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Archive for May, 2009

Pinkout for Amy Mickelson

May 31st, 2009 1 comment

by Jeff Skinner

Saturday at the Colonial it was a sea of pink in a colorful show of support for Amy Mickelson. The PGA Tour’s players, wives, workers and fans were all decked out in many shades of pink. It looked like the inside of Ian Poulter’s closet. Amy Mickelson is a popular and powerful personality on tour. I do not know Amy personally, but like any person that follows the tour and all that goes with it, I have read and heard enough to know what kind of person she appears to be. The general consensus is that Amy is loved and respected by all who know her. Her strong, positive, approachable personality has made her a leader among the tour wives and a cherished friend. She is well on her way to assuming the role that Barbara Nicklaus had during Jack’s days on tour. In a discussion on The Golf Channel, Inga Hammond called her “our generations Barbara Nicklaus.” If you needed something done, wanted some creative perspective, had a charity that needed a kick start, needed advice on: tour, golf, children or life, you went to Barbara Nicklaus. She was, and is the model for a tour wife. Not surprisingly, Barbara and Amy have established a friendship. According to Tim Rosaforte of The Golf Channel, Barbara adores Amy and “the impact Amy has is similar to Barbara’s.” They got to know each other during the President’s Cup and have exchanged texts since the news of Amy’s illness broke. Life on the PGA Tour looks exciting and glamorous but raising a family on tour is indeed a challenge. Barbara and Jack Nicklaus did it like few have. Amy and Phil are following the Nicklaus example. Let’s hope that Amy can make a full recovery and take her rightful place on tour: in the gallery following Phil, smiling at everyone, chatting up the fans and just being the nicest person on tour again.

Click here for info & to donate to The Susan G Komen for the Cure Foundation.

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The Colonial is Hogan and History

May 30th, 2009 1 comment

The boys of the PGA Tour are going low at Colonial. The leaders are shooting six or seven under par each day, but the real attraction at Colonial is its attachment to Ben Hogan, one of the greatest of all time. The Clubhouse at Colonial has a “Ben Hogan Room” which houses some of Hogan’s memorabilia. Check out the videos and get a tip from the man himself and a tour of The Hogan Room.

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No Thinking Allowed

May 29th, 2009 1 comment

by Jeff Skinner

No time to think

No time to think

Each time we tee it up out there on the course we arrive at the first tee with grand expectations. Every round presents us with a new opportunity for a great round or a personal best. As we grab our club and tee our ball we stare down the fairway and think about our shot. It is at that point that we have just sabotaged our round. We might as well pack it up and throw the clubs in the trunk, change the shoes and get out of there because we just killed any chance of a good round. We did the one thing  you can’t do on a golf course. We thought about our shot. There is no place for thinking on the golf course. We can think about our game on the range, in the car, at work, in the shower, anywhere but on the tee. On the tee you don’t think. You assess your shot, you choose your club, and you execute your routine and make your swing. You can’t think about your shot or club or swing, you just have to execute your routine. It is during range sessions that you have thought about your setup, swing and routine, not on the tee box. Thomas Bonk has a good article in Golf World. He speaks to a few of the prominent sports psychologists that help a number of tour players. Dr. Bob Rotella, Joe Parent, Gio Valiente and Richard Coop are some he spoke to. They all have a similar message to their clients: Don’t think. Thinking gets in the way, it’s the process not the result, stay in the moment, be patient, don’t think about winning, be fearless and swing without thinking are a sampling of the mantras used by the “Head Doctors.” It sounds easy but we all know it is so difficult to do. If the pros have trouble doing it, what are the chances that we can do it?

