Bembenick displays positive attitude despite high score

By Will GrayJune 29, 2013, 1:30 pm

One of the many maxims by which golfers abide reads as follows: “There are no pictures on the scorecard.”

In the case of Michael Bembenick, though, the picture of his scorecard that gained attention Friday afternoon failed to tell the whole story.

While all golfers have experienced the frustration of a bad round, Bembenick reached nearly uncharted territory during the second round of the United Leasing Championship, a Tour event in Newburgh, Ind. After an opening 89 Thursday, the 27-year-old assistant pro struggled to a score of 103 Friday, a round that included more triple bogeys (3) than pars (2). Though any range of emotion can be expected after a round of that magnitude, Bembenick was remarkably optimistic about his experience.

“Everyone has been embarrassed on a golf course before,” he explained in a phone interview. “Mine just happened to be on a national stage.”

To better understand his ability to view the proverbial glass as half-full, it helps to trace Bembenick’s entry into the event – a process that began on April 15.

That’s when the Zionsville, Ind., resident carded an even-par 72 at Sagamore Golf Club in the Indiana PGA Tournament Series, a round that was good enough to tie for second among a 96-man field comprised of club professionals from across the state. As a result, Bembenick, who works as an assistant pro at Meridian Hills Country Club in Indianapolis, made it into a playoff for the final qualifying spot at a Tour event to be played locally in late June. After losing the playoff on the third extra hole, Bembenick left the course with many positives from a strong round of golf, returned to his job at Meridian Hills and thought nothing more of the situation.

With the club short-staffed to begin the spring season, Bembenick’s already packed schedule became even busier, with duties ranging from lessons to club fittings to overseeing day-to-day course operations.

“Playing golf is the last thing I had time to think about,” recalled Bembenick, who estimated that he teaches 600 lessons per year.

Juggling an increasing work load that largely left him unable to focus on his own golf game, Bembenick received a surprising phone call on June 19.

Just more than a week before the Tour event was set to begin at nearby Victoria National Golf Club, one of the three spots in the field assigned to Indiana PGA sectional players had become available. By virtue of his performance at the qualifying event in April, Bembenick was offered the berth with only days left to hone his game.

Estimating that at least three weeks had passed since his last round of golf when he received the invitation, the 27-year-old was originally hesitant to accept the offer. Jack Barber, head professional at Meridian Hills, was among those who viewed the event as a chance for his assistant to gain valuable experience.

“You don’t get an opportunity to play on that stage that often,” said Barber. “Michael is a great young man and I was excited for him.”

Despite the short window of prep time afforded, Bembenick accepted the spot and got set to make his Tour debut. The scores that resulted, though, were far from ideal, and midway through his round Friday it was clear his total would likely gain attention for all the wrong reasons. Finding himself in a situation where many players, professional or otherwise, might walk off the course or simply fail to turn in a scorecard, Bambenick pressed on.

“Never considered it,” he said of possibly withdrawing from the event. “It never even crossed my mind.”

Indeed, the answers he offered amplified comments made immediately after his second round, comments that show a player with an admirable outlook and a keen grasp of the bigger picture.

'I think it's important to lead by example and show the youth that no matter how bad you play, it's important to finish,' he said after the round. 'No one likes to see a quitter. I know none of the members at my club or any students that I teach would want to see me quit.'

It’s a sentiment that has the support of his boss back at Meridian Hills.

“Those scores are not indicative of the type of player Michael is,” explained Barber. “He is a fine individual and I am very proud of the way he handled himself under difficult circumstances.”

Though he plans to continue to play competitively on occasion – he’ll next tee it up July 1 in a local event, the Indiana PGA Monticello Open – Bembenick insists that his main interest still lies with growing the game at the club level.

“I love teaching. I really enjoy it,” he noted, now in his fourth year as an assistant at Meridian Hills. “Instruction, the whole club fitting process, helping others learn the game … it’s all truly a passion.”

With perhaps his career-worst round now behind him – “I can’t remember the last time I shot over 50 for nine holes, not even in junior high,” he recalled – Bembenick remains hopeful that others can benefit from the struggle he endured Friday, and the positives he was able to extract from an otherwise difficult day by finishing the round with his head held high.

“I’m glad a lesson could be learned from someone shooting a score like this,” he added. “I just wish it wasn’t me.”

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PNC Extends Title Sponsorship of PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Golf Channel Public RelationsApril 19, 2018, 1:00 pm

ORLANDO, Fla., April 19, 2018 – IMG and NBC Sports today announced that The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. has extended its contract as title sponsor of the PNC Father/Son Challenge, the tournament that pairs the games’ legends alongside their sons, daughters and grandchildren.

