Friday, March 29, 2013

'Dufnering' Wins the Internet

Who could have guessed that Jason Dufner, of all golfers, would blow up into an Internet meme? But that's exactly what happened on Thursday after Deadspin posted this photo:



What's the explanation? Dufner was making some sort of appearance at a kindergarten class in Dallas, in conjunction with his "media day" duties as the defending champion at the Byron Nelson Classic. Dufner's overall silly look - the pooched out belly, the limp arms and legs, that pout - caught the eye of Keegan Bradley, who tweeted the photo.

Soon, the Twitter hashtag "#dufnering" was born, and others started tweeting pics of themselves Dufnering.

Not surprisingly, the best of the early efforts came from Bubba Watson:

 
(Yes, for those who don't know, that is the real General Lee from The Dukes of Hazzard, which Watson owns.)

Before long, "#dufnering" shot to the top of Twitter's trending topics. Jason Dufner himself weighed in on Friday morning, offering this explanatory tweet:
Complete with the #dufnering hashtag! Well done, Jason.

Here are some of the other pro golfers who have gotten in on the Dufnering "craze":

Michelle Wie dufnering on the Mission Hills Walk of Champions

Keegan Bradley, Dustin Johnson and Brandt Snedeker
 
Rickie Fowler
Karen Stupples

Luke Donald
Rickie Fowler again, dufnering at Bubba's house

 
Sandra Gal (and stuffed animal) dufnering
Senior major winner Roger Chapman


 
Rory McIlroy (continuing his early season slump)
LET golfers in Morocco: Amelia Lewis and Holly Clyburn
Paula Creamer (and her Pink Panther)

And here's Ian Poulter with another contender for the "Best #Dufnering by a Pro Golfer Who Is Not Jason Dufner" award:




Soon enough, Dufnering came full circle when Jason Dufner himself posted a photo of himself doing it Friday morning in the Auburn University athletics department weight room:

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Child Prodigy: Judy Rankin At Age 16

Everyone loves Judy Rankin, right? Right! So I was pleased when I recently stumbled across an old Sports Illustrated article about her. In 1961, when Rankin - excuse me, Judy Torluemke - was only 16 years old, she was such a prodigy that Sports Illustrated put her on the cover the week of the U.S. Girls Amateur Championship.

After listing some of the top prospects in the field, SI author Gwilym S. Brown wrote:

... the most promising of the lot, win or lose this week, is the charming, freckle-faced, curly-haired brunette on the cover, 16-year-old Judy Torluemke of St. Louis.

In Judy, golf has a real child prodigy. She has been winning tournaments since she was 7 years old. Her first was a hole-in-one contest sponsored by the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, and it drew 602 entries. Though she was not quite four feet tall, weighed only 42 pounds and needed her driver on the 102-yard hole (most of the contestants were using short irons), she pounded all three of her shots within 15 feet 2 inches of the cup and won the women's division with an average margin of 14 feet 5 inches.

Wasn't she surprised to do so well, Judy was asked recently. "Not really," she said. "Daddy told me I could win, and I believed everything he said."


The article title is A Small But Handy Prodigy, and the first part of the subhead explains why that headline was used: "A little girl with a firm but odd grip ..."

The article continues explaining Judy's earliest days in golf:

When winter came and Judy moved to an indoor range, she proved inexhaustible. Under her father's careful scrutiny she could bang out as many as 20 buckets of balls a session, or about 900 shots.

From this enthusiastic start Judy's golf became very good very fast. At 8 she went to Orlando, Fla. with her father and won the National Pee Wee Championship, for children 10 to 12. At 9 she won the Pee Wee again and played in George S. May's frantic All-American tournament in Chicago. By the time she was 10 Judy weighed 60 pounds, still not very large even by 10-year-old standards, but she could drive a golf ball 170 yards, shoot consistently in the 80s, and had won her third straight Pee Wee Championship. Her Pee Wee successors are now playing for the Judy Torluemke Trophy.


"There seems little doubt that someday she will be one of this country's finest golfers," the author opined. And that certainly turned out to be true. After getting off to a slow start in her professional career, Judy Rankin became a superstar, a huge winner on the LPGA Tour, a Hall of Famer. Despite suffering through painful back problems for much of the meat of her pro career.

But what about that "firm but odd grip" mentioned in the article's subhead? This is how the author described it:

One explanation for Judy's seemingly miraculous play is that she has been well taught, by (golf pro Bob) Green and by her father. Her swing and body turn are smooth and powerful. Another is her ability to hit the ball far. She gets this distance from an absurdly unorthodox grip. Her left hand is turned so far to the right on the shaft that her left palm rests directly on top of it. Instead of pointing toward the target in the approved manner, the back of her left hand faces squarely to the front. Ordinarily this grip would create a boomeranging hook, but Judy has developed such strength in her left arm, wrist and hand that she is able to hit the ball hard with her right hand while keeping the left wrist from rolling over at impact. The result is a high-flying, carefully controlled hook that travels an average of 220 yards.


