Benson Park
Omaha Parks and Recreation
Omaha has eight municipal courses, including Benson Park.

The Omaha, Neb., Parks and Recreation Department has an outstanding idea for growing their junior golf program this summer: Let kids 14 and under play free on the city's four nine-hole courses during weekdays.

Starting May 27, junior golfers ages 14 and under will be able to play for free Monday through Thursday at all city-operated nine-hole courses. And at Westwood Golf Course, the city will provide free balls and tees as well.

GET GOLF READY: PGA of America's programs for junior golfers

For free golf, each child must attend a half-hour junior golf player certification program, which will go over golf fundamentals, rules and safety. After that, they will receive a junior player's card which will allow them to play all they like.

Omaha has eight municipal course, of which four are participating in the program. Spring Lake is the longest of the four, a par-33 measuring 1,873 yards from the back tees. That includes a unique "road hole," requiring golfers to hit over the street to an elevated green near the clubhouse.

2015 DRIVE, CHIP AND PUTT CHAMPIONSHIP: Register now for local qualifiers

The other three courses are classic par-3s. In addition to Westwood, Steve Hogan is one of the oldest courses in the state of Nebraska, measuring 1,337 yards. Warren Swigart opened in 1959 and measures 1,239 yards.

Free golf for juniors this summer is just one of the programs available to Omaha residents. For more information, check out the Junior Golf Club of Omaha website.

Omaha offers free golf to juniors this summer
Outeniqua golf course
Fancourt Resort/Twitter
A South African golf course flagstick was struck by lightning Monday night.

Why it's important to pay attention to thunderstorm warnings: Here's visual proof of what lightning can do on a golf course.

The Fancourt resort in George, South Africa, posted a photo Tuesday of the No. 1 green on its Gary Player-designed Outeniqua course. Apparently the lightning bolt went right down the flagstick and into the surface of the green:

 

 

 

 

Thankfully, it happened overnight so no one was on the course. But you rarely think of a fiberglass flagstick as being the target of lightning -- although there's a metal base that sits in the cup.

Lee Trevino was struck by lightning while playing in the Western Open near Chicago in 1975. And according to a 2013 study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administation, eight people in the United States have been killed by lightning strikes while playing golf since 2006.

Lightning strikes flagstick in South Africa
Nike Air Jordan high-top golf shoes
Marcus Jordan/Twitter
Marcus Jordan posted a photo last week of what appear to be Nike Air Jordan high-top golf shoes.

Michael Jordan's iconic Nike Air Jordan high-tops on the golf course? It could be the future, according to Marcus Jordan, Michael Jordan's son. 

Marcus posted this photo on Twitter last week:

 

 

Air Jordans are everywhere -- not only in basketball, but football, baseball and NASCAR -- and even golf, where Keegan Bradley wears a pair of low-cuts.

NEW MENTAL COACH?: Keegan Bradley teams up with Michael Jordan

So it seems likely you'll begin to see high-top golf shoes on a course near you in the not-too-distant future.

Nike Air Jordan high-tops for the golf course?
Lucy Li
Augusta National Golf Club
Lucy Li won the girls 10-11 division of the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship in April.

While watching the inaugural Drive, Chip and Putt Championship at Augusta National Golf Club in April, we seemed to be witnessing some future stars in the making. Of course, we didn't think the future would come so fast for at least one champion from that day.

On Monday, 11-year-old Lucy Li shot rounds of 74 and 68 at the Half Moon Bay Old Course to win the section qualifier, making the Redwood Shores, Calif., native the youngest player to compete in the U.S. Women's Open when she tees off at Pinehurst No. 2 next month. That's one year younger than Lexi Thompson, who was 12 when she played in the 2007 U.S. Women's Open.

2015 DRIVE, CHIP AND PUTT CHAMPIONSHIP: Registration is open for local qualifiers

Li's 142 was seven strokes better than runner-up Kathleen Scavo, who is a 15-year-old high school junior from Benicia.

Li was one of eight champions crowned at Augusta National, winning the girls 10-11 division of the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship.

To put it in perspective, Li wasn't born when Michelle Wie made her debut in a women's major.

 

From Drive, Chip and Putt to U.S. Women's Open
Iowa State men's golf team
Iowa State Athletics
Iowa State earned a trip to the NCAA Division I men's golf championship for the first time since 1953.

