Check out these innovative products unveiled at the PGA Show

Mike Friedman’s Tall Order socks have a link with baseball star Aaron Judge.

 

ORLANDO, FL. – With 400 companies and 800 brands participating the PGA Merchandise Show was in full swing for its 70th staging at the Orange County Convention Center.

Those weren’t quite the numbers in pre-pandemic years, but they underscored a good recovery for the golf industry’s biggest event and product innovation was at a particularly high level.

Here are three that particularly intrigued us, and all had creators with a story to tell.

TALL ORDER SOCKS – Towering twin brothers Mike and Dan Friedman are New Yorkers who, inevitably, had to think big.  Mike is 6-11 and Dan 6-9.

“We were so big that we had trouble finding socks that would stay up,’’ said Mike.  “I’d be wearing dress socks and walking to work in the snow, and my socks would fall down in my boots.’’

In the fall of 2017 they addressed not only that problem but also did something they felt was overdue.

“We started our business in honor of our Dad (Andrew),’’ said Mike.  “He was killed in the World Trade Center in 2001.  We wanted to do something that honored his legacy. We remember vividly giving out clean white socks to people who were rescue workers or first responders. At first we made our socks for just tall people.  Now we make them for everybody. Our motto now is `Made for all, not just tall.’’

The socks have seamless toes, extra cushioning and arch support.  They range in price from $10-18 for dress socks, $25-30 for ankle socks and $30 for a three-pack.

“We wanted to provide people with as much comfort as possible,’’ said Mike.  “Plus, we donate a portion of what we see to give back to various organizations – families of first responders and rescue personnel.  It’s important for us to give back.’’

The story doesn’t end there, however.

In 2020 the Friedmans got a call from an equipment manager for the New York Yankees.

“He said Aaron (Judge) is upset with his socks,’’ said Mike Friedman.  “They were too tight and not comfortable.  He asked if we could make him some socks, and we did. In Aaron’s first game wearing his new socks he went three-for-5 with four RBIs including a moonshot home run, and he’s worn them ever since.’’

Judge, of course, has gone on to greater things with his home run-hitting prowess and that’s not all.  He’s also become an equity partner in Tall Order.

Tim Wright has found a way to combine hockey with better putting.

CALIBER GOLF –This company, based in Kenosha, WI., unveiled a putting grip and shaft with roots in a hockey stick.  Other would-be golf inventors have worked with hockey sticks over the years but with little success. Caliber’s first version wasn’t a success, either.

Tim Wright, a hockey devotee, started his effort in a one-car garage because he couldn’t make a four-foot putt.

“As a hockey player I could rip a slapshot in the net over a goalie’s shoulder from the blue line,’’ he said.  But the seemingly easier four-foot putts rarely found the cup.

In desperation Wright cut one of his putters 7 ½ inches off the blade of the shaft.  Then he took a hockey stick, hollow inside, inserted the putter blade and taped it up.

“I wound up winning my flight in an event at the Kenosha Country Club,’’ said Wright.  “The pro there allowed me to play with it but the members were disappointed because the putter was non-conforming.’’

Wright went to the U.S. Golf Association for advice.

“I needed to get the hockey shaft to conform to the Rules of Golf, and I was told that, for 30 years, people have submitted the hockey shaft to try to get it to conform,’’ said Wright,  “but a hockey shaft vs. a putter shaft doesn’t deflect equally from all angles.  That’s written in the rules and regulations.’’

Wright beat that problem by inserting a tube into the hockey stick shaft, then  inserting the putter head into the tube and glued it in so the head wouldn’t wobble.

“Then there was no vibration or movement (when putts were struck),’’ he said. “It didn’t matter what putter head wa suns used, and now it’s patented.  A putter grip can be non-circular.  Every other club has to have a round grip.’’

The Caliber Putting Grip & Shaft costs $199. The company can insert the putter head of choice but that task can also be performed by club professionals or players with some expertise in club construction.

Dan Sunseri (left) and Rodney Wilson are boosting the Brim Buddy for sun protection.

BRIM BUDDY – This is a hat attachment devised by another set of twins, Dan and Don Sunseri, who are from California’s San Francisco Bay area.

“We had skin cancer and our doctor told us to wear a big hat,’’ said Dan.  “We tried a million of them and don’t like them.  We prefer baseball caps.’’

Don was the brainchild for the Brim Buddy, a circular brim with a hole in the center.  It fits on top of a traditional golf cap, thereby adding protection from the sun. The Sunseris had the product in development for four years before unveiling it in Orlando.

“It’s an easily affordable product that can always be in your golf bag and provides 360 sun protection,’’ said Dan Sunserie. “We have two models – one for average light and a heavier one that will hold up in the wind. The whole idea is about sun protection, to get a product out to people who love the outdoors. The response from the show was fantastic.’’

