Golf Buzz

Montana Pritchard/The PGA of America
Lee Trevino and PGA Professional Bill Eschenbrenner reminisced about their early days in El Paso.

Lee Trevino was inducted into the PGA of America Hall of Fame for his on-course achivements, but he realizes that if not for a few big breaks, he might be attending this year's PGA Merchandise Show in a different capacity.

Speaking on Wednesday as part of the #ThxPGAPro initative, Trevino admitted he owes the PGA of America a huge debt of gratitude for allowing him to pursue a professional golf career.

"The PGA of America has always had a big place right here in my heart for me," Trevino said. "They're the ones who gave me the shot. With the PGA card that I got in 1967, I finished fifth at Baltusrol in the U.S. Open and won it the next year. And at that time, they had a rule that if you won the PGA Championship or U.S. Open before 1970, you got a lifetime exemption. That is a huge, huge deal."

It allowed Trevino to continue playing long enough to win six majors -- including two PGA Championships -- one coming after he was struck by lightning at the Western Open in 1975 and suffered a back injury serious enough to require surgery to remove a disk. 

Trevino's dedication to his craft is legendary, but he said that pales in comparison to the sacrifices PGA Professionals make every day.

"Over the years, I've come to realize how hard these people work: lady PGA members, men PGA members or anybody associated with a club," Trevino said. "I always put it this way -- here's a person who works holidays, weekends, puts on tournaments, rules, separates fist fights, they're psychiatrists, they're doctors. They do everything. And they don't have a punch clock. And hopefully the members appreciate that."

Trevino grew up in a house with dirt floors and no plumbing or electricity, went to work helping pick cotton when he was 5, worked as a caddy as a teenager and eventually joined the Marines at 17. He won his first tournament in Asia, then returned to El Paso following his discharge from the military.

At that point, he assumed he'd always work at a club, picking the range or working behind the desk. But fate intervened. After qualifying for the 1966 U.S. Open and making the cut, Trevino broke into the spotlight at Baltusrol the following year. And the rest, they say, is history.

His son, Daniel, is pursuing a professional golf career as well. But he recently graduated from Southern Cal, a decision Trevino said should be a no-brainer for anyone not named Jordan Spieth.

"I was wrong about Jordan Spieth," Trevino said. "But I didn't think he was going to make $300 million by leaving college after one year. I told my son, 'Don't worry about him. He's doing fine. If he gets to the point where he can't play, he can buy a college and attend it.' "

One surprising fact you might not have known about Trevino? He carried a pistol in his golf bag for many years. It came about after several golfers were robbed while playing rounds for money at public courses in the area.

"Being Hispanic, I used to carry a knife," Trevino said. "But I wanted something that would bark here and bite over there. Then when they started checking luggage, I couldn't carry the .38 any more."

Now 76, Trevino said his daily schedule rarely varies.

"I get up every morning at 5, take my little puppies outside at 6," he said. "I'm in the gym by 7:30, I go to the golf course by 10, then I bob like a cork about 4 on the couch and then go to bed about 8:30 and start it all over again the next day."

It's hard to imagine golf history without the Merry Mex. His trademark smile. His open stance and power fade. His battles with -- and a rubber snake for -- Jack Nicklaus.

For all the respect Trevino has earned from playing golf, he reserved his respect for the more than 28,000 PGA Professionals who serve the PGA of America.

"I don't know who would want this job," Trevino said. "They are a special, special group of people -- these PGA Professionals. I have a lot of admiration for them.

"This is where I would have ended up. I would have been doing the same thing but I practiced hard enough to where I was a player instead of a PGA Professional."

Mark Aumann/
The new PGA of America centennial tartan includes the organization's colors of blue and gold, as well as American red, white and blue.

A new tartan plaid designed specifically for the PGA of America's centennial celebration was unveiled Wednesday morning at the Visit Scotland booth, and PGA Honorary President Allen Wronowski was one of the first to receive a swatch.

Wronowski said the colors and weave have special significance for an organization closely tied to Scotland, the home of golf.

"The blue and gold is for the PGA of America," Wronowski said. "The red, white and blue stands for the United States of America. 

