Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Date A Golfer

There are golf singles groups all over Texas (all over the world), so it should come as no surprise that a company has created an online "golf singles group" to match up golfers. It's called, as you might have guessed from the title of this post, DateAGolfer.com.

The website is typical of dating sites such as match.com (not that, ahem, I'm very familiar familiar with such sites ...). Become a member, create a profile, upload a photo if you have one, search for people of the opposite sex (or not) who share your interests, or wait for others to contact you. DateAGolfer's hook is that its members are golfers. Members can specify the type of relationship they are seeking - you can hunt for "the one" or simply for someone to play golf with.

The company gave me a user name and password (I didn't create it myself, Mrs. McDuff, really I didn't!) and I spent a little time looking around the site. It didn't take long because there's not much to it yet - the company is very young and there are very few members in Texas yet. That might be changing soon as DateAGolfer.com explores partnerships with some local golf singles groups - cosponsoring golf outings and such.

If this holds any interest for you - if you are seeking someone to play golf with, or more with - then check it out.

Monday, May 30, 2005

The Last TPC San Antonio Tax Update

Well, the developer gots its sweetheart tax district after all. The special taxing district for the developer of the TPC project in San Antonio cleared its final hurdle in the Texas Legislature on Sunday after a bit of wrangling between House and Senate supporters (and detractors). The story is on mysa.com (registration required).

Work on the PGA Tour's new resort in San Antonio, expected to open in 2007, continued throughout this latest controversy. But the approval of a special taxing district for the developer should be the last of these types of issues to come up.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Thoughts on Statewide "Golf Passes"

A reader sent in a question on my post below regarding the availability of "Texas golf passes." These are the discount cards for which you pay an up-front fee (around $35-$50 in most cases). Then the golf courses that participate in the respective programs provide the cardholders with discounts.

This is the question the reader asked: "Aren't those golf passes rip-offs?"

Emphatically, they are not. But I understand where the question comes from. These golf passes all have some fine print; for example, if a club is offering a "free" round that usually means only free green fees (a cart fee is still charged). Participating clubs might limit when cardholders can make tee times (no weekends or holidays, for example, or perhaps after noon only). This isn't always the case, but it often is.

The reader had heard that you'd be better off simply looking for coupons, rather than paying for a "golf pass." Here's the truth: You can find better deals elsewhere, as long as you're willing to hunt for them. But what the golf passes provide is flexibility.

If you have a golf pass, and you'll be spending a few days in DFW, you don't have to go online or down to the newsstand to pick up a Dallas paper in order to search for coupons. And you aren't limited to considering only those courses for which you find coupons. If you have a golf pass, there are likely dozens of DFW courses included. You know that you'll be able to get a discount somewhere, and you can pick-and-choose from among a wide array of courses and options.

There's another reason to consider a golf pass, for yourself or as a gift. Most of the golf pass programs have tie-ins to charity. If you purchase a golf pass, you might be helping fund cancer research or PGA junior programs, just as two examples.

So while golf passes probably aren't the whiz-bang super-duper deals they may first appear to be, they are certainly good deals that do get golfers discounts and, as a bonus, help fund some great programs.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Update: San Antonio TPC

As we pointed out a few days ago, a Fort Worth legislator - much to the chagrin of San Antonio's state leg delegation - stepped in to hold up a bill that would create a special taxing district for Lumbermen's, the developer on the big TPC project in San Antonio.

At the time, it appeared the bill might be dead as a result. Now, it looks as though State Sen. Jeff Wentworth of San Antonio might get the proposal around Rep. Lon Burnam's objection. Wentworth has attached an amendment covering the proposed special taxing district to another, larger bill that is expected to pass.

In several days of coverage of the wrangling over this sweetheart deal for the developer, I've yet to see one simple question addressed: What effect, if any, would killing the special taxing district have on the building of a TPC Resort in San Antonio? That seems like a pretty basic question, doesn't it? Yet, as far as I can tell, nobody in the San Antonio media has asked it.

So, trying to make an educated guess, I'd say that killing that sweetheart deal would have no effect (although we can say with certainly that the developer would try to get other concessions as a result of losing this one). The TPC resort would still be built. The agreement between the city and the developer didn't promise Lumbermen's a taxing district, it simply gave the company the right to seek such a district from the Texas Legislature. Work on the project continues, with the PGA Tour having begin building at least one of the golf courses.

