Nelly Korda should be the leading story in golf this year


OCALA, FL. – Unfortunately all the noise impacting the men’s pro golf tours has detracted from what is a huge story in the sport overall this season. The extraordinary accomplishments of Nelly Korda haven’t received nearly the attention they’ve merited.

This week should change that. The 79th U.S. Women’s Open tees off on Thursday at Lancaster Country Club in Pennsylvania.

It was big news when Scottie Scheffler won four of five tournaments in his hot streak earlier this year.  Korda did even better, winning five in a row and six of her last seven starts heading into the Women’s Open.

Let’s put all that in historical perspective.

In the women’s game only two other players have won five LPGA tournaments in a row – Nancy Lopez in 1978 and Annika Sorenstam in 2004-05. Maybe more to the point, only three players have won six tournaments before June – Babe Zaharias in 1951, Louis Suggs in 1953 and Lorena Ochoa in 2008.

Korda has already matched that mark. Next goal is to get seven wins for the season, a mark jointly held by Zaharias, Karrie Webb in 2000 and Taiwan’s Yani Tseng in 2011. It’ll be interesting to see how many more wins Korda has in her before 2024 is over.

If you want to compare Korda’s streaks with the men, Tiger Woods won five straight in 2007-08, six in a row in 1999-2000 and seven consecutively in 2006-07. Ben Hogan won six straight in 1948.

But, if you want to go further back both the LPGA and PGA Tour have records that seem – at this point – safe even from Korda.  On the men’s side Byron Nelson won 11 in a row and 18 tournaments overall in 1945 and on the women’s Mickey Wright triumphed 13 times in 1968, along with 11 times in 1964 and 10 in both 1962 and 1963.  Golf was a different game when Nelson and Wright were in their heydays than it is for Korda now.

Korda is playing in an era where there are more tournaments, more prize money and more good players to beat. Still, she’s only 25, so there’s plenty of time for her to pile up more wins.

Korda’s genes at least suggest she could do it, too. All the Kordas are, or were, world-class athletes. Her parents, both from Czechoslovakia, were top tennis players,  Father Petr was No. 2 in the Association of Tennis Professionals rankings in 1998 and won a Grand Slam title that year in the Australian Open. Nelly’s mother, Regina Rajchrtova, was ranked No. 26 in the world and represented Czechoslovakia in the Olympics.

Nelly’s older sister, Jessica, was successful on the LPGA Tour, too. Now 31, she dropped off the LPGA Tour a year ago after battling some lingering injuries.  She won six times on the circuit with career winnings of $7.6 million and became a mother for the first time in February.

Both Jessica and Nelly were on the U.S. Olympic team in 2020 with Nelly winning the gold medal. Their brother Sebastian has won over $5 million dollars in six seasons on the Association of Tennis Professionals circuit.

Now, though, it’s all Nelly’s show and she’ll be going after her third major title in this week’s Women’s Open. She has 14 career LPGA wins and overcame a serious injury when she developed a blood clot in her arm that shortened her season in 2021.

The U.S. Women’s Open hasn’t been kind to her, however.  She’ll make her 10th appearance this year with her best a tie for eighth in 2022 at Pine Needles, in North Carolina.

This year she’s won $2,943,708, or more than a million more than Hannah Green, who is second on the money list. In fact, Nelly has been so good that Michael Kim, a PGA Tour player, has declared that she should get a shot at playing in an event on the premier men’s circuit.  Seven women have been accorded that honor.  If Korda is interested in it, she should be an automatic No. 8.

The Women’s Open will at the least put her in the golf spotlight world-wide.  The tourney will have 26 hours of live TV coverage and Lancaster hosted one of the best previous Opens when a record 135,000 spectators showed up nine years ago.  That event turned into a battle of Koreans with then 20-year old In Gee Chun beating out Amy Yang. Chun became the fourth player to win the title in her first event.

One footnote regarding this year, though.  The 2024 U.S. Women’s Open didn’t have a record entry.  Last year 2,107 entered when the finals were at California’s Pebble Beach.  Entries this year hit 1,897.


Rahm still winless on LIV Tour but remains a Masters threat


Greg Norman, executive director of the LIV Tour, jokes with Jon Rahm. (Joy Sarver Photos)


MIAMI, FL. – Last year’s Masters was the first tournament where PGA Tour players competed against those who defected to the LIV Golf League.  The LIV guys got the better of that one.

Four current LIV players finished  one -two-three and a tie for fourth.   That spoke well for the Saudi-financed circuit that is now in its third season. Spain’s Jon Rahm will defend his Masters title this week at Georgia’s Augusta National. He won last year when he was still a PGA Tour member.

Rahm hasn’t won an individual title as a LIV member, but team he captains – Legion XIII – won its second title in five starts on Sunday on the rugged Blue Monster course at Trump Doral and Rahm contributed several key putts to that victory. At least that’s some momentum to take into this week’s Masters.

Knowing a four-stroke lead was slipping away in a tight team battle with Bubba Watson’s RangeGoats, Rahm touched more on a clutch putt he rolled in down the stretch rather than dwell on his individual play.

“I was just trying to two-putt,’’ Rahm said, “and the putt just kept going.  We won by one stroke, so obviously that putt meant more than I had thought it would.’’

