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Paul Stankowski trades tour golf for business

By John Strege

Golf is not a benevolent game, to which Paul Stankowski can attest, which explains why he is leaving the tournament golf for business, notwithstanding two PGA Tour victories and more than $7 million in earnings.

Paul Stankowski.jpg

"As my career continued to wane and my game got worse and became shorter and crooked, it was time to move on," Stankowski said.

Stankowski, 44, who won the BellSouth Classic in 1996 and the United Airlines Hawaiian Open a year later, has started a business, Francis Edward, that produces exotic leather goods -- belts, accessories and soft-sided luggage -- "made from everything from Italian calf to alligator," he said. Initially it will be sold at high-end golf course pro shops.

He and his business partner, Mike Vicary, began building the company early in 2013. By July, Stankowski knew he had to make a decision.

"I realized I couldn't play and grow a business effectively, so I chose the one I figured would have more longevity," he said. "I'm not retired [from tournament golf], just on pause. At 44, my starts are limited on the big tour and I'm done chasing the web.com Tour around and trying to get my way back."

He said he will play when an opportunity presents itself, but otherwise is done with tournament golf until he reaches 50 and is eligible for the Champions Tour.

"I still love the game deep down inside, but I've got a 14-year-old and an 11-year-old and I would like to see them grow up," he said.

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Stankowski's golf history and connections should help on the golf shop front. "That's our hope. That'll help with the introductions. But we still have to deliver quality products. I believe we'll do that. Right now we're small. Once we get a foot in the door, then it's service, service, service."

As for the company name, the story isn't as exotic as some of the leathers it is using. Stankowski's middle name is Francis. Vicary's middle name is Edward. Hence, Francis Edward.


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News & Tours

Report: In four years, Louisiana politicians spent nearly $800,000 in taxpayer money . . . on golf

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

How much golf can $779,000 get you? Quite a lot, it turns out.
 
About $7 million was spent by Louisiana politicians on items like food, gifts and tickets to sporting events between 2009 and 2012, amounting to one third of their total expenses during that period. Nearly $800,000 of that sum went towards rounds of golf, a report in the New Orleans Times-Picayune finds.

The chief offender, according to the report, was former Plaquemines Parish Sheriff Jiff Hingle, who was found guilty in 2011 of taking bribes from a contractor. Hingle spent nearly $87,000 in golf-related expenses between 2009 and 2012. More than $35,000 of that money was spent on a golf tournament in 2009 and 2010 at English Turn Country Club in New Orleans, according to the Times-Picayune's online database.

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"Given the vagueness of the law, they can basically use these accounts as their personal checking account," University of New Orleans professor Ed Chervenak says in the article, "and there's no real watchdog."

 
It's not unprecedented for golf to play at least a minor part in political scandals. In 2006, super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty for his role in a wide-ranging corruption scandal that led to the convictions of 21 others. The investigation found that Abramoff funded multiple golf trips and outings.

More recently, golf appeared 25 times in the indictment of former Virginia governor Robert McDonnell, who is alleged to have accepted more than $3,500 in green and caddie fees, among other gifts that he and his wife, Maureen, are accused of having improperly received.


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News & Tours

This Ultimate Golf Fail Compilation video is totally fantastic

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

Golf is really, really difficult, so it only makes sense that failure is an inherent part of the sport. After all, it was Tom Watson who once said that "if you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate."


With that in mind, take it away, YouTube:


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Celebrity

Why golf fans should root for Richard Sherman in the Super Bowl

By Alex Myers

Richard Sherman has made it clear he believes he's the NFL's best defensive back, but when it comes to golf, he's much more humble. At least, for now.

Related: Notable NFL stars who love to play golf

Since his brash/controversial/overblown interview following the Seattle Seahawks' win over the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game, Sherman has been arguably the most talked about player as Super Bowl XLVIII approaches. But has anyone been talking about his golf game?

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It appears that Sherman caught the golf bug this past summer playing in charity events run by Kam Chancellor and Brandon Browner, fellow members of the Seahawks' vaunted "Legion of Boom" defense. At least, that's what they claim "L.O.B." stands for when they say it or tweet it. Perhaps it's actually a reminder that they all need to work on their short game. . . 

In any event, we found a couple videos of Sherman in action at the driving range and on the golf course on YouTube's Follow Channel. The first one, titled, "Richard Sherman, next Tiger Woods?" and published Oct. 13, shows Sherman taking one of his first lessons at a public range at Maplewood Golf Course. Sherman seems as amped to practice golf as he is to cover an opposing wide receiver, excitedly taking a few air swings in his living room before leaving and declaring, "Swing's going to be on today!" Skip to the 2:10 mark if you're not interested in seeing his personal stylist come to his house to do his hair.

In the video, Sherman is clearly still in the beginner phase, but he's a pro when it comes to golf sound bites.

"We've been taking lesssons and trying to get better week by week, but it's a process."

Did he just say, "It's a process"?! Hmm. Maybe he really is the next Tiger Woods. 