Although I strongly oppose the creation of a special taxing district for the benefit of the developer, and don't like massive construction projects over the Edwards Aquifer, I do support the TPC Resort project in general. Lumbermen's owned the property in question prior to San Antonio's having instituted tighter environmental requirements for building over the aquifer. They have grandfathered rights, meaning Lumbermen's can build anything it wants on the property and only have to meet the older, much more lax environmental standards.

Negotiating the non-annexation agreement with Lumbermen's not only got San Antonio a destination resort (people who travel for golf spent lots of money), but it's the leverage the city used to impose the tightest environmental controls on any such project in the state. (The city also was able to negotiate a minimum wage agreement with Marriott, which will build the resort hotel, promising all of its workers a "living wage" - which should result in many of the hotel's future employees making a couple dollars an hour more than they would have otherwise been offered.)

Meantime, there's another burr for opponents (and conflicted supporters such as myself) of the project: the San Antonio Express-News reports this morning on a possible "habitat swap" requested by Lumbermen's from federal regulators.

Lumbermen's Investment Corp. is asking federal regulators for permission to clear 846 acres of golden-cheeked warbler habitat in return for setting aside another 760 acres for the endangered bird.

...

If granted, the request would constitute the first legal destruction of warbler habitat in Bexar County ...

The law was crafted to permit such land swaps. Permits for "incidental take" can be granted under the Endangered Species Act when lawful development will harm an endangered species.

... the developer is required to work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on a habitat conservation plan to ensure harm to the species is minimized.

"In this case, they are basically giving up the lower-quality habitat and saving the higher-quality habitat," said biologist Scott Rowin of the Fish and Wildlife Service.


Surprisingly, the article says that 117 such swaps have been permitted around Austin.

Waterchase Next Up on NGT Schedule

The Links at Waterchase in Fort Worth is the host site for the next tournament on the National Golf Tour's Texas series schedule. The SportsKing.com Classic will take place at Waterchase on Monday, June 6, with a 10:30 a.m. tee time. Entry fee is $320.

The National Golf Tour is a developmental tour for aspiring tour pros, top collegiate golfers, and assistant pros. The 2005 points leaders gets free entry into the 2006 PGA Tour Qualifying School.

Following the SportsKing.com Classic is the Texas Golf Blog Classic at Barton Creek in Austin. The Texas Golf Blog Classic takes place on June 13, with a registration deadline of June 8.

For more info or to register online, visit www.nationalgolftour.com.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Texas Golf Passes

Looking for a Father's Day gift? A discount golf card might be a good idea for any golfing dads.

The American Cancer Society's Texas Golf Pass discount card costs $35 and gets its owner discounts (or free green fees) at close to 300 courses around the state. A list of participating courses is posted on www.texasgolfpass.com, as is information and and order form.

And there's also the Southern Texas PGA Golf Pass, which gets its owner discounted (or free green fees) at courses in Houston, Austin, San Antonio, and elsewhere in the STPGA coverage area. Participating courses and more info can be found at www.pga18.com.

State Opens

Just a quick note that the entry deadlines for the Texas State Open and Texas Women's Open are approaching. The men's tournament entry deadline is June 8, and the women's entry deadline is June 16.

The Texas State Open will be played on the New Course at White Bluff Resort in Whitney July 12-15. The Texas Women's Open will be played at Eastern Hills Country Club in Garland, June 22-23.

Entry forms and more info are available on the Northern Texas PGA website.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Fort Worth Legislator Holding Up TPC Tax District Bill

We told you a while back about the attempt by some San Antonio state lawmakers to give the developer of the TPC project property a tax giveaway on top of the sweet deal the developer had already gotten from the City of San Antonio (see post). That new sweetheart deal has hit a snag in the Texas House: a lawmaker from Fort Worth is holding up the bill and could kill it.

To recap: The developer, Lumbermen's Investment Corp. of Austin, negotiated a deal with the City of San Antonio, the PGA Tour and Marriott Hotels to build a TPC resort on land Lumbermen's owns in North San Antonio on top of the Edwards Aquifer (source of San Antonio's drinking water). In order to get stringent environmental controls into the project, the City of San Antonio gave Lumbermen's a huge tax break by agreeing not to annex the property for at least 29 years. The creation of a special taxing district, allowing Lumbermen's to levy and collect taxes on the property, was part of an earlier agreement. That facet was dropped from the final agreement (in favor of the non-annexation deal), although the creation of a special taxing district for the developer was not explicity forbidden.

So a month or so ago, members of San Antonio's state legislative team introduced a bill to give Lumbermen's that special taxing district after all. The developer gets not only the non-annexation deal, but would also get to collect taxes on the property.