Two-hundred-and-20 yards might not sound long by today's standards, but we're talking 1961, and a 5-foot-3, 110-pound 16-year-old girl - 220 was long. And that does sound like an "absurdly" strong grip, but it worked for young Judy.

There was one pretty amusing passage in the article:

Judy ... drives the Torluemkes' 1959 royal-blue gearshift Chevrolet with a deft and confident ease. With her senior year in high school coming up, she has suddenly discovered that being a good golfer has made her very popular with boys. On her tournament trips she can look forward to winning beaus as well as trophies.


An interesting note about this article: It might have played a part in young Judy having a pro golf career. The World Golf Hall of Fame explains that story:

... she quit golf at 16 after losing in the second round of the British Women's Amateur. ... Two weeks after putting away her clubs in exchange for a fishing rod, Rankin received a call from Sports Illustrated wondering if she planned on competing in the U.S. Women's Open because they wanted to publish her picture on the magazine's cover. A Hall of Fame career suddenly was re-ignited.


You can read the full article in the SI Vault.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Tiger's Text Challenge to Rory

Golf Channel's Jason Sobel tweets the details of a text message that Tiger Woods sent to Rory McIlroy after winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational:

Actually, I'm guessing that it's Caroline's finger that's up Rory's ass.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Bernhard Langer Hits Out of Tree in 1981

Sergio Garcia isn't the first professional golfer to climb a tree and hit a ball out of the branches - although he is the latest, doing so on Sunday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. We posted that video earlier.

But way back in 1981, at the Benson & Hedges International, Bernhard Langer climbed a tree and played his ball out. Others have done it to, before and since, but it's easy to find video of Langer's shot. Look, there it is right below!

Sergio Garcia Climbs Tree, Hits Ball Out of Branches

It happened during the final round of the 2013 Arnold Palmer Invitational, for the record. Sergio Garcia climbed into a big ol' tree (very nimbly, as one of the announcers pointed out) and hit his golf ball out of the tree and onto the fairway.

It's not the first time something like this has happened on the PGA Tour. But Garcia's tree shot is probably the best combination of tree-climbing skills and recovery shot that we've yet seen.

For $2,250, Kerri Strug Will Play Golf With You

How would you like to play golf with a past or present sports star, or a PGA Tour or Champions Tour pro? If you're willing to pay, you can.

For example, Marc Turnesa will play golf with you for $1,500. How? A company called Thuzio (www.thuzio.com) represents hundreds of athletes plus a handful of broadcasters, and arranges, for a fee, appearances by its clients. There are many companies like Thuzio out there that represent athletes; but Thuzio, unlike most of them, lists all its athletes on its website, along with their prices.

Brett Quigley will play golf with you for $2,500. Bruce Fleisher costs $3,000. Mark Lye, $2,500.

There are options for many more things that playing a round of golf. Bob Murphy would probably be a great dinner speaker, and you can hire him for a speaking engagement for $2,000. Or, you can pay him to attend a golf tournament with you, or have lunch with you, for $500.

If you want to make an investment in your golf game, rather than just have an "experience," Kenny Knox will give you a private lesson for $150. Knox used to hold the all-time PGA Tour record for fewest putts in a 72-hole tournament, and is still No. 2 on the list.

These prices are good if you happen to be within a specified geographical area for a given golfer or athlete. If you're outside his or her local area, the price goes up.

But when you can play golf with Kerri Strug, who cares? That's right, America's gymnastics sweetheart will play golf with you for a mere $2,250! Warning: She's a short hitter. (Thank you, I'll be here all week.) No word on whether Bela Karolyi caddies for her.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, there's Chris Washburn. The infamous NBA washout, who had many, many troubles with drugs and the law, charges $400 for a round of golf. Or $100 plus a nickel bag. I kid, I kid! Hopefully Washburn is in a good place in his life now. He must be, or Thuzio, presumably, wouldn't include him in the program.

Meanwhile, Tiki Barber is doing something wrong. The former New York Giants running back great costs $1,000 for a round of golf - but his twin brother Ronde charges $2,500! C'mon Tiki, you're worth more than that!