"It's one of the most beautiful pieces I've ever seen. It's amazing the culture over there in creating these products. The craftsmanship and the thought that goes behind it makes this a very special gift to be used by the PGA of America."

Wronowski was sincerely appreciative of the honor, which included a tie in the new PGA tartan.

"It's so special," Wronowski said. "In all my trips to Scotland, everybody is so warm, so gracious and so kind. This is just a special treat.

"I see the world celebrating this wonderful accomplishment for the PGA of America, and certainly we wouldn't be around without some incredible Scotsmen, including our first PGA President and many others on that first board that got us moving."

Justin Thomas
USA Today Sports Images
PGA Tour player Justin Thomas, whose father and grandfather are both longtime PGA Professionals, has also grown up in the game.
ORLANDO – With the PGA of America kicking off the celebration of its Centennial year at the PGA Merchandise Show, a lot of the talk this week is of the men, women and families that have lived the game down through the years.
Among the more prominent golf clans at the Show is the Thomas family of Kentucky. Longtime PGA Professional Paul Thomas, now 84, is back home this week, but his son Mike, the head professional at Harmony Landing Golf Club in Goshen, Kentucky, and Mike's 22-year-old son Justin were on hand Wednesday morning to take part in Titleist's kickoff program.
Justin's love of golf has taken him to the PGA Tour, where he won the CIMB Classic last fall and is currently ranked No. 35 in the world. That affection for the game began when he was barely a toddler out with his dad on the course.
"I was playing a lot when he was young, and he was always riding around with me," Mike said. "He took his first swings at less than two years old. He always wanted to hit the ball – we never pushed him; he was always a self-starter when it came to golf."
In those early years, the father-son experience out on the course was all about having fun. "It wasn't about getting better," Mike explained. "I was just making sure it was a fun time every time we went out."
Justin picked up the game naturally and figured a lot of things out on his own, with Mike throwing in a tip here and there. Mike remains Justin's teacher, and his guidance certainly paid off – Justin went on to be the college player of the year in 2012 while leading Alabama to the NCAA title, play in the Walker Cup and become known as a member of the vaunted high school "Class of 2011" that also includes his good buddy Jordan Spieth.  
"I would just hit it and chase it, hit it and chase it," Justin said. "I loved being around my dad and granddad – he played with Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. Anytime he wanted to tell stories, I was happy to sit back and listen."
There is, however, one thing about his early years in golf that Justin would rather forget. In a video shown during the presentation, Mike refers to his young son as "Big J." Asked whether the "Big J" moniker stuck, Justin was adamant. "DO NOT," he insisted – with a smile – call me "Big J."  
JT, as he is now often called, will make his Masters debut this spring. In fact, he arrived in Orlando fresh off a scouting trip to Augusta National.
He had played the hallowed course once in college, but admitted he was so starstuck by the place that he didn't even remember part of his day there. This time around, he paid a lot more attention to detail. The course, he said, is in great shape, and he was pleased to see that it fit his game.
"It was great to be on the course and see the shots that you see on TV," he said. "It was cool to picture where everything [like the grandstands] will be."
One crucial part of his preparation – skipping balls over the pond on No. 16. "I thought I better practice that so I don't get booed," he laughed. 
Speaking of Masters Week and the Thomas family history in golf, it only makes sense that Dad will serve as his caddie during the Par-3 Contest. Right?
Well, no. With dear old Dad sitting right there at his side, Thomas announced that his mother, Jani, will do the honors this spring.
Dad didn't seem too upset at the news. Given the upward trajectory of Thomas' career, there's no doubt that he'll have plenty of chances to don the white coveralls for that hallowed Masters tradition.
January 27, 2016 - 10:03am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Jason Day
USA Today Sports Images
Jason Day's win at the Farmers Insurance Open a year ago was the start of the most magical season of his career.

Ah. One of our favorite stops on the PGA Tour this week -- the Farmers Insurance Open at breathtaking Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.

Players in the field will get in a round each at the North and South Courses before the 36-hole cut when weekend play moves over exclusively to the South.

Reigning PGA Champion Jason Day returns as the defending champ at Torrey, where his incredible 2014-15 season got its jumpstart. This venue was the first of Day's five victories a season ago.