The bill was sailing through without opposition. But now, Fort Worth lawmaker Lon Burnam says not so fast. From the San Antonio Express-News:

Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, raised a point of order on the bill based on
a technical error but temporarily withdrew it so he could meet today with the
bill's House sponsor, Rep. Robert Puente, D-San Antonio.

Burnam said his opposition stems from having development over the recharge zone for the Edwards Aquifer, the major source of water for 1.5 million San Antonio-area residents.

He said it was "not likely" he could be persuaded to change his mind. If he raises his objection again, the issue effectively is dead this session.

Runoff from fertilizers and other chemicals used on the golf course will pollute the water, Burnam and others say.

But Puente said it would have the "strictest environmental controls the state has ever had over development."

Rep. Puente is actually right about that - the negotiated environmental controls include a closed-loop irrigation system (runoff is captured and recycled before it can seep into the Aquifer) and the developer has to pay the San Antonio Water System to monitor chemicals on the site (among many other things). But that's not the point, at least not mine.

Mine, as I wrote in my earlier post, is that the additional creation of a special taxing district for the developer is simply going too far. Lumbermen's already has the non-annexation deal, meaning it won't have to pay city taxes for 29 years. That's enough of an inducement to build the project, and it was a necessary one to get the environmental controls built into the deal.

Tight Lies Tour Report

Matt Brost of Mansfield was the winner of the Firewheel at Garland Classic on the Tight Lies Tour over the weekend. Brost posted rounds of 66, 68, 65 and 72 for a 17-under par score of 271. Brost earned $20,000 for the victory.

Complete results are available at http://www.tightliestour.net/.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Backing a Mini-Tour Player

There's a very interesting article on businessweek.com about the ins-and-outs of being a financial backer for a professional golfer: the pros and cons to both the backers and the golfers.

Finding groups of financial backers is how many young golfers get started in their pro careers, first raising enough money to head out on a mini-tour with the hope of then earning enough to move up to the next level. Usually it involves selling shares in a golfer. Say 20 people buy a share at $2,000 each - that's $40,000 of seed money for a young golfer.

There are many excellent prospects among Texas golfers, guys and gals who could have a future in professional golf if they get the right opportunity. There are mini-tours in Texas such as the Tight Lies Tour, National Golf Tour and Texas Professional Golf Tour, not to mention better known tours such as the Hooters Tour and Canadian Tour around North America. Golfers such as Ryan Palmer and Jimmy Walker are among the recent graduates of such tours who are now on the PGA Tour.

So what should you do if you ever have the opportunity to invest in a professional golfer? Be cautious, and read the fine print. And that goes double for the golfer who is considering selling shares in his future. The Business Week article provides many great examples of sponsorship deals - both ones that worked, and ones that didn't.

(Hat tip to Golf Blogger for finding this article.)

Discount Tee Times

We've swapped out our eBay links in the sidebar to the right in an attempt to make them more relevant to this site. Well, OK, also in a crass attempt to make a few cents, but you already knew that. The eBay links had been showing equipment listings, but the interest was, to put it mildly, lacking.

So we've changed the code to show discount green fees in Texas. Many of the green fees listed are in the Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin and San Antonio areas, but if you click on the little "View All" link at the bottom left of the eBay box you'll find many more green fees including some from other areas of the state. We hope our readers will find these listings more interesting than our first attempt to crassly make a few cents off eBay!

Friday, May 20, 2005

Q&A on Colonial

There's an interesting interview over on PGA.com with Dow Finsterwald Jr., the head pro at Colonial Country Club. He's also, of course, the son of Dow Finsterwald Sr., who won the PGA Championship in 1958 when it was played at stroke play for the first time (coincidentally, Papa Finsterwald was the loser in the championship match the previous year, the final year of match play). Anyway, Finsterwald Jr. provides plenty of interesting history and perspective on grand ol' Colonial (the rough used to have lots of clover in it, for instance). Check it out.

Golfsmith's New Playgrounds

Dallas and Houston are two of the three cities (Chicago being the third) where Austin-based golf retailer Golfsmith's "superstores" are being tricked out with what the company calls "playgrounds." Playgrounds for golfers, that is: places where golfers can go when it's raining or they don't have time for 18; or where customers can demo equipment before buying.

Here's how a company spokesperson lists the features of the new "playgrounds":

  • The new driving areas are anywhere from 60 to 120 feet deep, with seven bays. Two of the bays have special launch monitors from Hot Stix; five have radar technology for distance.
  • The new playground areas have a demo of every single club that Golfsmith sells. You can swing anything in the store.
  • The hitting areas also have 12 fitting carts from all of the major manufacturers, including Callaway, TaylorMade, Nike, etc.
  • Each of the stores features a new GolfTEC Learning Center that offers customers advanced training with a certified PGA teaching professional, video analysis, 3-D motion analysis, impact analysis and biofeedback technology.
  • The stores also feature new putting greens that measure anywhere from 600 to 800 square feet.

