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Peter Kostis healthy again, ready to return

By Tim Rosaforte

From the Jan. 13 issue of Golf World Monday:

Peter Kostis was taking Sandy, his wife of 27 years, in for a colonoscopy last April when she insisted her husband go through the procedure as well. At first he was reluctant. Now he is grateful.

"I just expected to go in and tell my wife, 'See, I told you so,' but when I got out that wasn't the case,'" Kostis said from his home in Paradise Valley, Ariz., last week. "Luckily for me she was right. A couple more months and I would have been in a lot worse shape. I had no symptoms, no family history. I was feeling fantastic."

Related: 10 players we'd like to see in the broadcast booth

This conversation took place the day after Kostis, 66, posted a tweet thanking his followers for their support and breaking the news, "Final scan today was cancer free, and I'm back on CBS at San Diego."

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The Farmers Insurance Open in the San Diego suburb of La Jolla will be Kostis' first event working TV since the HP Byron Nelson Championship last May. He had surgery the following week to remove a foot and a half from his colon, and begin chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

Kostis wanted to return for the PGA Championship, but the cumulative nature of the treatments sapped his strength. During the tough times, he stayed in close contact with friends like Gary McCord, his colleague at CBS and cohort at Whisper Rock GC in Scottsdale.

"As a friend, you stay in touch constantly," McCord said. "That's the one thing I learned in the last six months. If you go dark, if you go silent, it's not cool. I was just asking him the stupid questions of what he was going through and just tried to live it with him and hang in there with him. He's a tough guy, but it was a beast to get through."

Kostis kept most of this to himself until witnessing John Kruk talk about his testicular cancer during a Baseball Tonight segment on ESPN. Besides the letters of support, Kruk talked about the people who heard about him, had a checkup and caught their cancer early. "That kind of struck me," Kostis said. "So I said, 'You know what? I've got a chance to turn something bad into something good.' That was the best part of the whole thing."

The worst parts were his final two chemo treatments. One of his inspirations was a quote from Scott Hamilton, the Olympic figure skater turned broadcaster. When Hamilton was going through his cancer, he said, "The only disability in life is a bad attitude." So Kostis lived by that, and returned to the lesson tee at Whisper Rock to stay busy.

That's where he was on Jan. 10. With Paul Casey out of town, playing the Volvo Golf Champions in South Africa, Kostis taught Doug LaBelle, who has limited PGA Tour status in 2014, and Web.com Tour player Roger Tambellini. His return to CBS, where he started in 1992, could begin in a tower, then later returning to the ground as a walking analyst.

"I missed the work, I missed being on the golf course and I missed all the people I worked with at CBS," he said. "It's going to be fun to get back out there. I'm getting stronger every day."

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News & Tours

Why Tiger Woods' hug with his son was so memorable

By Tim Rosaforte

From the Dec. 16 edition of Golf World Monday:

We were sitting on the desk of Golf Central the Sunday night of Tiger Woods' seven-stroke victory in this year's WGC - Bridgestone Invitational, getting ready to sum up the 79th victory in Woods' career, when something unpredictable happened. Walking off the green, following a machine-like performance that was reminiscent of his greatest years, Tiger found himself being upstaged.

This has been a year for memorable hugs, starting with Angel Cabrera at the Masters when the Argentine threw his burly arms around his son after staking a 7-iron on the 72nd hole at Augusta, and then Adam Scott after the Aussie sank the winning putt.

Phil Mickelson had an emotional group hug behind the 18th green at Muirfield after winning the British Open, which included his wife, his children, his caddie Bones Mackay, his college coach and longtime manager Steve Loy and his coach Butch Harmon. And then there was what Jason Dufner called the "bro hug," when Keegan Bradley pulled a U-turn heading to the airport in Rochester, returning to Oak Hill in time to throw his arms around the PGA champion.

Related: Golf World's Newsmakers of the Year

But there was something about the moment when Charlie Axel Woods broke free behind Firestone's 18th green, ran to his dad, jumped into his arms, and wrapped his arm around his neck, that made it unique.

Moments like this aren't created. They just happen. And more than just Charlie's being there for the first time at one of his dad's wins, this moment became an opportunity for Tiger to reveal a side not often seen in his news conferences.

"Sam was there when I won the U.S. Open in '08, and she loves to look at the YouTube videos," Woods said of his 6-year-old daughter. "She loves looking at that, and Charlie has never had that, never felt what it's like to be with the trophy."

