Twitter: GeoffShac
Writing And Videos
  • Tommy's Honor: The Story of Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris, Golf's Founding Father and Son
    Tommy's Honor: The Story of Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris, Golf's Founding Father and Son
    by Kevin Cook
  • His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir (Anchor Sports)
    His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir (Anchor Sports)
    by Dan Jenkins
  • Players: The Story of Sports and Money, and the Visionaries Who Fought to Create a Revolution
    Players: The Story of Sports and Money, and the Visionaries Who Fought to Create a Revolution
    by Matthew Futterman

Some of the most interesting holes are those where the best line to the flag is not direct. A.W. TILLINGHAST


    

Sunday
Feb082009

2009 USGA Annual Meeting

I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you who phoned and wrote to check on my well-being after attending my first USGA Annual Meeting Saturday at the price-gouging Fairmont, Newport Beach (really Fairmont, $18 to move my car 150 feet so it could rained on for 6 hours?). The greetings I received were all incredibly warm, or at least, brilliant impersonations of warm greetings while the bluecoat in question was thinking, has anyone seen me talking to this lowly subversive?

Of course there was that one past president who, when I went to introduce myself to him after having phone-interviewed him a few times, greeted me as a Tate family member would Charles Manson. Maybe it's those Midwest winters.

The very first bluecoat I encountered was none other than the world's most famous Blackberry expert before Barack Obama's election, Walter Driver, who was exiting the men's room after giving president Jim Vernon one final pep talk that perhaps included a suggestion to step down from the podium in order to communicate with the little people gathered to celebrate all things USGA. Needless to say, Jim was probably relieved that he didn't have to introduce Walter and I just moments before his big night!

It was a great honor to finally meet Sandy Tatum in person as well as several other current and former Executive Committee members. Things got a bit dicey when former president tournament committee chair Will Nicholson told Jerry Tarde that he would like to talk to me. When Jerry brought Mr. Nicholson over, the former Augusta National tournament committee chair revealed that he "had a bone to pick with me." As the word "pick" left Mr. Nicholson's mouth, Jerry and Golf World co-hort Ryan Herrington were speedwalking to the nearest wet bar. Thanks guys.

Blessedly, Mr. Nicholson only had a minor issue with the phrasing of Prairie Dunes' construction from my recent Golf World story, and was not pulling out my various rantings about rough at Augusta (which he said we'd discuss another time because he had them all memorized by date and a vitriolic linguistic scale score invented by Glenn Greenspan before he moved on to less stressful jobs).

As for the actual meeting festivities, I had been warned yet was not truly prepared for the sheer volume of navy blue fabric assembled under one hotel meeting room ceiling. (If you don't believe me, check out the John Mummert image from USGA.org, left). 

Nor did I realize that the meeting attracted so many powerbrokers, friends of the game and devoted volunteers along with a disturbing number of folks I recognized to be golf architects, rustlers, cut throats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperados, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, halfwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswogglers, horse thieves, bull...err I better stop there before Mel Brooks sues me. Anyway, there were just many grown men there who would never need Cialis again if George Will would just start writing about golf instead of baseball.

After having to give an ovation to every outgoing and incoming Women's Committee member, and we cleared up the ballot error that left off a new XC member, elected the new officers and XC, then heard from Joe Dey Award winner Dick Rundle (pictured right, courtesy of USGA.org), who delivered a wonderfully heartfelt speech. Vernon delivered his excellent address which, other than mentioning the 14 points of course setup light three times too many to keep 14-point visionairy Walter Driver from having a total tantrum, went over well.

Dinner, for the staffers living vicariously through me at this point (how sad for you!), consisted of a nice ravioli starter, salad, chicken and chocolate cake to prepare us for O. Gordon Brewer's speech to accept the Bob Jones Award. Oddly, I was seated with, among others, Pete Bevacqua and XC member Irv Fish. There were also four others dressed as empty seats. I wonder why! Surely it couldn't been little ole me that sent another table 14 assignee and editor of a very popular golf magazine to a table far from what I thought was the prime podium view.

I was quite excited to hear Mr. Brewer actually utter words since the lone conversation I had with him at Riviera during the 1998 U.S. Senior Open consisted mostly of grunts and other mumbled phrases (lesson learned: never ask someone what they think of a course the day after they miss the cut and are stuck hanging around wearing a USGA logo on their shirt). He delivered an eloquent speech off the top of his head, with one room-squirming mention of a "downside" to the recent distance explosion. That was followed by a couple of great caddy stories, prompting Brewer to declare, "let's work together to keep the caddy as part of the game."

