Caddie Books – Two Good Reads

This year I had the pleasure of playing a few private courses and had a caddie on my bag.  I was nervous at first but after a few holes it was fun.  Yes, it was nice to have someone else provide valuable information, like when to layup or go for the hole.  It was a treat to have someone rake the bunker and all the other small things they do to make your round enjoyable. What really added to the “fun” was the personalities and story telling of the caddies.  And that made me want to know more about caddies.

I have read two books and both are worth reading if you are an avid golf fan.  The books are very different. The first book is “An American Caddie in St. Andrews” by Oliver Horovitz. The second book is “Loppers: A Caddie’s Twenty-Year Golf Odyssey” by John Dunn.

If I had to recommend just one book, I would tell you to read “Loopers: A Caddie’s Twenty-Year Golf Odysey” because it takes you on a journey to so many famous courses: Augusta, Bandon Dunes, Shinnecock, and St. Andrews.  I really enjoyed the variety of courses and Dunn’s description of the caddie’s life at each place he worked.  Also, Dunn is living a nomads life and there is a underlying struggle he has with the idea that he should get a “real job” and the struggle with his father’s view of his job.  As a woman, I was also surprised by some of the behavior of the caddies. The term “frat boys” is what comes to mind with some of the stories Dunn shares about his life with other caddies.  The book is great at balancing the romantic view we all of have of the caddie life with the realities of being a caddie, and the personality you must have to live the life travailing from course to course.

The book by Oliver Horovitz is also a great read but as the front cover of the book reveals the story is about a young man “Growing Up, Girls, and Looping on the Old Course.”  The best part of the book is the “secrets” revealed about the caddies of St. Andrews. The book takes place in two places –  at Harvard (where Horovitz is a student) and St. Andrews. The chapters at St. Andrews are what I enjoyed most (no surprise, I’m sure). Horovitz also shares his personal story including the time he shares with his Uncle Ken, who lives in the town of St. Andrews. It was a very lovely back story, but I was reading the book to get a peek at the job of a St. Andrews caddie and the old course.  I must admit one of my favorite chapters was about Horovitz caddying for Lydia Hall in a qualifying round of the Ricoh Women’s British Open.

Both books reveal that there is a pecking order in the caddie shack and it takes a lot of hard work to gain the respect of fellow Loopers.  However, the big difference between the books is that Oliver Horovitz is a student at Harvard and not living the “vagabond” life John Dunn experienced as a caddie. In some ways, Horovitz appears to be living the life of a privilege student just caddying for his summer job.  However, Horovitz, like Dunn, earns the respect of the seasoned caddies (no small feat at St. Andrews) and takes the job seriously.  Horovitz also has a wonderful understanding of the “once in a lifetime experience” playing St. Andrews is for most golfers and wants to make the round the best it can be for the golfer.

Both men have a passion for the sport we all love and reveal that if you are lucky you get to combine your passion with your job. Read both books and you will be exposed to very different roads taken in a very unique career.

The Spirit International – Watch if You Love Amateur Golf

The Spirit International Amateur Golf Championship has been around since 2001 but many people that love golf don’t know about it.  The video below is a nice overview of the championship.

I learned about it because I follow Paige MacKenzie on Twitter and Paige is the captain of the 2013 United States team. Paige is also a former Spirit International competitor.  I watched the last hour of coverage on Thursday and Friday online and really enjoyed it. I wish I could have seen more but it is impossible to watch this type of event during a work week.  You can watch it Saturday (November 2, 2013)  via the live webcast at the Spirit International Website.

There are only four players for each country (20 Countries represented by 2 men and 2 women).  It may be a small field but the golfers are some of the best young players in the world and it is a nice preview of what we can expect to see in the coming years on the professional tours.  Past Spirit International competitors include US stars like Brandt Snedeker and Paula Creamer; as well as international stars such as Jason Day, Charl Schwatzel, Lorena Ochoa, and Ya-Ni Tseng. As they say, the list goes on and on.