The Woods kids have seen the trophies in Tiger's home on Jupiter Island, all 105 he has collected since turning pro in 1996, and some before that when father Earl was following Tiger around as an amateur. Don't think they didn't notice as Daddy went winless from 2010 through most of 2011.

"They always say, 'Daddy, when are you going to win the tournament?" Woods explained. "It was a few years there, or a couple years, I hadn't won anything in a while. Last couple years have been a little bit better, and they always want to know, 'Are you leading or not?' That's always a stock question. 'Not leading? Well, are you going to start leading?' Well, I'm trying."

Whether he's trying too hard in the majors is a question for the psychologists and golf analysts. But with his 38th birthday coming up, Woods can't help but see the competitive window closing as the circle of life closes in around him. Career-wise, he lost some prime years due to his own indiscretions and his body breaking down, but in 2013 he made up for lost time with five victories, two layer of the ear awards (PGA Tour and PGA of America), another Vardon Trophy and regaining the No. 1 ranking.

If he goes on to break Jack Nicklaus' record, don't be surprised for Tiger to one day share that his children were his two greatest motivators.

As he said at the end of the year, "It's exciting for me to have my two kids now starting to understand what Daddy does."

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News & Tours

How Blayne Barber's 2012 Q school experience helped him negotiate 2013

By Tim Rosaforte

From the Dec. 9 edition of Golf World Monday:

Blayne Barber and wife Morgan celebrated in Toomer's Corner the night Auburn beat Alabama in the Iron Bowl. Saturday night, when the Tigers beat Missouri for the SEC title, one of the most respected golfers in the Auburn Nation was in the mountains of Georgia, watching the game on TV while on a university retreat for Young Life. When the game ended, Barber tweeted, "Truly great to be an Auburn Tiger."

Barber doesn't have a major like PGA champion Jason Dufner, or the immortality of Chris Davis in Auburn lore. But perhaps he too is destined. In his own young life this 23-year-old from Lake City, Fla., has set an example by disqualifying himself from the first stage of last year's PGA Tour Q school.

Related: How Jason Dufner helped Auburn have a great season

Because he was doing what the game's code calls for, Barber deflected the widespread praise he received for his action (including text messages from Webb Simpson and Jonathan Byrd). He didn't expect good karma on the NGA Tour this past season, and he doesn't expect any quid pro quo beginning Thursday in the finals of the Web.com Tour Q school at PGA West.

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"I don't think that just because I did something right would mean I'd get something good from it," Barber said from his home just off campus. "Maybe it just delayed the dreams of what I desire to do."

Coming off the Walker Cup team in 2011, Barber's dreams took him straight to the PGA Tour. What occurred on the 13th hole at Callaway Gardens last October is still uncertain in his mind. When he called a penalty on himself for clipping a leaf in a bunker, Barber figured that was the end of it. It was just the beginning.

That night Auburn teammate Michael Hebert said the infraction incurred a two-stroke penalty, not the one stroke Barber signed for on his card. For the next six days, including the two final rounds of second stage, Barber lived with that, trying to reconcile whether he actually did brush the leaf (his caddie, brother Shayne, said the leaf didn't move).

"I didn't want to make a decision based on emotion," he said, knowing that even with the proper two-stroke penalty, he would have advanced. "I was clearly frustrated by the situation. But I know what I did. I wouldn't have called a penalty on myself in the first place when nobody else saw it . . . if I didn't think it occurred. It was a matter of doing what I thought was right, protecting the integrity of the game, and my future, and also letting those six other guys in that previously didn't get in."

Among those six players to advance into the Q school's second stage and ultimately onto the Web.com Tour was Chesson Hadley. In September, Hadley won the Web.com Tour Championship while Barber was closing out his rookie-of-the- year season on the NGA Tour. He also earned over $100,000 in 10 PGA Tour and Web.com events.

"Being honest, obviously the future was unclear at that point," Barber said. "I didn't know what this year, 2013, was going to look like, but I did feel a sense of relief. So what if I didn't have my status? I was still playing golf, doing what I love, and clearly it was a fun year. I had some success and it worked out. So there wasn't a sense of fear, or worry or being bummed. It was just a sense of relief so I could move on and go to the next thing."

Related: Five historic Q school grads

Barber goes into Q school knowing the next thing for Auburn football after losing to LSU was winning out.