PNC’s multi-year extension as title sponsor keeps the PGA Tour Challenge Event in Orlando reflecting the bank’s commitment to Central Florida. PNC has served as title sponsor of the tournament since 2012. The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club Orlando, Grande Lakes will continue to play host to the PNC Father/Son Challenge. The 2018 PNC Father/Son Challenge will take place Friday-Sunday, Dec. 14-16, with television coverage on Golf Channel and NBC.

“The PNC Father/Son Challenge long ago became one of my family’s favorite golf tournaments,” said 18-time major champion Jack Nicklaus. “I have had the pleasure of playing with my sons, and last year, partnering with my 15-year-old grandson GT was a thrill. I am delighted the event—a uniquely special one to us fathers and grandfathers, and perhaps to the many fans out there watching from home or outside the ropes—will continue for many years to come.”

“After our victory in 2016, I said that this win was as good as anything I have done in my career,” said former World No. 1 and major champion David Duval, who alongside his stepson Nick Karavites captured the 2016 title. “I felt blessed to have Nick inside the ropes with me and to have our family surrounding us all week. That’s what makes the PNC Father/Son Challenge so special, and I’m pleased to hear that PNC has extended its support of the event. This golf tournament means so much to all of us who are lucky enough to have the opportunity to play in this event.”

The tournament also holds three events in qualifier markets per year. This year they will be in Dallas, Chicago, and Philadelphia.

“The PNC Father/Son Challenge allows fans to see golf’s legends playing the game they love alongside those they love most,” said Alastair Johnston, vice chairman, IMG. “We are grateful for PNC’s ongoing support of this unique tournament and we look forward to returning to Orlando to celebrate golf and family for many years to come.”

Community support is a key aspect of the tournament and PNC’s sponsorship. PNC is committed to donating $150,000 annually to local non-profits over the life of its sponsorship. Across six previous years of title sponsorship, PNC has already donated $900,000 to Arnie’s Army Charitable Foundation and the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children to support the “Healthy Families Orange” program. Over the years, PNC has also had the opportunity through this tournament to co-host events for local women in business, to put on clinics and provide free access to the tournament for active military, and even provide a service dog for a local veteran.

"PNC's long-standing sponsorship of the Father/Son Challenge reflects the philanthropic values we share with the PGA Tour and the golf community, as well as our focus on strong relationships,” said Bill Demchak, chairman, president and chief executive officer of The PNC Financial Services Group. “As PNC Bank continues to expand its footprint, the PNC Father/Son tournament helps us gain visibility with new audiences and to strengthen the relationships we enjoy today with more than 8 million retail, wealth, and corporate and institutional banking customers across the country.”

“NBC Sports is extremely proud of our heritage as co-founder for the Father/Son Challenge, one of golf’s most special events that closes out the calendar year on the golf schedule,” said Jon Miller, President, Programming, NBC Sports. “Our relationship with PNC Bank elevates this event each year as a must-attend and must-see event for players and fans alike, and we look forward to our continued relationship with PNC Bank for years to come.”

Past winners of the PNC Father/Son Challenge include some of the biggest names in golf including Raymond Floyd (1995, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2001), Jack Nicklaus (1999), Bernhard Langer (2005-06, 2014), Davis Love III (2012) and David Duval (2016).  Masters champion Angel Cabrera and his son, Angel Cabrera Jr. captured the 2017 title.

To qualify for the PNC Father/Son Challenge, participants must have won either a major championship or THE PLAYERS Championship in their career. The professional’s partner must not currently hold a Tour card, and while the majority of partners in the history of the event have been the sons of the golf legends, the family-themed tournament has seen daughters, grandsons and one father – Justin Leonard’s dad, Larry – participate over the years.

The PNC Father/Son Challenge is operated in partnership by IMG and NBC Sports.

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Fire damages National Golf Links of America clubhouse

By Will GrayApril 19, 2018, 12:55 pm

A fire broke out Wednesday at National Golf Links of America in Southampton, N.Y., causing "extensive damage" to a portion of the historic course's clubhouse.

According to a report, an initial call was made to the Southampton police department about a fire on the roof of the clubhouse at 11:34 a.m. With the club's gates too narrow to fit a fire truck through, more than 100 firefighters from various departments helped douse the flames by transporting water up a hill to the east side of the clubhouse.

