Golf Buzz

Montana Pritchard/The PGA of America
Matt Adams moderates The History of the PGA Golf Professional with Dennis Satyshur, Hal Sutton, John Steinbreder and Billy Dettlaff during the PGA Merchandise Show.

Today's PGA Professionals share a common foundation that stretches all the way back to Scotland and Allan Robertson, the first golf professional. And the growth of the game directly relates to the love of the sport, particularly as the PGA of America celebrates its centennial in 2016.

PGA Professional Billy Dettlaff and longtime writer and editor John Steinbreder shared their talents in the production of recently-published "The Official PGA of America Centennial Book," and shared some of their experiences in putting it together Wednesday during a panel discussion at the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando.

Dettlaff's family has been involved in professional golf for more than a century. His father won a match in 1921 to earn his first job at a public course in Oshkosh, Wis., then became a PGA Professional two years later.

It's those experiences handed down through the family that intrigued Dettlaff enough to research more about the PGA of America and how the profession has evolved since the formation of the organization in the spring of 1916.

"Part of this exercise was to search out the foundations of the game and understand what it was like when my dad was a professional," Dettlaff said. "I don't believe the game could exist without the PGA Professional at the heart of the game.

"It goes back to Allan Robertson, the first recognized golf professional in St. Andrews, Scotland -- a fifth-generation feathery ballmaker who was a great player in his own right, considered the king of the game. He was the genesis of where we are today."

If there's an overriding theme to the book, it's how PGA Professionals have spread the sport through mentoring. For 1983 PGA Champion Hal Sutton, that meant more than just the game itself.

"I played at a little nine-hole golf course in Shreveport and a guy named Ed Peck was the professional there," Sutton said. "He actually finished second in the Armed Services to Orville Moody. So he was a good player. He mentored me as much about life as he did about my golf swing.

"I'd get there from school at 3 o'clock, and he knew I loved to drink Dr Pepper. So he'd have one sitting there on the table and ask, 'Tell me how your day went, pal.' And we'd talk about that for a few minutes and then we'd talk about what was going on in my golf game. He had an interest in my life, not just my golf game. And I think that's what a lot of PGA Professionals do."

What Dettlaff and Steinbreder learned during the compilation of biographies from more than 100 prominent PGA Professionals is how much institutional knowledge is being lost in the passage of time. Dettlaff used an African proverb.

"Any time an old man dies, it's like a library burning down," he said. "And what I hope the book will do is inspire people to study our history and to reach out to some of the older professionals and listen to their stories."

 

Callaway golf balls
Courtesy of Callaway Golf
The new Callaway Chrome Soft ball (l) features a proprietary Dual SoftFast Core, while the color pattern on the TruVis version provides unprecedented visual feedback.
 
 
In the world of golf balls, everything revolves around the launch of new models of the Titleist ProV1 and ProV1x. They come out as regular as clockwork every two years, and dominate the high-end ball market. 
 
This year, however, is not one of those years, and that gives us a great chance to explore some of more intriguing models that are fresh to market. Several of these, in fact, are Titleist products – the company has brand-new editions of its Pinnacle balls as well as its Velocity, DuoSoft and NXT models.
 
As its name implies, the Velocity ball delivers fast initial ball speed on full-swing shots for explosive distance. Its larger LSX core provides much of this power, while its spherically tiled 328 tetrahedral dimple design delivers a more penetrating trajectory with a shallower angle of descent for even more roll. It retails for $35 per dozen.
 
The Titleist NXT Tour remains a high-performance ball that delivers low spin on long shots with solid ball-stopping control on shorter shots. This multi-component sphere features a large dual core with a soft center, a soft Fusablend cover and a spherically tiled 302 octahedral dimple design.
 
The "S" in the NXT Tour S ball's name stands for soft. This model delivers the same performance characteristics as the standard NXT Tour, but with a significantly softer feel thanks in large part to its reformulated soft-compression core. It also features a Fusablend cover and a spherically tiled, 302 octahedral dimple design, and comes in white and high optic yellow.
 
While the NXT Tour S is soft, the new iteration of the DT TruSoft offers Titleist's softest compression feel while also delivering impressive distance and good short-game playability. The ball boasts a new soft core and ionomic cover formulation that delivers very low spin, and results in what the company says is its best combination of very soft compression feel and consistent performance.
 
Finally, Titleist's Pinnacle brand is out with two new models, the Rush and the Soft. As you might guess, the Rush advances the brand's well-known pursuit of distance. It's got a proprietary high-energy core that produces fast ball speed, along with an advanced 332 icosahedral dimple design for a consistent ball flight and a soft ionomer cover for improved feel. It comes in both white and optic yellow.
 