It also doesn’t hurt that Rahm has been solid, despite not winning by himself.  He’s the only LIV player to finish in the top 10 of all five tournaments of 2024. He tied for fourth Sunday, three strokes behind South African Dean Burmester and Spain’s Sergio Garcia.

Former president Donald Trump, LIV executive director Greg Norman and Trump’s son Eric enjoy the action around the first tee during the final round at Trump Doral.

Burmester took the individual title in a two-hole playoff, the third loss in extra holes  for the winless Garcia in LIV play. Burmester and Garcia played the regulation 54 holes in 11-under-par 205. Both failed to par the final holes, necessitating their playoff.

Now the focus is solely on the Masters.

If LIV shows as well at this year’s Masters it’ll likely be because of the players who weren’t  so impressive

Sergio Garcia (left) and Dean Burmester matched shots in a tense two-hole playoff.




These new golf books are well worth reading



In the last few years I’ve developed a side writing project.  Being a fairly voracious reader, I’ve been contributing book reviews to my social media outlets. By no means have these been limited to golf. I’ve written about books that I’ve enjoyed on a variety of subjects but have stayed away from reviewing the political ones.

Anyway, this time – and for first time – I’m touching on several books on golf topics.  There’s been quite a few quality golf books coming out recently, many written by colleagues who are friends of mine.  With the Masters closing in there is also a timely aspect to getting the word out on these books, so I’m including several in this report.

ARNOLD PALMER,  AMERICAN HERO – I love coffee table books, and nobody does them better than Martin Davis. Some of my writing buddies are contributors – Marino Parascenzo, Jaime Diaz, Adam Schupak, Alex Miceli  and Jeff Babineau – but there are many others.

Martin, who founded The American Golfer in 1990,  has edited or published 39 golf books, and I’ve particularly enjoyed the one he did on the Ryder Cup. He’s a great historian of the game and his latest book is filled with classic pictures of golf’s most charismatic and photogenic player. You don’t want to rush through this book.

Coffee table books are, by definition, big and this one may be the biggest in my collection.  It’s 370 pages in the large 11×14-inch format (and it weighs seven pounds).  Take it slowly, and you’ll savor the memories of  this most special individual who just happens to have been a champion golfer.

LIFE ON THE GREEN – Ann Liguori has made a big impact in sports broadcasting and she’s been a dominant winner in the International Network of Golf’s annual Media Awards. Jim Nantz gave her a glowing forward in this book (Hatherleigh Press).

Ann has 12 chapters, each spotlighting a legend of the game from her own unique perspective. The subjects are far-reaching — an excellent mix of men and women, players and contributors to the game in other ways as well. The chapters  spotlight – in alphabetical order — Amy Alcott, Ben Crenshaw, Padraig Harrington, Bernhard Langer, Nancy Lopez, Jack Nicklaus, Dottie Pepper, Gary Player, Renee Powell, Annika Sorenstam, Jan Stephenson and Tom Watson. That should tell you how expansive Ann’s book is.

Because we’re awaiting another Masters I want to toss in an anecdote from a special section on that tournament.  It comes from the 1985 tournament in which Langer and Seve Ballesteros played in the next-to-the last pairing on Sunday, just ahead of Raymond Floyd and Curtis Strange.

Langer and Ballesteros were great rivals in Europe and both, of course, were Masters champions but I wish I had been around to hear this exchange on the first tee.  Ballesteros turned to Langer and said “Good luck, and let’s make sure one of us wins and not the Americans.’’

Langer found extra meaning in the comment, as did I.

“No doubt about it,’’ said Langer.  “Even at the Masters, which is so individualistic, obviously (Seve) wanted to win it, but if he couldn’t then the next best thing was just to keep it away from the Americans.’’


THE LEGENDARY CADDIES OF AUGUSTA NATIONAL – The author, Ward Clayton, was the sports editor of the Augusta Chronicle from 1991 to 2000, and produced a 2019 documentary, “The Caddie’s Long Walk.’’

He’s more than qualified to write the most recent book on the black caddies at the home of the Masters.  Those bag-toters used such nicknames as Stovepipe, Burnt Biscuits, Skillet, Skinny and Marble Eye.  (Some of their real names were Carl Jackson, Willie Perteet and Matthew Palmer).  They witnessed some great moments, both public and private, in their days at Augusta National, and Clayton provides extensive updates on their lives along with historical photos.


AND JUST OUT:  The month of March also included the release of two other most promising books — “Rainmaker,’’ the autobiography of Hughes Norton, with George Peper (Atria Books) and “Drive, the Lasting Legacy of Tiger Woods,’’ by Bob Harig (St. Martin’s Press).

It’s interesting that these two have come out within a few weeks of each other.  Norton was Woods’ first agent.  A tantalizing excerpt of the book has run in Golf Digest.   Harig previously authored the book “Tiger and Phil’’ and has been a leader in the ongoing coverage of developments involving the PGA Tour and LIV Golf League.


Jekyll Island transformation honors the club’s rich history

The iconic clubhouse turret at Jekyll Island is the backdrop for croquet players in their  traditional white attire. (Photos by Joy Sarver)


JEKYLL ISLAND, Georgia – State parks are a big thing in Georgia, with one in particular standing out — an old place with a sparkling new look.

