Golf Buzz

October 21, 2014 - 11:35am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Jason Dufner
USA Today Sports Images
Out of action due to a neck injury since the PGA Championship in August, Jason Dufner returns for the Perth International this week in Australia.

Jason Dufner, winner of the 2013 PGA Championship, will be teeing it up this week for the first time since August.

Back in August while defending the PGA Championship at Valhalla, Dufner was forced to withdraw due to a nagging neck injury.

RELATED: Jason Dufner -- major champ, runway model, pizza maker

This week he makes his return, playing in the Perth International in Australia.

Dufner hasn't played in 11 weeks, so he isn't expecting all that much out of his game this week.

"I wasn't too interested in golf or what was going on in the golfing world during that time period," Dufner told the Associated Press. "I didn't watch one minute of the Ryder Cup. I got into a lot of different things. It was disappointing that I was injured, but it wasn't miserable for me."

Dufner's main goal this week, he said, is to play pain-free.

"I feel like if I can play 18 holes without any pain, that'll be a good thing," he said. "Get rolling in the right direction again." 

October 21, 2014 - 11:20am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Henrik Stenson
Facebook
The children of Lake Nona are sure to have nightmares after seeing Henrik Stenson in his Halloween costume.

Henrik Stenson, winner of the 2013 FedExCup and the 2013 Race to Dubai, likes to have a good time.

On Tuesday, he took to Facebook to show off his Halloween costume.

Here's a sneak peek:

 

The children of Lake Nona have been warned.

October 21, 2014 - 10:02am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Graeme McDowell, Keegan Bradley, Freddie Jacobson
USA Today
Thanks to Keegan Bradley, Graeme McDowell and Freddie Jacobson, golfers will now have a new 19th hole beverage option.

Keegan Bradley, Graeme McDowell and Freddie Jacobson aren't just competitors at a PGA Tour venue near you. They're also friends -- and now -- partners in a new business endeavor... something called "Golf Beer."

According to a USA Today report, the threesome has joined forces , "to create some new options for the 19th hole."

From the report:

With the help of Florida-based brewer The Brew Hub, PGA tour members Graeme McDowell, Keegan Bradley and Freddie Jacobson are teeing up a line of new craft beers targeting golfers.

The three beers -- G-Mac's Celtic Style Pale Ale, Keegan Bradley's New England Style Lager and Freddie Jacobson's Scandinavian Style Blonde Ale -- will initially be available this month on draft at select Florida golf courses and on-site restaurants and country clubs. The beer will be available in cans in December and bottles during the first quarter of 2015. Distribution will expand to grocery stores, bars and other restaurants in Florida and then to other regions.

Here's a video about the three new brews:

 

According to the report, each of the beers is between 4.5 percent and 5 percent alcohol by volume. The Blonde Ale is a light ale made with European hops, while the New England lager uses North American hops. McDowell, a native of Northern Ireland who like the other two has a home in Florida, says his beer -- the Celtic Style Pale Ale -- is "the punchiest of the three. But it is very approachable and very conducive to drinking a few on the golf course or one in the clubhouse."

 

October 21, 2014 - 8:02am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Sandy Cross
Montana Pritchard/The PGA of America
Sandy Cross, Senior Director of Diversity & Inclusion for the PGA of America.

The third annual Sports Diversity & Inclusion Symposium is taking place this week at PGA National Resort & Spa, in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

The symposium provides a forum to discuss, evaluate and create tangible solutions that drive greater diversity and inclusion in today's sports culture. Designed to recognize, celebrate and encourage diversification in the world of sports, the forum will feature influential and prominent leaders from Olympic, Paralympic, professional and amateur organizations in expert panels, roundtable discussions and general sessions.

Before the start of the symposium, we had a chance to chat with Sandy Cross, Senior Director of Diversity & Inclusion for the PGA of America, and below is the e-mail Q&A.

PGA.com: Thanks for joining us, Sandy. Can you please tell our readers a little about the Sports Diversity & Inclusion Symposium?

Cross: Absolutely. The NFL and the United States Olympic Committee hosted years one and two respectively. Nearly 200 leaders from all levels of sport -- professional, Olympic, collegiate, amateur and recreational -- will gather to discuss, evaluate and create real solutions that drive greater diversity and inclusion in today's sport culture. We've got a great lineup of 38 speakers that will lead three general sessions and six expert panel discussions. Topics range from showcasing diversity and inclusion best practices, diversity and inclusion in sport media, multi-generational diversity, to the economics of diversity and inclusion and how to quantifying the return on investment and your supplier relations.

