Golf Buzz

Nancy Lopez
Montana Pritchard/PGA of America
Nancy Lopez laughs as she answers questions Sunday from host Gary Wiren at the PGA Teaching and Coaching Summit.

"Play happy."

Those are the two words LPGA legend Nancy Lopez said her dad told her when she first picked up a golf club as a young girl, and it's a mantra she maintains to this day.

Lopez shared stories of her golf career Sunday as a guest of the PGA Teaching and Coaching Summit. The winner of 48 LPGA tournaments, including three majors, wasn't always the cool, calm player who dominated the sport when she burst on the scene in the mid-1970s. In fact, Lopez admitted her competitive drive got the best of her early on.

Related: Jason Dufner's swing changes, as explained by his coach

"When I was growing up, I wanted to be good right away, and that just doesn't happen," Lopez said. "You have to work at it. Anger wasn't a good thing. The first time I slammed my club in the ground, my dad tapped me with his golf glove and said, 'If you ever do that again, I'm going to hit you with this glove.' He scared me. He made me realize that getting mad was not going to make me play better.

"So when I'd get angry, he would look at me and say, 'Do you want to shoot 39 or do you want to shoot 40?' And even though it was only one shot, I didn't want to shoot 40. And anger made me shoot 40, while keeping calm, I would shoot 39."

Lopez learned quickly. She qualified for the New Mexico women's amateur at 11 and won the tournament one year later. She played on the boys golf team in high school -- because there was no girls team. And she turned down Arizona to play collegiate golf at Tulsa, because they offered her a scholarship. She made Arizona pay for that snub by winning a national championship before turning pro in 1977.

And that all comes back to Lopez's father, who taught his daughter more than just the physical aspect of the game.

"He taught me a lot about the positive attitude of playing golf," Lopez said. "Never be negative because when you think negative thoughts, negative things happen for some reason. There were times when I'd hit a shot and I thought I was in trouble, he could tell right away because my body language changed.

"So he'd say, 'Nancy, don't worry about it until you get there.' So then when I started relaxing and I wouldn't worry about it, so when I'd get to the ball, I'd always have a shot, for some reason."

Related: Best photos from the 2015 PGA Summit

Lopez not only became one of the top players on the LPGA Tour, she almost single-handedly revolutionized the sport. She won nine tournaments in her first full season -- including five in a row -- earning her rookie of the year, player of the year, lowest scoring average and a Sports Illustrated cover story at a time when few women's tournaments were televised. The Associated Press named her the female athlete of the year in 1978.

She followed that up with nine more wins in 1979 and was the first player in women's golf to make $200,000 in a season. Even after taking time off to have three daughters, she continued to perform at the highest level. The only victory that eluded her was a U.S. Women's Open victory, although she had four runner-up finishes.

So what made her so good for so long? Lopez believes her attitude gave her an edge on the course.

"The positive thoughts, for some reason in golf, if you have positive thoughts, positive things happen," Lopez said. "I saw that happen on the LPGA Tour, when I was playing against players who weren't playing well. I knew was going to beat them because their attitudes changed. When they hit a bad shot, they just kept going instead of walking away, forgetting that bad shot and enjoying the rest of the day."

 

Chuck Cook and Jason Dufner
PGA coach of the year Chuck Cook and 2013 PGA Championship winner Jason Dufner.

It's always interesting to hear the motivations of successful people. For some, it's glory. For others, it's financial security. For Jason Dufner, getting PGA coach of the year Chuck Cook to retool his golf swing six years ago was mainly because of football.

Cook told the story with Dufner on stage Sunday during the PGA Teaching and Coaching Summit 

"When I first met Duf, first of all I asked, 'What are your goals?'" Cook said. "And he said, 'Man, I just want to make enough money so I don't have to play the fall series so I can watch football.' I've worked with guys who have said, 'I want to be the best player in the world' and he just wants to avoid playing in the fall."

Related: Best photos from the 2015 PGA Summit

At the time, Dufner was bouncing back and forth between the PGA Tour and Nationwide Tour, finishing outside of the top 125 in 2007 and falling short at qualifying school. The prospects of him becoming a Tour regular, let alone one of the top players in the world, seemed remote.

But Dufner understood his limitations, and Cook saw the potential.

"We talked about why he wasn't able to stay on the Tour, keep his card and play at a higher level," Cook said. "Duf told me, 'I'm just not real consistent, either with controlling my distance or my direction.'

"And so we looked at his swing, and it was more upright and very shut. And so in order to keep the ball toward the target, he'd have to come over the ball, go down the line and turn his hands under and lay the face back. In order to keep the face square, he had to keep opening it through impact to keep it straight. If it didn't open, he'd go left. Sometimes he open it too much and block it."

Cook said Dufner's clubface was pointing up after impact, a detriment to being able to control distance because the loft isn't consistent. One reason why? Dufner was starting out in the wrong position.

"At address, for whatever reason, I'd always play with a clubface that looked square to me -- all the way through high school, college and as a pro -- and Chuck informed at our first lesson that wasn't neutral," Dufner said. "That was probably 10 degrees or so, and when I laid it flat, it looked like I was trying to hit a flop shot out there. So that was a big change."

It wasn't something that was an instant fix. Dufner started working with Cook at the end of 2007 and played 16 events on the PGA Tour in 2008 with a conditional card. 

"I kind of looked at 2008 as a wash year, because I was trying to learn what I needed to do and how I needed to practice," Dufner said. "So it took me almost 12 months to understand what we were trying to do and physically make the changes, to know how to practice those changes, and about six months of competition to able to trust it and do it."

