Saturday, March 31

A Magnificent Seven, Part 3: Lanny Wadkins at the 1971 Q-School and His Life in Golf

This is the third in a series on players from the 1971 Q-School. Read Part 1 and Part 2. Nearly a half century later John Coyne tracked down Allen Miller, Lanny Wadkins, Leonard Thompson, Sam Adams, John Mahaffey, Steve Melnyk and Spike Kelly. How had pro golf and life turned out for these seven men?

By John Coyne

Copyright © John Coyne. Used with permission.


LANNY WADKINS WAS ONLY 21 when he arrived at the 1971 Q-School from Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He had attended Wake Forest University and played on their golf team. Already he had a stellar record as an amateur having won the 1970 U.S. Amateur with a record 279 score and being the medalist in the Regional PGA Tryout at Winston-Salem that got him to Florida.

Wadkins won the 1977 PGA Championship.
He would tie for second low qualifier at the Q-School, having deliberately played conservatively for six rounds.

"In the last round of the tournament, for example, I played away from water," Wadkins said. "I played away from bunkers. It was a round of golf I had never played before in my life.

"I played very conservatively because I was determined not to screw up. I shot 74 and finished second. But we weren't playing for money. We weren't playing to win. We were playing to finish 23 or better and earn our PGA card."

The next week, with his tour card in hand, he went to Silverado for the PGA Tour event.

"I had a sponsor's exemption and I missed the cut, then I went to Las Vegas and finished 9th. I won $3,300.

"What I remember most about my first year on the tour was that I was close to broke. I didn't have any money.

"And I didn't want a sponsor. Then I played a couple more tournaments and made a thousand in one, a thousand in another. That kept me going.

"We played next at the very first Walt Disney World Golf Invitational. Jack won it and I tied Arnold Palmer for third. That I'll never forget. I won $8,850 and it was enough money to get me through the winter.

"And once I got through the winter and starting the season in '72 I had back-to-back second place finishes on the West Coast at the Bob Hope and Phoenix and from that time on I was okay."

Lanny's first win would be at the Sahara Invitational in 1972 when he finished a stroke ahead of Arnold Palmer. The connection to Palmer for Wadkins went back a long way. Lanny attended Wake Forest on a Palmer scholarship. And Lanny was close to Palmer all of the King's life.

Little did I know back in 1971, when I asked Lanny in the days immediately after he had claimed his tour card at the school to give his advice on how to play the long irons in my instruction book, Better Golf, that on the PGA Tour for the next 20 years he would be considered one of the greatest long-iron players of his day.

In the book, Lanny makes the point that "On the tour we have to hit a bunch of long irons. Those courses are long, and many times our second shots into the target need to be two-or three irons. And they never give us much to shoot at. Accuracy is a problem. Not only must we hit the three-irons, say 210 yards, but we have to draw it in on a string to a tiny target."

But, as Lanny and the other pros from the Q-School have said, with course changes and the ability to drive the ball well over three hundred yards, many of the tour players now only have a short iron into the green.

"The ball has changed the most," said Lanny, "more than the driver."

And while the new ball and new equipment have resulted in course records being broken, there is one tournament record set by Lanny that is still unbroken. He holds the record for Riviera, shooting 264 for 72 holes in 1985.

What has changed is Lanny's career. After winning 21 PGA Tour events, one Senior Tour event and having been on a record eight Ryder Cup teams, he gave up tournament golf to spend his time as a golf analyst, first for five years with CBS and since 2011 as the lead analyst for Golf Channel's Champions Tour coverage. 

What hasn't changed according to the pros from the Class of ;71 is the friendships among young players. Today these older pros are impressed at how close the friendships are among the current crop of "young guns" who follow each other on tour, giving support and congratulations to each other. 

"Only time will tell," summed up Lanny, "whether these guys, most of whom are from the high school class of 2011, are as good as our Q-School players that had multiple major champions like myself, Mahaffey, Watson and David Graham. But what is certain, these young players are great guys."

TO BE CONTINUED.

John Coyne is a bestselling author whose most recent golf novel is The Caddie Who Won the Masters. Learn more at John Coyne Books.

Wednesday, March 28

'The Art of Putting' By Paul Trevillion From Penguin Books

IN A WAY IT MAKES PERFECT SENSE that an acclaimed artist would write a book on putting. And that book on putting is aptly titled The Art of Putting, currently on sale in the United Kingdom and soon to be released in the United States.

Paul Trevillion (right) with British golf legend Neil Coles,
holding The Art of Putting.

My friend Paul Trevillion, the British sports artist, recently alerted me to this, his new book. The split-hand putting grip is in vogue and used by some of the world's best golfers on all the major tours, including winners and major champions such as Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose, Laura Davies and others.