By my count, there are 300+ athletes/sports personalities who are available for hire through Thuzio to play golf with you. Just a small sampling of some of those names, with their prices for a round of golf:

  • Mark Clayton, $500
  • Mickey Morandini, $600
  • Jacque Jones, $750
  • World B. Free, $1,200
  • Bret Boone, $1,500
  • Daunte Culpepper, $1,500
  • Omar Gonzalez, $,1500
  • Fred McGriff, $1,500
  • Turk Wendell, $1,500
  • Jay Fiedler, $2,000
  • Tim Hardaway, $2,000
  • Dick Stockton, $2,000
  • Rick Barry, $2,500
  • Mike Bossy, $2,500
  • Thurman Thomas, $2,500
  • Darren Daulton, $3,000
  • Ottis Anderson, $3,500
  • Joe Klecko, $5,000
  • Chris Myers, $5,000
  • John Starks, $5,000
  • Harry Carson, $7,500
  • Daryl Johnston, $7,500
  • Jalen Rose, $10,000

Friday, March 22, 2013

Caddie Controversies at Masters of Yore

Two stories I recently stumbled across about caddie controversies at The Masters. First, at the 1971 Masters, Bob Murphy was near the lead when, in the second round, he double-bogied the 16th hole and fell down the leaderboard.

What did he do when the round was over? Murphy went to the press tent and blamed it all on his caddie.

"I thought it was a 7-iron shot, and my caddie told me it as a 6(-iron)," Murphy said. Murphy hit the 6-iron, and flew the green. "That was the third time in two rounds he has given me bad advice. What I told him couldn't be printed in a newspaper."

Remember, all the caddies at this time (1971) were employed by Augusta National Golf Club; they were all black (blacks couldn't join the club or play at the club in these blatantly racist times, but the club would deign to hire them as caddies or cooks or cleaners); and they were assigned to players.

At this time, golfers couldn't bring their own caddies; they were assigned an Augusta caddie. Murphy's Augusta caddie was Arthur "Sweet" Young, and Sweet was in no mood to take the brunt of Murphy's complaining.

Speaking to the media himself after the round, Sweet said this: "I don't think the mistake was mine. He's the man making his money at this game. He knows how hard he wants to hit the ball. I don't. A man can jump at the ball or hit it cozy. I didn't give him the wrong club. He just hit it too hard. I would do the same thing again."

Unsurprisingly, other caddies sided with Sweet. Jack Nicklaus' Augusta caddie was a man named Willie Peterson, and he said this of Murphy's criticism: "It's unfair. Nicklaus and me put our heads together, but Nicklaus makes the decisions. We don't have no trouble."

It's important to note that at this time in golf history, the golfers were way more indepedent in the golf-caddie relationship than they are today. Most of the big stars did their own yardages, pulled their own clubs. The caddies were there to offer advice if asked, and lug the bag.

Fast forward two years to the 1973 Masters, when another caddie controversy was, in the AP's words, "ignited by a 120-pound pepperpot from Puerto Rico," Chi Chi Rodriguez.

Chi Chi wasn't happy about having to use Augusta caddies rather than his regular Tour caddie because, he alleged, Augusta gave the best caddies to the star players (Nicklaus, Palmer, et.al.).

"They get the more knowledgeable caddies," Rodriguez said. "We should be allowed to use our tour caddies, or at least have a blind draw."

Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer were asked to respond. Both said it didn't matter, because they made all the decisions for themselves anyway. Which isn't exactly a denial that they were being given the better caddies.

Arnie shot a 77 the day of Chi Chi's complaint, so maybe Palmer should have let his caddie make a few decisions that day!

Leading up to the 1973 Masters, eighteen United States congressmen "demanded" that Augusta issue a special invitation to Lee Elder, who is black, because no black player had ever played the Masters to that point. Controversy - the caddie kind, the political kind - is nothing new at The Masters.

(Lee Elder became the first black golfer to play The Masters in 1975. But it wasn't until 1982 that Chi Chi got his wish and Augusta allowed Masters golfers the option of using their own caddies. Today, all of them do, if they have a regular caddie of their own.)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Is It a UFO? Is It a Drone? It's a Golf Channel Remote-Controlled Flying Camera

So this happened on the Bay Hill driving range during tournament week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational:
Awesome, indeed! But what the heck is it? It's a remote-controlled, flying camera that the Golf Channel is testing at Bay Hill. It's called the "Eritsa," made by a company called HoverFly, and in the video clip above you can even hear that is kinda sounds like a fly buzzing by. So what can this bad boy do? Here's an excerpt from the product description:
Hoverfly ERITSA is in a class all by itself. With the largest carrying capacity of any multi-rotor aerial cinema system available, ERISTA captures breathtaking, epic footage from the air with exceptional performance. The retractable landing gear and 360ยบ rotating camera gimbal mount provide unobstructed views to capture the perfect shot every time. Featuring our patent-pending HovercoreTM flight technology, the ERISTA cinema package includes everything you need to film with the most demanding cameras in a multi-rotor system - for true professional film production.
 
It can only fly for 10 minutes at a time, however. But still, this offers Golf Channel - should they put it into use during actual tournament play - plenty of new options for overhead visuals.


New Car Dealer Perk: Golf Simulator

Taking your car to the dealership for service is never fun. That's why so many car dealerships these days are adding perks to try to make customers more willing to visit, and to stay on-site during the service. Things like big-screen TVs, free wi-fi stations, even little coffee shops built into the waiting room.