The last time the Iowa State Cyclones competed as a team in the NCAA Division I men's golf championship, Dwight Eisenhower had just been inaugurated as President of the United States, Mount Everest had still not been conquered, and Ben Hogan was on his way to winning the Masters, U.S. Open and Open Championship in the same season.

NCAA GOLF CHAMPIONSHIPS: Follow each round with PGA.com and NCAA.com

On Sunday, the Cyclones snapped a 61-year NCAA championship appearance drought by finishing in a tie for fourth place at the regional in Columbia, Mo. That advances them to this week's championship at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kan. And the Iowa State women also made history by qualifying for the NCAA Division I women's golf championship for the first time. 

There are no official records kept of such a feat, but the 61-year span between appearances is believed to be the longest in NCAA golf championship history.

The Cyclones started out the final day of their regional three strokes out, but shot a combined 9-under par on the front nine en route to a school-record 270, the best round of the day.

PGA MINORITY COLLEGIATE: Bethune-Cookman sweeps men's, women's titles

Fourth-year head coach Andrew Tank, a native of Des Moines, was thrilled with the way his team has played this year.

“I’m not sure how to put it into words how happy I am for the guys,” Tank said. “It’s pretty emotional and really special. It’s something as a team was our goal at the beginning of the season. We knew we could do it. But, you never know how you react once you actually achieve your goal. It’s a great feeling.”

Iowa State hopes the wait between championship appearances won't take another 61 years. The school has made a commitment to its golf programs, recently opening a new $2 million golf-only center that ranks among the best in the country. The facility has a spacious clubhouse and 11 greens, a pair of fairways and bunkers, rough and a water hazard for the Cyclones to practice on.

"It's going to get us a lot of attention and shine a light on the program, which we're really excited about," Tank told the Associated Press. "I knew the potential was here, and I knew with the right ingredients in place that Iowa State could be very successful. But it's happened a little bit quicker than I expected."

 

 

 

Cyclones end 61-year NCAA championship appearance drought
May 19, 2014 - 12:05pm
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Tiger Woods
USA Today Images
Tiger Woods said Monday his rehabilitation from back surgery is "tedious."

Tiger Woods is still unsure of his return to competitive golf.

In an interview with the Golf Channel Monday morning, Tiger Woods said any timetable for his return to competitive golf remains unclear.

OFFICIAL STATEMENT: Tiger Woods announces his back surgery

Woods had back surgery on March 31, and has been undergoing rehabilitation since, a process Woods said is "tedious."

"It's not a lot of fun, I'll tell you that." Woods said while being interviewed on the Golf Channel's "Morning Drive" program. "It's a lot of tedious little exercises I have to do. At least I still get to chip and putt, which is nice, and that's progressing. I've got my feel for that, which is nice. But I still haven't hit any full shots. It's still a little bit too soon."

INJURY INVENTORY: A list of Tiger Woods' injuries over the years

Woods said he'd like to come back "today," but the decision on when he can return to the course is not up to him.

"It's not really in my hands," Woods said. "It's in [the hands of] my doctors and my trainers. I've got to get permission from them before I can come back -- and I still have to progress."

Woods has had a history of back problems, dating from 1998, when he strained his back prior to the Kemper Open. Things became worse in 2013, when he blamed a bad mattress for back spasms he suffered during the Barclays. But Woods seemed well on his way to returning to his championship form -- regaining the No. 1 ranking -- until the Honda Classic in February, when he withdrew after 13 holes, citing back spasms.

PGA.COM ARCHIVES: Woods has back surgery, misses Masters

He then struggled through a final-round 78 at the WGC Cadillac Championship at Doral before withdrawing two weeks later from the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill with a pinched nerve.

That led to microdiscectomy surgery, which is a type of minimally invasive spine surgery to relieve pressure and pain caused by a herniated disc. Operating through a small incision in the lower back, surgeons remove small disc fragments that are pressing against spinal nerves. 

Recovery can take several weeks and doctors typically advise against bending and twisting the back until patients are completely healed.

HONDA CLASSIC: Woods withdraws with spasms

Woods missed the Masters in April for the first time in his career, ending a streak of 19 consecutive appearances.

Tiger Woods still unsure on return