A local pro, Rodney Wilson, came on board after the Sunseris introduced the Brim Buddy.  Its priced at $17 wholesale and can be personalized with player, club, outing or company names inserted.

Rodney Wilson, a golf professional, was quick to jump on to the Brim Buddy bandwagon.

Both PGA and LIV golf tours will visit Chicago this year

Top level men’s professional golf has been hard to find in the Chicago area in recent years. That won’t be the case this season.

The upstart LIV Golf League finally announced its schedule on Tuesday and it included a return to Rich Harvest Farms, in Sugar Grove.  That means the top men’s players will be visiting twice in 2023.

The PGA Tour hasn’t had a tournament in the area since Medinah hosted the BMW Championship in 2019, though the sport’s premier circuit has had the annual John Deere Classic as a fixture in downstate Silvis.

This year, though, the PGA Tour will come back to the Chicago area with the BMW Championship, a FedEx Cup Playoff event, scheduled at Olympia Fields. Then that circuit won’t be back for any event until 2026 when Medinah hosts the President’s Cup team event.

LIV’s return to Rich Harvest wasn’t a surprise.  It hosted one of the controversial Saudi-backed circuit’s most successful events in its inaugural 2022 campaign with Australian Cameron Smith winning the title.  LIV held eight tournaments last year and will have 14, spread across the world, this year.

Tuesday’s announcement was delayed until a television contract was finalized, and that was accomplished when The CW Network agreed to terms last week.

There was also a question on Greg Norman’s status as LIV’s chief executive officer and commissioner.  PGA Tour leadership, notably Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, wanted Norman out but his role has been expanded instead after former managing director Majed Al-Sorour was dropped down to a member of the board of directors.

The Olympia Fields and Rich Harvest events will be a month apart, setting up a big fall climax to the Chicago season. The BMW is Aug. 14-20 and the LIV stop in Sugar Grove is taking a new date, Sept. 22-24.

Both are well clear of golf’s four major championships, the British Open being the last to wrap up on July 23.  The Rich Harvest event will be played opposite the PGA’s Sanderson Farms Championship in Mississippi.

One interesting scheduling issue surfaced with LIV’s announcement.  LIV has a new event, at Orange County National in Orlando, FL., on tap a week before the first major, April’s Masters. There will be LIV players competing in the Masters against PGA Tour stars.  Orange County National has been the regular host of the Demo Day at the PGA Merchandise Show and was in that position when the show teed off on Tuesday.

LIV again has three of its events scheduled at courses owned by Donald Trump, but that third – a climax to the 2022 season – has been scaled down to a regular event instead of the team championship, which will now be played Nov. 3-5 in Saudia Arabia.

Obviously LIV isn’t going away any time soon and its court battle with the PGA Tour figures to become an increasingly heated one.

The first LIV event of the year will be Feb. 24-26 at Mexico’s Mayakoba Resort. The stars that bolted the PGA Tour for the big money offered by LIV – notably Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Sergio Garcia – return to the LIV roster and more stars need to be added since the team competition has been expanded for the second season.

 

 

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Henderson gets the LPGA season off to a good start

Oh, Canada! Brooke Henderson dominated the LPGA’s Tournament of Champions.

ORLANDO, FL. — Funny thing about the LPGA.  The premier women’s tour in golf ended its 2022 season and started its 2023 campaign with Florida tournaments that were marred by some discontent.

The sponsor of last November’s CME Championship wasn’t happy that all the players competing for the biggest first-prize in women’s golf didn’t show up for the tournament’s gala banquet.  The players weren’t happy when they arrived at Lake Nona Country Club last week for the season-opening Tournament of Champions and found out that they weren’t provided with lockers in the clubhouse and that their time on the practice range would be limited.

Still, the show — featuring 29 LPGA players who had won tournaments in the last two years and a concurrent co-ed celebrity event, conducted with a Stableford point format for 56 players from the sports and entertainment world — had to go on, and it turned out a good one.

Especially for Canadian Brooke Henderson, who led wire to wire in winning the LPGA event with a 16-under par score of 272 for the 72 holes and earned $225,000. She had a four-stroke advantage on England’s Charley Hull and Sweden’s Maja Stark, neither of whom were disappointed.

“It was a great way to start the season,’’ said Hull.  “When I got here I didn’t know where my swing was at. Now I’ve got three weeks off (the next tournament is in Thailand next month).’’

“This wasn’t a normal competition, but if I keep going like this it could be my best year yet,’’ said Stark.

Henderson was the runner-up to Danielle Kang in last year’s Tournament of Champions. On Sunday she claimed her 13th LPGA title in her first tournament after switching to TaylorMade clubs.

