Standing Up to the Island Green

By Rex HoggardSeptember 29, 2010, 3:30 am

National ChampionshipPONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – The scariest pitching wedge in the game took a PR hit Tuesday under ashen September skies. In fact, Pete Dye’s 145 yards of watery woe looked downright warm and fuzzy by the time the “Palmer Flight” at the Golf Channel Am Tour’s National Championship was finished.

Your correspondent has watched hardened PGA Tour players blink at the worst possible moment because of an ill-timed gust of wind and a golf hole with more street cred than Snoop Dogg.

In 2007 it was Sean O’Hair. You know him, the Presidents Cup hero and three-time Tour winner who pulled the wrong club on a spring Sunday three years ago and can still hear the splash.

Or Paul Goydos, one of this year’s “59” twins who charmed “Dirtbag” nation in 2008 only to get blown out of a playoff and into Dye’s drainage ditch. Each Wednesday during Players week a parade of Tour caddies take a hack for charity and chuckles and more often than not they’re swimming.

Legend has it the island 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass’ Stadium Course was actually the brainchild of Dye’s wife, Alice. But, for the likes of O’Hair and Goydos, it’s a tad late to start looking for someone to blame.

With history on our side we camped adjacent “Davey Dye’s Locker” Tuesday morning and waited for carnage and cruelty and more cringe moments than a liquid lunch with Larry David.

What chance did the 111 players of the National Championship’s “Palmer Flight” for handicaps between 4 and 7.9 have on Dye’s deathtrap, which has been known to stir Tour types from a deep sleep?

Yet as morning rain turned to afternoon muggy the lunatic luster of the 17th began to muddy like the waters surrounding the island green.

First there was Tony Scheuerman from Lake Elmo, Minn. An 8-iron to 5 feet for birdie. What’s the big deal?

“I enjoyed it more than I thought I would,” said Scheuerman as he nursed a Michelob Ultra in the palatial TPC clubhouse and enjoyed his week in north Florida, a birthday present from his wife, Zina.

In fact, forget Scheuerman’s third-round 84, he played the Stadium’s fearsome final three in 2 under par – birdie at the par-5 16th hole, birdie at the 17th and an All-Seve up-and-down from 86 yards at the last for par.

Next up was Jon Vanpoucke, who caught a piece of the cup with his pitching wedge tee shot that rolled to less than a foot for a tap in-2.

“Pitching wedge is my money club,” Vanpoucke said. “That green doesn’t scare me one bit.”

Somewhere Dye just spit out a mouthful of lemonade or angrily started diagramming more scruffy bunkers for Whistling Straits. Either way that is one sentence you will never hear in the spring at The Players.

To be fair the Stadium was playing more like it did at the March Players than it does at the May Players, that is to say soft and spongy, and Tuesday’s pin position at the 17th hole was six paces on and four paces from the left edge which in Tour talk is a “go pin.”

Still, by the end of a sultry day the numbers were undeniable. Of the 111 Palmer Flighters, 14 made birdie and 31 came in with more than respectable pars.

Even many of those who were treated to the full 17th did so in style. Matt McCathy from Colorado pitched his tee shot on the green about 10 feet right of the hole and watched helplessly as it spun off the putting surface, over the wooden bulkhead and into the soup. McCathy dropped his next shot into the water in front of the bunker before pitching to 4 feet from the drop zone.

“Solid (triple bogey) 6,” he smiled afterward.

Not everyone found the going as easy as Vanpoucke and company, however, and the consensus was the real-time 17th hole is much different than the HiDef version that is beamed across the globe in May.

If a television adds 10 pounds to people, cameras must tack on an extra acre or so according to Tuesday’s participants.

“The surface area looks a lot bigger on TV,” a wide-eyed McCathy said.

And if Tuesday’s play suggests the 17th hole is a bit overhyped that did little to help those who were playing the game’s most-talked-about 145 yards for the first time.

Scheuerman purchased an “app” for his iPhone for the event with a diagram of the hole and took a long hard look before finally settling on an 8-iron. And what pearl of wisdom did the app offer? “Start praying,” he smiled. “It’s so famous. You watch the pros and I just wanted a par. Please get on the green.”

Whether it is marketing or mind tricks, the 17th hole can get into a player’s head – be it in May playing for TPC glory or September for 19th hole bragging rights.

“It’s the only hole you start thinking about the night before,” said Jim Badovinac, who double bogeyed the 17th on Tuesday. “I called my son last night and said, ‘Be thinking of me a lot at about 11 a.m. because that’s when I should be playing the 17th.’ He was like, ‘Come on dad.’”

Now that’s what Pete Dye likes to hear.