Sounds pretty cool. Even cooler: Use of the "playgrounds" is free. So if you're in Dallas or Houston, check 'em out at Golfsmith superstores.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Golfers vs. Disc Golfers

If you're going to be in Austin this weekend and are looking for something to do, you may want to head over to Circle C Golf Club. The course is hosting an event the type of which you certainly don't see every day.

It's a tournament that pits golfers against disc golfers, playing together and playing the same course. The Golf/Disc Golf Charity Challenge benefits the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Tee time is 1 p.m., and a million-dollar hole-in-one contest will be conducted at 5:30 p.m.

If we hear who wins, we'll pass it along.

Amateur Championships in Houston

If you're in Houston and looking for a little competition, be advised that entries into this year's city amateur championships are now open. Houston's City Amateur and Senior City Amateur championships are among the most hotly contested in the state. Both will be played at Memorial Park, while the junior am will be played at Redstone. Dates and qualifying info are on the Houston Golf Association website, and there's also more info from the Chronicle.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Colonial Predictions

We didn't do too badly with our Byron Nelson predictions last week. Our pick to win, Ernie Els, finished tied for 10th. More importantly, we did not pick Tiger Woods! So let's take a crack at predicting the winner at Colonial.

Colonial plays shorter and tighter than the courses used at the Byron Nelson, and is thought to give shorter-hitting players more of a shot at victory. That's one reason that golfers such as Woods, Vijay Singh and Els don't play in Fort Worth - they feel the course isn't suited to their bombers games.

One of golf's Big 4 is in the field this week - Phil Mickelson. He's definitely a bomber, but he won this tournament back in 2000 and was runnerup in 2001. When you're as good as Mickelson, you can win on any type of track.

We also like Chris DiMarco, who seems to be on every leaderboard this year and seems to have a game suited to Colonial. Then there's Justin Leonard, a DFW native and resident who played well at the Nelson and was runner up at Colonial in 2003. And we'd love to pick Mike Weir, but Weir just hasn't been playing well enough lately (but if he winds up winning, we're taking credit!).

So it's back to Mickelson. Yeah, I know, not exactly going out on a limb. But Colonial is a place where we see low scores, and nobody goes low better than Phil.

UPDATE: So much for my predictive ability! Two of the four guys I mentioned - DiMarco and Weir - missed the cut. Mickelson barely made the cut and is 12 strokes off the lead at the halfway point. Only Justin Leonard, at 4-under (t23) is playing fairway well.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Newport in Port A

A huge development called "Newport" was announced a couple years ago for Mustang Island, near Port Aransas. Highway 361 (the road visitors take from Corpus Christi to Port Aransas) would run through the development, which would be built on both the beach side of 361 and the other side.

I'm having trouble learning the status of this project, which was supposed to begin construction either late last year or this year. If any of our readers know anything about the progress - or lack of it - please post something in the comments section.

If it does get built, Newport will be in interesting golf destination to keep an eye on. Because the resort part of the development (which also is supposed to include commercial and residential components) is supposed to include an Arnold Palmer course built amidst the dunes on the beach side of the property, plus a Jack Nicklaus course built on the opposite side of Highway 361.

Those are some heavy hitters, and a beachside course would be a rarity in Texas. You'd think golfers around Texas would be in a rush to get down to Port A and check out the courses when they are built.

However, local play would probably be next to nil. I grew up in Corpus Christi, and I can tell you that golfers down there don't like to spend money. A couple of resort courses, built on difficult land by big-name design companies, are going to cost upwards of $75 each to play. Maybe even above $100. Nobody in Corpus Christi is going to pay those prices more than once.

Then there's the wisdom of building a golf course on Mustang Island. Yes, environmental impact is a concern - it's a shame that more of Texas' unspoiled barrier islands will (assuming the project is actually built) get spoiled. But the first hurricane that hits within 50 miles of Port Aransas will take care of that - at least the golf course parts of the development. Those dunes simply disappear during hurricanes.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

NGT - Firewheel Update

Just a quick reminder about the upcoming National Golf Tour tournament at Firewheel in Garland on May 23rd. The NGT is a developmental tour for aspiring touring pros, assistant pros and top collegiate players. That 2005 national champ gains entry into the 2006 PGA Tour Q-School, and payouts are pretty nice, too, when there's a good field. Info on the NGT Firewheel event can be found at nationalgolftour.com. Also, don't forget about the Texas Golf Blog Classic at Barton Creek in Austin in June, another NGT event.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

O'Hair's Long Road - At Age 22

Golfer Sean O'Hair - the third-round leader of the Byron Nelson Classic as this is written - spent most of his childhood in Lubbock. But his childhood ended at age 17 when, forced by his father, O'Hair turned pro. More than 200,000 miles later - going into six years of traveling golf's minitours and overseas circuits - O'Hair is fulfilling the promise that made him one of the top juniors in the country back in those teen years.

