Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Augusta National Lengthened further

Fascinating news that the folks at Augusta National don't think their golf course is long enough, even after making significant changes to it just a couple of years ago. Well here we go again. As this Associated Press story details, Augusta has gone searching for additional length. With the alterations Augusta will become the second longest course in Major Championship history.
Hootie Johnson's quote on the subject is quite telling: "As in the past, our objective is to maintain the integrity and shot values of the golf course as envisioned by Bobby Jones and Alister Mackenzie. Players' scores are not a factor. We will keep the golf course current with the times."
I doubt Jones and Mackenzie envisioned a 7,500 yard golf course when they created Augusta. That said, Augusta has had little to do wiwth Alister Mackenzie's vision for the golf course for many, many years already.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

More crap....

Interestingly, the editor at apparently doesn't have much golf to write about. He spent the day taking further shots at Jay Flemma and myself, though I don't quite understand why. All I did was make a note about the site's feud with Walters Golf (see "The Truth Behind's attacks). I really don't know who was in the right -- I just reported their fight.

Anyway, Tim McDonald, the editor, continued to take a run at me today, the same guy who said recently in a column that Going for the Green was "a good blog he keeps current." McDonald also wrote that I'm "a course rater for Golf Digest and includes solid, though prosaic, course reviews."

Well, that's changed. Today McDonald wrote: "His blogs are dull, run-of-the mill musings from an unimaginative mind – he must have gone to that great Canadian college, the University of the Obvious." Nice. Attack Canadians. That's so typical and easy.

Such a smart fella, that Tim McDonald. Apparently his opinion changed after I decided not to write for for free as a blogger. But isn't the website supposed to be about, well, golf? I'm not sure, since McDonald so rarely writes about it. Interestingly, I got several nice comments from readers about how irrelevant Travelgolf has become, or maybe always was.

At least I write under my own name, Tim. The wording of the Rebel Blogger attack on Jay Flemma and myself is very, very similar to the wording of the post under your own name. Yawn.

Let me say this clearly: I endorse Jay Flemma. Actually, why do I need to endorse Jay? What's my endorsement worth? He seems like a good guy, though we've never met. Apparently he was enthusiastic and that's what McDonald doesn't like. He writes some nice course reviews. Full stop.

Now back to golf... takes its shots -- this is hysterical!

The awfully weird has run a couple of strange blog posts blasting me and Jay Flemma, a music lawyer and golf writer from New York. It is awfully odd, largely because approached me a couple of months ago to run my blog off their site. Now, two unnamed bloggers, Rebel Blogger and Blogger Leaderboard (whatever that is), have taken the time to slam Going for the Green. It is actually pretty laughable. You've got to love the phrasing -- "butt-buddy." Is that really hyphenated? Is that the best they could do? Those Travelgolf people -- so creative.

Here are the highlights from these gutless attacks:

From "Blog Leaderboard": "What I cannot figure out is what an alleged reputable writer like Robert Thompson is doing by endorsing Jay Flemma. Thompson is damaging his credibility by endorsing hack bloggers who have no idea what they are doing."

"Alleged reputable writer?" I never alleged to be anything of the sort!

Better yet, and even stranger, is Rebel Blogger, apparently publisher Robert Lewis' personal forum: "After baby Jay's ego fails to get stroked sufficiently he strolls over to butt-buddy Robert Thompson of the National Post. Thompson, a golf writer who is held in high esteem by his family and public relations departments all throughout Canada, slams National Editor Tim McDonald for failing to see baby Jay's blogging is far more than just a bunch of Phlegm."

This is all very odd, since was the same organization that approached Flemma to write for them as well. Not that has much credibility with anyone, but I never intended to get into a pissing match with them. I just pointed out some strangeness about their fight with Walters Golf. I'm not sure what audience Travelgolf wants to garner with its blogs, which is one of the reasons I turned them down in the first place. Seems to me the site spends little time talking about golf and a lot of time ranting on unrelated subjects.

One has to like being attacked by anonymous blogs. At the very least, one would hope they'd have the balls to come out and use their real names, not hide behind an alias, when they attack someone else. Oh well. Love the photo guys -- keep plugging my blog and the traffic will keep coming. Nothing like a little controversy to stir the pot. And at least it keeps them from all writing about some Las Vegas golf course no one cares about.

Now back to writing about golf....

Tiger on Magna: "It is a terrific course."

Last night on TSN, the only media organization with access to Tiger Woods' appearance at Magna Golf Club north of Toronto, golf's biggest draw proclaimed that he really liked Magna, the Doug Carrick golf course where the corporate outing was played. The rest of the hour-long program was full of announcer Rod Black asking the hard-hitting questions one comes to expect from television announcers who have been given exclusive access to a celebrity.
Actually the questions were a bit over the top even for a TV presenter -- with Black gushing about Tiger at regular intervals. Nike must have been thrilled.
That said, I spoke with Ron Joyce, one of the participants today, and he said he had a great time playing with Tiger. But who wouldn't?

Monday, June 27, 2005

New Tiger/Amex commercial -- Company claims Magna is Tiger's only appearance this year in Canada

Just received an interesting press release from Amex about a new Tiger Woods commerical. I'll print the release below, but one interesting tidbit: Amex claims the Magna corporate outing is the only Canadian appearance for Woods this year. I guess Bill Paul, tournament director of the RCGA who is reponsible for the Canadian Open, hasn't heard that yet.... he's still holding out hope Woods might come to Vancouver.

Here's the release:

TORONTO (June 27, 2005) – A new American Express T.V. commercial featuring golfer Tiger Woods will launch for the first time in Canada tonight. The commercial debuts the same day Tiger is in Toronto to take part in a corporate hospitality event at Magna Golf Club in Aurora, Ontario. The commercial will air tonight on TSN's televised broadcast of the event. The event is the golfer's only Canadian appearance this year. Tiger is the latest personality to join a one-of-a-kind line-up of dynamic individuals being featured in the company's new "My life. My card." brand advertising campaign. Tiger's spot was created in collaboration with him and features the tagline "My life is about never settling. My card is American Express." His spot focuses on his dedication and commitment, showing him on a rare day-off hitting balls on the driving range in the rain. "This campaign is about profiling exceptional people," says Beth Horowitz, President and CEO Amex Bank of Canada. "Tiger is someone who exemplifies the importance of character, integrity and hard work." Tiger joins talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, actor Robert De Niro and professional surfer Laird Hamilton to star in the campaign. Each spot unfolds in an intimate narrative format, with each story line reflecting the places, causes, achievements and avocations that are meaningful to each person featured. The campaign communicates the role the American Express Card plays in the lives of the extraordinary people showcased. It also strengthens the appeal of American Express as the ultimate brand for consumers who live life to the fullest. This is the company's biggest brand campaign to launch in Canada in close to 10 years and is part of Amex's aggressive push to accelerate the growth of its business in the Canadian marketplace. A notable Canadian individual will be added to the line-up over the next several weeks.

