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News & Tours

Missing Links: Rory McIlroy among 'geniuses in life...most gifted golfer I’ve seen'

Stories of interest you might have missed…

Sir Alex Ferguson, the legendary Manchester United manager, is an unabashed Rory McIlroy fan. “There are geniuses in life and Rory produces shots that he shouldn’t try,” Ferguson said in this story. “He’s got the ability to do it and sometimes they don’t come off but his imagination is such that he can do these shots. And when they come off you say to yourself ‘How did he do that?’ and he’s got that in his locker. He’s an exceptional, exceptional player. He’s without doubt, I think, the most gifted golfer that I’ve seen. And he’s got the personality too. And he’s a United fan as well - that helps.”

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Sir Alex Ferguson and Rory McIlroy (Getty Images)

Gary Player on the Eisenhower Tree at Augusta National Golf Club, which was felled in an ice storm early this year: “What should they do? Well, you know, Augusta, they can build a practice tee worth $100 million which nobody else can do,” he said in this interview with NPR’s Bill Littlefield from February. “They just go and buy all the houses and make a practice tee out of it. So they can easily replace that tree…I’m a great believer of leaving a tree for somebody else to enjoy. And [Augusta] could go in there [and] they can replace that tree, which I’m sure they’ll do.”

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A stricter drunk-driving law in Scotland are taking their toll on golf club income, the Edinburgh Evening News reports. “Golf clubs are facing a new threat to their future after seeing alcohol sales plunge by as much as 70 per cent following the introduction of the new drink-drive law. Since the strict new limit came into effect on December 5 clubs across the region have seen bar takings, which account for a significant portion of many clubs income, often meaning the difference between profit and loss, go through the floor.”

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News & Tours

Help wanted: Augusta National seeks candidate with 'experience in...military, Secret Service, FBI...'

Looking for a job in golf? The Augusta National Golf Club has posted one in the Augusta Chronicle, though some of the requirements are likely to disqualify virtually everyone.

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(Getty Images photo)

For instance, among its minimum requirements: “Experience in law enforcement management, military, Secret Service, FBI, corporate security or personal protective detail working with high profile individuals preferred; Expertise in the analysis of security threats, risks and vulnerability domestically and internationally.”

The job is for director of security and safety at Augusta National, and given the club’s high profile generally and the Masters specifically, this would qualify as a big-time job.

Here is the complete job posting:

DIRECTOR OF SECURITY AND SAFETY Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters Tournament, has an outstanding opportunity for an experienced leader and Director of Security and Safety. The Director of Security and Safety is responsible for providing day-to-day strategic and operational leadership for the safety, security, emergency and risk assessment programs for the Club. The Director of Security and Safety will oversee the Security and Safety staff and ensure a safe/secure experience for the Club's membership, guests, employees, patrons, contractors and vendors while minimizing liabilities and losses. Minimum requirements include: Requires a Bachelor's Degree and 10 years in a leadership position managing security and safety programs; Previous management experience in a large sports venue, private golf club, upscale hospitality environment or other recognized special events venue preferred; Experience in law enforcement management, military, Secret Service, FBI, corporate security or personal protective detail working with high profile individuals preferred; Expertise in the analysis of security threats, risks and vulnerability domestically and internationally; Strong experience with developing schedules, budgets and managing the day-to-day operations of the department; Excellent interpersonal skills, selfmotivated and directed; Demonstrated ability to exercise superior judgment and problem solving skills; Strong administrative skills including the ability to multitask; Proficient in Microsoft programs to include Outlook, Word, and Excel; Familiar with and understands advance security technology. Augusta National Golf Club offers a comprehensive benefit package including medical, dental, vision, disability, 401k and pension plan. Submit resume and cover letter with salary expectations no later than Wednesday, January 7, 2015 to: hrd@augustanational.com. EOE

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News & Tours

Bubba Watson and wife adopting baby daughter

Bubba Watson and wife Angie are in the process of adopting a baby girl, Dakota, he announced via Twitter on Wednesday.

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Growing the Game

Here's what I'm asking Santa for to help get golf going in 2015

It’s that wishing time of the year. We wish for gifts. We wish for golf. We wish for different relatives. And so on. 

My wish list is really short. And it’s very altruistic. These gifts that I ask for, Santa, I ask for not for myself but as just one member of the great golf family. For the game we love.  I’m Tiny Tim praying, “God bless us every one!” In golf clothes.

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I leave it up to you then, but try to get to as many of these blessings as possible. It’s pretty important. 

