logo

Len Ziehm On Golf

GolfVisions’ promotions are a big reason for the Chicago Golf Show’s success

Back in 2010 Tim Miles Sr. made a bold promotional move. He offered a free round to all Chicago Golf Show visitors at all of the courses that his company, Mundelein-based GolfVisions, was managing.

Looking back, Tom Corcoran – owner of the 35-year old show since 1997 — still calls Miles’ move “the wildly greatest promotion we’ve had.’’ That’s saying a lot, because Chicago has the oldest consumer golf show in the nation.

Miles, GolfVisions president and chief executive officer, liked the results, too. He has continued the program every year since then. The free golf enticement has been a popular feature with the show’s 15,000 to 20,000 annual visitors.

Those attending this year’s 36th annual show, running Feb. 22-24 at the Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, will be offered a free greens fee at one of 15 courses under GolfVisions’ care, and that free round will cover the cost of a ticket to the show. With Miles getting more players to his courses, it’s a win-win situation for all concerned and this year the offering is even more special.

GolfVisions took over the management of Lake Bluff Golf Club on Jan. 1. That was a major step in a series of developments that very likely saved one of the best public facilities in the Chicago area from being shut down.

The course, owned by the Lake Bluff Park District, was having financial problems and Park District officials admitted that some basic improvements were long overdue. The threat of closing after the 2018 season was a real one. The Park District wanted $260,000 raised in the final half of 2018 and/or committed in 2019 to approve its opening for this year.

That triggered the creation of the Lake Bluff Community Golf Association, a group of about 50 concerned citizens who wanted to keep the course going.

Six members united to hold a golf marathon that raised $27,000. Then the group organized a 50th anniversary celebration for the course last August that drew 144 players and 250 dinner guests. It boosted the money raised to basically the year-end total — $126,000.

“We raised a big chunk of the money on that one night,’’ said Mike Galeski, one of the association leaders who has held prominent leadership roles in the staging of both a PGA Tour Champions event at North Shore Country Club, in Glencoe and the LPGA’s UL International Crown at Merit Club, in Libertyville.

The amount raised in 2018 was a start, and the course will open this year.

“It demonstrated community support,’’ said Galeski. “The Park District figured there must be enough interest to keep it.’’

The influx of new money led almost immediately to the start of work on the clubhouse.

“That building had not been touched in decades,’’ said Galeski, “and it is highly visible to people.’’

Billy Casper Golf had been managing the course. Its contract expired on Nov. 30. Shortly thereafter GolfVisions got involved. Eventually Miles and the Park District negotiated a five-year lease agreement that additionally has two five-year options. Lake Bluff has been saved – at least for the immediate future – and Chicago Golf Show visitors might be able to get a free round on the course. Those who do will see what a gem this layout is. They’ll want to return. At least that’s my prediction, and Miles is hopeful.

“It’s certainly an interesting deal, but it’s not a slam dunk,’’ said Miles. “It’ll be challenging, but a lot of fun.’’

Regardless of what the future holds, the re-opening of Lake Bluff is a feel-good story and anything of that nature is a big boost for golfers going into 2019. GolfVisions was founded in 2001, and Miles’ perspective on 2018 presents a most sobering reflection of the sport both here and beyond.

“It was a horrible year,’’ he said. “We had the worst year I’ve ever seen in Chicago in 2018, and it wasn’t just Chicago. It was also from an industry standpoint. Play was anywhere from 10 to 18 percent down. We had a record year for the number of playable days. There were 35 fewer playable days than in 2017. Everybody wanted to see that year gone — and it’s gone.’’

That’s a good thing. With the end of 2018 has come the beginning of 2019, and there’s plenty of optimism for the months ahead.

“We’ll continue the fund-raising issue for future improvements,’’ promised Galeski. “Our players have demonstrated that they want to keep participating in events.’’

Lake Bluff is a par-72 track that plays at 6,589 yards from the tips with a slope of 124 and rating of 71.3. A parkland-style layout, it features mature trees with water coming into play on several holes.

“It’s a nice course – easy to walk and easy to ride,’’ said Miles. “It’s a course people should be wanting to play.’’

GolfVision operates other courses in that category, some of which – Bittersweet in Gurnee, Bonnie Brook in Waukegan and Midlane in Wadsorth – are in close proximity to Lake Bluff.

Other public 18-holers in the GolfVisions portfolio are Broken Arrow, in Lockport; Chapel Hill, in Johnsburg; Foxford Hills, in Cary; Oak Grove, in Harvard; Settler’s Hill, in Batavia; Tanna Farms, in Geneva; and Village Green, in Mundelein.