There were too many other fascinating conversations to mention (well, and to protect the innocent). My deepest gratitude goes out to the USGA for allowing me the privilege of attending the event, and in advance, my sympathies to those who suffer repercussions for any intentional (or otherwise) encounters with yours truly.

Sunday
Feb082009

Elin Woods Gives Birth To Second Child...

Tod Leonard, because he wasn't busy enough covering the Buick Invitational, breaks the news.

Ladies and Gentleman of the press, begin your countdown to Tiger's return stories. Oh wait, too late for that.

 

Sunday
Feb082009

Phil Laying Ground For Next Dave Pelz Tome: Reissue Of "How To Line Up Your Fourth Putt"

Bob Harig on Phil Mickelson's early season struggles despite supposedly correcting a putting flaw:

Difficulty on the greens is what Mickelson pointed to last year, and he said he discovered a flaw along with coach Dave Pelz around the time of the Ryder Cup. Mickelson, seemingly cured, then missed a playoff by a shot at the Tour Championship and proclaimed that the offseason would be used to fine-tune a few areas with an eye on 2009.

But putting remains an issue. During Friday's round on the North Course, Mickelson missed eight putts inside of 6 feet and had 32 total in a round of 72. And just as Golf Channel analyst Nick Faldo was commenting on the shaky state of Mickelson's game during Sunday's final round, Lefty butchered the sixth green by 4-putting
.

Sunday
Feb082009

Andrew Magee's On-Air Slip Even Leaves Gary McCord Speechless

Steve Elling reports that Andrew Magee has been "disciplined" by The Golf Channel for a dicey remark that led Gary McCord to hit his cough button and utter to his stat-man, "and I got cut from the Masters for saying bikini wax?"

Magee, serving as a roving reporter during the second-round broadcast, told the network he believed he was off the air when he mentioned to fellow analyst Gary McCord that he had just seen a fan wearing a T-shirt that read, "I got kicked out of the Boy Scouts for eating a brownie."

McCord, who works primarily for CBS Sports, didn't react verbally and there were several moments of dead air following the comment.

Golf Channel spokesman Dan Higgins said the network received several e-mail complaints from viewers about the remark. The Golf Channel's online message boards have been filled with fan feedback on the matter.

"He was disciplined for that," Higgins said, from Orlando. "It was a mistake. He's fairly new in the role of on-course reporter, which is no excuse, but he has been disciplined, yes.

My sources tell me that Magee was forced to watch all previous seasons of The Big Break, then pen a paper on its pop culture impact, before having to listen to Inga Hammond read the paper back to him.

Sunday
Feb082009

"What courage! What insight!"

John Huggan on Rory McIlroy's impact, with this jab at what's left of the American golf media:

Interestingly – and tellingly – the flurry of banner and admittedly over-the-top headlines that duly followed O'Meara's remarks set off something of a backlash across the Atlantic. Perhaps feeling a little touchy over the almost complete and continuing lack of excitement created by homegrown players on their own tour, a few American journalists felt able to pooh-pooh any comparison with the incomparable Woods. What courage! What insight! If only some of them had actually seen the young Irishman play even once.

Saturday
Feb072009

Lancaster, Cherry Hills Land USGA Events

More on the USGA annual meeting when my hands have recovered from all of the clapping (even for Walter Driver!), but in the meantime a couple of William Flynn gems landed events: Lancaster for the 2015 U.S. Women's Open and Cherry Hills for the 2012 U.S. Amateur (not mentioned in the linked AP story, but announced at the meeting.)

 

Friday
Feb062009

Anna Rawson Does Her Part To Build LPGA Brand **

What was that I said about loving Anna Rawson's brutal honesty? Apparently she took it to heart and touted the progressive heterosexuality of the LPGA Tour and used the "d" word. Oh dear...

She came under fire for her poorly chosen comments aired by NOVA 5AA in Adelaide on Wednesday.

"The tour has got so much better with so many young stars and great players," Rawson told the radio station in an interview arranged by her father Jim.

"But the mentality unfortunately amongst the media and the industry hasn't changed.

"They still think we're at 25 years ago when the tour was full of, you know, a lot of dykes and unattractive females nobody wanted to watch."

The rest of the article reviews her previous remarks on "penis envy." She has that in common with Woody Allen.

Friday
Feb062009

"OK, let me throw out another idea for you to reject."