But this 21st-century putting phenomenon has 20th-century origins. Trevillion perfected and touted the split-hand pencil putting grip in the 1970s.

"An artist never gets the yips," Trevillion says. "I aim at the hole and draw a straight line."

In fact, Trevillion toured the United States four decades ago and challenged anyone, including professionals, to a putting contest. "Sink 1,000 and and I will sink 1,001!"

I met Paul when I was writing my book, Draw in the Dunes, about the 1969 Ryder Cup. He and Peter Willis, who were both at Royal Birkdale in September 1969, were tremendous resources and helped bring the narrative alive.

Here's the cover of Trevillion's new book:


Watch below as Paul Trevillion gives a putting lesson featuring the split-hand grip 47 years ago.

Tuesday, March 27

Bubba IS the Man and a Masters Favorite (Despite His Denials)


FOR A MAN CLOSE TO HANGING up his pink-shafted driver and walking away from the game, Bubba Watson is doing OK. Actually, better than OK. Bubba followed his February win in LA with another victory this past week at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

"I got off to a hot start and I'm just focused on golf," Watson told Golf Channel after dispatching Kevin Kisner 7&6 in the final. "So focused on committing to shots. About four or five shots for the week where I wasn't committed, where I kind of blanked out. So that's pretty good over 100-some holes we’ve played."

Those Bubba shots? They're back in the bag.

"You've got to have confidence in yourself, knowing that I can hit certain shots and do certain shots again. Getting the strength back to hit the hard bomb or the big slice off the tee. Things like that."

Plus there's the flatstick.

"And then making the putts. Like I said, I got a new putter. First week I used it was L.A. They took two putters and milled it together, or welded it together. Whatever you want to call it. So I'm using this putter that's two putters in one. It’s worked out perfectly and the stroke looks good."

But don't call the man with two recent wins and a pair of Masters titles a favorite heading to Augusta National ...



Masters Tickets

Yes, Masters tickets are available for every day of the week. Take a look at TicketCity.

Thursday, March 22

Golf on TV: WGC Dell Technologies Match Play, Kia Classic, Rapiscan Systems Classic, Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship



From a Golf Channel press release.

ORLANDO, Fla. – The PGA TOUR is in Austin for the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. The field of 64 is separated into 16 four-man groups competing in round-robin matches with 16 advancing to single-elimination matches this weekend. Shanshan Feng and Lexi Thompson lead the field at the Kia Classic in Southern California, as players utilize the event as a final tune-up for next week’s ANA Inspiration, professional golf’s first major in 2018. The PGA TOUR Champions are in Mississippi for the Rapiscan Systems Classic, where Miguel Angel Jimenez looks to win for the third consecutive year.

PGA TOUR

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play
Dates: March 21-25
Venue: Austin Country Club, Austin, Texas

Tournament Airtimes on Golf Channel (Eastern)
Thursday         2-8 p.m. (Live) / 10:30 p.m.-4:30 a.m. (Replay)
Friday              2-8 p.m. (Live) / 12:30-3:30 a.m. (Saturday replay)
Saturday          10 a.m.-2 p.m. (Live) / 10 p.m.-2 a.m. (Replay)
Sunday            10 a.m.-2 p.m. (Live) / 10 p.m.-2 a.m. (Replay)

Tournament Airtimes on NBC (Eastern)
Saturday          2-6 p.m. (Live)
Sunday            3-7 p.m. (Live)

Broadcast Notes:
Match play format: The 64-man field has been divided into 16, four-man groups competing amongst one another in a round-robin format Wednesday-Friday, with each player in the field guaranteed to play at least three matches. The player in each group with the most points (1 point for a win, ½ point for a halved match) advances to single-elimination match play: round of 16 and quarterfinals on Saturday, and the semifinals and final on Sunday. The top-16 seeded players (based on World ranking) are the top seeds in their respective groups, while the remaining 48 players were divided into three groups (17-32, 33-48, 49-64) and placed through a blind draw on Monday night.
Johnson defends: World No. 1 Dustin Johnson defeated Jon Rahm 1up in the finals last year to earn his 15th PGA TOUR victory.
Headlining the field: Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama, Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Jason Day, Tommy Fleetwood and Paul Casey.

LPGA TOUR

Kia Classic
Dates: March 22-25
Venue: Aviara Golf Club, Carlsbad, Calif.

