Golf Buzz

July 8, 2014 - 8:16am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
John Singleton
John Singleton, a 30-year-old resin plant factory worker from England, made it through a qualifier last week and will play in the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool.

When I first stumbled upon this story, I thought for a minute that it had to be a leaked script for a new sports-inspired Disney movie.

Turns out the story of John Singleton is, indeed, real life.

And it's awesome.

Singleton is a 30-year-old factory worker -- resin plant mixer -- at Advanced Electrical Varnishes in Birkenhead, England.

READ: Canadian golf professional saves man from sinking minivan

Borrowing two wedges from a friend, Singleton earned a spot in next week's Open Championship at Royal Liverpool via a qualifier at Hillside Golf Club in Southport last Tuesday.

Singleton shot rounds of 72-66 in the 36-hole qualifier before advancing in a playoff.

Absolutely incredible.

The only question left was whether or not Singleton would be able to get the time off of work to play in the Open.

His boss came up aces.

Singleton was granted two weeks off -- this week so he can practice and next week so he can compete. On top of that, his boss wanted to be fair to the other workers.

"Because we cut John some slack we thought we ought to cut everybody else some," Richard Tweddle said. "We gave them a day's holiday and said if they want to take it on Thursday and go to the Open we would buy them tickets."

How cool is that? 

July 8, 2014 - 7:29am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Josh Gardner
Josh Gardner, a head golf professional in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, saved a man from a minivan on Saturday moments after it crashed into a pond not far from where Gardner was on the practice tee giving a lesson.

Head golf professionals wear many hats. Among their duties? Organize tournaments, give lessons, mentor assistant professionals, run a pro shop -- the list goes on.

One duty you wouldn't expect to find on that list is "life saver." However, you can now add that to Josh Gardner's resume.

Gardner, the head golf professional at Canyon Meadows Golf and Country Club in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, quickly sprung into action when he saw something you don't see everyday on the golf course this past Saturday.

READ: Weirdest things you've seen on the golf courseMcNeill learns of sister's death moments after 61

As he was giving a lesson, Gardner noticed a minivan coming down a hill behind him. Moments later, it went airborne and plunged into the middle of a pond on the course.

Gardner immediately directed one of his assistants to call 911. Gardner called out to the driver several times, but when he didn't get a response, he made the decision to jump into the water.

Here's what Gardner told the Calgary Sun:

"He wasn't responding so I just made the choice to go into the water," he said.

"(The minivan) started to go down, I could see the water level rising in it."

Gardner said he swam out about 20 metres to the van, which was sinking in water he estimates was about 12 metres deep.

"I swam in through the driver's side window and got his seatbelt off," he said.

"The water was coming in strong, it was up to his chest."

Gardner safely got the driver -- a man in his 40s, who emergency crews believe experienced a medical situation before the crash -- back to dry land.

With a belief that there may be another person in the minivan, Gardner jumped right back into the water to inspect. It turns out the driver was the only occupant.

"It's a great feeling (to have helped save him), but I just did what anybody would do," Gardner told the Calgary Sun. "It was an emotional day, but it was a best case scenario for that situation."

