Golf Buzz

July 9, 2013 - 12:57pm
Posted by:
Bob Denney, The PGA of America
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Craig Stevens
The PGA of America
PGA Professional Craig Stevens, from Dallas, Ga., leads a field of 26 PGA Professionals to Omaha.

Of the 26 PGA club professionals competing this week in the 34th U.S. Senior Open, Craig Stevens registered one of the most dramatic turnarounds that he can recall in his career. It was just enough to earn him a trip this week to Omaha, Neb.

Stevens, a 52-year-old PGA teaching professional at Brookstone Golf & Country Club in Acworth, Ga., saw his chances fade early June 17, in a USGA Sectional Qualifying Tournament at The Standard Club in Johns Creek, Ga. Stevens opened his round 2-over-par through three holes.

“I decided not to let it get to me and to just play golf,” said Stevens. “I didn’t want to put a lot of pressure on myself. That wouldn’t do me any good.”

Stevens recovered by finishing 6-under-par from there, collecting birdies at 6, 7, 9 and 11. He spiced that sizzling streak with a hole-in-one on the par-3 eighth hole, his first in competition and the fifth ace of his career. He used a 9-iron from 142 yards.

“We saw the ball go in,” said Stevens. “It hit about 1½ feet short and right and then rolled in like a putt. That was a great way to keep my spirits up.”

Stevens earned his first U.S. Senior Open trip with a 4-under-par 68, sharing medalist honors with amateur Jeff Belk of Marietta, Ga. They will be part of a 156-member field that begins play Thursday on the 6,711-yard, par-70 Omaha Country Club.

Stevens, a resident of Dallas, Ga., won the Georgia Senior State Open in May and missed the cut last month in the 46th PGA Professional National Championship in Sunriver, Ore. He is a veteran of three PGA Championships and one Senior PGA Championship.

“You know I am playing pretty good golf now, and it took just 52 years for me to grow up,” joked Stevens. “I played a practice round today with Robin Byrd (of Satellite Beach, Fla.). Would you believe it, he had a hole-in-one in his Sectional in (Mascoutin Golf Club in Berlin, Wis.), which allowed him to get in. He got his on the 17th hole. Pretty amazing that we both would be talking about the same thing here!”

Stevens is among a talented PGA club professional delegation, featuring PGA Professional National Champions Jeffrey Roth of Farmington, N.M. (1993) and Bruce Zabriski of Jupiter, Fla. (1997). Mark Mielke of East Norwich, N.Y., makes his debut in the Senior Open, and shared low PGA club professional honors in May at the Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid.

Of the 26 PGA club professionals entered this week, Roy Vucinich of Moon Township, Pa., has enjoyed the best major finish among the delegation. Now a 66-year-old PGA Life Member, Vucinich tied for fourth in the 2002 Senior PGA Championship at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio.

 

The senior PGA club professionals competing this week in the 34th U.S. Senior Open:

David Carich, Noblesville, Ind.
Kevin Coombs, Camas, Wash.;
Mark Costaregni, Miami Beach, Fla.
Dennis Dolci, Sharon, Pa.
George Forster Sr., Villanova, Pa.
Steve Gotsche, Great Bend, Kan.
Kevin Hayashi, Hilo, Hawaii
Lee Houtteman, Glen Arbor, Mich.
Bill Israelson, Staples, Minn.
Bill Loeffler, Castle Rock, Colo.
Nelson Long Jr., Bedford, N.Y.
Ken McDonald, Houston, Texas
Mark Mielke, East Norwich, N.Y.
Bruce Nakamura, Vista, Calif.
Kirk Nelson, Kihei, Hawaii
Doug Rohrbaugh, Carbondale, Colo.
Jeffrey Roth, Farmington, N.M.
Mike San Filippo, Hobe Sound, Fla.
Troy Schleicher, The Woodlands, Texas
Jim Sobb, Barrington, Ill.
Craig Stevens, Dallas, Ga.
Bruce Stewart, Molalla, Ore.
Roy Vucinich, Moon Township, Mich.
Steve Wells, Niles, Mich.
Jeff Whitfield, Weldon Spring, Mo.
Bruce Zabriski, Jupiter, Fla.

