Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Ban on anchoring announced, begins 2016

As expected, the USGA and R&A announced Wednesday that anchored strokes will no longer be allowed in golf effective Jan. 1, 2016.
The 20-word rule change means the end of anchoring belly putters and long putters to the body in the way PGA Tour players Adam Scott, Webb Simpson, Keegan Bradley and others have done.
The rule does not outlaw the use of long putters, only prohibits how they are used.
“We believe a player should hold the club away from his body and swing it freely,” USGA executive director Mike Davis said.
The rules change came as a result of what Davis called a growing “advocacy” among players and instructors for the use of anchored putting strokes. Through 2010, Davis said approximately six percent of PGA Tour players used anchored putting strokes. That percentage jumped to 15 percent in 2012.
“For years, it was seen as a last resort,” Davis said. “We are seeing that golfers no longer see it as a stroke of last resort.”
Simpson, who won the U.S. Open using a belly putter last June, said this week that he plans to make the switch to a traditional putter in the future. He said expected the rules change and has been using a regular-length putter when he’s playing with his friends at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

End of belly and long putters coming Wednesday?

The USGA and R & A have scheduled an international media teleconference for Wednesday morning when they're expected to announce that anchoring putters -- or any other club -- to your body will no longer be allowed under the rules of golf, effective 2016.

The hints and rumors have been out there for a while that the days of Webb Simpson sticking the grip end of a putter into his navel or Adam Scott resting one end of his broomstick putter against his sternum are coming to an end.

The teleconference is expected to make it quasi-official. It will become officially official next year when both of golf's ruling parties hold their official meetings and then the ban will go into effect in 2016.

It seems unlikely there would be a global teleconference to announce the rules aren't changing.

Rules changes in golf -- like presidential elections -- happen only every four years. Golf doesn't like to rush into things, though it has fast-tracked the expected anchoring ban since officials said a year ago they didn't see it as a big problem.

Then Keegan Bradley and Simpson and Ernie Els won majors using their particular versions of anchored putters. Els has longed believed anchored putting should be banned but made the switch himself, saying half-jokingly that he would continue to cheat as long as it was allowed.

When approximately 30 percent of the players in the Open Championship last summer were anchoring putters, the old guard went into action even before 14-year old Guan Tianlang won the Asia-Pacific Amateur and a spot in the Masters using a belly putter.

Too bad they didn't do something about the golf ball and/or modern drivers, which have done more damage to the game than anchored putting might ever do. Instead, they are "modernizing" the Old Course, a shiver-inducing thought that more aggressive action against technology could have prevented.

If a ban on anchoring is enacted, there will come threats of lawsuits. However, if reports are accurate, belly putters and long putters are not being outlawed in golf. They can be used but they may not be anchored against the body.

A ban would not put an asterisk beside the majors won by Simpson and others. They won playing by the rules just as Bobby Jones won some of his major championships using clubs that were later deemed illegal.

Putting is a dark science which explains the curious implements and methods used by golfers tortured by the act of rolling a ball into a hole. It has driven men mad and will continue to do so.

I've always believed if you could putt with a push broom then do it. But I also think putting should require a stroke similar to what a full shot does. Anchoring a putter is a way to eliminate unwanted movement -- the kind nerves cause, particularly under pressure.

Defenders of anchored putting point out that no player in the top 10 in strokes gained putting on the PGA Tour uses an anchored putter, arguing that if it's so great, everyone would do it. It's a fair point. It's not for everyone.

But there has been a sense that young players are learning the game with anchored putters, Tianlang's milestone victory being a dramatic example. Within a generation, the fundamentals of putting could change.

With a ban on anchoring coming, that won't happen.

Now, if they could just do something to eliminate the 200-yard 7-iron.