RELATED: Farmers Insurance Open tee times | Dunne making start at Torrey Pines

If Day is to successfully defend, it won't be easy. As is always the case, there's a stellar field assembled at Torrey.

Here are the five players to keep an eye on.

5. Scott Stallings
Best finish in 2015-16 season:
T9 at The RSM Classic
Reason to watch: It hasn't been a particularly great start to the new year for Stallings. After missing the cut at the Sony Open in Hawaii, he withdrew from last week's CareerBuilder Challenge five holes into the second round citing illness. Provided he's feeling better now, I like his chances this week. Stallings won the tournament two years ago and came up just short in a four-man playoff a year ago. He's a horse for this/these courses.

4. J.B. Holmes
Best finish in 2015-16 season:
T24 at Hyundai Tournament of Champions
Reason to watch: Just last year, Holmes was part of the four-way playoff at Torrey and wound up tied for second. He's coming off a strong season that included seven top-10 finishes, highlighted by a win at the Shell Houston Open. A T24 at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions -- a short field -- left something to be desired, but I expect Holmes to bounce back this week.

3. Rickie Fowler
Best finish in 2015-16 season:
Fifth at Hyundai Tournament of Champions
Reason to watch: Man on fire. But is he too tired to factor in this week? We'll see. After finishing fifth at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, Fowler had a week off before traveling to Abu Dhabi where he won a week ago against a strong field that included Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy. He traveled 18 hours to get to California on Monday and he'll be ready to tee it up Thursday morning. You've got to think that's going to take a toll on the body, but with the way Fowler has played the last two years, it wouldn't be wise to think he can't overcome a little jet lag.

2. Phil Mickelson
Best finish in 2015-16 season:
Third at CareerBuilder Challenge
Reason to watch: A week ago, I couldn't have imagined including Mickelson on this list. Silly? Perhaps, considering he's won this tournament three times in the past. But, let's face it, Lefty hasn't been at his best the last couple of years. However, we saw a spark last week in La Quinta. Could Mickelson be on the verge of a monster year in his mid-40s? Last week's third-place finish was a remarkable start. And this week, there's probably no one in the field who has played the courses more than Mickelson. He hasn't won at Torrey since 2001. Might he remedy that this week? Don't count him out.

1. Jason Day
Best finish in 2015-16 season:
T10 at Hyundai Tournament of Champions
Reason to watch: He hasn't played a ton since the end of last season, but given the way he finished, I'm not ready to omit Day from any "favorites" list in the foreseeable future. He's earned that. It also doesn't hurt that Day is the defending champ at Torrey -- the win that really got things started a year ago. He'll be in the mix right until the end this week.

EDITOR'S NOTE: We learned after this post that Day's status was in question for the Farmers Insurance Open. Due to illness, Day was forced to withdraw from Wednesday's pro-am, but there was no news as to whether he'd be pulling out of the tournament.

Reason to watch: Dunne, an Irishman, is playing this week on a sponsor's exemption. Does the name ring a bell? Before turning pro last year, Dunne qualified for the Open Championship as an amateur and made a lot of noise at St. Andrews. When he shot 66 in the third round, he was tied for the lead at 12 under, becoming the first amateur since 1927 to lead the Open after 54 holes. He faded to a tie for 30th in the final round after a 78 playing in the final group, but certainly made a mark. I'm interested to see how he plays this week.  

January 26, 2016 - 2:51pm
Posted by:
Bob Denney
tj.auclair's picture
PGA of America's Centennial
Montana Pritchard/PGA of America
The PGA members were joined by 41 junior participants in the PGA Junior League Golf program from Greater Orlando to hit the ceremonial Centennial tee shot.

WINTER GARDEN, Fla. -- The PGA of America officially opened the celebration of its Centennial Tuesday with a ceremonial tee shot featuring representatives from the Association’s 41 nationwide PGA Sections. The PGA members were joined by 41 junior participants in the PGA Junior League Golf program from Greater Orlando.