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News & Tours

This week's World Challenge will let us know if the Brandel Chamblee episode is truly behind Woods

By Geoff Shackelford

From the Dec. 2 edition of Golf World Monday:

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Photo: Stan Badz/PGA Tour

There's plenty to love about this week's World Challenge at Sherwood. A best-ever field of 18 elites will play the always-compelling Jack Nicklaus-designed course one last time, and all for a great cause -- proceeds and Tiger Woods' winnings fund his local learning center.

Adding intrigue will be Tiger's feud with his television "partners" at Golf Channel/NBC over analyst Brandel Chamblee's recent column suggesting Woods was "cavalier" with the rules in 2013. There is speculation Woods could boycott some interviews this week because he feels Chamblee should have been fired. But Woods would risk coming off as petty and rude bypassing interviews at the event he hosts, where he has been more accommodating than normal, usually doing an in-booth appearance during weekend coverage on NBC, Golf Channel's biggest broadcast partner. NBC has televised the World Challenge since 2000 with Golf Channel coming on in 2007, and a contract with the two networks is in place for 2014, when the event moves to Florida.

Either way, the backstage drama is just one more reason for viewers to tune in when Golf Channel's coverage begins Thursday.

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News & Tours

Will this year's Tiger Woods World Challenge be the Southern Cal native's last 'home' game?

By Geoff Shackelford

From the Dec. 2 edition of Golf World Monday:

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Graeme McDowell won his second Tiger Woods World Challenge last year at Sherwood CC. Photo: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

A local advertising campaign for Tiger Woods' Northwestern Mutual World Challenge is not shying away from the bittersweet news of the event's final playing in Southern California. Left unsaid, however, is the possibility that this is Woods' final appearance in front of his hometown fans. Granted, the posh Sherwood CC -- hosting its 14th World Challenge -- hardly resembles the eastern Orange County neighborhood where Woods grew up nearly 70 miles away.

A quick glimpse of the future major championship schedule shows no events coming to the greater Los Angeles area, with few prospects on the horizon. Tiger's disdain for Riviera's Poa annua greens makes a start in the Northern Trust Open highly unlikely, unless he makes a late-career, ceremonial appearance at the first PGA Tour event he played. But Woods is hardly the sentimental type; bank on this as his final appearance in the region where his legendary career started. How time flies.

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News & Tours

Lone living participant from first Masters grateful for golf's many gifts

By Tim Rosaforte

From the Dec. 2 edition of Golf World Monday:

Impeccably attired as always, Errie Ball wore a gray cardigan to match his trousers and a white golf shirt with the Willoughby GC "W" on his chest when we sat down in his living room the day after Thanksgiving. The longest lifetime member of the PGA and the only living participant in the 1934 Masters was full of energy and in a cheery mood as he answered questions about his 103-year-old life in a charming but proper Welsh accent.

With the 80th anniversary of the first Masters coming up in April, Ball is all that's left on this earth from Bobby Jones' original invitation list. When a man lives that long and experiences that much in golf and life, you have to start by asking what he's most thankful for. That was the purpose of the visit.

Related: Little-known facts about the Masters

After saying it was a hard question to answer, Ball answered without hesitation. "I'm thankful for the fact I live in America and the many, many friends I have in the golf world," he says. "I couldn't ask for more."

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If Ball did ask for more, it might be to get back on the lesson tee at the Stuart Yacht & CC near his home in Stuart, Fla., or nearby at Willoughby, where he is pro emeritus. Ball has been watching golf on TV, and there's a move he would like to try out himself.

Sean Foley and some of the new-age teachers will love this observation--especially coming from a man who played his first British Open at age 15.

"Today, they keep more weight on their left side, their left foot," Ball said. "They don't shift their weight to the right like we did. With the weight on the left side, they give it a big shoulder turn and that creates a lot of power. In my day we had to shift our weight to make up for it."

Ball smiled, as he does to punctuate most of his thoughts. He is keenly sharp and observant. A heart condition has created balance issues, so he has been swinging in his head with this image since turning 100.

"I've been wanting to try that move, but I haven't been able to get on the practice tee," he said. "But I've been thinking about it a lot. I would like to try it."

Sitting beside him, Ball's wife of 77 years was smiling too. Maxie and Errie met on a ship returning from the 1936 British Open and have been inseparable ever since. His daughter, son-in-law, great-granddaughter and great-great-grandson, 10-month old Terrance Alexander, were also in the room.