Tournament Airtimes on Golf Channel (Eastern)                                   
Thursday         8:30-10:30 p.m. (Tape delay) / 7-9 p.m. (Streaming on Golf Channel Digital)
Friday             8:30-10:30 p.m. (Tape delay) / 7-9 p.m. (Streaming on Golf Channel Digital)
Saturday          7-9 p.m. (Live)
Sunday            7-9 p.m. (Live)

Broadcast Notes:
Lee defends: Mirim Lee finished six shots clear of the field in 2017 to win her third LPGA Tour win.
Headlining the field: Shanshan Feng, Lexi Thompson, So Yeon Ryu, Ariya Jutanugarn, Anna Nordqvist, I.K. Kim, Inbee Park, Cristie Kerr, Brooke Henderson, Michelle Wie and Lydia Ko.

PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS

Rapiscan Systems Classic
Dates: March 23-25
Venue: Fallen Oak, Biloxi, Miss.

Tournament Airtimes on Golf Channel (Eastern)                                   
Friday             10:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. (Tape delay) / 4:30-6:30 p.m. (Streaming on Golf Channel Digital)
Saturday          5-7 p.m. (Live)
Sunday            5-7 p.m. (Live)

Broadcast Notes:
Jimenez defends: Miguel Angel Jimenez defeated Gene Sauers with a birdie on the first playoff hole to defend his 2016 title and earn his fourth PGA TOUR Champions win.
Headlining the field: Bernhard Langer, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Colin Montgomerie, Vijay Singh, Tom Lehman, Steve Stricker, Jerry Kelly, Kevin Sutherland and Rocco Mediate.

PGA TOUR

Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship
Dates: March 22-25
Venue: Corales Golf Club, Punta Cana, Dominic Republic

Tournament Airtimes on Golf Channel (Eastern)                                   
Thursday         10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. (Live)
Friday             10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. (Live)
Saturday          2-5 p.m. (Live)
Sunday            2:30-5 p.m. (Live)

Broadcast Notes:
New event: Previously staged as a Web.com Tour event, this week marks the first time that the PGA TOUR will stage an official event in the Dominican Republic.
Headlining the field: Tony Romo, Jim Furyk, Graeme McDowell, Emiliano Grillo, Davis Love III, John Daly, Paul Dunne, Retief Goosen, K.J. Choi, Mike Weir and Angel Cabrera.

Wednesday, March 21

Rory-Tiger Putt VIDEO: 'I've Seen Tiger Make This Putt Enough Times to Know What It Does' –Rory McIlroy

No wonder that putt on 18 looked so familiar…

A post shared by PGA TOUR (@pgatour) on


RORY MCILROY ENDED A LONG DRY SPELL on the PGA Tour by shooting a 64 on Sunday to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational by three shots. Suddenly the ball was rolling into the hole for the 28-year-old Northern Irishman.

When Justin Rose was asked about the last time he saw Rory putt like this, Rose said, "Never."

A Magnificent Seven, Part 2: Allen Miller at the 1971 Q-School and His Life in Golf

This is the second in a series on players from the 1971 Q-School. Read Part 1. Nearly a half century later John Coyne tracked down Allen Miller, Lanny Wadkins, Leonard Thompson, Sam Adams, John Mahaffey, Steve Melnyk and Spike Kelly. How had pro golf and life turned out for these seven men?

By John Coyne

Copyright © John Coyne. Used with permission.


"I STILL HAVE YOUR BOOK," ALLEN MILLER confessed when I reached him by phone in Florida, where he was spending the winter.

Allen Miller
Allen today is the director with his wife Cindy, an LPGA professional (cindymillergolf.com), of Allen Miller Golf (allenmillergolf.com) in Silver Creek, New York. They are, in fact, the only married couple to have played on all four major tours—the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, PGA Tour Champions and Legends Tour.

In 1971, however, Allen was only 23, and ranked the No. 2 amateur in the United States by Golf Digest.  He had come to the PGA Tour Qualifying School that year with 357 other players seeking to earn a spot on the 1972 PGA Tour and had reached the last stage of the competition. He was ready to play in the 72-hole final event at PGA National Golf Club in Palm Beach Gardens.

All that mattered for Allen and the other young competitors was not their ranking as amateurs, but the next six rounds of golf, where not money, but their futures, were involved. If they didn't win one of the 23 spots, they would have to wait a year for another chance to make the tour.

"I came to Florida with a game plan," he said. "It was not to have any double bogeys."

He and Lanny Wadkins were considered the two best ball strikers in this crop of young players and Allen showed it the first day, shooting 69. Only Chuck Thorpe, from Detroit, was better. He shot 68 to lead the tournament.

Allen's opening 69 put him in a great position to earn his card, and on the fifth day of the tournament he shot 67, the low round of the tournament. "Still all that mattered," Allen remembered, was "get the card."

At the time, Allen recalled, "Our only goal then was to get out of college and get on the PGA Tour. That's all we thought about."

But once on the tour, it wasn't an easy life. They all had to qualify on Monday for each tour event until they made the cut. And the tour then did not have the grand paydays that it has today. While almost none of these players had endorsements, some, like Allen, did have sponsors who financed them.

