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Meet the 3-year-old golf prodigy born without a right hand

When Tommy Morrissey was 13 months old, he began watching golf telecasts with his father Joe and “he’d watch it as though he understood what was happening,” his mother Marcia said.


At 18 months, he began mimicking what he was seeing on those golf telecasts, meanwhile, getting angry when someone changed the channel.

So his parents gave him a plastic club and ball and he began swinging away and hitting the ball with uncommon efficiency for a toddler, more so for one born without a right hand.

“My husband plays golf and I play golf,” Marcia said. “Thomas became obsessed with it. He started watching YouTube instruction all on his own, mostly Bubba Watson, really. So we began nurturing his obsession. It’s unreal.”

Tommy is now three, has real equipment and plays as often as time and his parents allow, which is frequently, given that they’re members at Frenchman’s Reserve Country Club in Palm Beach Gardens, near their home in Jupiter, and Linwood Country Club in Linwood, N.J., where they spend summers.

They took Tommy to Linwood’s professional Jeff LeFevre this summer. “He immediately took a very nice, natural square setup,” LeFevre said. “He took the club back to parallel and paused at the top. When he hesitates at the top he looks at the target, then back to the ball.

“He never whiffed one. And after watching him hit a couple hundred balls now it’s amazing to me that he never ever whiffs.”

Doctors at Shriners Hospital in Philadelphia predicted that he’d have exceptional hand-eye coordination, Marcia said. “His body and his brain think he’s right-handed, but without a right hand his brain has to compensate in ways yours and mine would not.”

Marcia, meanwhile, is reading “Imperfect: An Improbable Life,” Jim Abbott’s autobiography. Abbott, who was born without a right hand and played 10 years in the major leagues, often spoke about his indifference to not having a right hand.

The same holds true with Tommy, Marcia said. “Thomas has no idea he’s any different than anybody else,” she said. “He just never even questions it.”

The first time LeFevre saw him hit balls, tears came to his eyes, he said, a reaction others have had, too. “You’re heartfelt for what he’s going through,” he said, “then you realize he doesn’t see it as a handicap, that he was just born with one arm and that’s the way it is.”

As for his passion for the game, he once temporarily lost his putter. “Boy, was he upset. He had such a fit,” LeFevre said. “His passion is just incredible.”

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Deal of the Week: See Hemingway's Sun Valley at a discount

Ernest Hemingway came to Sun Valley, Idaho for the first time in 1939 for a lot of the same reasons visitors come now -- the incredible mountain scenery, clean air and low key atmosphere. A-listers like Tom Hanks and Mark Zuckerberg still like it because they can walk around relatively unbothered and enjoy two distinct recreation seasons -- golf and skiing. 


When you go, you can stay at the same resort Hemingway did. Suite 206 in the iconic, x-shaped Sun Valley Lodge -- where Hemingway finished writing For Whom the Bell Tolls -- isn't a part of the resort's fall Aspen Glow promotion, but you can get a standard room at the Lodge or related Sun Valley Inn and a round of golf at the Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed Trail Creek course for $179 per person through September 28th. A night in the Lodge normally starts at $324, and the green fee ranges from $79 to $149.

Don't let all of the snowy photographs of Sun Valley's world-class Bald Mountain ski area trick you. The average daytime high in September is still in the low 70s early in the month and mid 60s late, while average lows dip into the 30s. Play 18 holes and take meandering fall color tour around nearby Warm Springs, where Hemingway spent his final years in a house overlooking the Wood River. 

Head back to the Lodge afterward and lose the jackets and go for a nighttime swim in the famous circular outdoor pool adjacent to the lobby. It's open year round and heated to 102 degrees, perfect for nursing a cocktail and looking at the stars. 

The Hailey airport is 14 miles from the resort, and it has daily non-stop flights from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver, Salt Lake and Seattle.
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5 things to talk about with your buddies on the course this weekend

From sports to TV to politics (OK, so mostly the first two), we offer five hot topics that are sure to liven up your round of golf:

1. "Brangelina": They got married! Last weekend! In France! And the best part? Almost no one seemed to know about it. OK, so it's a little weird that even Angelina Jolie's father, Jon Voight, was kept out of the loop, but at least they spared everyone all the breathless coverage and follow-up TV specials brought on by the recent nuptials of "Kimye." Thanks for keeping it chill, guys.