Needless to say Jekyll Island isn’t your ordinary state park.  There are 600 residents on the island, located on the outskirts of Brunswick off the Intracoastal Waterway near the bigger cities of Savannah, Ga., and Jacksonville, FL.

Jekyll offers a lot of things – a 22-mile bike and hiking trail, the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, the Summer Waves Water Park, The Wharf (a most memorable fun waterfront restaurant), the most enchanting Driftwood  Beach, tennis, croquet and fishing centers, horse stables, a campground, a wide variety of lodging and gift shops and 63 holes of golf.

What Jekyll is really all about, though, is history. There really isn’t another place like it.

Those 63 holes of golf are enticing, but they aren’t part of this report. This is to report on a $25 million renovation that touched most areas of the property.

Director of sales and marketing Kevin Baker has been on the Jekyll scene for over 10 years.

“ There was a Master Plan put into effect 10-12 years ago,’’ said Kevin Baker, director of sales and marketing for the Jekyll Island Club Resort.  “That included a Convention Center and Beach Village, but it feels different here now because the majority of the big construction is done. A lot of things were completed last year and the Master Plan is pretty much complete now. Just little bits and pieces are still being upgraded.’’

A look back at what Jekyll Island was shows how far it has come.  Fifty of the weathiest families in America combined efforts to create what was considered “the richest, most exclusive and most inaccessible club in the world.’’

It opened in 1888 and because a playground for the rich and famous.  Its early members were J.P. Morgan, William Rockefeller, Vincent Astor, Joseph Pulitzer, William Vanderbilt and Marshall Field. The club became known as a “Southern Haven for America’s Millionaires.’’

With no roads available, those fortunate few arrived by boat and moved around the island in carriages.  Electricity was available on the island before it came to most of the rest of the country. Life was good.

The club had a big clubhouse facing a swimming pool that was 10 feet deep throughout. The Grand Dining Room and Alexander’s lobby bar (named after clubhouse designer Charles A. Alexander)  were the most popular hotspots.

Residents could design and build their own homes or cottages, and they all had different tastes.   The variety of architectural looks added to the beauty of the place.

In addition to the Jekyll Island Club Resort hotel there were 12 cottages back in those days, and three were addressed in the recent renovation. The biggest was the Crane Cottage, built in 1917 by a member who made his fortune in the plumbing industry.  It had 20 guest rooms and 17 baths.  In the renovation it was reduced to 13 guest rooms but remains an almost weekly site for weddings.

The San Souci Cottage was the first condominium ownership concept in the United States.

The San Souci Cottage, built in 1896, was the country’s first condominium.  J.P. Morgan devised the shared ownership concept, but that’s  just one of a series of milestones at the island. The Federal Reserve System got its start at a secret meeting there in November of 1907, when the club was largely empty, and the first transcontinental phone call was also made from Jekyll in 1915.

Everything was wonderful – until it wasn’t.

The Great Depression started the club’s downfall and World War II speeded up the process.  Members were afraid that German submarines would invade the local waters and they sold their places in droves, bringing an end to what Jekyll calls its “ Club Era.’’

From 1942 to 1948 the place deteriorated slowly and the furniture used by the rich and famous was left in the homes and cottages. It was all taken to a central location in the 1950s as the former owners didn’t want to take it with them.

The Grand Dining Room in the Jekyll Island Club will resume evening dining this spring.

In 1948 Jekyll went public and was declared a State Park. The old buildings were used by visitors, and some of the old furniture was brought back, but  the flavor of the good old days was missing until recently when 200 guest room at the Jekyll Island Club were upgraded.

“Every single guest room was completely renovated,’’ said Baker. “More color was brought into the rooms.  In the past everything was painted white.  The exterior of the buildings hasn’t changed, but now the colors in the rooms really pop. We maintained the historic rooms.  It was a modern take on history. It’s been more like a coastal eclectic look while honoring the past.’’

The rooms have all been tastefully done following a series of ownership changes. All have fireplaces, and the Grand Dining Room was completely renovated and is serving breakfasts and Sunday buffets.  Dinner dining will resume in the spring.

The renovated rooms have a coastal eclectic decor with hand-painted murals as the focal point.

“By no means is it modern, but it’s very historic.  That’s why people come here,’’ said Baker. “Luxury and style were elevated to a level that it should be.  The guest rooms are now at the level of comfort and style of the luxury hotels, but what makes us special is our history.’’

That is in the spotlight at the Mosaic Museum, which is also the base for daily guided tours.  The tours are great, but visitors can check out all parts of the island on bicycles.  They’re readily available and can go places where automobiles can’t. Boat trips are also available.

Beautiful sunrises are a regular occurrence from the suites at the Ocean Club.

You don’t have to stay in the cottages or the historic hotel.  There’s plenty of other lodging  that includes Marriott, Hilton,Westin, Holiday Inn and Days Inn  properties

The Georgia Sea Turtle Center is an especially interesting attraction, and it is given extra promotion with stuffed turtles (available for purchase) available in every guest room.

Beach Village gives the island a major attraction entirely separate from the Historic District. Beach Village features the oceanside Eighty Ocean Kitchen and Bar at the Jekyll Ocean Club and a splash pad has been added for youngsters. The Village is also loaded with shops, which makes it an ideal spot to take a relaxing stroll.