During the Sybase Classic, Cristie Kerr who works with Parent said she “had to be more process oriented…not results.” This past week at the Sybase Classic, rookie Vicky Hurst was ten under par on the eighteenth tee, looking at a 62. She pulled her second shot into the rough. She said she may have started to think about her score then and got caught up in the moment.  She ended with a bogey on eighteen. Thinking is of no use in this game. I have read all of Rotella’s books. I even carry a laminated card with his “Ten Commandments” in my pocket. I know I’m not supposed to think, but damn it’s tough. I’m standing on the tee of a short par three last week, having just birdied the last hole. I know this hole so well; I’ve played it for twenty five years. It was the scene of my one and only ace last year. It’s an easy wedge to the green. I’m feeling good after the bird and I’m thinking this is my shot, my hole, my round. You know what happens…I chunk it into the water. I quickly hit another from the tee, without thinking and stick it to five feet. The difference between the two swings: my brain. There is no place for thinking on the golf course. Less thinking…more swinging, I’ll try that one next time.

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A New John Daly?

May 28th, 2009 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

John Daly’s return to the US PGA Tour in three weeks at The St. Jude Classic is a case of poetic justice. The St. Jude Classic benefits the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital which has a policy to never turn away a child that needs treatment. It is fitting that Daly returns at this tournament because he is a man that needs some care and help. Daly was the biggest thing on tour for years until he tended to get a little too “wild thing.” He crashed and burned and self destructed more times than anyone could count. He wore out his good will and all his sponsorships until he was out of options. The time he has spent on the European tour has helped Daly turn a very sharp corner. He looks like a new man, or so it seems. In an interview with Rich Lerner, Daly says he has lost fifty five pounds and isn’t drinking any more. He goes on to say he is at peace and the “Lap Band” surgery has been a blessing. He has performed well in Europe and the more laid back atmosphere appears to have suited Daly.

Unfortunately, we have heard this before. Each time John attempted a comeback before he said he had everything under control and could handle the drinking and partying without issue. As we have, seen that wasn’t the case. Daly has said something this time that I haven’t heard him say before. “It’s a matter of choosing the right friends…I’m picky with whom I hang around with.” Daly will need to distance himself from his old circle of friends and enablers when he returns if he expects to stay straight. His time in Europe has done just that. He goes on to say, “All those so called friends aren’t calling since I don’t have anything to give them.” He may finally have got it right. I hope he has this time. I am pulling for John, we all are. I have jumped all over Daly when he has screwed up before, but this time I am hoping John gets it right. He should play as many tournaments in Europe as he can, to get as much out of the Race to Dubai as he can. Sure, take a few sponsors’ exemptions in the US to get back in a good light. For now, John should concentrate on Europe; it has been good to him. Now it’s time John is good to himself.

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These guys on tour amaze me. No, it’s not their skill with a golf club, although that is amazing, it is the size of their heart. After hearing of the tragedy at the Dallas Cowboy Training camp in which a coach named Rich Behm was paralyzed, the tours’ Rich Beem has started a campaign to help out the coach and his family. He has agreed to donate money himself and has recruited a bunch of others to do the same. Like the PGA Tours tag line goes, “These guys really are good.” Check out Beem Fore Behm.

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Hogan’s 1953, One of the Best Ever

May 27th, 2009 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

This week on the PGA Tour it’s another stop on the Texas swing. You can’t find consecutive weeks that honor such distinguished golfers as these three weeks. Last week it was Byron Nelson, this week it’s Ben Hogan and I don’t care what they call it, Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial or whatever, this is Hogan’s tournament, he won it five times. Next week it’s Jack’s Memorial Tournament and no one honors the game and its traditions like Jack. Hogan has been called the best ball striker ever by guys like Nicklaus and Player. Hogan and Nelson were caddies, rivals and friends all their lives. The two of them could not have been more opposite. Nelson was likable and friendly while Hogan was cool and difficult to get close to. Nelson had the unbelievable “streak” in 1945 of eleven consecutive wins. No player has come close to matching that record. Hogan was a winner of nine major championships and is one of only five men to win all four majors. In 1953, four years removed from his catastrophic car accident, he was the first man to win three majors in one season. He won the Masters, the US Open and the British Open. It was the only British Open he ever played in and if the PGA wasn’t contested at the same time as the British he may have one all four in one year. He turned forty two that year and never won another major. That year has to be considered one of the best in the history of golf. Many overlook his ’53 year and think his comeback from his injuries to win the 1950 US Open was his greatest accomplishment. Hogan’s 1953 season is one of the most prolific years in golf. Only one other golfer has duplicated it. Tiger Woods won the US Open, British Open and the PGA in 2000 on his way to completing the “Slam”, Tiger or other, with his 2001 Masters win. Hogan is hailed as one of the best players of all time and his 1953 season has to be given that same recognition.