“I’m really happy I made the switch,’’ said Henderson.  “I’m super-excited.  This was a dream start, and I love this championship because it’s so unique.’’

The celebrity event was won by Mardy Fish, a former tennis star who had captained the U.S. Davis Cup team. Fish was also the celebrity champion in 2021.

This time that division turned into a unique sideshow because it featured a load of Chicago athletic stars, past and present. Jeremy Roenick, the former Blackhawks’ great, did the best of that lot.  Paired with legendary golfer and Lake Nona member Annika Sorenstam, Roenick finished fifth – one point behind Sorenstam.  Brian Urlacher, the ex-Bears’ star, tied for ninth. Baseballers Ian Happ, Jon Lester, Greg Maddux and A.J. Pierzynski were also in the celebrity field.

 

 

 

PGA Show triggers some big news by Chicago area golf companies

The par-3 seventh on the Blue Course is one of the most memorable holes at Streamsong. a unique Florida resort that just underwent an ownership change.

 

 

ORLANDO, FL. — The biggest week so far in the 2023 golf season is on tap, and – though the Ladies PGA Tour’s season-opening Tournament of Champions is being played nearby – the focus will be on the 70th PGA Merchandise Show at the Orange County Convention Center.

The show has been the industry’s biggest event, having regularly drawn 40,000 visitors in pre-pandemic times.  Attendance has been meager by comparison the last two years but most all the major manufacturers — there will be 450 companies and 800 brands represented — will return next week, and the event always triggers big news from throughout the golf industry.

This year one of the biggest developments has already been announced, and by  Northbrook-based KemperSports to boot.  The company, founded in 1978, just announced the purchase of Streamsong, one of the nation’s premier golf resorts.

Kemper had managed the three-course operation since the resort’s opening in 2012 and took over full management duties for owner Mosaic, a mining company, two years ago.  Mosaic sold Streamsong, located in the town of Bowling Green near Lakeland, FL., to  Lone Windmill LLC, an affiliate of KemperSports  supported by Kemper’s equity members, for $160 million.

Kemper executive director Steve Skinner arrived early for next  week’s show to check in at Streamsong – a 50-mile drive from Orlando — and he’ll be around for the start of the PGA Merchandise Show, which starts a busy three-day run on Tuesday. Kemper will present a survey “Teeing up the Future of Golf,’’ to show attendees in the aftermath of the Streamsong purchase.

“We’re very excited,’’ said Skinner, who has been with Kemper since 1998 and was involved in the creation of Streamsong since its opening in 2012. The purchase includes the three championship courses, two clubhouses, a lodge and other amenities on a 7,000-acre property.  Only 2,000 acres are in use now so there’s plenty of room for growth.

Skinner said that construction will begin in March on The Chain, a 19-hole short course designed by the Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw architectural team, and a two-acre putting course.

“Down the road we’d like to build some cottages and then, if the demand requires it, a fourth big course,’’ said Skinner. “Golf has been the beneficiary of a new lifestyle coming out of the pandemic. We’ve seen a great demand, and there’s no place like Streamsong in the winter golf season.’’

Kemper has 140 properties on its management portfolio, owns 15 of those facilities and leases another 12.  The company owns The Glen Club, in  Glenview; and Royal Melbourne, in Long Grove; and Hawthorn Woods in the Chicago area.  Streamsong is its fourth acquisition in Florida.

Mike Scully, who had been director of golf at Medinah when that club hosted the 2012 Ryder Cup matches, is in his second year as director of golf at Streamsong.

Other Chicago companies will have prominent roles when the Merchandise Show kicks off with 400 companies and 800 brands participating.  Most interesting is  Oakbrook Terrace’s Zero Friction. President  John Iaconno came out with new tees, gloves, rangefinders  and balls at previous shows, but now his featured product is more cutting edge models of golf bags and trolleys.

Iacono introduced his first bag at last January’s PGA Show, launching the Wheel Pro — a pushcart model that has removable wheels and weighs only 10 pounds. That makes it great for traveling but the launch didn’t go as smoothly as planned.

“We had a delay in getting them out,’’ Iacono said.  “They were supposed to arrive in April but didn’t until late August.  Supply issues.’’

Iacono is more optimistic about the model that he will unveil next week. Called the Wheel Pro Stride, it’s an electric golf bag that includes a battery life of 36 to 45 holes and weighs 15 pounds.

“It is like having your own private caddy that can essentially travel anywhere in the world with you,’’ said Iacono.  “It even follows you around the golf course.’’

Chicago’s Wilson Sporting Goods just introduced a new line of clubs that is a throwback to the 1950s.  The Dynapower equipment line, which made its debut in 1956, will be re-launched with adjustable drivers, fairway woods, hybrids and irons.