Churches are in abundance, too, starting with the Faith Chappel that opened as an interdenominational church for members in 1904. It now offers an Episcopal service and there are also Baptist, Catholic, Presbyterian and Methodist churches.

One thing that you can’t miss are the magnificent trees. The one that stands out is a Plantation Oak.  It’s the biggest and oldest – estimated to be about 350 years old – on the property but there are other eye-catching ones, too.

This Plantation Oak is the oldest and biggest of the majestic trees adorning Jekyll Island.






Szokol is one of few Illinois players to make it on LPGA Tour

Elizabeth Szokol (right) shared the spotlight with Annika Sorenstam before an LPGA Florida stop.

Patty Berg, a true golf legend, won 63 professional tournaments from 1937 through 1958 and was the first president of the Ladies PGA Tour.  For much of her career she represented Joe Jemsek’s St. Andrew’s facility in West Chicago but since her heyday the LPGA has been tough for Chicago players.

Berwyn native Nicole Jeray toiled on the tour for three decades. Now teaching at Mistwood, in Romeoville, she had recent success on the Legends of the LPGA senior circuit but hasn’t had a win yet. Another Illinois native, Nancy Scranton from downstate Centralia, captured one of the LPGA major titles — the duMaurier Classic, in 1991.  She had two other LPGA victories and five wins on the Legends Tour.

Otherwise no Illinois player made an impact on the LPGA Tour — until Elizabeth Szokol earned her playing privileges, that is.

Though she lives in Florida now Szokol has solid Illinois roots.  She grew up in Winnetka and was on New Trier’s varsity team for four seasons.  The Trevians finished in the top three of the state high school  tournament every year and won the title in 2010. Then Szokol spent two seasons at Northwestern before transferring to Virginia.

Last July she broke into the LPGA winner’s circle for the first time at the Dow Great Lakes Invitational in Midland, Mich. It was a team event, with Cheyenne Woods as her partner, but that still counts as a win and it meant a lot to Szokol.

“It’s been amazing,’’ she said.  “It was definitely a confidence booster and made the next few years a little bit easier, which is great. It shows me I can compete with the best in the world, and I’m looking forward to doing that.’’

A champion gets more playing opportunities on the LPGA circuit, a perk for winning on most every golf tour. Szokol had a couple of significant wins before turning pro.  She captured the Illinois Women’s State Amateur in 2012 and the Stanford NCAA Regional in 2016 after transferring to Virginia for her last two seasons as a collegiate player.

She also earned a victory on the Epson Tour – the LPGA’s developmental circuit, in 2018. Szokol was hot that entire year, finishing it off with four top-10s in her last five starts to finish fourth on the Epson money list and claim her LPGA playing privileges for the next year.

Injuries have been a problem since then. Knee surgery in December of 2017 slowed her start on the LPGA Tour and she missed the first nine tournaments of the 2022 season with a herniated disc. That issue forced her to not touch a club for 12 weeks and kept her away from the LPGA tournaments for nearly six months. No surgery was needed, just injections and rest.

The reward for her patience and determination was not only the victory. It triggered a return to the form she exhibited in 2021 when she made the cut in 13 of 23 tournaments and earned $530,570 – her best season money-wise. That season was no fluke,

In 2023 she made seven cuts in 12 starts and earned $408,497 to finish 39th on the season money list. In both of those big years she was among the 60 qualifiers for the CME Group Tour Championship, the season-ending tournament that offers one of the biggest purses in women’s golf – $7 million.

Suffice it to say that Szokol has made it on the LPGA Tour.  She had two other top 10s in 2023.  In March, the second tournament of the season, she shot an opening-round 64 and finished in a tie for eighth at the SBC Women’s World Championship in Singapore.  After the win in Michigan she tied for 10th in the Walmart Northwest Arkansas Championship in September.  Those finishes helped boost Szokol’s LPGA career winnings to more than $1.4 million.

She was also given celebrity status when she shared a promotional role with Annika Sorenstam at a  late-season tournament.  The Annika – a rejuvenated event to honor Sorenstam – was held at the Pelican Club in Belleair, FL.  Szokol, now a Tampa resident, is a Pelican member and her swing coach is Justin Sheehan, the club’s director of golf.

She learned that the Illinois Women’s Amateur had celebrated its 90th anniversary in the days leading into The Annika tourney. (At that time the Illinois Amateur’s future was in doubt until the Chicago District Golf Association took over the event in December).

“Hopefully that’ll inspire other Illinois girls to come out here (on the LPGA Tour) with me,’’ said Szokol. “When I was young it was great that I had that as a place to play. When I went to college at Virginia I met some teammates, and we had a contingent of players who were wanting to play on the LPGA.  It was helpful  for me to follow in their footsteps.’’

Szokol can attest to the fact that getting to the LPGA won’t be easy.

“Hopefully there’s enough information out there for any girl to get an understanding of it, an understanding of the process,’’  said Szokol.



Here’s the most interesting products from the PGA Show

Gary DiSalvo shows how Poptical sunglasses can benefit golfers. (Joy Sarver Photos)

ORLANDO, FL. – Every year it’s the same thing – only different.

