All in the Family

By Jon LevyMarch 28, 2011, 6:01 am
Editor's note: will be following four mini-tour players – Tim Hegarty, Zack Sucher, Benoit Beisser and Jack Newman – over the course of 2011 in our new feature, 'The Minors.' Check in each week for the players' progress, updates, photos and more.

Family. It’s important to a lot of people. It’s everything to Benoit Beisser.

So much so that no matter what he does in life, his sister, dad and mom will be the center of it. Beisser's family-operated golf career is proof of that.

Sister Laura is one of his best friends and a sounding board for everything golf. Dad Nick is the only swing coach he's ever had. And, mom Deanna? She's caddied for him in every big event since he was a kid.

It's already been established Beisser’s his own man.

Behind that man is a support network that transcends the teams of coaches and trainers many touring professionals employ in their stable these days.

Our colorful 'Minors' subject wouldn’t have it any other way.

Benoit Beisser and his sister Laura London
Benoit and Laura at one of Laura's golf tournaments.

“Since junior golf there have always been people telling me how I would be better if I only did . . . fill in the blank,” Beisser chuckles. “What most people don’t realize is that my opinion is all I care about when it comes to my golf.

“Back then the main critique was my golf coach, who was, and still is, my father . . . My dad didn’t grow up playing golf himself but he taught himself to a four handicap. He taught my mom to a club championship and he taught my sister and I to Arizona state championships. That's not too bad in my opinion.

“Still, people today tell me that a high-profile coach will get me to the PGA Tour. But there’s only one person that I trust with my golf swing, and that’s my dad. That’s all it will ever be.”

It's hard to deny Beisser's conviction.

It’s like a badge of honor he and his family wear that they do things their own way – 'the Beisser way.'

Part of that is having his mom by his side when he plays.

“My mom caddies for me because she believes in me and she wants me to succeed,” Beisser explains. “A lot of people think having her on the bag is what's holding me back, but what they don’t realize is that she’s helping me become great. She keeps me in a positive mind-frame and she knows my professional game.

“She’s been on my bag for every Q-School I’ve been to and was my caddie for both PGA Tour events I qualified for.

'I love the fact that I can share those memories with her.”

Like her son, Deanna Beisser is interesting in her own right. 

A world renown writer of inspirational books for the Blue Mountain Arts publishing company, Deanna’s written over half a dozen books, with her most famous, 'Is it Time to Make a Change?,' gaining such popularity it was turned into a paperback and is in many schools and libraries.

It even found its way to China, becoming one of the country's best selling books.

Benoit often takes a quote his mom gives him for the week to focus on for a positive vibe.

“Pretty cool, huh?” he says with a laugh.

About as cool as what he did for his sister three years ago.

Laura was playing on the Arizona-based Cactus Tour in 2008 when she asked little brother – who was having an 'epic' year on the Gateway Pro Tour – if he would help sponsor the event because the tour was having trouble finding enough money for the purse.

He agreed . . . under one condition.

Benoit Beisser at the Epic Open

'Only if I got to name the tournament,' tells Beisser. 'And they loved it. We named it 'Benoit's Epic Open.''

'I was having a good year and I know Laura would've done the same for me if I had asked . . . It was kind of a cool deal; we got them hats and everything.'

Laura finished second in her brother's event and has seen some success in the game since, but she recently retired from her professional golf career to start up her own business doing personal assistant work.

She still serves as Benoit’s personal confidant.

“She helps me with everything,” says Beisser. “She’s still very much connected to the golf world and it’s great to have her there for me.”

It's easy to see Beisser thrives in a modern family. The admiration he holds for Nick, Deanna and Laura gives the impression the four are best friends – not the typical nuclear family, if there is such a thing anymore.

'Some people can't wait for the day they turn 18 to get away from their family, but I'm not one of those people,' he notes. 'My family is my team. I want them to be there every step of the way.'

Maybe knowing his family has his back is why he's always positive when discussing his game.

Considering how's he's playing, though, the easy-going 29-year-old has good reason.