The Pinnacle Soft is also a distance demon, but offers a softer feel thanks to its high-energy, extremely low-compression core – it's Pinnacle's lowest compression core ever. The core combines with an incredibly soft ionomer cover to produce the softest-feeling Pinnacle ever made, and it too has a 332 icosahedral dimple design. It comes in white, white with a pink play number and side stamp, and optic pink. 
 
Here is a round-up of some of the other more prominent golf balls for 2016, listed alphabetically:
 
BRIDGESTONE: Bridgestone is out with updated versions of its top-of-the-line Tour B330 andTour B330S (the "S" is the higher-spin model) balls, both of which are created for players with tour pro-level swing speeds – 105 mph and above – as well as its B330RX and RXS, which are for the rest of us.
 
The B330 and B330S balls feature a new Tour Core that is 6 percent larger than its predecessors. The core is softest closer to the center and gradually firmer as it gets closer to the cover, resulting in faster ball speeds and reduced spin off the driver. This type of core, as opposed to a two- or three-layer core, improves the balls' energy transfer for more power, the company says.
 
The new models both have a SlipRes cover that creates higher friction for more spin out of the rough and less spin off the driver for increased distance. Amazingly, Bridgestone says the cover is self-repairing for longer playability. And its dual dimple cover pattern features smaller inner dimples that reduce drag at launch for faster elevation and larger outer dimples that promote a shallow angle of descent for increased rollout on landing. 
 
The B330RX and RXS – the "S" here is for Spin as well – meanwhile, have a softer Amatour Core designed to maximize compression for longer distance. It is, the company says, 28 percent softer than the average tour ball core which, like the B330 and B330S, is softer toward the center and firmer toward the outside to help generate faster ball speed and reduced spin off the driver. These balls also have the SlipRes Cover and Seamless Cover Technology for improved performance.
 
CALLAWAY: Callway continues its aggressive push in the ball market with its new Chrome Soft and Superhot 55 balls. Phil Mickelson is among the pro players who have been using prototypes of Chrome Soft model on tour.
 
The four-piece Chrome Soft ball introduces a proprietary Dual SoftFast Core, which leads to fast ball speeds off the driver for exceptional distance. The core also lets golfers compress the ball on irons shots for long, straight flight, the company says. The ball also includes a mantle layer and a Tour Urethane Cover for even more control throughout the bag, especially with the scoring clubs.
 
Perhaps the most intriguing ball out new this year is the TruVis version of the Chrome Soft. It's the same ball as the Chrome Soft, but with a TrueVis cover – a distinctive red and white pattern that makes it look like a tiny soccer ball. It's not a gimmick, though – the pattern helps you identify the ball's spin and roll far better than you can with a one-color cover. This kind of visual feedback is invaluable, and this ball has the potential to become a true breakout hit.
 
The Superhot 55, meanwhile, has a low 55 compression and is designed for long and straight shots. Its HEX Aerodynamics promote low drag and optimal lift for a strong ball flight, while its soft mantle layer and cover system work to lower spin for reduced hooks and slices.
 
NIKE GOLF. The big golf ball news out of Nike Golf comes from its RZN Tour ball, which Nike staff player Rory McIlroy says provides him the best combination of distance and feel that he's ever played. 
 
Made with RZN 4.0, the newest iteration of Nike's RZN material, the blue center core is not only softer but also 10 percent bigger than the previous generation. That, Nike says, gives the ball what amounts to a bigger engine, unlocking faster ball speeds. The core uses Speedlock X technology, with deeper grooves and a X-shaped surface pattern, to allow better energy transfer through the ball and provide more distance and faster ball speeds. 
 
The ball's Flight Suit cover features 344 dimples and 13,558 micro dimples strategically placed to improve lift and drag properties, especially at the end of the ball's flight. It will be available in two versions: Black for lower-spin distance and Platinum for mid-spin control.
 
The company is also rolling out two new RZN Speed golf balls, the Red (for longer carry) and the White (for softer feel). Both three-piece models boast the same Speedlock X Core technology as the RZN Tour ball to help maximize energy transfer, while a softer RZN formulation provides a softer feel without sacrificing distance.
 
ONCORE. Oncore is a small company that came out with a big idea few years ago – a ball with a hollow metal core. This week it's showing off a new two-piece model called the Avant, which features a soft core and promises long distance.
 
The Avant – a product of the Oncore R&D team led by former TaylorMade Vice President of Research and Development John Calabria – uses a unique polymer blend for its core composition. That results in, the company says, a high coefficient of restitution that delivers exceptional velocity and distance. If you're counting, its compression value is 65. 
 