The father and son haven't spoken in two years, however, after Sean broke away from his domineering father. The story was told in a Golf World article back at the start of the 2005 PGA season, and it's going to be told plenty more times with O'Hair's performance at the Nelson.

The father, Marc O'Hair, made his son run a mile for every bogey, and made him sign a contract at age 17 promising his father 10-percent of all future earnings.

Marc O'Hair, a large man who wore dark sunglasses, subjected Sean to a rigorous routine that stood out. He was sometimes brusque to tournament, rules and school
officials, event organizers and other parents. His son, by design, was treated as a commodity.

Sean isn't that keen to talk about his journey, which is understandable. But if he keeps playing the way he has thus far in 2005, there will plenty to talk about.

Taking a tough-love approach, Marc drove his son hard. While the results speak for themselves, those who watched the duo believe there was madness in the method. As a junior player, Sean was forced to run a mile for making bogeys or finishing over par at tournaments. Marc once claimed he made Sean run eight miles in 93-degree heat after shooting an 80. At a 1998 AJGA tournament in California, Sean shot 79, then spent part of the night logging seven miles on a treadmill, a friend, Christo Greyling, says.

Sean last spoke to Marc, (back row right, with Brenda, front center and K.D., front right) at his 2002 wedding.Photo courtesy of O'Hair family "The next day, he could hardly walk," remembers Greyling, a former AJGA player and a senior at University of Georgia. "We could hardly believe he [Marc] went through with it."
But it wasn't just a tough workout that his father was putting him through. After a certain age, Sean was apparently denied his childhood.

Other players, though, say Marc would berate his son in the presence of others. Dad admits slapping his son, but he says he never injured him. ... In addition to the golf work, Marc awakened his son at 5 a.m., had him run a mile and lift weights. After Sean turned pro, Marc cooked meals on a portable stove in their hotel room so that Sean ate the right foods. Every day was like boot camp, and the military comparisons aren't by accident.

The father doesn't seem the least bit embarrassed by his behavior, nor does he seem to have any regrets. Except, apparently, he regrets the fact that his "investment" in Sean's golf might not get him the money he expected.

How the family dynamic develops from here is anybody's guess. No question, dad feels a broiling sense of festering betrayal. In fact, Sean is worried that Marc will someday sue him for repayment of the money spent fostering his career. ...

"As soon as he gets famous, I am going to lower the boom," Marc says. "I am going to show everybody what he did to me. I have no intention of suing him. I intend to crucify him in the media, because what he did to me is not right."
Read the article.

Del Webb in DFW

The first Del Webb community in North Texas is slated for Frisco, where it will be built on the shores of Lake Lewisville (story). Del Webb builds master-planned communities for "active adults" - retirees and folks transitioning from middle age to senior citizen status.

The Frisco Del Webb community will include an 18-hole golf course (which will likely be open to non-residents, too, at least on a limited basis). The best-known Del Webb community in Texas is probably Sun City in Georgetown, outside of Austin, which features two golf courses - Legacy Hills and White Wing.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Two For the Price of One

Two aces, that is. It's rare enough to see one hole-in-one from a group, much less two. And on the same hole! Ol' Bogey never's had a single one, but this group in El Paso scored two aces at the same hole.

Randy Massey hit his first ever hole-in-one with an 8-iron from 130 yards on the eighth hole at Painted Dunes Desert Golf Course. Then his stepmother, Terri Massey, followed with her first ace. According to Golf Digest magazine, the odds of two players in a foursome acing the same hole are 17 million to 1.
"It was just a weird deal," Raymond said. Spoken like a true Texan.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Is Byron Nelson Underrated?

I've always thought Byron Nelson was underrated by people who enjoy putting together lists of the greatest golfers ever - and by people who like to read those lists. I happen to be someone who both enjoys putting them together, and reading them, and I can tell you that putting them together is a lot harder than reading them! Nelson is the perfect example of why.

