April 24, 2009
Last week, I got the opportunity to travel to Bethpage for a photo shoot for our upcoming June/July issue of The Met Golfer. The goal was to get shots of Mike Davis, Sr. Director of Rules and Competitions for the USGA as well as Hamilton Lopes, a member of the grounds crew who is an alum of the MGA Foundation's GOLFWORKS student intern program and who will be featured in that issue as well.
I have been to Bethpage a few times in the past to conduct U.S. Public Links qualifiers and interviews for the upcoming article with Hamilton and head superintendent Craig Currier. I always got that feeling of excitement when pulling up to the welcome sign and always think back to that "Everybody Loves Raymond" episode where they sleep in their car. However, being there as all the tents and preparations are now in full swing was tremendous. Between the corporate and hospitality tents going up to walking up to the famous sign on the first tee "WARNING - The Black Course is an Extremely Difficult Course Which We Recommend Only For Highly Skilled Golfers." It reminds you of how special a place it really is. I couldn't help but take some pictures of my own.
Seeing the eager and nervous anticipation of the players waiting to tee off, (including some who disregarded the WARNING sign and made everyone aware that they are not highly skilled) made me wish I was one of the lucky ones able to get a tee time between 8 and 1 for the chance to play the Black and for the chance to say "I was there, I went dead center on #1 and got on in two! Tiger hit his in the rough!"
Between the cameras and the interviews (I got the chance to pretend to be Jimmy Roberts as I interviewed Hamilton) onlookers were trying to get the scoop as I have been that onlooker on numerous occasions. It definitely gave me a sense of importance and that in some small way, I was a part of the 2009 U.S. Open.
April 20, 2009
Having witnessed the outstanding golf put on display by Kevin Foley and Morgan Hoffmann on numerous occasions last summer, including their one-two finish at the Ike respectively, it is great to see their continued success each week on the college circuit.
Foley, a Penn State junior, and Hoffmann, a freshman at Oklahoma State had outstanding months of March and have brought their A-games into April as they prepare for conference and NCAA tournaments right around the corner. This past week, Foley finished at a tie for first place at the Boilermaker Invitational with a total score of nine under par. This helped Penn State to second-place finish overall, one shot short of first. This marked the fourth time that Foley finished first in a collegiate event. It should also be noted that fellow Met Area student athlete Chris DeForest, a sophomore at the University of Illinois finished in third place, two strokes behind Foley and helped Illinois capture the team title.
As for the Cowboy's freshman phenom, Hoffmann has recently been named one of ten semifinalists for the Ben Hogan award. The award goes to the top collegiate player among all divisions, taking into account all of their collegiate and amateur achievements in a 12-month period. Hoffmann has won two events this year while at OSU, and was also named the Big 12 Golfer of the Month for March, and made it to the quarterfinals at the U.S Amateur. To be one of ten for the Heisman Trophy of golf is extremely impressive, and he's only a freshman!
It will be exciting to see both Kevin and Morgan, as well as the other Met Area college stars continue to excel throughout the rest of the collegiate season and hopefully their fine play will continue into U.S. Open qualifying.
April 16, 2009
April 13, 2009
By Billy Condon
Wow! I don’t think anyone could have predicted such an exciting finale to the Masters. With Tiger and Phil’s comeback efforts falling just short, Kenny Perry nearly acing 16 and a three-man playoff, this year’s Masters was anything but drama-free. Although our predictions were a little off with no European, man from the Emerald Isle, or Mahan/Cink coming through in the end to don the green jacket, it sure was fun to watch and congratulations are due to Angel Cabrera. From the avid follower to someone watching for the first time, it’s hard to say golf isn’t a great spectator sport.
Yesterday was a perfect example of why not only golf, but all sports are so exciting. Just when you think you're out for the count, you get a lucky bounce off a tree back into the fairway, make a putt and before you know it, you are in Butler Cabin being awarded the green jacket. Cabrera paralleled what the Boston University hockey team achieved this weekend, as the Terriers scored two goals in the final minute of regulation to force overtime and eventually win the National Championship.
2009 will be a great year for major championship golf and with the next stop being right here in the Met Area, the world’s best will be itching for their next shot to win a major at the Black.
April 9, 2009
April 8, 2009
I had the pleasure of spending some time with PGA Tour player Brett Quigley at an event last night at the Vineyard Vines store in Greenwich, Conn. Quigley, who has a sponsorship deal with Vineyard Vines, was in town to help promote the company's spring line and play in an outing today at the Country Club of Fairfield. (I hope he brought thermals for the round).
