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News & Tours

Stewart Roche continues to make holes-in-one at age 96

If Stewart Roche had never gained notoriety as a record-setting golfer in his 90s, he still would have made quite a name for himself:

-Graduated No. 2 in his Notre Dame law school class and served a year as law school president
-Spent four years in the Counter Intelligence Corps during World War II, including Agent in Charge of the Madison, Wis., branch office
-Oceana County Savings Bank president for 33 years in Hart, Mich.
-Practiced law in Hart for 41 years
-Owner & operator of Hart Petroleum Company for 17 years
-Volunteer work with the local Rotary Club, American Legion post and St. Gregory's Church.

But, as any avid golfer can attest, you greatly enhance your life resume when you factor in what you've done on the golf course. Since picking up golf in the early 1950s, Mr. Roche has had nine holes-in-one. Incredibly, three have come since he turned 91:

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Photo of Stewart Roche courtesy of WZZM-13.

On July 20, 2007, he made an ace at Golden Sands Golf Course in Silver Lake, Mich., with a driver on the 175-yard third hole. And the last two aces came on the same hole, the 125-yard 12th, at Oceana Golf Club in Shelby, Mich. He used a 4-iron on Sept. 2, 2009, and muscled the ball in the hole with a 5-iron on June 15, 2012.

Mr. Roche considers his ace-making ability "very lucky," but when he demonstrated his swing for anchor and news/sports reporter Brent Ashcroft of WZZM TV-13 in Grand Rapids, Mich., he hit a shot within two feet. The first ace he ever made, in the 1950s, he says was far from skillful; he topped the ball and saw it hit the pin and go in. "One of the guys I was with said, 'I'm not even going to congratulate you on that one,'" Roche said.

A Grand Rapids native, Roche has lived in Hart, Mich., for most of his life. A regular group includes a pair of players in their 80s, Ray Larson and Larry Pluister, and a youngster, Rev. Tom Bolster, in his late 50s. At his best, Roche was a 9-handicapper. Now, with his third ace since age 91, we include him in our recordbooks with the unique title of "most prolific hole-in-one shooter of a golfer in their 90s."

There have been a few others in our record-books who made news by making multiple aces during their ultra-vintage years, including George Selbach and Joe McHugh, who each had two aces at age 97, and Anton Lee, who had six holes-in-one after age 80.

Setting a longevity record is a difficult thing to pin down. It's not an exact science, and saying one golfer's feat overshadows another can be dicey. Does making two aces at age 97 trump three aces from 91 to 96?

We like to celebrate everyone's feat at that age and give them credit for their own niche in history. Most of us would just be happy to say we can put the clubface on the ball in our 90s and advance it down the fairway, let alone make aces.

Roche gets out about twice a week for nine holes in a cart, sometimes three times. In one of his recent rounds, on July 27, he had a 42 at Oceana, where he's a charter member. "I'm so old I can shoot my age," he says. Mr. Roche has longevity in his family, so his good fortune on the golf course could very well continue for quite awhile. If so, he'll separate himself from the other celebrated nonagenarians in our archives -- a very rare breed indeed.

-- Cliff Schrock

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News & Tours

Canadian Open: Its past was not prologue

ANCASTER, Ontario, Canada -- The RBC Canadian Open is history with a title sponsor, a working relic that began its run in 1904 and recalls the best the game has had to offer, from A to W, Armour to Woods.

Its roll call of winners also includes Hagen, Snead, Nelson, Palmer, Casper, Trevino and Norman, each contributing to the prestige that once earned it the unofficial label of fifth major.

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In 1919, J. Douglas Edgar won it by 16 shots, still a PGA Tour record nearly a century later. Incidentally, Bobby Jones tied for second.

Related: The best courses on the PGA Tour

In 1910, Canadian George Lyon finished second. Lyon is the last player to have won an Olympic gold medal in golf, in 1904, and the trophy he also received for doing so was on display at Hamilton Golf and Country Club here last week, on loan from the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame and Museum.

