Golf Buzz

April 6, 2015 - 9:25am
Michael.Benzie's picture
Golf for juniors
Chance Rinkol from Leawood, KS, reacts after chip his ball into the hole during the 7-9 Boys Division at the Drive, Chip & Putt National Finals at Augusta National Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

Golf is unique treat that can be enjoyed at any age. Teach a child to play and they’ll have a foundation in place for decades of enjoyment on the course alongside friends and family. This is something we saw last weekend with the second Drive, Chip and Putt Championship held at Augusta National. It was a great reminder of the enjoyment both adults and the youth themselves receive from the game.

PGA Professional Justin Blazer, the director of instruction at Duran Golf Club in Viera, Fla., wants his students to have fun learning and cultivates their interest by drawing inspiration from other athletic pursuits.

MORE: Winners of the 2015 Drive, Chip and Putt Championship | Photos | Register for 2016

“Golf has the perception that it’s hard,” Blazer said. “But it’s no different than any other sport. Sometimes we put golf on a pedestal. Hard work, proper practice and good coaching, all elements necessary to being a good athlete in any sport, are the same elements necessary in golf.”

Here are nine tips to keep golf fun and exciting for junior golfers.

1. Find a PGA Professional, give your child room to grow. Research your area and locate an instructor who specializes in junior golf programs, is certified, or at the least has significant experience teaching kids. Then, offer support and encouragement but allow the pro to give the golf advice. Too much information from too many sources can strip the joy from the process of learning how to play golf.

2. Group instruction works best. Blazer played college basketball, so he comes from a team sport background. He reflects on growing up playing little league baseball, when he looked forward to practicing for a couple of hours because it meant a chance to hang out with his buddies. With the time available between shots, golf is the most social game. Instruction should follow this lead. Kids who learn, laugh, improve and struggle together are more likely to return for more.

3. Younger kids need variety. You’re never too young to learn, but the smallest swingers need a mixture of activities to keep clinics and lessons fresh and exciting. For Paul Johnson, head pro at the Links at Lost Plantation in Rincon, Ga., this might include an impromptu game of freeze tag in the midst of a driving range session, an obstacle course session or whacking tennis balls instead of golf balls to build confidence and break monotony. Any activity that emphasizes hand-eye coordination, balance or athletic movement benefits a golfer’s early development. Even if it doesn’t include touching a golf club or ball.

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4. Don’t sweat the details. Solid fundamentals are important, but it’s fine for a beginner to have flaws in their grip or stance as long as they are hitting the ball, having fun and wanting to return to the course. Blazer believes his students’ pleasure is more important than applying undue stress in pursuit of perfection. If the time comes, he likes to turn his pupil into the teacher, have them ask questions about why such a change might be necessary. That keeps the students invested in the decision.

5. Get on course - as soon as possible. Juniors who spend too much time banging balls on the driving range can easily lose interest. Besides, the golf course is where the game really comes alive, remains fun and fresh, poses a unique set of circumstances each day. A golfer understands the reason to spend quality time practicing chipping or bunker play once they’re faced with those challenges on the golf course.

6. Let your child decide, it’s their journey. Not all junior golfers will want to play in tournaments. Some might like to compete, but only in a group setting. And others may enjoy the game just because they can be outside and spend hours sharing good shots and laughter with friends. Parents who push their child down the wrong path may drive their child away from the game. The decision to pursue a tournament title, college scholarship or professional career should always come from the golfer and no one else.

7. Slumps are part of sports. Every golfer reaches a point where scores aren’t improving because putts don’t drop or drives miss their target. Understand that all athletes have stretches where they simply don’t perform their best, sometimes for reasons that defy explanation - if they can be identified at all. Baseball hitters, field goal kickers, 3-point shooters all deal with low periods during a season, Blazer points out. Dwelling on what’s gone wrong can bring any golfer down. To maintain perspective, set reachable intermediate goals and keep the focus on the process of having fun.

