Golf Buzz

January 7, 2013 - 6:32pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Natalie Gulbis and her cousin at Disneyland
Natalie Gulbis via Twitter
Natalie Gulbis took to Twitter on Monday to show us a shot of her 30th birthday visit to Disneyland with her cousin.

Natalie Gulbis, one of golf's most popular players, is celebrating the big 3-0 today – at Disneyland, of all places.

Despite what I'd call an unorthodox swing, she was a sensation as a junior – she won the California Women's Amateur Championship at age 14 and, at 17, she became the youngest player ever to Monday-qualify for an LPGA Tour event (a record that Michelle Wie eventually broke). She was the medalist at the 1998 U.S. Women's Amateur, and won four times during her college career at the University of Arizona.

Gulbis made it through Q-School on her first try and has become a solid LPGA Tour performer over the years. She's won more than $4.6 million in her decade on the circuit, and finished 42nd on the money list last year with three top-10s. She only has one career win, but it was a pretty big one – the 2007 Evian Masters.

And while she is known far and wide for her calendar-girl looks, I'd add that she is under-appreciated for her attitude and her diligence. She is as consistently positive and pleasant as any player I've ever been around, and she does as much for her sponsors, her tour and other charities as anyone. Plus, I swear, she leads the world by a mile in the number of photos taken with fans.

So for all you do for golf, Natalie, here's hoping this milestone birthday is the beginning of a career year.

January 7, 2013 - 1:26pm
Posted by:
Steve Eubanks
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Ted Bishop
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PGA President Ted Bishop is thrilled by the economic impact the game has had and continues to have with 1.98 million jobs being attributed to golf in 2011.

Just how big is golf?

The leading organizations within the industry that comprise Golf 20/20 set out to answer that question and the results may surprise you.

In 2011, the last year for which complete data was available, golf generated $68.8 billion of goods and services in the U.S. When you look at the total indirect and induced impact the game had on the economy it came to $176.8 billion supporting 1.98 million jobs with total wage income of $55.6 billion.

There were 25.7 million participants in the game and golf’s charitable impact was 3.29 billion.

Where does that put the game on the list of economic chart of other sports? 

Golf’s impact on the economy, at least in 2011, exceeded skiing, fitness, bowling, recreational sports centers and marinas in addition to adding aesthetic value to the communities where the game is played.  

“The economy has endured two significant recessions the past decade and golf has fared well,” says Steve Mona, CEO of the World Golf Foundation, administrator of GOLF 20/20.  “The health and growth of the game has a direct bearing on jobs, commerce, economic development and tax revenues for U.S. communities and industries.”

 

 

January 7, 2013 - 11:29am
Posted by:
Steve Eubanks
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Stacy Lewis
Sterling Sports Management
Pure Silk, a sponsor of nine LPGA players including 2012 Player of the Year Stacy Lewis, will sponsor the newest LPGA event at the Atlantis Resort, Paradise Island, Bahamas

 In keeping with its trend of adding new events in overseas markets, LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan announced on Monday that the newest women’s professional event will be held on Paradise Island, Bahamas. 

The newly minted and as yet unnamed event will be sponsored by Pure Silk and will be played May 23-26 on the Ocean Club Golf Course at the Atlantis Resort.  The tour is also expected to announce a new event in Beijing, bringing the Asian event schedule up to five.

On its face, the Bahamas event has tremendous potential. Going up against the Crowne Plaza Invitation at Colonial, it should gain significant television viewership if, for no other reason, people’s fascination with Atlantis and Paradise Island.

Pure Silk is also making a big push in LPGA sponsorship. The ladies’ shaving cream maker just signed on to be an official sponsor of the LPGA and they already sponsor nine tour players, including: Brittany Lincicome, Jennifer Song, Jeong Jang, Jill McGill, Brittany Lang, Natalie Gulbis, Katherine Hull, Lizette Salas, and 2012 Player of the Year Stacy Lewis. 

Simply having a Lewis, Lincicome, Song, Lang, and Gulbis in the field will ensure a solid kick-start to this one. 

 

January 7, 2013 - 12:11am
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Golf bags at the Players Championship
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The golf bags at pro tour events are stocked with a wide variety of golf club brands.

As the 2013 golf season struggles to get off the ground out in Hawaii, I thought this would be a good time to check out the state of golf equipment usage on the world's biggest tours. Thanks to Sports Marketing Surveys – SMS is the company that tracks the gear that each player uses in European Tour events – we have a pretty good snapshot of the clubs that many of the game's best players are favoring these days.

Here are some of SMS's observations from the whole of the 2012 European Tour season:

--Drivers: Players used 22 different driver brands and a total of 111 different driver models. On average, each player used 1.46 different drivers over the course of the season, but one player used six different driver models.

--Fairway woods: Players used 27 different fairway wood brands and a total of 140 different fairway wood models.

--Utility clubs: Players used 27 different utility club brands and 120 different utility club models.

--Irons: Players used 31 different brands of 3- through 9-irons and 139 different models of 3- through 9-iron. A total of 42 percent of players didn't have a 3-iron in their bag.

--Wedges: Players used 33 different wedge brands and 181 different wedge models.

--Putters: Players used 40 different putter brands and 454 different putter models. On average, each player used 1.76 different putters during the 2012 season, but two players used 11 different putter models. And for the year, 14 percent of the players carried a long or belly putter.

I don't have a lot of perspective on some of these numbers – for example, is the use of 22 different driver brands high or low? It seems fairly high to me – and just for comparison, if you go to Golfsmith.com, they carry 18 different driver brands. I'd love to see a list of all those 22 different models.

