Playing golf with the kids

By Rich LernerFebruary 20, 2015, 11:50 am

I played golf with my 16-year-old son and two of his friends a few days ago at Winter Park C.C., hoping to do my part to grow the game. They’d finish and proclaim their love for the sport, I figured. 

My kid’s a high school basketball player and we’re nuts for hoops in our family, always have been. But one of my regrets is that my two boys never jumped headfirst into golf. 

“It’s ah-ite,” said Jack. That means that it’s OK, not great. “It’s too slow. But I’ll probably play more when I’m really old and can’t move that well.”

“How old is really old?” I asked.

“Like 55,” he said.  I’m 54.  After that kick to the gut, I hit my opening tee shot behind a tree, hard left. What a depressing way to start, old and crooked. 

No. 1’s a short, skinny par 4 set against a busy road to the right.

“What happens if I hit a car?” asked Jack.

“Aim over there,” I said, pointing far to the left.

He swung. It started high, drifting toward the street. We held our breath as if Mickelson had just flushed a 9-iron that hung over the water at 17 at Sawgrass on Sunday, tied for the lead at The Players.

It landed between two cars and bounded into a front yard.

“Was that a new ball?” Cale, Jack’s buddy, asked.

“Yeah, it was icy,” said Jack. That means it was new.

Off we went, in search of icy balls and a ray of hope that golf would reveal itself over the next two hours and nine holes.

My main goal wasn’t to make birdies, but to avoid a beef with Jack. I wasn’t going to micro-manage his game with instruction on every shot. The idea was to just have fun. 

“Stay down,” was my only advice, the old standby used by every dad who’s ever tried to teach his son the game. “I’m trying,” he said, slightly irritated after skulling another shot.

I thought we were doing great. We hadn’t hit a car through two holes. Plus, the maintenance man with the hedge trimmer drowned out the muttering. I could only lip-read Jack saying, “Good putt,” as he hammered one 20 feet past at the second.

By No. 4 I began to waver, offering a lesson I’d swore I wouldn’t give – butt of the club matched up to the belly button going back and going through. He half-listened.

“Don’t you want to be good at this?” I asked.

“I don’t really like it,” he said. That wasn’t as painful as the old man comment on the first tee, but close.

A train rolled by. Amtrak to Cincinnati crossed my mind.   

Then, a breakthrough, a good drive and he looked athletic, like a player. He made bogey, and then another and suddenly his mood brightened. The whole group was in a nice groove. If they could just understand that golf’s not an instant gratification activity, like so much in today’s world, they might appreciate it. 

This was suddenly going well. We even talked golf as we walked down the sixth.

“I watch most of the majors,” said Kevin, a long noodle of a boy. 

“Do you play golf with your dad?” I asked. “Not these days,” he said. “He has a bad back.”

Cale plays high school golf, works the bag room at a local club and is the most polished of the three. He’ll have a chance to be a low single-digit handicap when he gets a little stronger.

I was curious if they followed pro golf the way they do the NBA. If Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors are playing a Friday night game against Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder our house is packed with teenagers. They’ll watch the game, at halftime heading out back where they’ll lower the driveway hoop to 9 feet and pretend to be Zach LaVine. Zach’s cool.

“Adam Scott’s cool,” said Cale. “I used to think Tiger was, but not anymore.”

“I like Rory,” said Jack. “He’s jacked.” That means he’s in shape.

“I like Bubba,” said Kevin. “He’s self-made.”

Jack hit another good shot, a slight draw from 140 yards that landed on the front of the green. We all traded fist bumps. Now we were bonding. “I can’t believe I almost quit a couple holes ago,” Jack said with a smile.

“What turned it around?” I asked, thinking he would say that my tip made the difference.

“I took my glove off,” he replied.

With bounce in our step we walked up to the green, expecting to see Jack’s approach 15 feet away.  But there’s a steep ridge on the left side and his ball ran off into the rough. He was disappointed.

“That’s dumb,” he said.

“That’s golf,” I said.

Cale birdied Nos. 6 and 8. Kevin made a couple of pars. Jack strung a few bogeys together. It had gone pretty well, all in all. 

We crossed the street to the ninth tee, our last hole. Church bells rang out. The sun peeked from behind the clouds. I was happy. My kid was happy. Who knows, I thought, in two months maybe we’d travel to Ireland, play Ballybunion and Royal County Down, the way fathers and sons do in our sport. He was getting the hang of this hard game called golf.

He stood over his final tee shot of the day. It would be a baby draw, left side of the fairway after a perfect follow-through.

He topped it, a skidder that went no more than 30 yards.

“That’s embarrassing,” he said.

“No,” I said.  “That’s golf.”

Getty Images

Lyle going through 'scary' period in cancer recovery

By Associated PressJune 21, 2018, 12:58 pm

MELBOURNE, Australia – Jarrod Lyle's wife says the Australian golfer is struggling through a ''really scary'' period in his third battle with cancer.

Lyle, 36, underwent a bone marrow transplant last December following a recurrence of acute myeloid leukemia.

''It's been 190 days since Jarrod's stem-cell transplant and we are going through a really rough patch at the moment,'' Briony Lyle wrote on ''I'm typing this blog on his behalf because he's not able to do it. Jarrod's not able to drive, struggles to prepare any food for himself, can't read stories to the girls and is not able to offer much help at all around the house.

''He is also starting to look like a very frail, sick person.''

Briony Lyle added: ''We are both very aware of the amount of drugs and medication that has gone into Jarrod's body over the years but things are starting to get really scary at the moment. It looks as if this recovery is going to be the longest and hardest one so far.''