“A straight ball will get you in more trouble at Colonial than any course I know.” – Ben Hogan

Check out the “Memorable Moments” video from the PGA Tour. You get a little Hogan, Nicklaus and Player. Ian Baker-Finch strips to his boxers (not boxer-briefs like Stenson), Tom Watson in his old “Ram” hat, Sergio’s first win, Kenny Perry’s double and Phil the Thrill with his crazy shot to win in 2008.

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The LPGA Gives Big Buck$

May 26th, 2009 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

The past few weeks I was lucky enough to attend two LPGA tournaments, first at The Sybase Classic in New Jersey and this past week The Corning Classic in New York. I left both with a feeling that these events are more than just golf tournaments. Certainly they are professional golf tournaments and they showcase the best women golfers in the world. Both tournaments had very competitive fields and they each came down to the last few holes on Sunday to determine the winner. These women are very skilled and can play all the shots and their competitive fires burn just as hot as the men of the PGA Tour. In fact, they play a game that is more similar to the everyday player. Their courses play about the same length as “the whites” on many courses and are not stretched to seven thousand yards like the PGA Tour is now. While they have plenty of long drivers on the LPGA, most of the players drive it a lot shorter than the PGA pros, just like us. The LPGA has a very good product they are trying to sell. The LPGA has felt the effects of these challenging economic times just like everyone else. They have lost sponsorships, are playing for less money and tournaments have been dropped from the schedule. They have taken proactive steps to help keep them a viable entertainment alternative. One of the actions that Commissioner Carolyn Bivens presented to the ladies is to focus on “Outside the Ropes”, that is to take care of all the fans and the sponsors. They are certainly making an effort. Each and every player signed every autograph, posed for every picture, shook each hand and chatted it up with any person close enough to talk to. They couldn’t be more accommodating in every way. An LPGA event is great bargain and wonderful experience for all ages.

The LPGA gives many professionals an opportunity to earn a wonderful living. At the same time they raise serious money for charity at each event. At the Sybase Classic, Val Skinner (no relation) and her “Life” (LPGA Pros in the Fight to Eradicate Breast Cancer) initiative celebrated ten years of fighting breast cancer. At the tournament there was the “Big Pink” mobile van that promotes awareness of breast cancer. On the day following the tournament, twenty eight LPGA professionals played in The Life Event, a charity tournament that raised over $500,000 in one day. It is the largest single day golf event fundraiser for breast cancer. Val Skinner and her LIFE program have donated over $5.6 million to fight breast cancer. At the Corning Classic they have been donating to charity for thirty one years. Corning is a small community of around eleven thousand people and they have supported the Classic and the LPGA for years. The people of Corning and all the volunteers are sad to see the Classic end this year but all of them were hopeful that when the economics of the area change, maybe the LPGA could return. The Corning Classic has raised over $5.3 million over its lifespan. It is difficult for smaller locales to sustain any big league sport but here in Corning it has been strongly supported by the community since 1979.

The LPGA is as entertaining as any golf tour around. There are interesting personalities and superbly skilled golfers. They offer a great golf product and do more than their share to help each community.

Here are some photos I took at the final Corning Classic.

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An Exciting End to the Last Corning Classic

May 25th, 2009 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

The LPGA’s Corning Classic proved to be one of the most exciting tournaments of the year for the ladies tour. There were plenty of records tied or broken, a few aces, very low scores, a Sunday back nine charge from a “hometown” favorite and a putt on the very last hole to decide the winner. The Corning Classic was a great success and all the players expressed sadness that this will be the last.