"I had a couple businessmen from Delaware. They put up money for me to play. They covered my expenses and shared in my winnings. They were great guys. They helped me. In '71, it cost about $20,000 to play the tour for a year. But once you won, you were a life member; you couldn't lose your card. And you got at least a two-year exemption."

The first challenge for the new pros was to qualify on a Monday for that week's event, and then to win a tournament. Allen's first win came at the 1974 Tallahassee Open. He shot 274, 14-under par and earned $18,000. It was his only win on tour.

In his 15th year on tour he lost his playing rights.

"That year, our second child was born and I was preoccupied with that birth. I didn't qualify and I said, 'That’s it. I'm done.'"

Having played in five Masters, as well as the U.S. Open, his tour career spanned 15 years and he officially retired in 1986 to teach full time. He was in his mid-thirties.

"I had to go to Buffalo to find a teaching job and that was at a driving range.

"I was there for the summer. I have been teaching in Buffalo for some 30 some years. We don't teach in private clubs, but at a public driving range and a golf dome."


Allen and Cindy have their own lesson business and are associated with The Golf Channel Academy.

Cindy is a veteran of five U.S. Women's Opens and plays today on the Legends Tour when she isn’t teaching. She is perhaps the best known of the two teaching Millers for her appearance on the Golf Channel's reality series The Big Break III: Ladies Only in 2005.

I asked Allen how golf had changed on the tour, with new golf equipment, golf course conditions and better techniques.

"Well the modern swing was around when I started. Swings go in cycles. Pros are hitting the ball 30 to 35 yards longer, courses are dryer and the ball is better and it rolls farther. But it is like trying to compare cars from the different decades, or comparing gravel roads and super highways. I'd say most greens are perfect now. We didn't have them in our days. Augusta National was great…now they have perfect greens. Modernization is everything. But there were good players in my days, and there are good players today.

"What has changed is prize money. In 1975 I finished 15th at the Masters and won $2,800. Even counting inflation, you can't compare the prize money of today to what we earned in the early 1970s.

"One thing that hasn't changed is the relationships of touring pros. We were all good friends coming out of the PGA School in 1971, and we stayed friends over the years, traveled together in caravans from tournament to tournament, helped each other. Today, my daughter, who works for the Golf Channel, tells me that most of the young pros are really nice kids.

"That's golf for you. It brings out the best in people."

TO BE CONTINUED.

John Coyne is a bestselling author whose most recent golf novel is The Caddie Who Won the Masters. Learn more at John Coyne Books.

Wednesday, March 14

Golf on TV: Arnold Palmer Invitational, Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Embed from Getty Images

From a Golf Channel press release.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Coming off a T-2nd finish on Sunday, 14-time major champion Tiger Woods will return to compete this week in the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard. The LPGA Tour this week kicks off the domestic portion of its schedule with the Bank of Hope Founders Cup in Arizona. This is the first of three consecutive weeks of events being staged by the Tour, including the first professional golf major of 2018 in two weeks at the ANA Inspiration (March 29-April 1).

PGA TOUR

Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard
Dates: March 15-18
Venue: Bay Hill Club & Lodge, Orlando, Fla.

Tournament Airtimes on Golf Channel (Eastern)
Thursday         2-6 p.m. (Live) / 9:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m. (Replay)
Friday              2-6 p.m. (Live) / 9:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m. (Replay)
Saturday          12:30-2:30 p.m. (Live) / 10 p.m.-3 a.m. (Replay)
Sunday            12:30-2 p.m. (Live) / 10 p.m.-3 a.m. (Replay)

Tournament Airtimes on NBC (Eastern)
Saturday          2:30-6 p.m. (Live)
Sunday            2-6:30 p.m. (Live)

Broadcast Notes:
Leishman defends: Marc Leishman finished one shot ahead of Kevin Kisner and Charley Hoffman to claim his second PGA TOUR win.
Headlining the field: Tiger Woods, Justin Rose, Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day, Tommy Fleetwood, Rory McIlroy, Tyrrell Hatton, Henrik Stenson, Marc Leishman and Alex Noren.

LPGA TOUR

Bank of Hope Founders Cup
Dates: March 15-18
Venue: Wildfire Golf Club, Phoenix, Ariz.

Tournament Airtimes on Golf Channel (Eastern)                                   
Thursday         6-9 p.m. (Live)
Friday             6-9 p.m. (Live)            
Saturday          6-9 p.m. (Live) / 3-6 a.m. (Sunday replay)
Sunday            6-9 p.m. (Live) / 3-6 a.m. (Monday replay)

Broadcast Notes:
Nordqvist defends: Anna Nordqvist finished two shots clear of In Gee Chun, Ariya Jutanugarn and Stacy Lewis to earn her seventh LPGA Tour win.
Headlining the field: Sung Hyun Park, Anna Nordqvist, Ariya Jutanugarn, In Gee Chun, Cristie Kerr, Lydia Ko, Jessica Korda, Brooke Henderson, Michelle Wie, Sei Young Kim and Inbee Park.

