Today is U.S. Open Friday, so it seems like a perfect day to pass along this item about PGA Professional Tom Abts, who tops a Golf Inc. list of the ''most innovative people in golf.''
Abts is the longtime PGA Head Professional and General Manager at Deer Run Golf Course in Victoria, Minn., just west of the Twin Cities. His innovation: Fast Play Friday.
As the golf industry addresses the issue of slow play with increasing vigor, Golf Inc. says, ''Fast Play Friday was not only successful in keeping rounds under four hours, it changed the culture of Deer Run with four-hour rounds becoming the norm every day of the week – even Sunday afternoons.''
''Too often people try to be out of the box and come up with silly ideas,'' Abts told Golf Inc. ''Golf is a timeless game, not a fad. Fast Play Friday just brought back the original pace of the game. Scottish shepherds were not lollygaggers.''
Fast Play Friday is just one of Abt's brainstorms – as Golf Inc. points out, he was named the Minnesota PGA Promoter of the Year. He's also proud of his ''Kid Plays Free with a Parent on Saturday Afternoons'' program.
''The joy of seeing kids playing golf with their parents is always moving,'' Abts said. ''That it became so successful and has been adopted by so many courses all over the country is especially gratifying.''
The Golf Inc. list of innovators came about when the company sought out asked for suggestions of people who are looking at ways to elevate golf, attract new players and incorporate new technologies into the business of golf during the past few years. They received more than 220 nominations, and whittled the list down to the 18 they felt ''we felt met our standard of doing something that was new, unique and captured the imagination of others.''
To see the entire list, click here.
Omni Hotels & Resorts has reached an agreement to buy five well-known golf resorts from KSL Capital Partners, LLC, the two companies have announced.
The resorts are Barton Creek Resort & Spa in Austin; La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, Calif.; Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa in Rancho Mirage, Calif; The Grove Park Inn in Asheville, N.C.; and The Homestead in Hot Springs, Va.
The deal adds 12 golf courses along with nearly 2,400 rooms, more than 30 restaurants, three water parks, a ski facility and five spas to Omni's Resort Collection of nearly 60 luxury hotel complexes.
Omni, which is based in Irving, Texas, did not disclose a purchase price, but The Dallas Morning News said this is Omni's biggest acquisition since billionaire Robert Rowling's TRT Holdings bought Omni in 1996. Omni plans to rebrand its new properties on July 1.
''Each of these properties is unique in its own right — rich in heritage and distinctive in their elegance and charm. We would be fortunate to own and operate any single one of these celebrated resorts,'' said Omni President Mike Deitemeyer. ''By purchasing all five of these properties, Omni has significantly enhanced our growing Resort Collection in terms of scope, scale and prestige.''
The new acquisitions join an Omni golf portfolio that includes Omni Tucson National in Arizona, Omni Championsgate in Orlando, Omni Amelia Island Plantation near Jacksonville, and Omni Interlocken Resort & Golf Club near Denver.
Every year, golf-landscape artist Linda Hartough creates a painting of a prominent hole at that year’s U.S. Open venue. This year's creation features the 16th hole at Merion Golf Club.
"The rest of the course looked wonderful in the spring air, and it was really hard to limit the choice to one hole," said Hartough of her decision to paint the 16th hole. "But the sight of the Quarry Hole ablaze with yellow-flowered scotch broom did it for me."
This is the 24th painting in Hartough’s U.S. Open series, which is commissioned by the U.S. Golf Association. Offered in a limited edition of 850 prints and an additional 85 artist proofs, each is signed and numbered by the artist.
In this rendering, Hartough captures Merion on a beautiful spring day. The panorama invites inspection of the dramatic undulations, stone ledges and elevations marking the difficult approach shot to the two-tiered green.
"Linda has done a wonderful job capturing the drama of Merion's famous Quarry Hole -- the 16th," said Merion PGA Head Professional Scott Nye. "The vibrant yellow scotch broom in the quarry and the famous orange wickers provide eye-catching pop that brings out the scenic beauty of the hole.
"The long afternoon shadows across the fairway coupled with the clubhouse in the lower left remind golfers that they are truly fortunate to walk where the legends of the game have played over 100 years of championship golf at Merion," he added. "The pencil sketch depicts the original farmhouse and barn, reminding players that the land was a farm long before Hugh Wilson's gem was created."
Hartough painted the first of her U.S. Open series in 1990, when Hale Irwin won at Medinah Country Club. In 1984, Augusta National commissioned her to paint its famous 13th hole, an event that propelled her toward specialization as a golf-landscape painter. Since then, her work has achieved a distinguished status, displayed in the permanent collections of such legendary clubs as Augusta National, Laurel Valley, Pinehurst and Pine Valley, as well as in the personal collections of such golf notables as Jack Nicklaus and Raymond Floyd.
For more information and to buy your print, visit www.hartough.com.
At every major championship, there is a champions dinner where past champions get together for a group photo, a big meal and a lot of laughs (or so I'm told - curiously, I've never been invited.)
The atmosphere is almost always looser than the dress code, as was brilliantly illustrated by a photo now making the rounds on the Internet - one of Tiger Woods having some fun at the expense of Rory McIlroy (or rather, Rory's ear.)
Great find by @offtheballNT for sharing one of the more fun moments from the U.S. Open at Merion.
You can follow John Kim on Twitter at @johnkim_10