GolfVisions also operates three nine-holers in Illinois – Deer Valley in Big Rock, Greenshire in Waukegan and HeatherRidge in Gurnee – as well as a private club, 18-hole Danville Country Club. The firm’s portfolio also includes courses in Indiana, Michigan and Florida.

As always, this year’s Chicago Golf Show isn’t just about wangling a free round from GolfVisions. There’ll be about 300 exhibitors, which include local course operators, equipment manufacturers and travel destinations. The latter includes Indiana’s French Lick Resort, the show’s presenting sponsor.

The Illinois PGA, Chicago District Golf Association, Western Golf Association and Illinois Junior Golf Association will also be represented.

For 36 years the Chicago Golf Show has provided a flashy start to the local season

The weather outside might not suggest it, but the Chicago golf season officially starts on Friday. That’s when the 36th annual Chicago Golf Show tees off at the Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont.

The three-day show, presented by Indiana’s French Lick Resort, offers more than 350 exhibitor booths; a 3,000-square foot driving range; guest appearances by former Bears Robbie Gould, Patrick Mannelly and Emery Moorehead; a trick shot exhibition by Peter Longo and the every-popular Chicago’s Longest Putt contest — an 85-foot challenge that offers two premium tickets (a $1,590 value) to this year’s BMW Championship at Medinah.

All paid attendees among the expected 17,000 visitors to the show will receive a free round of golf from one of the courses operated by Mundelein-based GolfVisions. Travel destinations, equipment manufacturers, tournament organizers and Chicago golf groups will all be represented at the show. The champion’s trophy for the June 27-30 U.S. Senior Open will also be on display, courtesy of the tourney host Warren Course at Notre Dame.

Show hours are noon-7 p.m. on Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $6 on Friday and $11 on Saturday and Sunday. Youth 12-15 can get in for $4 and those 11 and under will be admitted free with a paid adult.

FROM THE TOURS

Wheaton’s Kevin Streelman and Arlington Heights’ Doug Ghim have already made splashes on the PGA Tour this season.

Finishing with a 65, Streelman tied for seventh at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am and earned most of his $347,445 in season money at that one tournament.

Ghim, a member of the Web.com Tour, has been given two sponsor’s exemptions to PGA Tour events so far in 2019 and he cashed in at the Farmers Insurance Open where he tied for 20th and earned $79,804. Ghim also has a tie for third at Bogota, Colombia among his three Web.com starts.

Deerfield’s Vince India, the area’s other Web.com member and the reigning Illinois Open champion, survived the 36-hole cut in four of his five Web.com starts with his best finish a tie for 17 in the last one at the LECOM Suncoast Classic in Florida.

Winnetka’s Elizabeth Szokol, who earned a place on the Ladies PGA Tour, made her debut with two tournaments in Australia this month. She claimed her first paycheck in last week’s ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, picking up $3,360 for a tie for 58th place.

Highwood’s Patrick Flavin and Wheaton’s Tee-K Kelly finished one-two in the Brazil qualifying tournament for the PGA’s Latinoamerica Tour. They begin the circuit’s regular season next month in Panama.

ILLINOIS PGA’S BEST

Chris Gumbach, head man at River Forest Country Club in Elmhurst, has been named Professional of the Year – the top award presented annually by the Illinois Section of the PGA of America — for work done in 2018.

Onwentsia Club, in Lake Forest, was honored twice. Head pro Nick Papadakes won the Horton Smith Award for his development of educational opportunities within the section and Claire Castetter was the Assistant Professional of the Year. The awards will be presented on March 11 at a private ceremony in Woodridge.

HERE AND THERE

The Western Golf Association has issued a call for volunteers for the Aug. 13-18 BMW Championship at Medinah. More than 2,000 will be needed to conduct the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup Playoff event and the WGA hopes to have all the positions filled by June 15. Volunteers must be at least 18 years old and be committed to work at least three shifts, each of which is between four and six hours in duration.

The three-course rotation for the Illinois PGA Championship will end in 2019. Olympia Fields’ South Course, Stonewall Orchard in Grayslae and Medinah’s No. 1 layout had taken turns hosting the tournament. This year Ruth Lake, in Hinsdale, will be the site of the championship.

Ridgemoor, in Chicago, has been named the alternate site for the finals of the 70th Illinois Open in August. The Glen Club, in Glenview, returns as the main site for the 54-hole final and the last round will again be played there.

Austin Kopp has departed as head professional at The Preserve at Oak Meadows in Addison for a job in Iowa. He’ll be replaced by Jamie Nieto, who has spent the last six years as the head professional at Pheasant Run in St. Charles.

New clubhouse at Reunion’s Nicklaus Course could trigger a housing boom there

All Reunion’s Nicklaus Course needed was a clubhouse. Now the Bear’s Den is up and running.


