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.

 

 

 

Malnati’s win at Valspar was a lifestyle-changer

Now Peter Malnati will stand out for more than just playing with a yellow ball. (Joy Sarver Photos)

PALM HARBOR, Florida — “Cinderella Story’’ is a term used way too much in the sports world. Peter Malnati certainly fit that description when he won the Valspar Championship on Sunday, however.

Here was a 10-year member of the PGA Tour getting his second victory nine years after capturing his first. In seven previous Valspars he had made the cut only once. He had played in only three major championships but now he’s expecting his first invitation to the upcoming Masters.

There was no reason to think Malnati could win the Valspar.  This season he missed four cuts in eight starts, shot 81 in the last round of The Players Championship the week before his win on the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort and had only one top-10 – a tie for ninth at the Cognizant Classic of the Palm Beaches, the first of the four events on the Florida Swing.

Until Sunday Malnati was notable mainly for being one of the few players to use a yellow instead of a white golf ball.  At least it seemed appropriate for a player with a colorful ball winning the “most colorful event on the PGA Tour.’’

There’s a lot more to Peter Malnati than being a PGA journeyman who finally ended a winless dryspell, however.  Malnati is a photogenic guy with an infectious smile. That’s a good thing, because he’ll likely be taking interviews for something more than being a PGA Tour champion in the coming weeks.

Malnati, 36, has recently been named one of six player directors on the PGA Tour Policy Board. He’ll be closely involved with the seemingly endless negotiations toward a merger of the PGA Tour and the LIV Golf League.

Malnati was all smiles en route to his first win in nine years, but he also showed his serious side.

He didn’t make any political statements on that issue during his speech at the Valspar trophy presentation on the course, but he opened up a bit in a more in-depth session afterwards.

“I’ll say something in here that I didn’t say out there because I think it’s important and relevant,’’ said Malnati. “When my son Hatcher was born in 2019 I removed all my social media from my phone.  I don’t do social media anymore, and I’m a happier person because of it.  Not that it’s bad, social media isn’t bad.  But for me I didn’t use it particularly well because I always read comments and I wanted to use it to be interactive.  It wasn’t healthy for me, so I removed it.’’

The result is that Malnati doesn’t “know specifically what is being said about me, about the PGA Tour, about our sport in general.  But I know the direction that it has been going for the last couple years.’’

His feelings about the influx of bigger money, smaller field events seemed clear.  That concept has a downside.  On the Florida Swing the Cognizant Classic of the Palm Beaches and Valspar weren’t weren’t signature events like the Arnold Palmer Invitational and Players Championship.

The API had a $20 million purse and The Players $25 million.  The Cognizant was at $9 million and the Valspar at $8.4 million. That’s a big discrepancy.

“We don’t have tournaments to play in if we have communities that think these tournaments don’t matter,’’ said Malnati. “I just want them to know that every event on the PGA Tour matters because it matters to the community where you play, and we’re going to make a difference. That  was something I felt like I needed to say.’’

Malnati won’t take a week off to celebrate his win.  He’ll tee it up in the $9.1 million Texas Children’s Hospital Houston Open this week. After that comes the $9.2 million Valero Texas Open.

Those are the lead-ins to the Masters, first of the year’s major championships with a hefty purse that won’t be announced until the week of the event, and the $20 million RBC Heritage Classic.

Malnati can play in all of them now.

“That’s really important,’’ he said.  “We put an emphasis – and I think rightfully so – on getting the top players in the world to play together more often. I have work to do to consider myself in that group.’’

Malnati found a swing that works after some years of struggling on the PGA Tour.

 

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.

Streelman stays in the hunt after Round 1 at the JDC

Nick Hardy greets young fans after opening with a 71 in the John Deere Classic. (Rory Spears Photo)

SILVIS, IL. – Kevin Streelman, Chicago’s most prominent PGA Tour player, isn’t having one of his best years on the circuit, but the veteran from Wheaton wasn’t bothered by his 2-under-par 69 in Thursday’s first round of the John Deere Classic at TPC Deere Run.

