Curry's impressive Web.com start a win-win for game

By Will GrayAugust 5, 2017, 1:24 am

AKRON, Ohio – This week Firestone Country Club is the gathering place for 49 of the world’s top 50 players. All four reigning major champions are here, as are dozens of other elite names, all with accomplished backgrounds.

It’s an exclusive field with a lucrative purse to match, and it’s the final opportunity for guys to hone their craft before heading to the season’s final major.

And yet, despite all of the pedigree that accompanies the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, the biggest story in golf this week revolves around an amateur who missed the cut 2,500 miles away.

Any questions over the merits of Steph Curry’s unrestricted sponsor exemption into this week’s Ellie Mae Classic on the Web.com Tour were roundly silenced by his opening-round 74 that exceeded all expectations. What had the potential to become a cringe-worthy spectacle instead captivated a hefty amount of attention.

The crossover potential was fully realized as Curry had golf fans and non-golf fans alike buzzing about his round on a developmental circuit that some likely had never heard of before.

In essence, the grand experiment worked.

It also got the attention of several of the PGA Tour’s biggest names.

“To be honest, I think it’s pretty special for a two-time MVP to be able to shoot 74 at a pro event and beat other pros,” said Jason Day. “I mean, we play our whole lives and the guy plays basketball and he beats some of the pros. It’s very impressive to see.”



Curry’s inclusion in the field initially drew some resistance, including from professionals who felt he was taking a spot from someone who could better put it to use to pursue his livelihood. But the Web.com field archives show that the “unrestricted” sponsor invites – of which each tournament receives two – often go to players who have no true aspirations of competing week in and week out on Tour.

The other unrestricted spot this week in California went to Colt McNealy, the teenage brother of top-ranked amateur Maverick McNealy, who took top honors in an 18-hole qualifier. The spots simply serve as a tool by which the tournament can bolster its profile, whether by investing in a budding young player or bringing in new fans by the truckload thanks to a certain NBA star.

After a second straight 74, Curry won’t be around for the weekend, and he’ll beat only a handful of players. But his ability to hold his own in a sport he considers a hobby was not lost on those who play it as a job.

“It’s so rare to have a player in another sport of that caliber playing during his career,” said Brendan Steele. “Like, he’s in the prime of his career in the other sport. That’s what I think is so cool about it. There are plenty of guys that will want to play the PGA Tour, Web.com after they’re done and they get to practice for five years or whatever. But he’s in the prime of his career.”

Curry’s effort around TPC Stonebrae had its rocky moments, but he also produced a handful of highlights including a lengthy birdie make after which he channeled Jordan Spieth’s memorable Open exchange by directing his caddie to retrieve the ball from the hole.

The move was noted by the man who first made it famous at Royal Birkdale, and it elicited a wry grin from Spieth after his second round at Firestone.

“I should have posted something about that, but I didn’t see it until today,” Spieth said. “It was pretty cool, really cool to see. You see him fist-pumping out there, and just him talking about how nervous he was when he heard his name called. It just makes us feel a little better when sometimes some of the stuff he does looks like a robot, not exactly human.”

Curry’s performance isn’t designed to open the floodgates for current and former athletes looking to test their game against the pros, nor should it. Few amateurs can keep pace with Curry, who boasts a +0.1 handicap. But then again, not every better-than-scratch handicap can hold his own on a tournament course with galleries lining every fairway.

Whatever negatives may have been bandied about when Curry’s exemption was first announced melted away by the time he rolled in his first birdie putt. This is a win for all parties involved: Curry has acquitted himself well, but at the same time he has shown the vast gulf that separates top amateurs and the best of golf’s triple-A affiliate.

It also gave the circuit some much-needed publicity, put the tournament and sponsor on the lips of thousands and became the biggest golf storyline – even during a week where the PGA Tour’s best are busy vying for a $10 million purse.

“People are paying attention. People are talking about the sport,” said Paul Casey. “It’s brilliant. Do something to help get people talking about the game and grow the game. That’s what those spots for as well, I think.”

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Lauren Thompson and a giant 'gator eating a turtle

By Grill Room TeamApril 19, 2018, 4:53 pm

Really, the headline says it all.

"Morning Drive" co-host Lauren Thompson was playing the Ritz Carlton Grande Lakes on Thursday in Orlando, Fla., when her threesome turned into a foursome, with the appearance of a giant alligator. Techincally, it was a fivesome, as the 'gator had a turtle in its mouth.



Hey, it's a slow news week for Grill Room.

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Sources confirm Charles Schwab to sponsor Colonial event

By Rex HoggardApril 19, 2018, 2:42 pm

Multiple sources have confirmed to GolfChannel.com that officials at Colonial are poised to announce a new sponsorship agreement with Charles Schwab Corporation.

Tournament officials scrambled this year after Dean & DeLuca ended its sponsorship of the event just two years into a six-year agreement, pulling together an assortment of local sponsors and renaming the event the Fort Worth Invitational.

Colonial’s status on the PGA Tour schedule became even more uncertain when the PGA Championship announced it would move from August to May, beginning in 2019 as part of a major overhaul of the circuit’s schedule.

According to the Dallas News, and confirmed by multiple sources at the club, officials plan to announce the new long-term agreement with Charles Schwab on Monday that will begin in 2019.

News of a long-term sponsorship deal would also suggest the event will remain in May in 2019 and beyond. The Tour has indicated it plans to announce the ’19 schedule at next month’s Players Championship.

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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 27East.com 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.