ORLANDO, FL. – Jack Nicklaus-designed golf courses are generally show pieces – the focal points for golf communities world-wide. That wasn’t the case at one of Florida’s biggest resorts, however.

Reunion Resort started with an 18-holer designed by Tom Watson, then added one designed by Arnold Palmer. The Nicklaus Course there opened eight years ago as the hardest of the trio of courses but – until last November – it didn’t even have a clubhouse. The staff and visitors operated out of either a trailer or a tent.

That’s all changed now. A most pleasant 8,500 square foot clubhouse opened in November. Other places have bigger clubhouses, but this one has a very nice outdoor events area that includes a practice facility, a more-than-adequate fitness center and a restaurant that opened to rave reviews. The views from the place are spectacular. It just took an extraordinarily long time for the facility to materialize.

The Nicklaus touch is immediately evident, at the first tee of Reunion’s prize course.


In fact, some Reunion regulars wondered if there ever would be a clubhouse to complement the high-profile golf course.

“There was a waiting period,’’ admitted Craig Williamson, who is now playing a prominent role in what’s going on there. “It wasn’t the time to do it back then, when you think about it. This is the right time for this to happen.’’

The opening of the clubhouse has triggered a big project within the Reunion community. Williamson was brought in manage sales of The Bear’s Den – a very upscale community that is being developed around the Nicklaus Course.

“At Reunion we look on this as the template for what we’ll do in more locations,’’ said Williamson, who has been on the job for 14 months.

“I had worked with Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer communities all over Central America, South America and the Caribbean,’’ said Williamson. “This is typical of what I’ve been doing for 15 years.’’

But, The Bear’s Den at Reunion isn’t quite like the others. It’s the only gated community within the gates of Reunion.

“That’s the formula we’ll be using at other locations,’’ he said. “We’re looking at places like Telluride in Utah, Pinehurst (in North Carolina) and other sites in the Florida.’’

What they’ve done at Reunion is take a Jack Nicklaus golf course and a Jack Nicklaus clubhouse to create a community licensed by Jack Nicklaus. It has 52 lots. They’re all elevated about 15 feet above the course, creating more of a stadium look so that golfers won’t be looking into the homes.

Home sizes will range from 7,000 to 12,000 square feet, and they’ll be built basically around the Nos. 17 and 18 fairways. The choice homes will be along No. 18 and will start at $1.5 million. One has been priced at $4.5 million.

Home across the street from those will cost from $1 million to $1.5 million. They’ll be constructed along Golden Bear Park, a landscaped area that will be connected to the course practice area and include a big children’s play area, a dog park (with two areas, one for dogs over 30 pounds and one for dogs under 30 pounds), a sand volleyball court and a walking trail.

A third price point, in the $800,000 range, will also be available as a residential option. All are freestanding homes now, but Williamson said townhomes and condos are under consideration at other locations.

Initial reaction to The Bear’s Den project was enthusiastic. Two months after the clubhouse opened there were 17 homes under contract. Williamson expects more in the very near future.

“It was tough to sell $2 million when you’re sitting in trailers,’’ he said. “Some (prospective buyers) couldn’t see what’s going to happen. Now they can. The Bear’s Den was planned for thee-four years, but this started at about the time they opened the clubhouse. In the last three months there’s been a lot of activity.’’

Over 3,000 prospective homebuyers visited in the first three months, about half of them from the U.S. and the other half international. They included celebrity types who were attracted by the privacy that The Bear’s Den offers.

Despite the quality of the course, this Nicklaus layout hasn’t hosted a significant tournament. A big event – the 54-hole Kissimmee Family Golf Classic – will be coming from June 20-23. The team scramble event also will be played on Reunion’s Watson Course and the nearby Celebration Golf Club.

Reunion is a 2,300-acre resort that also features a hotel, seven restaurants and bars, a golf academy, tennis and fitness centers, meeting space, full-service boutique spa, 10 community swimming pools and a water playground.

Bunkering like this leaves no doubt that the Nicklaus Course is Reunion’s toughest.

Jimenez’ only lead in the Chubb Classic was at the finish

Miguel Angel Jimenez’ persistence paid off with a Champions Tour win in Naples.


NAPLES, Florida — No metropolitan area has hosted PGA Tour Champions longer than Naples. Nine courses in the area have hosted tournaments on the 50-year over circuit for the last 32 years but this week’s Chubb Classic on the Classics Course at Lely Resort was a bit different than the others.

A playoff seemed inevitable in those one from the start – and there was one, however brief. Miguel Angel Jimenez won it with a par on the first hole. That eliminated Olin Browne and Bernard Langer, who had won the previous week at the Oasis Championship – a two-hour drive away in Boca Raton — by five strokes.

