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Washington's Chambers Bay is a first-time major-championship venue and the first course in the Pacific Northwest to host the U.S. Open. The historic moment gave Lee Wybranski what he describes as a "clean canvas" while working on the official commemorative poster for the 2015 championship.
The Flagstaff, Ariz.-based artist visited Chambers Bay last May and was taken by the sandy turf, water view and train tracks that run past the course. "I love diagonal compositions because they provide a great deal of depth and drama and really pull your eyes in," says Wybranski, who has painted the official Open poster since 2008.
Wybranski admits to taking some artistic license with his portrait of the 16th hole, bringing in the Olympic Mountains and the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, while incorporating Chambers Bay's lone tree.
"My intention is always to find an original view of the course that hasn't been done before, but also is recognizable," he says.
The poster is $32 and is available online at usgashop.com
NEW YORK — It seems too much of a coincidence that the USGA, in the first year of its 12-year, $1.1 billion TV deal with FOX Sports, would announce the debut of the U.S. Senior Women's Open, a championship whose financial viability had previously been considered a stumbling block in its creation. Yet as the economics of introducing the new championship, which will be held for the first time in 2018, are certainly more favorable, USGA executive director Mike Davis maintained the decision to add a 14th national championship to the USGA calendar was predicated on more than dollars and cents.
"We looked at it many times [over the years] and it always got back to making sure that if we were going to start it we knew it was going to be successful long term. Not just one year, but long term," Davis told GolfDigest.com prior to the start of the USGA Annual Meeting in Manhattan. "And what's changed now is we have just seen this continued consistent growth in women's golf."
Davis (above left) noted specifically a rise in entries in recent years for all its USGA women's championships, including the Women's Open, Mid-Amateur and Senior Amateur. He also said that seeing the increase in the number of members of the LPGA Teaching and Club Professional division and female members of the PGA of America, suggested that the quality of the field would be strong enough to make it viable.
"So it really got down to saying we now have great confidence when we start this in 2018 that this will not only be successful championship but successful in perpetuity," Davis said. "That's the difference."
The championship will be a 72-hole stroke-play event that will have a 36-hole cut. Minimum age to play will be 50. Still to be determined is the host venue for the inaugural event, along with what time of year the championship will be played, field size and purse, along with qualifying procedures.
USGA president Tom O'Toole (above right) said that discussions about launching the championship got serious last June at the U.S. Women's Open at Pinehurst, with the Executive Committee formally approving it last November."Simply, the time is right," O'Toole said. "It serves a population of our golf community that is hungry to compete for a national title."
Now golf fans will have another offering to fill up their plate/throw off their dinner schedule.
Fox Sports, which officially becomes the broadcast partner of the USGA in 2015, gets an early jump into golf this Thursday with the rebroadcast of the 60-minute documentary "1962 U.S. Open: Jack's First Major." The film originally aired in 2012 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Jack Nicklaus' playoff win over Arnold Palmer at Oakmont Country Club and was the first documentary produced by the USGA for broadcast TV.
It won't take much to get die-hard golfers interested in watching the program, but here's a trailer for the film to tease you:
The film airs at 3 p.m. EST, preceding Fox's NFL Pregame show and the 4:30 p.m. broadcast of the Philadelphia-Dallas football game. Our suggestion: Gobble down your turkey at 2 p.m., push away from the table to watch Jack and Arnie at 3, then go for seconds on the turkey at 4.
USGA technical director Matt Pringle spent parts of both days at this week's Pace of Play Symposium in Far Hills, N.J., attempting to dispel the seeming contradiction. Arguably the best data he had to prove it came out of a joint partnership that the USGA entered with the LPGA in 2014 to try and improve pace of play on the women's tour -- one in which the average round time was reduced by 14 minutes.
At the start of the season, the LPGA employed 10-minute intervals between its starting times when playing in threesomes. Officials tracked times for the first six events of the year and passed this information on to the USGA. During these events the average time for a round was 4 hours 54 minutes, with the average time for the longest round of the day being 5:12 and the longest round recorded overall taking 5:35.
Analyzing the times, Pringle recommend to LPGA officials to try 11 minute intervals in their tee times, suggesting that part of the reason for the long rounds came from players waiting on groups ahead of them. LPGA chief tour operations Heather Daly-Donofrio said there was some apprehension initially from players concerned it might lead to more delays, not fewer, but they eventually agreed to try it figuring they could always go back if it didn't work.
In short order, the times actually did drop, with the average round taking 4:49, the average of the longest round of the day falling to 5:04 and the longest round overall coming in at 5:24.
Additionally, the LPGA also made a change to its own pace-of-play policy on tour, which went into effect at the Kingsmill Championship in May. Rather than assign a time par for all groups to conform to, only the lead group would now be required to meet the time or be subject to warning and individual timing over shots. Subsequent groups, meanwhile, would be responsible instead with maintaining position on the course in relation to the group preceding it.
"The time par policy [for all players] had people focusing on groups behind them and whether they had people waiting on them," Daly-Donofrio said. Conversely, the new policy emphasized focusing on the group ahead and making sure you're not too far back.
