Twitter: GeoffShac
Writing And Videos
  • Playing Through: Modern Golf's Most Iconic Players and Moments
    Playing Through: Modern Golf's Most Iconic Players and Moments
    by Jim Moriarty
  • 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
  • The Captain Myth: The Ryder Cup and Sport's Great Leadership Delusion
    The Captain Myth: The Ryder Cup and Sport's Great Leadership Delusion
    by Richard Gillis
  • The Ryder Cup: Golf's Grandest Event – A Complete History
    The Ryder Cup: Golf's Grandest Event – A Complete History
    by Martin Davis
  • A Life Well Played: My Stories
    A Life Well Played: My Stories
    by Arnold Palmer

The biggest liar in the world is the golfer who claims that he plays the game merely for exercise. TOMMY BOLT




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, 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.


"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.


"any Swede"

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

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?

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!


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.


"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.


"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/ 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, 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.


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.


"He represents what we as Americans have in common, not perceived differences."

It sounds to me like Tiger Woods heard some of the grumbling about his inaugural festivities appearance, and more than makes up for it with some nice comments in his latest website post:

President Obama recently asked me to speak at the inauguration opening ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. It was such an honor to be invited and be a part of history and to speak about something that means so much to me, our men and women in the military. He was very busy, so we didn't get to talk much. I didn't want to get in his way. I did ask him if he wanted to play golf and he said, 'I'd love to.' So we'll make it happen. I think the thing that impressed me the most about him was the way he carries himself. He has great leadership qualities, and his accomplishment truly embodies what's best about America. He represents what we as Americans have in common, not perceived differences.


"From an advertising and promotion standpoint, our view is we still need to advertise, now more than ever"

Doug Ferguson on Buick's approach to this week's event at Torrey Pines:

Torrey Pines looks beautiful as ever, with sunshine filling an endless sky and weather that feels more like summer than it did during the U.S. Open. But clouds are gathering.

"From an advertising and promotion standpoint, our view is we still need to advertise, now more than ever,'' Peck said. "But based on the whole economic situation, we're trimming back everywhere we can.''

The corporate box on the 18th is smaller, and Buick won't be serving alcohol to contain costs. It didn't bring out some of its large signage, which was expensive to ship from Michigan. The lawn area in front of the lodge, which used to be a showroom of sorts with the latest vehicles, is now an outdoor restaurant.

"It won't make a huge difference on TV,'' Peck said. 


Rory Only One Modest About Rory

Since some of you across the Atlantic get a little worked up because I've dared to question the British press hype machine (and Lord knows, I've never picked on the American version), I will ignore the "boy wonder" reference or the 10-majors-before-30 wager you can pick up, or his agent's breathless email/press release and leave it to Rory McIlroy for some perspective on Rory McIlroy's accomplishments, courtesy of Karl McGinty:

"I mean, I've just won my first event and it's great, but I have still got a long way to go," added Rory, who's just as level-headed in dealing with comparisons between himself and Woods, a player he's idolised since age six.

"I don't think anyone can be compared to Tiger," he said. "I'll never be able to do what he has done for golf. Hopefully, one day, I'll be able to win Majors -- what's he done, 14 of them? Well, I just hope to keep getting better and better and trying to win golf tournaments. If I can do that, I'll be happy.

Now that's impressive!



"Players don't get better in the long-term if they stand on the tee and are not required to exercise their imagination."

It's comforting to know that the shallow love for rough and narrowness at the expense of strategy is not relegated to PGA Tour course setup. Derek Lawrenson on the setup last week in Dubai:

The Emirates Course in Dubai is one of my favourites but I do think the way it was set up last week meant it lost some of its charm.

Architect Karl Litten cleverly designed it so players would have numerous options both from the tee and with their approach shots. Many of those options, however, were taken away by growing the rough.

Take the par 4 sixth, where Litten's idea was to hit your tee shot as far to the left as you dare to get the best line into the green. Not last week.

That would have left you in the thick rough, meaning the only option was to aim for a thin strip of fairway.

Those in charge could point to a high quality leaderboard for validation. But players don't get better in the long-term if they stand on the tee and are not required to exercise their imagination.


"Next stop, the US Tour, where he will tee it up at the world match-play in Tucson at the end of this month."

Lawrence Donegan reports that despite my desperate pleas and campaigning, Rory McIlroy's schedule does not include a Northern Trust Open exemption. 


“They need to spread the wealth or my fear is that the PGA Tour may become the tennis tour"

Jon Show considers the many ways the PGA Tour could beef up the client-player experience, and while I enjoyed reading about the need for players to attend more cocktail parties so they could hear inane stories and share tips that won't work, this part is really what it still comes down too:

Players must commit to a minimum of 15 events to keep their tour cards. Most top players average around 20 events; Woods played 15 and 16 events his last two full seasons, down from a high of 21 in 2005.

“The power in golf is shifting into the hands of the players at a time when the players need to understand their importance to each community,” Seymour said. “That’s critical because they will kill the golden goose if they do not give back.”