Sclaff might be the world of the day, but it's probably got a ways to go before it makes it into a game of golf bingo.
Every day, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary website posts its "word of the day." I'm usually pretty good at knowing them, but I have to admit that I had never heard of today's word.
Even worse for someone who's worked in golf journalism for a couple of decades now, it's a golf word.
So here it is: "Sclaff."
OK, golfers, ever heard of it? Know what it means?
Time's up.
Sclaff, according to Merriam-Webster, is a verb that means "to scrape the ground instead of hitting the ball cleanly on a golf stroke."
Here's an example they cited:
"Despite a bogey on his penultimate hole of the morning, where he sclaffed about in the sand and made things worse with three putts, it was a second consecutive 72 for the former Open champion." — Paul Forsyth, Scotland on Sunday, April 13, 2003
To me, "sclaff" sounds like a combination of "scrape" and "laugh" – which, heck, just might be where it comes from.
Or maybe not. But hey, either way, you learned something today!
nike performance fitting center
Courtesy of Nike Golf
The Nike Performance Fitting Center includes the full range of Nike equipment and technology, and was created to give golfers of all skill levels the same custom-fitting experience that Nike provides its tour players.
In a first for Nike Golf, the company has opened its first Nike Performance Fitting Center at Archerfield Links Estate in New Berwick, Scotland, just outiside of Edinburgh. 
The facility includes the full range of Nike equipment and technology, and was created to give golfers of all skill levels the same custom-fitting experience that Nike provides its tour players. Golfers visiting the center also get access to Archerfield's elite coaching panel, which includes former Ryder Cup player Andrew Coltart and European Tour coach Gary Nicol.
"This incredible facility takes club fitting to another level," said Rory McIlroy, who was on hand for the grand opening. "It's so impressive that Nike is providing the consumer the same type of service that we get as Nike athletes."
Golfers looking for a complete experience can sign up for a three-day package that features full club and ball fitting, game assessment, physical fitness consultation and a playing lesson on either the Fidra or Dirleton Links at Archerfield. The cool part: You get fit for clubs on Day 1, and they're delivered in time for your on-course playing lesson. Golfers also get a distance mapping session to get familiar with their new sticks. 
"Today marks a critical step in our journey as we deliver an experience designed to serve the golfer in fitting and performance," said Nike Golf President Cindy Davis. "It's not enough to simply make great product – we have to serve our consumer with world-class experiences that enable them to unlock their true potential.  Our partnership with Archerfield, an authentic site located on Scotland's Golf Coast, does just that." 
In addition to the two stunning courses designed by DJ Russell, the Archerfield Links Estate boasts a 17th century Mansion House with a spa (recently voted in the top-six new spas in Europe), a gym and a range of luxurious accommodations just outside Edinburgh. This facility provides easy access by road, rail and air.  
The Nike Fitting Performance Center joins a growing collection of performance and fitting centers operated by leading equipment companies. These also include the TaylorMade Center of Excellence in Herzogenaurach, Germany, and the Titleist Performance Institute in Oceanside, Calif.
Angel Cabrera
USA Today Images
Angel Cabrera won his first non-major PGA Tour event Sunday at the Greenbrier Classic.

PGA Professional Charlie Epps has watched Angel Cabrera grow from an unpolished caddie in Argentina to a two-time major champion. Epps, who has been working as Cabrera's instructor since 2007, spoke with on Monday about his years teaching Cabrera. You lived in Argentina from 1954-1967. How did you first meet Angel Cabrera?

Epps: I first met Angel playing in the Argentine Open. We played practice rounds together. Plus, I grew up on the same golf course where he grew up, but 20 years apart. I really met him when he was about 18 years old as a young caddie. Then, over the years, the relationship grew because we played together. I never helped him with his game early on. But then in 2007, his manager called me and wanted to know if I would be interested in helping him with his putting, mainly just putting. That’s when it all started.

MORE: Watch: Cabrera hole out for eagle | What's in Cabrera's bag | Cabrera wins Greenbrier Classic From a teaching standpoint, what is something that you and Angel had to overcome in order for him to have such a successful career?

Epps: He’s a perfectionist, and sometimes a missed shot bothers him more than it should. He has a hard time letting go of a bad shot and bouncing back. Even today, I told him a couple months ago, I said, ‘Angel, you’re letting things get to you too much. Your anger is hurting you.’ He said, ‘Listen, I won two majors with this attitude.’ And I said, ‘yeah, but you could have won eight more.’ So I’m always trying to teach him to be more patient with himself. And, especially now, at the age of 44, when some shots happen just because you’re 44, not because of your motor skills. He’s still really demanding of himself. What element of Cabrera’s game do you believe has improved the most since you’ve been working with him?

Epps: All I can help Angel with is practice, training more, spending more time putting. We were able to use a couple of teaching aids that accomplished what I want him to do without having him have to think. See, he grew up as young caddie, who No. 1) he wasn’t allowed on the golf course, so he’d sneak on the golf course. And No. 2) there was no driving range, so they were just players. They never hit balls. They saw each other’s swing, and this area where he comes from there were some great golfers. And so he learned with his eyes and not with his thoughts.

The one people who don’t put up to their expectations. They go to the practice green, and if they don’t make some putts, they leave out of frustration. Well, there’s a teaching device called "Inside Down the Line" by Momentus. And in 2009, I got that and I was able to get him in a training cycle, where he could make 100 putts in a row. The training device helped me control his path more. Like most people, he liked right-to-left putts. But left-to-right putts were very difficult for him. This allowed me to get him to aim correctly, control the path and have the face square to the direction the ball needed to go. It’s worked quite well. How did you celebrate after Cabrera’s win at The Greenbrier Classic?

