The Local Knowlege

News & Tours

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."

blog-peter-kostis-0113.jpg

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."

... Read
News & Tours

Exclusive: Rickie Fowler working with Phil Mickelson's swing coach, Butch Harmon

By Tim Rosaforte

Rickie Fowler has been without a swing coach since Barry McDonnell died in May 2011, but he's been working with Butch Harmon since December and will again Tuesday in Las Vegas.

blog-butch-fowler-480.jpg
In Fowler's first tournament after that initial session, he finished T-8 in the Thailand Golf Championship. "We've shared video (since then)," Harmon said. "He's done good work to clean up things in the swing mechanically." With one tour victory in 107 starts, Fowler will make his 2014 debut at the Humana Challenge.


Harmon said to expect a different takeaway, with Fowler's arms more in front of his body, and less rerouting of the club on the downswing. But what has Harmon excited has been Fowler's work ethic and attitude.

"I love the kid," Harmon said. "The thing I like is he's been saying 'I want to be known more for my golf than my clothes and my hat. I want to contend in majors."


Harmon also shared the excitement expressed by Phil Mickelson when he asked for permission to add another player to his stable. 

"Phil said, 'It's awesome,''' Harmon said. "We need Rickie Fowler to play good." 

... Read
News & Tours

Bob Ford, Oakmont and Seminole head pro, slowly scaling back role

131219-oakmont-rosaforte-200.jpgBy Tim Rosaforte

Bob Ford isn't retiring, but the legendary head professional who has been splitting summers and winters between Oakmont CC in suburban Pittsburgh and Seminole GC in Juno Beach, Fl. since 2000, is taking the first step in that direction.

Related: My Town: Bob Ford's Pittsburgh

Oakmont sent out a letter to its members on Wednesday saying that Ford will be stepping up to a new director of golf position, paving the way to his retirement following the U.S. Open in 2016. Ford, who turns 60 on Jan. 16, 2014, has been at Oakmont since 1979, a run that includes five major championships and a U.S. Amateur.

Devin Gee, a 27-year-old graduate of Methodist University, will fill Ford's position beginning Jan. 1. Gee has been groomed by Ford since his internship in 2006 and joined the Oakmont staff in 2008. He will become the eighth Oakmont head professional in the club's 110-year history.

... Read
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."

... Read
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.

blog-blayne-barber-1210.jpg

"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.

... Read
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."

blog-errie-ball-1202.jpg

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.

... Read
News & Tours

Father-son golf bond is the real McCoy

By Tim Rosaforte

From the Nov. 11 edition of Golf World Monday:

mike-mccoy-us-amateur.jpgNate McCoy remembers needing a pull cart the first time he caddied for his dad years ago in the Iowa Mid-Am at Fort Dodge. Nate's first U.S. Amateur on the bag was Oakland Hills in 2002 when he was 11. Most memorable of all will be next year's Masters, when father Mike will compete as the second oldest U.S. Mid-Amateur champ in history.

"It's either going to be him having to calm me down or me having to having to calm him down," Nate said. "It will be cool to have that experience together."

The caddieing tradition goes both ways in the McCoy family. Mike carried the bag for Nate's appearance in the 2009 U.S. Amateur, but his most successful loop was the finals of PGA Tour Canada Q school last year. Mike helped Nate get through that stage and launch his son's pro career.

This past weekend the two West Des Moines natives were based at the family's winter home in Jupiter, Fla., for different forms of golf. Mike was in the Crane Cup at the Floridian in Palm City, where he finished T-15 against a field that included former U.S. Amateur and Mid-Amateur champions. Nate flew in from the cold to prepare for the second stage of Web.com Q school in Gautier, Miss. If Nate advances to the finals, Mike could be carrying and advising on the Stadium course at PGA West, Dec. 12-17. "If he could get me to the next level, that would be awesome," Nate said.

Related: Who will be this year's breakthrough amateur?

Mike, who played golf at Wichita State, says Nate, who graduated from Iowa State, had a better college and amateur career than he did. When Nate was in college, the two traveled together and competed against one another in the Northeast Amateur and Porter Cup, and were even paired in the Sunnehanna Amateur, where Dad sent a message and came out on top.

They see short-game shots the same way and are identical in their iron distances, but those aren't the only parallels between father and son as they reach this crossroads.

