I may have felt that a 125-pound 14-year old would have to be teeing it up in the Masters before there was a need for me to write a golf column for primarily Midwest readers in the cold weather months.
Oops, now there is such a rare golfer– or at least there will be in another five months. An eighth-grader from China, Guan Tianlang, won last week’s Asian-Pacific Championship for amateurs in Bangkok, Thailand. That merited a Masters invitation for next April, as far Augusta National Golf Club’s members were concerned.
So be it, and his participation will spice up the first major championship of 2013. Plenty of golf news will be made before that, however – even in the winter months in the Midwest. There haven’t been many places to get the word out on such developments, though, so I’m going to do my part.
My Big Three teammate, Rory Spears, is the man to provide the bits and pieces on a nearly daily basis in his Golfers on Golf blog. I’ll be providing something different.
“It Ziehms to Me’’ will be exploring some different avenues of golf and delivering the news with a unique, and hopefully entertaining, spin. There’ll be no regular publication schedule, but I’ll write as frequently as news developments require it. We hope you enjoy “It Ziehms to Me.’’
So, here we go.
THE RECENT RYDER CUP may have seemed a downer after the collapse of the U.S. team in the Sunday matches, but – while being on site at Medinah every day – I found an uplifting story behind the scenes — the reunion of the Sweeney brothers.
Frank and Mary Sweeney, their parents, moved to a residence on Sunset Terrace – about 600 yards from the Medinah clubhouse – in 1962 and raised six children there. Their four boys – Frank, Phil, Pat and Brendan – were all Medinah caddies, and the Ryder Cup marked the first time they were all together since 2007. Their father passed away in March and their mother lives in Venice, FL.
“We had a blast growing up around the course,’’ said Brendan Sweeney. “We also parked cars and worked in the bag room. If it wasn’t for Medinah and the experiences we had there in our formative years we would not be where we are today. Golf is a great sport, and we were taught by the best.’’
All four had lengthy stints as caddies, went on to college and moved on to different careers.
Frank, 56, works as a blackjack dealer at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. He was a Medinah caddie from 1967-79 and worked at the 1975 U.S. Open as well as two Western Opens.
Phil, 55, lives in McHenry and is a mortgage banker for Harris Bank. He was a caddie from 1968-82 and worked two Western Opens.
Pat, 49, lives in Chicago where he is vice president of Global Video Chicago. Not only did he caddie at Medinah (1975-88, plus two Western Opens), he earned an Evans Scholarship doing it. Medinah is even more special to Pat. He was married at the club in 1994.
And then there’s Brendan, 45. He was a caddie from 1978-91, worked one Western Open and never left golf. While he lives in Orlando, FL., he works as director of golf media and player development for Indiana’s French Lick Resort – a facility that has four courses.
ON THE TEACHING FRONT there were two notable developments involving some of the game’s best.
Another honor has come to Pat Goss, the head coach at Northwestern and long-time swing guru for recent world No. 1 Luke Donald – and this is a big one. Goss, in his 17th season at NU, was named the winner of the prestigious Labron Harris Sr. Award, which goes to the college, high school or PGA professional who “represents the finest qualities the game has to offer.’’
And then from the St. Louis area comes the announcement of a new instruction video that was a joint effort by Jay Delsing, a long-time PGA Tour player, and Maria Palozola, who was director of golf at the Michael Jordan Golf Center a few years back. The video is called “Putting Perfection: 100 yards and in Wins!’’
Palozola taught at other Chicago facilities but may be better known for her tournament play at Mistwood. As Maria Long she captured the 2002 Illinois Women’s Open and proved she still had game four years later when she finished third in the state’s premier women’s competition.
THE WESTERN GOLF ASSN. honors Tom Watson on Friday in its annual Green Coat Gala, a long sold-out event at Chicago’s Peninsula Hotel. That’s just the start of a much busier than usual winter for the WGA.
For one thing, there’s the detail work involved in moving next September’s BMW Championship to a new location. It shifts from long-time Chicago area base Cog Hill to Conway Farms – a Lake Forest private facility that has hosted tons of big amateur events but never a PGA Tour stop.
Then, the WGA is also taking its Western Amateur out of Chicago for a year. After three Chicago stagings it’ll be held at The Alotian Club in Arkansas in 2013.
And then there’s the newest WGA venture – the Hotel Fitness Championship , which will lead off the new Web.com Tour’s four-tournament playoff series beginning next Aug. 26. It’ll be held at Sycamore Hills, in Ft. Wayne, Ind., and Duke Butler IV will be the tournament director.
This event will get big exposure next summer, as it will bring together the top 75 on the Web.com Tour money list and those ranking from 126 to 200 on the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup points list.
FROM HERE AND THERE:
This year’s John Deere Classic reported a record $6.79 million charity distribution off its 2012 PGA Tour stop at TPC Deere Run. That’s a $1.5 million increase over 2011, and 493 Quad Cities charities are the beneficiaries.
Steve Skinner and Josh Lesnik, chief executive officer and president respectively of KemperSports, were ranked 13th on Golf Inc. Magazine’s Most Powerful People in Golf. It’s the 12th straight year that KemperSports has been represented on the list, and the Northbrook-based organization is now the sixth largest golf management company. Among the more than a dozen additions to its portfolio this year is Stone Creek, home course of the University of Illinois golf teams.
James Lepp, who started his collegiate career at Illinois, continues to do big things. Lepp, who eventually transferred to Washington, won an NCAA title in 2005 and won on the Canadian PGA Tour in 2007. He took a break from golf in 2008 to start Kikkor golf shoe company but is back in it as a player, participating in The Golf Channel’s Big Break series.
AND A FINAL THOUGHT: An avid viewer of The Golf Channel, I’m generally less-than-impressed with the settings of foreign tournaments. The crowds don’t look as big as what I’m used to seeing in the U.S., and the courses don’t look as good, either.
A major exception came in watching the last World Golf Championship event of 2012, the HSBC Championship that was won by Ian Poulter at Mission Hills in China. It was played on the Olazabal Course (designed by the most recent European Ryder Cup captain). A beautiful layout for TV purposes with some intriguing elevation changes, it’s one of 12 courses at Mission Hills. That makes it the largest golf club in the world and provides more proof of how global the sport has become.