Ron Whitten sort of buries the lede (in a copy and paste kind of way) when he repeats this story about the Jack Nicklaus-Tom Doak dream design pairing (why can't we have this on tape?).

Out in the dirt at Sebonack:

Jack: "Why leave that knob? The only criticism it'll get will be from good players who can't see the fairway."

Tom: "My thing is visual. All you see is green grass. The knob makes it visual. It pulls the green toward us. It plants the idea of going for it."

Jack: "In the mind of a scratch player or an 11-handicapper? You've said a bunch of stuff that a scratch player would never think."

Tom: "Well, a low-handicapper. If the green looks close to him, he'll overswing and get into trouble."

Jack: "All this stuff over one little pile of dirt. Look, it's my tee back here and if I want to get rid of it, I'll get rid of it."

They move down the fairway, where a plastic-lined, environmentally dictated retention pond was installed at the base of a hill below the proposed green. Both agree the pond looks too artificial.

Jack: "What if you built a waste bunker along the edge of the lake, break up that linear look?"

Tom: "I don't want to put a waste bunker against water. That looks like a hundred other modern golf courses. That's what I really don't want to do."

Jack: "You really don't like it?"

Tom: "I like to let human nature work against golfers sometimes. Why bunker right up to the water and dictate their shot? If they're silly enough to hug the lake on their second shot, then it's their fault if they go in."

Jack: "But we have to take up the elevation somehow. There had been a cliff between the pond and the fairway. Another option is to put that cliff back."

Tom thinks about it for a minute, then shakes his head.

Jack: "OK, let me throw out another idea for you to reject."

What a shame with this economic crisis, it's going to be so hard to get these two modest, humble men together for another collaboration.

Friday
Feb062009

Boo: "I'm looking at the WCWs, the WGWs"

The Golf Watch's Richard Simon has posted a two-part Q&A with Jeff Babineau on the state of Golfweek, but even more fun than that is his his link to Boo Weekley's recent 19th Hole interview with Vince Cellini and John Hawkins where the PGA Tour's finest tries twice to refer to the WGC events, and fails.

"I'm looking at the WCWs, the WGWs...

I don't think it's online, but that episode of the show also featured a priceless Hawkins rant about the 2018 Ryder Cup-to-Dubai talk.

Thursday
Feb052009

"Tradition or otherwise, the R&A has developed a habit of ignoring history, even its own, when it wants to."

Finally, someone is scrutinizing the R&A...wait, oh, it's not for redesigning courses in lieu of distance regulation or rendering the Road hole unrecognizeable?

Lawrence Donegan reports on Scotland's senior most politician calling for an end to "chauvinistic" attitudes after not offering a membership to Dr. Louise Richardson, new St. Andrews University principal. Her predecessors were given R&A memberships.

"The Royal and Ancient Golf Club should follow their long-standing practice of offering membership to the Principal of St Andrews University and I am sure that after due consideration they will continue with that honourable tradition," the first Minister said today.

It is highly unusual for a politician of Salmond's seniority to become embroiled in the affairs of a sporting club but the politician is also a keen golfer who has long taken an interest in the health of the sport. He was joined in his criticism by Claire Baker, a Labour member of the Scottish parliament, who said Dr Richardson should be accorded the same courtesy and privileges as her male predecessors.

"It's more than 500 years since Mary Queen of Scots became the first woman to tee off at the home of golf but it seems that the Royal and Ancient is still stuck in the middle ages. It is high time the fuddy-duddies who run the club put their chauvinist attitudes to one side and joined the 21st century," she said tonight.

Thursday
Feb052009

"But who would have thought when they picked up the 2009 media guide that they'd see Weir, Steve Marino and Lucas Glover with full beards?"

Garry Smits posts an item about the possible PGA Tour appearance crack down, with this study of the media guide:

There are 312 players photographed in the fully-exempt section and the conditionally exempt section combined. Of that number, 53 players have hair clearly below the collar, mustaches, full beards, goatees or simply varying growths of beards appearing to be anywhere from a few days to a week's worth of non-application of the razor.

In the 1999 media guide, 10 years in the past, there are 288 players pictured in the two sections. Only 22 of them had facial hair or long hair, nine among the fully exempt section.

Some players have always had some growth of hair. In addition to the aforementioned Bryant and Villegas, Marco Dawson, Jerry Kelly, Ian Poulter and Frank Lickliter are at least consistent.

But who would have thought when they picked up the 2009 media guide that they'd see Weir, Steve Marino and Lucas Glover with full beards? Or the usually immaculate Trevor Immelman and the fashionable Brett Quigley having their photos taken without having shaved for a few days?