The Champions completed their Florida swing for 2019 and will compete in the Cologuard Classic this week in Tucson, Ariz.

In the season’s second full-field event in Naples there were record-tying 63s in the first round by Canadian Stephen Ames and Scotland’s Sandy Lyle. After three rounds there were two new leaders, Glen Day and Ken Tanigawa joining Ames. On both days the leaderboard was crowded at the top with multiple challengers within a shot, but that was nothing compared to the windy final round. Nine players held at least a share of the lead during the day.

Ames led with nine to play before being deflated by a double bogey. Jimenez never led until he had finished his round and Browne had blown a two-shot lead with a double bogey at No. 18. They, along with Langer finished at 13-under-par 200 on the Gary Player-designed course that had hosted the tournament in 1996 when Al Geiberger was 14-under in beating Isao Aoki by one shot.

Jimenez, winning for the seventh time on PGA Tour Champions, was in the sixth-from-the-last group to finish. He’s now won events in six straight years. His final round 66 – a score also posted by Browne – led to a $240,000 payoff.

The field included Steve Stricker and Hale Irwin, both missing from the event in Boca. Stricker, who was expected to be named the next U.S. Ryder Cup captain later in the week, was the runner-up in Naples in 2018. He finished tied for 11th this time. Irwin, 73, matched or bettered his age in each round en route to finishing in a tie for 58th.

Langer had broken Irwin’s record for career money-winning on PGA Tour Championship with his victory the week before but his playoff loss kept him from closing in on Irwin’s record for career victories on the 50-and-over circuit. Irwin has 45, Langer 39.

PGA Tour Champions rivals don’t have a prayer against Langer

There isn’t much more Bernhard Langer can accomplish as a golfer. Last week he became the career money leader on PGA Tour Champions, surpassing Hale Irwin.

Thanks to his $255,000 payday for winning the Oasis Championship on the Old Course at Broken Sound, Langer has $27,120,554 in career earnings on PGA Tour Champions. He needed just $179,050 to climb ahead of Irwin, who – at 73 – plays only a limited schedule now.

Irwin still leads Langer in wins on the 50-and-over circuit. Langer has 39 — six behind Irwin – and hopes to reduce the number by winning another Florida tournament this week. The Chubb Classic tees off on Friday at Lely Resort in Naples.

Don’t be surprised if Langer wins there, too. He already has been the champion three times in Naples – in 2011, 2013 and 2016. Broken Sound was 10 minutes from his home in Boca Raton. The Chubb site isn’t very far, either – less than a two-hour drive from Boca. Langer relishes those few home games available to globe-trotting golf stars.

His win in Boca Raton was another family affair. It came with Jackie Langer John – his married oldest offspring – as his caddie. Jackie was the last of Langer’s four children to carry the bag during one of his victories. Stefan, Christina and Jason already had experienced that thrill. Jackie also lives in Boca Raton.

“I know it meant lot to her, especially with the home crowds, lots of friends and family members around who follow us and cheer us on,’’ said Langer. “She had only caddied three times for me. We had a second, lost in a playoff and now a first – so that’s a pretty stellar record for her.’’

Talk about stellar records, consider Langer’s. He’s 61 now, and Champions Tour players usually see their games start to fade after they turn 60. Langer’s has shown no signs of that. In 11 years on the circuit he has topped the money list 10 times and been Player of the Year eight times. His latest win was one of his most impressive.

Starting the final round with a one-stroke lead Langer made birdies on five of the first seven holes and won by five strokes over Marco Dawson.

“One of my best starts ever,’’ said Langer, who didn’t cool off much after that. His 19-under-par 197 score for the 54 holes was a tournament record and he became the first player in the event’s 12-year run to win it twice.

“He lives like on the putting green here, doesn’t? Isn’t that where is house is,” chided David Toms, who also was in contention through 36 holes. “Obviously he has a lot of experience out here, and he’s a great player. He plays with confidence all the time and he’s won so many tournaments it’s kind of second nature.’’

Langer’s rivals in Boca Raton included nine members of the World Golf Hall of Fame and 17 former major champions. Some had better records on the PGA Tour than Langer, who was a late-bloomer.

Of his 113 world-wide professional victories only three came in PGA Tour events. They included his only two wins in majors, at the 1985 and 1993 Masters. He followed the first Masters win with his only other PGA Tour victory, at the Sea Pines Heritage Classic, the following week and that hot streak was a big reason he became golf’s first official No. 1-ranked player when the Official World Golf Rankings were created for the following year.

Born in Anhausen, Germany, Langer posted the bulk of his wins on the European PGA Tour. He won there 43 times, 29 of which came before his second win at the Masters.

