Golf Buzz

Matt Heuerman
Matt Heuerman via Twitter
At 6-foot-6, Matt Heuerman towers over some of his teammates in Barton Collier High School in Naples, Florida.
Today is National Signing Day, when the nation's top high school football players officially decide where they'll be playing ball in college next fall. There are always a handful of big surprises on this day every year – and one of the biggest ones today involves golf.
Down in Naples, Florida, Honorable Mention All-State tight end Matt Heuerman declared his intention to not accept a football scholarship anywhere. Instead, he said, he's decided to pursue his love of golf, and will try to play his way onto a college golf team next  year.
"I've made up my mind," Heuerman told The Fort Myers News-Press. "Sometimes you just have to trust your gut."
Heuerman definitely could be playing college football in the future. At 6-foot-6 and 215 pounds, he caught 51 passes for 685 yards and eight touchdowns for Barron Collier High School. In addition, his older brothers also played tight end at Barron Collier and went on to solid college careers – brother Mike played at Notre Dame, while brother Jeff played for Ohio State and is now a rookie with the Denver Broncos.
Both his brothers have struggled with injuries, and Matt himself tore his ACL during his freshman season. But, he says, the fear of getting hurt isn't what made him change his career path.
"It wasn't really a fear of getting injured," Heuerman said. "I know that comes with playing the game. But I know there's a time limit on football. I can play golf as long as I want."
Heuerman, who played golf even while focusing on football in high school, has been working on his game with Lloyd Johnson, a PGA instructor at Grey Oaks Country Club in Naples who has helped several junior players get college scholarships. Johnson told the newspaper that Heuerman's inexperience is mitigated by the fact that he is so athletically talented.
"I feel that if I put in as many hours as I did into football I'll continue to improve and get one step better each day," Heuerman said. "I'm excited to see where this takes me."
Hockey players with gator
Nino Niederreiter via Twitter
An alligator on a Cancun golf course was left open-mouthed by its encounter with Minnesota Wild player Nino Niederreiter and three of his teammates.
Players around the National Hockey League are just getting back into game action after a nice, long break for the NHL All-Star Game. A foursome of players from the Minnesota Wild returned to their teammates after meeting somebody – or maybe we should say some thing – that really is wild.
Nino Niederreiter and fellow players Marco Scandella, Matt Dumba and Darcy Kuemper jetted down to Cancun, Mexico, for a golf vacation over the break. One day they were playing a course that had several signs warning golfers of the presence of alligators and, sure enough, the hockey stars ran across a decent-sized gator sunning himself on a bank of a pond.
Despite the fact that the gator was facing their way and had its mouth open, the fearless foursome eased up to within a few feet of it to snap a photo. 
"It was probably three or four feet away with his mouth open the whole time looking at us," Niederreiter – who we bet never ran across a gator growing up in his native Switzerland – told The Minneapolis Star-Tribune. "So we took a quick pic and got out of there."
Tiptoeing close to the gator might not have been a great idea, but getting out of there quickly definitely was. And the boys all got back to the team with all their fingers and toes still in place.
February 3, 2016 - 10:00am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Bubba Watson
USA Today Sports Images
A runner up a year ago, can Bubba Watson improve upon that this time around?

The biggest party in golf begins anew this week with the Waste Management Phoenix Open at fan-friendly TPC Scottsdale.

The Coliseum-like par-3, 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale is one of a kind. It's the rowdiest hole in golf and one the players have truly come to embrace because of the craziness.

As usual, TPC Scottsdale is a track that is going to require loads and loads of birdies.

For that reason, here are five players who are capable of taking it really deep that you'll want to keep an eye on this week.

RELATED: Waste Management Phoenix Open tee times | This week's pro golf schedule

5. Ryan Moore
Best finish in 2015-16 season:
T10 at the Open and the CIMB Classic
Reason to watch: After a long layoff, Moore returns this week to a place where he has not finished outside of the top 20 in the last three years. TPC Scottsdale clearly fits his eye. That's a strong recent track record that can't be overlooked.

4. Ryan Palmer
Best finish in 2015-16 season:
T13 at the Sony Open in Hawaii
Reason to watch: With as often as he's in contention, it's hard to believe that Palmer hasn't collected a PGA Tour victory since the 2010 Sony Open in Hawaii. Alas, that's life on the PGA Tour. TPC Scottsdale is a place where Palmer has tallied three top-10 finishes -- two of those of the runner-up variety, including a year ago. He seems to feed off the crowd well, which is an absolute must at the frat-party that is the Waste Management Phoenix Open. If the putter can get hot for Palmer, look out.

