November 2, 2008

The Editor's Desk

In the magazine...

Editor-In-Chief Geoff Russell

Editor-In-Chief Geoff Russell

Even though it's Fall Finish time on the PGA Tour, Golf World readers don't have to struggle to find interesting stories in the magazine this time of year. This week's issue demonstrates what I mean.

For 22 years I've worked, traveled and played golf with Golf Digest Creative Director Bob Carney, and I'm lucky to be able to call him a cherished friend and colleague. One of the traits I admire most about Bob is his composure -- he's as calm in times of stress as anyone I know. The only time I can recall him coming truly undone emotionally happened to be one of the worst days in the history of our company, and one of the most tragic days for golf: November 14, 1988, the day the news reached Golf Digest's corporate offices in Trumbull, Conn., that a small plane carrying golf instructor Davis Love Jr. and three others on the first leg of their journey from St. Simons Island, Ga., to a Golf Digest meeting in Tampa, Fla., had crashed near the Jacksonville, Fla., airport the previous evening, killing everyone on board.

I heard the awful details from an ashen-faced Carney, who had recently collaborated on an instruction book with Love (and fellow teacher Bob Toski), and was supposed to leave Connecticut that morning for the same meeting to which Love and the other victims -- Jimmy Hodges, John Popa, and pilot Chip Worthington -- had been traveling. Bob departed the office on schedule that day, but it was a journey that would end with his attendance at the memorial services for the victims -- not at a gathering to discuss golf instruction theory, as he had hoped.

The sad memory of that day was brought back to me by Senior Editor Bill Fields' remarkable story in this week's Golf World, "Lost in the Fog," which marks the 20th anniversary of the tragic flight and its aftermath. For the story, Fields spoke with dozens of survivors and friends of the victims, including Davis Love III and his brother Mark, and three of the four widows, and pored over stacks of documents pertaining to the federal investigation of the accident. I would be kidding you if I tried to say that Fields' piece is not a sad one; there is no denying the enormity of the tragedy of the crash, even today, two decades later. But "Lost in the Fog" is also a moving testament to the character of the men who died that night, to the friendship that existed between Love, Hodges and Popa (who worked and taught golf together at the Sea Island Resort), and to the strength and dignity demonstrated by the loved ones that survived them.

"There was a lot of goodness on that little plane," says Carney, whom Fields also interviewed for the story. "Lost in the Fog" is one of the best stories Golf World has published in 2008. Make sure you read it.

The other piece you won't want to miss in this week's issue is the cover story on golf and the economy, "Braced for the Storm," by Executive Editor Ron Sirak. Last week Sirak attended the Ginn sur Mer Classic outside Orlando -- but not to chronicle Ryan Palmer's one-shot victory over six others (which is covered elsewhere in the magazine). Instead, Sirak spent several days talking with players, tour administrators, agents and sponsors to get a sense of how the current economic turmoil is affecting the PGA Tour as it winds down its 2008 season and looks ahead to the 2009 campaign. Again, I don't want to give away the details. But I will say Sirak's reporting hardly revealed the sense of doom and gloom one might have expected. Like the rest of us, PGA Tour players have stopped looking at their 401(k) statements -- at least for the time being. But tour officials and players told Sirak they are cautiously optimistic about 2009, at least on the subject of sponsorships and prize money. The story speaks to one of the silver linings of golf, that as frustrating and challenging as it can sometimes be to play, the game remains one of those joys that can take our minds off the hard times, and steer us through gloomy stretches like the one we are currently in.

Sirak also files a companion story on the LPGA Tour, in which he makes the point that although the women's circuit faces the loss of a couple key tournaments in 2009, its crucial season may actually be 2010, when the tour's current TV deals with CBS and Golf Channel expire, and commissioner Carolyn Bivens attempts to implement her plan of increasing the sanctioning fees the LPGA charges its tournament sponsors.

All the best.

Geoff Russell