Wie and Sorenstam come up short, Harrington wins; Changes to GFTG template

  • So Michelle Wie floundered on her final day at the women's US Open. No surprise. It all comes back to her inability to win. She may be a great talent, but she has no ability to close out a golf tournament, and when the pressure is on, apparently she folds like a house of cards. One golf writer said Wie's putter, "had all the finesse of a hammer." Ugh. Sounds like her game looks prettier than it really is. Of course, Wie has her defenders, but this has surely grown tired. When she fails to get very far in the US Publinks next month, can we shut this media circus down for a little while? Please. Of course Annika Sorenstam didn't have much better luck, though Canadian Lorie Kane surely had a fine final round, one of very few in red figures.
  • By the way, what's with the name "Birdie" Kim anyway? Apparently there were too many Koreans with the same "Kim" surname on the LPGA, so she just changed her name to Birdie to compensate. A bit ostentatious if you ask me....
  • Tiger Woods is in town today. I'm taking Sydney, my 10 month old, on a drive up to get Strawberries, so maybe we'll stop by Magna and see if the security guards unleash the hounds on us.
  • Apparently Technorati screwed up with a software fix and that's why my blog looked funky for a little while. I've simply changed the format, which kind of appeals to me at the moment, though I might change that back in the near future. Apparently the problem is fixed. Damned third party applications.

Tiger in Toronto today

Woods to host closed clinic at Nike event: This appearance is only for the elite National Post Friday, June 24, 2005 Page: S6 Section: Sports Byline: Robert Thompson Column: On Golf Source: National Post
Tiger Woods is coming to Canada. But casual golf fans won't get to see it in person and if you aren't watching TSN, you might miss Woods' only Canadian appearance this year. That's because he is coming on Monday to play Magna Golf Club, the ultra-exclusive private course north of Toronto controlled by auto-parts magnate Frank Stronach. Woods will be there with 72 individuals for an invite-only session in which he'll give a clinic and then play nine holes apiece with two groups of four golfers.
It is all part of a Nike Golf event, which involves some of Woods' other corporate sponsors like Tag Heuer and General Motors, and is aimed at some of the sports clothing giant's top partners and customers. If you aren't invited, or work at the golf course, you won't see Tiger at all. That's a change from the last time Woods gave an exhibition in Toronto, in 2002 as part of an American Express promotion on Toronto Island that was open to the public.
TSN will be the only media allowed on site to cover the event, according to Tim O'Connor, a Nike Canada spokesman. The sports station will be doing a one-hour special on the Woods outing to air Monday night.
"Part of the idea was since there is so much activity around Tiger, we'd limit it to just TSN," said O'Connor.
Don't come to Aurora, where Magna is located, hoping to crash the gates and see golf's pre-eminent star. The club is gated and unless your name is on the guest list, you're not going to get far.
Kevin Thistle, general manager of Angus Glen Golf Club in Markham, will be one of the lucky eight who gets a close look at Woods. He's playing alongside Gordon Stollery, the Calgary oil baron and owner of Angus Glen, and will golf the back side of Magna with Woods. Thistle has played with Mike Weir, K.J. Choi and Wayne Gretzky, but admits that playing with contemporary golf's most legendary figure will be different.
"I think this will be different because no one really gets through to Tiger," says Thistle. "It is so tough. In this case, I look at it like I'm not just playing golf with him, but I'm getting to spend some time with him as a person.
"I'm not really worried if I duck-hook it off the first tee."
Thistle says four groups made a donation to the Tiger Woods Foundation in order to secure two spots apiece. Others playing with Woods include Ron Joyce, the billionaire former owner of Tim Hortons.
It is likely that the Magna Nike event will be the only Canadian appearance for Tiger this year. The Canadian Open, which Woods has not played in since 2001, is being held at Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club in Vancouver this year. That location makes it difficult for golfers like Tiger to travel to the West Coast from Boston after playing the Deutsche Bank Championship, which ends on Labour Day.
Bill Paul, the head of tournament operations for the Royal Canadian Golf Association, says the Nike event won't have any effect on whether Tiger decides to show up at Shaughnessy.
"It has nothing to do with it," Paul said. "It is a corporate event, part of Tiger's contract with Nike, regardless of how Nike wants to spin it. I've spoken to both Tiger and his agent, Mark [Steinberg], and they haven't said no yet."
Not that Paul is overly optimistic Woods will show up for the Canadian Open, despite a strong buzz about the golf course.
"Do I think it is 50/50 that he'll turn up? No. It is less than that."

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Tiger alert -- Woods coming to Toronto on Monday

So Tiger Woods is heading to Toronto on Monday to play a Nike corporate outing with 72 bigwigs at the ultra-exclusive Magna Golf Club.
In a great example of why casual sports writers shouldn't write about golf, check out this story in the Toronto Star. The writer apparently thinks Magna's cart paths are "ultrawide" to allow owner Frank Stronach to drive around the course. Of course this isn't true -- but I doubt the writer ever got past the gates at Magna to see them first hand. The cart paths aren't really that exceptional, and the golf course, which is always in great shape, is just OK as a design.
It'll be interesting to see whether this is Tiger's only Canadian appearance this year. He's skipped the last two Canadian Opens and won't likely come to Shaughnessy in Vancouver this year.
The reality is that once the tournament, which directly follows the Deutsche Bank Championship, was moved to the West Coast, one could be pretty certain Tiger wasn't going. Phil Mickelson, who lives in San Diego, is likely to show, however. And of course, my favourite, the always affable Vijay Singh will be there.....

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Blog items that could become columns pt. 1

I've been doing some thinking about the Rory Sabbatini/Ben Crane incident at the otherwise uninteresting Booz Allen Classic.
Strikes me that Sabbatini is on to something here. Crane's waggle made Sergio Garcia at his prime look like a brisk player. It was painful to watch and I can sympathize with Sabbatini, a fast player who justs wants to hit the ball, find his ball and hit it again. Crane, on the other hand, appears to want to write a thesis about his next shot, so it takes a lot of time and study.
Some have pointed out that Sabbatini broke golf's sacred etiquette rules. But what about the rule that says you shouldn't put your partner on the clock because you need to "see the shot?" Crane is a good player and admits he's got a problem. I'd like him to find a twelve step program to fix the issue.
The reality is that pace of play by PGA Tour pros is one of the factors behind slow play at public golf courses. People think the pros play slowly, analyzing every shot to the nth degree, so I should as well. Ugh.
You can read about Sabbatini and his questionable apology here.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Michael Campbell wins, but Gore's the star