When I asked the keys to living so long, Ball said plenty of exercise, minimal drinking and good thoughts. When I asked what those good thoughts were, Ball smiled again.

Related: The most heartbreaking Masters moments

"The nice things that have happened to me in my life so far," he said. "I have a good family around me to help me, particularly now that I'm a little bit under the weather, but I hope to get over that soon."

There is a movement within the PGA to get Ball back to the Masters, have him stand by the tree behind the clubhouse and soak it all in. Ball may take a pass, preferring to watch from the comfort of his living room and remember what it was like in 1934 and 1957, when he was re-invited back to Augusta by Jones. Those were some of the good thoughts that have kept Ball young at any age.

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News & Tours

USGA expected to announce changes to rules violations reported on TV

By Ron Kaspriske

From the November 18 edition of Golf World Monday:

Changes are coming to armchair rules officiating.

Related: Golf's nine most notable rules changes

The USGA and the R&A are expected to announce Tuesday new stipulations on how video is used in the reporting of potential rules violations. This announcement is part of their biennial review of the Decisions on the Rules of Golf and will take effect Jan. 1, 2014.

Other changes to the decisions book are expected, but addressing how video evidence is used seems timely considering that Tiger Woods was embroiled in several rules controversies this past year that were caught on video and reported.

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The most famous came with his improper ball drop during the second round of the Masters in April (above) while his most recent was in September when he was given a two-stroke penalty at the BMW Championship for accidentally moving his ball while trying to remove loose impediments.

Related: Golf's most costly rules blunders

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem recently discussed the "difficult and awkward" nature of fans alerting officials of rules breaches and said the tour would be studying the matter. A change by the USGA and R&A in the Decisions would keep the tour from needing to consider a policy that might run counter to the Rules of Golf.

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News & Tours

Exclusive: Seminole Golf Club to host 2021 Walker Cup

By Tim Rosaforte

What makes the impending announcement of the 2021 Walker Cup site so intriguing is the host is going to be one of the hidden treasures in golf, Seminole GC.

In what represents a dramatic departure from the club's history, Golf World has learned the Donald Ross designed landmark along the Atlantic Ocean in Juno Beach, Fla., will host its first competition open to the public since its inception in 1929.

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The driving force behind this initiative was club president Jimmy Dunne, a 57-year-old New Yorker who saw how well Long Island's National GL showed during the Walker Cup in September and sold the concept not only to his board, but also the USGA, in less than two months.


In terms of playability, Seminole is considered as timeless now as when Ben Hogan practiced in preparation for the Masters 60 years ago. At 6,836 yards from the tips, it appears short for some of the young bombers representing the United States or Great Britain & Ireland in the biennial matches. But if the club's one-day Pro- Member is an indication, Seminole's legendary greens and frequent two-club winds will provide enough defense (Rickie Fowler's 65 was the low score).
USGA spokesman Joe Goode declined to comment on any plans for Seminole.

The next three Walker Cup sites are Royal Lytham & St. Annes in 2015, Los Angeles Country Club in 2017, and Royal Liverpool in 2019.


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News & Tours

Rosaforte: Caddie Pete Bender is back to winning ways

By Tim Rosaforte

From the October 28 edition of Golf World Monday:

Pete Bender promised his mother he would never put her in a home, that he would always be by her side in her dying days, and so he was, this past April.

"She died in my arms," Bender said Saturday night from San Antonio.

The passing of Ann Bender to dementia at age 90 put her son back in the job market among professional caddies. Bender was on the bags of Greg Norman and Ian Baker-Finch for their respective British Open titles in 1986 and 1991, and had worked for Raymond Floyd, Jack Nicklaus, Lanny Wadkins and Hal Sutton as well.

His last bag, after recovering from throat cancer in 2008, was Aaron Baddeley's. Unable to eat for two months after surgery, Bender came out of the hospital that July weighing 128 pounds. He returned to Baddeley in 2009 but stepped away again to care for his mother who lived outside Sacramento.

Seven days a week, for almost four years, he cared full-time for Ann. "I loved her so much," Bender said. "She meant so much to me. I was trying to make her life as good as I cold make it."

blog-rosoaforte-bender-480.jpgAt 64, Bender got the call he was waiting for thanks to Andy Martinez, another legendary caddie, who works for Tom Lehman on the Champions Tour. Knowing Michael Allen's caddie was out with an injury, Martinez lobbied for Bender, calling him: "The best caddie I've ever seen." Allen's first week with Bender was the Greater Hickory Classic at Rock Barn in North Carolina.

