Wisconsins American Club is paradise on Earth

By August 11, 2010, 12:15 am


Whistling Straits
The 12th hole at Whistling Straits, host of the 2010 PGA Championship.

KOHLER, Wisc. – The PGA Championship returns to Whistling Straits this year. And while it is home to the world's best golfers, The American Club is an elegant resort that anybody can enjoy. Broadway producers gossip about the foibles of New York's glitterati. Insouciant young television executives hoist frothy yards of beer and joke about ratings. A Hall of Fame catcher and his buddies tee off on one of the world's elite golf courses. Fortune 100 CEOs furtively toil to improve their small-business golf swings. A tabloid darling loses herself in a Watsu massage and rose petal milk bath.

Quick. Where are you? East Coast? West Coast? Neither. This is America's Middle Coast – the western shore of Lake Michigan, to be precise – where discriminating travelers and connoisseurs of the good life escape the bipolar frenzy of both East and West at the Midwest's only AAA Five-Diamond Resort: The American Club.

What began as comfortable, clean dormitory quarters for immigrant workers of the Kohler Company in 1918 is today a 237-room, four-season resort that boasts a quartet of the greatest golf courses in the world, one of the most elegant spas in America, and one of the highest-rated restaurants in the Western Hemisphere. Kohler's American Club is utterly unique in its melding of Old World charm with broad-shouldered Midwestern hospitality.

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A golfer's paradise
Golfers the world over are familiar with the two Golf Digest 5-star facilities at The American Club: Whistling Straits and Blackwolf Run. Each venue comprises two 18-hole Pete Dye masterpiece layouts, an enormous, full-service clubhouse, top-notch teaching facilities, and gourmet restaurants. With the exceptional quality of golf offered here, it is no wonder that unassuming little Kohler is ranked by that same publication as the seventh-best golf destination on the planet.

Despite the fact that all four of the courses were designed by Pete Dye, even the well-traveled golfer will be impressed by the variety. Whereas the two courses at Blackwolf Run (The River Course and The Meadow Valleys Course) are intricately carved into rolling, wooded park- and wetlands, the two courses at Whistling Straits (The Straits Course and The Irish Course) are perched atop plunging, windswept manmade dunes along the shore of Lake Michigan. When the PGA Championship comes to The Straits Course in 2004, television viewers will find themselves awe-struck by the stark beauty of the links.And if your swing doesn't feel up to the task of tackling four of Golf Magazine's Top 100 You Can Play courses, the Kohler Golf Academy is the perfect place to hone your ball-striking skills. Master Instructor Ji Kim and his staff of dedicated instructors offer custom private and group lessons in a quiet, private setting. From the far end of the Whistling Straits practice tee, with the imposing gray stone clubhouse and Lake Michigan in the distance, even the most recalcitrant slice cannot help but straighten out.

Kim, who was a top instructor at Oakhill CC and Doral Resort before coming to Kohler, is adamant about providing the best possible learning environment for his students. 'I'll never have more than four people in a golf school,' promises Kim. 'And usually the student-instructor ratio is not more than 2 to 1. It gives people the feeling that they are special.' Kim is also adept at making his students feel like their swings aren't hopeless causes. Using state-of-the-art video equipment, he is quick to point out your strengths, focusing on only one or two key areas for improvement, rather than providing an ego-crushing laundry list of faults.

A sensuous paradise
Even if golf were all that The American Club had to offer, it would still be a prime destination. But the truth is that as many non-golfers come here year-round as do golfers. One of the main attractions is the Kohler Waters Spa, which is attached to the enchanting 52-room Carriage House section of The American Club.

Conde Nast Traveler has rated Kohler Waters as one of the 40 Top Spas in North America and the Caribbean, perhaps the most intimate spa to make the list. Supervisor of Guest Services, Joan Rogers, stresses the personalized service guests receive: 'At some big spas, you feel like a number. We really try to make everyone feel special.'

The spa's signature treatments involve water, which is exactly what you would expect from Kohler Co., one of the world's leading plumbing fixture designers and manufacturers. There are waterfalls, mosaic tile-lined plunge pools, hand-forged copper baths, baths that allow you to sit up to your chin in tiny champagne bubbles, baths with river-like currents in them, and tsunami water massages.

According to Jean Kolb, Director of Kohler Waters Spa, the most popular treatment for female clients is the Custom Facial, and for men, it's the Golfer's Foot Renewal, which is absolute bliss after walking The Straits Course. There is even a 'Twogether Room' where couples, sisters, mothers and daughters, etc. can receive massages and other treatments side-by-side and chat about how they never want to leave this heaven on earth.

A culinary paradise
The American Club's most elegant restaurant, The Immigrant Room and Winery, honors the culinary legacy of the immigrants who helped make Kohler in particular, and America in general, great. Winner of Wine Spectator's prestigious Award of Excellence, The Immigrant Room offers an unforgettable dining experience.