He's rarely mentioned as a candidate for the title of greatest golfer ever, and he's almost never ranked ahead of his contemparies, Ben Hogan and Sam Snead. There are some good reasons for that: Nelson's numbers don't match up. Nelson won 52 PGA Tour events, including 5 majors. Hogan had 64 wins and 9 majors, and Snead posted a record 82 wins including 7 majors.

Plus, many golf fans have the sense about Nelson that he got a lot of easy wins during World War II, when the other great golfers had been swept up in the war.

Nelson's numbers are somewhat misleading, but not in that sense. His numbers don't reflect accomplishments greater than his talent; rather, they fail to accurately reflect his greatness. That's because Byron Nelson retired from competitive golf at the age of 34.

Let's repeat that: Nelson retired at 34. Following the 1946 season, when he won six times, Nelson hung up his spikes. And while he was certainly the greatest golfer who continued playing during WWII (Nelson was rejected for service due physical concerns), WWII probably hurt him more than helped him.

Nelson was easily the dominant golfer of the late 1930s. Hogan was winning tournaments, but wouldn't win his first major until 1946. Snead came on tour in 1937 and immediately started winning tournaments, but like Hogan, it would be a while before he won his first major. In fact, Nelson's biggest challenger for supremacy in the late 1930s was Ralph Guldahl.

So when WWII came along and dramatically shortened the PGA Tour schedule (in 1944, only three tournaments were played), Nelson lost a lot of wins. Combine that with the fact the he retired at 34, and it's easy to see that had Nelson had a full career, he might well have come close to Snead's career win total.

WWII also robbed Nelson of at least several major championships, because most of the majors were canceled during wartime. In 1942, only two majors were played (Nelson won one of them); in 1943, none were played; in 1944, one; in 1945, one (Nelson won it). Surely Nelson would have won at least a couple more majors had all four majors been played each of those years (and had he continued playing past age 34).

Then there's the feeling among some golf fans that Nelson's legendary 1945 season is overrated because all his best competition was serving in the military. Not true. Jimmy Demaret and Craig Wood, among others, played full seasons just as Nelson did. More specifically, critics of Nelson's achievements in 1945 say that Hogan and Snead weren't around to take wins away from him.

Again, not true. Hogan played 19 tournaments that year, and Snead played 27. Nelson won 18 times in 1945 (including the one major that was played) because he was outclassing his oppositition by a margin not matched before or since by any other golfer.

So yes, I believe Byron Nelson is underrated in the history of golf. It sounds a little silly to say that 52 wins and 5 majors don't do a man's talent justice, but that is just the case with Lord Byron.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Nelson Predictions

Time to make a prediction for this week's Byron Nelson Classic. The Big 4+1 - Vijay Singh, Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson, plus Retief Goosen - are all in the field, as are most of the other top players in the world. Plenty of names to choose from.

One name that comes to mind first is Jim Furyk, who is due to break through with his first win since 2003. He's been playing great this year, and was part of the 3-way Wachovia playoff last week.

But I'm going with someone else, and yes, it's one of the biggies: Ernie Els. Now, personally, I think Els is just a smidge below Vijay, Tiger and Phil, both in current terms and on a career basis. His doesn't win as much on the PGA Tour (mainly, but not wholly, a function of the fact that he doesn't play as much on the PGA Tour), and his stats are usually just a wee bit off of those of the other three. It's a tiny distinction, and Els will certainly retire as one of the Top 50 golfers of all time, perhaps even one of the Top 30 if he can grab another major or two. (Tiger will retire as No. 1, Mickelson in the Top 20, and Singh in the Top 25.)

Ernie's American outings have yet to produce a victory in 2005, surely a disappointment for him. Especially disappointing was his showing at The Masters, where illness prevented him from even sniffing contention. But he's been en fuego in Europe over his last couple tournaments, running away from the competition two weeks ago. True, it's easier for a great player to win on the European Tour because the European Tour isn't as strong as the U.S. Tour. But Els' scores would win on any tour.

And his scores will win at the Byron Nelson Classic this week. Fitting, because he's a Byron Nelson kind of guy. You can make your own predictions by clicking on the "Comments" link below.

Monday, May 09, 2005

McAllen Native Takes Canadian Tour Title

Jaime Gomez, a native of McAllen, was the winner of the Canadian Tour's Corona Mazatlan Classic in Mazatlan, Mexico, on Sunday. Gomez has been a fulltime player on the Canadian Tour in the past, but last won on the circuit six years ago. He earned $20,000 for this victory. The Canadian Press (via yahoo.com) has his story.