“I’m not happy with how I hit it.  My swing wasn’t quite there,’’ said Streelman.  “Still, it was a solid day – though I didn’t have my best stuff.’’

A 2-under-par effort isn’t usually a cause for celebration in the JDC, a tournament known for its particularly low scoring.  This year’s may be different, however.  Though J.T. Poston fired a 9-under-par 62 to claim a two-shot first-round lead, the scoring wasn’t as low as it usually is in Round 1 thanks to some day-long windy conditions that made club selection difficult.’’

Streelman,  an uncharacteristic No. 112 in the FedEx Cup standings with only one top-10 finish this year, is also  disappointed that he didn’t qualify for this week’s Irish Open or the upcoming British Open. He is feeling good about his play in last week’s Travelers Championship in Hartford, CT., however.

That was the last tournament he won on the PGA Tour (2014), finishing with seven straight birdies in that victory, and last week he finished the tournament with three straight rounds of 67 en route to a tie for 25th finish.

While Streelman, 43, is a PGA veteran and seemingly one who might be enticed by the big money offered by the new LIV Tour, he denies any interest in the circuit that is conducting its first tournament on American soil in Portland, Oregon, this week.

“That’s exhibition golf.  There’s no historical benefit to it,’’ said Streelman, who has spent several years as a member of PGA Players Advisory Board  “Shorter fields, shotgun starts, no-cut tournaments – that isn’t real golf.  I would never be interested in playing that tour.’’

Streelman, however, is very interested in the Illinois Junior Golf Associations first Hall of Fame induction ceremonies at Cantigny, the Wheaton course where he played extensively as a youth.  He’ll be one of five inductees and will also give a youth clinic as part of the festivities.

While Streelman didn’t feel in danger of missing the 36-hole cut that follows Friday’s second round, there are local players in danger – most notably Northbook PGA Tour rookie Nick Hardy who has been on a role the last three weeks.

Recovered from a wrist injury, Hardy last a Korn Ferry Tour event in a playoff at The Glen Club, then advanced to the U.S. Open after being the first alternate in a sectional qualifier.  He made his appearance in the finals at The Country Club in Massachusetts, finishing in a tie for 14th, before nabbing his first top-10 on the PGA Tour with a tie for eighth at Hartford.

Stymied by a double bogey on the par-3 sixteenth, Hardy carded a par 71 on Thursday and will likely need a better showing Friday to play on the weekend.

First-round leader Poston was also tied for the first round lead at Hartford last week  and finished in a tie for second behind Xander Schauffele.

 

 

 

 

No Ryder Cup captaincy for Donald, but his game seems on the upswing

These are trying times for Luke Donald, the Englishman who starred on Northwestern’s teams before eventually enjoying a long run as the world’s No. 1 golfer.

Now 44, Donald’s best days as a player are probably over but he is still a force in the game both in the Chicago area and world-wide.  Though now a Florida resident, his presence in Chicago is still felt through his extraordinary support of the Northwestern and First Tee programs.

More recently he was in the spotlight for something he didn’t do; he was expected to be named the European Ryder Cup captain for the 2023 matches in Italy, but he wasn’t.

Donald had all the credentials for the job.  He made four appearances as a player for Europe and never was on a losing team.  He also served twice as Europe’s vice captain and seemed a shoo-in after Padraig Harrington, Europe’s captain in last year’s matches at Wisconsin’s Whistling Straits, gave him a resounding endorsement.

“Luke would be great,’’  Harrington told The Daily Mail, a London newspaper.  “Behind the sceneshe does a terrific job.  His managements style, he’s got the experience.  I’d thoroughly recommend him.’’

So did Graeme McDowell, who served with Donald as Harrington’s vice captains in Wisconsin.

