Coming to Golf House: The Ben Hogan Room
The USGA Museum and Library, home to many of the prized medals and memorabilia of Bob Jones, has reached an agreement to serve as caretaker to another of golf's most treasured collections: that of four-time U.S. Open champion Ben Hogan.
"We are thrilled to have the opportunity to avail this one-of-a-kind collection to the public, and we are honored by the generosity of Ben and Valerie Hogan," said Andrew Mutch, the Museum's curator.
The Museum and Library will set aside nearly 1,000 square feet for the exclusive display of Hogan's vast collection of trophies, awards and equipment. When it is completed, the exhibition space will become known as the Ben Hogan Room.
This is not the first time Hogan memorabilia has been featured at Golf House. The collection, which was previously on display at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, was loaned to the USGA for a special Hogan retrospective in 1990. It is expected that many of the same items will be included in the new Ben Hogan Room at Golf House.
Among the treasures included in the agreement are the Katy
Lake Cup, Hogan's first golf award, the S. Rae Hickok belt, awarded to Hogan in 1953 for his selection as Athlete of the Year, and his medals from the nine major championships he won: the U.S. Opens of 1948, '50, '51 and '53, the 1953 British Open, the '51 and '53 Masters and the PGA Championships of 1946 and '48.
The display will also include several personal items, such as the Bob Jones Award presented to Hogan by the USGA in 1976, his trademark white cap and equipment used during his storied playing career.
Valerie Hogan said that the relocation of the collection was one of the final requests made by her late husband before he died in July 1997. "It was Ben's wish that his personal collection reside at Golf House," she said.
The USGA Museum and Library is located on the grounds of the USGA headquarters in Far Hills, N.J.
It is open, free of charge, weekdays from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and on weekends from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
An announcement will be made prior to the time when the Hogan collection is ready for display at Golf House.
Rules of Golf Now on the Curriculum
It's time to think about heading back to school, which means returning our attention to the Four R's.
Four? Sure readin', 'ritin', 'rithmetic and the Rules of Golf.
The USGA is expanding its reach in the area of education of the Rules of Golf to include high school players and coaches. Throughout the spring and early summer, as a test of sorts to determine interest on behalf of high school athletic associations, players and coaches, Bill McCarthy, the USGA's regional affairs manager based in Ohio, in cooperation with several USGA committee members and regional golf associations, conducted five Rules seminars in Ohio and Michigan before some 625 students. McCarthy has also scheduled another two dozen seminars this fall in those two states plus Illinois and Iowa.
"In traveling the states throughout the region, I was confronted with a consistent impression when it came to high school and junior golf," explained McCarthy. "The USGA committee members and regional associations pretty much were unanimous that some specifically directed effort to educate these players on the Rules would be a very positive thing."
The two-hour program, which incorporates state-of-the-art video and graphics, also includes an emphasis on the history, etiquette, honesty and integrity of the game. It is designed to educate players on the situations they most likely would encounter during play. As an additional bonus, attending coaches receive a Rules video featuring Arnold Palmer and attending players receive a free one-year Membership to the USGA.
"Establishing a USGA link with the players via the Members program is a great plus," said McCarthy. "When the kids leave the seminar, not only have they increased their knowledge of the Rules of Golf, but we will also have established a way to continue to place information regarding the USGA and the game of golf directly into their hands."
Eventually, the USGA would hope the seminars for high school players would become a matter of routine, perhaps annually, throughout most states.
High school athletic associations, leagues or teams that would like to obtain additional information about the program or schedule a seminar can do so by contacting the USGA's Regional Affairs Department at (908) 234-2300, ext. 1014 or 1442, or by sending an e-mail request to: email@example.com.
Talk About Long Drives
So, does distance truly matter in golf? Consider this odyssey, which on a brutally long and humid day in June involved three vehicles, a dozen friends, 15 hours, 45 holes and 185 miles of pavement between courses in five states.