Tierra Verde Kudos

Kudos to Tierra Verde, the municipal course in Arlington, for its environmental efforts. The course gets a very nice write-up from Ron Whitten, golf course critic for Golf Digest. Check it out.

Tight Lies Tour - Rockwall Classic

Andy Doeden of Fort Worth was the winner of the Rockwall Classic, played at The Shores Country Club in Rockwall, on the Tight Lies Tour over the weekend. Doeden posted scores of 67-66-64-70 for a 21-under-par total of 267, winning $20,000.

Kevin Muncrief (-18) of Edmond, Okla., was second and Stephen Polanski (-16) of Benbrook was third. Complete results are available at http://www.tightliestour.net/.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Big 4 at Byron Nelson Classic

The world's four top-ranked players - Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson - have all committed to play in the Byron Nelson Classic next week in Dallas. As we noted in an earlier post, having the legendary Nelson involved helps with recruitment - especially this year, when 60th anniversary festivities will take place to mark Lord Byron's amazing 1945 season (18 wins, etc.).

Tim Rosaforte, writing in Golf Digest, explains the diverging paths of the Nelson and Fort Worth's Colonial (where none of the top players are expected):

Woods doesn't particularly love the TPC-Las Colinas but he's played well there, finishing first (1997), third (2001) and third (2002) in his first appearance after a Masters victory. But what the Nelson has is Byron Nelson - which is why Els would fly from London and back just for one tournament - and the best workout facility on tour. You could play this one at a goat ranch and as long as Nelson was hosting it, the big names would show up.

In that sense, the Bank of America Colonial doesn't have Ben Hogan anymore, and the golf course, while a classic in the design sense, is virtually obsolete for the big hitters. Woods, Singh and Mickelson will take that week off, while Els flys back to England for the Volvo PGA Championship at Wentworth. Colonial needs to add some yardage, or its destined to be overshadowed not only by the Nelson, but the Volvo PGA.

Sad, but true. Colonial is a brilliant course, and the fact that golf's top players consider it "obsolete" (Tiger has said so himself, albeit in a more tactful manner) is further proof that a tournament ball is needed.

The Adams Family

There's a good piece in Golfweek about the Plano-based equipment company, Adams Golf, and its group of "golf guys." An excerpt (full article here):

For Adams Golf, the golf-guy tipoff is the company's impressive array of products. If the company once was known only for game-improvement clubs, or clubs for the average golfer, this label is long gone.

Any skilled player can look at clubs from Adams and say, "These guys know what a player really wants."

...

In my mind, Adams Golf represents a triumph of the golf guys. It is no mystery why Tom Watson has remained the primary spokesman for this company. Watson is a curious man, and he likes being around people with ideas.

Trust me, these guys at Adams have plenty of ideas. Adams was the first to market upside-down fairway woods and the combination steel and graphite shaft. The company also was a pioneer of the mixed set of conventional and hybrid irons.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Tom DeLay and Golf Trips

We all love a good golf vacation, but Tom DeLay apparently loves them more than most ... especially when they are paid for by lobbyists or shady Russians. I've been trying to think of a way to write about DeLay's ethics problems, some of which center around golf trips, but after some thought (hey, I heard that!) have decided against it. This is a golf blog, after all, and writing about DeLay would require wading too deeply into politics for a story that is only tangentially related to the topic at hand.

But there was a sentence in an article I read recently about DeLay, one that referred to the golf course he played in Moscow as "the most exclusive in Russia." But according to Golf Digest, there are only three golf courses in Russia. What constitutes the "most exclusive" course in Russia - is it the one that requires spikeless mukluks?

There are some funny billboards up in Houston and Galveston now about the DeLay golf trips. Check 'em out on The Red State.

Pricing a TPC Project

The TPC project in San Antonio continues apace with early routing work being done to the site off U.S. 281 just outside Loop 1604. But how much will the two courses cost to build, and how much with they cost to play?

A tentative answer to the first question, which provides a clue to the second, was revealed in a San Antonio Express-News update on the sweetheart bill introduced to the Texas Legislature on behalf of the project developers by Sen. Jeff Wentworth (see earlier post for details).

According to the newspaper, construction costs for the two golf courses - one a TPC course and the other a resort course - will be around $25 million combined. Can we translate that into expected green fees? Yes.

There is no hard-and-fast rule, but the general rule-of-thumb is this: for every $1 million in golf course contruction costs, figure $10 in green fees. So a golf course that costs $6 million to build will likely open with a green fee around $60.