PGA.com: Can you talk about some of the programs or initiatives the PGA has in place to diversify participation in the game?

Cross: Sure. From a gender diversity standpoint, we've been leading the golf industry's signature program, Get Golf Ready, which provides a fun, fast and affordable introduction to the game, that really resonates with women.

For the next generation, our PGA Junior League Golf program has taken off like wildfire. Kids and parents are loving the team format that welcomes all backgrounds and skill levels. It's golf's version of Little League.

We're also quite focused on our supplier relations and increasing golf's spend with minority -- and women-owned businesses, which in turn brings those diverse business owners closer to our sport.

PGA.com: What strides have you seen made in the golf industry over the last several years in golf that promote diversity and inclusion?

Cross: Numerous strides have been made in recent years and continue to be made. While the alterations in the membership policies at places like Augusta National Golf Club and with the Royal and Ancient have been historical milestones garnering significant media attention, I think what's been taking place at PGA Professional-staffed facilities around America is tremendously impactful.

So many of our PGA Professionals have been making a concerted effort to ensure women are invited to, and feel welcome at, their golf facilities, and that the programs and services offered are truly tailored to meet a woman's value set. What women value out of a golf experience is very often different than what most men value. The advent of the KPMG Women's PGA Championship in June 2015 will be another big milestone as well, not only taking women's major championship golf to new heights, but bringing a really unique women's leadership summit component to the fore, which is being designed to assist women in advancing their career and business development through golf.

PGA.com: What would you say to someone who wants to pursue a career in golf, but might be reluctant because they fear acceptance?

Cross:
I'd tell them to go for it! Golf is such a gift; a gift that keeps on giving. It's a game of connections -- personal and business -- as well as gateway to better health. Grab a friend, family member or colleague and seek out an introductory program like Get Golf Ready that's very social in nature. It provides a very comfortable setting to ease your entry into the game and lifestyle that surrounds golf. From a career standpoint, there are a myriad of possibilities in this industry. It's a $68.8 billion dollar a year industry in the U.S. that offers real opportunity for talented, aspiring, career-minded professionals who want to help evolve the face of the game and enhance the delivery of the game to meet the needs of today's multi-faceted consumer demographics.

PGA.com: Who inspired you to become so involved in the game?

Cross: It's interesting because I wasn't a golfer when I began working for The PGA of America 18 years ago. Right away I recognized that I should learn how to play the game if I wanted to be successful in the business of golf. I was tremendously fortunate to have bosses early on in my tenure that took me under their wings and showed me the ropes on the golf course. It's really paid dividends for me professionally and personally as well. I even met my husband on the golf course! What really drives me now is making golf as welcoming and as inclusive as possible to people from all walks of life, backgrounds, ages and abilities. As I said previously, golf is a gift and I want to help share it with as many people as possible. 

October 21, 2014 - 8:00am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Back 9 USA
Back 9 USA
Head covers, socks, hats and sweatshirts are just some of Back 9 USA's offerings.

Believe it or not, there was a time when golf wasn't considered cool.

An old man's game, some may have argued.

These days, however, it couldn't be further from that. Sure, there are personalities to thank for golf's coolness factor -- guys like Tiger Woods, who brought the game to the masses; Rickie Fowler, who has a cult following; Rory McIlroy, the world's No. 1 player and a four-time major champion at the age of just 25; and, of course, Fred Couples -- the King of Cool -- who came before all the aforementioned.

Apparel and accessory companies have also come a long way toward creating that "cool" golf vibe, extending their respective offerings to stuff you can wear off the course, while paying homage to the game you love, essentially making it so your love of golf is an entire lifestyle -- not just restricted to the fairways (OK, the rough, woods and bunkers for many of us).

RELATED: Custom accessories from Appalachian Leather Works | MannKrafted Milled Putters

One such company in this very space is Back 9 USA. Co-founded by Andy Hydorn, Back 9 USA's Chief Brand Officer, the company that started just outside Boston in 1996 now calls Houston home.

Back 9 USA got itself on the map -- initially -- with its headwear and its logo, which is brilliant in its meaning and simplicity. It's a backwards No. 9, indicative of playing the "back nine" on the golf course.

Over the years, Back 9 USA has expanded into so much more than that neat little company from Boston that makes the cool hats. The brand has morphed into an entire golf lifestyle brand.

It's not just lids for Back 9 USA anymore. Though you can still find those too, Back 9 USA also offers polos, fun t-shirts with witty golf-related phrases, sports socks, golf towels, custom headcovers and more.