  • It was great to see Michael Campbell stay cool as a cucumber, even as Tiger Woods made one of his legendary charges in the final round. Campbell simply outplayed everyone else, which is what defines a champion. The Kiwi was once regarded as one of the players expected to break through in the U.S. after dominating the European circuit a few years back. It didn't happen. Just when he falls completely off the radar, he wins the U.S. Open. Amazing. It'll be interesting to see how the win impacts his reputation among the golf world. He's not exactly a nobody, but he isn't a star either. Anyway, golf writers all over the world were falling all over themselves to come up with things to say about Campbell, who most of them knew hardly anything about prior to yesterday. Yes, apparently, he is part Mauri. Yes, he almost gave up the game in 1998 after injuries. Yes, he wouldn't have even qualified for the US Open if he'd had to come to the US to do it (he played his way in at Walton Heath).Go to to see a bunch of sports writers fall all over themselves offering superlatives to a player they didn't know existed until 5 pm yesterday. Campbell doesn't make good copy. Not like another major win by Tiger....
  • Jason Gore: The new tin cup. That's what fans at Pinehurst were hoping for when the journeyman teed it up on Sunday with Retief Goosen, the leader. Of course Gore fumbled his way to the end, but he was fun to watch on Saturday, I'll tell you.
  • Favourite quote of the week: Early leader Olin Browne on how his nine majors stack up against Tiger (care of Cam Cole's column in the National Post on Friday): "Economics, political science, anthropology, back to economics, political science, anthropology, back to economics, thought about Spanish, wanted to be a marine biologist but organic chemistry cured me of that. English. Learn to read and write; that's important. What else?" he said, of a post-secondary career at L.A.'s Occidental College that left him with "no clue what I was going to do with my life.
    "I started late [in golf]. Really, when I was 19. I got a summer job after my freshman year, and I kind of fell in love with the game, and it's been a long-term, love-hate relationship.
    "I majored in anthropology and nobody was going to hire me, so I stayed in golf. My parents thought I was stark-raving mad because nobody starts when they're 19 years old. You see a lot of guys with an awful lot of game who don't crack the Tour. But after a while, I guess my parents threw up their hands and said, 'It's his life -- whatever!'

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Jay Flemma at the Open

Worth checking out Jay Flemma's A Walk in the Park blog to catch up with him at the US Open. He's also blogging over at, for what its worth. They seem to bury him on their site, which doesn't make sense to me. Of course he doesn't spend a lot of time blogging about some shit course in Las Vegas, so perhaps it is no surprise. I wonder if editor Tim McDonald has managed to get word to Tiger Woods about his poor play to get Tiger to take his game to another level and win, just like McDonald claims to have done at the Masters. Cause Tiger's handlers certainly read everything on

Peter Jacobsen makes a move at the U.S. Open

With Jake in the hunt at the US Open, I thought I'd dig up a piece I wrote about him last year. After the Altamira, Jacobsen came by our table and asked how our round with Stuart Appleby went. I found Jacobsen charming and forthcoming -- he was very interested in how Appleby dealt with a corporate outing. Anyway, it is good to see Jacobsen playing well, even if he's as much a businessman as a golfer these days.

Jacobsen makes charity his business: Players earn fees of up to US$150,000 to join the hackers
National Post
Wednesday, June 16, 2004
When Peter Jacobsen tees it up at the Altamira Charity Classic next week in Woodbridge, Ont., he'll be involved in more than just another golf game.
That's because helping organize charity fundraisers and tournaments is simply part of an evolving business that Jacobsen started 15 years ago. It has grown to include television programs, stops on the Champions Tour and lots of face time with the game's most outgoing personality.
"Peter is a very multi-faceted person - what you see is what you get," says Ed Ellis, president of Peter Jacobsen Productions. "He's very energetic and very organized. He also doesn't sleep much, which doesn't hurt."
In 1989, in the midst of a good - but not great - career that included seven PGA Tour wins, Jacobsen decided to start his own business. Apparently tour golf wasn't enough to keep him occupied.
His interest was in starting a tournament in his hometown of Portland, Ore. Rather than simply find some sponsors and turn the tournament over to professional managers, Jacobsen set up his own company to manage the event.
Since setting up the organization, PJP has had a hand in such diverse enterprises as running a CFL football game in Portland and creating a television program featuring a guitar-playing Jacobsen for the Golf Channel.
"Anything we can do with sports that will entertain people, we'll consider," Ellis says.
A big part of the business has been arranging to get PGA Tour players to join in charity and corporate outings. Jacobsen has developed a reputation as a businessman and golfer who only involves himself with the best and most organized events, Ellis says.
That means he is able to attract a variety of tour stars to hit it around over five hours with a bunch of golfers who are more comfortable in the office than on the fairway.
Last year he brought Vijay Singh to the Altamira outing, a player not normally considered one of the PGA Tour's more personable individuals.
This year, PGA Championship winner Shawn Micheel, Stuart Appleby and perennial favourite Craig Stadler will hit it with the hacks. The players draw fans to the event, and ticket and corporate sales have helped raise $4.5-million for a variety of charities over the 10-year history of the Altamira.
But don't think these guys are offering their time simply because they consider Jacobsen a nice person or because they are enamoured of the causes supported by Altamira.
Rather, they are well paid, with fees ranging from US$3,500 to $150,000, depending on the individual.
"Some players don't like to do corporate events, so they hike up their rates," says Ellis.
While many of the fans who attend the Altamira event at the Board of Trade Golf and Country Clubnext Monday will want to see the top-ranked Appleby up close, others will want to see Jacobsen, whose affability and generally relaxed nature make him a continued favourite of fans.
"Because of his reputation and personality, a lot of people and companies want Peter involved," Ellis explains. "But he doesn't necessarily come with the package."
So what's Jacobsen, now 50 and teeing it up on the Champions Tour, have to say about all of this? Hard to say - reviving his playing schedule after hip surgery and running his business apparently kept him from returning calls.
One thing is for certain -- it is the first time the cat has ever caught Peter Jacobsen's tongue, something that will surely change when he hits the fairways next week.

Friday, June 17, 2005

In other news....

I've been in the middle of moving house for most of the last week. Ugh. Lots of work.
So there's lots I'll be writing about in coming weeks, including my trip to Merion and Pine Valley and the new R7 driver I'm testing.
I also realized that it is exactly one year tomorrow that I shot my 68 from the tips at Pacific Dunes. Too bad my game has gone south this year -- driver is wonky and my distance seems to be lacking. Time to hook up with my instructor, but who has the time? There's writing to do, boxes to unpack....

Lehman is no faker at course design: Vows to make new Ontario track The Raven poetic

Here's my Nation Post golf column from today. I found Lehman to be quite interesting and very interested in golf architecture. He even knew a fair bit about Stanley Thompson, impressive for a full-time American architect, but even more impressive for a PGA Tour player.

