Because you are reading this, I am fairly confident that you play golf! And more than just play this fine
game – you probably consider golf a large part of your life’s overall recreational enjoyment. And because I
believe this, I want to ask you a favor!
Although our fine golf professionals, course owners, off-course business owners, superintendents (and) all of the folks who welcome you with such great service when you arrive at your favorite golf facility, are constantly trying to promote the game in our area – the strongest and most viable “ambassadors” of the game are looking at these words right now…you!! And for the game of golf to most effectively grow in our region, we all must help others to see the beauty and wonderful challenge that we all enjoy when we go out to play.
Given just a few seconds, I am totally convinced that you can remember who, when & how you were introduced to golf …right? …I knew it! Well, now I’d like you to return that favor – grab a friend or a family member and take them out to one of our fine local golf facilities – show them a little about the game, and why you love it …and maybe “you” can make a big difference in their life by introducing them to our marvelous game.
For The Kids
First of all, let’s talk about some clubs…I know clubs need to have the correct shaft flex, static weight, etc. to ensure the best opportunity for success…but I don’t personally know one player who didn’t just have a couple of cut down clubs…and we all survived! Now, as soon as they show some interest, take them to one of our local shops, get them fitted correctly for some proper equipment, express to them the importance of taking care of this equipment…and the need to practice, listen, and above all – Have fun!
While junior golf in many pockets of the U.S. is growing rapidly – (according to some figures of the National Golf Foundation, as many as 500,000 new junior golfers have been introduced to the game since just 2010) – our region is still lagging a little behind. But with junior instruction – even a few classes while our children or grandchildren are young – should help set the stage for a pattern of growth in our local area. I am sure that if we had stepped it up a little harder 20 or 30 years ago, we would have seen our millennials out on the course(s) today – but for today’s kids – Let’s take advantage of what is available now.
Here are some of the fine programs in our area that are ready & more than willing to help…I know there are many more – please call your local course for further assistance.
• The Munster Park District has a (6) week program beginning at the end of May, for children in various age groups -or- for private lessons with golf professional Matt Menneghetti at Centennial Park GC in Munster, Indiana. Call (219)836-5931.
• Palmira GC in St. John, Indiana has a “Junior Golf Tour” (and) other worthwhile junior golf rates, etc. – call (219)365-4331. This begins in June.
• Glenwoodie GC (708)758-1212 in nearby Glenwood, Illinois is a part of the wonderful 1st Tee of greater Chicago junior golf program (and) also hosts a PGA junior league.
• Cedar Creek Golf Center on Rte. 41 & Rte. 231 in Cedar Lake, Indiana hosts many junior programs, and also is home to a fun miniature golf course for the whole family (219)365-2902.
• Wicker Memorial Park GC in Highland, Indiana is holding their annual Junior Golf Camp June 20th thru the 23rd – (a great program with fine instructors, including our region’s own Bill Springer) – and, is also host to many 1st Tee events throughout the season – call (219)838-9809 for further details.
• The 1st Tee of Hammond – located at the fine Lost Marsh of Hammond golf facility in Hammond, Indiana – is run by great people – and classes are generally small – insuring close individualized attention to all who participate – (219)932-4046.
• The wonderful Creekside Golf & Learning Center in Valparaiso, Indiana is a powerhouse when it comes to junior golf – including their fine First Tee program, as well as, other junior programs that include some of the finest indoor/outdoor instruction in the country. (219)531-7888.
• Scherwood Golf Club in Schererville, Indiana holds a Tuesday junior golf league, an incredible (Mon-Fri) junior golf program, has a very kid-friendly (9) hole executive course, and holds leagues for all ages in the wonderful new sport of “Foot-Golf.” Call (219)865-2554 for details.
• And the historic Lansing CC in Lansing, Illinois is home to junior events throughout the year. Call (708)474-1590.
As I was saying, this is just a list – until “you” make it happen…thanks in advance…because most of these programs teach not only mechanics of the game, but the etiquette of the game, and many more “life skills” that make for more good citizens who live in our region!
*Final junior notes: If you saw the annual Drive, Chip, and Putt competition during Masters week – you may want to encourage your youngsters to participate – sign up’s have begun for 2017 at drivechipandputt.com – all skill levels are welcome – ages (7-15). (And) point out to your junior that golf is (once again) an Olympic sport! This summer – (beginning the 1st week of August) – while they are watching The Games – try to get them to tune in the golf coverage – maybe this broadcast will inspire a future region Olympian!