Players have opposed the creation of a rule requiring them to play in every event within a certain number of years; Davis Love III, a player advisory council member, most recently voiced his resistance. But support is growing outside the locker room for something similar to the LPGA’s rule requiring the women to enter every tournament at least once every four years.

“They need to spread the wealth or my fear is that the PGA Tour may become the tennis tour,” said Bill Colvin, who consults on marketing for a number of PGA Tour sponsors.

So there is one good bit of news in this economic crisis: fewer (if any) competing events in the vein of Milwaukee or Reno in the coming years should help free up a few weeks on schedules, no?


"But she knows that’s simply not true for players like Lee, who had to leave the game to find out she loved it."

Beth Ann Baldry with an enjoyable look at LPGA rookie Jeehae Lee, a Yale grad who wisely gave up a career in banking to give the LPGA Tour a shot...and secured her card. Oh and her English is impeccable.

The economics major spent a summer working for Lehman Brothers in Hong Kong after her junior year. She accepted a job with Australia’s Macquarie Bank her senior year and planned to return to Hong Kong after graduation. Starting salary: $60,000, plus bonuses.

Then a new coach came to town, and convinced Lee to give it one more try for her last semester of school. She had a light class load and not much to worry about. Surprisingly, her game showed little rust.

To the shock of her family, and herself, Lee backed out of her bank job and joined the Futures Tour, where she and countless others, lost money.

There were many occasions when Lee stood in the middle of Nowhere, U.S.A. and said to herself, “I could be living so easy. What am I doing?”


"Golf coverage slow to spread in blogdom"

As part of a sports on the Internet package, SBJ's Jon Show analyzes why there are so few golf blogs. Warning, I'm quoted.


Letter from Saugerties-USGA Annual Report

From former USGA Executive Director Frank Hannigan. Past letters of his can be viewed here.


I once sat in a meeting room full of corporate executives who advertise in Fortune magazine. The speakers were Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. After bragging that Gates personally taught him how to get online, Buffett fielded a question about his annual report. Buffett said he regarded his annual report as vital, that he spent much time on it, that it contained nothing he did not regard as true. All one had to do to know what was happening at Berkshire Hathaway was read its annual report.

The recently published annual report of the United States Golf Association is the converse of the Buffet attitude. It is a monument of obfuscation and self praise.

The governing body’s report contains two principle sections. There is a 3-and-a-half-page hunk of prose signed by current president James Vemon. Then comes the financial statement for 2008. Let’s consider the money part first.

There was revenue of $155,814,000. Expenses were $155,747,000. So the “profit” was a pittance of $67,000. In 1997 USGA revenue was only $136 million. Financially the USGA is like a hamster on a wheel. No matter how hard it runs it can’t catch up to itself.

If the USGA wants to have more money the answer is simple – spend less. Concerned, Vemon says they are now reviewing the expenditure of every nickel and dime. Expense reports are to be examined with a new fervor.

That’s not going to get it. Just like the federal government the USGA is eventually going to have to deal with entitlements. Examples:

Expenses for championships and broadcasting are line-itemed at $80 million. There is no breakdown of what was spent when or where although they maintain distinctions internally in finite detail. Most of that money has to be ascribed to “US Open” given it doesn’t cost much to run the Senior Amateur Championship. A person familiar with tournament expenses, anonymous because of ongoing dealings the USGA, says “US Open expenses are completely out of control.”

I wonder where they hide the cost of a private jet to ferry members of the Executive Committee to sites of USGA activities where they are not needed. Perhaps they have dumped the jet in emulation of Citi Group and other corporations – out of embarrassment. You can’t know because it’s a verboten subject.

Denied all detail as to championship expenses, I nevertheless conclude they could be cut by $5 million or more and nobody in the audience would know the difference.

The USGA gave away $3 million in grants via its own Foundation and another $3 million as a gift to The First Tee effort. Vernon points out in his text that the USGA has been the biggest giver to The First Tee. He omits mention of the PGA Tour whose creature is The First Tee. The omission tells us Far Hills does not love Ponte Veda. Probably vice versa too.

Since these gifts have accomplished nothing in terms of “growing the game” (golf is either flat or in decline) I say get rid of them. But if the USGA can afford to and wants to give away money, send it to where it can do some good – to Darfur, the Mississippi literacy program, or the Western Golf Association for caddie scholarships.

I shudder on reading that the combined expenses of its “communications” and “digital media” operations were more than $10 million. The USGA seems to think that if you just throw enough stuff online the result will be that everyone will love you. What difference can it make if the USGA is held in high or low esteem so long as the Rules Of Golf are accepted by golfers everywhere? Achieving uniformity in the rules, in accord with its partner the R&A, is the primary triumph in USGA history. And it happened before anyone owned a computer.

Vernon writes they spent $20 million to redo the Museum and Library. As a former curator of the USGA Museum (I got a D because I misplaced items), I remain a fan of the museum but not $20 millions worth. When the museum reopened in June, admission was charged for the first time. It now costs $7.50 if you want to see The Moon Club.