From the yellow fin tuna salad to the wild mushroom cappuccino to the rack of lamb, memories of a multi-course meal here will evoke torrential salivary gland activity for months to come. But unless you are a hopeless sweet-tooth, here is a tip for the discerning gastronome: Instead of dessert, opt for the cheese course, featuring several different varieties of locally hand-crafted cheeses, and a glass of fine port. This is America's Dairyland, after all.

If you happen to be in the mood for something less exquisite, but no less delicious, the Wisconsin Room offers a more casual atmosphere and an equally varied menu in the cavernous hall that once served as the cafeteria for the Kohler workers and dormitory residents. And the Horse & Plow serves up pub-style fare and a beer list almost as long as the Winery's wine list.

The promised land
Walter J. Kohler, grandson of the founder of Kohler Company and 27th Governor of Wisconsin, had a vision of a place where the poor and down-trodden castes from the Old World could come, and through hard work and clean living, they could make something of themselves. Kohler had a vision not only of a profitable factory, but also of a New World, an America where work was an integral, rewarding, part of life. This ideal is forged into the gate of the Kohler Co. factory: 'Life without labor is guilt – Labor without art is brutality.'

Toward the goal of making life better for his workforce, and America better for everyone, Kohler built The American Club as a dormitory for his immigrant employees, in an Austrian Tudor style – complete with lush gardens and Sound of Music gazebos – that would help alleviate some of their homesickness. He also founded one of the nation's first planned communities, Kohler Village, where those same employees could in time purchase their own homes.

Today, Kohler's employees still reside throughout the area, and proudly share The American Club, the company's golf courses and spa, and their peaceful lifestyle with visitors from all over the world. One of the highlights of a trip to Kohler is, in fact, a tour of the factory and showroom, where one cannot help but be amazed at the artistic flair infused into, of all things, plumbing fixtures.

Then again, considering Kohler's devotion to art, perhaps we should not be surprised to discover that even toilets in this promised land can inspire our admiration. The American Club itself houses one of the finest collections of industrial and fine art in the nation. The company has for decades provided fellowships to young artists, who can live here free of charge in exchange for first-pick of whatever they create while here.

The other motto outside the Kohler factory is: 'He who toils here hath set his mark.' Without a doubt, the toil of generations of Kohlers and their employees has set a mark here – a benchmark for luxury golf resorts everywhere.

So forget the snobbish East Coast and the garish West Coast. We'll take the understated, open-armed elegance of the Middle Coast any day.

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USC's Gaston leaves to become head coach at A&M

By Ryan LavnerJune 19, 2018, 11:00 pm

In a major shakeup in the women’s college golf world, USC coach Andrea Gaston has accepted an offer to become the new head coach at Texas A&M.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Gaston, who informed her players of her decision Monday night, has been one of the most successful coaches over the past two decades, leading the Trojans to three NCAA titles and producing five NCAA individual champions during her 22-year reign. They have finished in the top 5 at nationals in an NCAA-record 13 consecutive seasons.

This year was arguably Gaston’s most impressive coaching job. She returned last fall after undergoing treatment for uterine cancer, but a promising season was seemingly derailed after losing two stars to the pro ranks at the halfway point. Instead, she guided a team with four freshmen and a sophomore to the third seed in stroke play and a NCAA semifinals appearance. Of the four years that match play has been used in the women’s game, USC has advanced to the semifinals three times.  

Texas A&M could use a coach with Gaston’s track record.

Last month the Aggies fired coach Trelle McCombs after 11 seasons following a third consecutive NCAA regional exit. A&M had won conference titles as recently as 2010 (Big 10) and 2015 (SEC), but this year the team finished 13th at SECs.

The head-coaching job at Southern Cal is one of the most sought-after in the country and will have no shortage of outside interest. If the Trojans look to promote internally, men’s assistant Justin Silverstein spent four years under Gaston and helped the team win the 2013 NCAA title.  

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Spieth 'blacked out' after Travelers holeout

By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 9:44 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – It was perhaps the most-replayed shot (and celebration) of the year.

Jordan Spieth’s bunker holeout to win the Travelers Championship last year in a playoff over Daniel Berger nearly broke the Internet, as fans relived that raucous chest bump between Spieth and caddie Michael Greller after Spieth threw his wedge and Greller threw his rake.

Back in Connecticut to defend his title, Spieth admitted that he has watched replays of the scene dozens of times – even if, in the heat of the moment, he wasn’t exactly choreographing every move.

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“Just that celebration in general, I blacked out,” Spieth said. “It drops and you just react. For me, I’ve had a few instances where I’ve been able to celebrate or react on a 72nd, 73rd hole, 74th hole, whatever it may be, and it just shows how much it means to us.”

Spieth and Greller’s celebration was so memorable that tournament officials later shipped the rake to Greller as a keepsake. It’s a memory that still draws a smile from the defending champ, whose split-second decision to go for a chest bump over another form of celebration provided an appropriate cap to a high-energy sequence of events.

“There’s been a lot of pretty bad celebrations on the PGA Tour. There’s been a lot of missed high-fives,” Spieth said. “I’ve been part of plenty of them. Pretty hard to miss when I’m going into Michael for a chest bump.”

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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).

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.”