USGA and The R&A Release Modernized Rules

By USGA and The R&A

LIBERTY CORNER, N.J., USA, and ST. ANDREWS, SCOTLAND – The USGA and The R&A have unveiled the new Rules of Golf, to be implemented January 1, 2019.

The USGA and The R&A finalized golf’s new Rules this month after an extensive review that included a request for feedback from the global golf community on the proposed changes. Golfers can now access the official 2019 Rules of Golf by visiting RandA.org or usga.org/rules.

The process to modernize the Rules began in 2012 and was initiated to ensure that the Rules are easier to understand and apply for all golfers and to make the game more attractive and accessible for newcomers.

While the majority of proposed Rules remain intact in the final version, several important changes to the initial proposals and further clarification of many Rules were incorporated. The most significant adjustments made following review of the feedback received from golfers around the world include:
  • Dropping procedure: When taking relief (from an abnormal course condition or penalty area, for example), golfers will now drop from knee height. This will ensure consistency and simplicity in the dropping process while also preserving the randomness of the drop. (Key change: the proposed Rules released in 2017 suggested dropping from any height).
     
  • Measuring in taking relief: The golfer’s relief area will be measured by using the longest club in his/her bag (other than a putter) to measure one club-length or two club-lengths, depending on the situation, providing a consistent process for golfers to establish his/her relief area. (Key change: the proposed Rules released in 2017 suggested a 20-inch or 80-inch standard measurement.)
     
  • Removing the penalty for a double hit: The penalty stroke for accidentally striking the ball more than once in the course of a stroke has been removed. Golfers will simply count the one stroke they made to strike the ball. (Key change: the proposed Rules released in 2017 retained the existing one-stroke penalty).
     
  • Balls Lost or Out of Bounds: Alternative to Stroke and Distance: A new Local Rule will now be available in January 2019, permitting committees to allow golfers the option to drop the ball in the vicinity of where the ball is lost or out of bounds (including the nearest fairway area), under a two-stroke penalty. It addresses concerns raised at the club level about the negative impact on pace of play when a player is required to go back under stroke and distance. The Local Rule is not intended for higher levels of play, such as professional or elite level competitions. (Key change: this is a new addition to support pace of play.)
Major proposals introduced in 2017 that have been incorporated into the modernized Rules include:
  • Elimination or reduction of “ball moved” penalties: There will be no penalty for accidentally moving a ball on the putting green or in searching for a ball; and a player will not be responsible for causing a ball to move unless it is “virtually certain” that he or she did so.
     
  • Relaxed putting green rules: There will be no penalty if a ball played from the putting green hits an unattended flagstick in the hole; players may putt without having the flagstick attended or removed. Players may repair spike marks and other damage made by shoes, animal damage and other damage on the putting green and there is no penalty for merely touching the line of putt.
     
  • Relaxed rules for “penalty areas” (currently called “water hazards”):Red- and yellow-marked penalty areas may cover areas of desert, jungle, lava rock, etc., in addition to areas of water; expanded use of red penalty areas where lateral relief is allowed; and there will be no penalty for moving loose impediments or touching the ground or water in a penalty area.
     
  • Relaxed bunker rules: There will be no penalty for moving loose impediments in a bunker or for generally touching the sand with a hand or club. A limited set of restrictions (such as not grounding the club right next to the ball) is kept to preserve the challenge of playing from the sand; however, an extra relief option is added for an unplayable ball in a bunker, allowing the ball to be played from outside the bunker with a two-stroke penalty.
     
  • Relying on player integrity: A player’s “reasonable judgment” when estimating or measuring a spot, point, line, area or distance will be upheld, even if video evidence later shows it to be wrong; and elimination of announcement procedures when lifting a ball to identify it or to see if it is damaged.
     
  • Pace-of-play support: Reduced time for searching for a lost ball (from five minutes to three); affirmative encouragement of “ready golf” in stroke play; recommending that players take no more than 40 seconds to play a stroke and other changes intended to help with pace of play.

A Magnificent Seven: Players of the 1971 Q-School

Embed from Getty Images

This is the first in a series on players from the 1971 Q-School. Nearly a half century later John Coyne tracked down Allen Miller, Lanny Wadkins, Leonard Thompson, Sam Adams, John Mahaffey, Steve Melnyk and Spike Kelly. How had pro golf and life turned out for these seven men?

