I hope your game was everything you had hoped for this year -or- at least close to it! But mostly, I just
hope you had the chance to enjoy playing the game with your friends and family on our fine local courses.
As for the overall health of the game in the region – it was another strong year – with the weather
cooperating for the most part – our area courses saw a very consistent group of league players, a
continuing support of fine golf outings/charitable functions, more participation in events like the marvelous Pepsi/Illiana Challenge Series, (all) to the tune of approximately 500,000 rounds played throughout the greater region we call home.
Junior golf, nationally, has grown to approximate levels of (3) million! participants with fully one-third of these youngsters being girls. Locally, the continued growth of the 1st Tee programs have flourished – due to the hard work & dedication of those involved. (And) this is translating to an improvement of rounds played by juniors throughout the area.
And, senior golf has been very steady – locally, senior golfers continue to set the tone for the success of our game – and with about 10,000! more of us baby boomers turning (65) each year in the U.S. – this segment of golfers should prove to be stronger than ever.
The worldwide tours are also stronger than ever – with growth in regions of the world, where a few years back, that only had a passing relationship with the game. The European Tour has done exceptionally well – the LPGA has all but gone global. With sponsorship participation at an all-time high, and players from all over the globe handing off the #1 spot almost monthly; (and) the men’s PGA Tour here at home, is (also) reaching out – with events being played in several other countries – showcasing our sport like never before.
As you know, I publish in this column every month the winners, locations, etc. of the various tours (but) sometimes I think we might underestimate the impact of their success on our local golf scene. Their success not only drives technology, but it also greatly affects interest in our game, translating to growth of participation, even here in the region. Less rounds played equals higher costs per round played everywhere! And even with the continued efforts to keep our green fee structure as low as possible, by our fine group of golf course owners/private clubs/municipalities – less revenue means more $ out of all our pockets when we go out to play. (And) also – the possibility that some facilities may just not be able to survive!
*Speaking of these fine tours: Here is a rundown of what has occurred around the tours since our last publication.
On the European Tour – England’s Paul Dunne got his 1st ever win on the Euro Tour at the British Masters; Tyrrell Hatton, also of England, won the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship – held on (3) courses in Scotland, including historic St. Andrews Golf Club – an event that saw Ross Fisher shoot a course record (61) at St. Andrews; the 74th edition of the Italian Open was Tyrrell Hatton’s 2nd title victory in as many weeks; Sergio Garcia won the Andalucia Valderrama Masters the following week in his native Spain; Justin Rose won the Turkish Airlines Open; and the Nedbank Golf Challenge title went to South African Branden Grace for his eighth career European win.
The Champions Tour – Held the SAS Championship in Cary, N.C. with a 6th career senior title going got Colin Montgomerie; and the 1st (2) events of the (3) tournament playoff series leading to the season ending Charles Schwab Cup title, went to – who else? Bernhard Langer of Germany – with these wins at Dominion Energy Charity Classic (and) the Powershares QQQ Championship, Mr. Langer now has (7) victories in 2017, and 36 senior circuit career titles. Leaving only (1) question – will he catch Hale Irwin’s career title number of (45)? At (60), Langer is still going strong – so, why not? (But) closing out the (3) event final run, with the points being “adjusted” continually – the actual Charles Schwab Cup – (and the half a million dollar bonus!) – went to Kevin Sutherland with his victory at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix, Arizona – kind of a weird way to accumulate points – but Mr. Sutherland deserves the $ and the title as all participants knew going in how the title was to be given out – so congrats to Kevin on this – (his 1st ever win on the Champions Tour) – and on winning this prestigious cup.
On the LPGA Tour – Canadian Brook Henderson won the women’s New Zealand Open: Jin Young Ko – (a 22 year old with (9) wins on the Asian LPGA Tour) – won her 1st LPGA title at the Hana Bank Championship in Incheon, South Korea; the swinging skirts LPGA Taiwan Championship victory went to Eun Hee Ji for her 1st win since the 2009 women’s US Open title; veteran Cristie Kerr of the U.S. won her 20th LPGA title at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia event; the Toto Japan Classic saw Shanshan Feng defend her title (+) with her victory. The following week at the Blue Bay LPGA Championship held on Hainan Island, China – Ms. Feng became the first player (man or woman) from China to ascend to the position of #1 in the world! This is truly “big” for worldwide golf – it just is – believe me! A golfer from China being #1 in the world will open up an incredible set of “possibilities” going forward!