Donald was “very humbled’’ when he heard that and gave a 30-minute presentation to the European Ryder Cup selection committee.  It included the captains of the last three European teams – Darren Clarke, Thomas Bjorn and Harrington;  Keith Pelley, chief executive officer of the DP World Tour, and David Howell, chairman of the European Tour players committee.

Actually Donald would not have been the first choice.  Lee Westwood appeared the front-runner until he took himself out of consideration. Still, the five-man committee – perhaps stung by Europe’s 19-9 whomping at Whistling Straits – went for Sweden’s Henrik Stenson as captain instead.

Donald was confronted about that selection at last week’s Valspar Championship.

“I thought I had a good chance this year,’’ he told GolfWeek.  “Hopefully, that’s not my chance gone.’’

It could be, though.

Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose, Ian Poulter – as well as Westwood and McDowell – have been keys to Europe’s previous domination of past Ryder Cups.  They’re still playing, but will be captain’s candidates not far down the road.  Garcia, given his past battles with New York’s boisterous fans, would especially seem an attractive choice when the matches are played at New York’s Bethpage Black in 2025. That would be Donald’s next chance to be a Ryder Cup captain.

While his Ryder Cup future may be in limbo, his playing days might be on the upswing.

.

 

Still dealing with back problems, Donald had dropped to No. 547 in the Official World Golf Rankings prior to last week’s Valspar Championship in Florida.  Donald won that tournament in 2012 when it was called the Transitions Championship, and it came at a crucial time in his playing career.  It restored his position as golf’s No. 1 at that time. Donald spent 56 weeks as world No. 1 in 2011 and 2012.

Last week he finished in a tie for 16th in the Valspar Championship – his best showing in the PGA’s 2021-22 wrap-around season that has  included six missed cuts in 10 starts.  In a pro career that began in 2002 Donald has earned $37 million with five PGA Tour wins and eight more on the European circuit.  He was the leading money-winner on both tours in 2011.

His nezt start figures to be the RBC Heritage Classic in South Carolina April 14-17 – the week after the Masters.  Donald has four runner-up finishes and two thirds in the Heritage.

 

 

 

 

GOLF TRAVEL NOTES: Two long-time favorites are changing course

 

 

First of all, HAPPY HOLIDAYS to all of our traveling golfers from our place in Florida’s PGA Village.

We are now in the heart of the holiday season and we hope that all our friends will enjoy these days to the fullest. Golf travel wasn’t so easy in this pandemic year, but we’re sure that better days are ahead. Len Ziehm on Golf wanted to remain on your radar when it came to providing the latest from travel destinations. To do that we have made three driving trips in 2020, visiting seven states after the pandemic clicked in big-time on March 12.  Spending 37 days on the road for those jaunts isn’t much, compared what we’ve done in our previous 10 years driving around the country to report on golf travel. We have one trip, albeit a short one, remaining in 2020.  Next week we’ll be going to Sebring, Florida — a great place for golfers who want to play a lot and still enjoy the many benefits that a small town offers.

IN THE MEANTIME, here’s updates from some of our favorite places that we visited recently.

California’s LaCosta Resort, the scene of lots of big tournaments in the past, has been named the site of the NCAA Championships three years in a row.

DESPITE THE problems caused by the pandemic there were three big stories in the world of golf travel in 2020.  Two involved long-famous destinations, the other a Texas town that is certain to become one.

Back in the day Ohio’s Firestone and California’s LaCosta were among the very best PGA Tour stops.  Firestone, a long-time private club, hosted big tournaments since the 1950s and LaCosta was on the pro tour calendar from 1968 through 2007 before focusing on resort play.

Now things have changed.

Firestone, now open to non-members, is offering stay-and-play packages, and LaCosta, with its 36 holes, is back in the tournament business – or at least it will be soon.  Following a renovation of its Champions Course by Gil Hanse – the game’s hottest architect at the moment, the resort will host the NCAA Division I men’s and women’s championships from 2024 to 2026.