By John Coyne

Copyright © John Coyne. Used with permission.


THE PGA TOUR QUALIFYING TOURNAMENT -- better known as Q-School -- was established in 1965. John Schlee was the first winner. It was last played in 2012 and Lee Dong-hwan was the low qualifier. In between, the tournament was played annually, with two tournaments (Spring and Fall), played in 1968-69 and 1975-81.

The class of 1967 had what was then considered, by many, the greatest group of pros: Tony Jacklin, Bob Murphy, Orville Moody, Deane Beman, Gibby Gilbert, Lee Elder, Bobby Cole and Peter Townsend.

But then came the class of 1971!

A record number of 357 players -- a 43 percent increase over 1970 -- played in regional tryouts. Among the qualifiers were Lanny Wadkins, the 1970 U.S. Amateur champion and a member of the 1969 and 1971 U.S. Walker Cup teams; Steve Melnyk, the current British Amateur titleholder; David Graham of Australia, already an international star, who had just won the 1971 World Cup; John Mahaffey of Texas, the 1970 NCAA champion; and Allen Miller and Bruce Fleisher, both Walker Cup players, as well as Tom Watson.

The 1971 class was intelligent and well-educated. Of the 75 players enrolled, 66 had attended college and played on college golf teams. Thirty-five had already graduated from college. It was a young class. The average age was 24.

A Test of Skill and Endurance

The PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament was actually a series of tournaments, beginning with first-stage qualifiers played at either Winston-Salem, North Carolina; Quincy, Illinois; or Riverside, California. The entry fee was $300 and if players made the grade at the first stage, they advanced to the second stage.

Golfers who advanced out of the second stage moved on to the final stage -- the six-round grind -- that is what most people referred to when mentioning Q-School.

This 1971 tournament was longer than previous ones -- six rounds instead of four. The two extra rounds were added to make it a greater test of golfing ability. A lucky round wouldn’t help. The test was for endurance and a mature golf game that would hold up during the whole week.

The Q-School was divided into two sections.

1. Classroom instruction by tournament players and the Tournament Players Division staff on players’ ethics and conduct, relations with the public, tournament sponsors and the news media, plus a written examination on the PGA Constitution. 

2. Qualifying Tournament, 108 holes of stroke play. The number of golfers allowed to earn their cards was determined by Joseph Dey, then commissioner of the Tournament Players Division. That number was based on the total number of golfers in school and Dey’s estimation of how many new golfers the tour could support. In 1971 Dey decided that the top 23 scores, plus ties, would quality.

The tournament began on Monday in the rain, the first day of rain in months for Florida. It was a rain the pros were not disappointed to see, as it would help to slow the hard, fast greens of the championship East Course at PGA National now known as BallenIsles Country Club.

Each of the players who PGA officials I spoke to thought would make the cut did indeed qualify. Twenty-three players shot 444 or better and earned their cards.

But through the long week of golf there was drama and tragedy as many of the “also rans,” local pros, such as Spike Kelley from Shawnee, Oklahoma, tried and failed to make the tour. Dreams of glory faded with the sun. It was all over for a majority of young guys until the next school, the following year, and another 108 holes of golf. 

Now, nearly fifty years after that event, I got to thinking of those players at PGA National and wondering what they remembered from the Q-School, and also how things had played out on tour and in life.

So, with the help of the Internet, I reached out to five of the guys I had written about in my first published golf book, Better Golf, a book of instruction by eleven contestants from the 1971 PGA Tournament Players School.

TO BE CONTINUED.

John Coyne is a bestselling author whose most recent golf novel is The Caddie Who Won the Masters. Learn more at John Coyne Books.

Thursday, March 8

Golf on TV: Valspar Championship, Toshiba Classic, Indian Open



From a Golf Channel press release.

ORLANDO, Fla. – The PGA TOUR returns to Florida this week for the Valspar Championship as Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy make their first appearances in the event, joined by a strong international field featuring Jordan Spieth, Sergio Garcia and defending champion Adam Hadwin. The PGA TOUR Champions’ Toshiba Classic returns to the schedule after a one year hiatus. Jay Haas is the defending champion from the 2016 Toshiba Classic, when he became the second-oldest winner in Tour history at age 62. The European Tour heads to India for the Indian Open, a co-sanctioned event between the European Tour and the Asian Tour.

PGA TOUR

Valspar Championship
Dates: March 8-11
Venue: Innisbrook Resort & Golf Club (Copperhead Course) – Palm Harbor, Fla.

