until Reitz or one of his PGA of America frat brothers has to explain to Joe Bob Member that if he wants to continue to anchor he can no longer compete in the club championship. Or keep a USGA handicap.

“I look at our situation at the club level exactly like what the Tour just went through,” said Reitz, the head professional at Ocean Forest Golf Club in Sea Island, Ga. “We have an elderly membership who started using it to make the game more enjoyable. It’s going to be tough to implement. I am not looking forward it.”

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It is that reality that sent PGA of America president Ted Bishop to the mat over the last few months in opposition to the ban.

“There was a human side to all this,” Bishop said. “That’s something that kind of got lost in all of this. These are the people we deal with every day. These are our friends and our customers. At the end of the day we are the ones who are going to have to deal with this.”

To help mitigate the inevitable conflict between club pro and member, Bishop and Tour commissioner Tim Finchem made one final plea to the USGA and R&A to postpone the implementation of the ban at the amateur level.

At the highest level the ban will begin in January 2016, but for those who play for fun and the glory of a $2 Nassau, Bishop and Finchem suggested a more forgiving timetable, something in the 2024 to 2030 range.

The idea behind the extension was twofold – an extra eight years or so would give elderly players time to enjoy their golden years anchoring and all, and it would also put younger players on notice that anchoring is very much a short-term fix.

“(The suggested deadline) would give the amateur golfer time to adapt going forward and give them plenty of time to make that change,” said Marty DeAngelo, the head professional at Medinah in Illinois. “It would be a best-case scenario. For the amateur golfer (the ban) is something that is being rushed on them.”

The USGA, however, quashed any notion of an extension for amateurs with a statement it issued Wednesday.

Neither DeAngelo nor Reitz has started advising members on the ban, but it’s just a matter of time. DeAngelo, who recently took over the head-pro position at Medinah after nearly two decades at Isleworth in central Florida, said he estimates about 20 percent of the members at Isleworth anchored.

“It was across the board, from the high school level to the senior level,” DeAngelo said.

Reitz figures use at Ocean Forest is closer to 10 percent, and he’s already started to purge his pro shop of any long putters (one equipment company representative called this week offering to switch out his long-putter stock for traditional-length models).

But then clearing his shop of long putters will be easy. Ridding his membership ranks of the act of anchoring will be a much more complicated issue at a time when the game is scrambling to add players.

“What (the USGA and R&A) talk about and the reasons that they did it I understand, but we are in a time period right now that we are struggling to get people to play,” Reitz said. “This thing seems like a complete 180 of what we are trying to work on . . . From a business point of view I just don’t understand. It seems like there might be a better time to do this down the road.”

In this case, kicking the can, at least at the grassroots level, isn’t convenient politics so much as it is a collective compromise. The alternative for the likes of DeAngelo and Reitz is, simply put, bad business.

The club pros will carry on; they always do. What remains to be seen is if the 10 to 20 percent of recreational players who anchor toe the line as well.

“I would hope the game is bigger than that and people would adjust and the amateurs themselves would love the game enough to keep playing,” DeAngelo said.

As a rule, wishful thinking is not the best business model, but for club pros now caught looking down the business end of the anchoring ban it’s the only silver lining.