The format is interesting because they have multiple competitions which include:

  • International Team- combined best ball of the men’s team and women’s team.
  • Men’s Team- Best ball of two players (four ball stroke play)
  • Women’s Team- Best ball of two players (four ball stroke play)
  • Men’s Individual- Most holes under par.
  • Women’s Individual- Most holes under par.

So you can cheer for your favorite country, men’s team, women’s team, and individuals.  I want the United States and Canada to do well because I have lived in the United States most of my life and feel an allegiance to the US; but I was born in Canada and I have a soft spot for athletes from Canada.  I hope that Brooke Henderson (a young Canadian golfer whose career I follow) does well. I am happy to report that as of the end of the second round Brooke is in first place for the Women’s Individual competition.

The United States is leading the overall competition. Check out the Leaderboard to see the other country standings. And if you can’t watch the live webcast then the next best thing is following the championship updates on twitter @thespiritgolf.

UPDATE (November 3 2013) – USA wins overall and Brooke Henderson wins Women’s Championship.  See all results at the Spirit Website.

“Lydia Ko goes Pro” video gets four stars

It has been many months since my last post because I have had a lot of life changes in the past nine months (no, I did not have a child).  I have moved to a new state for a dream job! As we all know with a new job and a big move other things fall to the wayside.  But now I am more settled in my job and new home; and of course fall is here (so less daylight hours to play golf), which makes it a logical time to focus on my blog.

I wanted to start with something light and fun!  And Lydia Ko’s announcement that she is turning pro is just the ticket!  I read that she decided to release a video rather than do a press conference and sure enough she tweeted out to her followers the link to the video on October 22.  Here is the video for your enjoyment:

I give the video four stars because it is entertaining (Lydia speed golfing) and shows her personality (e.g., she laughs a lot); and it certainly beats a boring press conference video.

I have said in a previous post that I am not a fan of the younger and younger players we see in professional events.  And that a player like Michele Wie is a cautionary tale because she is only 23 and struggles to find her game.  But, Lydia Ko seems to be a very poised and talented young women.  Ko has won a number of professional tournaments and made history winning the CN Canadian Women’s Open in 2012 and 2013. As the press has pointed out, Ko has left over $1 Million in money on the table as an amateur.

Now we just have to wait for the LPGA Commissioner, Mike Whan, to approve her request to waive the rule requiring LPGA professionals to be at least 18 years old.  The waiver is a  “fiat accompli” given the popularity of Ko, the fact she has already won multiple professional events as an amateur, and Whan waived the age requirement for Lexi Thompson after she won an LPGA event.

As a professional, Ko will face a new kind of scrutiny because everyone will be watching to see if she falters under the “pressure” of being a pro. Time and time again a young amateur golfer is hailed as the next “Tiger or Annika” and seems to lose their talent (or maybe free spirit) as a professional.  Only time will tell if Ko is able win as much as a professional as she did as an amateur.

Hopefully, she will have a smooth transition from the “darling of the amateur ranks” to a regular pro on tour. Bottom line, I know I will be watching to see how she plays in her first tournament as a professional.

How to train for a marathon and get in a round of golf

Do you have friends that tell you the game you love is not a sport?  Are the naysayers in your life by any chance, runners?  You do your best to argue with the runners in your life.  You state the facts — walking 18 holes of golf is the equivalent of walking ten miles. You need a strong abdominal core, great eye-hand coordination and flexibility to play golf. The runner in your life just smiles, says golf is boring, and goes for a 10-mile run.  Well, now you can tell all the runners in your life about the golf game made for them –  Speed Golf.

CBS televised the inaugural Speed Golf World Championship from Bandon Dunes.  It was fascinating and exhausting to watch.  First, a 22-year-old won the competition, which was not a big surprise because of the energy a young person has to draw on in a sport that requires you to run between every shot on the golf course.  But what did surprise me is that the man who came in second, Tim Scott (a founder of Speed Golf International) is in his fifties and was diagnosed with eye cancer in 2012.  And, even more impressive (to me) was a woman, Gretchen Johnson, came in eighth place.  I was not surprised she participated because she is a runner and works at Nike, but what was surprising was that the only woman placed eighth in an elite field of fifteen professional male speed golfers.