“Dynapower changed the game of golf seven decades ago, and it’s time for Wilson to do it again,’’ said Tim Clarke, president of Wilson Golf.  “These powerful irons and adjustable drivers are built with our legendary history in mind as we continue to innovate and deliver top-of-the-line products that raise the confidence of golfers at all skill levels.’’

Wilson also adjusted its large professional advisory staff leading into the show, adding Kevin Kisner and Trey Mullinax after 2019 U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland switched to Cobra.  Mullinax won the PGA’s Barbasol Championship last season while Kisner compiled five top-10 finishes and played on the U.S. Presidents Cup team.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hardy will be more colorful when PGA Tour season resumes

Hardy brings a new putter, clubhead headcovers into the 2023 tournaments.

Northbrook’s Nick Hardy will be a more colorful player when he begins the 2023 portion of his second season on the PGA Tour at this week’s Sony Open in Hawaii. It’s  the circuit’s first full-field event of 2023.

The 26-year old University of Illinois alum signed last week as the PGA Tour ambassador for Swag Golf, a five-year old company that produces putters and club headcovers. Its headquarters are also in Northbrook.

Swag has named the hand-crafted putter that Hardy tested in the final months of 2022 as the  “Hardy Prototype.’’  It apparently works, as Hardy made eight straight birdies with it (one off the PGA Tour record)  in his second tournament with the new blade at Mexico’s Mayakoba course in November.

His new clubhead covers, though, will be more noticeable when Hardy arrives at the first tee this week. Hardy has collected headcovers for years, now having about 60 over multiple brands. His new ones will be among the most colorful on tour and could be the most coveted among collectors.

Hardy will be rotating headcovers each week, and the first set will have an Hawaiian theme. Hardy’s favorite cover is one featuring former Bears’ coach Mike Ditka.

Swag’s founder, Nick Venson, focused on creating putters at first.  He was a Scotty Cameron enthusiast before working at putter manufacturer Bettinardi. The headcovers, though, were an immediate hit when U.S. captain Steve Stricker ordered some for his winning team at last year’s Ryder Cup.

“I don’t switch things,’’ said Hardy.  “I have the same driver shaft, same iron shaft and had the same putter for eight years before this one. Their putters are already great, and we’ve dialed in something I love even more. They make the best covers I’ve ever seen, and I want to make more of a collection.’’

Hardy needed a strong showing in a three-tournament, season-ending playoff series to retain his PGA Tour card, then made cuts in the first five events of the wrap-around 2022-23 campaign before missing in the final event.

 

HERE AND THERE

Jaravee Boonchant, the Thailand golfer who won this year’s Illinois Women’s Open at Mistwood by seven shots, has earned her LPGA card.  The Duke University player earned her spot on the premier women’s circuit by finishing in the top 45 at the recent Qualifying School.

Jeff Sluman, a long-time Hinsdale resident and six-time winner on both the PGA  Tour and PGA Tour Champions, has been nominated for a three-year term on the U.S. Golf Association’s Executive Committee. He’ll join Chicago’s Tony Anderson, who is in the process of serving his second term.

The Winnetka Park District has named Northbrook-based KemperSports to manage its nine and 18-hole courses, both of which will be closed in 2023 to facilitate an extensive renovation led by Libertyville architect Rick Jacobson. Both courses will re-open in 2024.

The Chicago District Golf Association has announced an 89-event schedule for 2023.  The key dates are for the 92nd Illinois State Amateur, July 18-20 at Bloomington Country Club, and the 103rd CDGA Amateur, June 26-29 at Lake Shore in Glencoe.

Eagle Ridge Resort, in Galena, has announced that it’s all new Stonedrift Spa is now open at a new location, where the General Store had been located.

 

 

 

Florida’s Bonita Bay has completed an extraordinary course renovation

Bonita Bay Club, with five courses spread over two campuses, is a Florida golf landmark.

 

NAPLES, Florida – Most every golf course in south Florida was impacted when Hurricane Ian hit the area on Sept. 28.  That included Bonita Bay Club, long recognized as one of southeastern United States’ premier facilities.

Bonita Bay, Florida’s largest private club, has five golf courses spread over two campuses that are 10 miles apart.  The crowned jewel of those layouts, the Cypress Course, re-opened after a 14-month renovation on Oct. 14 but it took a while for the word to get out on just how elaborate the project was. Hurricane Ian had a lot to do with that, though relatively minor damage was reported at Cypress.

Two of the club’s courses – Cypress and Sabal – are at the Naples location and the other three – Creekside, Marsh and Bay Island – are in Bonita Springs, which was harder hit by the hurricane. The trio there are Arthur Hills designs created between 1985 and 1994.

Bulkhead walls were used for the first time in a Fazio design at Cypress.

