Golf Buzz

October 8, 2012 - 1:58pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Lobby at SpringHill Suites in Latrobe, Pa.
Courtesy of SpringHill Suites Latrobe
The walls of the SpringHill Suites in Latrobe, Pa., are covered with reminders of Arnold Palmer's career.

Every golfer worth his or her salt knows that Arnold Palmer grew up at Latrobe Country Club in Latrobe, Pa. The club has always been private, but now any golfer can tread the fairways where Arnie learned to play the game.

Palmer is a part-owner along with Marriott of a new SpringHill Suites hotel in Latrobe, and golfing guests who stay there can get playing privileges at Latrobe CC. The hotel, in fact, is right there on Arnold Palmer Drive, just down the road from the club.

"When I bought the club many years ago, I always thought that we would have some sort of a connection to a hotel," said Palmer at the recent grand opening ceremony. "In recent years the land became available. All the things kind of worked out that would suit what we wanted to do."

The hotel includes 109 suites, along with a golf-themed bar and dining area. Memorabilia from Palmer’s career are displayed throughout the facility.

Palmer, of course, was born and raised in Latrobe, about an hour’s drive southeast of Pittsburgh. His father, Deacon, helped build Latrobe CC as a nine-hole layout in the 1920s as a young man. By the 1960s, the owners had accumulated enough nearby land to expand the course to 18 holes, and Deacon and Arnold were both heavily involved in creating the new holes and remodeling the existing ones. The course re-opened as an 18-holer in 1964.

Arnld Palmer bought Latrobe CC in 1971, and has owned it ever since. Deacon Palmer became course superintent in 1926, and head professional in 1931. He was a constant presence at the club until his death at age 71 in 1976.

The course stretches about 6,700 yards from the back tees, but meanders up and down the hilly countryside. The club also includes a practice putting green, driving range and golf shop, along with tennis courts, heated swimming pool and bathhouse, fully-staffed locker rooms and dining and entertainment facilities.

True members of Arnie’s Army know to look for the the red covered bridges that cross the creek that comes into play on the back nine, as well as the famous "Pennzoil tractor" that Deacon Palmer taught his sons Arnold and Jerry to drive, and which went on to star in a series of popular TV commercials. The tractor has been on display all across America, but now often is parked near the first tee so everyone can see it.

Golf packages include accommodations at the hotel, a complimentary breakfast at the hotel and one round of golf with cart. For more information, visit or call 724-537-7800.

October 7, 2012 - 8:03pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Mizuno MP-64 irons
Courtesy of Mizuno Golf
The Mizuno MP-64 irons are made from high-quality 1025E Pure Select steel using Mizuno's patented Grain Flow Forging Process, and feature a compact head size for additional workability and modified U-Grooves to produce proper spin for maximum playability in all conditions.

Luke Donald put a set of brand-new Mizuno MP-64 irons in his bag for the FedExCup playoffs and the Ryder Cup, and they are available to everyday golfers as well.

"Luke Donald played a crucial role in the design stage, providing valuable perspective that allowed us to create our best 'player' irons to date," said Mizuno USA Vice President and General Manager Dick Lyons. "If the feel and performance satisfy Luke, we're confident we've created an iron that is going to perform for a lot of players."

Donald, well known as one of the game’s best iron players, consulted with Mizuno’s engineers throughout the development of the MP-64 irons, which Mizuno recommends for players with handicaps ranging from 10 down to +2. He was especially instrumental in the design of the irons’ soles, making sure they would deliver consistent turf interaction for predictable trajectory.

From the sole up, the key to these high-level irons is their ability to enhance ball control. To do this, Mizuno focused on precisely controlling the vibration frequencies at the point of impact – which Mizuno calls Harmonic Impact Technology (H.I.T.), and which optimizes sound and feel through Mdal Analysis software. The irons also feature a flow cavity design that features a deeper cavity in the long irons for increased playability and a shallower cavity in the mid and short irons for enhanced control and workability.