Fast forward a couple of weeks to a video published Oct. 28. Sherman has upgraded to Fairwood Golf & Country Club and instead of his Stanford t-shirt, he's now wearing a collared shirt from he and Woods' alma mater (He also has a "Frank" the Tiger head cover like the World No. 1!). His instructor, Teresa Caluori, is there and he's already graduated to giving tips to a cousin, who he's introducing to the game:

Sherman shows promise on the range, but his on-course play is still shaky. But hey, this was a few months ago when he was just starting out. Who knows how much this world-class athlete has improved since? And once again, just as they are after football games, his quotes are fantastic.

"On a scale of 1 through 10, I'm a 112 -- on my competitiveness."

Then, after finally connecting on a couple:

"You can turn your golf game around in a split second. I was just frowning," Sherman said flashing a wide grin. "Now I'm smiling."

We're smiling too. Say what you will about Sherman, but from a golf perspective, you have to like his positive attitude and love for the game. In Sunday's big game, he'll lead a defense trying to stop a Denver Broncos offense run by quarterback Peyton Manning, a fellow golf nut and a pretty formidable player. Perhaps, when it's over, the great cornerback can pick the brain of one of the all-time great quarterbacks. They might even talk a little football.

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Health & Fitness

Fitness Friday: Don't arch your back

fitness-friday-arched-back.jpgBy Ron Kaspriske

Many golfers are under the impression they should arch their lower back when addressing the ball, but instructor Dave Phillips of the Titleist Performance Institute says this can lead to back pain and a bad swing.

"It's known as 'S-posture' and is caused by players sticking their tailbone out too much at address," says Phillips, one of America's 50 Best Teachers as ranked by Golf Digest. "This excessive curvature at the bottom of the spine puts stress on the muscles of the lower back and causes the abdominal muscles to relax," he says. "This can lead to a host of issues like a loss of posture, poor weight shift and an unsynchronized downswing. You're going to struggle to hit solid shots from this address position."

Phillips says it's OK to stick out your rear end at address, but don't do it by arching your back. Instead, bend forward from your hip joints, and keep your spine neutral. This requires core strength and proper lumbar-spine stabilization, but it will lead to a better swing and help you avoid back pain.

Good posture not only will reduce the chances of injuring the lower back, it also allows you to make a better swing. Golf Digest Teaching Professional David Leadbetter demonstrates how to address the ball here:



Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.


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News & Tours

Golf's strongest connection to Winter Olympics isn't Tiger

By John Strege

At first glance, golf seemed to have only a tenuous connection to the Winter Olympics -- downhill skier Lindsey Vonn's boyfriend, Tiger Woods, and a few NBC/Golf Channel golf broadcasters, Dan Hicks and Steve Sands among them.

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A stronger connection is provided by former University of Wisconsin golfer Erika Brown, whose college coach was Dennis Tiziani, Steve Stricker's father-in-law and instructor.

For the third time, Brown, 41, is a member of the U.S. curling team, having competed (and finished fifth) in the Calgary Games in 1988 and in the Nagano, Japan, Games in 1998. She is a three-time U.S. Curling Association female curler of the year.

As for golf, Brown played for Wisconsin's Big 10 championship team in 1994, was twice the Wisconsin state high school champion, and won the Madison City Women's Championship in 1994.

Do the two sports have something in common other attempting to hit a target?

"Both of them [require] being able to repeat a motion over and over and make adjustments based on a particular shot and fine-tuning it," she said in this article at uwbadgers.com. "And then, they both take a long time. They're both slow, slow sports, with a lot of time to think. You have to manage your mental space during a round of golf or during a curling game, which can last about three hours."

She played four years at Wisconsin, but when golf and curling were in conflict, Tiziani, according to the story, deferred to curling.

Hicks, incidentally, is the anchor for NBC's coverage of alpine skiing, while Sands will be reporting on speed skating. Jimmy Roberts and Terry Gannon also will have roles on NBC, as will Vonn, who will be unable to compete as a result of a knee injury.

(Getty Images photo)

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News & Tours

How golf brought the Arizona Diamondbacks closer together

By Alex Myers

The Arizona Diamondbacks finished second in the National League West standings in 2013, but in 2014, they're already jumped out to a huge lead over the rest of Major League Baseball when it comes to team camaraderie.

Related: Notable baseball players who love to play golf

On Wednesday, four of Arizona's players showed up at the Waste Management Phoenix Open to support teammate Aaron Hill, who was playing in the pro-Am. How could you spot the quartet? Easy. They were the ones walking around TPC Scottsdale holding up Fatheads with the likeness of their beloved second baseman.

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Charles Brewer, Eric Chavez, Josh Collmenter and Patrick Corbin were the Diamondbacks in Hill's cheering section. Hill, a two-time Silver Slugger award winner, showed off his pop by driving a golf ball through one of the oversized heads. Billy Horschel, one of Hill's playing partners, got in on the fun by doing the same. Here's the video:

(Photo by Rob Schumacher)

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News & Tours

Is India next on Tiger's itinerary?

