2014 Newsmaker No. 4: Social Media

By Ryan LavnerDecember 17, 2014, 12:45 pm

Who knew 140 characters held such immense power?

The power to destroy careers.

The power to drive conversations.

The power to build brands.

The power to spread goodwill.

From Ted Bishop’s ill-fated “lil girl” tweet to Tiger Woods’ journalistic instincts to Amanda Dufner’s ubiquitous bikini shots to the popular Ice Bucket Challenge, social media was a game-changer in 2014. And we saw it all – the good, the bad and, yes, the very, very ugly.

You’ve Got My Follow:

• No initiative gained more traction this year than the Ice Bucket Challenge. Everyone from Tim Finchem to Rory McIlroy to your next-door neighbor was doused with icy water in the name of charity. The stunt lasted for several months and raised more than $100 million for ALS research.

• Soon-to-be 40-year-old Karrie Webb may be considered ancient on a tour overrun by youngsters, but after winning the Founders Cup in March, she crouched beside the trophy, extended her left arm and continued a new tradition on the LPGA – the winner’s selfie. Since Webb got into the action, every winner on the women’s circuit has taken a selfie with the trophy. Just keeping up with the cool kids.  

• When it came to brand-building, no one did it better in 2014 than Dufner. Few have ever heard the sound of her voice, but fans certainly know how Mrs. Dufner spends her many vacations. In the days, weeks and months after her hubby’s win at the 2013 PGA, her Instagram following went from a few thousand to its current status at 60,000-plus.



This year alone she posted a (since-deleted, but timelessly saved on the Internet) topless picture from Thailand, an artsy shot of her backside at the pool, and – what else? – an action photo of her swinging in a skimpy swimsuit. When a bikini-clad Dufner celebrated the Fourth of July by turning away from the camera and stretching the American flag above her head, the most popular comment was “God Bless America!” She is the undisputed leader in the WAGs clubhouse.

• Score one for the jocks: More athletes than ever before are handling their media affairs themselves. For decades, reporters were the only connection between athletes and their fans. Now, for better or worse, social media has made it possible for stars and spectators to connect and interact like never before, all without that pesky media middleman. Indeed, it’s an ever-changing world for news-gatherers. Though there is an insatiable desire for “insider” information about fans’ favorite teams and athletes, players can now control the message and break the news themselves.

That’s what Woods did this year when he announced that he was undergoing back surgery. Sure, there was a full story posted on his website, but fans and media were only alerted to the news because of a tweet on his feed. And when Woods decided to fire back at Golf Digest because of a mean-spirited parody, he didn’t grant an exclusive interview to a trusted media outlet – he penned a first-person essay on Derek Jeter’s new athlete-friendly website. It’s become commonplace for Tour pros to announce equipment or apparel deals online, as Ian Poulter (Cobra to Titleist) and Keegan Bradley (Tommy Hilfiger to Travis Mathews) have shown in recent months. The point: Why allow the media to potentially distort the message if the athletes can just control it themselves?

2014 Newsmakers: 5. Bishop6. Wie7. Reed8. R&A9. Bubba | 10. DJ

Please, Step Away from the Laptop:

• Social media starlet Paulina Gretzky is no stranger to creating a stir online, and that’s exactly what she did when she posted a photo of fiancé Dustin Johnson crouching to read a putt, barefoot, while holding a cigarette and a beer. Problem was, that photo hit the Interweb the same day that DJ withdrew from the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Three days later, he announced that he was taking an indefinite leave of absence to deal with “personal challenges,” which presumably had little to do with Paulina’s putting stroke.  

• Poulter didn’t do anything to dispel his reputation as a materialistic brat when he kvetched about his nanny’s business-class seat being downgraded. Not surprisingly, that comment didn’t fly with single moms who can’t afford an extra helper, nor can they purchase any of the six sports cars that the Englishman flaunts on his Twitter page. His mentions weren’t overly kind, either, when he admitted to paying to have his Christmas tree decorated. Little wonder he was blasted for being out of touch not just with fans but also reality.

MY GOD What Were You Thinking?!:

• With too much free time now that he’s playing the senior circuit, Steve Elkington hasn’t backed off his Twitter game despite an increasingly long list of foot-in-mouth moments. Last year, the former PGA champion came under fire for commenting on the body of a female golf reporter, making a joke about a deadly helicopter crash and using a racial slur about Pakistanis.

In February, Elkington didn’t merely cross the line, he gleefully hopped over it when he teased Michael Sam, who was attempting to become the first openly gay player in the NFL:

Steve Elkington tweet

The PGA Tour doesn’t comment on player disciplinary matters, but Elk went dark on social media for several weeks. He’s been more subdued of late, perhaps in an attempt to salvage what is left of his major-champion reputation, but he remains one of golf’s most provocative commentators.  

• The power of the “publish” button never was more evident than with Bishop’s “lil girl” tweet. The fallout was shocking in its swiftness.