Hoping for a world record, a group of players from Iowa ran a one-day golf marathon. Launching their first tee shots at dawn, the three groups of four played nine-hole rounds in Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee and Kentucky before the sun set behind the final flagstick in southern Illinois. At the end, Mount Ayr, Iowa, mortician Jay Watson and his partners were met by their friends on the green. Good thing. No one could see. "They were spotting our balls for us," Watson says.
Watson and regular golf partner Lynn Rinehart conceived the journey after completing a one-day trip in four states (Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska) last year. Then they wondered: why not five? Watson knew of suitable courses in Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee; they needed only two more. They got on the Internet. They got out a map. They got out an atlas. Then they got on the telephone.
Rinehart and Watson called the courses and divulged their plan. They secured starting times at 6 a.m. in Piggott, Ark.; at 9 a.m. in Kennett, Mo.; at 12:30 p.m. in Troy, Tenn.; at 3 p.m. in Hickman, Ky.; and at 6:30 p.m. in Mounds, Ill. "All the clubs got a kick out of it," said Rinehart, a 44-year-old convenience store owner. "They almost felt honored that we chose them." He added, wryly noting the scarcity of golfing grounds in that rural part of the country: "As if we had a choice."
The golfers needed planning, impeccable weather, flawless execution and luck. They got all of that and more. After the round in Kentucky, an old Vietnam War buddy of Watson's refreshed them on the last hole with iced tea and cake. By that time, the 49-year-old Watson says, the digital thermometer at a bank in Hickman registered 100 degrees. "I was feeling kind of weak," he conceded.
But on they went. Rinehart and Watson already had a reputation for imaginative highjinks on the links. Years ago, they merged their first names to create Jay Lynno Tours, which essentially connotes whatever group of friends happens to get together for a particular golf trip. They've played resort golf courses many times near the Lake of the Ozarks in central Missouri. They've boarded a plane bound for Texas, finished 18 holes in Dallas and been back in Iowa that night.
Distance? Matters not. Now they're planning a reprise with a twist: Indiana.
One man on the trip suggested the group conduct the five-state outing again, but this time with a stop at a lighted course in the Hoosier State. "We're working on it," Rinehart says.
The five-state trip was rejected by the Guinness Book of World Records because no category existed for such a specific adventure. "In our eyes," Rinehart says, "it's a world record." That, and a pretty fine way to spend a Friday.
A Link to the Past
On the same weekend the USGA crowned its Women's Open champion, another open championship of sorts was contested the first National Hickory Championship was played over the Oakhurst Links course, complete with sheep grazing the fairways, in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.
When the 36 holes were complete, Randy Jensen, a golf shop owner from Omaha, Neb., had blistered the field with a 152, winning his division by a comfortable 17 strokes.
The inaugural hickory tournament was sponsored and hosted by Oakhurst Links owner Lewis Keller Sr. "Our intent was to bring together golfers who enjoyed playing old equipment and to do it on a course specifically designed to recreate conditions of the 1880s," said Keller. "Oakhurst is Valhalla for golf history buffs."
Forty-two players from 19 states and Canada teed off using sand tees, of course. The event was divided into two playing groups. Those in the Historical Division played with replica 1880s clubs furnished by Oakhurst. More serious competitors played with their own special sets of authentic 19th century clubs. To help simulate conditions more appropriate to the period, participants were required to wear long trousers, long-sleeved shirts and ties. Hats had to be of a period style; no baseball caps permitted. The other group, the Open Division, allowed contestants to play their own hickory-shafted clubs, normally of 1920s vintage, and had no dress requirements. All players used a special gutta percha ball made specifically for use at Oakhurst.
"It is golf, but it also allows you to revisit the past," said Chuck McMullin of Winston-Salem, N.C., the Historic Division's eventual third-place finisher.
Added Steve Kameika of New York City: "I saw a write-up for the tournament and it sounded like a neat idea. I was actually getting tired of regular golf."
Clubs from the 1920s are much closer in feel to modern clubs, giving Open Division players a potential distance advantage. But Jensen's performance turned that assumption on its ear when he bested the Open Division champion by two strokes despite using the older, more crudely balanced equipment.