The Tom Fazio Design Group created Cypress and Sabal in the late 1990s, Cypress opening in 1997.   The Naples site is about 1,000 acres, and about 500 are donated to conservation projects. There are no homes around the property, a rarity for Naples area courses.

Not only does Bonita Bay have five golf courses, it has most everything else that might entice a prospective club member – as evidenced by the fact that the club has a long waiting list. When it was deemed time to upgrade its facilities the membership was all in, but it wasn’t a quick fix at Cypress.

“It took about a year to do the renovation but we needed three years of planning,’’ said Paul Fissel, Bonita Bay’s greens committee chairman. “Both of our courses there needed refurbishing to bring them up to a more modern era. Tom and his team delivered exactly what he said he would — a golf course that plays firm and fast in conditions now that normally are soft and wet.’’

The look of the bunkers at Cyypress has changed. Now they have `Augusta-like’ white sand.

There was no question about who would oversee the renovation project. Tom Fazio’s architectural firm was brought back with Tom Marzolf, a senior associate of the Fazio team and a member of it since 1983, directing the effort. Marzolf was well qualified, having done work on such nationally known courses as Oakmont, Merion, Winged Foot, Firestone, Oak Hill and Riviera.

At Cypress the entire course was raised by 12-18 inches to improve drainage. Six new lakes were created and four more expanded, resulting in 200,000 cubic yards of earth being spread over the property.

The fairways were widened, and 450 new catch basins added.  Perforated pipe was laid underground to steer water away from playable areas and the tee placements were increased from five to seven per hole. One tee was added in front of the previous front set and another was added behind what had been the tips.

“We wanted the course to play shorter (to accommodate older players), plus the (Florida) section pros play a lot of their events there so we picked up yardage for the back tees,’’ said Marzolf.

Architect Tom Marzolf (left) and greens chairman Paul Fissel led Cypress’ renovation project.

 

Tee markers are now at 500-yard intervals – from 4,500 yards to 7,500.  Cypress is the first Fazio-designed course to have a 3,000-yard spread between the front and back tees.

“From a club professional’s perspective we have a course that is championship-ready” said E.J. McDonnell, Bonita Bay’s director of golf.

“Our members enjoy the variety of playing options afforded by having five courses,’’ said Paul Nussbaum, chairman of Bonita Bay’s board of directors.  “Cypress remains our most competitive but – with seven sets of tees –our golfers will find the right challenge for their games.’’

The number of bunkers was reduced from 70 to 50.  “But now more are in play,’’ said Marzolf.  The new bunkers also have a “cleaned up, Augusta look.’’

Greens and collared areas were also re-designed, resulting in more fun options to get the ball to the flagstick. Putting from off the green may now be more popular than chipping.

Work at Cypress created an exciting new layout at great expense to the membership.  However, Bonita Bay’s other courses are already slated for major renovations, according to the club’s Golf Master Plan. Creekside will get special attention in 2023 and Sabal in 2024.

Among many projects discussed and pending approval are performance centers for both Marsh and Creekside and a renewed clubhouse at Naples.

Being on the edge of the Everglades, the Cypress course has plenty of wildlife.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ING’s Fall Forum provides a sneak preview of the PGA Show

Rick Versace’s Proud 90 is now the official apparel of the International Network of Golf.

SEBRING, FL. -The International Network of Golf is a fixture at the PGA Merchandise Show and the Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap Championship.  ING also hosted an annual Spring Conference around the country prior to pandemic concerns.

Still on the brink of celebrating his group’s 30th anniversary, ING executive director Mike Jamison moved in another direction. He organized his first Fall Forum, an event that was smaller in number of attendees than other events when ING members got together but its format may well be the wave of the future.

Attendees got a more close-up look at new golf gear in advance of January’s PGA Show as well as an informative social marketing seminar led by Sabrina Andolpho, a former college golfer turned social media whiz.

And all that was in addition to two golf outings – the first at the Citrus Golf Tour Open’s pro-am and the second at the return of the Durland Cup scramble. The Citrus Tour is a minor league circuit that offered a $20,000 first prize at its tournament immediately after the pro-am at Sun ‘N Lakes Country Club.  The Durland Cup has been a fixture at ING events over the years.

This time, though, the four — more personalized — new gear presentations may have been the event’s biggest hit.  Here’s what they revealed:

Zero Friction’s John Iacono gives a video preview of the trolley he’ll introduce at the 2023 PGA Show.

ZERO FRICTION’S WHEEL PRO – Illinois-based Zero Friction has come on like gangbusters, with president  John Iacono coming out previously with new tees, gloves, rangefinders  and balls. Now comes the much more cutting edge bags and trolleys.

Iacono introduced his first version at last January’s PGA Show but the launch of the Wheel Pro, a pushcart bag, didn’t go smoothly.  It has removable wheels, weighs only 10 pounds and is great for traveling.