3. Bubba Watson
Best finish in 2015-16 season:
T10 at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions
Reason to watch: In his last four starts at TPC Scottsdale, Watson has finished no worse than a tie for 15th. That includes being the runner up in the last two straight. Over the last 12 months, few players in the game have been as consistently good as Watson. He always seems to be sniffing the first page of the leaderboard no matter where he plays. It's hard to imagine that would be any different this week in Phoenix on a course where he's proven he's exceptionally comfortable.

2. Brooks Koepka
Best finish in 2015-16 season:
T3 at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions
Reason to watch: Koepka made his first start in the Waste Management Phoenix Open a year ago... and won. As the defending champ and as won of the game's brightest rising stars, it would be silly not to include Koepka as a favorite this week. With the new season, Koepka has also undergone an equipment change. That can be a big deal for a lot of players. But, in his first and only start so far with the new sticks, Koepka had that T3 in Maui, which had to give him a confidence boost. Having not played since then -- nearly an entire month -- one would assume he's had plenty of time to get even more comfortable with the new gear.

1. J.B. Holmes
Best finish in 2015-16 season:
T6 at the Farmers Insurance Open
Reason to watch: It's funny what you find sometimes when you go looking at a player's record at a certain venue/tournament. That's the case at TPC Scottsdale in the Waste Management Phoenix Open for Holmes where it has been an absolute feast (he's won twice there) or famine (a few missed cuts and a bunch of T43 or worse finishes). Coming off the heels of his best finish this season at Torrey Pines, I'm going to lean toward a feast for Holmes this week in Phoenix. That T6 last week moved Holmes up to No. 12 on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list and he'd love to get to Hazeltine. In his only Ryder Cup start at Valhalla in 2008, Holmes went 2-0-1. That was the last U.S. victory.

SLEEPER PICK: Jamie Lovemark
Reason to watch:
Once considered to be a future star of the PGA Tour, Lovemark has been derailed by injury. The 28-year-old is showing some of that once serious promise early on this season with three top-10 finishes in his last four starts. Is a win right around the corner? The first-time winner-friendly Waste Management Phoenix Open wouldn't be a bad place to start.

Here's how my five to watch fared at last week's Farmers Insurance Open:

5. Scott Stallings -- T25
4. J.B. Holmes -- T6
3. Rickie Fowler -- Missed cut
2. Phil Mickelson -- Missed cut
1. Jason Day -- Missed cut 

Stewart Cink celebrates
Georgia Tech Athletics via Twitter
Stewart Cink whooped it up with the crowd after making a 94-foot putt during the Georgia Tech basketball game Tuesday night.
Just the other day, we saw Stewart Cink show off his driving skills – as a chauffeur. At Torrey Pines last week, he moonlighted for a little bit as a golf cart shuttle driver, much to the delight of his surprised passengers.
On Tuesday night, Cink was back home in Atlanta, where he showed off his putting skills – at halftime of the Duke-Georgia Tech basketball game. As part of a promotion, Cink set a golf ball down on one end of the court and tried to putt it through a small cutout in a sign at the other baseline – 94 feet away.
Cink, a former Yellow Jacket golf standout, is well known for his putting prowess, but this was a tall order – especially since the crowd at McCamish Pavilion was definitely a few decibels rowdier than your basic PGA Tour gallery. No matter, though – Cink gave it a rap, and the ball rolled … and rolled … and rolled … then banged off the side of the cutout and charged right though, prompting a huge celebration in the arena.
Cink's putt earned a cool $25,000 for a Georgia Tech student, who no doubt instantly became the world's biggest Stewart Cink fan. As for Cink, it looks like he's found a new favorite putting ball, so it's a win-win all the way around.
Take a look:
Hazeltine National
The PGA of America
The Ryder Cup banner is proudly on display in the window in the left-hand photo, while the "Walking Man" statue is trekking through the snow on the right.
Winter Storm Kayla is roaring across the middle of the United States today, creating blizzard conditions up north and spawning thunderstorms and even tornadoes down south. We hope everyone is staying safe and warm.
Up in Minnesota, a layer of snow is blanketing Hazeltine National Golf Club, which will host the 2016 Ryder Cup about eight months from now. As I write this, it's still snowing up there, the temperature is 30 degrees, the wind chill is 18 degrees, and the wind is whipping from the north-northwest at 17 miles an hour. And the forecast calls for a total of 9 to 12 inches of the white stuff. Brrrrrr.
Snow on golf courses always looks great – unless, of course, you're trying to squeeze in a round – but Hazeltine looks especially fantastic right now. In the left-hand photo at the top of this page, the Ryder Cup banner is proudly on display in the window. And on the right is the club's famous "Walking Man" statue (he's also the centerpiece of the club's logo) trekking through the snow.
Hazeltine got a nice layer of snow about a month ago, no doubt will get more before the winter is over. That's okay with us – we can't see enough photos of this magnificent venue, no matter the season.

