Good golf, eats and a lot of Elvis make for a memorable road trip to the Northeast

By Mike BaileyAugust 8, 2013, 7:08 pm

HOUSTON, Tex. -- From Houston to Boston, back through Pennsylvania and parts of the Midwest, last week I returned from the longest golf road trip I've ever taken – 5,000 miles and 17 states over 26 days.

 Accompanied by my girlfriend Nancy, we made plenty of discoveries. Here are five revelations from our nearly month on the road:

Elvis hasn't left the building: I can now cross Graceland off the bucket list, and quite frankly, I never want to go back. I got enough Elvis mania in one day to last a lifetime. While I can certainly appreciate his immense career in such a short span (he was 42 years old when he died), Graceland is over the top. The mansion is smaller than most people realize, but there are more than a half-dozen areas outside of the mansion to explore. Graceland seems to have more gift shops than Disney World, hawking every imaginable keepsake and trinket. Overall, it's impressive with the cars, planes, early life, Hawaii and Vegas jumpsuit exhibits; it's just a little too much for a casual fan like me.

As for the golf, Justin Timberlake owns a course in the Memphis area -- Mirimichi (formerly Big Creek) --- and the PGA Tour plays the St. Jude's Classic at the TPC Southwind. But if you're looking for some affordable, fun golf, you might want to check out Orgill Park Golf Course in Millington, Tenn., just north of the city. Opened in 1972, Orgill Park has no bunkers, but it's built around a lake so it's certainly interesting. On the way, be sure to pick up a pulled pork barbecue sandwich or slab of spare ribs at Payne's or Central Barbecue. Memphis is famous for it.

Lobster-golf combos: With a local's guidance, we found some great lobster (pronounced lobstah) spots. First, the Plymouth, Mass., area is littered with them, like Wood's Seafood, where you get the whole thing, claws and all, fresh from the sea on a paper plate and affordable (under $20). Even a local chain restaurant, the Ninety-Nine, offers an incredible lobster roll, dripping with butter, if you like it that way.

For golf, I'm a big fan of short courses and the Plymouth area has a couple of really good ones. Squirrel Run is a cool par 57 course with three par 4s to satisfy the need to hit the big stick off the tee. (I don't care where you play, but walking off the course after you just shot a 62 is great ego booster.) The other course is Village Links, just down the road. Both are designed by Ray Richards and excel in fun. They're in great shape and easy to play for beginners, but a blast for good players as well.

Penn golf rocks: When we first arrived to the Northeast, it was as hot there as it was here in Houston. But right around July 20, things began to cool off in Pennsylvania, where the highs remained in the low 70s for about a week. Combine that with some spectacular topography and you've got a winning combination in the summer.

This part of the journey started in the Scranton area, where the Italian food was to die for (check out Gubbio's in Dunmore, Pa.). We played a private club, Elmhurst Country Club, which used to host a Tour event. Elevated tees, perfect temps and endless views of the Endless Mountains combine for a memorable golf experience. A couple of hours south, in the Philly area, I got to check out Gil Hanse's first American solo design, Inniscrone Golf Club in Avondale, Pa. It had a couple of quirky holes, to be sure, but was definitely memorable. Later, about 300 miles west, we found ourselves in the Pittsburgh area. With the Allegheny Mountains as a backdrop, this region of the country doesn't get enough credit. At the Madison Club just outside of Pittsburgh, for example, it was pure serenity -- no homes, plenty of deer and elevated tees with views of the Allegheny Mountains as far as the eye could see.


Gil Hanse-designed Inniscrone Golf Club in Avondale is a Pennsylvania standout. 

No winning against Pete Dye: As we made our way through the Midwest, we landed in the remote town of French Lick (famous for being the home of Larry Bird) and the French Lick Resort. While I was there, the PGA of America announced that the Pete Dye Course would play host the 2015 Senior PGA Championship.

Simply put, the course is one of the most difficult in America. It can be tipped to more than 8,000 yards, but that's hardly the biggest problem. No matter what tees you play, the landing areas off the tee are tight, and if you miss, you pay the penalties with rough, awkward lies and perhaps a lost ball. (I think I hit one fairway all day.) The course is hard, no doubt, but Pete wins if you fight what he wants you to do. I hit driver on almost every par 4 and par 5, and that was a mistake. Getting it in the fairway is more important, which means I should have played 3-woods and hybrids off of most of the tees. With that said, the Dye Course is one of the most scenic in America. Built on one of the highest points in Indiana, the views are breathtaking and conditioning if flawless. It should make for an interesting Senior PGA in '15. Plus the resort – home of the famous domed West Baden Springs Hotel -- has another championship course, and it's awesome. The Ross Course has a great history with some pretty good views as well, and it's considerably cheaper to play than the Dye, which has a $350 rack rate.