The 71st PGA Show again showcased the newest of the new in golf gear and attire. There were more than 1,000 companies and brands to entice the approximately 30,000 industry members who gathered at Orange County National Golf Center, for the traditional Demo Day, and the Orange County Convention Center for three days of indoor browsing.

This massive gathering began with merchandisers showing their wares from the trunks of cars in 1954 and grew into one that had representatives from 84 countries and all 50 states this year.  More than 7,000 PGA professionals attended this year’s gathering, and they’ll be bringing much of what they saw to their shops and stores back home.

That should intrigue the reported 41.1 million Americans who play golf and create a $22.6 billion total economic impact in America.

It’s not easy to wade through the lines of exhibits at the OCCC, where each day began with traffic nightmares for attendees trying to find parking spots.  It was all worthwhile once they got inside, however. The products were diverse and – in most cases – worthwhile additions to American golf consumers.

Enough said for the scene-setting.  Let’s get to the good stuff, and there was a lot of that. Interestingly much of it was brand new to the show, and organizers made a well-received change in how the newbies were displayed.  The New Products section was expanded and easier to walk through. It was a busy place and included some items judged – by me at least – as the most interesting at the overall show.

Whether they work is up to the golfers who try them.  Golf’s an individual sport and some things work better for some than others. We stayed clear of the major equipment companies for this report because they have their own promotional styles, but these are worthy of your attention, too.

Two of the most eye-catching products are the PGA Show were the Omnix golf bags (left) and LagMaster training aid.




1, POPTICALS – This is a sunglass company with its products hand-made in Italy.   What’s intriguing here is that the company makes sunglasses designed specifically  for various sports and needs.

“Our most popular is our golf line,’’ said Gary DiSalvo, chief executive officer for the company’s headquarters in Ellisville, Mo.  “These glasses are specifically made for golf. ”

The violet-tinted lens accentuate the contour of the greens on the course.

DiSalvo says the difference in viewing will be immediate.

“As soon as you put on a pair on a golf course you’ll notice something different.  You’ll see different shades of green and that’ll help in putting,’’ he said.  “You’ll be able to tell the levels of the green and whether your putt is uphill or downhill. The second you put these glasses on they’ll show miniscule differences in the grass — the elevation changes and where the break in your putt might be.’’

The golf sunglasses, listed on the Popticals website at $143, are collapsible for storage. Dr. Craig Farnsworth, “The Putt Doctor,” endorsed the product, and he works with the likes Dustin Johnson and Nick Faldo.

2, PERFECT HANDS GOLF – Training devices abound at all PGA Shows, but this one was billed as “the world’s first ever swing and strength trainer.’’ It’s equipped with a belt, four accleration bands that come in 10-, 20-, 30- and 40-pound increments, gloves for both hands and a carry case.

If used as suggested, this device is said to help a player both get his swing on plane and increase his strength and range of motion.  In short, Perfect Hands can develop proper technique and increase swing speed. The listed website price is $199.99.

Chicago-based Zero Friction’s last creation is the Stride, and it comes in a variety of colors.

3, WHEEL PRO STRIDE – This electric bag trolley, is the newest innovation by Chicago-based Zero Friction, one of the most active creators of new golf products in recent years.  The Stride is an offshoot of the Wheel Pro, which was part of the 2023 show, and the Stride was a winner in the International Network of Golf’s  Industry Honors at this year’s show.

The Stride’s 35-pound bag has a pocket-sized remote control that uses Smart  Technology to follow within three feet of the golfer. It’s a versatile product, though, as you can push it, carry it or put it on a cart.

It comes with an umbrella holder, a cooler that can hold up to six cans or bottles, two invisible magnets to secure a rangefinder or Bluetooth speaker and a built-in USB port.  Its price at the PGA Show was $2,499.

4, OMNIX BAGS – This company specializes in customizing bags, and some of its creations were the most eye-catching items at the show. They had an interchangeable outer shell, seven multiple pockets, 14-way club dividers – and, most importantly, a distinctive appearance. The company calls it “revolutionary’’ with its combination of advanced technology, functionality and edgy style.

The models that caught my eye the most were mostly in the company’s Rainbow Series.  The Black Vodka and Sex on the Beach models in that series are both priced at $540.

“Omnix bags will illuminate the course and feed free spirits,’’ according to the company’s website. No argument there.

Want a beer on the course? Chris Hurry might be able to help you with his Zigit Dispenser.

5, ZIGIT BEER AND DRINK DISPENSER – This one could be controversial because it might involve dispensing alcoholic beverages on golf courses.  The Phoenix-based company has it in operation at, among other places, the American Airlines Center in Dallas  and wants to make inroads into the golf community

“We’re targeting golfers because they could use it year-around,’’ said Zigit’s Chris Hurry.

Zigits can serve beverages on the course, but the choice of which ones is up to the course owners. They’ll decide what beverages are offered, but Zigit has technology that can screen out under-age buyers and limit the alcoholic daily intake of others.

6, RIMAC BALL TESTER – Golfers want to know the compression of their golf balls to ensure they’re all the same.  This  machine, patterned after one used in the auto industry starting in 1930, can do this.

Rimac isn’t just a clever tool.  It reveals the precise compression of each ball far beyond the vague labels like “firm,’’ “soft,’’ “softer’’ or “soft feel.’’

Understanding compression enables golfers to select balls more knowledgeably and find the best-suited ball for their style of play. The company’s website lists the price at $1,495.