Epps: We flew home to Houston late last night, because on Friday we go to the British Open. It was just he and I on a private plane, having a few adult beverages and reminiscing of all the hard work he’s put in over the last few months. There were a few months there where we weren’t getting a lot out of a round, shooting some 72s, 73s, missing the cut by one. But we both knew that it was close. It was close at the U.S. Open at Pinehurst. He went on to the Travelers (Championship) and finished 11th, and then he went to Congressional and finished in the top 20. Golf is so much about momentum and making the par putts at the right time is what really keeps round going. Yesterday afternoon (Sunday), he hit his worst drive of the tournament on No. 2, but ended up making a great 4. That really, really was the turning point of that round, and he just went on to play an incredible round of golf. How does Cabrera’s game set up for Hoylake?

Epps: He can flight the ball as well as anyone, and he’s healthy. In 2010, we went to St. Andrews, and he had tendonitis in his thumb so bad that he didn’t play for three months in the fall of 2010. Last year, he had some problems with his shoulder and really didn’t play for four months. You really put some wear and tear on your body, playing as much golf as he has over the years. But now he’s pretty healthy. 

You can follow Epps on Twitter @TheGolf_Doctor

July 7, 2014 - 7:53am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
George McNeill
USA Today Sports Images
George McNeill fired a career-best, 9-under 61 on Sunday in a round that included a hole-in-one. Moments after finishing, he learned that his oldest sister had died earlier Sunday morning.

In a matter of minutes on Sunday, George McNeill experienced the highest of highs professionally and the lowest of lows personally.

First, McNeill began the final round of the Greenbrier Classic trailing leader Billy Hurley III by seven shots then went out and fired a 9-under 61 in the final round with a stretch that -- beginning on the fourth hole -- went birdie, birdie, birdie, birdie, hole-in-one. That's right -- 6 under in a five-hole stretch.

McNeill grabbed the clubhouse lead and would have to wait to see if that lead would hold and he'd win, if it would be close but no cigar, or if he was headed to a playoff.

RELATED: McNeill, Cauley make aces in Greenbrier final round | Final leaderboard

After the round, CBS analyst grabbed McNeill for an interview that was brief, yet revealing for the man who had just recorded his lowest ever round on the PGA Tour.

"I know it's really difficult, and I will not press the issue with you," Kostis said. "But sometimes perspective comes in different forms, doesn't it?"

McNeill was choked up.

"It does," said the 38-year-old, two-time PGA Tour winner. "Yeah, you go out and, you know, golf doesn't really mean a whole lot. So it's hard. I played good today. And got finished, and you know, it was a nice middle part of the round. And so like I said, you know, golf doesn't mean a whole lot sometimes."

That's where the lowest of lows come into play.

Golf Channel's Jason Sobel explains in a fantastic piece he filed at the conclusion of the Greenbrier Classic:

George McNeill called his family back home in Fort Myers, Fla., on Sunday morning, prior to competing in the final round of The Greenbrier Classic.

This had become a regular ritual, continuously checking in with them to receive an updated status report on Michele, the oldest of five McNeill siblings.

Only 46, Michele wasn’t doing well.

Two years ago, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy, followed by radiation and chemotherapy. It was a lengthy battle, but eventually doctors offered some good news. She was finally cancer-free.

But, as Sobel wrote, last November Michele began having trouble with her speech. Doctors found a tumor on her brain and performed surgery to remove it.

About a month and a half ago, Sobel reported, the cancer had spread throughout her brain, in her spinal fluid and spine. After a few days, Michele was paralyzed from the waist down and spent the last few weeks in a wheelchair.

Needless to say, McNeill knew the end was near for his sister.

Little did he know, however, that when he did that post-round interview with Kostis, his big sister was already gone.

Michele died at 11:35 a.m. on Sunday, 20 minutes before McNeill's tee time.

Again, McNeill didn't know what had transpired until after his round. Sobel asked, how, under such awful circumstances, was he able to maintain focus and turn in his best score on Tour to date.

"I don't know... I really don't know," he told Sobel said. "I'd be over a putt and she's going through my head.

"Maybe it was good that I had something else in my thought. I knew what I was doing, I was aware of what I was doing, but it really wasn't the first and foremost thing that I was concentrating on."

McNeill would finish the tournament alone in second place. Understandably, you've never seen a person less outwardly enthusiastic about having a hole-in-one, shooting a 61 and finishing second all on the same day.

What a tough, tough day for the McNeill family.