Beisser opened last week's Gateway Pro Tour event in Phoenix with a pedestrian even-par 72. But he blistered the event home with closing rounds of 64-69 to finish third, earned $7,200 and moved to $31,687.50 on the year, which ranks sixth on the tour’s 2011 money list.

'It's pretty good right now,' Beisser says of his game.

'Just want to keep 'er going right now; see what I can do.'

He's confident, and he has every right to be, because what Beisser already has done is put himself in the black on the year, which isn’t easy to do on the Gateway Pro Tour – or any developmental tour.

Gateway Pro Tour
Sample 100-player purse

Consider the numbers.

A member who pays a $1,750 annual GPT membership fee, and then pays the full registration amount of $18,900 for all 18 events of the tour’s Arizona Series, has already spent over $20,000 before even teeing it up.

Factor that just 35 percent of any given field makes a check – a common percentage for many mini-tours –  and that the players on the GPT pay an average of $1,050 per event to play, and it's evident those guys better have paid homage to the golf gods that week just to make their money back.

Also, add in the economy and all the young, hungry, fearless players hitting the professional scene and it makes it all the more difficult just to break even.

The Gateway Pro Tour packs ‘em in, too.

It's one of the highest paying mini-tours in the country, its location is desirable and the tour plays decent golf courses.

Without delving into too much of the science behind it, given the model of nearly every mini-tour, it's difficult for the player to net much of anything.

Even Beisser's third place finish in a field of 114 players netted just over $6,000, considering the entry fee.

Justin Rose, Marc Leishman and David Toms all tied for third at Bay Hill last week and made $312,000. A solo third place finish would've even been more.

It's a tough sell, but mini-tours market themselves by claiming it’s all about gaining the ‘experience’ of competing against other aspiring professionals to learn the tools necessary to make it to the PGA Tour. Look at any pay-for-play website and it will say something to that effect.

The cold, hard truth is developmental golf is expensive, competitive and difficult at which to make a living.

But, Beisser has managed to net over $160,000 on the tour – after entry fees – since joining in 2007.

So our yoga-loving subject should be confident. And, in theory, on to bigger and better things.

Still, it's easy to think he's already living his dream – and has been doing such since he was a kid.

'I think it's just that being a pro kind of allows me to stay 16 years old forever,' Beisser surmises. 'People ask me what the best part of being a professional golfer is and I think that's it.

'It's not for the money or fame that's out there, which, sure, that's great. It's because I've wanted to do nothing else since back when I was a kid and our family would travel together to golf tournaments.

'I'm lucky for that. We always had a blast . . . I guess I just never want that to change.'

With his family by his side, it likely never will.

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Pregnant Lewis playing final events before break

By Randall MellJune 19, 2018, 9:27 pm

Stacy Lewis will be looking to make the most of her last three starts of 2018 in her annual return to her collegiate roots this week.

Lewis, due to give birth to her first child on Nov. 3, will tee it up in Friday’s start to the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Arkansas. She won the NCAA individual women’s national title in 2007 while playing at the University of Arkansas. She is planning to play the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship next week and then the Marathon Classic two weeks after that before taking the rest of the year off to get ready for her baby’s arrival.

Lewis, 33, said she is beginning to feel the effects of being with child.

“Things have definitely gotten harder, I would say, over the last week or so, the heat of the summer and all that,” Lewis said Tuesday. “I'm actually excited. I'm looking forward to the break and being able to decorate the baby's room and do all that kind of stuff and to be a mom - just super excited.”

Lewis says she is managing her energy levels, but she is eager to compete.

“Taking a few more naps and resting a little bit more,” she said. “Other than that, the game's been pretty good.”

Lewis won the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship in 2014, and she was credited with an unofficial title in ’07, while still a senior at Arkansas. That event was reduced to 18 holes because of multiple rain delays. Lewis is a popular alumni still actively involved with the university.

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Just like last year, Spieth in desperate need of a spark

By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 8:38 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Jordan Spieth has arrived at the Travelers Championship in need of a turnaround. Again.