Screenshot of Results of Speedgolf Championship

The scoring is simple — combine the total number of strokes with the total time.  The rules of golf have been modified, for example, you can leave the flag in the hole when putting out.  They carry a small bag with limited clubs.  Also, when a ball is lost, you are allowed to drop it anywhere along the estimated point from where it was lost back on the line of flight to where the shot was originally played.

Clearly you need to be skilled in golf and a great runner but it appears from the scores above that being fast is more advantageous than shooting a low score in this alternative golf game format.

Will I ever participate in speed golf?  No, I have never enjoyed running. Frankly, I love the social aspect of playing a round of golf and don’t see the enjoyment of running the course alone.  But I appreciate any alternative format of golf that might bring more players to the sport I love.

Weather impacts another PGA tournament

For those of us that live in the Northeast the weather has been snowy and cold this March.  Normally as a golf fan I can get away from the drab cold days of winter by watching golf and day dreaming about the coming summer golf season.  This year even watching golf to escape the cold is not guaranteed.

Today, I was hunkering down to watch the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.  I was anticipating a great afternoon of golf with Tiger Woods (who I had picked for my fantasy team this week) and Rickie Fowler (one of the golf boys) in the final group.  But mother nature had a different plan in mind and the final round has been moved to Monday.  How bad was it?  Watch the video below…

Golf Analyst Mark Rulfing mentions in the video that it reminded him of Kapalua.  He was referencing the first tournament of the 2013 season, the Hyundai tournament of Champions, which was delay due to high winds (gusting 40 to 50 mph).  The Golf Channel has a great photo slide show of the windy tournament.

Another tournament impacted was the Farmers Open at Torrey Pines which was delayed due to Fog.  So rain, wind, fog all seem like expected reasons for golf to be delayed but how about snow?  Yup, the WGC Match Play in Arizona was delayed this year due to snow.  Snow in Arizona.  It was so bizarre that all the players were tweeting photos of it. Bubba Watson even posted a 30 second video of his snowball fight.

I don’t know if any other start to a golf season has had this many delays due to weather.  Certainly there have been memorable delays in previous years. Watch the PGA Tour “Top 10: Weather Interruptions on the PGA Tour” for their list.  One of my favorite golfers, Phil Mickelson, makes an appearance as he chips in the hail (2.35 second mark in video.)

Maybe I should be happy for the weather delay today because my fantasy pick for the Hyundai, tournament, Dustin Johnson, won.  So, if I were at all superstitious I would be thinking the weather delay is “a sign” that Tiger should win tomorrow.

Still I would rather have the final round played on Sunday so I could watch it live.

Michelle Wie’s 2013 season is off to a rough start

Michelle Wie is a very popular LPGA player.  She really made her name as an amateur and was viewed as the golden girl who would help rejuvenate the struggling brand of women’s golf when she turned pro in 2005 (note: her LPGA Rookie year is 2009.)  Fast forward to 2013 and Michelle Wie is still a popular player on the LPGA tour but she has not achieved the “greatness” bestowed on her as an Amateur.

In the press this week Michelle Wie spoke about all the hard work she had done during the off-season — working on every part of her game.  Unfortunately at the Women’s Australian Open this week Wie missed the cut by 2 strokes or 1-over par.  That might not seem bad but it is awful compared to the leader (after two rounds) at 15-under par.  So Wie starts her 2013 year where she ended her 2012 season — missing cuts.

2012 really was a horrible year for Wie. She played 23 tournaments and missed the cut 10 times.  We could state this in a positive way and say she made the cut (or played the weekend and earned money) 13 out of 23 times (or 56% of the time) but that is still awful.

Let’s look at some statistics for the last three years.

Chart of Stats for Wie

Michelle Wie has never been a great putter and in 2012 she had no confidence.  She would stand over a putt for an eternity and still miss it.  Wie has always been long off the tee (she is ranked 4 in overall driving distance) but being long does not matter when you look at Wie’s greens in regulation (GIR) and driving accuracy statistics which are poor.  In general, the statistics I have looked at indicate that many of the top players have GIRs between 72% and 76%. The top players also have putting averages below 30 (the really great putter’s have averages between 25 to 27).  Let’s look at Wei’s statistics against two other American stars.

