October 21, 2014 - 7:02am
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. 

Sports Diversity & Inclusion Symposium: A Q&A with Sandy Cross
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. 
 
Tiger Woods taking full swings again, big step toward return to action
October 20, 2014 - 9:40am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Rory McIlroy
YouTube/USA Today Sports Images
What do you think about this pumpkin carving? Is there any resemblance to Rory McIlroy?

Fall is here, which means it's pumpkin-carving season.

Who doesn't love a good jack-o'-lantern of a zombie, a monster, or a four-time major champion?

Wait, what?

That's right, someone decided to carve four-time major winner Rory McIlroy's face into a pumpkin. You can see the whole process in the video below:

 

If we're being honest, that pumpkin looks like McIlroy about as much as this tattoo looks like Ernie Els:

 

This pumpkin carver and that tattoo artist need to step up their game... like the corn-maze artist who rendered this awesome work of Bubba Watson:

 

Now that's how you do it.

h/t Golf News Net

Rory McIlroy's face carved into a pumpkin
Ben Martin
Ben Martin lines up a 46-foot left-to-right bender for the eagle that gives him his first PGA Tour victory.

You're trailing for the first time all day. You've reached the par-5 16th hole in two, but are still 46 feet away. And a win would give you your first PGA Tour victory.

No pressure, right? Well, if Ben Martin felt any lack of confidence Sunday with the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open on the line, he didn't show it when he lined up to make the shot of the weekend:

 

 

Perfect speed, perfect line, perfect execution -- and an eagle to cap a perfectly great weekend of golf for the Clemson alumnus.

SHRINERS HOSPITALS OPEN: Martin tops Streelman for first career victory

Sure, he still had two holes to play, but with a one-stroke lead and Kevin Streelman already in the clubhouse, all Martin had to do from that point on was keep it in the fairway. And he did that and more, making birdie on the final hole for a two-stroke win.

Watch Ben Martin's putt for eagle on No. 16
October 19, 2014 - 1:40pm
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Growling Frog Golf Course
appix29/Instagram
North of Melbourne, Australia, Growling Frog Golf Course has the typical hazards -- bunkers, water and the occasional marsupial.

Sorry, we're just suckers for animals on golf courses. Eagles stealing golf balls? Check. A bear cub dancing with the flagstick? Got it. Snakes at the China Open? Yep.

We've even seen elephant tracks on the greens in Malaysia. (Good luck fixing those spike marks.)

WILD GOLF STORIES: Readers share some unusual tales

So we've pretty much seen it all when it comes to "animals on golf course" photos. Or we thought we had, until appix29 posted this shot on Instagram for the #PGA365 reader-submitted photo gallery.

It's from Growling Frog Golf Course in Yan Yean, Australia, on the north side of Melbourne. And yes, those are kangaroos. And no, they didn't show good etiquette by raking the bunkers afterward. (And yes, Growling Frog is an awesome name for anything, and probably worthy of a story in its own right.)

 

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Only in Australia... Growling Frog GC. #teamtitleist #mytitileist

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Birdies, eagles, albatrosses and now marsupials. "Reckon you can put me down for a Joey on that hole, mate."

'ROOS ON THE LOOSE: Kangaroos interrupt LPGA tournament

After that, finding photos of golf balls landing on alligators is almost routine.

Caution: Kangaroo crossing
Dom DeBonis
Dom DeBonis/Facebook
Dom DeBonis is surrounded by his golfing buddies after an amazing week on the links.

Every golfer dreams of making at least one hole-in-one. Many golfers dream of taking a trip to the golf mecca known as Myrtle Beach. But the idea of making aces in three consecutive rounds at Myrtle Beach? That happened to 81-year-old Dom DeBonis this week.

This amazing feat comes courtesy of an article in Saturday's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, written by Gerry Dulac.

ACES WILD: Man makes two aces in one round

Here's the background: Mr. DeBonis is a Pittsburgh native who now resides in The Villages, Fla. A former college golfer at Duquesne, the 14-handicapper made his first hole-in-one some 45 years ago, and then had another last month at his home course.

So when he had the opportunity to go to Myrtle Beach with 11 friends on a golfing trip to the Grand Strand, he couldn't resist. On Oct. 6, Mr. DeBonis carded an ace at Farmstead Golf Club in Calabash, N.C. He used a 9-iron from 112 yards out on the seventh hole.

The next day, he added a second hole-in-one at the Thistle Golf Club in Sunset Beach, N.C., using a 7-iron at the 129-yard sixth hole.

And the topper came on Oct. 8 at Blackmoor Golf Club, where Mr. DeBonis added his third ace in three days with an 8-iron at the 118-yard fourth hole.

CONSECUTIVE ACES: College golfer makes holes-in-hole on two par-3s

“There was a tree in front and a shadow over the green, but I said, ‘Oh, my God, I think it went in,’ ” Dulac quoted Mr. Debonis as saying. “We couldn’t see it. One of the guys said, ‘I think it’s in.’ So we walked up to the hole and there it was. I just couldn’t believe it. It was the most memorable week.”

A retired clothing buyer, Mr. DeBonis is considered the "kid" in his golfing family. According to the Post-Gazette story, brothers Nick DeBonis (97) and Al DeBonis (93) still regularly play golf -- and not surprisingly, shoot their ages on a routine basis. And a fourth brother, John, was 84 when he died in July.

In case you're wondering, the streak ended for Mr. DeBonis the following day at TPC at Myrtle Beach.

Still, the opportunity to buy drinks for the house on three consecutive days far outweighs the alternative.

 

Three consecutive rounds with an ace? 81-year-old Dom DeBonis just did it