"I knew how good he was," Allen said. "As long as I've been out on tour, he always had the best bags out here."

They opened 67-65 and were in the last group on Sunday. Bender told him to lay up on the second hole. Birdie. He told Allen to take a more aggressive line at the 13th. Another birdie. In a playoff against Olin Browne, Bender told Allen to hit 5-iron instead of 4-iron. The shot produced a 10-footer for eagle.

"How did you know it was a 5-iron?" Allen asked Bender.

"Forty years experience," Bender replied.

Related: Jim "Bones" Mackay's rules for reading putts
 

Allen two-putted for a birdie and the win, commending Bender for his decision-making and knowledge. He acknowledged Bender at a champagne toast. "When he makes a call, you have confidence in it," Allen said. "You want to play for him."

Their second week together produced a T-12 finish in the AT &T Championship. This week they will be at Harding Park in San Francisco for the Charles Schwab Cup Championship. Forty-four years ago, Bender made his caddying debut at Harding Park in the 1969 San Francisco Open Invitational.

Bender is proudest of winning with eight different players during his career. Back up to 168 pounds, Bender says Allen's bag feels light on his shoulder.

"He does trust me out there," Bender said. "That's what caddieing is all about--pulling clubs, reading greens, motivating a player, bringing the best out in him, and that's what I try to do."

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News & Tours

The inspirational Dennis Walters is no stranger to comebacks

By Tim Rosaforte

From the October 21 edition of Golf World Monday:

Under the glass top of Dennis Walters' kitchen table is a photo taken at Royal Salisbury GC in Rhodesia during the 1972 Dunlop Masters. This was two years before Walters was in a golf cart accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down, when he had aspirations of playing the game for a living, not giving exhibitions from a swivel seat.

Turns out, Walters played the first two rounds of that tournament with Tim Price, the older brother of a golfer who would someday become a three-time major champion and Hall of Famer, Nick Price.

Related: The trampled roots of Zimbabwe golf

Walters and Price shared their memories of that moment last week, when Nick stopped by Dennis' home in Jupiter, Fla. The International Presidents Cup captain came bearing a flag signed by players on both teams and some well-timed encouragement for the famous paraplegic golfer who shattered the tibia and fibula in his left leg on Sept. 26.

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Nick walked those two rounds in Rhodesia with the then aspiring tour pro from New Jersey and North Texas State, but came to know him better during Walters' golf shows at the PGA Championship. "Knowing people care is better than any medicine you can take," said Walters, who was also buoyed by phone calls from Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player.

The hard part is not doing what Walters loves to do. This is a man who had his legs literally taken out from under him in a cart accident in 1974, and has gone on to become a Ben Hogan Award winner, the 2008 PGA Lifetime Achievement winner and an ambassador for the First Tee.

Yet once he left the hospital 39 years ago, his accident never interrupted his art of hitting golf balls. After his most recent setback, which occurred attempting to transfer between his 1969 Lincoln and his wheelchair in a supermarket parking lot, Walters has been ordered by doctors to avoid weight-bearing activities.

"In 40 years the very most I've ever taken off is three days," Walters said. "Now I have 56 days. I'm basically in a battle with time."

Walters could hear the bones break, but he did not feel a thing. He required the smallest amount of anesthesia he could receive and no painkiller when doctors performed the operation. All he kept thinking about were the 14 shows that had to be rescheduled, including one two days after the accident for Wounded Warriors in Tyler, Texas.

Related: Golf Digest sponsors Wounded Warriors trip to Ireland

The time in bed got Walters thinking. He turned 64 in September and has made a nice livelihood out of an unfortunate situation. But how much longer does he want to do it? The road trips are becoming harder and harder, but he redid his vows. "I had a college roommate pass away this year," he said. "I'm sure he'd love to be hitting balls."

Doctors have given Walters a target date of Nov. 22 to put weight on his left leg. He's going to play on, scheduling another 90-pls shows in 2014, not sure of when the final swing will come. While recuperating, he's visualized himself hitting more than 500 shots with tight draws -- his trademark.

"Instead of hitting them mentally, I want to hit them for real," he says, "I'm all in."

 

   

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