“The key to success is a lot of things,’’ said Langer. “You’ve got to be healthy, and a lot of guys at age 61 aren’t healthy anymore. They had this operation or that operation or a hip replacement. I’ve been fortunate enough not to have any major surgeries besides my thumb in 2011.’’

He believes his strong religious beliefs are a factor too. He carries a Bible verse in his pocket during many of his tournaments. That included his latest win.

“I felt very calm out there and very peaceful, and that enabled me to do the best I could,’’ said Langer. “That doesn’t mean I’m going to win every time I put a Bible verse in my pocket, but it just makes golf less important and something else more important.’’

Couples opts for one more tournament appearance at Riviera

BOCA RATON, FL. – Fred Couples, eight months away from his 60th birthday, returns to the PGA Tour this week. He wangled a spot in the Genesis Open thanks to a sponsor’s exemption, but he’s going with some reservations.

“I probably should go to Naples (the Chubb Classic in Naples, FL., on PGA Tour Champions),’’ said Couples. “Sounds like bragging, but I won Naples a couples times (2010 and 2017) and still want to play in L.A. Riviera is one of my favorite events.’’

Couples was the champion of Los Angeles’ longstanding PGA Tour stop twice, in 1990 and 1992, and was the runner-up (or tied for second) three times in the 1990s so it’s understandable why he’d like to go back to that tournament one more time.

With Couples, though, you never know where or when he’ll show up to play. That’s just the way it is.

No question his career is winding down, but Couples is still competitive with the younger guys. Last October, on the same week that he turned 59, he went back to the PGA Tour for the Safeway Classic in Napa, Calif. That week he said that tournament would be “my last PGA Tour event besides Augusta (the Masters).’’

Couples tied for 41st that week, dropping 26 places after shooting a 75 in the final round), and that came after a surprise showing in the Masters. In 2017 he skipped the site of his biggest victory (the 1992 Masters) because of back problems were too painful.

“I physically couldn’t move,’’ he said, between practice swings at the Oasis Championship. “Last year I went basically wearing a back brace. I just didn’t want to miss the Masters again, and I made the cut. It felt like I had won the tournament just by making the cut.’’

He started 2019 with two events on PGA Tour Champions – a tie for fifth in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship in Hawaii and a tie for eighth in the Oasis Championship in Florida. He was a late entry for the first full field event of the Champions season in Boca Raton in part because his back was feeling good. That’s obviously not always been the case.

“The process is just trying to figure it out,’’ said Couples. “I’ve been doing this a long time. I could play great one day, get in the car and drive to the hotel and get out and something could go wrong with my back. Or I can hit a driver as hard as I can and something could happen there. There’s no rhyme or reason, but I really feel pretty good at the moment and I’m planning on playing a little more this year. Twelve, fourteen events — that’s my goal.’’

He won’t predict where he’ll play after Riviera, however.

“I look at the schedule at the beginning of the year, and it’s a pipe dream,’’ he said. “I mark like 16 tournaments. I skip majors on our (Champions) tour because I don’t really feel like I should go play in them. That’s not the greatest thing, either.’’

To play, or not to play, in major championships? Being Fred Couples isn’t as easy as his classic swing looks, but he’s found a scheduling formula that has worked – at least to some extent – for almost three decades.

“I know the year. I was 32 years old when it started happening,’’ said Couples. “It was never really horrible except for the first time it happened. I was out for like seven months and thought, `Am I going to be able to play?’’’

Play again, he did, and Couples has built a resume that shows 13 PGA Tour wins (the last at Houston in 2003) and 13 Champions Tour titles (the last at the American Family Insurance Championship in 2017).

“Since I came back I’ve taken it easy because all my buddies are young kids,’’ said Couples. “I tell them, don’t worry about missing a cut or having two bad months of golf. This isn’t a sprint. This is a marathon. That’s how I really wanted to treat it. Knock on wood, I’ve lasted.’’

Father-daughter time is worth it for the Langers in Champions Tour win

Bernhard Langer putts while daughter Jackie tends the flagstick en route to Champions Tour win.


Bernhard Langer, at 61 years old, may seem near the end of his career as a tournament player. There’s only one thing wrong with that line of reasoning. He keeps on winning.

Langer won on PGA Tour Champions for the 39th time on Sunday, and his victory in the newly-named Oasis Championship was something special. He captured the first full-field event of the season on the 50-and-over circuit with his daughter Jackie carrying his bag.

This was Jackie’s first win as a caddie for her father. Her three siblings had already carried for one of their father’s victories. Langer lives just 10 minutes from the Old Course at Broken Sound in Boca Raton, FL. – site of Sunday win — and Jackie, who is married and goes by the name of Langer John, also lives in the South Florida area.