1. The McSlam. Rory McIlroy holds title to the last two majors of 2014. I wish as hard as a person can wish that he wins the first two of 2015 -- his first Masters and his second U.S. Open. This would be cooler than an igloo. Then, as the world of golf treks to St. Andrews, the home of golf, we anticipate a feat no one has ever accomplished--- five consecutive majors. Then, and this just too much to ask for, the PGA Championship becomes Rory’s chance to complete the Grand Slam and make golf the coolest sport in the world again. It would also establish a different standard for “greatest player of all time,” shifting from Jack’s 18 majors to The Slam, whether it be the Tiger Slam, the McSlam, or the Grand Slam. Not even Jack has done that. So the debate over who is the greatest player of all time would continue even if no one reaches Jack’s 18 majors, and that’s a good thing. 

2. The Return of the Tiger. If Rory does not win every major next year, I ask that Tiger win one. Santa, Tiger was naughty, and now he’s trying to be nice, and he should be compensated, err, rewarded. Plus, no one stokes the rating like he does. He’s had coal in his headcovers for about five years now and how sweet would it be for that major drought to end and the whole world to watch our sport again. If I may push my request just a bit, I also ask that, upon receiving the trophy he says, tearfully, “I just went back to playing golf. Just like I did as a kid. I gave up all the technical stuff. It’s a game, right?” We're all excited to hear that Seth Rogen will do a fake interview with the major winner. 

3. The National Foursomes Championship. In a surprise move (not to you, of course), the USGA adds this pure alternate shot championship and insists that competitors play as fast as the format can be played -- in about two hours. It’s a model for a new kind of golf, and all over the country clubs add foursomes tournaments that revive a sport that has curdled into the Bataan Death March. “Honey, I’ll be home for breakfast,” replaces “While We’re Young” as the USGA motto.  Other formats are also tested. The Met Golf Association expands its promotion of Stableford -- it already uses it on its member “play days” -- and other groups follow suit. 

4. Playability. This one should be easy, Santa, because it’s kind of already started. You know how we all got into thinking it’s fun to shoot 106 and spend a month’s rent at a new course that’s a “really great test of golf?” Well, it’s dawning on architects that maybe that wasn’t such a good idea. They acknowledge they got all into Resistance to Scoring until someone said, “Wait, who wants to resist that?” One of them even said  “stern test of golf” was just jargon for “too darn hard.” So now they’re talking about Playability as the thing golf courses really need, and that’s a good thing, because, as one of those architects said, “If we kept designing courses like we did in the 80s we’d all be out of business.” Golf should be about fun, especially for new golfers, who need a bit of success to stay with it. Could you speed things up a bit in this department? Wouldn’t it be great if courses and clubs did renovations to make their courses more playable, not tougher? It’s a slippery Slope, I know. But who knows slopes better than you?

5. A new handicap system. Most people don’t use it anyway, but for those who do, the USGA handicap system is a second tax code. Clever people work it. Other people get worked by it. And it’s a great excuse to get bogged down in numbers when we should be playing a game. To quote Mr. Hogan, the only shot that counts is the next one.  With a new system play would move faster because only certain rounds  -- tournament or monthly “medal” days—would be recorded, and no one could record more than a double bogey. Differentials would be built on Stableford scores, so there would be fewer conversations beginning, “I’m not sure if that was a 9 or a 10. Let me see….”  Handicap rules like this seem to work in places like Ireland. You know, home of the McSlam. 

So that’s it, Santa.  I expect if you’re able to grant some of these wishes you’ll be getting a whole lot more golfer mail this time next year. 

Happy Holidays!


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News & Tours

Missing Links: A 'healthy' Tiger says 'it's fun to be able to play with my kids again'

Stories of interest you might have missed…

“I'm mostly excited about being healthy again,” Tiger Woods writes on his website in this look at the year past and the year ahead. “I’ve struggled for the past year-and-half with my back, and it showed in my results…Now that it feels healthy, strong and stable, it's fun to be able to play with my kids again, to play soccer and run around with them, shoot hoops … things that I used to do and took for granted. For anybody who has ever had a bad back with nerve damage, it's downright debilitating. To not feel that is finally just incredible relief.”

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(Getty Images)

Former PGA of America president Ted Bishop, who was unceremoniously removed from office for what he wrote about Ian Poulter in defense of Nick Faldo, demonstrates a warmer side in this story posted on his blog about Jimmy Walker’s caddie Andy Sanders, once an aspiring tour player himself. “Then one day Sanders woke up and experienced a blind spot in his right eye…Sanders would soon discover that he had Multiple Sclerosis. He tried to fight through the condition and keep on playing. He was receiving muscle injections every other week and eventually he contracted vertigo which was the worst thing that could happen to a golfer.”