July 9, 2013 - 10:02am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Appalachian Leather Works, golf, yardage book
Appalachian Leather Works
Appalachian Leather Works is producing high-quality scorecard holders, yardage book covers and more.
Every now and again you come across a special golf accessory. It's one that every golfer could use, but not many have (unless you're playing at the Tour level).
 
Before we detail this accessory, take a few seconds to think about this question: How do you store your scorecard during a round of golf?
 
The answer to that question probably varies from one of the following: the steering wheel on a golf cart; the scorecard holder on a push-cart; the scorecard pocket in your golf bag; or, in my case, your back pocket.
 
There's no question that all of those are great options for storing your scorecard. But, if you're like me -- particularly when playing golf on those dog days of summer -- you might find that scorecard looking more like oatmeal by the end of a round. Maybe this is an issue that plagues only me, but I also find that I go through multiple pencils over the course of the round because they somehow fall out of my pocket.
 
So what's the solution?
 
A man by the name of Chris Ashley is glad we asked.
 
Ashley, a United States Air Force veteran, is the founder of a company called Appalachian Leather Works based in North Carolina. Appalachian Leather Works produces beautiful, high-quality yardage books, scorecard holders, head covers and cash covers made from a variety of materials, including leather, gator, ostrich and stingray. 
 
Obviously, not all recreational golfers take their game seriously enough to need a yardage book holder (those who are serious enough will love Ashley's offerings). But, everyone can use a scorecard holder, which easily fits your scorecard, has a pencil holder and is the perfect size to slip in and out of your back pocket with ease.
 
The best part about Appalachian Leather Works is that its great products won't break the bank. Prices range from as little as $42 to as much as $120 -- a small price to pay for a great accessory that will probably last you for life.
 
So how did it all get started?
 
"I have a collection of yardage books from courses I've played throughout the years, and I've always wanted to buy a yardage book cover to use while walking the course," Ashley said. "However, the ones I liked were really out of my price range. And then there are the cheapies that I wouldn't trust to even play 18 holes, so I thought, 'Hey, I'm a pretty creative guy. I'll just make one.' So I did. After I finished mine, I realized that people like two things: quality and at a fair price.
 
"I may also have a sick addiction to putters," Ashley added. "I'm at the point that I can admit that today. So let's just say that I have a few putters and I wanted to make some quality putter covers made out of leather for them. After tinkering with that for a few weeks I had the design that I liked and so I began making putter covers for friends and family to try out. After rave reviews we started the site and it has grown from there."
 
Appalachian Leather Works officially opened for business in February 2013. 
 
"It seems like it was so long ago since it began," admits Ashley. "A lot has been improved upon and new products added as we believe that a golfer somewhere may want it. We have always strived to be one of the most customizable golf accessories companies out there. With all of our options offered online, we have taken several custom orders for jobs for things that range from embroidery for golf events or business outings to custom stamping on the new executive line of leather products."
 
Even with customization, the turnaround time for products produced by Appalachian Leather Works is incredibly impressive -- just about 10 business days for yardage books, scorecard holders and cash covers and about 10-14 days for putter and wood covers.
 
"Everything is made by hand," Ashley said. "For yardage book covers, cash covers and scorecard holders, we hand-cut each piece of quality Hermann Oak leather, then dye each piece of leather by hand. After it dries, we assemble the item by hand, punch the holes, and hand-stitch. The stitching is where the most time is spent, but it is the most important in the piece's durability. Each piece is finished with a burnished edge and then applied with Aussie leather conditioner to help seal out moisture for hot days on the course. These pieces take anywhere from 2-4 hours to complete."
 
Attention to detail is what truly makes Appalachian Leather Works so special. Ashley, you could say, is well-versed in attention to detail -- while in the Air Force (and also a Firefighter/EMT in Tucson, Ariz.), he was on the Air Force Shooting team where he won the 2005 Armed Forces Skeet Shooting Championship. 
 
Now, Ashley resides in North Carolina with his wife, Jill, and two boys, Brett and Grant. Ashley is balancing the growth of Appalachian Leather Works while also studying Economics and Mathematics at Appalachian State University.
 