With an anticipated $25 million in construction costs, therefore, expect the two courses that will make up San Antonio's TPC resort to have a combined $250 in green fees when they open. The TPC course will be higher-priced than the second course, so maybe $150 or $175 for it, and $100 or $75 for the other.

Book Review: "PGA Tour Fan Guide"




As a member of the golf media, I receive from the PGA Tour every year the media guides for its respective entities: The PGA Tour itself, the Champions Tour and the Nationwide Tour. These books are invaluable to any golf writer. But that's the only audience to which they've been available: golf media.

Not anymore. Now, a new audience has access to basically the same material: golf enthusiasts. Fans of golf can find the same player profiles, stats, tournament histories, records and much more in the PGA Tour 2005 Official Fan Guide. The book incorporates info from the three tours into one well-organized tome.

That means the book is large and thick. And while it weighs a couple pounds, golf fans won't want to put it down. Inside are profiles - containing both personal and professional info - on every PGA Tour, Champions Tour and Nationwide Tour golfer. Profiles of every tournament on each tour - past winners, last year's results, historical tidbits. A recordbook sections tells you who holds various records, bests and firsts on all three tours.

Like the Texas Golf Bible we wrote about earlier, this book is perfect for browsing (getting the idea I do a lot of browsing in books?). Open it to any page, and you're sure to find something of interest.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Caddie for Sergio Garcia at Colonial

Or for Stuart Appleby, Kenny Perry or Stephen Ames. Those are the PGA Tour players being auctioned off by Caddy For a Cure, the charitable organization we've written about before. Caddy For a Cure runs auctions in which golf fans can bid for the opportunity to caddie for a tour player during a practice round at a PGA Tour event.

Garcia, Appleby, Perry and Ames are the four players taking part in the program at the Colonial in Fort Worth. The practice round is on May 17. It's a great program and a great opportunity.

The auctions for these four players are under way right now; check out the auction page here. And, of course, more details about the program (including testimonials from previous auction winners) can be found throughout the website.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Futures Tour - Texas Update

The IOS FUTURES Golf Classic was played in El Paso over the weekend. The Futures Tour, of course, is the developmental tour for the LPGA. The winner in a playoff was Kyeong Bae of South Korea at 5-under 211.

The Futures Tour is getting much more interest this year due to "The Big Break III," the Golf Channel's "reality golf" series. The series just concluded its 10-episode run, and several of the women who competed are playing the Futures Tour. One of them played in El Paso: Jan Dowling finished at 225 to tie for 55th place.

The previous week the Futures Tour was in McAllen, and the McAllen Monitor's wrapup of the event says that it contributed more than $300,000 to the local economy. Does that figure surprise you? It surprised me.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Sutton Puts His Money Where His Development Is

Our post below about the latest shenanigans by the developer of the TPC project in San Antonio, and the politicians in its pocket, highlights a developer who is unwilling to actually earn profits. That developer, Lumbermen's Investment Corp., wants profits handed to it on a silver platter.

Hal Sutton surely wouldn't turn down such a sweetheart deal were it offered to him, but he's apparently willing to put his own money into a project when things aren't going as well as hoped. We've written before about the Boot Ranch project near Fredericksburg (here and here): Sutton's company is developing the ultra-exclusive neighborhood and golf course for the rich.

But the project ran into trouble with a major investor - the Municipal Police Employees' Retirement System, a Louisiana pension organization - threatening to pull out of the project. The MPERS was concerned when it learned that Boot Ranch had burned through a $30 million line of credit without actually recording any home sales or golf club memberships. And the development was seeking more money to devote to selling the project to potential club members and residents.

The Shreveport Times reports that Sutton - a Louisiana native who has a ranch near Junction - has personally stepped in, securing a $34 million loan that will keep MPERS from withdrawing from Boot Ranch. "Sutton will use Boot Ranch and his personal guarantee to get a $34 million line of credit from First United Bank in Texas to finish the 2,200-acre luxury development" the newspaper reported.

The paper goes on to report:

Plans for the controversial Boot Ranch call for an 18-hole golf course, driving range, practice greens, clubhouse village offering fine dining and other amenities and 62 executive homes in the heart of Texas Hill Country. Developers have not completed any sales because Gillespie County commissioners would not record the plat until Boot Ranch paid $2 million to $3 million to ensure proper road construction by builders.

The additional $34 million investment is needed because some of Boot Ranch's potential clients "want tangible evidence the entire project will be built" before buying the pricey homes or golf club memberships, according to retirement system lawyer Randy Zinna.

A news release made public Wednesday by Sutton agent Gilbert Little and printed on the system's letterhead assures that construction "is moving along smoothly."
See the full article here.