Alcide Deschesnes’ One Club trainer  can also double as a warmup tool.

7, ONE CLUB TRAINING DEVICE – This One is engineered to enhance a golfer’s swing mechanics and engrains the correct neuromuscular paths for swing consistency. Thanks to technology it provides instantaneous tactile, audible and sensory feedback.

Alcide Deschesnes, a Canadian-born mechanical engineer, was an outstanding athlete in multiple sports. He developed the One Club and sells it with a training guide designed to increase golfers’ swing speeds.

“It’s more than a weighted club,’’ said Deschesnes.  “It combines the principles of dynamic inertia resistance with instant feedback and can be used as an exercise tool.’’ It retails for $197.98.

8, TOWELTAG – A Canadian company, TowelTag  manufactures popular golf towels, I have two versions on my bags, one customizes a radio show and the other a golf organization. The company’s product that intrigues me this year is a ball marker that can help golfers draw straight lines on their balls for identification purposes but is more valuable after play begins.

“It can be used as an alignment tool,’’ said Craig Holub, who labels himself as TowelTag’s “founder and visionary.’’

The ball marker comes with a dial that can help line up putts, be it on the putting green before a round or on the course. Listed price at the PGA Show was $19.99.

9, LAGMASTER – Another training aid, this one looks like the drain pipe under your kitchen sink. Mike Dickson is the founder and believes it can accomplish big things for golfers who use it.

The Lagmaster is said to “teach movement that gets the body, arms, hands and club synced correctly and trains the power swing, weight shift, sequence, low point and finish.’’

And, according to promotional material, “it keeps it simple.’’ You’ve got to see it and use it to believe it.  Cost is $119.99.

10, ZOOM BREEZE – This product is the golf version of the Zoom Broom — a name that I love because it has a nice ring to it. It’s also fun to use.  On a windy day it can be a ball-saver.  Turn the battery-powered gadget on, and the leaves get out of your way.

It weighs only two pounds, fits in a golf bag and the sound it makes – according to creator Randy Kuckuck – isn’t a negative.“In a room it’s a little noisy, but on a wide open course it isn’t bad,’’ Kuckuck said.

Kuckuck, a Michigan State alum, got the idea for the Zoom Broom after a few of his rounds as a retiree were negatively impacted by too many leaves. The Zoom Broom can also be used around the house and is priced at $189. The golf-specific version is $179.

Randy Kuckuck’s Zoom Broom and Zoom Breeze can eliminate leaves as a problem for golfers.


Price, Leadbetter will be a great team in creating Soleta course

Nick Price (top) and David Leadbetter are working together on a new Florida course.


MYAKKA CITY, Florida – When you put Nick Price and David Leadbetter together on a golf project you most likely will have a winner.

This week those two were in the spotlight at the ground-breaking for the Soleta Golf Club on the outskirts of Sarasota, FL.  Soleta’s expected opening is in late 2024 and will be the centerpiece for a private residential golf community that will include 93 residences and other amenities.  Needless to say, it’ll be highly upscale with the initiation fee for a full golf membership set at $100,000.

Both Price and Leadbetter are long-time Floridians. Price lives in Hobe Sound and Leadbetter has lived in the Sarasota area for the past eight years. Both were closely involved in the planning stages at Soleta and will be on site frequently during the course’s construction phase. Price is the course designer while Leadbetter is designing a 30-acre practice facility called Field of Dreams and an indoor center that will include a biomechanics studio, club fitting, a putting studio, simulators and other advanced training technologies.

“My buddy Nick and I go back a long way,’’ said Leadbetter. “I designed a course once, but it was in China.  I figured it was far enough away that nobody would know about it.  I thought Nick and I could be co-designers here, but he was afraid I’d screw it up.’’

Clearly they enjoy working together. Though the Soleta home sites will be worth a look, the most interesting aspect at this stage of the project is the pairing of Price and Leadbetter. Leadbetter was once Price’s swing coach.  Leadbetter’s tutelage helped Price make a swing change in 1982 and that worked out so well that another Nick, this one named Faldo, underwent the same treatment a few years later and achieved even greater success.

Though Price is in the World Golf Hall of Fame, his playing career is not be as appreciated as it should be.   That’s my perception, and I was up close and personal in witnessing just how good Price was. Being a Chicago-based writer then, I was most impressed by his back-to-back victories in the 1993 and 1994 Western Opens.  In the first he beat Greg Norman by five strokes. Price had a shot at a third Western title in 2000 but lost in a playoff to Robert Allenby.

Sadly that late, great Western championship – first played in 1899 — was shut down in 2006 when the PGA Tour and Western Golf Association opted to convert it into a FedEx Cup Playoff event called the BMW Championship. Golf in Chicago hasn’t been the same since.

I was also on hand to watch Price win two PGA Championships, at Bellerive in St. Louis in 1992 and Southern Hills in Tulsa, Oka., in 1994. Oh, yes, there was also that eye-opening day in 1986, when I covered the Masters for the first time.  Price set the tournament record with a 9-under-par 63.  It’s a record that still stands, though Norman tied it in 1996. Throughout his playing career Price was a class act on and off the course.