Monday, November 26, 2012

McIlroy does it with style

   Of all the many gifts Rory McIlroy possesses, style may be his most endearing.
   The walk, the smile, the swing.
   And the way he can finish a golf tournament.
   McIlroy ended his 2012 season Sunday in Dubai with five straight birdies to win the Dubai World Championship, capping a season that included five victories including the PGA Championship and the money title on both the European and PGA Tours.
   When he holed his final birdie putt Sunday, McIlroy stood in the sunshine with his arms spread, soaking in the moment. He earned it and he has a way of pulling us in to him.
   McIlroy is the new face of golf. He's the best player in the world and there's no reason to think he won't remain there for a long time to come. The Masters is five months away and he'll be the player to beat when the azaleas bloom again.
   In 2012, McIlroy made the leap that the great ones make and he did it with style.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wells Fargo Championship donates $1.3 million to local charities

   The Wells Fargo Championship has announced it donated $1.3 million to area charities this year, bringing its cumulative total to $14.8 million donated since the tournament's inception in 2003.
   Charlotte's Teach For America chapter received $600,000 from Champions For Education, the non-profit organization that manages and operates the Wells Fargo Championship.
   Other donations were made to Levine's Children's Hospital, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg YMCA, The First Tee of Charlotte and other organizations that provided support to the tournament.
   "The positive impact we are able to make in Charlotte and around the region is a direct result of the efforts of people who are willing to share their time and energy," Kym Hougham, executive director of the Wells Fargo Championship, said in a statement.
   "With the support of Wells Fargo, our corporate partners, volunteers and loyal fans, we are humbled by the positive impact we can have on Charlotte-area organizations and nonprofits."

TGA Premier Junior Golf aimed at young golfers

  One of the enduring challenges for golf is bringing young people into the game.
   Champ Detamore is working to get more kids involved in the Charlotte area.
   Detamore oversees the local TGA Premier Junior Golf chapter, a national program designed to bring golf to kids at schools, churches and other organizations. His group works at more than 50 area sites, including a summer program at the Harris YMCA and a program at Camp Thunderbird next summer, Detamore said.
   It's targeted at kindergarten to eighth grade kids and while it's different from the national First Tee initiative, the overall goal is similar -- increasing the number of youngsters who play.
   "We're the entry level," said Detamore, director of the local program.
   Locally, Detamore said the TGA program has reached more than 8,000 youngsters. It's not free -- registration is $99 for a six-week session -- but Detamore feels the programs are making progress.
   "We've made a lot of progress, Detamore said. "The First Tee is primarily facility-based. We go to where the students are and eliminate the transportation barrier. We get them at their schools and bridge the gap to the golf course."
   For more information on the TGA programs, visit

Monday, November 12, 2012

Carmel CC to honor college-bound golfers

 Seven junior golfers from Carmel Country Club will be honored by the club next week after earning college scholarships.
  Davis and Austin Morrision will attend William and Mary, Andy Simmons will attend Davidson, Philip Oweida will attend High Point University, William Rainey will attend the College of Charleston, Keegan Hoff will attend Richmond and Davis Bateman will attend North Carolina.
   Bateman is the 2012 Joe Cheves Junior champion as well as NCISAA state champion; Davis Morrision is an HP scholastic All-American; Austin Morrison played for the U.S. team in the North American Cup; Andy Simmons was named south Charlotte player of the year; Oweida won the 2011 Golf Pride Tarheel Junior; Rainey was a three-time all-conference golfer; and, Hoff had four top-10 finishes in 2012.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Masters field will include 14-year old champion

 Think about what you were doing when you were 14 years old.
   Could you have handled playing in the Masters?
   Guan Tianlang, a 14-year old, won the Asia-Pacific Amateur championship Sunday and with it a spot in the 2013 Masters. 
    Tianlang will be the youngest player ever to tee it up in the Masters, almost two years younger than Matteo Manassero was when he played as a 16-year old in 2010.
   Playing in Chonburi, Thailand, the Chinese teenager made a five-foot putt on the 72nd hole to seal his one-stroke victory, adding to his already impressive accomplishments. Tianlang was already the youngest winner of the China Amateur Open and the youngest player to ever compete in a European Tour event.
   When Masters officials took the lead in creating the Asia-Pacific Amateur, they did it with the intent of expanding golf's popularity in the Pacific Rim. Tianlang's victory and the subsequent attention that will come with his participation in the Masters next spring no doubt put a big smile on the face of Augusta National chairman Billy Payne.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Cheers to the Pine Crest Inn turning 100