Tournament Airtimes on Golf Channel (Eastern)
Thursday         2-6 p.m. (Live) / 7-11 p.m. (Replay)
Friday              2-6 p.m. (Live) / 8:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. (Replay)
Saturday          1-3 p.m. (Live) / 9 p.m.-Midnight. (Replay)
Sunday            1-3 p.m. (Live) / 9 p.m.-2 a.m. (Replay)

Tournament Airtimes on NBC (Eastern)
Saturday          3-6 p.m. (Live)
Sunday            3-6 p.m. (Live)

Broadcast Notes:
Hadwin defends: Adam Hadwin defeated Patrick Cantlay by one stroke in 2017 for his first career PGA TOUR win.
Headlining the field: Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Ernie Els, Jim Furyk, Sergio Garcia, Bill Haas, Adam Hadwin, Davis Love III, , Justin Rose, Sam Saunders, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson and Steve Stricker.

PGA TOUR Champions

Toshiba Classic
Dates: March 9-11
Venue: Newport Beach Country Club, Newport Beach, Calif.

Tournament Airtimes on Golf Channel (Eastern)
Friday              6-8 p.m. (Live) / 12:30-2:30 a.m. (Replay)
Saturday          5:30-8 p.m. (Live) / 5:30-7:30 a.m. (Sunday Replay)            
Sunday            5:30-8 p.m. (Live) / 2-4 a.m. (Monday Replay)

Broadcast Notes:
Headlining the field: Bernhard Langer, Tom Watson, Mark Calcavecchia, John Cook, Fred Couples, John Daly, Jay Haas, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Jerry Kelly, Tom Lehman, Colin Montgomerie, Jose Maria Olazabal, Vijay Singh and David Toms

EUROPEAN TOUR

Indian Open
Dates: March 8-11
Venue: DLF Golf & Country Club (Gary Player Course), New Delhi, India

Tournament Airtimes on Golf Channel (Eastern)
Friday              12:30-2:30 a.m. / 4-7 a.m. (Live) / 7-10 a.m. (Replay)
Saturday          2:30-7 a.m. (Live) / 7-10 a.m. (Replay)
Sunday            Midnight-5:30 a.m. / 7:30-10 a.m. (Replay)

Broadcast Notes:
Chawrasia defends: S.S.P. Chawrasia defeated Gavin Green by seven strokes to earn his fourth career European Tour victory and win back-to-back Indian Opens.
Headlining the field: Shubhankar Sharma, Arjun Atwal, Thomas Bjorn, S.S.P. Chawrasia, Darren Clarke, Emiliano Grillo, Gavin Green, Andrew Johnston, Anirban Lahiri, Jeev Milkha Singh.

GOLF CHANNEL VIDEO: Very Recent Evidence of Tiger-Phil Warming



THE POLAR ICE CAPS ARE MELTING and apparently so is the once frosty relationship between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

Listen to Tiger talk about Phil's win at the WGC-Mexico Championship. He is practically gushing. It even sounds like he was watching on Sunday, knowing what Phil did on the closing holes. Knock me over with a feather.

UPDATE: More below from Phil's interview on the Dan Patrick Show.



"We've gotten pretty close over the last couple of years," Phil said, "with the team events and his great leadership that he's had as a vice captain at the Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup. ... We've been pulling hard for each other."

Hall of Famer Lorena Ochoa Recognized With Own Barbie for International Women's Day

LORENA OCHOA, THE RETIRED 27-TIME WINNER on the LPGA Tour, earned her spot in the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2017.

Now Ochoa also has a Barbie that was made in her honor for International Women's Day.

"I am very happy to be recognized by Barbie as a source of inspiration for little girls," Ochoa was quoted as saying by LPGA.com.

"This recognition is another reason to continue demonstrating that with perseverance and love for what you do you can become what you propose. Thank you, Barbie."

LPGA.com also reported: "The Ochoa doll is one of 14 modern-day role models created through Barbie’s Shero program, which are designed to inspire the next generation of girls. Since her retirement from professional golf in 2007, Ochoa has devoted her life to her family and growing the game of golf in her home country of Mexico."

Wednesday, March 7

Gary Van Sickle: 'Revising History with USGA's 2-Hole Playoff'



IMAGINE IF THE USGA HAD BEEN USING the new two-hole aggregate playoff throughout U.S. Open history instead of the 18-hole playoff (and earlier the 36-hole playoff).

That's what veteran golf writer Gary Van Sickle did in a clever piece for MORNING READ.

Sickle rewrote U.S. Open history based on the two-hole playoff. It turns out that bridesmaid Sam Snead won the U.S. Open after all. Sorry, there was no miracle at Merion for Ben Hogan. Arnold Palmer recovered from his epic collapse to edge Billy Casper at the Olympic Club. And more.