The combination of the new policy and 11 minute intervals has results in even faster play. The average round time fell to 4:40 -- 14 minutes quicker than at the start of the year. The average of the longest round was 4:54, the amount of time that previous was the overall average. And the longest round total dropped to 5:13, an improvement of 22 minutes.
The U.S. Women’s Amateur began Monday at Nassau Country Club in Glen Cove, N.Y., and picking a favorite to claim the Robert Cox Trophy remains the proverbial fool’s errand. Rising Alabama junior Emma Talley is the defending champion and is a reasonable choice to win again, but don’t go betting little Sally’s college fund on it, if you know what I’m saying.
More notable perhaps than who is in the field this week who could win is a golfer who is not in the field and who, obviously, can’t. Never mind that she might just be the most talked about female amateur of 2014: 11-year-old Lucy Li.
After winning her age group in the inaugural Drive, Chip and Putt Championship at Augusta National in April, Li made even bigger news in May when she became the youngest player to ever qualify to compete in the U.S. Women’s Open. The Redwood Shores, Calif., resident failed to make the cut at Pinehurst No. 2, but won over many fans with her game (she did manage a pair of 78s, not bad for an 11-year-old) and carefree personality.
Unlike with the men’s U.S. Open, where amateurs who simply qualify for the championship receive automatic exemptions into any other USGA amateur championship for which they are eligible, female amateurs who qualify for the Women’s Open must play 72 holes to earn additional exemptions. So it was that if Li wanted to play other USGA events this summer she had to attempt to qualify for them.
And here is where it gets kind of interesting. Li, surprisingly, decided to give it a go in just one other USGA event: the Women’s Amateur Public Links in July, where she advanced to match play but lost in the first round to Alice Chen. That meant choosing to skip last month’s U.S. Girls’ Junior, an event Li has never competed in. It also meant bypassing the Women’s Amateur, the tournament in which her name first surfaced a year ago when she became the youngest player qualify for the championship in its 119-year history.
According to USGA officials, Li and her parents (Warren and Amy), didn't want to overload the Lucy’s schedule after her Pinehurst appearance, instead having her play in local and regional events in Northern California and then giving her time to be, well, an 11-year-old. What a refreshing concept.
Indeed while many pre-teen phenoms -- not to mention their folks -- seem to run toward the spotlight when it shines, Li appears to be doing the opposite. The family has turned down the majority of interview requests since she qualified to play in the Women’s Open, preferring to maintain some privacy.
That included my request to ask about her less-than-packed summer schedule. So if Lucy is reading this post, here’s what I would have said directly: Congratulations on not getting wrapped up in celebrity just yet.
It's generally poor form to speak badly of the dead, so I'll type gingerly. Lost amid the hoopla of Rory McIlroy's British Open coronation in England, a pair of funerals were taking place in Kansas and Washington.
Last Saturday marked the final playing of the men's and women's Amateur Public Links championships, the USGA having announced their retirement early in 2013. In their place, the governing body will debut men's and women's four-ball championships in May 2015, with qualifying for the new events beginning next month.
The shuttering of the APL/WAPL was an unfortunate but understandable decision, even if the former event was the USGA's fourth oldest championship dating back to 1922. The original intent of the competition when it started in 1922 (the women's version beginning in 1977) was to promote public golf and provide municipal-course golfers the opportunity to play in a national championship that they might not otherwise have been afforded. Yet that mission was no longer being served, the number of true public golfers competing and contending having dwindled in the last two decades.
Sadly, but perhaps fittingly, the final playing of the two events proved prime examples of that fact. At Sand Creek Station Golf Course in Newton, Kan., University of Pacific senior Byron Meth, 21, defeated incoming Texas freshman Doug Ghim, 18, in 37 holes.
By all accounts, the championship showdown was riveting, Meth (above) making 11 birdies on the day and Ghim countering with seven of his own and three eagles. No matter who pulled the match out, however, the same fact would have been true: for 19th straight year a player who was in college, just out of college or just entering college would have won the APL title. You’ll have to go back to 1984 and Bill Malley, a truck driver from Hayward, Calif., to find the last true blue-collar golfer who could claim victory.
Similarly, at The Home Course in outside Tacoma, Wash., 15-year-old Fumie (Alice) Jo (below) made history by becoming the first player from mainland China to win a USGA title when she outlasted 14-year-old Eun Jeong Seong, 3 and 2, in the final.
Jo's win made her the second youngest player to claim the WAPL title, behind only Michelle Wie and her 2003 triumph at age 13. Notwithstanding the significance of Jo’s accomplishment for Chinese golf, it meant that the oldest ever winner of the WAPL was Amy Fruhwirth. She was all of 23 when she was victorious in 1992.
Photos: Meth (AP Images); Jo (USGA/Steven Gibbons)
By Bill Fields
EDMOND, Okla. -- Upon realizing Scott Verplank would be in the field at this week's U.S. Senior Open -- he turned 50 on Wednesday, the day before the event started at Oak Tree National, where Verplank won the 1984 U.S. Amateur -- I started thinking back to covering him three decades ago when he was golf's hot young star.