The fire was reportedly extinguished by 2:30 p.m., with no injuries requiring medical attention. According to a Golf Digest report, the club was undergoing construction on its outdoor eating area known as "the Birdcage" and that most of the club's historical documents reside on the opposite end of the clubhouse from where the fire broke out and was contained.

Opened in 1911, National Golf Links of America was designed by C.B. MacDonald and hosted the inaugural Walker Cup in 1922. The biennial matches returned in 2013 to NGLA, which is often rated among the top courses in the U.S. and sits adjacent to Shinnecock Hills, site of this summer's U.S. Open.

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Chappell returns to Valero as defending champ

By Will GrayApril 18, 2018, 9:48 pm

It's impossible for any of the players at this week's Valero Texas Open to forget who captured the trophy last year.

That's because most players stay at the JW Marriott hotel that's a short walk from the first tee at TPC San Antonio, and the defending champion's face is emblazoned on the hotel's room keys. This week, that honor belongs to Kevin Chappell.

"You get some sly comments from players about their room key," Chappell told reporters Wednesday. "'Oh, I'm tired of looking at you.' And I'm saying, 'Believe me, I'm tired of being in everyone's room.'"

The position of defending champ is one Chappell relishes this week as he returns to the site of his maiden PGA Tour victory. A one-shot win over Brooks Koepka led to a euphoric celebration on the 72nd green, and it helped propel Chappell to his first career spot on the Presidents Cup team in October.

Chappell has missed the cut each of the last two weeks, including the Masters, but he also recorded top-10 finishes at the CareerBuilder Challenge, AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and Arnold Palmer Invitational. It's reason enough for Chappell to feel optimistic heading back to a course where he was a runner-up in 2011 and finished T-4 in 2016.

"This year's been a little bit of a strange year for me. I usually don't find form until about here, usually a slow starter," Chappell said. "But having three top-10s before this event, I've kind of found some form. I'm looking to turn those top-10s into top-5s, and the top-5s into wins. That's the challenge moving forward this year."

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Scott returns to Valero with major streak in jeopardy

By Will GrayApril 18, 2018, 8:34 pm

Adam Scott is back in the Lone Star State as he looks to keep alive a majors streak that has stretched across nearly two decades.

The Aussie tends to play a relatively light schedule during the spring, often times skipping every event between the Masters and The Players. But this time around he opted to return to the Valero Texas Open for the first time since 2011 in an effort to capitalize on the form he found two weeks ago at Augusta National, where he tied for 32nd.

"Hopefully kind of pick up where I left off on the weekend, which was really solid, and get a bit of momentum going because that's what I haven't had this year," Scott told reporters. "Trying to put four good rounds together and get the most out of my game for a change."

Scott has won each of the four stroke-play events held annually in Texas, completing the so-called "Texas Slam" before the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play relocated to Austin. That includes his win at TPC San Antonio back in 2010, when he closed with rounds of 66-67 for a one-shot victory.

After a seven-year hiatus, Scott is back San Antonio after a solid but underwhelming spring stretch. He cracked the top 20 at both the Honda Classic and Valspar Championship, but his worldwide top-10 drought stretches back nearly a year to the FedEx St. Jude Classic in June. As a result, the former world No. 1 has dropped to No. 59 in the latest rankings.

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"I'm trying to be really in tune with where my game's at and identify why I'm just not having better results," Scott said. "To kind of change that, I've got to change something, otherwise I'm just going to do the same thing."

That ranking will become even more important in the coming weeks as Scott looks to keep his streak of consecutive majors intact. He has played in 67 straight dating back to The Open in 2001, second only to Sergio Garcia's 75 among active players. But Scott's five-year exemption for winning the 2013 Masters has run its course, meaning he is not yet exempt for the upcoming U.S. Open.

Barring a win next month at TPC Sawgrass, Scott's only way to avoid a trip to sectional qualifying will be to maintain a position inside the top 60 in the world rankings on either May 21 or June 11.

The key for Scott remains easy to identify but hard to fix. While he ranks fifth on Tour this season in strokes gained: tee-to-green, he's 194th in strokes gained: putting. Scott won in consecutive weeks in 2016 with a short putter, but otherwise has largely struggled on the greens since the anchoring ban took effect more than two years ago.

"Hopefully a quick turnaround here and things start going in the right direction, because I think I can have a really great back end of the season," Scott said. "My ball-striking is where I want it; I like where my short game's at. I just need to get a bit of momentum going on the greens. It's easy to do that on the putting green at home, but that doesn't always translate out here. I think I've just got to make it happen out here."