8. Parents, don’t rush to spend. It’s tempting to rush out and buy expensive golf clubs and flashy clothes as soon as your son or daughter mentions they’d like to spend an afternoon on the golf course. Hold on to your debit card for a minute, however. Expose your child to the game first. Many instructors have clubs available for kids to use during lessons or clinics. If your child decides they like the game and want to continue playing, then find equipment that fits them. Proper club length and weight are imperative for young beginners. Clubs that are too long or heavy can introduce bad swing habits.

9. Enjoy this game together. Father and son, mother and daughter. Walk nine holes on a warm summer evening. Start a holiday tradition of sharing a round, and observe it whether there’s rain, sleet or wind. Watch the major championships, learn the rich history of the game and discuss your favorite players. Attend a PGA or LPGA Tour event and observe those who play the game best. Find time to play a round on a family vacation. Celebrate the good shots, forget the bad ones, laugh a lot and let each memory soak in.

 

 

 

April 5, 2015 - 2:16pm
mark.aumann's picture
Golf ball fire
CBC/YouTube
A manufacturing plant containing some 4 million golf balls went up in flames Saturday.

Some four million golf balls went up in flames when the manufacturing plant of a Canadian company burned to the ground Saturday morning northeast of Montreal.

According to a report from the CBC, the fire started around 7:30 a.m. Saturday in the golf ball recycling facility. All 20 or so employees inside the plant at the time were able to escape without serious injuries, but the thick, black smoke created by the burning plastic forced authorities to close a major highway in and out of the city for much of the day. 

Here's a video recap:

 

 

According to the CBC report, Mulligan International in Beloeil, Quebec, recycles 27 million balls a year. Damage to the plant was estimated at $2 million.

April 4, 2015 - 1:48pm
mark.aumann's picture
Patrick Reed
Patrick Reed addresses the ball moments before making a hole-in-one Saturday at No. 16.

Patrick Reed seemed to be favoring his knee Friday en route to a second-round 71 at the Shell Houston Open. 

But if his knee was bothering him any Saturday afternoon, it wasn't apparent -- particularly after he made a hole-in-one at the par-3 16th. Watch this:

 

 

Knee problem? What knee problem? Not after Reed, with a huge smile on his face, races full-speed after his caddie toward the green after celebrating with the rest of his threesome. 

And Reed didn't hush the gallery on this occasion.

April 3, 2015 - 3:13pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Lee Westwood
YouTube
The route that this ball took to find the bottom of the cup for a Lee Westwood eagle was pretty cool.

Hole-outs are just so much fun to watch.

But, let's face it -- some are a lot cooler than others.

RELATED: Garcia, Reed drain identical chip shots at Shell Houston Open

My favorite? The slam-dunk. But, this dancer of an eagle by Lee Westwood from a fairway bunker on Friday in the second round of the Shell Houston Open is of the "a close second" variety for me:

 

That was from 104 yards out on the par-4 10th hole at the Golf Club of Houston, the same hole where Phil Mickelson chipped in for birdie to start his round on Thursday.

Westwood shot a 1-under 71 in the second round and at 2 under, was hovering below the projected cut line at the time of this post. 

April 3, 2015 - 1:50pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Fred Couples
USA Today Sports Images
We reached out to PGA.com Facebook Nation and asked: Who are your favorites to win the Masters? At least one answer had us feeling nostalgic.

The people have spoken.

After posing the question "Who's your favorite to win the Masters?" we received hundreds of answers from our 320,000+ friends in PGA.com Facebook Nation.

Here's a look at the five players that jumped off the page as your favorites:

5. Fred Couples. OK. It's not likely that the 55-year-old, 1992 Masters champ is going to wear the green jacket for a second time, but it's OK to dream, isn't it? Augusta National and Couples go together like carrots and peas. His name always seems to appear on the first page of the leaderboard at some point during the week. It's the stamina for his back that seems to be the issue. But if he could somehow pull it off and win at Augusta National nine years older than Jack Nicklaus when he became the most senior champion in the tournament's history back in 1986? Man, now that would be something.

"Freddie Couples for old times' sake," wrote Facebook fan Vicki Eckardt Browne. "He is such a gentleman."