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Arizona caps an improbable journey with a title

By Ryan LavnerMay 24, 2018, 3:49 am

STILLWATER, Okla. – Five hours before the final match at the NCAA Women’s Championship, Arizona coach Laura Ianello sat cross-legged on a couch in the Holiday Inn lobby and broke down four times in a half-hour interview.

It’s been that kind of exhausting season.

From poor play to stunning midseason defections to a stroke-play collapse, Ianello has felt uneasy for months. She has felt like she was losing control. Felt like her carefully crafted roster was coming apart.

So to even have a chance to win a NCAA title?

“I know what this team has gone through,” she said, beginning to tear up, “and you don’t get these opportunities all the time. So I want it for them. This could be so life-changing for so many of them.”

A moment that seemed impossible six months ago became reality Wednesday at Karsten Creek.

Arizona continued its magical run through the match-play bracket and knocked off top-ranked Alabama to capture its third NCAA title, with junior Haley Moore – who first rose to fame by making the cut at an LPGA major as a 16-year-old – rolling in a 4-footer to earn the clinching point in extra holes.

All throughout nationals Arizona was fueled by momentum and adrenaline, but this was no Cinderella squad. The Wildcats were ranked ninth in the country. They won twice this spring. They had four medalists. They were one of the longest-hitting teams in the country.

But even before a miracle end to NCAA stroke play, Arizona needed some help just to get here.

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Team scoring

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Individual scoring

On Christmas Day, one of the team’s best players, Krystal Quihuis, texted Ianello that she was turning pro. It may have been a gift to her parents, for their years of sacrifice, but it was a lump of coal in Ianello’s stocking.

“I was absolutely heartbroken,” she said. “It was devastating.”

Even more bad news arrived a few weeks later, when junior Gigi Stoll told Ianello that she was unhappy, homesick and wanted to return to Portland, Ore. Just like that, a promising season had gone off the rails.

Ianello offered her a full release, but Stoll looked around, found no other suitors and decided to remain with the team – as long as she signed a contract of expected behavior.

“It was the most exhausting two months of my life,” Ianello said. “We care so much about these freakin’ girls, and we’re like, Come on, this is just a small, little picture of your life, so you don’t realize what you’re possibly giving up. It’s so hard to see that sometimes.”

Stoll eventually bought in, but the rest of the team was blindsided by Quihuis’ decision.

“We became even more motivated to prove we were a great team,” said junior Bianca Pagdanganan.

It also helped that Yu-Sang Hou joined the squad in January. The morale immediately improved, not least because the players now could poke fun at Hou; on her fourth day on campus she nearly burned down the dorm when she forgot to add water to her mac-and-cheese.

Early on Ianello and assistant Derek Radley organized a team retreat at a hotel in Tucson. There the players created Oprah-inspired vision boards and completed exercises blindfolded and delivered 60-second speeches to break down barriers. At the end of the session, they created T-shirts that they donned all spring. They splashed “The Great Eight” on the front, put the state of Arizona and each player’s country of origin on the sleeves, and on the back printed their names and a slogan: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

“I can’t think of anything else that better embodies this team,” Radley said.

This spring, they rallied together and finished no worse than fourth in a tournament. Through three rounds of stroke play here at the NCAA Championship, they used their distance advantage and sat third in the standings. Then they shot 17 over par in the final round, tumbling outside the top-8 cut line.

They were down to their final chance on the 72nd hole, needing an eagle to tie, as Pagdanganan lined up her 30-footer. She dramatically drained the putt, then gathered her teammates on the range.

“This means we were meant to be in the top 8,” she said. Less than an hour later, they beat Baylor in the team playoff to earn the last match-play berth.

Ianello was so amped up from the frenetic finish that she slept only three hours on Monday night, but they continued to roll and knocked off top-seeded UCLA in the quarterfinals, beating a pair of Player of the Year contenders, Lilia Vu and Patty Tavatanakit, in the process. In the afternoon semifinals, they jumped all over Stanford and won easily.

It was a cute story, the last team into the match-play field reaching the final match, but a stiffer challenge awaited the Wildcats Wednesday.

Alabama was the top-ranked team in the country. The Tide were a whopping 110 under par for the season, boasting three first-team All-Americans who were so dominant in their first two matches that they trailed for only two of the 99 holes they played.

Ianello already seemed to be bracing for the result on the eve of the final match.

“Win or lose,” she said, “this has been a hell of a ride.”

But their wild ride continued Wednesday, as Hou won four holes in a row to start the back nine and defeat Alabama’s best player, Lauren Stephenson, who had the best single-season scoring average (69.5) in Division I history.