Quigley, who grew up in Rhode Island but now lives in Florida, is part of a great golf family. His uncle Dana is an 11-time winner on the Champions Tour and his father, Paul, has won a ton of amateur events in New England. Brett, who turns 40 later this year, is still looking for his first PGA Tour victory (he has two Nationwide Tour wins), but he does hold a notable Met Area distinction: He was the medalist at the 2006 U.S. Open Sectional Qualifying Round at Canoe Brook Country Club in Summit, N.J., shooting 68-63. Of course, he joked last night that his performance was "completely forgotten," because another player in the field that year, Michelle Wie, received 99.9 percent of the attention from the 5,000 spectators and more than 250 members of the media who descended on Canoe Brook.
Even though Tour pros are among the most accessible athletes in sports, it's always nice to see just how down-to-earth someone like Quigley is. Here's a guy who has won just over $10 million in his professional career, and yet it's obvious that he simply loves to talk golf. Like any golfer, he tends to linger more on his disappointments (two chances to win tournaments in March that resulted in second-place finishes) than his successes. Surely he would have preferred to be in the Masters field this week, but he still seemed to be enjoying himself.
The talk turned to future major championships, and Quigley, who didn't make the field for the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage and has never played there, would love a crack at the Black this year. There's a good chance he will have to qualify to make the Open field, and if so, those of us here at the MGA are hoping he'll be in the field at the June 8 Sectional Qualifying Round at Century Country Club in Purchase, N.Y. Here's hoping that Quigley continues his success. He's an easy guy to root for.
April 6, 2009
The Euro is Rising: A European has not won the Masters in 10 years, since Jose Maria Olazabal came out on top. If it’s not Tiger, I’d look for either Paul Casey, Sergio Garcia, or Padraig Harrington to end the Euro drought. Casey, in particular, seems to be peaking at the right time, having just won last week in Houston. And with three top-10s in four Masters appearances, Casey obviously feels comfortable on the course. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Casey become the sixth player in history to win the week before the Masters and then go on to claim the green jacket (the last was Phil Mickelson in 2006).
The “Tin Cup” guy?: No, not Roy McAvoy. I’m talking about Rory McIlroy, the 19-year-old Northern Ireland native who burst onto the professional golf scene in 2007 when he finished low amateur at the British Open. A Masters rookie is definitely not the popular pick to win as there have only been three in the event’s history, most recently Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979, but McIlroy has the game to fill out that foursome. He snagged his first professional win this year at the Dubai Desert Classic in February and later reached the quarterfinals at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship (where he lost to eventual champion Geoff Ogilvy). Augusta National may not favor the free-swinging and charismatic teenager, but what could be more exciting than Tiger, Phil or Padraig paired with a young phenom like McIlroy in the final round of the Masters.
I have found that Masters picks can be compared to March Madness with regards to selections: there is a limited number, those that get in may only get the chance once in their lifetime, and you can’t get enough Jim Nantz. First and foremost, you have the heavy favorites: UNC, UConn, Tiger, and Phil; next are the picks you make only because their names sound cool: the Zips of the University of Akron, the Matadors of Cal State Northridge, Reinier Saxton of Holland, and Ryo Ishikawa of Japan; and lastly you have the hopeful Cinderella’s that you know are only worth picking for a big pay-out: Morehead State, UT Chattanooga, Sergio Garcia, and Greg Norman.
So after a thorough analysis of the field, I have narrowed it down to four players who I think have what it will take to win. Coincidentally, these four picks show similarities that have been cross-referenced to the teams that played in this year’s Final Four.
-My UNC has to be Tiger Woods. After a couple of scares, UNC is the team to beat just as Tiger is coming on strong after a win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. The players know that on his A-game, Tiger is unstoppable.
-My other heavy hitter is Phil. As a fellow lefty, I have a great allegiance to Phil and I would have to compare him to UConn. He has been playing well, but you never exactly know what you are going to get out of him, and as seen by both, it is always harder to make a move after being rattled early on.
-I see Hunter Mahan as Villanova: no one would have guessed they would be in contention except those close to the team, and with the way he has been performing in recent weeks, he can make some noise. -As for Michigan State, I am going with Stewart Cink. After winning at the Travelers Championship last year and helping the U.S. team win back the Ryder Cup, as well as two top-ten finishes at Augusta the last three years including a tie for third in 2008, I would really like to see “Big Stew” in Butler Cabin. As much as the title may seem a lock for the Tar Heels or a healthy Tiger, Cink and the Spartans are riding some pretty heavy momentum. It also doesn’t hurt that he is a Georgia guy, and as the Spartans can attest, it never hurts to have the hometown crowd on your side. (I just hope he doesn’t use all his good swings in Wednesday’s par-three).