Robert Thompson
On Golf
At this point in his life, Tom Lehman never expected to be quite so busy.
After all, most golfers nearing 50 start winding down and looking forward to the semi-retirement of professional golf's senior tour.
Not so for Lehman.
This weekend, the 1996 British Open champion, who resurrected his career at the end of last year with some outstanding play, including a tie for fourth at the Canadian Open, is playing in the U.S. Open. It is a title he's nearly grasped in the past, only to see it slip through his fingers.
Adding to Lehman's workload is the captaincy of next year's Ryder Cup, to be held at the K Club in Ireland.
With his resurgence on and off the course, Lehman finds himself with time management issues.
"Golf was always my priority, but I wasn't playing well for a while," he says. "Then all of a sudden the putts started falling."
His recent success means Lehman is playing more golf than he expected,and he's also busy building a second career as a golf course architect. One of his projects, a collaboration with Canadian golf architect Tom McBroom called The Raven for Intrawest, has led Lehman to Collingwood, regularly over the past two years.
At a time when seemingly every PGA Tour pro from John Daly to David Duval claims to be designing golf courses, Lehman wants to be clear as crystal. He's not in the golf design business in order for clubs to use his name for marketing purposes. No, Lehman is in the business to build good golf courses.
"Some people have asked why I need a hobby, but this isn't a hobby," says Lehman, who has been on-site in Collingwood more than a dozen times. "There's a stigma attached to professional golfers building golf courses. But I'm not doing this just to cut the ribbon at the media opening and move on. I'm paying employees and health care premiums. This isn't a hobby, this is a business."
Lehman has 15 courses under his belt and has two golf architects who assist in his designs. But unlike many PGA Tour players, Lehman is actively involved in the construction process and has spent the past decade learning about mundane aspects of the business like municipal approvals. Lehman also says he's started paying careful attention to the courses he plays on the PGA Tour. The knock on most professional golfers is they are only attracted to courses on which they score well. But Lehman has made it his business to look at the nuances that make a good golf course, to that end playing Toronto courses including Toronto Golf Club and St. George's.
"On every course I play there are things I like and things I don't like. I pay a lot of attention to the course now," he explains. "I've come to realize what a huge deal the routing is to a course."
He cites Stanley Thompson's use of topography at St. George's as an example of something rarely done in modern golf.
"We need to do more of that -- it is tremendous," he says.
Lehman has collaborated in the past with the U.S. design team of Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry, best known in Canada for their work at Devil's Pulpit and The Club at Bond Head, both north of Toronto. In the case of The Raven, Lehman says he's learned a great deal from Toronto-based architect McBroom, who has built award-winning courses like Muskoka's Rocky Crest and Prince Edward Island's Crowbush Cove.
"Tom is very talented and pays a great deal of attention to detail work," he notes. "I've learned about how to make the foreground work in the overall context of a hole."
With the Ryder Cup already taking time ("I want to get a lot of the stuff -- like uniform colours -- out of the way this year so I can concentrate on picking the team," he says), Lehman, now 46, doesn't express much interest in playing the Champions Tour when he turns 50.
He's spent three decades playing golf all over the world and would like nothing more than to spend more time with his family, working on golf courses rather than his swing.
"I'd love to coach 8th-grade basketball," he explains. "I love golf and I'll never say never. But there are others things to life."

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Payne Stewart and Pinehurst No. 2

Also from today's National Post:

Payne Stewart's finest hourNational Post Tuesday, June 14, 2005 Page: SR6 Section: Special Report: Post Golf Byline: Robert Thompson Source: National Post
Professional golf is full of indelible images of greatness: Tiger Woods' chip on the 16th at Augusta this spring. Ben Hogan's famed 1-iron approach to the final hole at Merion in the 1950 U.S. Open. Jack Nicklaus' birdie at the 16th at the Masters during his last major win in 1986.
But none are more powerful than the famed fist pump of Payne Stewart as his par putt found the bottom of the hole on sloping 18th green at Pinehurst No. 2 that clinched his second U.S. Open win six years ago.
At the time, Stewart, then 42, was at the top of his game, having nearly won the U.S. Open the previous year and beating Phil Mickelson in a shootout to win in 1999. On Oct. 25 of that year, the Lear jet carrying Stewart and a group to see a golf course he was to design crashed, killing all aboard.
The crash made Stewart's win at Pinehurst, now recognized with a bronze statute, even more significant.
Stewart's career was one of great promise that started boldly before fading for the better part of a decade. A standout golfer in college, he failed in his first attempt at the PGA Tour's dreaded qualifying school. Once he made it on tour, stardom didn't seem to be within his grasp. He won some events, but they were tournaments with titles such as the Quad Cities Open; hardly major championships.
But Stewart still gained attention, largely for his stylish, classic swing and his outlandish style of dress. His knickers, or plus fours as they are called, made it certain no one would miss Stewart even when his play wasn't raking in headlines.
That changed in 1989 at Kemper Lakes, when he won the PGA Championship, his first major title. Two years later, he won a playoff duel with Scott Simpson at Hazeltine to take the U.S. Open.
Then, suddenly, nothing. While many expected Stewart to emerge as a major star, he spent the better part of a decade struggling, emerging once again in 1998 when he narrowly lost the U.S. Open to Lee Janzen at the Olympic Club in San Francisco.
His loss in 1998, which many attribute to bad luck, made him a favourite at Pinehurst in 1999.
Simply put, Stewart outputted his rivals on Pinehurst's treacherous domed greens, taking 24 putts in the final round on his way to victory.
A born-again Christian later in life, Stewart pulled Mickelson close after his winning putt and told the golfer, who was awaiting the birth of his first child, "Good luck with the baby. There's nothing like being a father."
Four months later, Stewart's rented plane crashed in South Dakota. The cause was never fully determined, though it is known that the plane depressurized sometime after take off, rendering its passengers unconscious.
Golf didn't take long to honour Stewart for his accomplishments, electing him to the World Golf Hall of Fame two years after the crash.
Stewart is now regarded as one of the best pressure players the game has ever seen. "Payne Stewart was a vicious competitor," Paul Azinger, Stewart's friend on the PGA Tour, told an audience of more than 3,000 at his memorial service. "He only played to win."
Some in the media criticized him following his death, stating the golfer could be difficult and thoughtless at times. But, for Stewart's part, he always lived his life the way he wanted.
"I'm going to a special place when I die, but I want to make sure my life is special while I'm here."

Pinehurst: The best and the toughest

Two stories with my byline appeared in a special US Open supplement today. Here's the first:

The best - and toughest
National Post Tuesday, June 14, 2005
Byline: Robert Thompson Source: National Post
To most, Pinehurst No. 2 is the masterwork of Scottish architect Donald Ross. Public golfers pay up to US$375 to be beaten up by the course and to try -- often without much success -- to putt on its famed domed greens.
But the reality is the course, which will host this year's U.S. Open and is regarded as "the St. Andrews of American golf," is a supreme test of all facets of the game, which is why it is perennially ranked among the best golf courses in the world.
Canadian golf architect Ian Andrew, a member of the American Society of Golf Architects, argues that Pinehurst No. 2 is the standard against which all golf courses are designed.
"It is almost the perfect example of what a golf course should be," says Andrew, who works for Toronto firm Carrick Design. "It is difficult for the good player to score well there, but if the lesser player is not as aggressive, they can post a good number. The more aggressive you get, the nastier the punishment for failure becomes. It is a flawless course."
Even before it gained international attention for hosting the 1999 U.S. Open, Pinehurst was best known for its difficult greens, which some characterize as unfair.
Unlike many greens, which offer rolls within a subtly undulating surface, Pinehurst's greens appear like inverted bowls, rounded at the top with edges that slide away.
The reality is the greens at Pinehurst, which have come to be representative of Ross's style, actually have little to do with the architect.
It was famed golf designer Pete Dye who first pointed out Pinehurst No. 2's greens had evolved since Ross created the course in 1935 as a resort destination. Dye, who first played the course nearly 50 years ago, said the greens were far less severe than they are today.
Dye's notion was supported by a recent Golf Digest story by architecture editor Ron Whitten that suggested the greens had been altered several times over the past few decades, most recently by Rees Jones in preparation for the 1999 U.S. Open.
Whitten argues that the greens built up over time due to maintenance procedures, but rather than having curved sides, as they do today, the fall-off areas were once more severe. A previous owner of the course, for reasons no one is certain of, used a bulldozer to smooth the edges and make the fall-off areas more curved.
"Those crowned greens are not really what [Ross] did anywhere else," Dye said in the introduction to Brad Klein's book, Discovering Donald Ross. "This is because they've been top-dressed so much that they now look like perched-up angel cakes ... So they are quite different from what Ross planned."
The diabolical nature of the greens was highlighted six years ago, when the best golfers in the world last tested Pinehurst No. 2 under U.S. Open conditions. Most notably, long-hitting John Daly struggled mightily with the testy surfaces, though he shot a 68 during the opening round.
But at the eighth hole in his final round, Daly lost it, taking a total of 11 strokes to complete the hole. Daly's most notable meltdown on the hole occurred when he swiped at a ball that was rolling back off the putting area, incurring a two-stroke penalty.
Daly complained loudly after his round, saying the United States Golf Association, which sets up the course for the tournament, had gone too far.
"I think the USGA likes to embarrass people who play in this tournament," he said. Despite his comments, Daly will be back in the field at this year's open.
Many have difficulty seeing the course as great. Rather, they view it as relatively straight-forward tee to green, with unfair putting surfaces.
"All of No. 2's difficulty lies in its greens, which resemble a stainless-steel bowl turned upside down," Tim McDonald, editor of, noted in a recent Web site posting. "You could throw a dart in the middle of most of those greens and it would roll off."
Despite its detractors, Pinehurst's greens were central to the drama of the 1999 U.S. Open, won by Payne Stewart. Stewart holed a remarkable, snaking, 20-foot putt on the final hole to make par and win the championship, narrowly avoiding a Monday playoff with Phil Mickelson.
"I said to myself, "You've always wanted a putt to win the U.S. Open,'" Stewart noted following his victory. "I can't describe the feeling in my body when I looked up and the ball was going in the hole. It was unbelievable."
Expect more unbelievable moments this year, as the best in golf challenge what many think is one of the best and most difficult golf courses created.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

SI's roundtable on golf

SI has posted an interesting article on the state of golf. The roundtable discussion includes gadfly Geoff Shackelford, Brad Faxon, David Fay and Callaway flack Larry Dorman.

The article has several nice back-and-forth debates from the participants, like this one:

SHACKELFORD: But isn't the USGA bothered by low scoring? Jeff Maggert said last year that he knew the USGA would 'panic' after the first two rounds because 17 players were at or below par. Today's courses, players and equipment are better. Naturally scores should evolve.

FAY: They have evolved. Look at Ben Hogan. He won two of his four U.S. Opens at seven over par. We're not clinging to par, but we want par to have meaning.

I have no problem with protecting par, but embarrassing players like at last year's U.S. Open at Shinnecock, is crossing the line. Fascinating that Fay wouldn't bite when Shackelford needled him about Tom Meeks' comments on Ernie Els following last year's tournament.

Faxon doesn't offer much insightful, but he does take a shot at Jack Nicklaus:

SI: Why is everybody talking about the ball? Deane Beman, Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player -- they all say the ball needs to be rolled back in the pro game.
FAXON: If Jack Nicklaus had a successful ball, he would never say another word. But he's never sold a ball that's made a dime. There are so many other, more important things to worry about. Like allowing the putter to touch a part of your body other than your hands....

Apparently Jack would have been all for a long ball, Faxon says, if only he had been schilling for one. Faxon is also very clear on his take on a so-called "tournament ball."

FAXON: Absolutely no way. It's a pipe dream. No amateur I've played with is going to buy a ball that goes 20 yards shorter, so they wouldn't use the same product as the pros. Bifurcation would never work.

The whole debate is worth reading. Check it out.

And let's hope the USGA doesn't screw up Pinehurst.

Voices on Golf: Mike Strantz 1955-2005

Last June I wrote this piece for's Voices on Golf, a series that disappeared soon afterward. A year later Mike Strantz is gone.

June 10, 2004
By Robert Thompson

Mike Strantz has seen more than his share of highs and lows this year.

The 49-year-old golf course architect recently completed a spectacular renovation of Monterey Peninsula Country Club, utilizing his artistic touch to create a course full of drama on a majestic ocean setting.
At the same time, Strantz has been fighting a battle against a particularly nasty cancer that crept into his jaw and tongue. It was an unusual type of cancer for a man who never smoked regularly and didn't chew tobacco.
The situation was so bad that cancer specialists suggested removing much of Strantz's tongue and jaw to save his life, surgery the golf designer initially turned down.
All the while Strantz continued to work on Monterey, even while taking chemotherapy.
To those who haven't tackled one of his courses, like True Blue and Caledonia in Myrtle Beach, Strantz is perhaps the most inventive -- and often controversial -- architect currently working in the business. His ability to draw his vision on paper and then convert the images to reality is among the best. He's a maverick, and seems to have fun with that notion, giving his design company that moniker.
While working for Tom Fazio, Strantz oversaw such courses as Pine Barrens in Florida, arguably Fazio's best work.
Strantz has a unique take on golf courses that falls outside the norm, and after leaving Fazio, he developed tracks like Tobacco Road in North Carolina that feature unusual blind shots, fascinating bunker work and difficult greens. While Tobacco Road, like much of Strantz's work, has both its proponents and detractors, everyone who has teed it up at a Strantz course remembers it. His controversial work garnered the attention of his peers, and Golf World named him architect of the year in 1998.
Though Strantz fought the cancer for the past two years, he eventually had to make a decision on whether to follow his doctor's advice and go ahead with surgery that was both invasive and life altering.
"Mike changed his mind," says his wife, Heidi. "He knew he would have to have the surgery to survive, but he tried to fight against it. It was a huge decision for him."
The surgery was remarkable and horrifying. Doctors would remove 90% of his tongue and a significant portion of his jaw. It would leave Strantz unable to eat solid food for the rest of his life and regaining his speech would not be guaranteed. With significant questions about his quality of life following the surgery, it is easy to see why the architect reluctantly proceeded.
As part of the surgery, doctors would construct a flap of muscle from his shoulder to function as a tongue and would reconstruct his jaw. Strantz underwent the procedure in early March.
The doctors declared the surgery a success on all fronts, removing all of the cancer and reconstructing much of Strantz's mouth. He fought hard to return to something as near to normal as he could in as short a period of time as possible, typical of Strantz, a man who is at home on a bulldozer and manages the construction of the courses he designs.
"He was so determined to get better and not to lose any of his strength," says Heidi. "He's light years ahead of where anyone expected him to be."
Speaking is still difficult for Strantz, Heidi admits, but the designer is insistent on making himself understood, refusing to use pen and paper to communicate.
Strantz had intended to take the rest of the year off to recover from the surgery, but his associates, including former PGA TOUR veterean Forrest Fezler, have already been searching for new projects. In a tight market, new course work is hard to come by, but Heidi says she won't be surprised to see her husband back at work far sooner than anticipated.
"He is a man who likes to dream big and then construct those dreams," Strantz's wife says. "He's just been so remarkable through all of this."