Related: Photos of golf-crazed celebrities

2. The Emmys: Here's a brief rundown of TV's big awards night: "Breaking Bad" won EVERYTHING. This was made a lot more tolerable since, coincidentally, I started binge watching the series just two days before (I was well into Season 2 by the time of the ceremony). Still, as good as Bryan Cranston is, it's crazy to think that Matthew McConaughey didn't win for best actor -- something I declared was a LOCK after just the second episode of "True Detective." Oh well, he'll have to settle for just an Academy Award and a Golden Globe this year.

3. David Chase: Speaking of TV, the creator of "The Sopranos" chimed in (again) on the much-talked-about abrupt ending to the series finale after a report that Chase had finally divulged the fate of mob boss Tony Soprano. (SPOILER ALERT: There was an abrupt ending to the final episode of "The Sopranos" in which the screen went black and people watching completely freaked out.) Anyway, Mr. Chase said Tony Soprano didn't die -- but he also didn't necessarily live. In other words, his life went on and the audience is supposed to draw its own conclusions. Hmm. So now the debate goes on as well. Seven years later. Well played, David. What do I think happened in that scene? I think Tony ordered more onion rings.

Related: Rory and Jagermeister: An unauthorized history

4. Sean Foley: Golf Digest's No. 2-ranked instructor only charges $250 per lesson. If you're struggling with your game, maybe now is the time to give him a call. He's got a lot more openings in his schedule.

Related: Who will be Tiger Woods' next coach?

5. College football: The season officially got underway on Thursday night so there's plenty to discuss and be excited about. My level of caring, however, completely correlates with how good my alma mater's team is. (*Checks scores.* *Sees Wake Forest lost to Northern Illinois, 17-10.* *Let's out a big sigh.*) So the NFL starts next week, right?

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News & Tours

Brendon de Jonge got off to a worse start than most amateur golfers playing over Labor Day Weekend will

Brendon de Jonge arrived at this week's Deutsche Bank Championship with a good chance of advancing to the third leg of the FedEx Cup Championship. But by the third hole of the first round at TPC Boston, his 2013-14 PGA Tour season was all but over.

Related: 7 things you need to know after Week 1 of the Playoffs

After a 280-yard opening drive in the fairway on No. 10 (his first hole of the day), things went bad quickly for the 34-year-old Zimbabwean. De Jonge found the water with his approach shot and after taking a drop, he took four more shots to finish.

On the par-3 11th, he found a greenside bunker. His first shot from the sand didn't get out. His second went well over the green. Three shots later, he had recorded a disastrous second straight triple bogey to start his round. "Triple doubles" are good in basketball. "Double triples" in golf? Not so good.


The top 70 players on the FedEx Cup points list will advance to next week's BMW Championship at Cherry Hills. De Jonge entered this week's event at No. 79 after advancing to the Tour Championship last year for the first time.

Related: 5 things to talk about on the course this weekend

De Jonge certainly won't be thrilled with today's round, but he should be more upset with himself about how he finished at the Barclays last week. Following an opening 66, he shot over par the final three rounds to finish T-61 and miss out on a great opportunity to pick up points in the volatile playoff system. Now he needs to pick up shots fast if he's going to make the cut and move on.

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News & Tours

Charles Manson, a judge and a vote that kept the U.S. Open from Los Angeles CC…until now

Los Angeles Country Club has a colorful history that includes its proximity to the Playboy Mansion (adjacent to the 13th green) and Groucho Marx’ failed bid to join, prompting him to famously say, “Why would I want to belong to a club that would have me as a member?”

Its history, too, has included occasional flirtations with the USGA about playing the U.S. Open on its renowned North Course, the latest chapter revealed on Thursday.

Los Angeles North.jpg

The ’54 U.S. Junior Amateur, meanwhile, was played at LACC and was to be a prelude to its hosting the U.S. Amateur in ’56 (and likely the U.S. Open sometime after that). But when a crowd of 3,500 showed up for the Junior Amateur final, the membership recoiled at the thought of crowds traipsing across its course that it withdrew its offer to host the Amateur.

The last time that LACC entertained U.S. Open overtures was 1982. Sandy Tatum, a past president of the USGA and a powerbroker within the organization, grew up playing LACC (his father was a member) and was a strong advocate on behalf of the 1986 Open going there.

Tatum also had an ally in the club president at the time, Judge Charles Older. His Honor was no obscure judge, incidentally. He was the presiding judge in the trial of serial killer Charles Manson in 1971 and was the man who sentenced Manson to death.

Eddie Merrins, then the head pro at nearby Bel-Air Country Club, once said that Older wished to bring the Open to LACC “so [the public] could see that the members of the club weren't so bad after all.”