***

“The idea that the PGA Tour calendar is too full depends on how you look at the calendar. In this new world of the wraparound season, it seems as though golf never ends…But is that much different from 10 years ago?” Doug Ferguson of the Associated Press writes in this lead item to a notes column.

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This doesn’t bode well for the future of golf in China. “After the 1949 revolution, Mao had all the courses dug up and forbade government officials from playing—a ban never officially lifted… [U]nlicensed courses started popping up as golf’s popularity took off among the middle classes. That led to a 2004 blanket ban on construction of new courses to preserve arable land. Ironically, most of China’s golf courses have been built since then. But under [President] Xi (Jinping), the country is starting to take the rules seriously.” Andrew Browne has the story in the Wall Street Journal.

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My Usual Game

Unbroken (by the stupid weather)

My home course has been closed since shortly before Thanksgiving, so we've been playing around. I was traveling (without golf clubs) two Sundays ago, but everyone else played at Tunxis Plantation, which is about an hour from where we live, and last Sunday we went back. I rode with Other Gene. Snow was falling when we left home, and it continued to fall as we drove, and when we were maybe 15 minutes from Tunxis I realized that it was probably going to keep falling and not suddenly melt by the time we got there. 

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And that’s what happened. So we held a conference in the parking lot:

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We called every golf course we could think of, and discovered that Stanley and Goodwin, in Hartford, were both closed, but that Fairchild Wheeler, in Fairfield, was not only open but “with greens.” The Wheel is just an hour from Tunxis, so that’s where we went. Tim showed up as we were pulling out, but he decided to be a good husband by returning home and giving his wife holiday-related opportunities to be angry at him. When the rest of us arrived at the Wheel, a maintenance guy with a leaf blower was removing snow from a putting surface:

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We played the Black. The young woman at the desk in the golf shop let us go out as a fivesome after Hacker (real name) assured her that we would play faster than any threesome on the course. And he was telling the truth, because there was a threesome directly ahead of us and we waited on pretty much every shot, including this one, on a long par 3:

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Hacker and I took on Gene, Gary, and Kevin (who was visiting from law school). We beat them by three shots, but rather than pocketing our winnings we used them to pay for most of everybody's lunch.

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During the cheeseburger course, Gene suggested that we adopt some kind of ongoing off-season competition, analogous to the FedEx Cup, and we all agreed that that was a good idea. Recently, I wrote about some guys in Massachusetts who call themselves the Winter Tour because they play all winter. Borrowing that name seemed easier than making up a new one, so that's what we decided to do. Hacker, as always, will devise the format and the scoring system; my assignment is to talk to the people who make Jagermeister -- the traditional cold-weather intoxicant of the Sunday Morning Group -- and persuade them to become the Winter Tour's lead sponsor. 

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If they give us just hats, say, we’ll agree to call ourselves something like “the Winter Tour of the Sunday Morning Group (in association with Jagermeister).” 

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But if they give us shirts in addition to hats, plus maybe some actual Jagermeister, we’d be willing to go as far as “the Jagermeister Tour (in association with the Sunday Morning Group)." Their choice. And if they're really accommodating we'll add their logo to all our other branded merchandise, including our regular hats and our bumper stickers.

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The company’s headquarters are closed till after the New Year (when the Winter Tour will be playing at Shennecossett, in Groton ) so the actual negotiations won’t begin until then. I’m assuming there won’t be a problem. I’ll post an update as soon as I have the details.

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Health & Fitness

Jack Nicklaus is colorblind. Here's what that looks like

Jack Nicklaus has been color blind his entire life. The effects were so severe that he couldn't even distinguish between the different colored numbers on leader boards while he was competing. According to a story from Sports Illustrated:

At the 18th green, I looked at the leaderboard, and I saw several 1s and 2s. I'm color-blind, so I said to my caddie, Willie Peterson, 'How many of those numbers are red?' He said, 'Just you, boss.'"

Jack is what's known as Red-Green color blind, which means he can't distinguish between the two colors. When he sees them -- especially together, they kind of blend together into a kind of brown. 

Having a hard time imagining what that would be like? Well, Buzzfeed put together a good video that describes what it's like:


If you're worried that you might be Red-Green color blind, you can test yourself online right here. You should, for example, be able to see relatively easily what's contained within the circle below...

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News & Tours

Golf loses a class act with the death of longtime Winged Foot head pro Tom Nieporte

The golf world lost a gentlemen with the Dec. 21 death of Tom Nieporte, the longtime head pro at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, N.Y., who forged a reputation as one of the great club professionals in the game.