Cancer claims golf architect Mike Strantz

I only interviewed Mike Strantz once, but I found it a thoroughly enjoyable experience. With that in mind, it is sad to say that the architect, the creator of such courses as Tobacco Road, passed away after a long battle with cancer on Friday.
He was 50 years old.
A man with an amazing artistic vision, Strantz broke into the golf business working for Tom Fazio. He broke away from Fazio after working for him for a decade, trying his hand at art. He was eventually dragged back to golf, creating two courses in the Myrtle Beach area.
In all, he created nine courses -- but they are works of true vision. The list is: Caledonia Golf and Fish Club (SC), True Blue (SC), Bulls Bay (SC), Tobacco Road (NC), Tot Hill Farm (NC), Royal New Kent (VA), Stonehouse (VA), Silver Creek Valley (CA), and Monterey Peninsula Country Club - Shore Course (CA).

His golf courses offered a unique look and flavour. I've only played two (True Blue and Caledonia), but found them to be very different, utilizing two looks (one classic, one modern) and very visual.

Mike was diagnosed with cancer several years ago and fought a brave battle against it since then. He had surgery last year that removed most of his tongue. Even with what he was going through, he managed to continue working on his last course, Monterey Peninsula Country Club's Shore Course. An associate who recently played it said it is a stunning work.

My thoughts are with Mike's wife, Heidi, and his daughters. This is a bloody shame.

Here is Mike's full obituary.

Michael J. Strantz, 50, passed away on Friday, June 10, 2005. He was at home with his family.
Mike was born in Toledo, Ohio on May 27, 1955 and grew up in Walbridge, Ohio. He was a star athlete at Lake High School (Millbury, OH), playing football and hockey, and he was captain of the baseball team and senior class president.
Mike Strantz was best known as a successful golf course designer, but close friends knew he was a devoted family man, gourmet cook, gifted artist, music collector, collegiate hockey player, and lover of cats, dogs, and horses.
While his passion for designing and building golf courses brought him acclaim, he was proudest of his beautiful daughters, Dana and Andrea. He proudly attended their school events; and he taught them how to ride a horse, wash a dog, and be their own person. He met his wife Heidi when they were college, and they were married 26 years, life-long devoted partners and friends.
Mike always loved golf. His dad, Jack Strantz, taught him the sport when Mike was a youngster. At age 14, he started working on the grounds crew at Chippewa Golf Club (Curtis, OH). In the early hours of the morning, Mike rode his bike to work -- he was too young to have a driver’s license.
In college, Mike started as a studio art major at Miami University (OH), but after two years he transferred to Michigan State and received his degree in turf grass management.
While working on the grounds crew for the 1978 U.S. Open at Inverness Club (Toledo, OH), Mike was tapped by Tom Fazio to work on his golf course construction crew in Hilton Head, SC, operating heavy equipment as a “shaper” of tees, fairways, and greens.
Over time, Mike rose to project supervisor, but living on the road took its toll, and after eight years he tipped his hat good bye to golf course construction. For him, it had been a great experience working with Tom Fazio, but he was ready to take a break and return to his artist roots.
However, the golf industry did not forget his talent. In 1993, Mike was asked to design a small golf course on Pawley’s Island, SC. Caledonia Golf and Fish Club was a success, and Mike knew he had found the perfect job.
Nine golf courses show his talent for design and have his name: Caledonia Golf and Fish Club (SC), True Blue (SC), Bulls Bay (SC), Tobacco Road (NC), Tot Hill Farm (NC), Royal New Kent (VA), Stonehouse (VA), Silver Creek Valley (CA), and Monterey Peninsula Country Club - Shore Course (CA).
Forrest Fezler, a good friend and golf professional, was Mike’s project supervisor on more than half the courses. With the help of Forrest and talented crewmembers, Jeff and Mike Jones, many courses have received awards and are known all over the world.
Little known, though, is that Mike could operate every piece of equipment on the construction site with expertise and experience. He always knew the name of every person who worked on his golf courses and any family concerns. In fact, Mike had a fondness for the “little guy,” whether it was a laborer or a grocery clerk. He respected hard work and honesty above status or money.
Mike was a quiet man with strong spiritual beliefs. He designed the stained glass cross in the new sanctuary of Sunrise Presbyterian Church, Sullivan’s Island (SC) after Hurricane Hugo destroyed the church in 1989.
He will be missed by his wife Heidi, daughters Dana and Andrea, parents Jack and Jan Strantz of Perrysburg, OH, and sister Kelly Baugh of Indianapolis. Other family members are Barbara Walker of Sylvania, OH, Dave Walker (Karin) of Sylvania, OH, Greg Walker (Harriett) of Goose Creek, SC, Laura Bierer (Rob), Raleigh, NC, and David Baugh of Indianapolis. He was fortunate to have loving nieces, nephews, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and hundreds of friends during his lifetime.
A visitation will be held Monday, June 13th from 5:00 PM - 8:00 PM at McAlister-Smith Funeral Home, 1520 Rifle Range Road, Mt. Pleasant, SC. Services will be held Tuesday, June 14th at 2:00PM at Sunrise Presbyterian Church, 3222 Middle St., Sullivan’s Island, SC.
The family would like to send a special thank you to the devoted staff at the Hollings Cancer Center at the Medical University of South Carolina, and the loving employees of Charleston Hospice. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent in memory of Michael Strantz, Head and Neck Cancer Research Fund, Dept. of Otolaryngology, P.O. Box 250550, Charleston, SC 29425 or Hospice of Charleston, 3870 Leeds Ave, Suite 101, N. Charleston, SC 29405.

You can read more about the man and his art on his website.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Meeks shall inherit the wrath: USGA official despised by golfers for Open setups

Back from Pine Valley (which I'll write about in some detail in coming days). This is yesterday's golf column ripping Tom Meeks. Enjoy.