You will search in vain for museum attendance figures. That’s because even golfers can look at the moon itself – for free. Apparently attendance is limited to elderly people on busses who thought they signed up to catch a matinee at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Milburn. They are startled when the bus passes Milburn and keeps going west on I-78.

The Vernon message is replete with odd usages. He seems to think the USGA began about five years ago when contracts were signed with four corporate “partners” and that NBC is an ally. That alliance consists of NBC giving the USGA about $30 million as a rights fee along with the understanding NBC will never criticize the USGA on air.

The US Open is described as “the most rigorous examination in golf.” Translation: “We want high scores and we get them.”

He enthuses about a 14-point course philosophy. Amazing, but Jones, Hogan and Nicklaus each managed to win four US Opens absent 14-point philosophies.

He enthuses over the introduction of graduated rough. US Opens had graduated rough when Bob Jones was playing. They have introduced a third cut of rough. But, although they surely have numbers they don’t say what effect, if any, the third cut has on the competition.

Vernon cites using different yardages for the same hole among recent inspirations. Excuse me, but alternative tees were used in the 1967 Open at Baltusrol. In all, setting up a course is one third art, one third agronomy and one third guesswork. Fourteen points was what President Wilson tried to pull off after World War I.

It wouldn’t be a USGA annual report without claims of being newly “relevant,” which is what happened when the Open was played on Torrey Pines (where they gouged the City of San Diego.) Each of the four corporate partners were “relevant” to USGA priorities. The automobile sponsor contributed 13,000 “car nights” . When you were a kid, did you beg dad for two “car nights” this week?

The ailing economy sharply reduced the value of the USGA investments. So what? That happened to everyone. The amount of loss should be specified in the president’s message. Instead, you have to hunt for the numbers in the fine print of the financial statement. I doubt it would be there at all but for a legal requirement. Transparency is not a USGA virtue.

We learn that both junior championships this year will be played on courses owned by Donald Trump. Now that does exemplify a new and different USGA. I find it hard to picture historic USGA figures like Richard Tufts, Bill Campbell, Sandy Tatum and Joe Dey hanging around with Donald Trump.

Staff resignations, early retirements and plain old firings in the last two years are not mentioned. It could be argued that staff turnover doesn’t matter so long as the USGA runs splendid championships and nurtures the Rules of Golf. The workers on Henry Ford’s assembly lines were not wild about their jobs but kept on churning out Model Ts.

On the other hand, the USGA is an institution of human relations. It is not Google. The USGA is having people troubles both at home and away.

Only recently there were four exceptional US Open sites in the New York metropolitan area. Now there is one – Bethpage, where this year’s Open will occur. The Shinnecock Hills Open of 2004 was a debacle. It ended with the two parties spitting and hissing at each other. Baltusrol has switched to become a PGA Championship host. The members of Winged Foot last year voted overwhelmingly not to put up with another Open.

Those losses, Mr. Vernon, are relevant.


Frank Hannigan

Saugerties, New York


Tour Fairways Getting Tighter?!

Over the four days of the FBR Open at TPC Scottsdale, I heard several mentions of newly narrowed fairways. And the rough was cited as being particularly difficult this year due to a wet spring (and what sounded like an aggressive overseed).

I know of two other PGA Tour venues that are seeing narrowed fairways. This would not seem to jibe with what some players believe is going to be an end to the old school U.S. Open approach of the last few years at select venues. Nor does it really fit with the Commissioner's remarks about introducting more risk-reward (unless he thinks rough creates interesting risk-reward golf, which I doubt).


Yellowstone St. Andrews R.I.P.

Martin Williams reports that an offshoot of the Yellowstone Club planned for St. Andrews with course designed by Tom Weiskopf appears to be dead based on word of the site going up for sale.


Rory Wins!

Alistair Tait reports for Golfweek on the 19-year-old's impressive win. So impressive, this could be enough to get him a Northern Trust Open exemption longed for by writers hoping to spend a week in L.A. (be careful what you wish for!). I knew the European Tour was good for something.

Now, about the hair...


Minds Crossing Over Dubai Ryder Cup Idea

Mark Reason on the European Tour's disastrous idea to possibly entertain a 2018 Ryder Cup bid from their partners, Leisurecorp

Golf is a massive tourist pull in the area and David Spencer, the chief executive of Leisurecorp, confirmed the group's interest in heading a bid for the Ryder Cup.Spencer said: "It makes sense. Golf tourism is a fantastic product that we can gain more market share in. [A bid] has certainly crossed my mind. It's crossed [European Tour chief executive] George O'Grady's mind.

"It's a given that the Ryder Cup in 2018 will not be in the UK or Ireland. Is it possible for the UAE or Qatar to make a bid? Yes. Would a company like Leisurecorp want to be part of that and spearhead that bid? Most definitely."

It makes no sense whatsoever, unless of course, your a tour willing to do anything for a buck.

This is just sad:

Sir Michael Bonallack, the former R&A secretary, sounded a note of caution about the plans: "The Gulf is a major part of the European tour now and I'm sure they'd host it well," he said.

"My concern would be whether they would get the crowds that we see in Europe. It would be great for the fans to experience it as long as it's not too expensive."