Golf Buzz

Contributed photo
Hank Aaron (wearing shorts) poses for a photo with PGA Professional Hanc Spivey (red shirt) the second time the two happened to meet.

What's worse than fawning over a celebrity? Maybe not realizing you're meeting one in the first place.

That happened to longtime PGA Professional Hanc Spivey, who recently retired as Head Golf Professional at Dretzka Park Golf Course in Milwaukee. He gave a golf lesson to baseball's home run king -- Henry Aaron -- and didn't recognize him. 

In honor of Hammerin' Hank's 82nd birthday on Friday, the story is too good not to retell.

"It was a humbling experience and an embarrassing experience," Spivey said. "I didn't know who he was."

The chance one-time meeting occured a few years after Aaron retired from baseball, Spivey recalled. It was sometime in the early 1980s, and Spivey was busy giving lessons at the course.

Aaron, who started his Major League career in Milwaukee with the Braves, and ended it two decades later with the Brewers, had gotten interested in golf. So it wasn't a surprise that Aaron might be in Milwaukee with clubs in tow.

"I was just starting my next lesson -- he might have been my 10 o'clock or 11 o'clock lesson," Spivey said. "I saw the guy coming up, with the pull cart and wearing bermuda shorts, red tube socks, tank top, hat on. I started to give him a pre-interview, and asked him his name -- and he said 'Aaron.' "

Well, Spivey admits he wasn't a big baseball fan, so a middle-aged man wearing street clothes might not have caught his attention. But after Aaron hit a few shots, Spivey knew he was teaching someone with athletic ability.

"I asked, 'Aaron, how long have you been playing? What kind of scores do you shoot?' The normal routine," Spivey said. "I asked him to hit a few shots, and he hit a few 7-iron shots, about 220, 230 yards out there."

Aaron always downplayed his golf abilities. For example, here's one of his best-known quotes about the game: "It took me 17 years to get 3,000 hits in baseball. It took one afternoon on the golf course."

So it was no surprise the man with 755 career home runs didn't bring a lot of attention to himself on the range. Still, others began to notice what was taking place. 

"We went ahead and conducted the lesson," Spivey said. "I prescribed some fixes to his swing and he left. Maybe 30 seconds later, some of the range kids came running up and asked me if I got an autograph.

"And I thought, 'Autograph? From who?' Why would I get an autograph?"

Why, Hank Aaron, of course. Spivey immediately realized his gaffe. But it took more than two decades to rectify the error. And "Aaron" was just as gracious the second time as the first.

"We played in the Hank Aaron fundraiser here in Milwaukee and I had an opportunity to meet him," Spivey said. "The guy who had brought Hank to the driving range back in the early '80s brought Hank over to my table and asked him, 'Hank, do you know who this fellow is?' And he looked at me and said, 'Yeah, that's the little guy who gave me the golf lesson and didn't know who I was.' "

Spivey said Aaron was more than willing to share some time.

"He took pictures with me and signed a baseball and bat," Spivey said. "I'm going to cherish that for the rest of my life. It was a little embarrassing but a lesson learned."

It's not every day a teacher gives -- and receives -- a lesson at the same time.

February 4, 2016 - 2:17pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Kronos
KRONOS Golf
Here's a look at the "Hinotori Touch Putter" created by KRONOS Golf Founder Phillip Lapuz. It's currently on display in the British Golf Museum.

A rare putter created by U.S.-based KRONOS Golf Founder Phillip Lapuz is now on display at the British Golf Museum in St. Andrews, Scotland.

It took three months for Lapuz to design the "Hinotori Touch Putter" followed by months of polishing the rare flat-stick to perfection.

The design on the sole of the putter features the Japanese Hinotori which literally translates in English to "bird of fire," or "phoenix."

"The high relief engraving design on the Hinotori was inspired by years of traveling throughout Japan and experiencing its many wonders," Lapuz said. "In particular, the beautiful and intricate imagery that composes Byodo­in Temple in Kyoto served as a memorable symbol of my time in Kyoto. The phoenix engraving is itself a representation of those emotions, crafted out of a desire to express my fond feelings of Kyoto to others in the form of art, as well as to serve as a shining example of what golf should aspire to become."