On Oct. 23, Bishop was hanging with Nick Faldo at a junior clinic at The Greenbrier. The head of the PGA apparently took exception to remarks made by Poulter in a newly released autobiography, in which he wrote that players had “lost a lot of respect” for Faldo in the wake of his criticism of Sergio Garcia.

That night, Bishop, who represents 27,000 men and women, directed this tweet at Poulter:

Tedd Bishop lil girl tweet

The tweet blew up – after all, Poulter has nearly 1.8 million followers – and Bishop couldn’t even claim that he was hacked or that his message was misconstrued. Instead, he continued to bash the Ryder Cupper in a post on Facebook, writing, in part, that Poulter “sounds like a little school girl squealing during recess.”

Fans and scribes called for Bishop to be fired for the demeaning comments. A PGA spokesman issued a statement and described the posts as “inappropriate.” Bishop apologized to The Associated Press, saying that he “could have selected some different ways to express my thoughts.”

None of it helped. Within three days, the board of directors voted to remove him from office, the first PGA president to be impeached. He had one month left on his two-year term.

Bishop remains on Twitter (with 4,332 followers), but over the past two weeks he has used the platform mostly to express his views on the NFL, the college football playoff and, sadly, “Peter Pan Live.”

“It’s painful from the standpoint of demonstrating how stupid I was to have done what I did,” Bishop said on Golf Channel. “Probably more painful than that is the remorse I feel because I think it potentially wipes out a lot of the really good work I’ve done over my career.”

Behold the power of 140 characters. 

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Davies leads Inkster after Day 1 of Senior LPGA Champ.

By Associated PressOctober 16, 2018, 1:10 am

FRENCH LICK, Ind. - Laura Davies opened with a 4-under 68 despite finishing with two bogeys Monday, giving her a one-shot lead over Juli Inkster after Round 1 of the Senior LPGA Championship.

Davies, who earlier this year won the inaugural U.S. Senior Women's Open, had a lost ball on the par-5 18th hole on The Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort. She still salvaged a bogey in chilly, windy weather that had the 55-year-old from England bundled up in a blanket between shots.

Inkster, runner-up to Davies at the Senior Women's Open, made eagle on the closing hole for a 69.

Jane Crafter was at 70. Defending champion Trish Johnson opened with a 73.

Temperatures were in the high 40s, but the damp air and wind made it feel even colder.

Inkster made a bogey on the 17th hole by missing the green with a 9-iron.

''As old as I am, I still get made and I crushed that drive on 18,'' said Inkster, who followed with a 3-wood to 15 feet to set up her eagle.

The 54-hole event concludes Wednesday.

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Miller to retire from broadcast booth in 2019

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 15, 2018, 9:14 pm

After nearly 30 years in the broadcast booth, Johnny Miller is ready to hang up his microphone.

Following a Hall of Fame playing career that included a pair of major titles, Miller has become one of the most outspoken voices in the game as lead golf analyst for NBC Sports. But at age 71 he has decided to retire from broadcasting following the 2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open.

“The call of being there for my grandkids, to teach them how to fish. I felt it was a higher calling,” Miller told GolfChannel.com. “The parents are trying to make a living, and grandparents can be there like my father was with my four boys. He was there every day for them. I'm a big believer that there is a time and a season for everything.”

Miller was named lead analyst for NBC in 1990, making his broadcast debut at what was then known as the Bob Hope Desert Classic. He still remained competitive, notably winning the 1994 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am at age 46, but made an indelible mark on the next generation of Tour pros with his frank and candid assessment of the action from some of golf’s biggest events.

Miller’s broadcasting career has included 20 U.S. Opens, 14 Ryder Cups, nine Presidents Cups, three Open Championships and the 2016 Olympics. While he has teamed in the booth with Dan Hicks for the past 20 years, Miller’s previous on-air partners included Bryant Gumbel, Charlie Jones, Jim Lampley and Dick Enberg.

His farewell event will be in Phoenix Jan. 31-Feb. 3, at a tournament he won in back-to-back years in 1974-75.

“When it comes to serving golf fans with sharp insight on what is happening inside the ropes, Johnny Miller is the gold standard,” said NBC lead golf producer Tommy Roy. “It has been an honor working with him, and while it might not be Johnny’s personal style, it will be fun to send him off at one of the PGA Tour’s best parties at TPC Scottsdale.”

Miller was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1998 after a playing career that included wins at the 1973 U.S. Open at Oakmont and The Open in 1976 at Royal Birkdale. Before turning pro, he won the 1964 U.S. Junior Amateur and was low amateur at the 1966 U.S. Open at Olympic, where he tied for eighth at age 19.

Born and raised in San Francisco, Miller now lives in Utah with his wife, Linda, and annually serves as tournament host of the PGA Tour’s Safeway Open in Napa, Calif.

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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's 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.