The irons are made from high-quality 1025E Pure Select steel using Mizuno's patented Grain Flow Forging Process, and feature a compact head size for additional workability and modified U-Grooves to produce proper spin for maximum playability in all conditions. They are finished off with a double-nickel chrome coating, highlighted with a 3D forged Mizuno Runbird logo.

The MP-64s come in 3-iron through pitching wedge, and come standard with True Temper Dynamic Gold shafts and Golf Pride M-31 58 Round grips. They carry a suggested retail price of $999.99 per set.

For more information, visit

October 6, 2012 - 7:30pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Harvey Penick
The PGA of America
PGA instructor Harvey Penick, shown here with a student in 1975, spent his life helping golfers improve their games.

Harvey Penick, the legendary instructor of major winners Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite as well as generations of other golfers, got his start in golf as a caddie at Hancock Park Golf Course in Austin, Texas. And now, the venerable city-owned course is scheduled to get a long-overdue renovation.

According to the Austin American-Statesman, the goal of the makeover is to return the course to "something close to its origins, starting with an extensive irrigation project." There also are plans to re-route the current nine holes to something similar to the original 18-hole layout, the paper said, adding that some interested groups are trying to obtain an historical designation for the property.

"We want to keep Hancock operating as a golf course, and we want to improve its condition and make it more playable and enjoyable for everybody," City of Austin Director of Golf Kevin Gomillion told the Statesman. "It actually is not a lot of land, only 40 acres. In recent years it has been used mostly by beginners and retirees. At the same time, it’s not an easy course. So, we want to improve the conditions, re-shape some of the holes and make it playable for everybody."

No specifics on the budget or timetable for the work have yet been released.

Founded in 1899 just north of downtown, Hancock Park is Austin’s oldest golf course as well as the oldest continually operating course in Texas.

Hancock was the original home of Austin Country Club, which the newspaper called "the center not only of golf, but of the elite of Austin society." In 1950, Austin Country Club moved and sold the course to the City of Austin, which then sold off the front nine and kept the back nine as a nine-hole course. Over the years, it became neglected and run down.

Penick began caddying at Hancock Park during his grade-school years, and became the head professional after graduating from high school in 1923 – the club asked him to take over while he was still a student, but his parents wouldn’t let him. He left the Hancock location when Austin Country Club relocated in 1950, eventually serving as head professional for almost half a century.

Among his students were World Golf Hall of Famers Crenshaw and Kite, as well as Mickey Wright, Betsy Rawls and Kathy Whitworth. Other outstanding students included Sandra Palmer, Terry Dill, Don Massengale Rik Massengale and Davis Love Jr., who went on to become a prominent instructor in his own right and the father of Davis Love III. Penick also served as head coach at the University of Texas from 1931 to 1963, and led the Longhorns to 21 Southwest Conference championships in 33 years.

Penick was honored by the PGA of America as its Teacher of the Year in 1989, and in 1992 he and co-author Bud Shrake wrote “Harvey Penick's Little Red Book,” which became the biggest-selling golf book ever published. He died in 1995, and in 2009 was posthumously inducted into the PGA Golf Professional Hall of Fame.


October 5, 2012 - 6:34pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Michael Phelps and Oscar Pistorious
Getty Images
Michael Phelps (l) and Olympic runner Oscar Pistorious posed for a photo after both lost their balls in the tall grass on the third hole at Kingsabarns on Friday.

Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps plays to a 16-handicap, but he looked like a major champion on one hole Friday.

Phelps is playing this week in the European Tour’s Dunhill Links Championship, a pro-celebrity event similar to the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on the PGA Tour, held each year on the Old Course at St. Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns.

Phelps hit his drive on the par-4 sixth hole at Kingsbarns up to the front edge of the green. From there – 51 yards away from the pin – he pulled out his putter, gave it a rap and watched the ball roll – and roll, and roll – right into the hole. In all, it took the ball about 17 seconds make its journey from putter to cup – that’s about as long as it takes Phelps to swim 50 yards.