Any number of bright lights have blazed lots of promise with their early exploits, but Verplank stood out with an efficient style of play, the hallmarks of which were a relentless confidence and a magical putter that could demoralize opponents. As demonstrated by the way he beat Sam Randolph in that U.S. Amateur final, he seemed to have an extra gear owned by the greats, his not based on power but precision and persistence. Verplank didn't come up hard, the way Ben Hogan did, but there was something in his golf grit reminiscent of the Hawk.
Once, recalling to me the summers in his teens when he, having been diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at age 9, would play as many as 54 holes a day in the sweatbox that can be Houston on visits to his grandparents, he said, "I didn't know you were supposed to get tired."
After winning at Oak Tree, Verplank won the 1985 Western Open in a playoff over Jim Thorpe, becoming the first amateur to capture a PGA Tour title since Doug Sanders at the 1956 Canadian Open. That year he won 11 of the 26 collegiate, amateur or pro events he entered and had 21 top-10 finishes. When he turned professional prior to the 1986 U.S. Open, it was on the heels of winning the NCAA individual championship, an achievement diminished in his mind because his team, Oklahoma State, blew a final-day lead and lost to Wake Forest.
The greatness that seemed to be ahead for Verplank would be derailed by multiple injuries -- he has had five operations, including reconstructive surgery on his left wrist in 2011 -- and being an elite athlete with diabetes was never as effortless as he sometimes made it seem.
Between his second tour win (1988 Buick Open) and third (2000 Reno-Tahoe Open), there were severe elbow problems. In two seasons, 1991 and 1992, he made only two cuts in 39 starts. That kind of competitive valley would have been too much for many golfers to overcome, but Verplank persevered. He has five career wins, two Ryder Cup appearances for the United States (2002 and 2006) and has been in the top 100 on the money list 18 of 28 years.
He flirted with winning the 2011 PGA Championship when he was 47, finishing T-4 and leaving it to a wild scrum between eventual winner Keegan Bradley and Jason Dufner after hitting it into the water on No. 17 at Atlanta Athletic Club and making a double bogey. A few weeks later he had the surgery on the wrist that had plagued him for two years.
With the joint still not 100 percent and the physical limitations having seeped into the mental part of the game Verplank used to be so good at, he has made only one cut in 12 tournaments on the 2013-14 PGA Tour schedule. As much as he wanted to excel at Oak Tree, in the city where he settled and has raised his family, Verplank knew it would be a long shot despite the local knowledge and lovely memory of 30 years ago.
An odd summer wind -- from the east -- blew on a hot Thursday afternoon at Oak Tree. And despite his recent struggles, it seemed strange to see Verplank unable to conjure any magic at a place he once commanded. The first few holes of his opening round were downright ugly. A par to start was followed by a bogey, double bogey and double bogey. Five over through four, he finished with a four-over 75 that could have been much worse. He topped a tee shot. He saw places at Oak Tree he has never seen.
"Fairly embarrassing," was Verplank's assessment of a round in which his score, without some lengthy par putts, could have been well north of 80. "I can get in a little rhythm on the range and feel OK, and I go on the golf course and it's terrible," he said. "All I know is, I've been hurt a lot of times in my career and I'm hitting it like I'm hurt. I'm going to have to fix that somehow. I hit it short, crooked, unsolid."
Including Verplank, there are 14 players competing in the Senior Open who played in the 1984 U.S. Amateur. If you've followed golf even a little, you've heard of most of the men who sought that 1984 national championship. Billy Andrade, Jerry Haas, John Inman, Jeff Maggert, Rocco Mediate and Duffy Waldorf are among the group. They were on the way somewhere then, to journeys they could imagine but filled with details only time and circumstance can provide.
"I may get a good night's sleep and come out tomorrow and things feel better," Verplank said. "I know I can still play. It's been a hard road. I just haven't gotten back to the level that I want to be at."
If there is any golf justice, Verplank's Friday will be a day of long-enough, straight and solid. The game owes no one, but he deserves that.
Photo: Hunter Martin/USGA
Players often finish majors upset about missed opportunities, but rarely is it the winner -- or more specifically, his sponsors -- doing the missing. From a marketing perspective, that's what happened with Martin Kaymer.
Despite having deals with TaylorMade, Hugo Boss, SAP and Rolex, Kaymer is the first U.S. Open champ in decades to carry a bag free of sponsors' logos (the sunflower was a tribute to his late mother, Rina, who died of cancer in 2008). Had one been on the bag, it could have paid off handsomely. Eric Wright, president/executive director of research at Joyce Julius & Associates, which studies sponsorship value, estimates Kaymer's in-broadcast exposure during the final round alone was worth "in the range of $600,000 to $1 million."
Without a bag sponsor all year, Kaymer might not remain that way for long. His agent, Johan Elliot of Sportyard, predicts a sponsor could sign on "in-the-not-so-distant future."Follow @MikeStachura