The Canadian Open is played on quality golf courses, too, including this year's site, Hamilton, G&CC, designed by renowned course architect Harry S. Colt.

Related: The year of the comeback on the PGA Tour

Why is all this important? It's not, and that is the sadness. The Canadian Open has a longer and deeper history than any PGA Tour event, yet it generally is ignored by the game's elite.

Matt Kuchar, ninth, was the only player in the field from the top 10 in the World Ranking. He and Hunter Mahan (13th) and Ernie Els (15th) were the only players from the top 20 in the field.

The winner was Scott Piercy (above), who was ranked 100th and outlasted runners-up William McGirt (303rd in the World Ranking) and Robert Garrigus (70th) to win by one. Piercy completed 72 holes in 263, equalling a tournament record that was set by Johnny Palmer in 1952.

The victory was his second in two years (he won the Reno-Tahoe Open in 2011), suggesting talent. But the combination of Piercy, Garrigus and McGirt vying on Sunday afternoon is a symptom of a tournament that has become a victim of the modern schedule.

The Canadian Open annually falls on the week after the British Open, the week before the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, and two weeks ahead of the PGA Championship. With the FedEx Cup playoffs following shortly, the Canadian Open has been crowded out of many elite players' schedules.

The title sponsor, RBC, has done an admirable job of buttressing the field by signing to endorsement contracts a tour staff that ensures that a handful of recognizable names are entered each year. Els, Furyk and Mahan are all RBC clients and were in the field (though only Mahan made the cut and he finished tied for 48th. Luke Donald, another RBC client and the No. 1 player in the World Ranking, chose to pass.

Moreover, the tournament, by way of providing incentive for British Open participants to participate (or to eliminate a disincentive for some to do so), charters a plane to bring them, their families and caddies from Britain to Canada.

It speaks to the plight of this tournament that deserves better, however, that one year, a player hitched that Britain-to-Toronto shuttle, then withdrew shortly after landing and headed home.

-- John Strege

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Instruction

Weekend Tip: Winning at match play

sumo.gifHead to head. Mano a mano. You against me. However you put it, July and August are traditionally the months for match-play tournaments. Many club championships are contested at match play, as are most member-guests. In the September issue of Golf Digest, on newsstands next week (Alvaro Quiros on the cover), there's a timely Basics section full of match-play advice, either for team competition or individual.

Here are five of my favorites:

By Ian Poulter:
Get out fast: "In match play you have to attack every pin, and when you get a lead, keep your foot on the accelerator," says Poulter, who is undefeated in Ryder Cup singles play. At the 2010 Ryder Cup, he defeated Stewart Cink in 14 holes. "After every shot, the clock is ticking, and it's a lot easier to win holes early than late. Don't give anything away from the start. That's how you become a player who's tough to beat."

By Jack Nicklaus;
Forget your partner: "Tom Weiskopf used to tell stories when we were partners that I would say, 'Go rack your cue, Tom.' Meaning pick up your ball because I'm going to make my putt,' " Nicklaus says. "Of course, I didn't say that, but the mind-set is a healthy one for match play. If I had an eight-footer and my partner had a 12-footer on a different line, I might want to just hit mine in. Point is, don't rely on your partner, rely on yourself. You're playing your own ball, so think about what you can do."

By Michael Breed:
Have a safety drive: On a crucial hole, driving the ball in the fairway can be the difference between free drinks and picking up the check. "What I tell my students is, make a practice swing and feel what's happening to your body. Feel what it's like to stay in balance," Breed says. "If you can maintain your balance, the club will tend to meet the ball in the center of the face." Staying in balance also will improve your rhythm, he says, which always helps prevent wild tee shots.

By Padraig Harrington:
One hole at a time: "If you're down, your goal is to win that hole. Get one hole, then the next."

By Tim Mahoney:
Up big? Don't coast: "It's natural to be more cautious with the lead and force your opponent to take risks," Mahoney says. "But being conservative should apply only to the target and club selection. Once it's time to hit, make an aggressive swing. When players get a lead, they tend to guide shots or focus on just avoiding disasters. They start thinking about the next thing, like the next match. You have to keep playing."