Spieth’s playoff victory last year over Daniel Berger, complete with a bunker hole-out and raucous celebration, went down as one of the most electrifying moments of 2017. It also propelled Spieth to some more major glory, as he won The Open in his very next start.

So it’s easy to forget the state of Spieth’s game when he first stepped foot on the grounds of TPC River Highlands a year ago. Things were, quite plainly, not going well.

He was struggling on the greens, even going so far as to switch putters at the AT&T Byron Nelson. He then failed to contend at Erin Hills, only netting a T-35 finish thanks to a final-round 69 that came hours before the leaders teed off.

So here we are again, with Spieth in search of a spark after a series of underwhelming performances that included last week’s effort at Shinnecock Hills, where he bogeyed the last two holes of his second round to miss the cut by a shot. Except this time, the climb back to the top may be even steeper than it was a year ago.

“I’m not sure where the state of my game is right now,” Spieth said. “If I strike the ball the way I have been this year, then the results are coming. But the last couple weeks I’ve played Muirfield and then the (U.S.) Open, and I hit the ball really poorly and didn’t give myself that many opportunities to let the putter do the work.”

While many big names play sporadically in the time between the Masters and U.S. Open, Spieth remained as busy as ever thanks to the Tour’s swing through Texas. So even after failing to contend much in the spring outside of a memorable finale in Augusta, and even after struggling for much of his week at TPC Sawgrass, Spieth looked out at his schedule and saw a myriad of possible turning points.

There was the AT&T Byron Nelson, played in his hometown and at a venue on which he was one of only a handful with any experience (T-21). Then a trip across town to Colonial, where he had beaten all but two players in a three-year stretch (T-32).

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Throw in the missed cuts at Muirfield Village and Shinnecock Hills, and Spieth has made it to the last leg of a six-event stretch that has included only one off week and, to date, zero chances to contend come Sunday.

“I think here this week, the key for me is just to get out in the first round and try not to do too much,” Spieth said. “I mean, 90-plus percent of the tournaments the last two years I’ve thrown out my chances to win a golf tournament on Thursday. I’ve had too much to do from here on.”

That was certainly the case last week on Long Island, where Spieth’s hopes for a fourth major title evaporated well before course conditions became a focal point over the weekend. He was 4 over through his first two holes and spent much of the next 34 stuck in a fit of frustration. He gave himself a glimmer of hope with four late birdies Friday followed by a pair of bogeys that snuffed it out with equal speed.

Spieth has continued to preach patience throughout the year, but there’s no getting around some eye-popping stats; he's 188th on Tour this year in strokes gained: putting and 93rd in fairways hit. It can foster a pressure to find a cure-all in any given week, especially given how quickly he got a middling summer back on track last year.

“It’s something that you fight, sure,” Spieth said. “It’s been that way just about every tournament except Muirfield, because then you go to the U.S. Open and think you don’t even have to shoot under par to win this golf tournament. So as much as that kind of comes into your head, it’s not bothering me this time. I’m going to try and have fun, and make progress.”

After this week, Spieth will have some down time with family before making the trip overseas to Carnoustie. He plans to have a few private dinners accompanied by the claret jug, one last toast to last year’s success before turning the trophy back over to the R&A.

But even Spieth admitted that as it pertains to his chances to follow in Brooks Koepka’s footsteps by successfully defending a major title, he’ll be greatly aided by working his way into the mix this weekend. It represents the last chance in this early-summer swing to get his name back on the leaderboard, an opportunity to light fire to a pedestrian campaign like he did a year ago.

No pressure.

“It’s your basic stuff that sometimes gets off, that the harder you try to get them back on sometimes, the worse it gets,” Spieth said. “It can be frustrating, or you can just kind of wait for it to come to you. I think I’m OK with where things are, whether it’s the rest of this year or next year. I feel like there are good scores coming.”

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Twice winner Kizzire on missing U.S. Open: 'Fuel to my fire'

By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 5:59 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Based on recent form, there likely wasn’t a more decorated player watching last week’s U.S. Open from home than Patton Kizzire.