But one Lexus dealer in Canada has hit on the right idea: a golf simulator for its customers. A Lexus dealership in Edmonton has installed a High Definition Golf Simulator:
"We wanted to give our customers that 'wow' experience," says dealership owner Jim Jiwani. "Now they can look forward to coming in for servicing or even checking out the new models."
Installed a couple months ago, Jiwani says car owners are already booking appointments on the simulator. "They bring in their clubs and play 8 or 9 holes while waiting for their car to be serviced," says Jiwani. This summer he is planning on offering client's golf clinics with local pros.

In addition to clients, the simulator has become a perk for employees. "Our staff use it after work and we have been holding mini-tournaments. It helps keep them motivated," says Jiwani.

Yep, that's a perk alright. And if you have to take your Lexus in for service, being able to reserve time on a golf simulator would certainly make that time pass a little quicker. Here's an example of what an HD Golf Simulator looks like in an office setting:

Monday, March 18, 2013

Lindsey and Tiger Sitting In A Tree ...

... g-o-l-f-i-n-g. Or is that s-k-i-i-n-g? Either way, they're definitely k-i-s-s-i-n-g.

Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn came out of the closet today, both announcing through social media that they are, in fact, gettin' it on. They even posted a few photos, including this one that Vonn posted to Instagram:

(Photo: instagram.com/lindseyvonn)
Tiger's website includes more pics. Both sports superstars posted notes to fans, too. First up, here is Tiger's message:

"This season has been great so far and I'm happy with my wins at Torrey and Doral. Something nice that's happened off the course was meeting Lindsey Vonn. Lindsey and I have been friends for some time, but over the last few months we have become very close and are now dating. We thank you for your support and for respecting our privacy. We want to continue our relationship, privately, as an ordinary couple and continue to compete as athletes."


And Lindsey added her own on Facebook:

"I guess it wasn't a well-kept secret but yes, I am dating Tiger Woods. Our relationship evolved from a friendship into something more over these past few months and it has made me very happy. I don't plan on addressing this further as I would like to keep that part of my life between us, my family and close friends. Thank you for understanding and your continued support! xo LV"


Just a couple crazy kids in love!

Lee Trevino at the Masters: 'Pray they don't invite me back'

Something funny happened in the first round of the 1989 Masters: Lee Trevino took the lead. Well, it was funny to Trevino, and unexpected to everyone else. The UPI account from April 7, 1989 reads like this:

With a huge grin on his face, Trevino walked into a room overflowing with journalists, laughed loudly and said:

"I'll bet I'm the last person you expected to see here today. I didn't expect it either."

Trevino's - and the assembled media's - surprise was based on two things:

1. Trevino was 49 years old and not playing so great;
2. Trevino had a longstanding and well-known discomfort with The Masters and Augusta National.

"Discomfort" is too mild a word, actually. Trevino hated Augusta. He hated it because he felt his game was so ill-suited to the course that he had no chance to win; and he hated it because, well, here's UPI from April 7, 1989, again:

Through the years (Trevino) has complained about everything (at The Masters) from treatment received by his caddy to the number of tickets he has been given. And last year, after missing the cut, he said he would 'get down on my knees and pray they don't invite me back.'

The part about caddie treatment is more telling than the crack about tickets in the above excerpt. It boiled down to this: Trevino convinced himself (wrongly, Jack Nicklaus always thought) that he couldn't win at Augusta; and the Tex-Mex Trevino, who overcame a childhood of extreme poverty, simply never felt comfortable nor welcomed at the hallowed Augusta National Golf Club.

That's understandable. Augusta was a blatantly racist place back in the old days. Trevino's own insecurities surely exacerbated the issues he felt when playing The Masters, but his feelings weren't without basis.

Trevino, when playing The Masters, would go so far as to change his shoes in the parking lot so he wouldn't have to enter the lockerroom and clubhouse. There were some years, including two of his prime years of 1970-71, when Trevino skipped The Masters, so uncomfortable was he at the prospect of spending four days there. He only returned after Nicklaus talked him into it.

So what happened after Trevino's opening 67 gave him the first-round lead at the 1989 Masters? He followed it with a 74 but still shared the second-round lead. Then, alas, Trevino blew up with a third-round 81. But he came back to shoot 69 in the final round.

And because he finished inside the Top 24, he was invited back to yet another Masters the following year. At the 1990 Masters Trevino tied for 24th, so got invited back again. Finally, the 1991 Masters - where he finished 49th - was his last. You get the idea that Trevino felt plenty of relief about that.

And at the end of his uneasy relationship with The Masters and Augusta, Trevino's first-round 67 at the 1989 Masters was the best round he ever scored there. And the best finish for Trevino - easily one of the 20 best golfers of all-time - at The Masters was a tie for 10th place.