Thursday
Feb052009

Rackham Fight Is Over

A rare bit of good news for golf courses these days. Thanks to reader Chuck for this.

Thursday
Feb052009

"We're not joining that bleeping union."

Ed Sherman profiles Dick Wilson in this week's Golf World, and naturally the tension between Wilson and Robert Trent Jones is the best part.

As the preeminent architects of the post-World War II period, Robert Trent Jones and Wilson were fierce competitors, often up for the same jobs. A 1962 story in Sports Illustrated was headlined, "Golf's Battling Architects." Critiquing Trent Jones' work, Wilson said: "I think he gives an impression of too many straight lines. Straight lines are something you want to get away from."

Von Hagge recalls Wilson once was told that a prerequisite for landing a job was joining the American Society of Golf Course Architects, which Trent Jones had formed in 1946. The request had Wilson fuming. "Dick was such a competitor," von Hagge says. "He used a lot of profanity and said, 'We're not joining that bleeping union.' The real underlying tiger there was Jones was asked to put it together, and Dick wasn't. He never joined."

Wednesday
Feb042009

Follow Up: "More A Guide Than A Policy"

Regarding the debate about player appearance and the PGA Tour's possible crackdown on the daily Ratso Rizzo tributes that have become commonplace, I'm leaning toward the side of headquarters in wanting to see players clean things up a bit. I know, the possibility of a directive from Ponte Vedra dictating shaving frequency or haircut recommendations is a tad frightening.

If the tour makes their point carefully and shrewdly, they will be doing their players a service. If they break out in jargon and legalese or sound like Sister Shrewd from Our Lady Of Perpetual Misery, then there should be some fun player-only meetings this summer.

The PGA Tour sells itself as displaying the talents of fairly humble, clean, civilized athletes. This has led most of us to find the modern day professional quite boring, while making the players quite rich. Lately, the tour has encouraged and tried desperately to market some of the quirkier personalities like Boo Weekley or Charley Hoffman or anyone else who shows signs of individuality.  As Evan Rothman noted in a recent piece for Golfweek.com, it's a good thing that the PGA Tour has tried to loosen up a bit and embraced the characters or the party scene at Scottsdale, all in the name of livening things up.

But like men's tennis in the 90s and early 21st century, the players have taken this theme a bit far, becoming grittier, cockier and all the way much less multi-dimensional in the way they play, making it very hard to get excited about cheering them on. Throw in lean economic times, lousy ratings and the players need to do their part to keep the old ladies tuning in and the corporate drones happy, like it or not. So yes, that will mean shaving more often or even losing the Bozo the clown look by getting a haircut now and then.

If the tour explains that this is a take it or leave it suggestion for their benefit, I suspect some players will respond. If the tour issues a multi-point memo that reads like it was drafted by an SS grooming expert, this could snowball into a, gulp, messy situation.

Wednesday
Feb042009

"As soon as I got done, I just got on the phone"

Reader Lee is right that Rich Beem's approach to retaining sponsors is something more folks on the PGA Tour will need to do in the coming years. Of course, not a big surprise since this is a guy who gave us the all-time greatest hole-in-one reaction, and it was just an Altima!

Doug Ferguson writes:

Two days after he finished the year at No. 140 on the money list, Beem pulled out his phone book and pored through a stack of business cards he had collected over his last decade on the PGA Tour and tried to strike a deal.

“As soon as I got done, I just got on the phone,” Beem said. “I called up people I knew, either CEOs of their business or high enough up and said, ‘Listen, you had talked about doing something with golf, would you like to get into it?’”

His agent helped him negotiate a modest renewal with Callaway Golf (bag, clubs, ball, glove and a logo on the shirt) and a modified deal with Mars, the parent company of Uncle Ben’s rice. Beem used to wear the logo on his cap, and now will do corporate outings.

Beem did the rest on his own.

On his cap is Guggenheim Properties, a private financial services firm with offices in Chicago and New York, courtesy of a longtime relationship with Jack Salerno. On the sleeve of his shirt is Nelson Financial Group – Beem is neighbors in Idaho with one of the executives. He also arranged deals with Oakley (clothing, sunglasses).

None of these would be considered blockbuster deals, but each have a personal touch, and provide enough for Beem to take care of travel expenses as he tries to get by on a schedule built on sponsor exemptions and his conditional status.