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With Nieporte's win in the 1967 Bob Hope, he became the last club pro to win on tour.

Faced with the unenviable task of succeeding Claude Harmon at Winged Foot in 1978, Nieporte carved out his own legend over the next 28 years. He was a great player who won three times on the PGA Tour. His final victory, at the 1967 Bob Hope Classic, came when he was the full-time head professional at Piping Rock Club on Long Island, making him the last true club pro to win on the tour. He was a valued mentor to dozens of pros who went on to decorated teaching careers of their own. But most impressively is that Nieporte, a father of nine, was on many people's short list as one of the classiest guys in golf.

I came to know Nieporte when I was the golf writer for the Westchester (N.Y.) Journal News, often calling over to the golf shop or even popping by when working on some local-angled golf story. He was a great source of knowledge who had giants of the game like Palmer to Nelson on speed dial. If he didn't have an immediate answer, he'd often call back a day or two later to tell you what he tracked down.

In a profile I wrote on Nieporte when he won the 2005 Bill Stausbaugh Award from the PGA of America, the superlatives from other pros rolled out in such rapid succession. "The nicest guy I ever met" was one I heard repeatedly. That sentiment was echoed this week when news of Nieporte's passing at age 86 in Boca Raton, Fla., spread.

"Tom never had a negative thing to say, even after the worst shot imaginable," Winged Foot president John Schneider told The Journal News' Mike Dougherty. "If you played a round of golf with Tom, you checked your own values and walked away saying, 'I need to be more like that.' "

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Instruction

Make The Turn Weekly Challenge #42: Perfect Putting Performance

Coaching has become a very high-tech industry these days and the vast array of tools now available to teachers and students can create a "fast track" toward improvement. As it relates to putting and "green reading," there are various technologies and systems of learning that have really taken the art and science of rolling your ball to the next level.

Many golfers who may not have instant access to such resources can quickly learn and improve their game though simple exercises in awareness. Everyone in golf exhibits a series of patterns. Patterns can also be categorized as "behaviors" and in the case of putting may include but not be limited to such variables as movement, contact and perception. Reading a green is simply a "judgment" call based upon knowledge of various characteristics within the putting surface and surrounding environment, coupled with an intended "pace" at which the player deems most appropriate for a given putt. The more knowledge you have and the better you are at producing an accurate pace and line, the more putts you'll make.

So let's say you're about to hit the course and want to learn something about your putting tendencies "right now" that can quickly improve your success rate?

As shown in the video below, the first step in getting better is all about "pattern" recognition. Once an awareness of a pattern is understood, a simple "adjustment" in approach can quickly deliver big results.

I learned this technique in awareness from my time coaching at the Dave Pelz Short Game School and its been a simple exercise I still use it with my clients to this day. In green reading, many players will find that their tendency is to miss putts consistently on one side of the hole. If a pattern is heavily weighted one way or the other, a simple adjustment would be to add or subtract a little from your normal "judgment" call until you learn the techniques associated with perhaps scientifically seeing each putt more effectively.

In world driven by technology, sometimes the most effective remedy is the simplest one. Commit to elevating your pattern awareness for just one day on the greens and you can count this week's challenge as complete.

BENEFITS
Pattern Awareness
Fast Implementation
Make More Putts



Jeff Ritter is the CEO/Founder of MTT Performance. The program operates out of Poppy Hills Golf Course in Pebble Beach, Calif. Follow him on Twitter at @mttgolf
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Courses & Travel

This is the coolest miniature golf course that you'll see today

If you find yourself in Tennessee over the holiday week, you should probably check out D&D Miniature Golf.

The miniature golf venue in Clakesville, Tenn., combines blacklights and 3D glasses to offer a Fantasy Forest-feel, according to The Leaf-Chronicle, which first reported on the venue. The mini-golf course features unicorns, dragons and fairies, among other things. Prices range from $7.50 for kids to $9.50 for adults.

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Jazzed-up miniature golf courses like this are growing increasingly more common as they try to find new ways to attract more customers. A miniature golf course in Oregon recently featured lasers on one of its holes, while a minor league baseball team in Ohio spent the off-season turning its stadium into a miniature golf course.

"Golf alone doesn’t make it any more," David Callahan, CEO of Putt-Putt Golf, told Bloomberg TV in August. "You can’t make that business model work."

And that seems to be the goal here for Todd Lindburgh, the course's designer, who set out to create a "a one-of-a-kind event."

"Everyone will find something they like," he said.

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