Now 66, he notched the last of his 18 PGA Tour victories in 2003 at a time when he was just getting involved with golf course architecture. Not all great players turn out to be good course designers, but Price has held his own. His design website lists a portfolio of 13 courses, the first five of which were outside of the United States.  One of those, TPC Cancun in Mexico, is the only TPC layout outside of the U.S.

Price plays out of one of McArthur Golf Club in Hobe Sound, a course he co-designed with Tom Fazio. The only Price course I’ve played is Grande Dunes – one of the very best layouts in the golf mecca of Myrtle Beach, S.C.

So what will Soleta be like?  Other than the fact that it’ll be separated from the home sites, Price could give only an inkling.

“We’re here to create a special place for golfers to play, spend time with friends and have fun,’’ he said.  “The property has wetlands, uplands, open grassland and some great trees.  We’ve laid out the course to take advantage and incorporate those natural features into the design of the holes. I’m really happy that no wetlands have been impacted or eliminated anywhere on the property.  These natural elements will be part of what gives the course its natural look and feel.’’



LIV’s second season is over; now the fun begins


LIV Tour’s second season is history.  The team championship at Doral created great drama and was an appropriate ending to the 2023 campaign.

Now, however, the real fun begins.

LIV chief executive officer Greg Norman took at least a brief look ahead during lulls in the action at Doral..  He started by confirming that he hasn’t been a part of the mysterious negotiations between LIV, the PGA Tour and DP World Tour and still declaring that he’s not worried about his job.

There’s no reason he should be. LIV made progress in Year 2 and Norman was a big reason, but there’s so much more to do.

“Our next couple months are probably going to be my most exciting time,’’ Norman told a small but select media contingent.  “We’re going through the relegation process, the trade process, building out the teams to a position that each captain wants to negotiate. All that stuff is really going to energized it.’’

True, but there are some things that concern me and should concern others who have closely followed this changing world in golf:

WORLD RANKINGS:  Something has to change, for the good of the game as a whole and not just for LIV, which continues to be snubbed by the Official World Golf Rankings.  The OWGR are a joke without LIV players being recognized. Limiting their appearances in the major championships only denigrates those tournaments, all of which should want the strongest fields possible.  How do you get that with a LIV presence?

LIV players can try to qualify for the U.S. Open and British Open but won’t be eligible for the Masters or PGA Championship.  Those are basically the only opportunities for the best players in the world to compete against each other. How should Talor Gooch, for instance, be kept out of anything after winning three times on the LIV and have seven other top-15 finishes – and winning over $33 million – this season? Oh, yes.  Gooch’s current world ranking is No. 201. Ridiculous!

SCHEDULE:  At this time LIV hasn’t announced its 2024 schedule.  Sports Illustrated presented an unofficial version a few weeks ago, and it concerns me. It listed only 14 events – the same as this year.  I would have expected a bigger schedule in Year 3. The SI version – if accurate – didn’t include a return to Chicago.  That strikes home with me, of course, as my long-time home base has been short-changed by the PGA Tour regarding annual tournaments in recent years. LIV’s stop at Rich Harvest Farms in the suburb of Sugar Grove helped alleviate the problem and that event was generally recognized as one of LIV’s most popular stops the first two years.  So what happened?  It’s a story that I’ll be following, to be sure.

TEAM ASPECT:  I’ve been on hand at three LIV events and each time the team aspect was improved.  Having a Brooks Koepka-Phil Mickelson matchup to start play at Doral was terrific.  Still, the teams need to be differentiated better.  Same color team shirts each day perhaps?

RELEGATION:  LIV is doing it right.  A three-day Promotions event was announced at Doral.  It’ll be played Dec. 8-10 in Abu Dahbi — a 54-hole event, a $1.5 million purse and a cut to the low 20 after 36 holes. Size of the field and identity of the participants will be key.  It should provide some meaningful offseason drama.

SCOREBOARDS:  I’m still not happy with what I see, either at the courses or on the TV telecasts.  The scoreboards are hard to follow, which may be inevitable given the shotgun start format. On TV the score list with players names abbreviated in some instances makes for difficult reading, as the type is inevitably small to accommodate all the information that is bring provided.  While I don’t have all the answers to this one, more thought is needed to upgrade the situation.

That sums up 2023, an overall good year for this fledgling circuit.  Let’s see some significant new player signings, some eye-catching trades and a bigger schedule.  That “framework agreement’’ with the PGA can wait.  It’s not much of an “agreement’’ anyway.

Norman and Bubba Watson revealed that numerous  inquiries to purchase teamwould be  were already in the works.  Phil Mickelson has been talking to more PGA Tour players and “knows’’ more will be making the jump to LIV.

Gooch and Bryson DeChambeau’s Crushers  are now the champions to beat in what promises to be LIV’s best season yet in 2024.  Bring it on!!


Walters’ `Gambler’ is about a lot more than Mickelson

This, most recent, book that merits your attention had some unusual pre-release promotional literature. “Gambler: Secrets from a Life at Risk’’ by Billy Walters with Armen Keteyian  (Avid Reader Press) hinted that it was more about golfer Phil Mickelson than it was about Walters, who created his own autobiography.

If that was intention it worked with me. I wanted to know more details about Mickelson’s long reported gambling habits so was quickly on Barnes & Noble’s waiting list for its arrival.  Walters, who had a five-year gambling relationship with Mickelson, provided some insight – mostly in the 20th of 28 chapters in the 356-page book.