And For Other “Non-Juniors”
While juniors in golf are definitely our long-term growth of the game solution – let’s not ignore the rest of our non-golfing friends and family members. The most obvious group that have missed out on the fun that the game offers, is the (20-35) year olds of today. I don’t have enough room here to list all of the reasons for this…technology, the popularity and growth of other sports, and, sports coverage, time considerations, etc. – but regardless of why this age group is not filling our courses – we all see very few participating on a regular basis. The answer has to be with all of us who love the game! Talk to those who you know in this age bracket – invite them to join in on your next scramble – bring them out to the course for lunch – or come up with your own ideas; all it takes is for (1) new golfer to start in your children’s (or grandchildren’s) age group, and we will soon see them bring their friends!
(And) take your friends of 40, 50, 60+ out to an entry level facility – MacArthur Park in East Chicago, Indiana is a “hidden gem” in our community – very inexpensive to play & usually “under-crowded” to coin a phrase; Scherwood Golf’s Executive Nine is another great place to learn the game with low stress – (and has a wonderful Friday night fish fry!) – Duck Creek GC in Portage Township is a lot of fun – (use the front tees) – on the course, and, in the clubhouse – (I guarantee a new golfer of any age will want to return after a visit to Duck Creek!); I also mentioned Lake County Park District’s Cedar Creek GC – a course that beginners (or) players with current low skill levels can still enjoy; the nine hole course at Lost Marsh, the “appropriate” teeing grounds at Creekside, (all) allow for a fun place to start your new player’s journey into golf!
I firmly believe that if enough of us grab (1) person this season & give them a chance to come out to the course – that in a season or two, we will be able to fully distinguish the difference in our levels of participation in the region in “all” age groups, and, we will all have the satisfaction of knowing that we introduced someone to our “game of a lifetime” – remember ‘ it is always the right time – to get started – in golf!
Around The Tours
The LPGA kicked off their “major” season at the ANA Inspiration Tourney – the 1st of (5) women’s majors – The champion? …No surprise here… World #1 Lydia Ko…this is the (18) year old super star’s 12th career victory and second major championship. *Now, I have watched a lot of golf over the years…but I have never seen (or heard) what happened on the 18th hole (on the final day) of this championship, (as) the TV coverage picked up Ms. Ko telling her caddy “a half yard left” (and) then proceeded to hit her approach shot to within (18) inches – just left of the hole! Making that birdie putt to win by a single shot! Wow! The following week saw (19) year old Minjee Lee of Australia win the Lotte Championship…and the “Swinging Skirts” LPGA Classic was won by Japan’s new star Haru Nomura…an event that also featured a “first-ever” LPGA/PGA feat – that will most probably-if ever-be surpassed by the participants who accomplished it?! (As) Mrs. Gerina Piller was finishing her day tied for 3rd in this tournament, her husband, PGA tournament player Martin Piller, was watching the broadcast – after concluding his Valero Texas Open finish with a T-4 of his own! If these two don’t receive some “serious” endorsement/advertising contracts – they better find new representation!
On the Champions Tour…(or) “PGA Tour Champions” as it is now called, we witnessed more greatness from Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez – as he captured his (24th) worldwide victory at the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic…Woody Austin continued his fine play with his second victory of the year at the Mitsubishi Electric Classic…and the “Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf” Tournament – played at the beautiful – (all par 3, par 27, 9-hole) – big Cedar Lodge Golf Course in The Ozarks – was again a great stage to watch the super (65+) seniors, including Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Lee Trevino, et., as well as the best (50+) “kids” – on a different style golf facility & in a team format…the super-senior title this year was won by veterans Bruce Fleisher & Larry Nelson, with the overall championship title going to the team of Michael Allen and the red-hot Woody Austin. *And here he comes: The senior circuit gets another shot in the arm as “grip it and rip it” Mr. John Daly joins the tour this month…good luck John!
The European Tour held (2) events in April – with English golfer Andrew Johnston winning for the 1st time at the (90th) edition of the Spanish Open, and South Korean Soomin Lee also captured his premier victory – in wire to wire fashion – on the expanded European Tour’s Shenzhen International Tournament in China.
The men’s PGA Tour closed March and opened April with (38) year old Jim Herman – after struggling thru (16) years on the PGA & Web.com tours – getting his 1st PGA title victory at the Shell Houston Open… (skipping over the next week – momentarily!) – the 2nd week of April is home to the always competitive RBC Heritage Classic held at the fantastic – (a must see – road trip folks) – Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina; and the event was as compelling as ever as South African star Branden Grace came from behind to capture this prestigious title for his 1st ever PGA Tour win – (and 11th worldwide victory); and Charley Hoffman nearly jumped out of his shoes celebrating his win in the Valero Texas Open – closing out the month.