VOLVIK. Volvik is well known in Asia and in recent years has been making a push on various tours with its brightly colored golf balls. In fact, the company bills itself as "the #1 Color Golf Ball on Tour," with more than 75 professionals using its balls worldwide.
 
New this year is the latest iteration of Volvik's Crystal model, a premium three-piece ball that is the company's most famous product. This new model features a 322-dimple pattern, which the company says helps it fly higher and farther, along with a Power Core for distance and a softer Surlyn Crystalline cover that helps generate optimal spin rates. Notably, the company says the 80-compression Crystal is best for players with swing speeds under 95 mph. It comes in orange, green, yellow, pink and ruby colors.
 
Also new this year is the Vivid, which the company calls the world's first matte-finish golf ball. It is essentially the same construction as the Crystal, but eschews that model's Crystalline translucent cover for a unique matte finish – in several neon colors – that helps it stand out on the ground and in the air. 
 
The Vivid is a three-piece, 80-compression ball is softer than the original Crystal ball but still capable of generating Crystal-level distance. And like the Crystal, it is designed for people with 95 mph or slower swing speeds. It comes in green, orange, red and pink.
 
WILSON STAFF. One of the great names in American sports equipment, Wilson Golf has been marching back toward prominence in recent years. This year, it adds to its Duo line of balls with the Duo Urethane, a 55-compression model that joins the 29-compression Duo and the 35-compression Duo Spin.
 
Wilson bills the new three-piece model as the world's softest urethane ball, and says it is designed for feel players who still want to maximize their distance. It features a soft, thin-cast urethane cover that the company says is the most premium matetrial available, and provides exceptional spin and control in approach shots. It also features a new 362 seamless dimple pattern for optimized distance, along with a DuPont HPF inner mantle layer to encourage more velocity when struck.
 
Montana Pritchard/The PGA of America
Lee Trevino and PGA Professional Bill Eschenbrenner reminisced about their early days in El Paso.

Lee Trevino was inducted into the PGA of America Hall of Fame for his on-course achivements, but he realizes that if not for a few big breaks, he might be attending this year's PGA Merchandise Show in a different capacity.

Speaking on Wednesday as part of the #ThxPGAPro initative, Trevino admitted he owes the PGA of America a huge debt of gratitude for allowing him to pursue a professional golf career.

"The PGA of America has always had a big place right here in my heart for me," Trevino said. "They're the ones who gave me the shot. With the PGA card that I got in 1967, I finished fifth at Baltusrol in the U.S. Open and won it the next year. And at that time, they had a rule that if you won the PGA Championship or U.S. Open before 1970, you got a lifetime exemption. That is a huge, huge deal."

It allowed Trevino to continue playing long enough to win six majors -- including two PGA Championships -- one coming after he was struck by lightning at the Western Open in 1975 and suffered a back injury serious enough to require surgery to remove a disk. 

Trevino's dedication to his craft is legendary, but he said that pales in comparison to the sacrifices PGA Professionals make every day.

"Over the years, I've come to realize how hard these people work: lady PGA members, men PGA members or anybody associated with a club," Trevino said. "I always put it this way -- here's a person who works holidays, weekends, puts on tournaments, rules, separates fist fights, they're psychiatrists, they're doctors. They do everything. And they don't have a punch clock. And hopefully the members appreciate that."

Trevino grew up in a house with dirt floors and no plumbing or electricity, went to work helping pick cotton when he was 5, worked as a caddy as a teenager and eventually joined the Marines at 17. He won his first tournament in Asia, then returned to El Paso following his discharge from the military.

At that point, he assumed he'd always work at a club, picking the range or working behind the desk. But fate intervened. After qualifying for the 1966 U.S. Open and making the cut, Trevino broke into the spotlight at Baltusrol the following year. And the rest, they say, is history.

His son, Daniel, is pursuing a professional golf career as well. But he recently graduated from Southern Cal, a decision Trevino said should be a no-brainer for anyone not named Jordan Spieth.

"I was wrong about Jordan Spieth," Trevino said. "But I didn't think he was going to make $300 million by leaving college after one year. I told my son, 'Don't worry about him. He's doing fine. If he gets to the point where he can't play, he can buy a college and attend it.' "

One surprising fact you might not have known about Trevino? He carried a pistol in his golf bag for many years. It came about after several golfers were robbed while playing rounds for money at public courses in the area.