Here's one fun snippet from Van Sickle's revisionist history:
Amateur hour … almost: The best underdog story that never was belonged to caddie-turned-amateur Francis Ouimet. He beat long odds to wind up in the 1913 U.S. Open playoff against two of golf’s biggest names, Britons Harry Vardon and Ted Ray, at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass. If the 21-year-old kid would’ve knocked off those kingpins, he might have been hailed as the father of amateur golf in America. Instead, the two-hole playoff format meant Ray was eliminated by the third hole. Ouimet gamely took Vardon to the sixth, where his par wasn’t good enough to beat Vardon’s birdie. Ouimet won a pair of U.S. Amateurs and played in eight Walker Cups, but he missed his chance at what could’ve been the greatest game ever played, had he won.

Thursday, March 1

Golf on TV: WGC-Mexico Championship, HSBC Women's World Championship, Cologuard Classic, Tshwane Open



From a Golf Channel press release.

ORLANDO, Fla. – This week NBC Sports Group kicks off its five-week stretch of exclusive PGA TOUR coverage leading up to the Masters, with more than 20 hours of live coverage at the WGC-Mexico Championship airing across Golf Channel and NBC. The 65-man field features 45 of the top-50 in the world, including Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth and Justin Rose.

PGA TOUR

WGC-Mexico Championship
Dates: March 1-4
Venue: Chapultepec Golf Club, Mexico City, Mexico

Tournament Airtimes on Golf Channel (Eastern)
Thursday         2-7 p.m. (Live) / 8 p.m.-Midnight (Replay)
Friday             2-7 p.m. (Live) / 9 p.m.-Midnight (Replay)
Saturday          Noon-3 p.m. (Live) / 8-10:30 p.m. (Replay)
Sunday            Noon-2 p.m. (Live) / 8 p.m.-1 a.m. (Replay)

Tournament Airtimes on NBC (Eastern)
Saturday          3-6 p.m. (Live)
Sunday            2-6 p.m. (Live)

Broadcast Notes:
Johnson defends: Dustin Johnson finished one stroke ahead of Tommy Fleetwood to earn his 14th PGA TOUR win.
Headlining the field: Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Brooks Koepka, Tommy Fleetwood, Sergio Garcia and Alex Noren.

LPGA TOUR

HSBC Women’s World Championship
Dates: March 1-4
Venue: Sentosa Golf Club (New Tanjong Course), Sentosa Island, Singapore

Tournament Airtimes on Golf Channel (Eastern)
Wednesday     10:30 p.m.-2:30 a.m. (Live, overnight)
Thursday         Midnight-2:30 a.m. (Live, overnight)
Friday             Midnight-2:30 a.m. (Live, overnight)
Saturday          10:30 p.m.-2:30 a.m. (Live, overnight)

Broadcast Notes:
Elite field features 19 of top-20 in world: The field this week includes each of the players currently ranked in the top-20 in the Rolex Rankings, with the only exception being Stacy Lewis.
Park defends: Inbee Park finished one shot ahead of Ariya Jutanugarn to claim her 18th LPGA win.
Headlining the field: Shanshan Feng, Lexi Thompson, Sung Hyun Park, So Yeon Ryu, Anna Nordqvist, I.K. Kim, Ariya Jutanugarn, In Gee Chun, Cristie Kerr, Lydia Ko and Jessica Korda.

PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS

Cologuard Classic
Dates: March 2-4
Venue: Omni Tucson National Resort (Catalina Course), Tucson, Ariz.

Tournament Airtimes on Golf Channel (Eastern)
Friday             7-9 p.m. (Tape delay) / 5-7 p.m. (Streaming on Golf Channel Digital)
Saturday          4:30-7 p.m. (Live)
Sunday            4:30-7 p.m. (Live)

Broadcast Notes:
Lehman defends: Tom Lehman finished one stroke clear of Steve Stricker to earn his 10th PGA TOUR Champions victory.
Headlining the field: Bernhard Langer, Steve Stricker, Colin Montgomerie, David Toms, Kevin Sutherland, Jose Maria Olazabal, Vijay Singh, Tom Lehman, Jerry Kelly and John Daly.

EUROPEAN TOUR

Tshwane Open
Dates: March 1-4
Venue: Pretoria Country Club, Waterkloof, South Africa

Tournament Airtimes on Golf Channel (Eastern)
Thursday         5:30-7:30 a.m. (Tape delay) / 7:30-10:30 a.m. (Live)
Friday             5:30-7:30 a.m. (Tape delay) / 7:30-10:30 a.m. (Live)
Saturday          5-9:30 a.m. (Live)
Sunday            5-9:30 a.m. (Live)

Broadcast Notes:
Headlining the field: Danny Willett, Julian Suri, Darren Fichardt, George Coetzee, Thomas Aiken, Richard Sterne, Haydn Porteous, David Howell, Raphael Jacquelin and Chase Koepka.