Good luck with your game this weekend. I hope you win your matches, unless you're playing against me!

Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest
Twitter @RogerSchiffman


Photo by Phillip Toledano/Golf Digest
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News & Tours

Trending: Wozzilroy is at the Olympics

Wait, is it is at the Olympics, or are at the Olympics? Ah well, whether or not they qualify as plural these days is rather insignificant, Rory McIlory and Caroline Wozniacki are in love, and this week they bring that love to the Olympics.

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Love struck? Rory McIlroy and Caroline Wozniacki arrive at Olympic Village. Photo: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

The much-documented relationship has taken some hits in recent weeks due to the decline in their professional performances since they've started dating. Some have even gone as far as to speculate it's the reason for their failures, and now McIlroy's fellow countryman Graeme McDowell has confirmed it is true -- at least he thinks so.

Speaking to Morning Drive this week, McDowell suggested the constant travel to be with Wozniacki is wearing Rory down, and the result we're seeing in his golf game is actually fatigue. But not to worry, "he's a young kid and he has all the talent in the world. It is only a matter of time [before he comes back]."

Let's be honest, who wouldn't want to gallivant around the globe as one of the sports world's "it" couples? And between Dubai appearance fees and underwear lines, neither one of them has to win another tournament and they'd still be set for life. While at some point the lack of success may hurt their popularity, for now we're just going to have to accept the fact that enjoying each other's company is as much on their agenda as winning. Or as McDowell puts it, "the boy's in love. He's crazy about her. It's not a bad problem to have."

Not a bad problem to have indeed, and at least for McIlroy, the focus will now shift to Wozniacki's on-court performance for the next couple of weeks. Not to mention, there's all that rampant Olympic Village sex to look forward to.

-- Derek Evers

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Health & Fitness

Fitness Friday: An exercise to generate serious clubhead speed

Every week my colleague Ron Kaspriske, Golf Digest Fitness Editor, presents Fitness Friday on the Instruction Blog. This week he presents one excercise that, if done consistently, will really increase your clubhead speed. Look for Weekend Tip tomorrow, and remember to follow me on Twitter: @RogerSchiffman.

Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest

Here's Ron: I always smirk when I hear trainers say golfers need better "torso separation" to generate power. It invokes images of a magician sawing a guy in khaki pants and a golf shirt in half. What they really mean is that your hips need to be able to rotate toward the target faster than your upper torso does. This creates a whip-like action that generates a whole lot of clubhead speed. Just watch Rory McIlroy's hips when he swings a driver to understand why he can crush a ball.
 
Many golfers, however, swing down into the ball with their hips and upper torso moving together. You might have heard the term "keeping the club in front of you." This type of simultaneous body rotation produces a swing where the chest remains facing the clubhead throughout much of the swing--back and through. This is an effective way to play provided you can keep the club from coming too much across the target line on an out-to-in-path. In fact, it provides a great deal of accuracy, and many professional golfers have made a lot of money with this type of swing. Just watch Jason Dufner through impact to see how effective it can be.
 
Unfortunately, what it won't do is generate the same type of clubhead speed that players such as McIlroy, Gary Woodland and Alvaro Quiros (check out Golf Digest's September issue) possess. If you really want to get longer off the tee and you've already been properly fitted for a driver and ball, then your only other option is to learn to fire your hips toward the target faster and develop some of that "torso separation" trainers keep talking about.
 
Your goal should be to have your hips facing the target at impact while your chest is still facing the ball. One exercise that can help train this movement is the lateral Heisman. It got its name because the movement somewhat resembles the famous college football trophy. I intended to include the lateral Heisman in the new, advanced 20-in-20 workout, but it got left on the cutting room floor. So consider this a bonus exercise you can add to that workout or whatever routine you are currently doing (see the video below). It's important to note that when doing this exercise, the minute you become so fatigued that your form becomes sloppy, you should stop, rest and then work on moving in the opposite direction.