We’ve been to both places, but not in recent years.  I’ve played the Firestone courses and reported on tournaments there.  LaCosta was a key part of a five-week driving trip through western states in 2015 that included stops at prominent destinations in California, Washington and Arizona.

LaCosta was a name from the past even back then.  It had hosted 25 PGA Tour events and two LPGA tournaments in those more high-profile times.

From 1968-98 it was the site of the Mercedes Championship – also known as the Tournament of Champions. Tournament rounds consisted of nine holes on the Champions Course and nine of the Legends Course, and a great list of champions included Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller, Tom Watson, Lanny Wadkins, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods. Then that event moved to Hawaii.

LaCosta wasn’t tournament-starved for long. A year later the Accenture Match Play Championship, a World Golf Championship event, moved in and was staged there until 2006 (minus one year when the event was played in Australia in 2001). Then it moved to Arizona.

In came the LPGA with its Kia Classic, in 2011 and 2012, but then it switched to Aviara, another  course in the Carlsbad, Calif., area.

Losing those big ones was a blow to the resort, which had been taken over by the Omni hotel chain. LaCosta celebrated its 50th anniversary while we were there and Champions, originally designed by Dick Wilson, was notable for its steep bunkers (78 had been put in during a redesign for the WGC arrival).  Now Hanse and partner Jim Wagner will begin another upgrading with the NCAA Championships in mind.

As for Firestone, it was the site of such biggies as the World Series of Golf, three PGA Championships, the WGC Bridgestone Invitational and – most recently – the Bridgestone Senior Players Championship. Its underdoing a renovation, too, with 18 bunkers being removed from the Fazio (formerly West) Course and the remaining 51 being reshaped and enhanced by the Better Billy Bunker system to improve drainage.

There’s also been a management change. Jay Walkinshaw, who held management positions at –among others – California hotspots Olympic Club and  Pebble Beach, is now the general manager and Tommy Moore is the new director of golf.

A potentially bigger splash  is being made in Frisco, Tex.  The PGA of America announced it was moving much of its headquarters there from its long-time home in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. The PGA is making big plans for the facility in Texas, and the first two of its courses there – the East, designed by Hanse, and the West, designed by Beau Welling — are almost finished.  They won’t be open for a while, however, as the PGA wants to a full year for the courses to grow in  and maintenance practices established.

The projected opening for the courses is June of 2022 and the first tournament scheduled in Frisco is the Senior PGA Championship in 2023.

MORE TIDBITS, FROM HERE AND THERE

We’ve hit lots of shots on lots of courses in Myrtle Beach, but this was one time a free drop was mandatory,

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. – As always, lots is going on in this golf mecca. The Myrtle Beach Preseason Classic, a two-man 54-hole team event, will tee off on six courses from Feb. 1-3.  The 150-team field is already full…..The March Championship has a new name.  It’s now the World Amateur Q School….Three-time World Long Drive champion Sean Fister is now on the staff of the Dustin Johnson Junior Golf Academy….Mystical Golf, which has three courses (Man-O-War, The Witch and The Wizard), has overseeded its layouts with Ryegrass and that means wall to wall emerald green fairways, rough and putting surfaces as opposed to the usual dormant brown conditions found on most courses during the cold weather months.

STREAMSONG – KemperSports has expanded its role at this three-course central Florida destination. The Chicago-based group has been involved with the Streamsong golf operation since the resort was launched in 2012. Now Kemper will manage all resort operations.

PINEHURST, N.C. – The U.S. Golf Association and Kids Golf Foundation both announced they’re setting up headquarters in this golf hotbed, but there’s more. The Dormie Club is getting a 16,600-foot clubhouse, a stand-alone pro shop and 15 cottages to enhance its Bill Coore-Ben Creshaw designed course. Improvements have been made to the course, too.  All the projects are to be completed by June, 2021.

BANDON DUNES – Oregon’s very special facility has announced its championship events for 2021.  The Bandon Dunes Cup is May 2-5, the Golf Digest Open June 6-9, the Links Championship June 27-30 and the Fall Match Play Oct. 20-23.