“We had a delay in getting them out,’’ Iacono said.  “They were supposed to arrive in April but didn’t until late August.  Supply issues.’’

That’s been an all too frequent problem in many industries in the aftermath of the pandemic, but Iacono is more optimistic about his newest products – The Hybrid and The Fairway.  He expects the Hybrid – a power version of the Wheel Pro — to hit the marketplace in mid- to late-2023 and he’ll provide a sneak preview of The Fairway on the Thursday of the 2023  PGA Show in Orlando, FL.

The Fairway is an electric, follow me remote control golf bag that is being developed in England.  Golfers can set the speed, and it’ll include a 36-hole rechargeable battery. A ramp is under construction that will be used during the PGA Show introduction.

Weighing 32 pounds, The Fairway is not designed for carrying and Iacono anticipates a market price of $1,899.

Proud 90 has created the official ING apparel for men and women.

PROUD 90 – Want something different in golf apparel? Rick Versace has it, though he isn’t sure his famous clothing designer last name is part of the equation.  Versace founded Proud 90 three years ago and is now its chief executive officer.

“Our mission is to make golf as much fun as possible for all skill levels,’’ said Versace, who said the company name comes from that fact that “most golfers don’t break 90.’’

He got the idea after watching PGA star Rickie Fowler (on television) playing with no shoes on one of the nicest courses in the country.

“We wanted to create a vacation vibe, no matter where you’re at,’’ said Versace. His polos started with Hawaiian prints and progressed from there to include a variety of eye-catching designs.  They’re also known for being especially comfortable. The company’s logo – a dog standing on a green gazing up at a flagstick – underscores that. That dog is Versace’s Great Dane, named Tank.

Versace now has 12 sales reps and his polos are in 250 clubs around the country.  They’re priced at $79 retail and $39 wholesale. They have ING’s support. Jamison declared the Proud 90 “the official ING apparel company for at least six months….We’ll see how that goes, but we love it so far.’’

The adjustable weighting system makes Mayfield Putters something special.

MAKEFIELD PUTTERS – Pennsylvania-based Everett Farr was browsing through a lot of golf ads during pandemic days, and that encouraged him to take his engineering talents into the creation of a state-of-the-art putter. Its adjustable weighting system makes it stand out and provides its users with a wide variety of customization options.

The Makefield putters are designed with Path of Inertia, which guides your stroke, balances the clubface to the path to the hole and provides centeredness of impact.  That encourages an immediate, consistent roll that should lead to lower scores. Five tour players and some Walker Cup players are testing it.

“One of my companies made a prototype,’’ said Farr, who got immediate positive feedback.  Three months later the putter was in construction.

Michael Little, a two-time Philadelphia PGA Player of the Year, is a co-founder of Makefield and Michael Brown, who held the amateur titles of New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware at the same time, is part of the Makefield team.

Farr came up with the Makefield name on a drive through Lower Makefield, a Pennsylvania town on the Delaware River.

“Make’’ is what a putter is designed to do, and `field’ is who you play against in a tournament,’’ said Farr, who still occasionally plays with a Ping putter that his father – a PGA Tour official – gave him in 1968.  The Makefield version has captured his heart, however.

“This is all new to me, but it’s an absolutely amazing putter,’’ said Farr.

Buckets Golf went heavy with Buckey the raccoon as its marketing focal point.

BUCKET GOLF – You’ve got to have fun with this company’s golf balls.  Mac Ross  certainly has.

“We sell golf balls,’’ said Mac Ross, who launched his company last May.   “Buckets is associated with basketball, but it works with golf, too.’’

Mac’s wife is a teaching pro who grew up on a golf course, and he recalls selling balls gathered off a course near his home when he was 10 years old. Both have full-time jobs now but are having fun with their new business venture.

They’ve named the apparel company logo “Buckey’’ and are looking to give their raccoon mascot a marketing personality.  The ball packaging is the best part, though.  Its round shape —like a coffee can — makes it multi-purpose.  It could be converted into putting cup, along with a variety of storage uses.  No other golf ball manufacturer showcases its product the way Bucky does.

Apparel and golf accessories will come later, but for now Bucket balls are working out just fine.  Ross got off to a promising start at the ING Fall Forum. Though not professing to be a great golfer, he won the long drive contest at one of the Fall Forum outings.

“He hit it at least 350,’’ marveled Jamison. Ross, of course, hit a Bucket ball on his long blast and another player made a hole-in-one with the ball at another of the outings.

Bucket balls so far have been made in China, and Ross is looking for manufacturers in South America and Taiwan. Ross has applied for USGA ball approval and expects no problem getting it.  The balls are being sold off the company’s website  (BucketsGolfBalls.com) for $28.99, not including shipping.