Did I miss anything? Oh yeah…the 1st full week of April always belongs to the beauty & history that is “The Masters.” …Held every year at the incomparable Augusta National Golf Club in the wonderful city of Augusta, Georgia…this (80th) edition of the Masters (once again) did not fail to excite and entertain the millions of loyal followers of this entrée into spring, as well as, the start of golf’s “major” season.
So – very briefly – here’ how it went – Englishman Danny Willett, a (4) time winner on the European Tour & ranked #12 in the world rankings entering the tournament - played consistently well the 1st three rounds and closed with a very strong (67) to finish (-5) for the week, overtaking (2015) champion (and) #2 golfer in the world, Jordan Speith – who held the lead for the 1st three rounds; who won last year with an event tying (18) under par total; and seemed to have the tournament “wrapped up” after the front nine on Sunday – possessing a (5) shot lead.
Although Mr. Willett’s (67) on Sunday would normally be the story here, most will see this as a disastrous collapse on the part of Jordan Speith. His bogey’s on #10 & #11 were not that damaging…but…on number 12!!
Number (12) at Augusta National is a short par (3) – with constantly changing & difficult wind variations that has seen its share of big numbers over the years… a hole where you “must” carry the water…no matter what! And Jordan – going against the advice of his caddy – who apparently suggested an (8) iron – tried to “flush” his (9) iron, missed short, found the water, lost another ball in the same water hazard after his drop, and posted a (4) over par (7) on the hole – losing the lead he had worked so hard to build up all week, and indeed falling behind – a position from which he could not recover. *As golf professional – (and good friend) – Parker Mulford of Savannah Quarters CC in Pooler, Georgia commented – “It reminds me of a pitcher in baseball shaking off his veteran catcher in that crucial spot of the game, only to watch the next pitch sail over the fence…”
Either way – it was great “theatre” once again…Jordan Speith will have many more chances, and Mr. Willett and his family – (he and his wife just welcomed their first child into the world the week before the Masters) – can be proud of this victory – for no matter how some may have seen it – he “won” the Masters – he played the best for (72) holes – and he deserves the title “Masters Champion.”
Hopefully you are reading this in “early” May – Mom’s Day is Sunday, May 8th – and many of our local courses, including – Wicker Park in Highland, Indiana, Palmira in St. John, (and) all of the Hegan family owned courses – Pheasant Valley, Summertree, Oak Knoll, and Indian Ridge offer a “Mom plays free” policy on “their” day! Check around! There may be others – but either way, treat mom right – she’s the best! (And) a fond wish goes out to all our region Mom’s from us here at Golf Plus!
Try not to miss – the 77th Senior PGA Championship May 26th thru the 29th at the beautiful Harbor Shores CC in nearby Benton Harbor, Michigan. All the best, the (50+) set have to offer will be there – check out seniorpgachampionship.com for further info – great (short) road trip – maybe bring one of those potential new golfers along!
And a quick shout out to old friend Glen Przybylski on his recent victory in the prestigious Will County Amateur, held annually at the challenging Balmoral Woods GC in Crete, Illinios – way to go Glen!
Some fun & charity for a great cause will once again be had at the (4th) annual “Hunkee Hollow Athletic Club’s” Golf Outing – as always, the site will be the wonderful Innsbrook CC in Merrillville, Indiana – and the proceeds will benefit cerebral palsy charities of NWI. *Please register by Jun 14th for this Monday June 20th event – call Cary Brooks at (219)465-5797 for info -or- if you can help in any way.
Special thanks this month: To Mike Modrzejewski for all his fine help and support, to all those who continue to provide me with such wonderful feedback and well-wishes – (you know who you are) – To MRMTSM, (and) on a special note: My deepest condolences to my friends Steve & Jon Chontos on the recent passing of their father, John Chontos – our prayers are with you.
(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.
And lastly: Masters week always reminds me of so many wonderful (and true) moments made during this historic tournament – like this one: Ben Hogan, long known for his powers of deep concentration during a round of golf & being able to block out “all” that went around him – never showcased this better than in the Masters of (1948). When playing partner – (and eventual Masters champion of that year) – Mr. Claude Harmon tee’d off at the par (3) twelfth hole and proceeded to make a one bounce hole-in-one, much to the delight of the roaring crowd following this famous duo – Mr. Hogan ignored (the not-yet quieted) group surrounding them – struck his shot on to the green – worked hard for his two-putt par – and then on the way to the thirteenth tee, turned to Mr. Harmon and asked…“What did you have on that hole Claude?”!! Concentration thy name is Hogan!
See you next month - Pete