They made for a terrific team on Sunday. Langer made birdies on five of the first seven holes and posted a final round 65. His 54-hole total of 19-under-par 197 was a tournament record but he has had plenty of success – two wins, two seconds, two thirds and eight top-10 finishes – in his hometown tournament.

This time he was a five-shot winner over Marco Dawson. Langer’s winning check was $375,000.

Calcavecchia seeks another win at home in Champions Tour teeoff

BOCA RATON, Florida — This should be Mark Calcavecchia’s time. His troublesome back problems are under control and another PGA Tour Champions season starts this week in Hawaii with the Jan. 17-19 Mitsubishi Electric Championship for last year’s tournament winners. Then Calcavecchia returns to one of his favorite courses to make the first title defense in a full-field event of the Champions’ season, the Oasis Championship.

For whatever reason, though, Calcavecchia isn’t entering this season on an optimistic note. He started the 2018 campaign with a wire-to-wire victory in what was then called the Boca Raton Championship. That win was even more special, in that it came in Palm Beach County — Calcavecchia’s long-time Florida home — with his wife Brenda on his bag.

“It meant a lot to win,’’ said Calcavecchia in a pre-tourney visit less than a month before his title defense is to begin. Now called the Oasis Championship, the tourney has a Feb. 4-10 run at the Old Course at Broken Sound. Last year Calcavecchia birdies seven of the first 10 holes, then hung on during a precarious final five holes. The couple was in tears when the last putt dropped.

“We had quite a few chances to win tournaments on the Champions Tour together, and I blew them basically,’’ said Calcavecchia. “ We did win the Wendy’s Three-Tour Challenge, the Shark Shootout and a tournament in Korea but Lanny (Wadkins, the Champions Tour analyst on Golf Channel) said some things, like maybe I would have won a few if she wasn’t caddying for me.’’

Now 58, Calcavancchia hadn’t won on PGA Tour Champions since 2015 so that win had to be special.

Revisiting the subject less than a month before his title defense, however, brought an unusual reaction from Calcavecchia on the 30-year anniversary of his biggest-ever win, at the 1989 British Open.

“I’m not as excited to play as I was last year,’’ he said. “Maybe it’s just because I’m a year older.’’

Or, maybe it’s because the 2018 season didn’t end on the high note on which it started.

“I missed the last tournament by a shot or two, and that was frustrating,’’ he said. “I didn’t touch a club for 43 days starting in November. I gained about 15 pounds, and I’ve lost about eight of those back because I worked hard the last two weeks to get stronger.

“I’m moving in the right direction, but it’s hard. I’m trying to get back in the mode of playing golf. I’ll get there, but once you stop playing it gets harder to get back going. I like doing nothing. It’s easier that way. I literally didn’t get out of my chair for a week straight. Brenda was mad at me.’’

There’s some incentive to get his act together fast beyond just keeping the peace with Brenda. The tournament on the Old Course at Broken Sound has been a strong one for the 50-and-over players, though it has had sponsorship issues. The city sponsored it last year to keep the event going and now it’ll be called the Oasis Championship. Oasis, founded in South Florida 20 years ago, specializes in providing human resource services to small and medium-sized businesses. It picked up tournament sponsorship for the next three years.

Regardless of its previous titles, the tournament has never had a repeat champion in its 13-year history. Calcavecchia could be the first, and that would mean something.

“I’ve never defended a title,’’ said Calcavecchia, who has won tournaments on either the PGA Tour or PGA Tour Champions in four straight decades. “Well, maybe I did in junior golf, but that doesn’t count. I won the Argentine Open two years in a row, but didn’t go to it for a year in between, so I don’t think that counts.’’

Calcavecchia, with 13 wins on the PGA Tour and four on PGA Tour Champions, likes hometown tournaments and has a good record in them.

A South Florida resident the last 46 years, Calcavecchia went to high school in West Palm Beach and was the 1978 Florida prep champion for North Shore High School. After playing collegiately at the University of Florida he won the Honda Classic twice at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens. He also has a home in Phoenix and has three PGA Tour wins there.

“That’s six home wins (five on the PGA Tour and last year’s victory at Broken Sound),’’ said Calcavecchia. “It may take the cake for home wins other than Jack (Nicklaus). How many Hondas and Dorals did he win?’

(For the record, Nicklaus won the Doral Eastern Open in 1972 and 1975 and the Inverrary Classic (the original name of what is now the Honda Classic) in 1977 and 1978).

Broken Sound and the Honda base at PGA National are both about 45 minutes from where Calcavecchia lives. He moved into the Loxahatchie Club (in Jupiter) last April but also uses Tequesta County Club as a winter practice site.