By John Strege

The Tiger Woods World Tour reportedly will move from the United Arab Emirates to India next, apparently for a one-day exhibition in Delhi on Tuesday, multiple publications there are reporting, including the Hindustan Times.

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The Hindustan Times, citing "unconfirmed sources," said Woods will be paid $2.2 million for the outing. Woods currently is playing in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic (he shot four-under par 68 in the first round on Thursday), where he likely received an appearance fee of at least that much.

ESPN golf writer Bob Harig wrote from Dubai that Woods is likely to pass on the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, which means that he probably won't be seen again until the Florida swing beginning with the Honda Classic on Feb. 27.

Related: Tiger, Turkey and the silliest season

Last October and November, Woods played tournaments or exhibitions in China, Singapore, Macau and Turkey.

(Getty Images photo)

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News & Tours

Stats show Rory is playing about as well as at this time last year, and only a win in Dubai can change that

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

Rory McIlroy's opening round 63 at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic seems to reaffirm that the slump the World No. 6 was in for most of the 2013 calendar year might be behind him ... or does it? Is it really a sign that good times are ahead?

Instead of waiting to see how the rest of this week's tournament -- or the rest of this year -- finished to answer that question, we decided to do some snap analysis that compares Rory at this point in his 2013-14 season to where he stood at the same time in the 2012-13 season.

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To do this, we specifically analyzed just the events where Rory was able to collect Official World Golf Ranking points, and only the four-month time frame from the conclusion of the FedEx Cup season to the end of January.

Here then is how Rory's results looked between his final 2012 FedEx Cup event and Jan. 29, 2013:

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And here's how his results look between his final 2013 FedEx Cup event and Jan. 29, 2014:

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Now for a side-by-side look:

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What can we gather from this solid stretch from Rory? Well, perhaps we shouldn't jump to any conclusions that this season will be remarkably different from a year ago since he's actually playing at a level almost identical to this point in 2013.

Despite competing in two fewer events a year ago, Rory finished with as many wins and top-three finishes as he has now. His scoring average, too, was a touch lower. And before Thursday's 63, Rory's low round in both time periods was a 65, shot once each time. 


What's perhaps more interesting is how Rory does when he plays poorly now compared to a year ago. In 2012-13, Rory finished either really good -- top three or better -- or really bad, as in missed cut. In 2013-14, his performances have been less erratic -- no missed cuts and more top 10s. That's why his average point total per start is slightly higher this year. Granted, it's a small sample size.*

(*The one thing we haven't touched upon here, of course, is the complicating factor of McIlroy's equipment switch from Titleist to Nike clubs at the beginning of 2013. How large a role that played in his subsequent struggles last year is subject for debate. Presumably, though, that factor potentially contributing to his 2013 slump isn't a variable he'll be fighting in 2014.) 

Either way, a win in Dubai would change some things. Most notably, it would give him about 48 World Ranking points, meaning that, on paper, he'd be playing better than at this point last year.

Anything outside of that, however, and the question of whether he's really playing better right now than he was 12 months ago remains.


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News & Tours

Throwback Thursday: That time Tiger Woods had his gallery perform manual labor and move a boulder

By Sam Weinman

There are all the obvious reasons why it's good to be Tiger Woods -- oodles of cash, 79 tour wins, free shoes from Nike. And then there are the less obvious ones -- like if you happen to land a tee shot behind a boulder, you can easily recruit enough spectators to move the boulder for you.

This actually happened, as you probably recall. The USGA certainly does. Playing the Phoenix Open in 1999 -- two years after he famously aced the par-3 16th hole in the tournament -- Woods drove his tee shot on the par-5 13th hole left and behind a boulder.

tiger-woods-boulder-1.jpgWithout much of a shot to the green, Woods inquired whether the boulder was a loose impediment and could be moved. When the answer was yes, Woods enlisted members of his gallery, including then-caddie Mike "Fluff" Cowan, for their help.

Related: This time, Brandel Chamblee goes too far on Woods

tiger-boulder-2.jpg"Always lift with the legs."

With the boulder moved back, Woods was given a clear shot to the green. He got home in two and made birdie, but still finished three shots behind winner Rocco Mediate.

tiger-boulder-3.jpgThe incident remains controversial because it spoke to the advantage Woods had in having a large gallery. Would a Monday qualifier in the first grouping get the same help? Probably not. But 15 years later, the USGA maintains what the player did was perfectly within the Rules of Golf, citing Decision 23-1/3: "May spectators, caddies, fellow-competitors, etc., assist a player in removing a large loose impediment?" The answer is "Yes."

For all that hospitality, it's worth noting Woods' experience at TPC Scottsdale has been mixed.

That same year, a fan who was following Woods was arrested when police discovered he was carrying a gun in his fanny pack. Two years after that, a fan threw an orange onto the green when Woods was putting. Perhaps it's no coincidence that was the last year Woods played the tournament.



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