With his handicap, Phelps’ eagle-2 became a net hole-in-one.

''That was the longest putt I've ever holed,'' said Phelps, the owner of 18 Olympic gold medals. ''It was pretty incredible, watching it dive in was a pretty cool feeling. So to be able to have a net hole-in-one was pretty special.

Elsewhere this week, Phelps has been playing to his handicap. He and pro partner Paul Casey finished 36 holes at 9 under – 12 shots behind the team leaders, Thongchai Jaidee and his amateur partner, Hugh Courtney Jr.

For more coverage of the Dunhill Links, click here.



October 5, 2012 - 5:30pm
Posted by:
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Fred Couples
The PGA of America
Fred Couples has meant more to golf than an already impressive number of wins and accomplishments


One item that's been making the buzz around golf circles over the last few weeks - including at the Ryder Cup, has been out loud debates over the merits of Fred Couples as the most recent inductee into the World Golf Hall of Fame.  
My reaction has been consistent, which is to say: "Are you kidding me? Who's questioning this?"
Yes, the numbers are the numbers and I won't argue that there are golfers - some that will not end up immortalized in St. Augustine - that have comparable or even better lifetime stats. Still, 15 wins and a major championsihp on the PGA Tour and 8 more wins on the Champions Tour - as well as his influence and participation as a Ryder Cup player and assistant captain (and a recurring role as captain of the Presidents Cup) is nothing to sneeze at. 
There are a million places to view his career accomplishments, no need for me to list them all.  But if you really want, here's a good listing of his golf resume
And how do you measure perhaps the greatest impact of Fred Couples career and influence on golf - his ability to attract fans and players to the game? I've been to a few Champions Tour events - and there's basically Fred Couples and everyone else (in terms of crowd size).  Heck, I've been to a few practice rounds at the Masters and there aren't five players out there that draw a bigger crowd.  Isn't that the type of golfer we should be celebrating?
Tom Spencer of CBS Sports recently wrote a great piece about Couples and his induction into the Hall of Fame.  Take a look and appreciate that Couples' career and contributions certainly deserve to be a permanent fixture in the history of the game.
October 5, 2012 - 1:11am
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Phil Mickelson
Getty Images
Phil Mickelson will try to generate cash for children's literacy at an upcoming San Diego chargers game.

Phil Mickelson is one of the new owners of the San Diego Padres, but his next sporting appearance will be with his hometown Chargers. And, in typical Mickelson fashion, there’ll be big money on the line.

At halftime of the Monday Night Football game between the Chargers and the Denver Broncos on Oct. 15, Mickelson will take to the field and try to win as much as $1 million for charity with his vaunted short game. In the "KPMG Chip 4 Charity," Mickelson will tee it up in one end zone of Qualcomm Stadium and take aim at the other end zone to win money for First Book, a non-profit organization that provides new books for needy children.

In that far end zone will be a green and three rings. If Mickelson hits the green, he’ll win $50,000 – enough to buy 20,000 books. A shot that ends up inside the rings would net him anywhere from $100,000 (40,000 books) to $1 million (400,000 books). The money will be donated by KPMG, which also sponsors Mickelson on the PGA Tour.

KPMG’s Family for Literacy program teamed with Mickelson and First Book to create the "Blue for Books" program in March 2012. That program encourages golf fans to purchase Mickelson’s authentic blue KPMG Tour hat at KPMG donates all the net proceeds to First Book, which provides deserving children three books for each hat sold.

"My wife, Amy, and I, feel strongly that literacy and education are critical to the future success of today’s youth," said Mickelson. "I am extremely proud to be part of the Blue for Books campaign and it’s just great to know that for every blue hat I see out in the gallery each week, three new books are in the hands of kids who need them most."