Stats Comparision ChartOne last comparison (for fun) — Michelle Wie was in the LPGA rookie class of 2009.  Another member of the 2009 class, Jiyai Shin.  Shin won the Women’s Australian Open this week beating Yani Tseng (#1 Ranked women golfer in the world) and Lydia Ko (#1 ranked amateur golfer in the world).  Shin is also the current RICOH Women’s British Open Champion.  In 2012, Shin played 18 LPGA tournaments and made the cut in all 18 events. In 2010, Shin was the #1 player in the world rankings for 16 weeks.  Shin is a serious contender in 2013.

Will Michelle Wie ever achieve the success of, Jiyai Shin, her LPGA rookie year classmate?  Will Wei regain some of the glory of her amateur career?  Will she find the success so many people expected of her since turning pro?  Only time will tell but it crossed my mind today that maybe time is running out for Wie to achieve “greatness.”  Given Wie is only 23 years old that might seem like a ridiculous statement but the LPGA is full of young talented players so it is easy to jump to the conclusion that Wie may have missed her time to dominate.  My hope for Wie is that she finds her game soon.

2013 PGA Merchandise Show – Morning Drive and LPGA News

The ability to follow the PGA Merchandise show from the comfort of your own home is amazing!  I am here in the cold Northeast (seven degrees this morning) and seeing updates on Twitter, Facebook, Ustream and more.

The Golf Channel Morning Drive show and the LPGA both started tweeting early in the morning that big announcements were coming.  Given I am a fan of both, I was curious to see what was “big” to each organization.

Morning Drive Announcement

The Morning Drive show is expanding to seven days a week.  Great!  They are adding to the cast.  Most of co-anchor additions make sense because they have been on the show or are members of the golf channel.  The one odd addition is Ahmad Rashad. He is an NBC broadcast “star” so I get that but what does he know about golf?  I guess we will find out soon.

The other big reveal was the new set of the show.  Below is a photo of the old set.

Morning Drive Set

TV Screen Shot of Holly Sonders on Morning Drive Set. Click image to Enlarge.

Now one thing I always liked about the current set is that it seemed “cozy” and had lots of golf memorabilia and “chotskies” on the set.  I also think the intimate feel of the set added to the relaxed style of the co-anchors.  It never felt like a “formal” news show like the evening recap show, Golf Central.

The Golf Channel provided a photo gallery of the new set.  If you click on the photo below it will take you to a cool time-lapse video of the construction of the new set.

Click on Photo to see a time-lapse video of the construction of the new set.

Click on Photo to see a time-lapse video of the construction of the new set.

The new set and staff is a clear indication of the success of the show.  I will keep an open mind but I hope what I loved most about the show does not get lost in the new high-gloss set.

LPGA Announcement

In a previous post, The LPGA’s Marketing Challenge, I noted some concerns about the tour’s perception in the American market.  Basically, the LPGA is a global tour but the American market needs a new star which I felt was Stacy Lewis.  I am happy to see that the tour is now promoting Stacy Lewis.  Stacy certainly made it easier for them by winning Player of the Year.  I am happy to see the management at the LPGA finally embracing Stacy Lewis as a tour star.

The LPGA also deserves credit for figuring out a way to capitalize on the statement they have been emphasizing all year that they are a “global tour.”  I was thrilled with the announcement of the “International Crown” by the LPGA.  It is a new match play tournament that will debut in 2014.  The tournament will be 8 countries vying for the crown. I also like the promotional video.

And to my point earlier about promoting Stacy Lewis, there is a nice video of Stacy talking about the new tournament.

I like the International Crown for two reasons.  First, the LPGA did not just follow the PGA tour and create a “Presidents Cup” for the ladies.  The Presidents Cup is the USA against the rest of the world (minus Europe).  Second, it ties nicely to the fact that golf will be part of the Olympics in 2016 and what do we all love to do during the Olympics? Cheer for our country.  The fact fans love to cheer for their country should make the International Crown a big hit among golf fans; and hopefully, bring new fans to the LPGA.