On the men’s PGA Tour – The 12th edition of the President’s Cup – where a team from the U.S. plays a contingent of players from around the globe – (excluding those who are from Great Britain and the European continent who participate in the Ryder Cup matches) – was again won by the U.S. team (19-11). The overall record is now (9-1-1) in these matches, and although some of these matches have been competitive, we really need the international team to win a few or interest may start to subside a little too much for the future success of this event to go strongly forward. The 1st event of the 2017/2018 wrap-a-round season for the men’s tour was held in Napa, California at the Safeway Open, where Brendan Steele won for the 2nd year in a row; the CIMB Classic – held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – was won by veteran Pat Perez of the U.S.; the tour then moved to South Korea for the CJ Cup, where Justin Thomas continued his fine play – and got the victory. *Again, worldwide growth shined here as this was the 1st time ever a PGA Tour event was held in Korea -and- a (10) year sponsors agreement to continue this event has just been signed.
The tour then moved on to Shanghai, China for the HSBC Champions Tournament where Olympic gold medalist Justin Rose continued to play well all over the globe – coming from (8) strokes back of world #1 Dustin Johnson to take home the title; the 49th Sanderson Farms Championship, held in Jackson, Mississippi, was won by veteran Ryan Armour for his 1st ever PGA victory; moving on to Las Vegas – the Shriner’s Hospitals for Children Open saw Patrick Cantlay get his 1st ever title – great story with this young man – he may really start to come into his own this season; and another 1st win was racked up by Patton Kizzire at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba – played in Play Del Carmen, Mexico – another fine young player on the move. *I know that’s a lot of tour stuff! – But we are publishing (6) weeks worth this month instead of the regular 4 -and- if you are watching this closely, I think you will really start to get an idea of how global these tours are becoming – golf is strong, and getting stronger worldwide – the reason? The same reason it flourished here in the U.S. over the last 100+ years – it is a marvelous game!
Yes, 2017 was a wonderful year in golf, and I hope 2018 proves to be even better for us all -but- you still may get a chance this season to sneak in a few rounds – call your local course and see how they stand whenever the sun peeks out – but, again – don’t forget – many of our local courses also stay open for some food and beverage or banquet options – give them a call for this also! Who wouldn’t want a gift certificate from a local course for Christmas? Clubs getting a little worn down? – Go on out to your course -or- J&M – I’m sure they will give you a good deal and usually they have a little extra time to go over your needs. *Some even take trade-ins – season passes for next year will never be lower – and some places offer indoor nets, etc. But whatever you can manage in the way of golf over the “cooler” months, try to make a determined effort next year to bring someone you care about out to the course – you’ll be doing them a favor – and you will be having even more fun than you did this year!
Special thanks this month (year): To all the loyal advertisers who support Golf Plus Newspaper – the people who make this paper possible for now – (25!) years - *And to my friends Jon and Steve Chontos who help keep golf information “flowing” in our region. To the readers of my column who continue to provide me with their wonderful stories and feedback throughout the year; to the hundreds of folks who make us all feel so welcome when we arrive at their facilities/and the marvelous golf course superintendents who sometimes make the impossible – possible! – Thank you all! - And on a personal note to Mike & Kathy Modrzejewski, Barb, and other who continually give me such wonderful help and support – thank you.
*Just a note to let you know that even though this may be the last column I write this season – I will be updating the website over the winter with a further wrap-up of 2017 – shows open to the public over the winter, etc. – so just go to our GolfPlusOnline.net address & I will keep in touch.
(And) if you have a suggestion for a feature article you would like to see covered -or- if you just want to chime in – please contact me at our e-mail address: email@example.com or leave me a voicemail at (219)947-4314, and to read past golf course reviews – or to just visit Golf Plus newspaper online – visit our website at GolfPlusOnline.net.
Lastly: In a recent column, I wrote about the “Tiger Effect” on golf during his “heyday” – and how it impacted some of our stars on tour today - *And by the way, Tiger has announced he will be playing in the tournament he hosts “The Hero Challenge” later this month – anyway – love him or hate him, his impact on others who only began to follow the sport because of him was recently summed up very well in a story told by former NBA star, and current L.A. Clippers coach Doc River, who let us in on the following:
About (15) years ago, Doc – who was playing for the Boston Celtics at the time – went in the locker room at half-time, saw Danny Ainge watching the Masters and said, “How’s it going?” – to which Ainge replied something like, “Tiger’s on the move.” So, thinking about it, and with only (4) games left in the season, and the playoff picture already settled, he went out and immediately upon entering the game in the third quarter, got in a heated exchange with the ref, and got kicked out of the game! Cool story, Doc! I just wonder how many did the
See ya next year - Pete