Two years before Older’s death in 2006, I reached him by phone to ask about the Open discussions. “I don’t think I want to talk about that,” Older said, hewing to the club’s policy of keeping club business private.

Older reportedly was one of four on the LACC board in favor of the club hosting the Open. But five were opposed. End of discussion. Until now.

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Gear & Equipment

Ping's G30 hybrid doesn't have turbulators, but it does have plenty of other technology to talk about

Although the turbulators on Ping's G30 driver received much of the attention given to the G30 line of woods, it would be a mistake to look at that club and go no further.


Take the company's G30 hybrid -- a workhorse constructed of 17-4 stainless steel with a heat-treated face designed to improve springlike effect for more distance. Internal weight pads in the heel and toe raise its moment of inertia to assist mis-hits, and a weight positioned low in the sole provides a low-back center of gravity to help launch the ball higher.

The hybrids (street price: $220 each) are available in five lofts (17, 19, 22, 26, 30 degrees) with Ping's TFC 419H graphite shaft in four flexes. Oh, and no turbulators, either.

Interested in more stories on equipment? Signup to receive Golf Digestix, a weekly digital magazine that offers the latest news, new product introductions and behind-the-scenes looks at all things equipment.


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Health & Fitness

Fitness Friday: How to swing like Rory (the sequel)

In response to feedback received on my recent Fitness Friday post "How to swing like Rory," I went back to Golf Digest fitness advisor Ben Shear (@ben_shear) for more tips on how to emulate what might be the best power swing in golf. If you watch Rory McIlroy swing in slow motion (see below), you'll note how active his lower body is at the start of the downswing. This activity, as I explained a few weeks back, is independent of the movement of his upper body—meaning that his lower body is rotating toward the target while his upper body is still rotating away from it.


Now, in fairness to all power hitters, this change-of-direction move is not exclusive to Rory. He just happens to do it better than most. Rory's swing is a model for generating power efficiently. A few weeks back Ben showed an exercise that will help you train your pelvis to rotate independently of your upper body. Some of you struggled with this move and found yourselves letting your arms bend and rotating your trunk in the same direction your were turning your hips. So this week, Ben offers a simpler exercise to help train lower-body dissociation. Click on the video below to watch.

Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

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Survey upshot: Golf is a business, so treat it like one

A strategic planning survey to which more than 300 golf course operators reportedly responded suggests one reason for the game’s lethargic performance in recent months and years: Bad business practices.


The survey, conducted by Golf Convergence, a strategic consulting business based in Castle Pines, Colo., “demonstrated that golf course operators complain about uncontrollable factors to mask their culpability for being poor operators,” the company said.

Among the findings of the survey:

  • 35 percent are operating without a current business plan.
  • 76 percent believe that their market is oversupplied.
  • 73 percent don’t engage in customer relationship management.
  • 88 percent never have their golf course secret shopped.
  • 82 percent rarely engage in customer surveys.

“I’m disappointed,” James Keegan, Managing Principal of Golf Convergence said, “but I’m not surprised. Having seen over 4,000 golf courses, I continue to be amazed that most of the people in the golf business got there for the love of the game, but most lack the business acumen and formal education to be able to engage in a successful small business.”

Keegan recently wrote in his blog at that, “a golf course is a living organism that requires constant reinvestment to create sustaining value for the golfer.”

“I believe most golf clubs in America cover operational expenses,” he said, “but few set aside sufficient capital reserves.”

The status quo, as he is fond of saying, is a formidable foe.

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News & Tours

Los Angeles Country Club on brink of being awarded the 2023 U.S. Open

Los Angeles Country Club is close to a deal to host the 2023 U.S. Open.

According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, the club's membership has been notified via email of an impending vote about hosting the Open, an event that has not been played in the Los Angeles area since Riviera Country Club held the 1948 playing won by Ben Hogan. In 2017, Riviera co-hosts the U.S. Amateur with Bel-Air CC, while Los Angeles Country Club hosts the 46th Walker Cup. A contract with the USGA has yet to be signed.

"As a general rule, the USGA keeps its site selection process confidential to protect future sites and related parties. In this instance, we confirm that the USGA and Los Angeles Country Club are exploring the possibility of conducting a future U.S. Open Championship at the club," the USGA said in a statement. "There are several important steps required in the Championship selection process to ensure its success, including garnering the support of the Club’s membership and evaluating the feasibility of conducting a world-class championship in the heart of the Los Angeles community. We are appreciative of the opportunity to continue the process."