Lyle has twice beaten acute myeloid leukemia, in 1998 and 2012, and was able to return to play professional golf.

He made an emotional comeback to the golf course during the 2013 Australian Masters in Melbourne before using a medical exemption to play on the PGA Tour in 2015. He played four seasons on Tour, where he earned $1.875 million in 121 tournaments.

Lyle has since returned to Australia permanently to be with Briony and daughters Lusi and Jemma.

Getty Images

Vermeer wins PGA Professional; 20 make PGA Championship

By Associated PressJune 21, 2018, 12:42 pm

SEASIDE, Calif. – Ryan Vermeer won the PGA Professional Championship on Wednesday, overcoming front-nine problems to top the 20 qualifiers for the PGA Championship.

The 40-year-old Vermeer, the director of instruction at Happy Hollow Club in Omaha, Nebraska, closed with a 1-over 73 on the Bayonet Course for a two-stroke victory over Sean McCarty and Bob Sowards.

The PGA Championship is in August at Bellerive in St. Louis.

Three strokes ahead entering the day, Vermeer played the front in 4 over with a double bogey on the par-4 second and bogeys on the par-4 seventh and par-4 eighth. He rebounded with birdies on the par-5 10th and par-4 11th and also birdied the par-5 18th.

Full-field scores from the PGA Professional Championship

Vermeer finished at 5-under 283. The former University of Kansas player earned $55,000. He won the 2017 Mizuno Pro/Assistant Championship and finished ninth last year in the PGA Professional to qualify for PGA at Quail Hollow.

McCarty had a 68, and Sowards shot 69. Sowards won the 2004 title.

David Muttitt and Jason Schmuhl tied for fourth at 1 under, and 2012 and 2015 champion Matt Dobyns, Jaysen Hansen, and Johan Kok followed at even par.

Marty Jertson, Brian Smock and Ben Kern were 1 over, and Zach Johnson, Craig Hocknull, Matt Borchert and 2016 winner Rich Berberian Jr. were 2 over. Nine players tied at 3 over, with Shawn Warren, 2017 champion Omar Uresti, 2014 winner Michael Block, Craig Bowden and Danny Balin getting the last five spots at Bellerive in a playoff. Balin got the final spot, beating Brian Norman with a par on the seventh extra hole after Norman lost a ball in a tree.

Getty Images

Berger more than ready to rebound at Travelers

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:54 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Daniel Berger hopes that this year he gets to be on the other end of a viral moment at the Travelers Championship.

Berger was a hard-luck runner-up last year at TPC River Highlands, a spectator as Jordan Spieth holed a bunker shot to defeat him in a playoff. It was the second straight year that the 25-year-old came up just short outside Hartford, as he carried a three-shot lead into the 2016 event before fading to a tie for fifth.

While he wasn’t lacking any motivation after last year’s close call, Berger got another dose last week at the U.S. Open when he joined Tony Finau as a surprise participant in the final group Sunday, only to shoot a 73 and drift to a T-6 finish.

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“It was one of the best experiences of my professional golf career so far. I feel like I’m going to be in such a better place next time I’m in that position, having felt those emotions and kind of gone through it,” Berger said. “There was a lot of reflection after that because I felt like I played good enough to get it done Sunday. I didn’t make as many putts as I wanted to, but I hit a lot of really good putts. And that’s really all you can do.”

Berger missed the cut earlier this month to end his quest for three straight titles in Memphis, but his otherwise consistent season has now included six top-20 finishes since January. After working his way into contention last week and still with a score to settle at TPC River Highlands, he’s eager to get back to work against another star-studded field.

“I think all these experiences you just learn from,” Berger said. “I think last week, having learned from that, I think that’s even going to make me a little better this week. So I’m excited to get going.”

Getty Images

Rory tired of the near-misses, determined to close

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:46 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Rory McIlroy has returned to the Travelers Championship with an eye on bumping up his winning percentage.

McIlroy stormed from the back of the pack to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, but that remains his lone worldwide win since the 2016 Tour Championship. It speaks to McIlroy’s considerable ability and lofty expectations that, even with a number of other high finishes this season, he is left unsatisfied.

“I feel like I’ve had five realistic chances to win this year, and I’ve been able to close out one of them. That’s a bit disappointing, I guess,” McIlroy said. “But at least I’ve given myself five chances to win golf tournaments, which is much more than I did last year.”

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

The most memorable of McIlroy’s near-misses is likely the Masters, when he played alongside Patrick Reed in Sunday’s final group but struggled en route to a T-5 finish. But more frustrating in the Ulsterman’s eyes were his runner-up at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, when he led by two shots with eight holes to go, and a second-place showing behind Francesco Molinari at the BMW PGA Championship in May.

“There’s been some good golf in there,” he said. “I feel like I let Dubai and Wentworth get away a little bit.”

He’ll have a chance to rectify that trend this week at TPC River Highlands, where he finished T-17 last year in his tournament debut and liked the course and the tournament enough to keep it on his schedule. It comes on the heels of a missed cut at the U.S. Open, when he was 10 over through 11 holes and never got on track. McIlroy views that result as more of an aberration during a season in which he has had plenty of chances to contend on the weekend.

“I didn’t necessarily play that badly last week. I feel like if I play similarly this week, I might have a good chance to win,” McIlroy said. “I think when you play in conditions like that, it magnifies parts of your game that maybe don’t stack up quite as good as the rest of your game, and it magnified a couple of things for me that I worked on over the weekend.”