Casino golf and more BBQ: Nothing against Dye – I really do appreciate his style, and Indiana is home of the Pete Dye Golf Trail – but one of the most enjoyable courses I played in the Hoosier State was in the Cincinnati, Ohio area just across the state line. Belterra Casino Resort has a top-notch Tom Fazio track that takes advantage of the Indiana terrain and then some. Again, with no homes, the Belterra Casino Course is a pure joy to play with lots of memorable holes, including a finishing stretch that ends with a fun risk-reward par 5 in front of the hotel.

Once we left Indiana, there were more surprises ahead. We went through Metropolis, Ill., which, has a giant statue of Superman in front of the town's square. And having been tipped off by Good Morning America weatherman Sam Champion, we checked out Starnes Barbecue in Paducah, Ky., which was still pretty much as it was in the 1950s. Pulled pork sandwiches on buttered toast topped with Starnes' spicy house sauce is as good as it gets. Later, as we finally made our way back into Texas, there was more barbecue heaven at Tommy's in Atlanta, just south of Texarkana. Tommy has a lot of great stories (he used to drag race and hang out with Richard Pryor, for example) to go with his home-style cooking. Maybe it's just me, but barbecue tastes better with a good story… And now that I think about it, golf's better with a good story as well.


Starnes Barbecue: No American road trip is complete without good bbq. 

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Winning on Kerr's mind this week and beyond

By Randall MellMarch 24, 2018, 2:11 am

Cristie Kerr moved into position Friday to do more than win the 21st LPGA title of her career.

She moved into position to claim an LPGA Hall of Fame point this week.

Yes, winning is foremost on her mind at the Kia Classic, where she took the lead with an 8-under-par 64 in the second round, she’s on a larger quest, too.

After turning 40 last fall, Kerr was asked what her goals are.

“The Hall of Fame is attainable, if I stick with it,” she said.

Kerr is five shots ahead of Lizette Salas (67), In-Kyung Kim (69), Hee Young Park (70) and Caroline Hedwall (70).

It’s a good time for Kerr to get on a hot streak, with the year’s first major championship, the ANA Inspiration, next week. She has long been one of the best putters in the women’s game, but her ball-striking is impressive this week. She hit 17 greens in regulation Thursday, and she hit 16 on Friday.

“I like winning,” Kerr said. “I like challenging myself. Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older, with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, `Man, why does my hamstring hurt?’ From working around this hilly golf course.”

Kerr acknowledged Friday that her body is more vulnerable to time’s realities, but her mind isn’t.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

“The golf ball doesn't know an age,” Kerr said. “I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.”

Kerr won two weeks after her 40th birthday last fall, boosting her LPGA Hall of Fame point total to 22. She is five points short of eligibility for induction. A player earns one point for an LPGA victory and two points for a major championship title. So there’s a lot of Hall of Fame ground to gain this week and next.

It’s a long-term goal that motivates Kerr to take care of her body.

“I don't think the golf changes,” Kerr said. “I think, physically, it gets harder as you get older. Like I said, I've got tape on my hamstring. I strained it, just a little bit yesterday, walking around this golf course. It's tough as you get older, just being fresh and rested. I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.”

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Big names chasing Kerr into the weekend at Kia Classic

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 1:55 am

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Cristie Kerr shot an 8-under 64 on Friday in the Kia Classic to take a five-stroke lead into the weekend.

The 40-year-old Kerr had eight birdies in her second straight bogey-free round to reach 13-under 131 at rain-softened Aviara.

''I like winning. I like challenging myself,'' Kerr said. ''Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, 'Man, why does my hamstring hurt?' From working around this hilly golf course. The golf ball doesn't know an age. I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.''

She has 20 LPGA victories, winning at Aviara in 2015. She won twice last year and helped the U.S. beat Europe in her ninth Solheim Cup appearance.

''It's tough as you get older just being fresh and rested,'' Kerr said. ''I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.''

Lizette Salas, In-Kyung Kim, Hee Young Park and Caroline Hedwall were tied for second. Salas shot 67, Kim 69, and Park and Hedwall 70.