BARTON CREEK – This Omni resort and spa in Austin, Tex., will host the PGA Professional Championship – the world’s largest all-professional event – on its Fazio Foothills and Coore-Crenshaw courses in April of 2022.

EAGLE RIDGE – Illinois’ premier resort has won the Stella Award from North Star Meeting Group for the second year in a row.  Its Gold award  in the regional hotel category honors the “Best Golf Resort in the Midwest.’’ Eagle Ridge has four courses, headed by The General.  The resort’s attractions also include the new Highlands Restaurant and Lounge 289.

 

 

 

 

Palmetto Traverse isn’t your usual putting green

This unique putting green in Santee, S.C., is good for both competition and putting practice.
Putting courses aren’t exactly new. Many golf facilities – even storied St. Andrews in Scotland – are adding them as a extra amenity at their facilities. The one that we played Monday in Santee, S.C., is one of the better ones. It’s called Palmetto Traverse.

Santee is a town of barely 1,000 residents but its golf – three good courses within just a few miles of each other – is big-time. The recently-constructed putting course has 18 holes built over 35,000 square feet near the Lake Marion course. We visited Santee in 2015 and liked the golf atmosphere there then. We like it more with the putting course designed by Kris Spence, an architect base in Greensboro, N.C., with help from Santee marketing director Robbie Wooten.

Rather than call it a “putting course,’’ Palmetto Traverse been labeled as a “putting experience.’’ You putt from black “tee’’ markers and holes are labeled with white flags. A 260-foot putt is possible but the layout offers putts breaking in all directions, some steeply uphill and some sharply downhill. Two bunkers are also included. There isn’t much of a walk between holes, making Palmetto Traverse a nice diversion after a round as well as a challenging pre-round exercise.

John Deere Classic is canceled; its 50th anniversary is moved to 2021

John Deere Classic canceled; its 50th anniversary is moved to 2021

Illinois won’t have its longest-standing PGA Tour stop this year.  The John Deere Classic was cancelled on Thursday.

The JDC, the only PGA Tour event held annually in the state, was to celebrate its 50th anniversary with a July 6-12 playing of the $6.2 million championship at TPC Deere Run in downstate Silvis.  It was to be the first PGA Tour event to allow spectators since tournament play was stopped on March 12 after the first round of The Players Championship in Ponte Vedra, FL.

Tournament play will resume on June 11 with the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club in Ft. Worth, Tex.

Concerns over the coronavirus pandemic had led to the immediate cancellations of the next six tournaments on the schedule after The Players.  The Charles Schwab Challenge was moved from May 21-24 dates to become the first event after the PGA Tour re-opened its tournament schedule.

“Because of the ongoing health and safety concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic the difficult decision was made to cancel,’’ said Clair Peterson, the JDC tournament director.  “While we considered several alternatives, this was the choice that made the most sense for our guests, the players and the Quad City community at large.’’

“We know this announcement will come as a disappointment to the Quad City area and to the broader golf community,’’ said Mara Downing, John Deere’s vice president of global brand and communications.

She said the tourney’s 50th anniversary will be celebrated in 2021.

The JDC has proven a successful fundraiser with its Birdies for Charity program that has benefitted a variety of organizations in the area. Last year’s tournament raised $13.8 million for 543 local and regional charities.  That brought the tourney’s all-time total to $120 million since its first playing in 1971.

 Ninety-one percent of the charity money raised has come since John Deere assumed title sponsorship of the event in 1998.  Peterson said the participating organizations will receive a five percent bonus over what they raised for this year’s event.

“Thanks to John Deere’s ongoing support, we are able to promise a bonus, even though we are not having the tournament,’’ Peterson said.

One PGA Tour event in Illinois, the BMW Championship, remains on the schedule.  The FedEx Cup Playoff event will be played at Olympia Fields Country Club in the south suburbs from Aug. 27-30.