"Jill is a Registered Nurse and wonderful wife for letting me have my addiction to golf," said Ashley. 
 
For now, Ashley's work is available through his website, www.appleatherworks.com.
 
"We do have future plans to expand our yardage book covers and scorecard holders into golf courses," he said. "We are working on including new designs and more options in both our putter covers and wood covers. The future changes for the putter covers will include options for leather stripes instead of the current ribbon or even genuine gator stripes as an option. We also take custom orders of many types; all someone has to do is email us (through the website) and we will do our best to bring their idea to life."
 
If you're looking for a fantastic, high-quality accessory that any golfer in your life -- including you -- can use for years to come, Appalachian Leather Works has just what you're looking for... even if you didn't know it until now.
 
You can also check out Appalachian Leather Works on Facebook and follow them on Twitter, @AppLeatherWorks.
 
You can follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tj_auclair.
 
 
July 9, 2013 - 1:33am
Posted by:
John Holmes
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TaylorMade SLDR driver
Courtesy of TaylorMade
The SLDR driver from TaylorMade gets its name from the sliding weight on the sole.

The new product introductions, or at least sneak peeks, continue their relentless pace this week as TaylorMade shows off its latest creation. At the John Deere Classic and the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open, the company is giving its staff players their first look at a brand-new driver known as the SLDR (''slider.'')

The club, as you can see in the photos, gets its name from the sliding weight on the sole. Golfers can slide the weight along a rail to easily create the specific draw or fade bias they desire. Recent TaylorMade drivers like the R1 are adjusted by using a wrench to screw weight ports in and out of the head.

One area in which the SLDR is similar to some of its TaylorMade kin such as the RBZ Stage 2 is its adjustable hosel, which golfers can use to select their loft. 

Another thing that stands out on first look is that the SLDR also features a black crown. TaylorMade, of course, recently came out with a black-crowned R1 driver after making nothing but white-headed models for the last couple of years. There's no indication yet as to whether a white-crowned SLDR might be in the works as well.

In any case, the initial reaction to the new driver is quite positive. Boo Weekley tweeted that ''it's awesome,'' while Lucas Glover described it as ''#sillygood.'' And TaylorMade's Dave Cordero said the company brought 20 SLDR heads to the John Deere Classic on Monday, and they were all spoken for by day's end.

 

July 8, 2013 - 9:35pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Ian Poulter at the 2012 Ryder Cup
Getty Images
The Odyssey White Hot XG #7 putter that Ian Poulter used to such great effect at the 2012 Ryder Cup is headed for Poulter's trophy case.

It's the end of an era – Ian Poulter is retiring the putter he used to fuel Europe's shocking comeback victory against the United States at the 2012 Ryder Cup.

''I am sacking my putter, I will use a new putter at the Open,'' Poulter tweeted on Sunday about the Odyssey White Hot XG #7 that he says ''needs a rest in my trophy cabinet.''

Poulter stressed that it's not the putter's fault that he's underperformed this season – he's yet to win on the PGA Tour, has two top-10 finishes and is 87th in the FedExCup points.

''I'm not blaming the putter, I'm saying I want to use a new one,'' he explained on Twitter. ''Every time I change, I've had big success with a new look. Just some times you just need to look down on something new.''

As every golf fan in America most likely remembers all too well, Europe was looking down and out on Saturday afternoon at Medinah before Poulter and Rory McIlroy rallied against Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson in the afternoon four-balls to pull out an unlikely 1-hole victory on the 18th green. And though McIlroy made a crucial birdie on the 13th hole to begin the turnaround, Poulter transformed defeat into triumph by making birdie putts on each of the last five holes – including a 12-foot sidehiller on the final green to clinch a full point that would prove crucial.

That turnaround victory made the Saturday night score 10-6, and gave Europe just the glimmer of hope it needed to mount its record-setting Sunday rally. Poulter won his singles match on Sunday to go a team-leading 4-0-0 for the week as Europe pulled off the 14/5-13.5 shocker.

After announcing his decision, Poulter invited equipment companies to send him putters to try out, and apparently he's getting quite a response. It'll be very curious to see what he turns up with next week at Muirfield – and how long it stays in the bag.