RELATED: Masters field | 20-somethings who could win | Masters rookies to watch

4. Rickie Fowler. It hasn't been a great season thus far for Fowler, but he was the only player to finish among the top 5 in all four majors a year ago. That all started with his T5 at the Masters. He's always a popular choice. Will he snag that first major next week?

3. Jordan Spieth. In terms of improvement for this 21-year-old at the Masters, just one spot better than his tournament debut from a year ago and he'll be slipping into a green jacket come next Sunday. We all knew Spieth was a serious player long before last year's Masters, but what he did in his first start at Augusta National was still sensational. Spieth had a share of the 54-hole lead with Bubba Watson and eventually finished in a tie for second with Jonas Blixt, three behind Watson.

"Jordan Spieth," wrote Tom Goodwin. "Take a look at him in the background last year when Bubba won. He has been waiting a whole year for this and is peaking at the right time."

2. Bubba Watson. Not surprising. After all, he is the defending champion and has won the tournament in two out of the last three years. He's also been hot this season, evidenced by his four top-10 finishes in five starts, highlighted by a win at the WGC-HSBC Champions. Watson's lone non-top-10 finish this season was a respectable T14 at the Northern Trust Open. He finished third in his final start before the Masters at the WGC-Cadillac Championship.

"Bubba has got to be the favorite, but I'll be rooting for Spieth," Brad Keith Sappington wrote.

1. Rory McIlroy. A win by McIlroy at Augusta National would make for one of the great stories in golf this season. For starters, it would complete the career grand slam for the 25-year-old. Secondly, it would be his third consecutive major win, giving him a chance to complete a "Rory Slam" if he could also win the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay in June. McIlroy's best finish in the Masters is his T8 a year ago. Of course, he did take a commanding four-shot lead into the final round of the 2011 Masters, but it slipped away as he shot a final-round 80 to tie for 15th. That McIlroy, however, didn't have a major win just yet. This McIlroy has five.

"Is this a serious question?" asked Danny Burrington. "Rory."

It was a serious question, but many shared Danny's sentiment.

April 3, 2015 - 3:21am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Tiger Woods
USA Today Sports Images
After a nearly two-month absence from the game for play that he termed, "not acceptable," Tiger Woods has announced he will play in the 2015 Masters.

The Tiger Woods leave of absence from the PGA Tour will end just in time for the season's first major.

The 14-time major champion -- a four-time Masters winner -- has announced that he will return from his self-imposed break from golf and avoid missing the Masters for the second straight year.

I'm playing in the Masters. Thanks for all the support. http://t.co/SYih4eSxUa

— Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) April 3, 2015

 

Here is the brief statement Woods had on www.tigerwoods.com:

"I'm playing in the Masters," Tiger said Friday afternoon. "It's obviously very important to me, and I want to be there.

"I've worked a lot on my game and I'm looking forward to competing. I'm excited to get to Augusta and I appreciate everyone's support."

Speculation that Woods would return to golf for the Masters grew on March 31 when his agent, Mark Steinberg, confirmed that Woods played 18 holes at Augusta National that day.

RELATED: Woods to take leave of absence | Current Masters field list | Masters coverage

Woods released a statement on Feb. 11 to say he was stepping away from the game, stating his play was "not acceptable" to compete in tournaments just days after withdrawing from the Farmer Insurance Open at Torrey Pines.

At the time, Woods said he would only return when he felt ready to compete.

Woods has not finished in the top 10 of a PGA Tour event since a tie for second at the Barclays in August of 2013.

He missed most of the 2013-14 season -- just seven starts total -- while recovering from back surgery.

In two starts this season, Woods missed the cut by 12 shots in the Waste Management Phoenix Open before the withdrawal at Torrey Pines.

That said, Augusta National has always seemed to be a comfortable place for Woods. In 17 starts there as a professional, Woods has finished in the top 10 an astounding 13 times, including the four victories. He has never missed the cut at the Masters as a professional.

Woods -- chasing the Jack Nicklaus record of 18 major championship wins -- has been stuck on 14 victories since his win at the 2008 U.S. Open. Woods last won the Masters in 2005.