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Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Best Tiger Woods Sponsor Video is Still 'Tiger Trap'

Tiger Woods has (and has had) a lot of sponsors, and he's made a lot of promotional videos (such as TV commercials) for them. My favorite remains the "Tiger Trap" video that he did for Buick. The set-up was this: Regular golfers (real golfers, not actors) step up to a tee and find a wedge laying on the ground. Gasp - it appears to be Tiger Woods' wedge! Then Tiger himself rolls up in cart: "Hey guys, did you find a wedge?"

Tiger then challenges them to a closest-to-the-pin contest. Can you imagine the nerves these golfers must have felt? Woods does this with several groups. Sometimes he hits great wedge shots, sometimes he intentionally screws up. The big reveal is this: A golfer who beats Woods in the closest-to-the-pin contest wins a Buick Rainier SUV.

The group of middle-aged women is the best. The reactions are great. Check it out:

You can tell this was done a long time ago because Tiger still looks a little skinny.

Tiger Works at Dick's Sporting Goods

At least, he does in this new Nike commercial:

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Kramer Takes Out Frustrations on Golf Bag

We've all been there, right? The round of golf is over, you'd play poorly, you've finished terribly. All you want to do is throw your golf clubs to the ground and give 'em a good kick. Well, Kramer did. Let this scene from Seinfeld serve as a salve for your sullied swing:

Check out the list of Seinfeld golf episodes for a few more more Kramer clips.

Scariest Golf Course Hazard: Sinkholes

You might argue that alligators and crocodiles are the scariest golf course hazards. Or baboons in South Africa. Or bears in Canada. Or sharks (really) in Australia. Or lightning. But I suggest that the scariest golf course hazard of them all is this one: sinkholes.

You could be standing over a sinkhole at any time, at any place on a golf course, without having any clue of the danger. An unseen, unanticipated danger - until the ground opens up beneath you!

And, really, what's the ruling?

You might think this is in jest, but a golfer last week in Illinois was, in fact, swallowed by a sinkhole! It happened on a golf course in Waterloo, Illinois:

It sure wasn’t the hole-in-one Mark Mihal had in mind.

While golfing with friends at the Annbriar Golf Course near here Friday, Mihal, 43, a mortgage broker from Creve Coeur, abruptly dropped into the ground on the fairway of the 14th hole. It was the first time a person — and not a ball — has disappeared beneath the turf in the course’s 20-year history.

... “I was standing in the middle of the fairway,” Mihal said Monday. “Then, all of a sudden, before I knew it, I was underground.”

Mihal slipped through the small caved-in opening and dropped 18 feet in a space about 10 feet across. Rescuers quickly arrived and managed to hoist him out with a rope. He managed to escape with a separated shoulder and an amazing story.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Non-Conformity As a Selling Point for Golf Clubs

If the anchoring ban stands, will golf manufacturers continue making long  putters and belly putters and market them to golfers for their anchored benefits? And will golfers continue to buy those clubs and use them in an anchored manner?

My opinion on that, right now, is no, that anchoring will fade away in the wake of the ban and all the rabble-rousing by golf company CEOs and complaining by golfers who currently anchor will amount to much ado about nothing. But that's right now. My opinion changes a lot on these questions.

In fact, a couple months ago, after TaylorMade CEO Mark King went off on the USGA and said his company would simply ignore an anchoring ban, I wrote a post headlined "Get ready for pro shops filled with non-conforming equipment."
Polara Advantage driver

Golf balls that don't conform to R&A/USGA rules, and clubs that don't conform, don't typically get stocked in pro shops. They don't normally get a lot of ink from golf publications. They don't, as standard practice, jump up and down, wave their arms, and shout, "hey look at me, I break the rules!"

But one company is trying to change that. Polara Golf, right now, is making, selling and touting non-conforming equipment, and the fact that its balls and clubs do break USGA rules is heavily touted in the company's press releases and ads. This isn't one of those small-print, back-of-the-magazine campaigns, but a company trying to take non-conformity mainstream.

Polara's first product was a golf ball that, through various design qualities that are, in fact, against the rules, greatly reduces (according to Polara, anyway) slices and hooks.

And now the company has taken the obvious next step by addressing driver distance. The Polara Advantage driver is non-conforming, and that's a selling point for the company.

"The Advantage Driver goes far beyond the performance limits set forth by the USGA," Polara's press release states right up-front.

What's non-conforming about it? From the press release, two against-the-rules elements are clear: its "trampoline effect" is above the limit (meaning the Polara Advantage driver exceeds the USGA/R&A limit on COR); and the club is 475cc in size (again, exceeding the "legal" limit established by the governing bodies).

Polara, the company says, "invents golf equipment that is only limited in its performance by the Laws of Physics."

Question: Are you willing to play with equipment that you know is non-conforming? Golf equipment companies are eagerly awaiting your reply.