National Post
Byline: Robert Thompson
On Golf
Tom Meeks shouldn't have been given another chance.
Most golf fans won't immediately know who Meeks is, but they'll surely have seen the results of his actions.
Meeks is the man in charge of setting up golf courses for the United States Golf Association, the organization that runs, among other events, the U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur. The spotlight is always on him during U.S. Open week, just as it will be at Pinehurst No.2 during next week's U.S. Open.
He's also responsible for selecting the disastrous pin positions at the Olympic Club in 1998 which cost Payne Stewart the U.S. Open that year. Oh, and Meeks set up Pinehurst No. 2 a year later with flag locations so difficult that John Daly ended up taking a swing at a ball that was rolling back off a green in the final round and announced the USGA was out to embarrass the players. Then in 2002, at Bethpage Black in New York, Meeks set up several holes so that players couldn't even reach the fairway.
To top it all off, Meeks misjudged the green speed on the par three seventh hole at Shinnecock Hills so badly during the final round of last year's U.S. Open that maintenance staff had to hose the green down between groups just to keep it barely playable.
Of course, Meeks had excuses for every one of the foulups.
Olympic? Well, the grass was supposed to grow faster on the 18th hole, Meeks said. Bethpage? It was a slight miscalculation of wind direction, he opined. Shinnecock? Well, that one got away from them. No one could have predicted the greens would dry out that fast, Meeks noted.
The USGA won't openly admit it, but Meeks, a longtime employee of the organization, has been a disaster in the role of setting up its competitions. The U.S. Open has always been regarded as the toughest test in professional golf. But in the last 10 years, it has gone from being viewed as an honest assessment of the best players in golf to a crapshoot where ridiculous course conditions can derail even the best games in golf.
At some point, the USGA and Meeks went from trying to protect par to overreacting to modern technology and started tricking up their courses.
But there is protecting par and then there's going too far.
In the final round at Shinneock Hills, site of last year's U.S. Open, the final round scoring average was 78.72. Even Meeks had to admit that was a little higher than anticipated.
To many, we should not have heard from Meeks again following his verbal sparring with Ernie Els after the close of the Shinnecock event. That's when Meeks told the media that several golfers "lost their patience and gave up early in the round."
"I really think Ernie Els gave up after the first hole," he added.
Is this the same Ernie Els who has already won two U.S. Opens and a British Open in some of the toughest conditions imaginable?
It isn't clear how Pinehurst No. 2 will be set up for next week's U.S. Open. Reports have said the rough has not grown well, leaving the possibility the USGA will feel forced to use extreme pin positions to protect the course. If that's the case, watch for a potential repeat of the disaster that occurred seven years ago at Olympic.
Thankfully, there is hope yet that the USGA will finally get away from the silly setups. That's because Meeks is finally retiring after the U.S. Open, leaving the job in the hands of someone else.
It is long overdue.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Gil Hanse's Boston Club

  • There's a really good story about Gil Hanse's Boston Club. In fact, I'm stunned this appeared in a major newspaper, as the story really gives a pretty strong take on Hanse and his naturalistic style. I haven't played a Hanse course, but he is a protege of Tom Doak, arguably the hottest golf architect in the business right now. Interestingly, Hanse also went to Cornell and received a scholarship that allowed him to travel to the UK and see many of the world's best links. Doak received the same scholarship. Big things are expected of Hanse. He's currently working with Mark Parsinen on a new course in Inverness, Scotland that is being billed as the next Kingsbarns. The only knock against him is that he's not the strongest router in the world, but he could get better with time.
  • I had to fend off a screaming baby every so often, but I did manage to talk to PGA Tour pro Tom Lehman for about a half hour yesterday about his golf design business. Lehman was in Collingwood working with Tom McBroom on a course called The Raven for Intrawest, the resort operator. While most tour pros are only in the design business for the marketing value, Lehman seems very different. He discusses the nuances of the likes of Harry Colt and has even spent some time seeing top Toronto courses like Toronto Golf and St. George's. Look for a full story in an upcoming National Post golf column.
  • Lastly, I'll be away from the blog for the next two days visiting Pine Valley and Merion. Then I'm in the middle of a move, having purchased a new home (and a bigger mortgage) that we move into this Friday. But first, two of the best golf courses in the world. I'm looking forward to being less intimidated by both of them this time. And dammit, I'm not going to listen to the caddie when he tells me to hit driver on 16 at Merion, "because no one can hit it into the quarrry." No one, my ass. I pulled out the driver and stroked it right down the middle, 285 yards -- you guessed it -- right into the quarry. I'll do better this time. And I've decided to give the caddies instructions -- give me the yardage to the flag. Don't read putts and don't tell me what club to hit. We'll see how it goes.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Sad news

In some sad news, Bunker Mulligan, a reader and regular golf/politics blogger, died from a heart attack late last week. His site has some details. I'm very sorry to hear about this and my thoughts go out to his family.
Bunker Mulligan had some neat ideas and great ambititions. He wanted to be the first blogger to be invited to cover The Masters. It is sad he won't get to fulfill that ambition.
Rest in peace, Mr. Mulligan.

Tom Fazio's Coppinwood

Tom Fazio has come back to Canada with a vengeance. Sure, it took him 30 years. His last course in Canada was The National, a project he co-designed with his uncle, George. For whatever reason (maybe he was too busy charging $1.25-million to sculpt flat Florida land into golf), Fazio didn't return.
Until now.
After rumors of a project in the Niagara region to be designed by Fazio failed to come to fruition, he finally got his Canadian projects off the ground late last year. Two are on the books -- a Montreal project being created for Gordon Stollery (Angus Glen's owner) and a second project called Coppinwood, being built north of Toronto for a Toronto Bay Street type.
Not all that much is known, as of yet, about the Montreal course (which will host the 2008 Canadian Open), but the Coppinwood project has gained a fair bit of attention in a short period of time.
Some of that attention has come via an advertising campaign seeking members. It is a little bit odd, using a central character who apparently has a remarkable time playing golf at the course, which isn't open until next year. It is truly one of the strangest ad campaigns for a golf course in some time. If you see it, you'll know what I mean.
Anyway, Fazio was in town last week to tour the site and gladhand the media. I was invited, but was on duty as house husband in charge of a 10 month old, so I couldn't make it to Uxbridge. Apparently what was supposed to be a small gathering turned into more than 100 people, according to the Coppinwood website. Small indeed.
Fazio toured the folks around and apparently made grandiose pronouncements ("Coppinwood is doing everything right," the course's website quotes Fazio as saying. "From the golf course, to the practice facility and the clubhouse, it's all about addressing the needs of the golfer.") All about addressing the needs of the golfer? What a concept.
According to Fazio, the bar for all of golf is being set by Coppinwood, which, admittedly, does have a pretty good site. Bob Cupp and Doug Carrick were previously scheduled to build 36 holes on the site to be called Goodwood, but that changed when the site was sold.
Who knows how good Coppinwood will be? The market for private golf in the Toronto area has tightened up a lot in past years, and a number of historic clubs are desperately seeking members. Then again, Coppinwood will appeal to those interested in a course with star power -- those who like Magna, for example, but feel it is a bit extreme, while probably like Coppinwood. It is Magna without the valet parking and kid on the range ready to wipe down every club you've hit.
The Globe and Mail's Lorne Rubenstein (who apparently doesn't have a toddler to worry about), did get down to Coppinwood to speak with Fazio. Rubenstein even raises the Ron Whitten article about whether Fazio is "good for the game."
Fazio doesn't really respond directly ("Ron's entitled to his opinions," Fazio said. "His main point was that I'm not good for golf. He argued that that I don't build courses that will leave a legacy, that my fairways are too wide, which I've never heard before, and that my courses are too expensive."), but he does say you need to spend millions to crack Golf Digest's Top 100 list.
Tell that to golf's leading Tom (Doak, creator of Pacific Dunes). Now there's an architect someone should bring to Canada.