The "Hinotori" is amongst more than 16,000 golf-related items in the collection at the British Golf Museum, known as one of the most comprehensive golf collections worldwide.

"Golfing Links Organization and the British Golf Museum both recognize and respect true golf craftsmanship and knew there wasn’t a better place to showcase the 'Hinotori' to golf enthusiasts worldwide than the home of golf, St. Andrews," said Golfing Links Organization CEO Vincent Walker.

The "Hinotori" will be on display through October 2016. 

February 4, 2016 - 10:01am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Eldrick
GolfChannel.com
A robot, co-owned by CBS golf commentator Gary McCord, aced the famous par-3 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale on Wednesday. The robot's name? Eldrick.

Gary McCord, golf commentator for CBS, is a partial owner of a robot named, "Eldrick."

Strange? Perhaps, but not if you've ever listened to anything McCord says.

Anyway, McCord took "Eldrick" out to the rowdy par-3 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale for a pre-party on Wednesday and, I'll just say this -- does Eldrick the Robot ever know how to party.

Check out what happened when Eldrick took what is believed to be just his fifth swing ever:

 

Hole. In. One.

Incredible.

It reminded us of another, more famous Eldrick -- Tiger Woods -- who did this on that very hole in the 1997:

 

That never gets old. 

Matt Heuerman
Matt Heuerman via Twitter
At 6-foot-6, Matt Heuerman towers over some of his teammates in Barton Collier High School in Naples, Florida.
 
Today is National Signing Day, when the nation's top high school football players officially decide where they'll be playing ball in college next fall. There are always a handful of big surprises on this day every year – and one of the biggest ones today involves golf.
 
Down in Naples, Florida, Honorable Mention All-State tight end Matt Heuerman declared his intention to not accept a football scholarship anywhere. Instead, he said, he's decided to pursue his love of golf, and will try to play his way onto a college golf team next  year.
 
"I've made up my mind," Heuerman told The Fort Myers News-Press. "Sometimes you just have to trust your gut."
 
Heuerman definitely could be playing college football in the future. At 6-foot-6 and 215 pounds, he caught 51 passes for 685 yards and eight touchdowns for Barron Collier High School. In addition, his older brothers also played tight end at Barron Collier and went on to solid college careers – brother Mike played at Notre Dame, while brother Jeff played for Ohio State and is now a rookie with the Denver Broncos.
 
 
Both his brothers have struggled with injuries, and Matt himself tore his ACL during his freshman season. But, he says, the fear of getting hurt isn't what made him change his career path.
 
"It wasn't really a fear of getting injured," Heuerman said. "I know that comes with playing the game. But I know there's a time limit on football. I can play golf as long as I want."
 
Heuerman, who played golf even while focusing on football in high school, has been working on his game with Lloyd Johnson, a PGA instructor at Grey Oaks Country Club in Naples who has helped several junior players get college scholarships. Johnson told the newspaper that Heuerman's inexperience is mitigated by the fact that he is so athletically talented.
 
"I feel that if I put in as many hours as I did into football I'll continue to improve and get one step better each day," Heuerman said. "I'm excited to see where this takes me."
 
 
Hockey players with gator
Nino Niederreiter via Twitter
An alligator on a Cancun golf course was left open-mouthed by its encounter with Minnesota Wild player Nino Niederreiter and three of his teammates.
 
Players around the National Hockey League are just getting back into game action after a nice, long break for the NHL All-Star Game. A foursome of players from the Minnesota Wild returned to their teammates after meeting somebody – or maybe we should say some thing – that really is wild.
 
Nino Niederreiter and fellow players Marco Scandella, Matt Dumba and Darcy Kuemper jetted down to Cancun, Mexico, for a golf vacation over the break. One day they were playing a course that had several signs warning golfers of the presence of alligators and, sure enough, the hockey stars ran across a decent-sized gator sunning himself on a bank of a pond.
 
 
Despite the fact that the gator was facing their way and had its mouth open, the fearless foursome eased up to within a few feet of it to snap a photo. 
 
"It was probably three or four feet away with his mouth open the whole time looking at us," Niederreiter – who we bet never ran across a gator growing up in his native Switzerland – told The Minneapolis Star-Tribune. "So we took a quick pic and got out of there."
 