Tiger Zings Stricker on Twitter

Here's what Tiger Woods had to say to his buddy Steve Stricker via Twitter:

Congrats on 2nd! Ouch!

The joke, of course, is that Stricker gave Woods a putting lesson prior to the WGC Cadillac Championship, correcting a flaw he had noticed in Tiger's set-up. Then Tiger went out and won the tournament, with Stricker finishing second. And how did Tiger win the tournament? Putting. Woods needed only 100 putts for the week - the fewest putts he's ever used in a 72-hole tournament (see the PGA Tour record in this category).

So, yeah: Thanks Strick, and congrats on 2nd!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Mike Brady (No, Not That Mike Brady), the 14-Club Rule, and Walter Hagen Gamesmanship

Mike Brady played golf. No, not that Mike Brady - the father on The Brady Bunch. Wait! That Mike Brady did play golf on The Brady Bunch, but he's not the Mike Brady we're talking about. We're talking about Mike Brady the professional golfer, who played in two playoffs for the U.S. Open in the early part of the 20th century.

Mike Brady the golfer lost U.S. Open playoffs in 1911 and 1919. This post doesn't really go anywhere, I just wanted to share two interesting nuggets picked out of Peter Alliss' The Who's Who of Golf entry about Brady.

You know there's a 14-club limit in a golfer's bag, right? It wasn't always that way. The 14-club rule came about because golfers in the early days of professional golf sometimes carried two dozen or more clubs in a bag. Lawson Little, for one, was known for carrying as many as 25 clubs in his bag. The USGA and R&A put a stop to that by introducing the 14-club rule.

Well, in the playoff for the 1911 U.S. Open, it was Mike Brady, George Simpson and Johnny McDermott. At that time, there had yet to be a native-born American win the U.S. Open. Had Brady won it, he'd be much more famous today. But he didn't, McDermott won. Brady? He played the playoff with only six clubs in his bag. Maybe we're lucky the governing bodies didn't decide on a 6-club rule!

Brady's next near-miss at the U.S. Open happened in the 1919 playoff against Walter Hagen. According to Alliss' account, Hagen trailed Brady - who was already in the clubhouse - by one stroke as Hagen reached the 18th green. Hagen called for Brady to come out of the clubhouse to see Hagen sink the tying putt - which Brady did, and which Hagen did.

Brady and Hagen then went into an 18-hole playoff:

"In the playoff that followed, a Hagen shot finished half-buried in mud on the 17th. He requested permission for a free drop, and, when this was refused, asked if he might identify his ball. When Walter had done this, the ball was far more easily playable and soon Brady found himself the loser by 78 to 77."

Did you catch that? Walter Hagen pretended it was necessary to ID his golf ball in order to improve his lie, thus helping himself win the 1919 U.S. Open.

That sort of gamesmanship was common in the early days of professional golf. Today, the TV cameras would zoom in the ball, the player's actions would be described and debated on blogs and Twitter, YouTube clips of it would be around forever, the golfer's reputation would be permanently tarnished.

Mike Brady never won a major championship. But at least he went on to become an architect, marry a hot wife, have three sons and three step-daughters. No, wait ...

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Is Golf About to be Challenged by ... Chess?

There's an interesting article in the March 2013 issue of Wired magazine. The focus is on international chess grandmaster Susan Polgar and her desire to turn chess into a spectator sport. The article is titled "The Queen's New Gambit: Chess as a Great American Spectator Sport."

Did you know that many American colleges and universities field competitive chess teams? Which means, they hire chess coaches, recruit chess players, travel to other schools to play chess matches and tournaments? And that this college "sports" world is rife with intrigue and squabbles and coaches being fired and coaches being hired away by rival schools? That some schools spend lots of money to construct chess "arenas," and that students attend pep rallies with marching bands and cheerleaders yelling about the upcoming chess match against the school's bitter chess rivals?

I didn't know any of that, but it's all true. Polgar - a k a, "the Queen" - is one of the superstars of this scene, as much for her talent as a college chess coach and recruiter as for her standing within the international chess community.

What does this have to do with golf? Polgar believes that chess can be transformed into a spectator sport in the United States, complete with major media attention and big-dollar television contracts. And she sees inspiration for the idea in golf.

Polgar, Wired writes,

"... wants to win the hearts of soccer-addled adolescents and cable TV executives; she wants Americans to think of chess as a sport every bit as legitimate as golf or poker."

ESPN televises poker, it even televises the National Spelling Bee, Wired points out. What if chess had some charismatic public faces in the United States, and a network committed to innovations in the way the matches are broadcast?

Polgar finds parallels to our own game:

"I have all the respect in the world for golf and golf players," she says. "I think watching golf is not the most exciting thing, but look at all the resources it gets."

Polgar is not insulting golf when she says that. What she's saying is this: Look, I understand that people look at chess and think, "How in the world are you going to make that watchable on TV?" And yet, lots of people thought (and lots of people still think) the same thing about golf: "Watch golf? That's like watching paint dry!" But golf is now a huge presence on television. If it can happen for golf, why not chess?