Meanwhile, Steve Stricker expressed sentiments no doubt shared by Poulter's opponents at Medinah and American golf fans everywhere.

"I wish you would've put that putter in your trophy cabinet before last years ryder cup!," he tweeted to Poulter, adding the hashtag # madeeverything."

 

 
 
 
July 8, 2013 - 1:50pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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TaylorMade Justin Rose Ghost spider Blade putter
Courtesy of TaylorMade
The limited-edition replicas of Justin Rose's Ghost Spider Blade putter include Rose's personal logo on the bottom and a red and yellow grip up top.

To commemorate Justin Rose's victory at the U.S. Open last month, TaylorMade is selling 99 exact replicas of his Ghost Spider Blade putter. 

Each of these limited-edition models is built to Rose's specs – they're 37 5/8 inches long, equipped with a black Ghost Tour shaft and a red Tour Only Counterbalanced grip with a yellow top. Every head is numbered and stamped with Rose's personal ''JR'' logo.

There are only 99 of them, TaylorMade says, because 99 is the number on Rose's Lethal golf ball. That number is on his ball, Rose says, because 9 is his wife's favorite number, so he doubled it to make 99 for extra-good luck.

You can order your putter from TaylorMade now. They cost $299.99, and are expected to be available on July 16.

TaylorMade calls the Ghost Spider Blade, which became available at retail last month, the most stable blade-style putter it's ever made. That's partly due to its construction, in which the vast majority of the head weight is positioned in the heel and toe.

In addition, the Spider Blade's head is counterbalanced with a 130-gram grip that's twice as heavy as a typical putter grip. Counterbalancing increases the stability of the club, making it easier to keep the head moving on your intended swing path.

The Spider Blade is available in two lengths, 35 inches and 38 inches. To properly use the Spider Blade, TaylorMade says, you should grip the club with two or three inches of the butt-end of the grip extended above your hands to provide the maximum benefit of counterbalancing. Therefore, the company explains, if you normally use a 35-inch putter, you should use a 38-inch Spider Blade; if you normally go with a 33-inch putter, you should use a 35-inch Spider Blade.

The Spider Blade also features a PureRoll Surlyn insert for a soft feel and smooth roll, and has a white leading edge and linear alignment aid in the cavity to make aiming easy. It carries a suggested retail price of $199.99.

 

July 6, 2013 - 8:34pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Dwight Howard and his golf bag
Charlie Kautz via Twitter (l), adidas Golf (r)
Dwight Howard hits the course with a set of TaylorMade clubs that are two inches longer than most everyone else's.

I'm not the biggest NBA fan, but I am a proud Texan, so I was glad to see the Houston Rockets make a splash by landing Dwight Howard. People seem to either love this guy or hate him, but I kinda like him because he's a golfer.

In fact, Howard owns one of the more unusual sets of clubs around – they're big!

''Say what you want about @DwightHoward. Anybody who uses midsize grips +5 wraps of tape is a legend in my book,'' Charlie Kautz of TaylorMade commented earlier today as he tweeted out the photo on the left, showing Howard getting ready to take a big cut. 

On the right is a closer look at his golf bag that adidas Golf posted on its Facebook page last November. Along with the photo is a list of Howard's clubs:

TaylorMade R11S 9-degree driver (Aldila RIP Phenom 65 Stiff flex)
TaylorMade RBZ 3-wood (Matrix X-Con 5 Stiff)
TaylorMade RBZ 5-wood (Matrix X-Con 5 Stiff)
TaylorMade RBZ 4 Rescue (RBZ 65 Stiff)
TaylorMade RBZ irons 4-PW (RBZ Steel Stiff)
TaylorMade ATV wedges 56* and 60* (KBS Wedge Flex)
TaylorMade Ghost Manta putter (38")
Ball: Penta TP5 #12
Grips: Lamkin Crossline +5 wraps

And, it noted, all of Howard's clubs are two inches longer than normal.

I'm not sure if golf played any role in Howard's decision to go to Houston, but there are plenty of great courses there, from Redstone and the Woodlands to River Oaks and Champions. So welcome to Texas, Dwight. Hopefully you’ll have time to squeeze in a few rounds while you lead the Rockets back to the promised land.