Back 9 USA is Hydorn's dream coming to fruition -- he's cracked the code on creating his very own golf lifestyle and bringing it to the masses.

We sat down with Hydorn recently to learn more about his brand.

PGA.com: Back 9 USA started out as a golf headwear company. Over the last several years, you've transformed into so much more. It's not just hats anymore -- it's an entire golf lifestyle. Can you tell us about the transition?

Hydorn: Well, when we first got into the business, we had a great resource at Twins Enterprise in Boston (now 47 Brand). They were and still are, in my opinion, the best casual headwear makers in the country. They taught us a lot about the headwear business by observation alone and because of this relationship, we decided it was a natural that hats would be a great way to promote our new brand.

As time went by, the reaction to our logo and brand was consistently positive and it always begged an inquiry. That’s when we started to see that the correct way to build this company would be around the brand and not around a particular product category. We agreed then and there that if we could make a great product that we could design internally and brand it appropriately, the product category didn’t matter. We also realized that golfers have lives before the first tee and after the 18th green and making products for the lifestyle of the people who play golf as opposed to just “on the course” stuff just made more sense to us. Golfers are people too!

PGA.com: Tell us about your plethora of new offerings.

Hydorn: We like to look at what is going on in the rest of the retail world and not just in golf. It’s pretty easy to see what ‘s relevant if you remove your eyes from the golf course.

T-shirts and socks are great examples of that. The T-shirt has transformed greatly over the last several years into a more fashionable item. The fit is better and the fabrics are better. The tee has transcended into a whole new category. Socks are another great example of product evolution.

If you take a look around, the crew sock has made a huge comeback. Like any other comeback, it has its new wrinkles of color and style. We certainly saw this a year ago and wanted to be out front on a new golf crew sock as well as some colored ankle socks we saw lacking in the market. We’ll continue to look for opportunities this way. Things like golf bags, luggage, and an expanded line of apparel are always being closely looked at.

PGA.com: Let's talk a little about the logo. People love it. It seems like such a simple idea, but you're the only one who thought enough to create it! What made you think of the backwards nine?

Hydorn: Sometimes the most impactful things are right in front of your face the whole time. Iconic logos are tough to come by; we get that. We were lucky enough to take a really golf-centric term and pair it with the very simple process of turning a regular 9 into a backwards 9. The greatest thing about the mark is that it’s ours. It’s not a 9 or another number or a letter even. It’s a mark that was not known before it popped onto a notepad on my nightstand. It’s literal too, which makes it kind of cool. Truth be told, we had some pretty terrible ones on that same notepad but this one was different from the rest. The logo brings questions almost every time we’re in public. That’s a cool thing.

PGA.com: What's it like to see people wearing your gear?

Hydorn: It’s surreal. Knowing that you’ve created something from nothing and seeing it on complete strangers is a feeling that every entrepreneur should experience.

PGA.com: What was it that made you realize there was a need/want for golf lifestyle gear for people to take off the course?

Hydorn: For example, we saw the T-shirt category become a real component of people’s wardrobes, especially people in our target demographic group. As I said before, golfers are people too and we think they would prefer to wear a T-shirt that could tie them to golf as opposed to a guy in Iowa buying a tee from a surf brand.

Until recently though, the only cool T-shirts you could get were mostly from surf or skate brands. Well, not everyone desires or identifies with that culture. We have our own culture.

PGA.com: It seems as though custom golf head covers are sprouting up everywhere these last few years. What separates Back 9's from the others?

Hydorn: We are a design company. We saw a nice opening in the head cover market a few years ago. We felt like people were starting to tire of the manufacturers “give away” covers and wanted to dress their bag up a little more. We saw the emergence of the boutique head cover companies that were out there making really nice product, but manufacturing them one by one and bringing them to market for $50-$60.

First, we made a design upgrade by adding a stretch fabric panel on each side of the cover which made the footprint in the bag a little smaller and allowed us to embroider a completed head cover.

Second, we sourced a great fabric and manufacturing relationship that allowed us to bring the head covers to market for around $30. We also established some domestic production and partnered with the Woolrich Woolen Mill to make some really unique “Made-in-USA” wool slip on covers to go along with our engineered leather slip on covers. We feel like the price and value of our covers is really an advantage for us.

PGA.com: You've been involved in golf for many, many years -- both as a competitive amateur player and in the business. Can you ever remember it having as much of a "coolness" vibe as it has now?