I also found it interesting that there were more different fairway models used (140) than utility clubs used (120), simply because it seems like there are more companies marketing hybrids than fairway woods. And it's also interesting that 42 percent of players didn't use 3-irons. I wonder if that number will continue to rise – and at what point will there be more players without 3-irons than with them?

And finally, whether the number of different club brands has risen or fallen in recent years, I'm a little pleased to see the numbers so high. Golf these days is dominated by a handful of companies, all of which make fantastic equipment -- but I have a soft spot for the smaller companies fighting for their sliver of the golf gear pie. Some of life's greatest inventions come from the most unlikely sources, and I hope there's always a place in the golf equipment universe for little guys with a dream.

January 6, 2013 - 7:16pm
Posted by:
John Kim
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Nick Watney
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Nick Watney shared some thoughts on his move to Nike Golf.

 

The start of the golf year means new dreams, new goals and of course, new equipment for many of the world's top players.  Actually, many golfers will be debuting new equipment (including a zillion amateurs visited by Santa!) but you don't get blog posts written about you...

One high profile change came for five-time PGA Tour winner, Nick Watney. Watney signed with Nike Golf for the 2013 golf season and has made his debut at the season-opening Tournament of Champions. He was able to find time to answer a few questions on his golf life and the change in equipment. 
 
PGA.com: Five PGA Tour victories puts you in pretty elite company.  What goals are still ahead for you?
Watney: Well I feel like I am just getting started.  Maybe when all is said and done, maybe I will get to 20 wins.  I still feel like I have a lot to do and I am really excited to start this new year with Nike and improve every week.
 
PGA.com: Why will the move to Nike Golf help you get there?
Watney: Nike has proven in pretty much every sport that they provide equipment for that they strive to be the best.  If you look at basketball for instance, the best players wear Nike.  Tiger has been a Nike Athlete for a long time and has re-written the record books in golf. So I am excited to have their support and it is an honor to represent them.
 
PGA.com: Have you been a Nike fan your entire life?
Watney: I have been a Nike fan my entire life.  The first sports I can remember was Michael Jordan, he put Nike footwear on the map as far as athletes go.  My favorite athletes around the bay area growing up,  Jerry Rice and Joe Montana wore Nike cleats…I have been a Nike fan for a long time.  When I received my first product Nike after being on staff I had to pinch myself it was pretty fun and so exciting."
 
PGA.com: What product was easiest to switch?
Watney: The irons and wedges were the easiest products for me to switch into.  They are very classic looking, very clean, simple, which is good.  It was pretty much one day of looking down at them and feeling them perform so those were the easiest for me to switch into.
 
Obviously, players will change equipment for various reasons. But the one thing that they all will not compromise is their hope to play better this year than they played last year.  Watney's move to Nike Golf carries some risk for both parties, but the up side could be quite significant. I'd probably say the same thing about my golf bag - so if anyone wants to sign a 8.2 handicap...I'm listening.
January 6, 2013 - 2:16am
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Colin Montogmerie and Padraig Harrington
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Colin Montgomerie's stellar Ryder Cup reputation could be tarnished if he were to lose as captain in 2014, says Padraig Harrington.

After The PGA of America rocked the golf world by anointing Tom Watson as U.S. Ryder Cup captain for 2014, observers immediately began speculating that Europe would need to respond with an equally large presence.

Paul McGinley of Ireland and Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland are considered the front-runners for the job, which the Europeans are set to discuss during the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship later this month. But in the wake of Watson’s appointment, Colin Montgomerie’s name began cropping up.

Despite what can best be described as a lack of respect from many golf fans in the United States, Monty has one of the all-time great Ryder Cup records, amassing a 20-9-7 record that includes an unblemish slate in the singles. He trails only Nick Faldo on the European career points list, sank the putts the clinched the golden chalice in both 1997 and 2004, and captained the Europeans to victory in 2010 at Celtic Manor.

Even so – or perhaps because of all that – one very interested observer believes there's no chance that Monty would accept a return engagement as captain.

"It would be madness for him," said Padraig Harrington in an interview with Reuters. "He's had a great Ryder Cup playing career, he's been a successful captain. Why risk all that?

"I can't see in any shape or form him agreeing to do it again," added Harrington, who believes that Montgomerie would be risking his golf legacy by coming back.

"I had a long chat with Monty the evening we won the Ryder Cup in 2010," he said. "I could see the relief Colin had when he won. I don't think he quite realized until then the enormity of being captain for him. Most players who take the captaincy, whether they win or lose, it doesn't change people's perception of their overall career.

Montgomerie's reputation, however, is based on his eight European Tour money titles and his Ryder Cup performances, explained Harrington, who has played on six Ryder Cup teams.

"By taking the captaincy he's putting far more on the line than anybody else because it would be hard to mention that he's unbeaten in the singles in the competition but, oh, he's also a losing captain as well," he said. "That would take the shine off his great record."

For his part, Harrington hopes his fellow Irishman McGinley gets the captaincy for 2014 in Scotland and Clarke is in charge for 2016 at Hazeltine.

"I think Darren would be a better captain in America because of his stature over there. McGinley would be a better option to go up against Watson," he told Reuters. "He can't match Watson in terms of his stature in the game -- nobody can do that. The only way McGinley would tackle a Ryder Cup is to knuckle down and do his own business and organize things. He would be ideal for Gleneagles."