"This tournament is a fabulous experience. It was the first time many of us got a sense of what golf was really like a century ago," said Jensen, who also owns the 1997 Golf Collectors' Society of America national meeting championship and eight Heart of America hickory tournament wins.
A majority of the players in the field had participated in hickory-shafted outings and tournaments in the past, usually held by the Golf Collectors' Society and open only to its members. The NHC was the first event open to any player and the first competition requiring 36 holes. Each participant said they would try to be back in 1999.
Every golfer has had the message drummed into his head so often, the action ought to be as reflexive as picking your ball out of the hole: You never, but never, stand under a tree in a thunderstorm. So why do golfers continue to do it? We wish we had an answer.
When a thunderstorm formed over the course they were playing last month in Lakeland, Fla., Steve Kester of Lakeland and Doug Staley of Dallas, Texas, apparently sought shelter under a small grove of trees. Lightning struck a tree under which they were standing and fatally injured both. Scott Miller of Garland, Texas, a business colleague of Staley's, was in a cart nearby and was not injured.
Although many areas of the country are susceptible to summer storms, Florida is particularly vulnerable. Lightning killed eight people in the state last year and nearly 350 in the 40 years statistics have been kept.
Here are some tips golfers should keep in mind when inclement weather approaches:
Avoid open areas, water, metal, wire fences, overhead wires and power lines, isolated trees, elevated ground, maintenance machinery and golf carts.
Seek lightning shelters, maintenance and on-course buildings, automobiles or the clubhouse. When one of these areas is not immediately available, seek low-lying areas or dense woods.
Raising clubs or umbrellas increases the risk when lightning is near.
In competition, players may stop play if they think lightning threatens them, even though the Committee has not indicated a suspension of play by signal.
The 1 Mark Against Them
There's no way Tom Leach and Bill Simpson will ever know which of them hit a shot that was arguably the best of their lives. Perhaps in the afterlife, if they're allowed to view selected replays of their lives and the higher governing body has exceptional camera angles.
According to The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, Tenn., the two were playing at Mallard Pointe in Sardis, Miss., when they reached the 306-yard 17th. Each hit their drives with a slight fade at the dogleg right, but neither could tell where their shots landed.
Nearing the green, the 43-year-old Simpson spotted a ball in the fairway and assumed it was his. Leach, 46, searched in the right rough before declaring his ball lost and dropping another (you'll see in a few sentences why we won't harp on his dismissal of the stroke-and-distance penalty for a lost ball).
They continued play onto the green, and when Leach prepared to tend the flagstick for Simpson, he looked down and saw a ball in the hole. "Look, here's my ball!" Leach exclaimed as he pulled it from the hole. "A Top Flite 4. I've made a hole-in-one!"
That, of course, is when things got a bit more confusing. Simpson threw cold water on the celebration when he exclaimed, "Wait a second. I'm playing a Top Flite 4, too."
Not only had the two players occasionally shared golf balls from the same sleeve during their casual round, but to make matters worse, neither player put an identifying mark on his ball. "We didn't know what the other guy was hitting," Simpson admitted.
Since neither player can positively lay claim to a hole-in-one, the ball that was discovered in the hole held little significance.
"I didn't even keep the ball," Leach said afterward. "In fact, I think I lost it on the next hole."
Big Plans in Store for Houston's Kids
Build it and they will come. And learn. Not just how to play golf, but how to operate a golf course and conduct a tournament, how to repair clubs and everything else that goes along with the business of golf.
The name is Law Park and the idea on the drawing board is to build a state-of-the-art facility in southeast Houston to introduce inner-city kids to the game. A part of the ambitious nationwide The First Tee project, Law Park will include everything from a nine-hole course and three-hole practice loop to a clubhouse, a lighted driving range, two putting greens, an indoor teaching facility and round-trip transportation to the facility from just about anywhere in Houston.
"The sky's the limit where the program can go," said Mike Gaskin, the deputy director of the Houston Parks and Recreation Department's Office of Development. "The objective is to give experience and exposure to golf and to learn skills they can utilize in the future. They can realize a career. They don't have to be the next Tiger Woods. They can learn what it takes to overall operate and maintain a course."