Walters claimed that Mickelson once owed him $2.5 million and, during the 2012 Ryder Cup matches at Medinah Country Club, asked him to place a $400,000 bet for him on the U.S. team to win. Walters said he refused the request and Mickelson later denied making such a bet.

According to Walters, Mickelson wagered more than $1 billion during the past three decades and believes the golfer could have helped him avoid a five-year prison sentence for insider trading. Instead Mickelson told Waters that “his (Mickelson’s) lawyers didn’t want him to face questions on the stand.’’

Walters said all he wanted Mickelson to do was to tell “the truth’’ and – after the jail time was over — he said Mickelson apologized.

Anyway, enough about Mickelson.  This book is all about Walters and he has led a very interesting life. He came out of extreme poverty growing up in Kentucky to become successful – and very rich – in the gambling industry. He did well in other ventures, among them golf.

Walters details how his company revived or developed courses across the country, a list of 13 that includes Golf Club of Illinois, Burr Hill, Black Hawk and Eagle Brook in the Chicago area.

He also was successful in building 22 car dealerships and some ventures in residential and commercial real estate.

In his autobiography Walters is especially willing to share his secrets on sports gambling.  I certainly learned a lot about that from reading this book.

Walters did  more learning than that: “I beat my addictions and overcame my worst vices to become a successful gambler, entrepreneur, businessman, investor, philanthropist, father and husband.’’

Walters is a complicated man with a story to tell. In “Gambler’’ he does it well.  His book is interesting, and – more importantly – well worth reading.

How `Swede’ it is at the John Deere Classic

A golfer from Sweden was expected to contend in the John Deere Classic this week, but it wasn’t Jonas Blixt in Thursday’s opening round.

Blixt, a 39-year old journeyman, has won three times on the PGA Tour, the last time in the 2016-17 season. He hadn’t even played in a PGA Tour since the Byron Nelson tournament in May, and hadn’t survived a 36-hole in five of his eight tournaments this season.

All that changed once he got to TPC Deere Run in downstate Silvis, IL. Blixt, an early starter playing in ideal weather conditions, made four birdies and a 43-foot eagle putt in his final eight holes to post a 9-under-par 62.

Blixt also made an eagle on the par-5 second hole.  He shot 29 on TPC Deere Run’s back side and ended the day with a two-stroke lead on Grayson Murray, a player who has been similarly unspectacular the last few years.  His 64 was his best round in three years.

Though their scores were great on Thursday, their games have been in decline.  Blixt arrived in the Quad Cities with a No. 210 ranking in the FedEx Cup standings, with only the top 70 advancing to postseaon play, and he is No. 842 in the Official World Golf Rankings.

Murray, 29, is No. 221 in the FedEx and 225 in the OWGR. He got a big boost by winning an event on the Korn Ferry Tour a month ago.

So, what happened to turn their games around?

“I saw my swing coach back home (he lives in Jacksonville, FL., now) and, after six weeks off I just tried to put some swings on it,’’ said Blixt, who played collegiately at Florida State.  “It worked out.’’

The two eagles were obviously the key.

“Those holes, if you take advantage of them, you’re really happy,’’ said Blixt.  “I was happy to make those (eagles) and get going.’’

Murray was bogey-free in the afternoon until his approach to No. 18 landed in a green-side bunker.  He couldn’t get up-and-down to save par but had no complaints.

“I missed a couple of birdie chances early, but stayed patient and it worked out,’’ he said.  “I had such a solid back nine. I’ll take it, even with the bogey to finish.  I’m in a good position going forward.’’

The question is can Blixt and Murray stay there?  Time will tell.

Pre-tournament talk centered on another Swede, 23-year old Ludvig Aberg. He’s shown great promise since sweeping all three collegiate player-of-the-year awards in his final season at Texas Tech. He’s in his fourth PGA Tour event since turning pro and finished in the top 25 twice.

Counting his amateur days Aberg appeared in five PGA Tour events and made the cut in every one. He has been getting noticed, and the JDC gave him a special pairing in Wednesday’s pro-am.  He played the front nine with the event’s celebrity, Iowa basketball star Caitlin Clark. The popular Clark swelled the galleries and impressed Aberg.

“She’s a rock star.  I was just a passenger,’’ said Aberg.  “It was cool.’’

Last week in Detroit he was paired for two rounds with Luke Donald, the European Ryder Cup champion. That spiked talk of Aberg possibly being a Ryder Cup selection for Europe. He called Donald “a great guy’’ but was guarded about the Ryder Cup.

“If I was asked about the Ryder Cup a few weeks ago I’d have said `no way’ because I was still in college,’’ said Aberg.  “All I can do is prepare for every tournament and see where that takes me.’’

Next week it’ll take him to the Scottish Open, the last stop before the year’s final major – the British Open.

Aberg’s 68 on Thursday matched the score of defending champion J.T. Poston, who – like Blixt – started with a 62 en route to leading wire to wire last year.

Best of the Illinois contingent was Northbrook’s Nick Hardy, who is tied for 13th after posting a 67. Doug Ghim, D.A. Points and Dylan Wu all carded 70s and Kevin Streelman is at 71.