Garmany’s Hogan certainly knows what golf travel is all about

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida – If you’re ready, willing and able to travel to satisfy your golf appetite you should meet Bill Hogan.

Having been hired in October, Hogan is early into his first year with Garmany Golf, which also made its first appearance at the biggest show in golf. Garmany — with offices in Austin, Texas; Los Angeles and Edinburgh, Scotland — is starting its 10th year as a luxury golf travel business.

“Bill might be a rookie with us, but he’s not a rookie in terms of traveling the world,’’ said Bud Garmany, the company’s founder and president.

Hogan is Garmany’s senior vice president of sales and – if experience means anything – he knows his stuff. Hogan has played golf in 60 countries. Initially that seemed a staggering number for a U.S.-based golf enthusiast, but the PGA Merchandise Show had exhibitors and visitors from 83 countries. That indicates how widespread this great game is.

“There’s a lot more than 60 countries where golf is played,’’ said Hogan. “I have at least two more on my bucket list that I haven’t played. I try to keep the number of countries above my age, so I’ve got to keep adding to my list.’’

Hogan began his serious traveling in 1981, when – as a 20-year old – he moved to Europe to attend a college in Austria.

“That started my wanderlust,’’ he said, “and when I went to graduate school in Germany that really got me going.’’

Hogan returned to the U.S. in 1988 and took a job with Wide World of Golf, based in California. In his first week there his boss asked Hogan if he had a passport. He answered in the affirmative and within a few days he was off on a 28-day trip.

“Obviously I’ve been to a lot more than 60 countries, but that started me playing golf on my travels,’’ said Hogan. “I’ve been to Australia and New Zealand about a dozen times, and I’ve been to Scotland and Ireland 50 times.’’

He’s also become a panelist for Golf Magazine’s ranking of the top 100 courses in the world.

“It gets in your blood,’’ he said. `I love experiencing these kinds of things. The great thing about golf is there’s a chemistry around the world. You meet people, and they know somebody, so you’re only two- or three- degrees of separation from any golfer around the world. That’s a special treat.’’

Bud Garmany, the company’s founder, evolved into the golf travel world more slowly that Hogan did.

“I grew up in East Nashville, Tenn., a tough neighborhood,’’ he said. “If you wore golf clothes there you got beat up.’’

Garmany opted for work in the solar energy business in California. He stayed there for 14 years, until he reached his mid-40s. Then he decided to look for something more fulfilling.

“I went to Scotland by myself, without an agenda,’’ he said. “My family thought I was having a mid-life crisis. I immediately had a love affair with golf, and I saved the last five days of the trip for St. Andrews – the soul of the game. Then I knew that I’d do something in golf for the rest of my life.’’

After returning to California he contemplated his golf options with a friend, who suggested entering the golf travel business.

“It was one of the worst times in the world to start a luxury golf travel business,’’ said Garmany, but he did it anyway.

In preparing for the PGA Merchandise Show Garmany and Hogan developed a Hot List for golf travel destinations in 2019. Only one U.S. destination – Wisconsin – was on it.

“You can fly to Milwaukee, stay six days and play a Ryder Cup and PGA Championship course (Whistling Straits), A U.S. Women’s Open course (Blackwolf Run) and a U.S. Open course (Erin Hills). There’s also a fine new resort (Sand Valley).’’ Said Hogan. “We’ve been looking for new places that people aren’t talking about, and people might overlook Wisconsin.’’

If they’re from America, though, they would be more likely to overlook other golf destinations on the Garmany list – places like Vietnam, South Africa, France, New Zealand, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The list also includes Northwest Ireland, Melbourne, Australia and Tasmania and South Korea.

Hogan’s bucket list for his own new travel destinations include Qatar, Laos and Cambodia.

“In Qatar they’ve built some zillion-dollar courses that not many people know about, ‘said Hogan, “but they’re off the charts. In Laos and Cambodia they’re building an infrastructure to go after the North American market. You can fly to some of these places and stay for 10 days for about half of what it’d cost to go to Ireland. You may need an adventuresome spirit to go there but the value is tremendous and the quality resorts are absolutely gorgeous.’’

HERE IS GARMANY LIST OF HOT DESTINATIONS IN THE ORDER THEY LISTED. I’VE TRIMMED BACK THEIR DESCRIPTIONS OF EACH.

VIETNAM – Vietnam takes your breath away with its beauty, history, culture and great courses. Hoiana Shores and Greg Norman’s newly-opened Kam Ranh are special.

NORTHWEST IRELAND – It’s hard to match the rumpled topography of Balllyliffin’s two courses and County Sligo, Carne, and Enniscrone are unforgettable.

WISCONSIN – Sand Valley’s two courses — the latest’s David McLay Kidd’s Mammoth Dunes – fit right in to the golf explosion that has swept through this Midwestern state in the last two decades.