The group tee shot took place at the annual PGA Merchandise Show Demo Day, hosted at the Orange County National Golf Center and Lodge in Winter Garden, Florida. Thousands of attendees reviewed and tested the industry’s latest golf equipment, which will be displayed at the 63rd PGA Merchandise Show, opening Wednesday at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando.

The ceremonial tee shot reflected the PGA’s year-long campaign, “ThxPGAPro,” which pays tribute to the impact of PGA Professionals and their students. Golfers and employers everywhere are invited to upload videos, photos and messages throughout the year to tell their story in support of their favorite PGA Professional at or on their social channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) using #thxpgapro.

Representing the PGA’s 41 Sections were:

Aloha -- Scott Ashworth
Carolinas -- Paige Cribb
Central New York -- Steve Nacewicz
Colorado -- Leslie Core-Drevecky
Connecticut -- Ron Dellostritto
Dixie -- Jason Polk
Gateway -- Benjamin Kent
Georgia -- Lauren Cousart
Gulf States -- Jabir Bilal
Illinois -- Don Wegrzyn
Indiana -- Keith Clark
Iowa -- John Valliere
Kentucky -- Ralph Landrum
Metropolitan -- Tom Henderson
Michigan -- Ron Osbourne
Middle Atlantic -- John Madden
Midwest -- Sean Dougherty
Minnesota -- Lori Money
Nebraska -- Nathan Kalin
New England -- Allan Belden
New Jersey -- Andy Brock
North Florida -- Mike Lynch
Northeastern New York -- Anders Mattson
Northern California -- Brant Wilson
Northern Ohio -- Ronald L. DeJacimo
Northern Texas -- Tony Martinez
Pacific Northwest -- Kathy Gildersleeve-Jensen
Philadelphia -- Elizabeth Granahan
Rocky Mountain -- Ron Rawls
South Central -- Barry Howard
South Florida -- Nevin Phillips
Southern California -- Tony Letendre
Southern Ohio -- Brett Slater
Southern Texas -- Matt Marino
Southwest -- DK Kim
Sun Country -- Josh Salmon
Tennessee -- Vikki Vanderpool
Tri-State -- Michael Papson
Utah -- Ryan Kartchner
Western New York -- Chris Kulinski
Wisconsin -- Paul LoCicero

PGA Junior League Golf participants from greater Orlando: Colin Ashworth, Grace Ayers, Faith Ayers, Marcelo Celi, Isabella Delbakhsh, Alimahdi Dewji, Matthew Exum, Mark Exum, Douglas Gugel, Tyler Hanshaw, Chandler Hawkes, Casey Henry, Jackson Holmes, Megan Ikeda, Anthony Johnson, Jason Kaiser, Bryan Kelly, Mara King, Ronnie Lane, Jonah Leach, Aaron Leach, Emma Lewis, David Martino, Collin McGavin, Davis Milhausen, Garret Milhausen, Carlye Moore, Alec Naft, Zevy Naft, Djems Narcisse, Darby Nuxol, Cole Pierce, Emma Roberts, Logan Roberts, Jabriel Smith, Jack Snedaker, Cameron Spellman, Colin Stokes, Adam Strecker, Justin Templeton.

January 26, 2016 - 11:05am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Franklin Pierce
A college student at Franklin Pierce in New Hampshire won himself $500 in airfare on Saturday by holing a full-court putt during a halftime challenge.

OK, in terms of degree of difficulty, I'd have to imagine that holing a full-court putt on a basketball court -- given the speed and precision required to do so -- is a heck of a lot more difficult than draining a full-court shot with a basketball.

During the Franklin Pierce University Halftime Challenge at a basketball game on Jan. 23, student Brandon Knight attempted the putt from one baseline to the other (95 feet) with $500 on the line to a 3-inch hole -- that's 1.25 inches smaller than an actual golf hole, by the way -- to put toward airfare or books.

No problem for Knight (h/t Golf Channel):


Is it just me, or doesn't it seem a putt from that length to a hole cut that small should be worth more than 500 buckaroos in airfare or books? I don't know, what about something like a year's worth of class books from the bookstore, if not some kind of scholarship?

Franklin Pierce also won the game over Southern Connecticut State University, 81-79. Great day all around for Knight.