Kizzire is in the midst of a breakthrough season that has already included two wins: a maiden victory at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in November, and a marathon playoff triumph over James Hahn at the Sony Open in January. While those titles got him into the Masters and the PGA Championship, they didn’t mean an exemption to Shinnecock Hills.

Kizzire got as high as 51st in the world rankings after his win in Honolulu, but his game started to turn shortly thereafter. A T-12 finish at the WGC-Mexico Championship is his lone top-25 finish in 12 starts since his Sony victory, and he missed four straight cuts from the Masters to The Players Championship.

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

The U.S. Open grants exemptions to the top 60 in the world at two different cutoff points close to the tournament. But in the midst of a cold streak, Kizzire was 63rd and 65th at each of those deadlines. He attempted to earn a spot at sectional qualifying in Columbus, only to find that his score of 5 under was one shot too many.

“I guess just adding a little fuel to my fire, adding insult to injury,” Kizzire said. “Just to have narrowly missed several different ways of qualification was disappointing. But I just tried to spin it as a positive. I got two weeks off, and I did watch those guys struggle a little bit. I wasn’t struggling at home, we’ll just say that.”

Kizzire hopes to put the disappointment behind him this week at the Travelers Championship, where he finished T-53 a year ago. And while his pair of trophies didn’t get him a tee time last week – or guarantee him a berth in The Open next month – they put him in prime position to make the season-ending Tour Championship, which would mean spots in the first three majors of 2019.

The combination of two recent wins and a ranking outside the top 60 isn’t one that comes up often on Tour, but Kizzire maintains a balanced perspective as he looks to get back to playing the kind of golf that will ensure he doesn’t miss any more majors in the near future.

“If I would have played better in between the U.S. Open and my last win, I would have gotten in. So my play was the reason I wasn’t in,” Kizzire said. “You certainly could look at it and say, ‘This guy’s got two wins, he should be in.’ But I’m not making too much of it.”

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Masters, Players and U.S. Open champs grouped at Travelers

By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 5:50 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Fresh off a second straight U.S. Open victory, Brooks Koepka is getting right back to work at the Travelers Championship.

Koepka has stood by his commitment to tee it up at TPC River Highlands, becoming the first U.S. Open champ to play the following week on the PGA Tour since Justin Rose played the Travelers after his 2013 win at Merion. Koepka will play the first two rounds alongside Masters champ Patrick Reed and Webb Simpson, who captured The Players Championship last month.

Here’s a look at some of the other marquee, early-round groupings for a star-studded field outside Hartford (all times ET):

7:50 a.m. Thursday, 12:50 p.m. Friday: Jason Day, Xander Schauffele, Daniel Berger

Day is making his second straight Travelers appearance, having missed the cut both last year in Cromwell and last week at Shinnecock Hills. He’ll be joined by reigning Rookie of the Year Schauffele and Berger, who took home ROY honors in 2015 and last year was on the losing end of Jordan Spieth’s playoff dramatics at this event.

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

8 a.m. Thursday, 1 p.m. Friday: Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed, Webb Simpson

Koepka is making his third tournament appearance overall, but his first since a T-9 finish in 2016, before he had either of his two U.S. Open trophies. Reed has become a regular at this event and enters off a fourth-place showing on Long Island, while Simpson cruised to victory last month at TPC Sawgrass and tied for 10th last week.

12:50 p.m. Thursday, 7:50 a.m. Friday: Jordan Spieth, Marc Leishman, Russell Knox

This was the tournament that turned things around last year for Spieth, who took home the title in his debut thanks to one of the most dramatic shots of the year in a playoff against Berger. He’ll start his title defense alongside a pair of past champs, as Leishman won here for his first Tour title back in 2012 and Knox was a winner two years ago when the tournament was played in August.

1 p.m. Thursday, 8 a.m. Friday: Bubba Watson, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas

This group should get plenty of attention in the early rounds, with Thomas entering as the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 2 and joined a pair of players who will launch drives all across TPC River Highlands. Watson has feasted on this layout, winning in both 2010 and 2015 among five top-10 finishes, while McIlroy tied for 17th last year in his tournament debut but missed the cut last week at Shinnecock.