Wednesday
Feb042009

"any Swede"

The March issue of Golf Digest features an anonymous PGA Tour player survey and includes some pretty fun questions. My two favs:

WHO'S THE SLOWEST PLAYER ON TOUR?
Ben Crane: 43%
J.B. Holmes: 32%
Glen Day: 11%
OTHERS RECEIVING VOTES: Michael Allen, Jason Allred, Tiger Woods, "any Swede"

What is it about the Swedes, anyway?

NAME ONE GOLF ANNOUNCER YOU COULD LIVE WITHOUT
Kelly Tilghman: 30%
Nick Faldo: 17%
Peter Kostis: 13%
Johnny Miller: 9%
OTHERS RECEIVING VOTES: Curt Byrum, Bobby Clampett, Brian Hammons, John Hawkins, Renton Laidlaw, Dave Marr III, Gary McCord, Mark Rolfing

Congrats Peter!

Wednesday
Feb042009

Donald Knew What He Was Doing All Along: Weak Pound Trims $600 Million Off Scotland Project Price Tag

And now it makes such financial sense!

Peter Woodifield reports the heartwarming news for Bloomberg:

“On a fairly conservative basis, I certainly think a 30 percent saving is doable,” George Sorial, Trump’s executive in charge of the project, said yesterday in a telephone interview. “When you are in the construction business in 2009, you have to find silver linings where you can.”

Raw-material costs have also fallen since Trump announced the plan with the drop in the crude-oil price, while the U.K. recession has made contractors cut their bids, Sorial said.

Trump hopes to start building the first golf course, which he says will be good enough to host the British Open Championship, by the end of this year, Sorial said. It should be completed within two years.

What a relief.

Wednesday
Feb042009

"Depending on who you listen to, McIlroy is a better player at his age (19) than Tiger Woods, has no limits on his potential, and can start planning his hall of fame speech."

Uh oh, and I didn't write that. Worse, it's Jim McCabe (I think he might have some Irish blood) who dared to question the Rory hype and compares Tiger's record at the same age. Advantage Tiger.

Wednesday
Feb042009

"How come McIlroy's kid has already won a tour event at 19 and my kid is still in college taking dance movement classes?"

In this week's SI/golf.com/Golf Mag/Time Inc. omnibus roundtable recapping last week's golf, you have to enjoy this exchange where the lads brought Gary Van Sickle's son Mike, elite player Marquette University golfer and patient saint offspring of the beloved cranky writer, into the discussion.

David Dusek, deputy editor, Golf.com: I'd be curious to learn what Mike thinks about Rory McIlroy's win today in Dubai. Back at Carnoustie in 2007 he was an amateur phenom, but now he is one of the better European players out there ... and he's still only 19!

Mike Van Sickle: It's hard to really imagine winning a Tour event at the age of 19. You hear about so many solid players that can't even make it onto the tours until their late 20s or even 30s, but Rory is winning events at 19? Not only is that impressive, but at 22 I'm starting to feel old.

Evans: I think a very good player can get it up every now and then to win a tour event; a great player is a consistent winner. McIlroy may just be the flavor of the week.

Van Sickle: How come McIlroy's kid has already won a tour event at 19 and my kid is still in college taking dance movement classes?

Mike Van Sickle: It's actually Disciplines of Movement. We practiced our leaping in the last class. It's a lot of fun. How much do professional dancers make?

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Modern Dance, Mike, would be an excellent and different thing to list under "Hobbies" in the Tour media guide.

Van Sickle: I don't know. "Dancing With the Stars" might be pretty lucrative if you could get on there.

Tuesday
Feb032009

PGA Tour Preparing To Issue APB For Repeat "Overall Appearance" Violators

John Hawkins reports that guidelines are being drawin up and Colonel Rick George will be supervising the effort to clean up the PGA Tour's grungiest.

In reality, it probably won't deter Sergio Garcia from showing up with a four-day growth, which can't be nearly as offensive as those canary-yellow pants he wore at the British Open a few years back. "More of a guide than a policy," is how George characterizes the company position. "There are no parameters, per se. We just want the players to be neatly groomed, and there are a lot of ways to interpret that. We want them to be mindful of their overall appearance."

How worried should the players be about fines and enforcement? Uh, Hawk reminds us how seriously they take slow play. Oops!

If the tour looks the other way when it comes to slow play, one can't envision a guy getting fined $1,000 for hiding a pimple on his chin. You can appeal to the world's best golfers with a voice of gentle reason, and as long as the courtesy cars keep showing up, they will do what is in the best interests of the game, but laying down some murky law? Good luck.