Friday, June 03, 2005

They say it's your birthday!

Well, this golfing writer officially turns 34 today. Gone are the days when I could claim to be that "young" reporter in the newsroom. Gosh, I'm not even in the newsroom -- I'm on parental leave looking after my nine-month old daughter. I think this makes me a grownup.
That said, my 34th year was quite eventful.
Among the things I did:
  1. Watched my daughter, Sydney Aislinn come into the world last August
  2. Saw Scotland for a second time
  3. played Muirfield
  4. had another eagle at Kingsbarns
  5. played Jasper
  6. shot 68 at Pacific Dunes, bringing my handicap to near scratch

I can only hope this year is as eventful!

Thanks for stopping by. Going for the Green is garnering more readers than ever these days. Apparently the word is spreading -- people come to the Internet for more than just pornography! Occasionally they read golf as well.

Helping Kids Find the Green

Today's National Post Golf column:

Helping kids find the green
National Post
Friday, June 3, 2005
Robert Thompson Column: On Golf
In a time when golf participation is flatlining, Kingsley Rowe may have seen the way forward, helping the game while helping those in need.
Rowe, who came to Canada from his native Jamaica 30 years ago, is the force behind the National Junior Golf Academy. Though the title makes the organization sound like any of a dozen Canadian teaching facilities that operate like miniature country clubs, Rowe's creation is very different.
In the late 1990s, Rowe looked at the state of Toronto's downtrodden Jane and Finch corridor and felt he needed to make a difference. Already a successful businessman who ran travel and trucking businesses, Rowe believed he could take his passion for golf and bring it to the kids of the area, helping teach them life skills by instructing them in the game.
"I've played a lot of golf and felt there was great value in the foundations of the game. It teaches etiquette, integrity, honesty," he said.
More than 300 area children up to the age of 18 have participated in the program, often working in the Driftwood Community Centre with the occasional trip to a nearby range or course. The kids come once a week after school throughout the year.
The program found early success when one of its students, Dominique Claxton, who was 14 when he joined, was chosen to represent the organization and head to Alabama to take a quick lesson from Tiger Woods. Claxton, now 19, still volunteers at the facility when he can find time to break away from college.
"I learned from the program that you can't cheat in life," Claxton says. "Life, like golf, is something that you have to work at."
Programs like Rowe's could well be the future of golf in Canada. In the U.S., the well-regarded First Tee program has tried a similar approach by offering affordable golf to youth who would otherwise likely never participate in the game. The Royal Canadian Golf Association also runs its successful Future Links program, attracting more than 77,000 children last year.
Though he has had support from the RCGA and various Toronto businesses, that doesn't mean Rowe's program has been accepted with open arms. Rowe says he has overheard members of the Board of Trade, a Toronto private golf club that has supported the program and given children in the academy access to its facilities, muttering about the fact that "these kids" don't belong on a golf course. These are also the same people who probably would have had a problem admitting Rowe to their club in the first place.
"There's still an old boys' network out there that thinks certain people shouldn't have access to the game," he says.
But others, including Nike and Angus Glen general manager Kevin Thistle, have stepped up to support the idea. The Canadian Professional Golf Tour, which is struggling in its own right, has also teamed up with Rowe's organization.
"I think inner-city kids deserve a chance, and for some of them, this is it," says Thistle.
This weekend the organization will hold its annual fundraising tournament in Markham at Angus Glen's south course. Raising cash for the operation has been tough, Rowe admits, and the lack of money is making it difficult to expand into other parts of Toronto and other Canadian cities. Rowe has already spent $50,000 out of his pocket to keep the program going.
"We have really been trying to help ourselves by holding tournaments and other fundraising," he explains. "We need big help because the program is working, but you can only do so much with the resources we have."

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Jack to play Memorial after this year? The heat continues on Monty

Jack Nicklaus has spoken of retirement for some time, but apparently he's only kind of quitting competitive golf. According to stories coming out of the 30th playing of the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village, Jack says he's will remain open to the possibility of playing the Memorial in the future.
"I'm going to reserve the right to obviously [play] here," he said of the Memorial, at a press conference yesterday. "I think as host here, I may play. I have no intention of playing anywhere else other than Father-Son events or skins games or something like that."
I think there was a lot of hope that Jack would quit entirely after playing at St. Andrews this July. To be honest, the image of Jack as the greatest golfer ever gets a little more tarnished every time he posts a score closer to 80 than to 7o.
Jack made the cut at the Memorial in 2002 and again last year, so while me may not be competitive, he's not embarrassing himself -- yet.
Time to stop Jack. Make this your swan song.
  • In other news, the fallout regarding Colin Montgomerie's appearance at the US Open continues. If you'll recall, this all has to do with the placement of a ball in the Indonesian Open. Some, including European Tour pro Gary Evans, have said Monty cheated. In any event, the points he received for the Indonesian Open allowed him to crack the World Top 50 and gain entrance to the Open at Pinehurst. Is Monty really struggling that much that he'd need to cheat to gain entrance to a major? That's the question. I think the drop may have been inadvertent, but who can really say? Monty must be bothered by it, as he gave all the prize money he won at the tournament to charity. Either way, the furor over the issue continues. Read about it here.
  • Canadian Mike Weir appears to be at the top of his game in the majors, according to a story by the Toronto Star's Jim Byers. The story says Weir, who is not having a spectacular year, has "one major in the last 10 and Weir has more top-10 and top-five finishes than Tiger Woods, as well as one more major win than Ernie Els. He's also finished in the top five more times than Vijay Singh and Retief Goosen." Interesting stuff. I still don't see Weir battling at St. Andrews, but his tidy driving and short game could make him a force at Pinehurst and Baltrusol.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Davis Love to rework Angus Glen North for Canadian Open

As I mentioned in a post last year, Davis Love III has struck a deal to rework some of Angus Glen North for the 2007 Canadian Open.
What a joke. First of all, neither Angus Glen owner Gordon Stollery or RCGA executive director Stephen Ross called Doug Carrick or Jay Morrish, the two architects behind the course, to tell them they were bringing in Love to rework a course that only opened a few years ago. Secondly, sources say that Love's group is trying to buy Carrick's planned revisions for the course so that Davis' design firm really wouldn't have to do much at all -- aside from place its name on the golf course. Love III/Carrick/ Morrish, anyone?
It was bad enough that the RCGA put the Canadian Open up for sale, first to Bell Canada (I can't bring myself to call it the Bell Canadian Open, why not the Canadian Open, presented by Bell Canada), then to owners of golf courses. Apparently they even offered it to the awful Lionhead, but the owner wouldn't come up with the cash.
So typical, but wait until the 2007 Open when Angus Glen gets billed as a "Davis Love III design."

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