It worked. Even though Dufner only recorded two top-10 finishes in 2010 after a breakout 2009, he finished fifth at the 2010 PGA Championship, then lost a playoff to Keegan Bradley at the 2011 PGA Championship after holding a five-stroke lead with four holes remaining.

Dufner won twice in 2012 and completed the comeback by winning the 2013 PGA Championship. 

And Dufner said he's always aware of what he needs to do to keep his swing mechanics in working order.

"I feel like you always go back to your tendencies," Dufner said. "When I'm not playing well, when I'm struggling, that's the reason. I think I'm always going to have to work on that.

"I'm always conscious about what the clubface is doing. And I think it's a lot easier to play with an open clubface in your backswing than it is with a shut clubface."

January 17, 2015 - 4:53pm
andrew.prezioso's picture
Child on Christmas
Looks like this child will remember this Christmas for many years to come.

Sure, Christmas was about four weeks ago but this home video is just starting to make the rounds on the Internet. And plus, it's pretty darn cute. 

Take a look at it for yourself, and see how excited this child gets when he finds out his present is a new set of golf clubs. 

Related: Watch Rory make a young fan's day at the BMW Championship

 

Looks like he'll be remembering this Christmas for a long time. 

Thanks to Golf News Net Geoff Shackelford for bringing this to our attention.

January 17, 2015 - 9:52am
andrew.prezioso's picture
Rickie Fowler
Rickie Fowler | Instagram
Rickie Fowler got a ride from a camel that was off the 18th green.

Rickie Fowler went out in style after Saturday's third round of the Abu Dhabi Championship.

First, Fowler made his first eagle of the tournament on 18. Then, he decided to go for a quick ride on a camel that was off of the 18th green. 

 

 

When #InAbuDhabi you ride a camel #SaddleUpPartner #MikeMikeMikeMike

A photo posted by Rickie Fowler (@therealrickiefowler) on

 

Of course, while riding a camel is a pretty neat thing to do, we've seen stories where it doesn't end so well. Back in October, Thorbjorn Olesen made news when he revealed that he had suffered a groin injury after falling off a camel.

Fowler's camel-riding foray seems to have gone off without a hitch. 

Overall, it's been a tough tournament for Fowler, who shot a 73 on Saturday and is 19 strokes behind leader Martin Kaymer.  

January 17, 2015 - 9:30am
andrew.prezioso's picture
Mid Ocean Club
Ken Minschwaner | Instagram
Here's one option for a winter golf getaway: the Mid Ocean Club in Bermuda.

Not all of us are lucky enough to live in an area where it's possible to play golf 365 days a year. Some people need to go on vacation in order to get in a round. 

That's why we want to hear from you. We want to know where you would go, what courses you would play, who would go with you, etc. And of course, in this hypothetical, time and money are no obstacles. 

Related: Your favorite golf holes | Golf course bucket list

The good news is there are plenty of options. From the Caribbean to Florida to out west, there are many courses where playing in January and February are entirely possible. 

So where would you go? 

 

 

 

Bubba Watson's car
Courtesy of Barrett-Jackson
Bubba Watson's custom-built 1939 Cadillac LaSalle C-Hawk Custom Roadster raised $410,000 for Birdies for the Brave on Friday.
Bubba Watson, as we all know, is quite a car guy. He's not in the Ian Poulter category – at least not yet – but is the proud owner of the General Lee, not to mention a bulletproof pickup truck, one sexy Corvette and a hovercraft that doubles as a golf cart.
 
As it turns out, his collection also included the beauty in the photo above – until Friday night, when he sold it during the big Barrett-Jackson winter auction in Scottsdale, Arizona.
 
Watson's car went for a whopping $410,000, and the two-time Masters champ donated every cent of the proceeds to Birdies for the Brave.
 
The car is a custom-built homage to the 1939 Cadillac LaSalle C-Hawk Custom Roadster, which was a favorite of legendary car designer Harley Earl. It's handcrafted out of steel and outfitted with a fuel-injected, supercharged 556-horsepower Cadillac LSA engine with a 6-speed automatic transmission and custom Borla exhaust.
 
 
This C-Hawk, as it's known, also has air conditioning, custom-designed billet wheels, power windows, a C4 Corvette suspension with DANA 44 rear end, Dakota digital instrumentation, hidden headlights, and both GPS and a sound system. 
 
"It's an honor to support the Green Beret Foundation and Birdies for the Brave, who do so much to give back to members of our U.S. Armed Forces and their families," Watson said when he entered the car into the auction a few weeks ago. 
 
Birdies for the Brave was created in 2006 by Phil and Amy Mickelson to support combat-injured troops, and the PGA Tour subsequently adopted it and expanded it to include a variety of military outreach and appreciation activities. To date, it has raised more than $13 million for charities that directly serve wounded warriors and military families.  
 
The Green Beret Foundation, which works with Birdies for the Brave, is also close to Watson's heart, seeing as how his late father, Gerry Watson, was a lieutenant in the U.S. Army Special Forces during the Vietnam War, and taught Watson to play golf at the age of six. 
 
Bubba, by the way, spent part of his day playing golf with John Schneider, who of course played Bo Duke on "The Dukes of Hazzard." Even better, Watson got Schneider to autograph the General Lee – which, he stressed, is not for sale.
 
 
 

The General Lee getting signed by Bo Duke/John Schneider today at @barrett_jackson! #wahooo #dukesofhazzard #notforsale

A photo posted by Bubba Watson (@bubbawatson) on