Ron Kaspriske
Fitness Editor
Golf Digest
 
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Gear & Equipment

Nike Lunar Swingtip: A hybrid golf shoe unlike any other

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What do you get when you cross the surfer/skateboard culture with traditional golf footwear? The Nike Lunar Swingtip (think wingtip), a hybrid unlike any other.

Among those Nike leaned on for input were employees at its Hurley youth lifestyle brand in Costa Mesa, Calif. "The folks who work there are young, they're surfers, they play golf," Carl Madore, the designer of the Lunar Swingtip said. They also held focus groups that included everyone from high school and college golfers to seniors.

The upshot is a shoe that Madore said "is a mash-up of a golf silhouette with a bottom reminscent of a skate shoe. We like to use the word 'juxtaposition,' of the classic and forward thinking."

They come in leather ($160), suede ($140) or canvas ($130) and in 10 colors. All feature a wingtip upper and nubs -- or lugs, as Nike calls them -- on the sole for traction on the golf course.

Nike showed the Lunar Swingtip to some of its tour staff at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Tucson in February. "Paul Casey was all over it," Madore said. "He wanted a pair right there to go to the driving range. Paul has a pair and has been practicing in them."

-- John Strege

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News & Tours

GCAA announces All-America Scholars

The GCAA announced the listing of the Cleveland Golf/Srixon All-America Scholars for the 2011-12 season, which included 146 Division I players. To be eligible an individual must be a junior or senior academically, compete in at least three full years at the collegiate level, participate in 70-percent of his team’s competitive rounds or compete in the NCAA Championships, have a stroke-average under 76.0 in Division I and maintain a minimum cumulative grade-point average of 3.2.
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Gear & Equipment

Nexbelt: The golf belt without holes

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The evolution of the golf belt has passed through many stages, including no belt at all (Sansabelt slacks, all the rage in the '70s and endorsed by Tom Shaw) and white belts that became fashionable a few years ago.

Now comes Nexbelt and its Go-In! Golf series, two sizes fit (virtually) all and no holes, and worn on the PGA Tour by Kevin Na.

It features a ratcheting system instead of the traditional pin and hole and the belt can be adjusted in quarter-inch increments rather than one inch found in traditional belts. They come in two sizes -- one for those with waist sizes ranging from 28 to 40 inches and another for waist sizes ranging from 38 to 50 inches. The buckle contains a hidden ball marker.

The Go-In! Golf series features a variety of colors (including white) and retails for $54.99.

-- John Strege

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News & Tours

Why Dustin Johnson won't have to worry about bunkers at the PGA

Unfortunately for Martin Kaymer, the 2010 PGA Championship will be remembered more for how Dustin Johnson lost than how the German won. It was Johnson who unwittingly grounded his club in one of Whistling Straits' 967 bunkers on the final hole of regulation to receive a two-stroke penalty and miss out on a playoff.

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When the year's fourth major returns to another Pete Dye course this year, we won't have to worry about the same thing happening.  


Related: Golf's all-time biggest rules blunders

While Kiawah Island's Ocean Course, site of the 1991 Ryder Cup, has its share of hazards one comes to expect from a Dye design, its sandy areas don't play as bunkers in the traditional sense. From the course's website:

 

"The course's second line of defense lie within the uniqueness of our sand areas. At The Ocean Course, we have absolutely no 'bunkers.' . . . The Ocean Course features what few other golf courses anywhere in the U.S. feature, the "transition area'. The rule book defines these areas to be played 'through the green,' simply meaning that typical sand trap rules do not apply."

 

Related: The craziest finishes at the PGA Championship

 

As a result, when players find the sand, they will be allowed to ground their club, take practice swings and even move lose impediments. The local rule is in place due to different debris that inhabits these areas on the windswept course. With the tide also playing a role, transition areas -- more commonly referred to as waste bunkers -- vary from hole to hole, making it only fair players can test the surface before playing a shot from one.