Golf does have some inherent advantages, as a televised sport, compared to chess: Golfers actually move from Point A to Point B around a golf course, and make large, physical movements (the golf swing) to complete the requirements of our game. Chess players sit in one place, hunched over a board, and make very small motions.

But Polgar isn't wrong to find inspiration in golf. The key to the success of golf on television is that television doesn't broadcast golf from the perspective of a fan at the golf course, but from an omnisicient perspective.

What is it like to watch golf at the site of the tournament? Hey, there's Tiger Woods, wow, look at that swing! OK, only 10 minutes until the next group comes through ... Right: Watching a golf tournament live, in-person, means watching a whole bunch of nothing. Almost nothing happens at a golf tournament! The "action" in golf - the swinging of the club to hit the ball - can be measured in seconds for the entire round. Seconds of big, forceful golf swings, and delicate, nervy putts, along with another four or five hours that consists of: people walking, people standing around.

And you want to put that on TV? Imagine the first TV executives being pitched to broadcast golf: How in the world are we going to make that exciting to watch on television?

The answer, it turns out, was charismatic superstars (starting with Arnold Palmer) plus major innovations in broadcast techniques - some of which drove major changes in golf itself.

Cover golf with a single camera? That's what they did on the earliest broadcasts. But if you want to make it more exciting, you need to add another camera. And another. And more. You need to quick-cut from this player to that one, from this drive to that putt. You need to drop in shots that happened a few seconds or a few minutes ago. That giant roar we just heard in the background of the live shot? Here, we have it on tape for you. And microphones placed all around the golf course - pick up the sounds of the game and the voices of the players and their caddies and the fans. Through these means you eliminate much of the walking and standing around that, in fact, make up the vast majority of the "action" at golf tournaments.

Some of the television-based innovations in golf were things that seem very minor. The cup on every golf putting green is white on the inside. Why? Because CBS Sports producer Frank Chirkinian, back in the 1950s, realized that if you paint the inside of the hole hole white, it makes the hole stand out on television. It helps the viewers to know where the golfer is aiming, after all.

And some of the television-based innovations in golf were huge. Tee time order? The players in last place tee off first, the players in first place tee off last. That ensures, nearly all the time, that the golfers who are in contention as the tournament winds down are the ones who are still on the course, and, therefore, still on your TV screens. In the early days of golf, the leaders might be scheduled to tee off at any point - at the start of the round, the middle or the end. They might have finished playing hours ago by the time the final round wrapped up. This practice was already fading away by the time of the first golf telecasts, but television put the nail in its coffin. Broadcasters needed the guys leading the tournament to be the ones showing on screens.

And relation to par. Relation to par is the biggest thing television did for golf. Scoring in relation to par - 4-under par, 3-over par - existed prior to television's entry into golf, but it was rarely used for tournament scoring. Golfers' scores were listed as stroke total only.

Popularizing scoring in relation to par (another Chirkinian innovation) gave golf fans an easy to way to always know who the leaders were. So television helped standardize a way of setting tee times (leaders start last), and popularized a scoring method (relation to par), which, combined, created far more opportunity for drama and suspense as the tournament moved towards its conclusion.

So: Can chess ever become a television sport? Will we ever see chess tournaments competing against golf on sports networks? It sounds absurd, at first blush, to suggest that. After all, in chess, almost nothing happens. Why, it's like watching paint dry!

Polgar's comparison of golf broadcasting to potential chess broadcasting is very astute. Chess - if it ever gets on the air - will benefit from going on TV in ways unimagined at this point. The very nature of chess tournaments might themselves change. But broadcasters will find ways, through innovations in camerawork, analysis, graphics, sound, even tournament and match structures to make chess not just palatable on television, but even popular.

If chess ever gets on TV to begin with. And that will only happen if young, charismatic superstars emerge within chess.

For chess to become a TV sport, it first needs its own Arnold Palmers, and then it needs its own Frank Chirkinians.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

USGA History at Merion

Merion is the site of the U.S. Open this year, and the USGA has put together a brief video clip on the history of USGA championships at the club. Well done, too (via Golf Compendium)

'If Satan Plays Miniature Golf, This Is His Favorite Hole'

The headline above is the first sentence of a post on the Futility Closet blog describing a miniature golf hole. But there are no windmills, dinosaurs or clown's mouths on this mini-golf hole.

Instead, this is a simple schematic of a 24-sided mini-golf green that looks like this:



In the drawing above, "B" represents the hole. "A" is the aiming point. Stand anywhere you want on this green and strike the ball as hard as you want at point A. Assume the golf ball will continue bouncing for as along as it takes to eventually find the Hole B.

Guess what? The ball will never go into Hole B. The golf ball can bounce around this putting green forever and will never go into Hole B.