''I really like this golf course. I really like the environment,'' said Salas, the former University of Southern California player from Azusa. ''My family gets to come out. So much confidence at the beginning of the week, and definitely showed the first two days.

Jeong Eun Lee was 7 under after a 69, and defending ANA champion So Yeon Ryu had a 70 to get to 6 under.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Ariya Jutanugarn (72), Brooke Henderson (70) and 2016 winner Lydia Ko (71) were 5 under. Shanshan Feng (68) was another stroke back, and Singapore winner Michelle Wie (72) was 1 under.

Lexi Thompson was 2 over after a 74, making the cut on the number in the final event before the major ANA Inspiration next week at Mission Hills.

Kerr opened with birdies on the par-5 10th and par-3 11th, added birdies on the par-4 16th, 18th and second, and ran off three in a row on the par-3 sixth, par-4 seventh and par-5 eighth.

''I don't think you can fall asleep on one shot,'' Kerr said. ''It's a really good golf course. I think I play better on courses that demand the focus, so I think that's why I've played well here in the past. ... I'm trying not to put limits on myself right now. I've got some good things going on with my swing.''

She has long been one best putters and green-readers in the world.

''I can see the subtleties that a lot of people can't,'' Kerr said. ''It's a gift from God being able to do that. I've always had that, so I'm lucky.''

Laura Davies withdrew after an opening 82. The 54-year-old Davies tied for second last week in the Founders Cup in Phoenix, playing through painful left Achilles and calf problems.

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DJ hits 489-yard drive, but it doesn't count for history

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 12:22 am

AUSTIN, Texas – Dustin Johnson is no stranger to big drives, but even for DJ this one was impressive.

Trailing in his Day 3 match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Johnson launched a drive at the par-5 12th hole that traveled 489 yards, but that number comes with an asterisk.

“He got lucky it hit the road,” smiled Kevin Kisner, who was leading the world No. 1, 3 up, at the time. “I thought he would make an eagle for sure, he only had 80 yards [to the hole]. He didn’t hit a very good putt.”

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Johnson’s drive, which was 139 yards past Kisner’s tee shot, is the longest recorded on the PGA Tour in the ShotLink era, surpassing Davis Love III’s drive of 476 yards in 2004 at the Tournament of Champions.

The drive will not go into the record books, however, because the Tour doesn’t count statistics from the Match Play.

It should also be noted, Kisner halved the 12th hole with a birdie and won the match, 4 and 3, to advance to the round of 16.

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Durant leads Champions event in Mississippi

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 12:21 am

BILOXI, Miss. - Joe Durant had three straight birdies in a back-nine burst and a shot 6-under 66 on Friday to take the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' Rapiscan Systems Classic.

Durant birdied the par-4 11th and 12th and par-5 13th in the bogey-free round at breezy and rain-softened Fallen Oak. Because of the wet conditions, players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairway.

''It just sets up nice to my eye,'' Durant said. ''It's a beautiful golf course and it's very challenging. The tee shots seem to set up well for me, but the greens are maybe as quick as I've ever seen them here. You really have to put the ball in the right spots. I played very nice today. With the wind swirling like it was, I'm really happy.''

He won the Chubb Classic last month in Naples, Florida, for his third victory on the 50-and-over tour.

Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

''Done this long enough, Friday's just one day,'' Durant said. ''Especially in a three-day tournament, you've got to go out and shoot three good numbers. Fortunate to put one on the board, but I know I have to back it up with a couple of good days because you can get passed very quickly out here.''

Mark Calcavecchia was a stroke back. He won last month in Boca Raton, Florida

''It's probably my best round I've ever had here and it was a tough day to play,'' Calcavecchia said. ''The greens are just lightning fast. They're pretty slopey greens, so very difficult to putt.''

Steve Stricker was third at 68. He took the Tucson, Arizona, event three weeks ago for his first senior victory.

''Just getting it around and managing my game I think like I always do,'' Stricker said. ''You get in the wrong position here with the greens being so fast and you're going to be in trouble. I did that a couple times today.''

Billy Mayfair, Billy Andrade and David McKenzie shot 69. Jerry Kelly, the winner of the season-opening event in Hawaii, was at 70 with Wes Short Jr., Glen Day, Gene Sauers and Jesper Parnevik.

Bernhard Langer opened with a 71, and two-time defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez had a 72.

Vijay Singh, coming off his first senior victory two weeks ago in Newport Beach, California, had a 73.