Sabrina Andolpho, who played collegiately at Barry in Florida, has become one of golf’s best social media influencers. Her presentation was a highlight of ING’s first Fall Forum at Inn on the Lakes in Sebring, FL.

 

 

 

A special day for Joy

Citrus Tour pro Chris Wiatr (left) showed Joe Sarver how to make a hole-in-one.

SEBRING, FL. — The International Network of Golf’s first Fall Forum in 2022 couldn’t have been scripted better for Joy and me.

In Tuesday’s pro-am for the Citrus Golf Tour Open we played on different teams.  Joy witnessed a hole in one by her professional partner, Chris Wiatr, and my team’s pro, Donnie Trosper, tied Chris for low pro honors by holing out his last shot from the rough.  Donnie, good friend Tony Leodora and I won the team title.

That produced some understandable excitement but nothing like Joy created on Wednesday in the Durland Cup Scramble at Sebring Golf Club. Joy wasn’t happy with her play on Tuesday but that was quickly forgotten in the Durland Cup, an annual feature at ING events.  Joy started her round playing well and made her first-ever hole-in one on the fifth hole, sinking a 7-wood shot from 101 yards.

Joy and I were in the same group this time, with noted golf architect Ron Garl, eSouthernGolf editor Dave Daubert and Joey Johnson of Alabama’s Southern Fairways as our partners.  Joy used the new Buckets golf ball, which was introduced at the Fall Forum by Mac Ross of Palm City, FL.

Korda, Thompson take their rivalry to LPGA’s biggest money event

Nelly Korda (in white visor and red sweater) had plenty of crowd support when she pulled off a critical chip to the 18th green en route to repeating as the  Pelican champion on Sunday.

 

BELLEAIR, FLORIDA – This is the ultimate crunch time for women’s golf.  The CME Group Tour Championship, which offers  the biggest prize fund in women’s golf history — $7 million with $2 million going to the champion.  That tournament tees off on Thursday at Tiburon in Naples, FL.

The last full-field event on the LPGA Tour, the Pelican Championship, concluded less than a three-hour drive from Tiburon on Sunday to set the stage for this week’s big one. This year’s CME event provides a stage eerily reminiscent of last season when South Korea’s Jin Young Ko emerged the champion for the second straight year.

She didn’t play in the Pelican — won by Nelly Korda in another duel of American stars with Lexi Thompson — and may not play in the season finale, either.  As was the case last year, Jin Young Ko has been bothered by a wrist injury and hasn’t competed since September.  But this year the stakes are even higher for the season finale. Women’s golf is clearly on the upswing.

Dan Doyle (left), owner of the Pelican Golf Club, honors Nelly Korda for defending her title.

Last year’s CME purse was $5 million with $1.5 million to the winner. The Pelican is offering more, too. Korda took home $300,000 from a purse of $2 million in her second victory, and next year the tournament will be rebranded as The Annika – a tribute to the legendary Annika Sorenstam who will become the tourney’s hostess. There’ll be $3.5 million in prize money with $2 million going to the winner in 2023.

Anyway, those upgrades paled with the comparisons to last year on this day. Again, it was a Korda-Thompson battle to the end.  The day started with Thompson in a three-way tie for second, one stroke behind leader Allisen Corpuz, and Korda another stroke back.

Korda’s playing partner, Spain’s Carlota Ciganda, was the only other player to contend.  She birdied the first four holes to take a two-stroke lead, then dropped back with two late front-nine bogeys and didn’t threaten again.

In the end Korda shot 64, finished her 54 holes at 14-under-par 196.  Thompson was one stroke back after posting a 66.

A year ago Thompson and Korda were tied for the lead with two holes remaining in the Pelican.  Korda made triple bogey on No. 17 but in the end It didn’t matter.  Thompson made bogey at 17 and another one at the 18 to set up a four-player playoff to determine the winner. Korda won it, nabbing her fourth title of a great season and savoring the No. 1 world ranking going into the CME shootout.

This time Thompson took the lead midway through the final round, then lost it with bogeys at Nos. 12 and 13.  Korda took command with birdies at Nos. 16 and 17 but made bogey at 18.  Thompson couldn’t take advantage, and that made Korda a repeat champion who will regain the No. 1 world ranking officially on Monday – a great accomplishment since she suffered a blood clot in her left arm and missed some tournaments after undergoing surgery in March.

“Back-to-back sounds sweet,’’ said Korda. “Life’s been a roller coaster, and there’s been more downs than ups this year.  That’s what makes this win so much sweeter to me.’’

Korda was No. 1 from Nov. 8, 2021, to Jan. 30, 22. Her health problems made her regaining the lofty status all the more remarkable.

“I’ve never been a player who looked at the rankings too much,’’ said Korda, “but going through what I’ve been through this year and regaining the world No. 1 rank  is really special.’’