PINEHURST -- They're going to raise a glass this evening in honor of the Pine Crest Inn, where glasses, voices and spirits have been raised for a century now.
   The Inn opened for business on Nov. 1, 1913 and the owners, guests and golf romantics will spend the next year celebrating a place that would have a plaque in the World Golf Hall of Fame if the shrine included a corner for pork chops, cold beer and good times.
   There's a program tonight featuring remarks by the mayor, a historian and assorted other guests. There's also been talk of a small parade in front of the gray stone building but nothing fancy because one of the Pine Crest's great charms is its lack of pretension.
   If you've ever made a golf trip to Pinehurst, chances are you're familiar with the Pine Crest. It sits tucked a wedge shot away from the village's main street, down a soft sloping road, framed by old trees and gravel parking lots that fill up every evening when the golf is done and the recovery begins.
    Its entrance -- a dark green awning that leads guests from the street to the long front porch filled with white rocking chairs, couches and an orange cat named Marmaduke -- is as recognizable to many as photos of the 18th hole at Pebble Beach. 
   Step inside and it's not much different than it was 100 years ago when Mrs. E.C. Bliss of Edgewood, R.I., opened the Pine Crest. The ceilings are low, the floors are gently uneven in spots and the stairway to the second floor creaks.
    The Pine Crest Inn is not ultra-modern or part of a chain or terribly expensive. Instead, it's comfortable like your own den. It's a place where people running the place know their guests names and they take pride in making them feel at ease.
   The carpet is soft like a fluffy lie in a fairway and the lobby area is filled with glass cases stuffed with fading mementoes of days and people gone by. A bulletin board holds dozens of snapshots pinned to the wall, most of them showing groups of golfers with laughter in their eyes sitting around dinner tables in the restaurant.
   This is where Payne Stewart came on the Sunday night before he won the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 one week later. He scrawled his autograph on a bathroom wall that evening and before it faded away completely, a copy of Stewart's signature was made and now sits framed not far from the front desk.
  Arnold Palmer has stayed at the Pine Crest. So has Jack Nicklaus, who stayed there in 1985 when his son, Jack II, won the North and South Amateur, a week the Golden Bear calls "one of the highlights of my life."
   The Pine Crest is a place where history lives. Legendary course designer Donald Ross, the first professional at Pinehurst Country Club, purchased the Inn in 1921, added the east wing and owned it until his death in 1948.
   It was later purchased by New York hotelier Carl Moser then the Barrett family, which still owns the Pine Crest, bought it in 1961.
   A painting of Ross hangs above the fireplace in the lobby where he can watch guests attempt to chip golf balls into the fireplace. A pro named Lionel Callaway gave lessons in the lobby many years ago and now there's a plywood board covered in artificial turf that sits in front of the fireplace, a hole in the center the target.
   A handful of clubs lean against a column in the lobby and there are golf balls on the floor near the fireplace. There are varying stories about who's made the most consecutive chip shots, the numbers often influenced by how much time the storyteller has spent in Mr. B's bar just off the lobby. 
   Peter Barrett, one of the owners, says he held the record of 22 in a row until a red-headed left-hander playing in the North and South junior made 23 last year.
   The restaurant is known for its 22-ounce pork chop, created by chef Carl Jackson years ago. It's as big as a Sunday roast and as much a part of the village life as the chancel bells that ring on the hour. 
   At night, the bar comes alive and on weekends there is music in the lobby, the crowd and the noise often spilling onto the porch and into the darkness. John Maginnes, the former PGA Tour player turned golf commentator, calls the Pine Crest bar his favorite place to have a beer in North America and he's not alone.
   For a century, golfers have come to the Pine Crest for a bed and breakfast and the feeling that comes with being there. 
   It's in the gentle give in the old floors and the sound of golf talk in the lobby. It's the thump of another chip shot being pitched toward the fireplace and the smell of dinner drifting out of the dining room. It's seeing the cat curled up on a front porch couch in the afternoon and it's bumping into an old friend in the bar.
   It's a place worth celebrating.