The JDC cancellation was the first since PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan announced a greatly revised schedule to finish out 2020.

The RBC Heritage Classic, in Hilton Head, S.C., had been scheduled for April 16-19 – the week after the Masters.  Now it’ll be the second tournament after the re-opening.  It’ll be followed by the Travelers tourney in Hartford, Ct., and the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit.  Those are the tournaments that would have led into the JDC.  All will be played without spectators.

Now the Memorial tournament, on July 16-19 at Ohio’s Muirfield Village course, figures to be the first PGA Tour event to welcome spectators since the pandemic began.  The Memorial also was postponed earlier but it was moved into the July dates after the British Open was cancelled.

The PGA Tour’s alternate circuit, the Korn Ferry Tour, will also re-open play on June 11 on the Dye Course in Ponte Vedra, FL.  That tour has two Illinois tournaments – the Lincoln Land Classic, at Panther Creek in Springfield, on Sept. 3-6 and the Evans Scholars Invitational at a Chicago area course still to be determined the following week.

Lincoln Land had been scheduled in July.  The Evans Scholars event, put on by the Western Golf Association, was originally May 21-24 at The Glen Club, in Glenview, before being postponed.  The Glen Club had schedule conflicts with the September dates, forcing the tourney to find a new home course.

Trio of Palm City, FL., courses are poised to bring in more golfers

Strategically-placed hedges are a striking feature at the Fox Club.

PALM CITY, Florida – With many restrictions lifted on Florida’s golf courses this week, some encouraging developments in one south Florida community came into focus.

Palm City, a town of about 25,000 located off Interstate 95 between the PGA Golf Club – the “winter home of the PGA of America’’ – to the north and PGA National Resort – home of the PGA Tour’s Honda Classic — to the south.

Those are golf meccas, but it’s been in Palm City where new things have been happening since the last days of 2019. Public golfers should take note now, just as Corey Hamlin and business partner Jon Whittemore did no less than two years ago. Both are members of Advanced Golf Partners and worked at PGA National during its 2007-10 rebirth period.

Now they own a Palm City course, Hammock Creek, in addition to two courses on Florida’s west coach – Legacy at Lakewood Ranch and Serenoa. On Feb. 21 they took ownership at Hammock Creek, one of three Palm City public courses that have taken dramatic changes in the last few months despite the restrictions caused by pandemic concerns.

Those restrictions were reduce on May 4, which meant more attention for the good things going on in Palm City – especially at Hammock Creek.

“We were looking at courses for two years — on the Treasure Coast as well as the Carolinas, Georgia and the west coast of Florida,’’ said Hamlin. “We liked the growth in Martin County and Palm City. We’re poised for that growth.’’

Others liked the possibilities at Palm City courses as well, and each facility has a story to tell.

The movement all began when The Fox Club opened up for public play last fall. That was a big deal. The Fox Club opened in 1989 as Cobblestone, the first creation of architect Roy Case. It became The Fox Club after a 2004 ownership change and Darren Clarke, a former British Open champion, and Eoghan O’Connell concocted a re-design in 2017.

As a private club Fox Club regulars included PGA Tour Champions members Gene Sauers, Fred Funk and Jesper Parnevik, and Larry Laoretti, the 1975 U.S. Senior Open champion, has been a long-time member. The decision to go public opened the way for a new wave of players, among them LPGA veteran Christina Kim.

The Fox Club has remained a championship layout (distance is 7,115 yards and slope is 148 from the tips) despite a series of changes over the years. Its 18th hole is the most memorable – a par-5 that hooks around a lake and seems to go on and on. (It’s 586 yards from the back tees).

Well-conditioned greens, interesting bunkering, lots of forced carries and lengthy drives from greens to tees are trademarks of The Fox Club layout, and its clubhouse is very much that of an established club.