Tiptoeing close to the gator might not have been a great idea, but getting out of there quickly definitely was. And the boys all got back to the team with all their fingers and toes still in place.
 
 
 
 
 
February 3, 2016 - 10:00am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Bubba Watson
USA Today Sports Images
A runner up a year ago, can Bubba Watson improve upon that this time around?

The biggest party in golf begins anew this week with the Waste Management Phoenix Open at fan-friendly TPC Scottsdale.

The Coliseum-like par-3, 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale is one of a kind. It's the rowdiest hole in golf and one the players have truly come to embrace because of the craziness.

As usual, TPC Scottsdale is a track that is going to require loads and loads of birdies.

For that reason, here are five players who are capable of taking it really deep that you'll want to keep an eye on this week.

RELATED: Waste Management Phoenix Open tee times | This week's pro golf schedule

5. Ryan Moore
Best finish in 2015-16 season:
T10 at the Frys.com Open and the CIMB Classic
Reason to watch: After a long layoff, Moore returns this week to a place where he has not finished outside of the top 20 in the last three years. TPC Scottsdale clearly fits his eye. That's a strong recent track record that can't be overlooked.

4. Ryan Palmer
Best finish in 2015-16 season:
T13 at the Sony Open in Hawaii
Reason to watch: With as often as he's in contention, it's hard to believe that Palmer hasn't collected a PGA Tour victory since the 2010 Sony Open in Hawaii. Alas, that's life on the PGA Tour. TPC Scottsdale is a place where Palmer has tallied three top-10 finishes -- two of those of the runner-up variety, including a year ago. He seems to feed off the crowd well, which is an absolute must at the frat-party that is the Waste Management Phoenix Open. If the putter can get hot for Palmer, look out.

3. Bubba Watson
Best finish in 2015-16 season:
T10 at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions
Reason to watch: In his last four starts at TPC Scottsdale, Watson has finished no worse than a tie for 15th. That includes being the runner up in the last two straight. Over the last 12 months, few players in the game have been as consistently good as Watson. He always seems to be sniffing the first page of the leaderboard no matter where he plays. It's hard to imagine that would be any different this week in Phoenix on a course where he's proven he's exceptionally comfortable.

2. Brooks Koepka
Best finish in 2015-16 season:
T3 at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions
Reason to watch: Koepka made his first start in the Waste Management Phoenix Open a year ago... and won. As the defending champ and as won of the game's brightest rising stars, it would be silly not to include Koepka as a favorite this week. With the new season, Koepka has also undergone an equipment change. That can be a big deal for a lot of players. But, in his first and only start so far with the new sticks, Koepka had that T3 in Maui, which had to give him a confidence boost. Having not played since then -- nearly an entire month -- one would assume he's had plenty of time to get even more comfortable with the new gear.

1. J.B. Holmes
Best finish in 2015-16 season:
T6 at the Farmers Insurance Open
Reason to watch: It's funny what you find sometimes when you go looking at a player's record at a certain venue/tournament. That's the case at TPC Scottsdale in the Waste Management Phoenix Open for Holmes where it has been an absolute feast (he's won twice there) or famine (a few missed cuts and a bunch of T43 or worse finishes). Coming off the heels of his best finish this season at Torrey Pines, I'm going to lean toward a feast for Holmes this week in Phoenix. That T6 last week moved Holmes up to No. 12 on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list and he'd love to get to Hazeltine. In his only Ryder Cup start at Valhalla in 2008, Holmes went 2-0-1. That was the last U.S. victory.

SLEEPER PICK: Jamie Lovemark
Reason to watch:
Once considered to be a future star of the PGA Tour, Lovemark has been derailed by injury. The 28-year-old is showing some of that once serious promise early on this season with three top-10 finishes in his last four starts. Is a win right around the corner? The first-time winner-friendly Waste Management Phoenix Open wouldn't be a bad place to start.

Here's how my five to watch fared at last week's Farmers Insurance Open:

5. Scott Stallings -- T25
4. J.B. Holmes -- T6
3. Rickie Fowler -- Missed cut
2. Phil Mickelson -- Missed cut
1. Jason Day -- Missed cut 

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