Lexi Thompson needed to hole her chip shot at No. 18 to force another playoff with Nelly Korda. She couldn’t do it, but came away smiling anyway.

While Korda celebrated Sunday was another downer for Thompson. She was the youngest player to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open when she was 12.  She turned pro at 15 and won her first major title at 19.  Now she’s 27 and hasn’t won since the ShopRite Classic of 2019.

The tales of the top American stars will be only minor sidelights once the top 60 players in the CME rankings gather at Tiburon, the only course to host events on three tours.  PGA Tour Champions has its Chubbs Classic there and the PGA’s QBE Shootout, formerly the Shark Shootout, is also played there. Thompson and Korda are scheduled to compete against the men in the QBE event.

Jin Young Ko was last year’s star, and this year it could be the Atthaya Thistik, a 19-year old from Thailand.  She won her first professional tournament at 14 and was this year’s LPGA Rookie of the Year.  Like Jin Young Ko, she didn’t play in the Pelican.

 

 

 

Fassi’s 62 perks up a late start in the LPGA’s Pelican tourney

Maria Fassi falls back on her heels after a birdie putt lips out on the final hole Friday, depriving her  of a Pelican tournament record 61.

BELLEAIR, Florida – As the last full-field event of the season, the Pelican Championship is important for LPGA players. The top 60 on the season point list qualify for next week’s $7 million CME Group Championship in Naples, where $2 million – the largest first prize in the history of women’s golf – will be on the line.  Plus, the top 100 on the point list after Sunday’s final round here earn their playing privileges for the 2023 season.

The final staging of the 120-player event under the name of The Pelican hasn’t been ideal.  Originally scheduled for 72 holes, the first round was cancelled due to a visit from Hurricane Nicole on Thursday and the event was reduced to 54 holes.

Nicole, the second hurricane ravaging most of Florida in the last six weeks, left the course soggy for Friday’s rescheduled Round 1 and created a shortage of space for parking.  The main lot was too muddy in some spots on a day when organizers had planned a Veterans Day celebration amidst the golf.

None of that bothered Mexico’s Maria Fassi, however.  She wasn’t qualified for the CME event heading into the Pelican but took the first-round lead with an 8-under-par 62. That was good for a two-stroke lead on American Lexi Thompson, Hong Kong’s Tiffany Chan, Spain’s Carlota Ciganda, Republic of Korea’s Hy Joo Kim, and Germany’s Isa Gabsa entering Saturday’s Round 2.

“Every one of us wants to be at the CME,’’ said Fassi, “and this had been a tough season for me at the beginning.  I got back on my feet towards the middle and now – especially after today’s round – I have a chance. I’ve just got to keep doing what I did today.  If I keep taking care of myself and hitting good golf shots that will take care of itself.’’

The day off caused by the hurricane worked in Fassi’s favor after she played tournaments in Japan and Korea the last two weeks.

“I loved it,’’ said Fassi.  Poor putting held her back the last two weeks, but not on Friday.  She shot 30 on the back nine, making an eagle at No. 14 and lipping out a birdie put on No. 18 that would have given her the tournament course record.  Ireland’s Leona Maguire shot 62 in the first round last year.

“I knew a round like this could happen any time in the year,’’ said Fassi.  But she was especially glad it happened Friday when she badly needed it.

Nelly Korda, who won last year’s Pelican tourney in a four-player playoff, shot a 66 Friday but is still four shots behind leader Maria Fassi after Round 1.

Despite the inopportune time for the hurricane’s visit, the Pelican has been elevating its profile lately.

In September the LPGA and tournament staff announced that the Tampa Bay area’s LPGA event would be rebranded as “The Annika Driven by Gainbridge at Pelican,’’ in honor of legendary Annika Sorenstam assuming the duties of tournament host. Sorenstam’s Foundation will benefit from the event, to be played Nov. 6-12, 2023.

Along with that development came the announcement that the prize fund would be increased from this year’s $2 million to $3.25 million in 2023.  That’ll make the tournament the LPGA’s best-paying event outside of the major championships and the CME Group climax to the season.

Gainbridge had sponsored LPGA tournaments in Indianapolis from 2017-19 and Boca Raton and Orlando, in Florida, the last three years. The company wanted to stay involved with the premier women’s golf circuit.

More recently The Pelican was named the site of  “The Match,’’ an exhibition entering its seventh season on Dec. 10.  The format has changed over the years, and next month’s version at the Pelican will be played over 12 holes under the lights with Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy taking on Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth.

Lydia Ko (left) was all smiles before shooting a 68 and Lexi Thompson spent time with her dog after posting a 66. Ko and Thompson were losers to Nelly Korda in a playoff at last year’s Pelican.