Yani Tseng hung on to take the victory, her first since last year’s McDonald’s LPGA Championship. The likable twenty year old shot 67 in her final round and played aggressively on her back nine. “I think I was 2 under on the first nine, and I felt like I was playing too safe on the front nine,” she said. “So on the back nine, me and my caddie were saying just to be aggressive on the back nine. Maybe just go for it and see how it works and just don’t (worry about it) too much.” True to her word, she hit driver at the par four 16th and drove it on the green, leaving a twelve foot eagle putt. She settled for birdie to get to -20. She carried that momentum onto 17 and carded another bird to get to -21. She then had to wait for Soo-Yun Kang to finish.

Kang also had birdied 16 to get to -21 but a par on 17 left her needing a par on 18 to force a playoff. She was on in regulation and put her first putt three and a half feet past the hole. She missed it to the right and lost her chance for a playoff. She admitted to being a little nervous as she putted on eighteen. It was her putter that cost her the win, as she missed a similar putt on the 13th hole for birdie.

Paula Creamer staged her own charge on the back nine shooting 31 with birdies on the last three holes and four of the last five. Creamer’s 91 year old grandfather lives locally and the Corning fans treat her as a “Hometown Favorite.” She got the largest galleries all week and did not disappoint the fans on the final hole. She sunk a long 60 foot, uphill putt on 18 to get to -20, take the lead in the clubhouse and give the fans a huge charge at the finish. Unfortunately for Paula, Tseng still had a few holes remaining.

Tseng took home $225,000 for her win and tears of joy trickled down her cheeks as she realized she had won. She expressed gratitude and sadness at the passing of the corning Classic. “…thanks to Corning for putting on such a great tournament for 31 years…I wish I could come back here to visit the town, and I’ll be missing you a lot.”

It is amazing that a community the size of Corning can have such a large impact on the LPGA Tour and its local surroundings. For 31 years the fans and volunteers have put on a very well run and popular tournament. The effect on the community goes deeper than the $400 million in positive economic impact it brought to the area. This event has been embraced by the people of Corning with over 37,000 volunteers over the years. Charity is what this event is about and the Corning has raised over $5.3 million for charity during its long run. It is sad to see it go. Maybe when this recession turns around the LPGA can return to one of its most devoted communities.

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Going Low at the Final Classic

May 24th, 2009 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

****** 5:00 Update: Creamer Falls Short, Tseng Wins******

A miracle almost happened at the final round of the LPGA’s Corning Classic. America’s golfing sweetheart, Paula Creamer, put on a final round charge of seven under to finish at -20 and put the pressure on the leaders. It would have been a storybook ending to the Classic which is ending its thirty one year run. Creamer fell one stroke short of tying champion Yani Tseng. Tseng, who is from Taiwan but resides in Lake Nona, Florida, shot a final round 67 to stay clear of Creamer and Soo-Yun Kang by a single stroke. Tseng and Kang were tied at -21 until Kang bogeyed eighteen to fall to -20. This is Tseng’s, a second year player, second career LPGA win.

******Update: Corning Classic*******

The scores continue to go low at the Corning Classic. It’s an international leader board in Corning with girls from Korea and Japan dominating. Soo-Yun Kang is three under for the day and has the lead at -20. Tied for second at -18 are American rookie, Vicky Hurst (-4), Yani Tseng (-2) and Mika Miyazato(-1). Song-Hee Kim has the best round of the day at -5 and is two strokes back. If Kang holds on she can look back at the phenomenal par save yesterday at sixteen as a turning point. She hit her third on the par four off a tree root, over a greenside bunker onto the green and sank the putt for a miraculous par save.

Kang hits off tree toot

Kang hits off tree toot


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Shootin Lights Out at the Corning Classic

May 23rd, 2009 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

******5:00pm Update at The Classic*******

The storms that were supposed to hit Corning this afternoon have held off long enough to let a pair of ladies go super low and share the overnight lead at the Corning Classic.  Soo-Yun Kang, from South Korea, matched the tournament record with a ten under par and Mika Miyazato, from Japan, shot seven under to tie at seventeen under.  Miyazato carded eight birds and an eagle on her way to her best score ever.  “I was so excited today.  My best score today.  My second hole, I made eagle.  First time in an LPGA tournament I’ve made eagle.”  She is in her rookie year on tour and this is her personal best at any level.  Soo-Yun Kang had five straight birdies on holes two through six, an eagle on fourteen and could have been two clear of the field if she hadn’t stumbled with bogeys on fifteen and seventeen. She made a world class recovery for par on sixteen, getting it up and down off a tree root and over a greenside bunker.  Kang said,”I make almost every putt today….I’m feeling so good.  I keep going for tomorrow and my plan is just to focus on my game.” Both ladies said they were looking forward to tomorrow and excited to be in a position to try for the win.