FRANCE — Le Golf National, site of last year’s Ryder Cup, is just the beginning of a golf boom here. There are six world-class courses within driving distance of Paris.

SOUTH AFRICA – Links at Fancourt, Leopard Creek, St. Francis Links and Pearl Valley Golf Estate (one of Jack Nicklaus’ best designs) mix well with this country’s safari parks.

NEW ZEALAND – Heart-stopping Kauri Cliffs and Tom Doak’s cliff-top Cape Kidnappers are must-play courses in this country with a rich golf history.

DUBAI AND ABU DHABI – Yaz Links, which looks like Scotland’s Kingsbarns without the water, might be the best golf experience between the United Kingdom and Australia.

AUSTRALIA (MELBOURNE) AND TASMANIA – There may not be a better concentration of great courses anywhere in the world than around Melbourne. Kingston Heath, Metropolitan, Victoria, Yarra Yarra and Huntingdale are just some of them.

SOUTH KOREA – China and Japan may have had more attention from golfers in Asia, but Korea’s courses (particularly Nine Bridges and Whistling Rock) are incredible.

Chicago area’s Wilson, Tour Edge are big hits at PGA Merchandise Show

Wilson’s Tim Clarke claims his company produced “the prettiest driver” of 2019.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL. – The 66th annual PGA Merchandise Show lived up to its billing as “the biggest show in golf’’ last week. Over 40,000 industry members from 83 countries spent four days hiking the 10-mile stretch of exhibits at the Orange County Convention Center. There were over 1,000 exhibitors.

Such a massive turnout was nothing new. The show always brings out the world’s top equipment manufacturers, organization leaders, travel destination personnel and lots of the stars from the pro tours. This show, though, had something none of its predecessors did. Two Chicago club manufacturers dominated the Industry Honors competition, conducted annually by the International Network of Golf.

Wilson’s golf division, now based in Chicago after a long run in River Grove, won the Business Achievement Award for its Driver vs. Driver TV series and Batavia-based Tour Edge was the winner of the Product Ingenuity Award – Market Leaders for its Exotics EXS driver.

There were six Ingenuity awards handed out, and the Chicago area had another winner in the Miscellaneous Products category. Zero Friction, based in Oakbrook Terrace, won for its colorful Spectra Supertube.

Tour Edge president David Glod has benefitted from signing PGA Tour Champions stars.


The wins by Wilson and Tour Edge, however, came in the highest profile categories. Tim Clarke, general manager of Wilson’s golf division, and David Glod, president of Tour Edge, were happy campers after picking up their coveted awards.

Driver vs. Driver was an innovative campaign developed by Wilson two years ago and carried over several weeks each year on The Golf Channel. Amateur designers brought their club creations to the competition and worked with Wilson personnel and various club testers to determine the driver that the company would eventually put on the market.

The first year of the series was intriguing just for being something new and different. Driver vs. Driver 2 was closely followed throughout the golf community and Evan Hoffman of San Diego won with his cortex model that was widely tested on the recent Show’s Demo Day.

“The success of Driver vs. Driver in Season 2 shows we have a model that would work with other products,’’ said Clarke, who claimed that Hoffman’s design is “the prettiest driver on the market.in 2019.’’

“We had four models that could have won in Season 2,’’ said Clarke, “but – realistically – just two in Season 1.’’

Wilson added Gary Woodland, a notable long hitter on the PGA Tour, to its staff recently and he may wind up using the club. Whether he does or doesn’t, however, there’s no guarantee than Wilson will stage a Driver vs. Driver 3.

“We’ve been having a lot of sessions on what’s coming next,’’ he said. “Seven-iron vs. 7-iron has been in the conversation.’’

Wilson used that format to entice visitors to try its clubs at the PGA Show’s Demo Day. Clarke, though, said a decision on the next promotional format won’t be made for at least two months.

Glod, in his 33rd year at Tour Edge, is taking an aggressive advertising approach with his new hot club now on the market. He’ll be pushing more than just his well-received driver while working with some of golf’s top name players.

Within the last four years Tour Edge began signing stars on PGA Tour Champions, and the biggest signee yet came two weeks ago when Tom Lehman joined the Tour Edge team. Lehman immediately won a tournament wearing the Tour Edge logo.

Tour Edge also has another Champions Tour star, Scott McCarron, on its team and Glod hopes to elevate his presence on it. Glod has elevated his company’s profile by hooking up with players on the 50-and-over circuit.

“We saw an opening in the marketplace and they saw a place for us, too,’’ said Glod. “Last year was our best sales year ever. We were up 25 percent with seven tour wins and 60 top-10s on all tours.’’