Well, sure, you could just aim at Hole B rather than striking your putt toward Point A. But this is actually a mathematical puzzle, not an example of real-world putt-putt golf.

Futility Closet explains the origin of the configuration in the schematic above:
"The idea arose in the 1950s, when Ernst Straus wondered whether a room lined with mirrors would always be illuminated completely by a single match."
In other words, if every wall is a mirror, can you design a room so that there will be a "dark spot," a spot at which you can stand without being able to see any light from a match's flame even though the walls are mirrors. The answer, it turns out, is yes. If the light source is Point A, its light will bounce around those mirrored walls without ever being visible to a person standing at Point B.

OK, maybe a post about a clown's mouth would have been more exciting. Hey, nobody warned me there was going to me math!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Don't Forget to File Your US Open Entry Form

Entries for the U.S. Open are now open! Golfers, if you have a 1.4 handicap index or lower, you can enter! The USGA tweeted this notice today:

Good to see Tiger and Phil got their applications in. Wouldn't it be funny if Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson forgot to enter? NO! No, it would not be funny! Because if you don't submit the entry form, you don't play, even if you're otherwise exempt from qualifying.

We know this because, sadly, it's happened before. Back in 2006, Meena Lee was exempt into the field for the U.S. Women's Open. But she forgot to file the entry form. Or maybe she didn't realize it was required. Regardless, even though she was exempt into the field, an automatic qualifier, she didn't get to play. No entry form, no entry.

So don't wait, superstars of golf: Get those U.S. Open entry forms in today!

New Golf Boys Video Is Here - 2.Oh, Better Than the First

The Golf Boys are back with another video. They call this one 2.Oh, and I'm happy to report two things: It's not a Harlem Shake, and it is better than the first Golf Boys video.

Lots of shoutouts to other golfers in this one, including Tiger Woods. Most impressively, they manage to work in "Oosthuizen" - and almost make it rhyme! (The Golf Boys are, of course, Bubba Watson, Ben Crane, Rickie Fowler and Hunter Mahan.)

The song itself is available on iTunes and proceeds benefit the organization charity: water. That's a non-profit that works to provide clean, safe drinking water in developing countries.

The Golf Boys 2.Oh video was directed by Ty Andre, and the song lyrics (and music) were written by Mat Kearney.

Related:
All Golf Boys videos in one place

Revenge of the Golf Boys

(Update: The second Golf Boys video, Golf Boys 2.Oh, is out.)

Are the Golf Boys about to give us a Harlem Shake video? Well, they're about to give us some kind of video. Bubba Watson says so:

The Golf Boys are Bubba, Rickie Fowler, Ben Crane and Hunter Mahan. Who, when they are not creating not creating wacky videos, can probably be found at one of the US PGA Tour's many Bible Study groups. Perhaps they can ask their Creator forgiveness for showing far too much skin:



Saturday, March 2, 2013

'Bobby Locke Hooked Everything, Even Putts'

South African great Bobby Locke was a huge influence on the young Gary Player. There were many oddities about Locke, but one that you still read about is how he hooked every shot - including, some say, his putts! Here's a video clip in which Player demonstrates Locke's unusual putting technique:

Locke is considered by some the greatest putter of all-time, by the way, and is on every expert's list of the handful of greatest.

But question: Does what Player demonstrates look like a hooked putt to you? Looks more like a intentional pull to me.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Gold Putters, Diamond-Embedded Putters, 'Sons of Love and Beauty'



That's some putter above, isn't it? It's the Cupidon half-mallet made by a French company called ValGrine (http://www.valgrine.com/). And yes, those are diamonds around the body of the putter and serving as the sightline.

How does ValGrine describe this putter on its website? Like this:

"Curve and harmony, assertion of a delicacy by the detour of sensual and soft curves with a greedy volume. Son of love and beauty. At the address: a point, two lines and an arrow to touch its deepest desire: remove the ball from the green."


Damn! Is that a putter in your golf bag or are you just happy to see me? With a putter like that, who needs Viagra? Does the Cupidon come with a vibrating clubhead for the ladies? (I could go on, but I'll stop there.)

The French can sex up anything.

And they can "luxury up" anything, too, including putters. ValGrine custom makes various luxury putters - putters with diamonds, putters made of silver, putters made of gold. You get the picture.

Speaking of pictures, here's one of a ValGrine gold putter:



Says the company: "Valgrine offers its customers the possibility of creating entirely gold putters. ... allow free rein to your imagination in creating a putter that you like. ... You want a putter entirely or partially decorated with gold, all this is possible and without any limits. ... Don’t hesitate, make your wildest dreams with Valgrine."

ValGrine calls its putter offerings "landmark fashion," and an "amalgam of silverware and jewelry."
Unfortunately, at this time, they don't provide any prices on their website. But you know what they say: If you have to ask ...