 

 

*****3:15 Update on Yani Tseng******

 

Yani Tseng shot a front nine 28, which ties an LPGA record, on her way to a ten under par 62 and she has the lead in the clubhouse.  That score also ties the Corning Classic eighteen hole score.  She had two eagles, seven birdies and a lone bogey on the seventeenth, where she pushed her driver right and thought it may have been out of bounds.  She was thrilled with her day, “I played awesome today, and I had so much fun playing with Natalie, and we enjoyed our talk.”  She said she didn’t…”feel like I shot 10 under.  I was just going to go out and having fun, and I make a bunch of putts.”  Tseng was very pleased with her game, especially her putting.  She recently changed her pre-shot routine. “I changed a little bit my preshot routine in these last two weeks.  I just figured out on the putting green which way is better for me.  So I just feel like I’m practiced and don’t try too hard, and my key point is rolling the ball well.”  After her front nine she knew she was in the middle of something special.  When asked if she thought about 59 she was giddy. ”Oh I did. I did. Yeah.  On the back nine, I just couldn’t hit a ball.  My body just didn’t match my brain.  I said OK, be patient.  Slow down.  And my body just goes so fast.  I’m very happy I birdied the last hole.”  If she can keep her cool and her body from “going so fast” tomorrow, she could be taking home the final Corning Classic trophy.

 

******2:15pm Update on Vicky Hurst******

Vicky Hurst shot a personal best, 63 in today’s third round.  She had ten birdies and only one bogey which came at eighteen.  She said she was trying to stay focused and “not look at the leader board.   My stroke today was smooth and silky.”  She said she was very focused up to the eighteenth.  She hit an iron off the tee and pulled it and was unable to get on the green in regulation.  She said she “got caught up in the moment.”  I asked if it was at that time that she thought about her score and she confessed,” A little bit. You know it’s so hard not to…it’s easy to think about that I was thinking about hitting the shot, and not just hitting the shot.  Hurst said she was having plenty of fun and that “It’s always fun to shoot low.”  When asked if she got good yardages from her caddy today she laughed.  “I always get good yardages from my caddy.  She’ll be on the bag tomorrow.”  Vicky’s caddy is her mom, Koko.

 

Early in the third round of the LPGA Corning Classic the ladies are shooting lights out and tearing up the course at the Corning Country Club. South Korean Eunjung Yi had three eagles on her front for a LPGA record. The leader Yani Tseng and rookie Vicky Hurst are currently at nine under for the day. Tseng holds a one stroke lead over Karine Icher, who has just teed off and Hurst. If Hurst can hang on, this would be the highest finish for her this season. Corning’s Sweetheart, Paula Creamer sits in fourth place and six under for her round. Tseng scored eagles on two and five, and birdies on four, seven, eight, nine and twelve, to get to nine under. The weather is perfect now, but they are calling for showers and possible hail later this afternoon. That could make these early low rounds tough to match later today.

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Paddy Harrington Does Happy Gilmore

May 23rd, 2009 No comments

Who hasn’t fantasized about driving the ball off the tee with the “Happy Gilmore” swing? His combination hockey/golf/run up swing is a golf classic much the same like Caddy Shack’s “Cinderella Story.” Could we really hit a drive like that and get more a few more precious yards? Some science geeks recruited paddy Harrington to give it a try. Our mates at Aussie Golfer dug it up. Check it out and then watch Bobby Jones and his hickory shafted driver. I wonder if the science guys could get Paddy to do a Happy+Bobby swing.

I’ll be at the LPGA’s Corning Classic in Corning New York this weekend.

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