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. (Feb. 2, 2016) -- New cutting-edge research entitled “Business Golf: The Gender Puzzle,” conducted by Sports and Leisure Research Group (SLRG) for the PGA of America unveils new insight into the evolving realities of today's corporate environment. Some of the specific workplace examples identified in the study, as well as how men and women executives each perceive the opportunities and barriers of business golf, were highlighted during a lively panel discussion at the 63rd PGA Merchandise Show.

On the panel were: PGA Secretary Suzy Whaley, Troon Golf Chairman and CEO Dana Garmany, Whirlpool Corp. Director for Corporate Reputation and Community Relations Deb O’Connor, and ESPN Senior Vice President of espnW and Women’s Initiatives Laura Gentile. They presented ideas on gaining an understanding of the magnitude of the corporate opportunity; building the right environment to facilitate the optimal business golf experience for both men and women; and learning how to get in the door at corporations, and speak their language.

Actionable strategies for PGA Professionals and facility operators seeking to grow revenues by better engaging with the corporate community were shared.

“Women have the money to spend at your facility,” said Whaley. “They’re making over half-million dollar deals. Creating that opportunity for them is what they really value. Golf just needs to think about how we can fit in their world and not vice versa.”

Below are some of the key findings from the study. For additional information click here.
- Both men and women golfers rank golf as the most effective of all networking activities with peers, clients/prospects and suppliers/vendors. Even non-golfing executives rank golf as the No. 1 most effective way to build business relationships.

- 78 percent of women believe playing golf in a business environment is a great networking tool. Both men and women executives rank golf as the most effective of all networking activities with peers, clients and suppliers.

- Nearly 60 percent of business golfers have closed a deal on the golf course or at the golf club. Women are just as likely as men to have done so. Both genders say that there is significant volume and value of deals closed at golf facilities.

- More than a quarter of the women who closed a deal through golf did so with deals valued at more than $500,000. Both men and women golfers report closing an average of five deals through golf.

- The strongest agreement among golfing men and women is that golf is quality time that helps businessmen and businesswomen de-stress from their jobs, and helps them get to know their peers and colleagues better.

- Nearly 60 percent of women executive golfers agree that playing the game has made them feel more included, while 58 percent of women golfers felt that playing golf has contributed to their professional success. In addition, 75 percent of golfing women executives expressed strong interest in after-work corporate golf activities.

- Women are significantly more likely than men golfing executives to agree that business golf builds confidence and is an important part of the culture in their organization.

- More than half of businesswomen golfers strongly agree that golf has helped make them more assertive (51 percent); more disciplined (56 percent); and more risk-taking (52 percent).

“In companies today, employee engagement is a focus, and just getting together and creating relationships within the company is important,” said O’Connor, whose company will host the 77th Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid in May. “It’s really important to where you’re going to find your next job...It’s really important for women to get to know [male] executives on a level playing field, and golf can really help.”

“We’re progressively trying to get to the tip of the spear, trying to say we have people who want to play golf and want to participate,” said Garmany. “So, let’s do everything we can to find a way to get them involved.”

There are still barriers to entry. For example, businesswomen golfers say they are significantly more likely than men to feel that the game is not as accessible to women than men within their own companies. Only 30 percent of male golfing executives’ business rounds are played with mixed gender groups, yet 79 percent of women prefer to do so. Golfing businesswomen are also 25 percent more likely than men to feel that business golf is more stressful than social golf. Meanwhile, nearly half feel that men on the golf course are often trying to teach them what to do.

“It’s about making golf hospitable…It’s about the culture of the game and everyone feeling equal,” said Gentile. “Golf has certainly helped me as an executive, make relationships, foster deals and build a good reputation.”

“Golf and business have always had an intrinsic connection,” said Moderator and SLRG Founder and President Jon Last. “Yet, the magnitude of this relationship has only been sporadically studied. It has been approximately a decade since the market was analyzed. We found that companies are looking for bridges to create cultures of inclusion and positive intra-firm and client relationships. Golf is highly valued in this regard.”