Mike was 24 when he went through two Q schools before opting for a career in insurance and regaining his amateur status. He was age 50 and playing in his 38th USGA event without a title before beating Bill Williamson 8 and 6 in a 36-hole final at the CC of Birmingham on Oct. 10.

"There wasn't a lot of middle ground," McCoy said of the playing opportunities in the 1980s. "It's not like today, so [when my playing career didn't work out] I sort of had the instincts to get into business."

Related: Amateur Golfers Who Give Back

Nate, 23, married college sweetheart Ashley Costanzo, a former goalkeeper for the women's soccer team at ISU. She is working as a high school p.e. teacher while her husband tries to advance through his second tour school. If pro golf doesn't work out, Nate would like to coach college golf.

For a man who sells insurance for a living, the best policy father Mike could provide as a parent was to keep pursuing his goal of a national championship.

"You want your kids to be happy," he said. "So I've tried to be supportive in every way I can."


[Photo of Mike McCoy at the 2008 U.S. Amateur by Chris Keane/Getty Images]

... Read
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.

blog-seminole-walker-cup-480.jpg
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.


... Read
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.

blog-dennis-walters-1021.jpg

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."

 

   

... Read
News & Tours

Scott Langley a First Tee success story

By Tim Rosaforte

From the September 30 edition of Golf World Monday:

Scott Langley returned to Pebble Beach last week to offer testimony on what The First Tee can do for a life -- and a career.

Langley was a 2012 PGA Tour rookie who won the pro-junior event at the Champions Tour's Nature Valley First Tee Open in 2006. He also tied for low amateur honors in the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, and to show how far he has come in the past seven years, Langley was invited to play with PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem and Jay Haas at Cypress Point last Thursday, the day he was also scheduled to address The First Tee and Champions Tour participants at a Legends and Leaders dinner.

Related: Golf Digest's golfers who give back

Coming to the 18th hole, Langley was told by Sam Reeves, their host, that if he holed his second shot, it would mean tying the course record 63 held by, among others, Ben Hogan. From 125 yards out, Langley hit the flagstick with his shot and made a 2¿-footer for the 64.

blog-scott-langley-0930.jpg

That night Langley looked out over the audience at The Beach Club, and said to the young men and women sitting nervously in their chairs, "I know how you feel. Seven years ago, I was sitting where you are."

Langley made an impression on the audience not only for the way his career panned out, but also for the way he embodies The First Tee's core values. He grew up in the suburbs of St. Louis, a blue-collar golfer who hit scarred range balls off mats until a First Tee chapter was established.

"I wouldn't say I came from a poor background," Langley said. "But I didn't have a silver spoon in my mouth. I didn't have a chip on my shoulder, but I knew I had to work hard at everything I was going to get."

Among the 81 First Tee participants listening intently to Langley was Brittany Ferrante, a 5-foot-2, 100-pound, 16-year-old high school senior who plays No. 1 on the Walt Whitman High boys' team in Huntington Station on New York's Long Island.

Brittany didn't have a stable life at home the way Langley did. Her parents had issues. As part of her essay, she wrote about her mother attempting suicide. Constantly in between jobs as a civil engineer, her father went on the Internet and found a First Tee chapter near their home at Eisenhower Park.

"I have no idea where we would be [without the First Tee], but we wouldn't be in a good spot," Ferrante said, acknowledging her brother, Dominick, who made the trip as her caddie.

Related: Photos of Pebble Beach

She played alongside Rocco Mediate and although she did not make the cut, it was still the experience of a young lifetime. Golf Channel featured Brittany, even using her silhouette against the beach in the closing credits Friday. Billy Ray Brown made the comment on air, "Don't be fooled. She hits it miles."

Like Langley, Ferrante has aspirations of playing college golf, then pro golf. Plan B is to be an elementary school teacher or open a golf academy. She heads back to New York this morning with dreams of returning to Pebble Beach, maybe as head of a First Tee chapter.

"It wasn't what I expected," she said. "It was more."

... Read
. Close

Thank you for signing up for the newsletter.

You will receive your first newsletter soon.
Subscribe to Golf Digest

Subscribe today

Twitter

Golf Digest Perks

Golf Digest Tablet Editions