Ranked 41st on Golf Digest's most recent ranking of America's 100 Greatest Courses, the North Course has long been regarded for its stern examination and its remarkable location between Beverly Hills and UCLA’s Westwood campus. Although it has hosted two prior USGA events, the 1954 U.S. Junior Amateur (won by Bud Bradley) and the 1930 U.S. Women’s Amateur (Glenna Collett), it has never hosted the USGA's signature championship.

If ultimately awarded, this will be the first U.S. Open played in the heart of a major American city. The 7,236-yard North Course features views of the Hollywood Hills and west to the South Bay, yet still exudes a rural sensibility with several holes playing along or over a sandy, sycamore-dotted barranca.

The North Course underwent a restoration in 2010 by architect Gil Hanse with -- full disclosure here -- assistance from the author of this story. As with many classic designs, tree plantings had become robust and the intricate bunker style of George Thomas and William Bell had been lost due to time and traditional maintenance practices. The restored course hosted the 2013 Pac-12 Championship won by California. Max Homa of Cal won the individual title a month before claiming NCAA medalist honors.

Releasing news of a club hosting the U.S. Open before a contract has been signed is an unusual change for the USGA, but with modern communication methods, word of the membership vote was likely anticipated and not unprecedented. 

Recently, the R&A announced a future Open Championship for Royal Portrush, also pending a membership vote this fall. 

The possibility of committing to Los Angeles Country Club in 2023 solidifies a USGA commitment to West Coast dates in the next decade, a region appreciated by Executive Director Mike Davis due to more reliable June weather conditions, which allow for fast, firm setups. Economically, the West Coast also allows for an East Coast prime time finish and higher television ratings. The USGA begins a 12-year television contract with Fox Sports in 2015.

Next year, the U.S. Open is played outside of Seattle at Chambers Bay, followed on the West Coast by Pebble Beach in 2019 and Torrey Pines in 2021. Other host sites awarded future U.S. Opens include Oakmont (2016), Erin Hills (2017), Shinnecock Hills (2018), Winged Foot (2020). 

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News & Tours

Having seen the light over membership issue, the R&A is now leaving little to chance

However resistant the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews has been to inviting women members in the past, the club sure appears intent on getting them in now. In the ballots that went out last week to its roughly 2,500 members, the club asked two questions: Are you in favor of women members? And if so, would you be open to letting 15 women in at once?

In a departure, the R&A is allowing members to vote on the women's issue remotely. 
Photo by Getty Images 

More telling than the questions themselves are the revised conditions for voting. For 260 years the bylaws of the club required members to show up in St. Andrews to cast a ballot. Now it says members can vote remotely. Once requiring two-thirds to change a bylaw, this time it's merely seeking a majority. 

Both are reflections of an organization that wants to eliminate any risk of an old-school local faction within the club conspiring to halt progress. 

"Society is changing," outgoing R&A secretary Peter Dawson said in March when announcing the General Committee's recommendation to invite women. "Sport is changing. Golf is changing. And I think it is appropriate for a governing body to take this step."

Curiously, the results of the voting will be announced the same day Scotland will vote on whether to secede from the United Kingdom. Coincidence or not, there's always a chance, as Golf Digest contributing editor John Huggan joked, R&A members will get confused in casting their ballot and women will be banned from Scotland.

For all the hand-wringing over Augusta National's former all-male membership -- the host of the Masters finally invited women members in 2012  -- the R&A membership issue carries far more significance. As opposed to Augusta National, where women have long been invited to play and stay, the R&A literally bans women from its clubhouse -- a symbolic indignity, sure, but also one with practical and professional consequences.

In July, Louise Richardson, the principal of the University of St. Andrews, described to the New York Times the disadvantage of not having access to the R&A down the road from her office. Her two immediate predecessors were granted honorary memberships to the club, but Richardson said she was often left to conduct important university business from afar.

“A supporter of the university got in touch and asked if he could possibly have lunch at the R&A today,” Richardson said to the Times. “I had to arrange for somebody I know to take him to lunch at the R&A because, of course, I can’t. And I had to arrange  for another member of the staff to take his wife to lunch some place in town because, of course, she can’t get into the R&A, either.”

Should the resolution pass to invite 15 women in an inaugural "class" of new members, Richardson is likely to be one of them. Other names mentioned as possibilities include former USGA president Judy Bell, and Lady Angela Bonallack, a past Curtis Cup player and the wife of former R&A captain and secretary Sir Michael Bonnallack.

But that's all contingent upon the R&A first allowing any women at all. It would seem like a foregone conclusion, but then, with something that's taken this long, it's probably best not to assume.

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