 

Which leads us back to 2010. Unfortunately for Johnson(watch a video here), the rule in place was the opposite at Whistling Straits that week, with every inch of sand, even those areas outside the ropes where the fans had walked, playing as a traditional bunker. This year, that won't be the case and Kiawah's local rule will undoubtedly be a big talking point. We can think of one golfer who will probably get sick of hearing about it pretty fast.

-- Alex Myers


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Gear & Equipment

A Fitting story: A game-changer mid-season

Golf Digest summer intern Kevin Tarsa is a better player who's in the middle of a summer of tournament golf. But he was intrigued with the equipment editors' frequent discussions about the benefits of clubfitting. He decided to see what all the talk was about. Here's what happened:

"It's not a more forgiving club--it's just more forgiving for Kevin," my clubfitter Woody Lashen told me.  This was way too cool, I thought. Why hadn't I taken advantage of this earlier? Whatever the reason, I'm never buying a club off the shelf again. 

My trip last week to Pete's Golf on Long Island (one of America's 100 Best Clubfitters) provided me with the kind of experience I had never seriously considered--but obviously should have: a complete metal woods clubfitting. My clubfitting history was of a slightly higher caliber than the average golfers'--but not by much. I'd bought my gamer after comparing the ball flights of several name-brand competitors at an outdoor range, rather than simply grabbing the club with the flashiest graphics on display at the store. But that was back in 2009, and I figured it was about time I put my clubs to the test, on a launch monitor, to see if there was something better out there for me.  

The first thing Woody asked me to do was describe my game: "Scratch player, smooth swinger, average trajectory, most common miss with my driver is a block to the right." The drive lost to the right, I explained, was my way of guarding against my dreaded shot, the hole-ending snipe to the left. I hit my Titleist 909D2 well, but I thought there was definitely room for improvement, and Woody soon validated my conjecture. 

When I hit my gamer on a launch monitor for Woody, it quickly became apparent that I was spinning the ball too much, averaging just nearly 3,000 rpm. After he evaluated how much I loaded the club coming into impact, Woody determined that my current shaft, the stock shaft, was too whippy for me, and that I could benefit from a soft X-flex.  This was rather shocking to me, because I always considered my swing speed to be too low for anything more rigid than a Stiff shaft. I guess the point is I didn't really know until I got on a launch monitor. 
Woody opened my eyes to his cardinal law of shaft-fitting: "The shaft doesn't know how fast it's moving." You can swing the club slower than Ai Miyazato, but nonetheless cause the shaft to bend dramatically during your downswing. Or you can swing as fast a PGA Tour player, but hardly cause the shaft to bow at all (think Steve Stricker). I learned that I was more of the slow-swinging, heavy-loading type. 

After an hour of testing, we found what we thought was the perfect head-shaft combo for me: A Titleist 910D3 with an Oban Kiyoshi shaft. With the new Titleist head, the difference was most impressive--spin down to around 2400 rpm, 3 mph faster ball speed (probably a combination of more solid contact in the center of the face and more confidence to swing away), and much tighter dispersion on off-center hits. But when I went to test the club at my home course that night, the transformation became undeniably clear. Hazards I could not even think about reaching before, the ball carried with ease.  I had unbelievable control over the ball's trajectory; I could blast the ball into the sky, or I could hit a penetrating laser through the wind. But the best part of all, my miss to the left was gone.  Woody had set my D3 in the "most fade" position (what Titleist labels C-1), and this, coupled with the stiffer shaft and the low-spin head, made me feel like I could release the club as hard as I wanted.  The farthest the ball would travel off-line to the left was three yards--the tail on a tight, beautiful draw. 

I guess switching drivers in the middle of my summer tournament schedule was risky. But I had a feeling there was something out there better for me. Getting fitted has only increased my confidence. Woody even pointed out something that's helped my game through the bag: My old grips were too small.  Talk about relieving grip tension.  But instead of changing the grips on my irons now, I think I'll hold off and just getter bigger ones when I order a new custom-fit set. 

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