Hydorn: No I can’t really. There are some really cool new brands out there now who are doing some great things and the iconic golf brands still are like royalty in the golf community. Golf is a younger game and I think the new stars are attracting a great new crop of aspiring players. Tiger, Rory, Rickie, and more have certainly done a lot to help our game in that respect. The brands are making cooler products now too; not just for the kids but for the adults also.

PGA.com: What's your favorite Back 9 item?

Hydorn: My favorite is whichever product I am working on now!

PGA.com: One of your more unique offerings is what's available to your customers in "The Lounge" on your website. Can you tell our readers about it?

Hydorn: Ah… “The Lounge.” It’s something I’m very proud of. We saw other industries doing some cool things in regards to personal customization and we thought that head covers would be the perfect product for us to offer this feature.

Today’s consumer is definitely more into personal design and we wanted to make this available to our customers on their head covers. We have a full menu of icons to pick from like the shamrock and skull and bones designs. The customer can then add a monogram or personal message to finish the design.

We also use the Lounge for our collegiate licenses. Some schools have a multitude of logos and we decided to let our customer tell us how they wanted to show their school pride instead of us guessing what they wanted. There are a ton of options and the Lounge just allows our customer to have more things to choose from.

PGA.com: Back 9 provided headcovers for the U.S. and European Solheim Cup teams in the 2011 matches. That had to be a neat experience for you.

Hydorn: That is that “surreal” feeling again. A few years back we had done some head covers for Callaway and Beth Daniel got her hands on one. She was the incoming captain for the 2009 Solheim Cup and we’ve been doing them ever since. It’s truly a sense of satisfaction when you see your head cover being ripped off a driver by Michelle Wie in an international competition.

PGA.com: The golf industry can be tough for small companies. How have you been able to not only stick around so long, but also expand your brand?

Hydorn: That hasn’t been easy by any stretch. I wish we had more resources but I’m sure everyone wishes for the same. We understand the importance of building the awareness of our brand and everything we do is focused on just that. We’re still so small and still relatively unknown to the masses but we do take pride in knowing that the "golf moles" know who we are and like what we do.

That’s the assurance we need to keep our eyes focused on the right things. We also believe that the struggles in the golf industry are real but a bit overstated. We don’t feel as if people “like” golf any less than before but just find it harder to play as much as before. Golf has become more accessible to more people and definitely has that cooler vibe you alluded to, so the desire for the game continues to grow. The lifestyle is vibrant.

To learn more about all Back 9 USA has to offer, you can visit www.back9usa.com. You can also find Back 9 USA on Facebook and on Twitter, @back9usa.

As a special to PGA.com readers, Back 9 USA is offering 10 percent off any purchase through the end of October. Just use coupon code “PGA10” at checkout. 

Tiger Woods
Getty Images
Tiger Woods began taking full swings last week after spending two months working on regaining his strength.
Tiger Woods has taken perhaps the most important step in his long journey to get back into top tournament form.
 
Woods' agent, Mark Steinberg, told Steve diMeglio of USA Today that the former world No. 1 started taking full swings on the range last week.
 
"The doctors said he could hit golf balls again, and he's listening to his doctors and to his body," Steinberg told the newspaper on Monday. "He will keep listening to his doctors and body. … He's feeling pretty good."
 
If he can return to action – and be healthy – it'll be a huge achievement in an otherwise forgettable year. Woods began 2014 atop the world rankings, but a back injury nagged at him through the early part of the season. He underwent back surgery in late March, which forced him to miss both the Masters and U.S. Open.
 
 
Woods returned in midsummer, but missed the cut at the Quicken Loans National, tied for 69th at the British Open, withdrew during the final round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and missed the cut in the PGA Championship. He also failed to qualify for the FedExCup playoffs, and then took himself out of consideration for the Ryder Cup.
 
He's kept himself quite busy since last playing at the PGA Championship, primarily by devoting himself to getting back into shape and slowly working toward a return to making full swings on the range.
 
He's also fired swing coach Sean Foley, and not yet named a replacement; gotten into the restaurant business in south Florida; traveled to Houston to inspect the course he's designing at Bluejack National; hung out at an Oakland Raiders game; and visited Stanford, where one Cardinal golf team member was so inspired by meeting Woods that he went out and shot a 59.
 
Woods is still hoping to return to action at the Hero World Challenge – the limited-field event he hosts at the end of each season to benefit his Tiger Woods Foundation – which is set for Dec. 4-7 at Isleworth Golf & Country Club in Orlando.