But first, the kids will be introduced to the game. Houston's junior program is thriving at the city's municipal courses, as evidenced by the city's team winning the U.S. Inner City Golf Championship last summer in El Cajon, Calif. The new Law Park will enable the program to expand and provide an outstanding teaching environment for the entire city. Robert Olson, PARD's director of junior golf, is exploring options to ensure that players from all parts of Houston will have free transportation to the new facility.
Located in a predominantly African-American area of the nation's fourth-largest city, Law Park staff will not only teach juniors how to play the game but also offer on-going education. Most junior programs include etiquette in their instruction, but at Law Park interested juniors can learn golf club repair, grounds maintenance and agronomy, operations management and tournament design. The program will also offer internships and provide a limited number of jobs at the facility for juniors in the program.
In addition to having the University of Houston and Texas Southern golf teams (both located nearby) participate by giving clinics, Gaskin is also exploring the possibility of educational connections to Texas A&M's agronomy department and perhaps the USGA and PGA of America.
"We've basically got the program in place and all the rest of the things are doable," Gaskin said. "People have seen how good the current program is and this will enable us to make it even better. We've started the ball rolling. We're excited about the number of people we think will come to the table."
The design team of Riviere-Marr (Jay and Bernard Riviere and the late Dave Marr) completed plans for the course routing and as soon as approximately $1 million in funding is in place the $3 million total will come in the form of grants from the USGA, First Tee, Houston-based Shell Oil Company and from private donations the PARD will break ground on the project. It will take an estimated year to complete.
Cash on the Putterhead
A lot of golfers take extra-good care of their putters. You can be sure Valderrama Golf Club will be doing the same.
At an auction last month, the host club of last year's Ryder Cup paid what Christie's, the famed auction house, said was a "world record price" for a rare metal-headed blade putter thought to date back to the late 18th or early 19th century. The club sold for $174,900, the prized purchase of the 500 pieces of golf memorabilia.
The club, sold by the Royal Perth Golfing Society, brought approximately twice what Christie's expected.
RENAY APPLEBY, 25, the wife of PGA Tour player Stuart Appleby, died July 23 when she was struck by a car in London. She caddied for her husband during his early days as a pro, including his successful 1995 season in which he won two Nike Tour events and earned his PGA Tour card.
We were 90 minutes into our interview before I noticed we hadn't even ventured into the area of golf the reason for our meeting. If I hadn't fought my own personal interests, switched to golf and kept our interview to a reasonable half-day, ALAN SHEPARD JR., who died July 21, would have stayed all day and enlightened me on the events that made him a genuine American hero.
History books will note he was the first American in space, the fifth of 12 astronauts to walk on the moon. Golfers will forever be indebted to Shepard, who chose to take their game to another wordly level.
On the morning of Feb. 6, 1971, in the final minutes before Shepard and Edgar Mitchell ascended from the moon in their Apollo 14 spacecraft for the return trip to earth, Shepard pulled out a rectractable instrument used to collect dust and rock samples from the lunar surface. Only this instrument had a 6-iron clubhead attached to it. Shepard proceeded to hit two golf balls.
"I shanked the first one," he recalled. "It rolled into a crater about 40 yards away.
"The second one, I kept my head down. I hit it flush and it went at least 200 yards," he recalled. "The reason I know that is that I planned to hit it down-sun, against a black sky so I could follow the trajectory of the ball. That happened to be the direction we paced out 200 meters, for our experimental field, and it landed just past that area. . . . I folded up the club, put it in my pocket, climbed up the ladder, closed the door and we took off."
Upon his return, the clubhead and instrument were donated to the USGA's Museum and Library, where an exhibit commemorating the shots is on display.
Shepard was never enamored with the prospect that a company would exploit the lunar shots for commercial purposes. Thus he vowed never to reveal what brand of golf balls he used. "Only one person knows the trade name of the golf balls," he said. "That's me. My wife thinks it's in the will. But it ain't."