"Being Hispanic, I used to carry a knife," Trevino said. "But I wanted something that would bark here and bite over there. Then when they started checking luggage, I couldn't carry the .38 any more."

Now 76, Trevino said his daily schedule rarely varies.

"I get up every morning at 5, take my little puppies outside at 6," he said. "I'm in the gym by 7:30, I go to the golf course by 10, then I bob like a cork about 4 on the couch and then go to bed about 8:30 and start it all over again the next day."

It's hard to imagine golf history without the Merry Mex. His trademark smile. His open stance and power fade. His battles with -- and a rubber snake for -- Jack Nicklaus.

For all the respect Trevino has earned from playing golf, he reserved his respect for the more than 28,000 PGA Professionals who serve the PGA of America.

"I don't know who would want this job," Trevino said. "They are a special, special group of people -- these PGA Professionals. I have a lot of admiration for them.

"This is where I would have ended up. I would have been doing the same thing but I practiced hard enough to where I was a player instead of a PGA Professional."

Mark Aumann/PGA.com
The new PGA of America centennial tartan includes the organization's colors of blue and gold, as well as American red, white and blue.

A new tartan plaid designed specifically for the PGA of America's centennial celebration was unveiled Wednesday morning at the Visit Scotland booth, and PGA Honorary President Allen Wronowski was one of the first to receive a swatch.

Wronowski said the colors and weave have special significance for an organization closely tied to Scotland, the home of golf.

"The blue and gold is for the PGA of America," Wronowski said. "The red, white and blue stands for the United States of America. 

"It's one of the most beautiful pieces I've ever seen. It's amazing the culture over there in creating these products. The craftsmanship and the thought that goes behind it makes this a very special gift to be used by the PGA of America."

Wronowski was sincerely appreciative of the honor, which included a tie in the new PGA tartan.

"It's so special," Wronowski said. "In all my trips to Scotland, everybody is so warm, so gracious and so kind. This is just a special treat.

"I see the world celebrating this wonderful accomplishment for the PGA of America, and certainly we wouldn't be around without some incredible Scotsmen, including our first PGA President and many others on that first board that got us moving."

Justin Thomas
USA Today Sports Images
PGA Tour player Justin Thomas, whose father and grandfather are both longtime PGA Professionals, has also grown up in the game.
 
 
ORLANDO – With the PGA of America kicking off the celebration of its Centennial year at the PGA Merchandise Show, a lot of the talk this week is of the men, women and families that have lived the game down through the years.
 
Among the more prominent golf clans at the Show is the Thomas family of Kentucky. Longtime PGA Professional Paul Thomas, now 84, is back home this week, but his son Mike, the head professional at Harmony Landing Golf Club in Goshen, Kentucky, and Mike's 22-year-old son Justin were on hand Wednesday morning to take part in Titleist's kickoff program.
 
Justin's love of golf has taken him to the PGA Tour, where he won the CIMB Classic last fall and is currently ranked No. 35 in the world. That affection for the game began when he was barely a toddler out with his dad on the course.
 
"I was playing a lot when he was young, and he was always riding around with me," Mike said. "He took his first swings at less than two years old. He always wanted to hit the ball – we never pushed him; he was always a self-starter when it came to golf."
 
In those early years, the father-son experience out on the course was all about having fun. "It wasn't about getting better," Mike explained. "I was just making sure it was a fun time every time we went out."
 
Justin picked up the game naturally and figured a lot of things out on his own, with Mike throwing in a tip here and there. Mike remains Justin's teacher, and his guidance certainly paid off – Justin went on to be the college player of the year in 2012 while leading Alabama to the NCAA title, play in the Walker Cup and become known as a member of the vaunted high school "Class of 2011" that also includes his good buddy Jordan Spieth.  
 
"I would just hit it and chase it, hit it and chase it," Justin said. "I loved being around my dad and granddad – he played with Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. Anytime he wanted to tell stories, I was happy to sit back and listen."
 
 
There is, however, one thing about his early years in golf that Justin would rather forget. In a video shown during the presentation, Mike refers to his young son as "Big J." Asked whether the "Big J" moniker stuck, Justin was adamant. "DO NOT," he insisted – with a smile – call me "Big J."  
 
JT, as he is now often called, will make his Masters debut this spring. In fact, he arrived in Orlando fresh off a scouting trip to Augusta National.
 
He had played the hallowed course once in college, but admitted he was so starstuck by the place that he didn't even remember part of his day there. This time around, he paid a lot more attention to detail. The course, he said, is in great shape, and he was pleased to see that it fit his game.
 
"It was great to be on the course and see the shots that you see on TV," he said. "It was cool to picture where everything [like the grandstands] will be."
 