Then sophomore Sandra Nordaas – the main beneficiary after Quihuis left at the midway point of the season – held on for a 1-up victory over Angelica Moresco.

And so Arizona’s national-title hopes hinged on the success of its most mercurial player, Moore. In the anchor match against Lakareber Abe, Moore jumped out to a 2-up lead at the turn but lost the first three holes on the back nine.

By the time Radley sped back to help Moore, in the 12th fairway, she was frazzled.

“But seeing me,” Radley said, “I saw a sense of calm wash over her.”

Moore played solidly for the rest of the back nine and took a 1-up lead into the home hole. She didn’t flinch when Abe hit one of the shots of the entire championship – a smoked 3-wood to 12 feet to set up a two-putt birdie and force extras – and then gave herself 4 feet for the win on the first playoff hole. She sank the putt and within seconds was mobbed by her teammates.

In the giddy aftermath, Ianello could barely speak. She wandered around the green in a daze, looking for someone, anyone, to hug.

The most trying year of her career had somehow ended in a title.

“At some moments, it felt impossible,” she said. “But I underestimated these young women a little bit.”

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Pac-12 continues to dominate women's golf

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 24, 2018, 3:04 am

Arizona's national women's golf championship marked the fourth consecutive year in‌ which the women's Division I national title was won by a Pac-12 Conference team. All four championships were won by different schools (Stanford, 2015; Washington, 2016; Arizona State, 2017; Arizona, 2018). The Pac-12 is the only conference to win four straight golf championships (men or women) with four different schools.

Here are some other statistical notes from the just-concluded NCAA Div. I Women's Golf Championship:

• This is the second time that Arizona has won the national title the year after rival Arizona State won it. The last time was 1996.

• Arizona now has three women's golf national championships. The previous two came in 1996 and 2000.

• Arizona is only the sixth school to win three or more Div. I women's golf championships, joining Arizona State (8), Duke (6), San Jose State (3), UCLA (3) and USC (3).

• Arizona's Haley Moore, who earned the clinching point on the 19th hole of her match with Alabama's Lakareber Abe, was the only Arizona player to win all three of her matches this week.

• Alabama's Kristen Gillman and Cheyenne Knight also went 3-0. Gillman did not trail in any match.

• Since the match-play format was instituted in 2015, Arizona is the lowest seed (8) to claim the national title. The seeds claiming the national championship were Stanford (4) in 2015; Washington (4) in 2016; and Arizona State (3) in 2017.

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High school seniors win U.S. Amateur Four-Ball

By Associated PressMay 24, 2018, 1:44 am

TEQUESTA, Fla. - The 18-year-old Hammer, from Houston, is set to play at Texas next fall. Barber, from Stuart, Fla., also is 18. He's headed to LSU.

''Growing up watching U.S. Opens and U.S. Amateurs on TV, I just knew being a USGA champion is something that I desperately wanted,'' said Hammer, who qualified for a U.S. Open three years ago at 15. ''And to finally do it, it feels incredible. It feels as good, if not better, than I thought it would. And especially being able to do it with Garrett. It's really cool to share this moment.''

Hammer and Cole won the par-4 eighth with a birdie to take a 2-up lead. They took the par-4 10th with a par, won the par-5 13th with an eagle - Barber hit a 4-iron from 235 yards to 3 feet - and halved the next two holes to end the match.

''Cole didn't want me to hit 4-iron,'' Barber said. ''He didn't think I could get it there. I was like, 'I got it.' So I hit it hard, hit pretty much a perfect shot. It was a crazy shot.''

The 32-year-old Dull is from Winter Park, Fla., and the 42-year-old Brooke from Altamonte Springs, Fla.

''Cole Hammer is a special player,'' Brooke said. ''Obviously, he's going to Texas (and) I'm not saying he is Jordan Spieth, but there are certain things that he does.''

In the morning semifinals, Hammer and Barber beat Idaho high school teammates Carson Barry and Sam Tidd, 5 and 4, and Brooke and Dull topped former Seattle University teammates Kyle Cornett and Patrick Sato, 4 and 3.

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Watch: Pumped up Beef deadlifts 485 lbs.

By Grill Room TeamMay 24, 2018, 12:19 am

Andrew "Beef" Johnston has been playing some solid golf on the European Tour this season, and he is clearly pumped up for one of the biggest weeks of the year at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.

Judging from the video below, Beef will have no problems lifting the trophy on Sunday as he reportedly deadlifted 220 kg ... (Googles kilogram to pounds converter, enters numbers) ... that's 485 lbs!

@beefgolf with a new deadlift PB 220kg ! #youcantgowronggettingstrong

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