Meanwhile, The Evergreen Club — another one-time private club — is the best revival story of these Palm City courses. It had been closed for eight months until a group of investors from Pennsylvania took over the ownership in early December.

In two months the course was re-opened and had a new name – Crane Watch Club – and that’s not all.

Reviving the course required new agronomic practices under the leadership of course superintendent Chris Thatcher. The greens were revived, new sand was put in the bunkers and the irrigation system was repaired and upgraded. Though in hardly ideal condition the course was playable when players returned on Feb. 3.

Most eye-catching change at the club is the construction of a short-game area in the front of the clubhouse. The putting green was resurfaced and a new Club Car fleet of carts was brought in. General manager Dave Salerno put out progress reports several times a week throughout the pandemic, when play was limited almost entirely to Martin County residents. The report reached a new high in the May 4 reduction in restrictions when dining in the clubhouse – including evening dinners – was granted approval.

At Hammock Creek it’s been a different situation since the ownership change. There weren’t any alterations to the course, designed by the father-son team of Jack and Jack Nicklaus II. It opened in 1995.

“We love the golf course,’’ said Hamlin. “It’s very customer-friendly and has no pace of play issues. We had no intention of changing anything with the golf course.’’

The new ownership quickly signed a licensing agreement with Nicklaus Design and there was no changing of the staff, either. Rod Curl Jr. remained as director of golf with Hamlin becoming the on-site managing partner. Like Hamlin, Curl is a 20-year member of the PGA of America.

“We loved the staff,’’ said Hamlin. “We’ve kept 100 percent in the transition. Then we started to renovate and improve the restaurant.’’

The new owners want to name the restaurant, and are welcoming suggestions. Negotiations are also underway to bring in a golf academy from the immediate area.

Cheers to Caddyshack on the movie’s 40th anniversary

If ever a movie – especially a sports-themed one – merited an anniversary celebration it’d be “Caddyshack.’’ This movie didn’t really have a plot. It was just a series of memorable scenes with actors Bill Murray, Chevy Chase and Rodney Dangerfield the lead characters. Still, over the years its fan base grew and the movie became a classic.

Now Caddyshack is getting an anniversary celebration – and a beer to go with it.

Production on the movie started in 1979 and it was released in 1980 – 40 years ago. To commemorate the 40th anniversary the Flying Dog Brewery of Frederick, Md., introduced a beer called Night Putting.

Flying Dog is billing itself as “America’s most disobedient brewery,’’ and that’s in keeping with the raucous nature of the film. The beer, a reinvented pale ale, is being sold in 16-ounce cans and is available in four-packs.

“When conceptualizing this beer we knew we wanted to pay homage to the classic comedy, so we created a beer designed specifically for golfers,’’ said James Maravetz, Flying Dog’s marketing director.

You have to be a Caddyshack devotee to appreciate all the humor, but the colorful beer can matches the shirt that the Judge Elihu Smails character (played by Ted Knight) wore when he met Al Czervik (the character played by Dangerfield). Their meeting started all the fun.

The Night Putting reference was coined by Chase’s Ty Webb character, and Murray played the nutty golf course superintendent Carl Spackler. The “plot’’ for Caddyshack was created by co-writers Brian Doyle-Murray (Bill’s brother) and Harold Ramis. The general story was based on the Murray brothers’ caddie days at Indian Hill Club in Winnetka during their teen-age years.

A book has already been written about the wild life involving the cast and crew that was going on behind the scenes as the movie was being made. A sequel to Caddyshack was also made, but it wasn’t nearly as well received as the original version.

The original was made primarily at an upscale public course called Rolling Hills, in Davie, FL., near Ft. Lauderdale. A lot has changed there over the last 40 years. Wayne Huizenga, who at one time owned football’s Miami Dolphins, baseball’s Miami Marlins and hockey’s Florida Panthers, bought the golf club in 1999 and converted it into a private venue called Grande Oaks. The course was re-designed by PGA Hall of Famer Ray Floyd shortly after Huizenga bought it.