One crucial part of his preparation – skipping balls over the pond on No. 16. "I thought I better practice that so I don't get booed," he laughed. 
 
Speaking of Masters Week and the Thomas family history in golf, it only makes sense that Dad will serve as his caddie during the Par-3 Contest. Right?
 
Well, no. With dear old Dad sitting right there at his side, Thomas announced that his mother, Jani, will do the honors this spring.
 
Dad didn't seem too upset at the news. Given the upward trajectory of Thomas' career, there's no doubt that he'll have plenty of chances to don the white coveralls for that hallowed Masters tradition.
 
January 27, 2016 - 11:03am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Jason Day
USA Today Sports Images
Jason Day's win at the Farmers Insurance Open a year ago was the start of the most magical season of his career.

Ah. One of our favorite stops on the PGA Tour this week -- the Farmers Insurance Open at breathtaking Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.

Players in the field will get in a round each at the North and South Courses before the 36-hole cut when weekend play moves over exclusively to the South.

Reigning PGA Champion Jason Day returns as the defending champ at Torrey, where his incredible 2014-15 season got its jumpstart. This venue was the first of Day's five victories a season ago.

RELATED: Farmers Insurance Open tee times | Dunne making start at Torrey Pines

If Day is to successfully defend, it won't be easy. As is always the case, there's a stellar field assembled at Torrey.

Here are the five players to keep an eye on.

5. Scott Stallings
Best finish in 2015-16 season:
T9 at The RSM Classic
Reason to watch: It hasn't been a particularly great start to the new year for Stallings. After missing the cut at the Sony Open in Hawaii, he withdrew from last week's CareerBuilder Challenge five holes into the second round citing illness. Provided he's feeling better now, I like his chances this week. Stallings won the tournament two years ago and came up just short in a four-man playoff a year ago. He's a horse for this/these courses.

4. J.B. Holmes
Best finish in 2015-16 season:
T24 at Hyundai Tournament of Champions
Reason to watch: Just last year, Holmes was part of the four-way playoff at Torrey and wound up tied for second. He's coming off a strong season that included seven top-10 finishes, highlighted by a win at the Shell Houston Open. A T24 at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions -- a short field -- left something to be desired, but I expect Holmes to bounce back this week.

3. Rickie Fowler
Best finish in 2015-16 season:
Fifth at Hyundai Tournament of Champions
Reason to watch: Man on fire. But is he too tired to factor in this week? We'll see. After finishing fifth at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, Fowler had a week off before traveling to Abu Dhabi where he won a week ago against a strong field that included Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy. He traveled 18 hours to get to California on Monday and he'll be ready to tee it up Thursday morning. You've got to think that's going to take a toll on the body, but with the way Fowler has played the last two years, it wouldn't be wise to think he can't overcome a little jet lag.

2. Phil Mickelson
Best finish in 2015-16 season:
Third at CareerBuilder Challenge
Reason to watch: A week ago, I couldn't have imagined including Mickelson on this list. Silly? Perhaps, considering he's won this tournament three times in the past. But, let's face it, Lefty hasn't been at his best the last couple of years. However, we saw a spark last week in La Quinta. Could Mickelson be on the verge of a monster year in his mid-40s? Last week's third-place finish was a remarkable start. And this week, there's probably no one in the field who has played the courses more than Mickelson. He hasn't won at Torrey since 2001. Might he remedy that this week? Don't count him out.

1. Jason Day
Best finish in 2015-16 season:
T10 at Hyundai Tournament of Champions
Reason to watch: He hasn't played a ton since the end of last season, but given the way he finished, I'm not ready to omit Day from any "favorites" list in the foreseeable future. He's earned that. It also doesn't hurt that Day is the defending champ at Torrey -- the win that really got things started a year ago. He'll be in the mix right until the end this week.

EDITOR'S NOTE: We learned after this post that Day's status was in question for the Farmers Insurance Open. Due to illness, Day was forced to withdraw from Wednesday's pro-am, but there was no news as to whether he'd be pulling out of the tournament.

SLEEPER PICK: Paul Dunne
Reason to watch: Dunne, an Irishman, is playing this week on a sponsor's exemption. Does the name ring a bell? Before turning pro last year, Dunne qualified for the Open Championship as an amateur and made a lot of noise at St. Andrews. When he shot 66 in the third round, he was tied for the lead at 12 under, becoming the first amateur since 1927 to lead the Open after 54 holes. He faded to a tie for 30th in the final round after a 78 playing in the final group, but certainly made a mark. I'm interested to see how he plays this week.