Road Hole Shorts

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Archive for April, 2011

Will the PGA and LPGA merge?

By Mary Armstrong – published in the Las Cruces Sun News – 4/22/2011

I’ve waxed extensively in this column about the woes of the LPGA.  And just about everyone agrees that the 40 year-old tour will never be the same.  No amount of tribute to LPGA icons such as Kathy Whitworth, Nancy Lopez, Mickey Wright, Patty Berg or Babe Zaharias will return the tour to its pinnacle.  As Rick Pitino said when the Boston Celtics were faltering under his coaching, “Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish are not coming through that (locker room) door.”

Last month, Golf Digest’s Ron Sirak came up with a potential solution – if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.  In comparison to the LPGA Tour, the PGA Tour has a much more experienced and perhaps more capable stable of professionals that are able to make things happen when it comes to building new events and retaining current ones.  I recently called the LPGA home offices to talk with someone about sponsorships.  I had forgotten about the time difference and reached them perhaps an hour after normal business hours.  Not only could I not find anyone to talk to, their system wouldn’t even allow me to leave a voice message. 

The benefits of a merger are significant – as they are with most businesses.  Among them are greater efficiency in staff, wider range of clients (sponsors) available to the company, and more opportunities to reach other markets.  However there is one particularly attractive element that a merger deal could bring for the Ladies tour.  The PGA and LPGA recently signed long-term contracts with the Golf Channel.  Currently, this is a serious problem for the LPGA because the Golf Channel has chosen to televise most of the PGA, Champions, and Nationwide Tour events ahead of the LPGA.  Consequently, most women’s tour events are “tape-delayed”.  On top of that, and unlike the PGA’s agreement, Carolyn Bivens, the former commissioner, committed the LPGA to paying all of the Golf Channel’s production costs for each tournament.  About half is passed on to the tournament sponsors, but the LPGA is still on the hook for about $270,000 for each event.  All for what is usually a delayed telecast.  Presumably a merger would mean that would disappear. 

This isn’t the first time a merger has been discussed, and both sides say there have been no formal meetings.  However, this may be THE time.  Previous vocal opponents from the PGA side are no longer a factor, and the PGA has been looking for creative formats to freshen up the stale 72-hole stroke-play events week after week.  The PGA would also gain control of the LPGA scheduling, which could eliminate occasional conflicts for fans.  Current PGA tournament sponsors could chip in a fraction of what a PGA event would cost for a Ladies tournament.  As it stands now, a total LPGA tournament purse amounts to just slightly more than the typical PGA winner’s paycheck each week. 

And there are lots of possibilities for getting creative.  Sirak suggests one tournament that alternates groups of men and women, playing from their respective tees – essentially two tournaments in one.  I’m thinking in terms of two tournaments at the same site in a single week.  Think of the savings a single venue could produce with half the setup costs for the tour and for television!  The women could go first from Monday through Wednesday and then the men could play their four rounds the rest of the week.  Of course there are always the potential for a man to team up with a woman for 4-ball events or 2-person best balls and such.  The ultimate fun might be a “battle of the sexes” in which the men and women compete individually from appropriately located tees.

One thing is clear: the women are not in a power position.  While I would not like to see the women “under the thumb” of the guys, there doesn’t appear to be much choice if a United States based women’s tour is to persevere.  However, equality and fairness in person to person dealings should not be about business.  If the PGA wants the LPGA, I hope they recognize that treating the women players like “red-headed stepchildren” will only tarnish the PGA’s reputation and marketability.

A golf architect in New Hampshire for over 20 years, Armstrong brought her craft to Las Cruces in January 2010.  She is the founder of Armstrong Golf Architects, which provides planning, designing, permitting and construction monitoring services for golf course projects.  You can comment on her writing and view past articles at her blog:


A lot about nothing

By Mary Armstrong

Last year I gave you some of my favorite golf quotes. This of course led to many more being presented to me for consideration and I’m providing those and more from “”:

It is almost impossible to remember how tragic a place this world is when one is playing golf. ~Robert Lynd

Golf, like the measles, should be caught young, for, if postponed to riper years, the results may be serious. ~P.G. Wodehouse, A Mixed Threesome, 1922

Golf is like a love affair. If you don’t take it seriously, it’s no fun; if you do take it seriously, it breaks your heart. ~Arthur Daley

Golf is a fascinating game. It has taken me nearly forty years to discover that I can’t play it. ~Ted Ray, Golf – My Slice of Life, 1972

The number of shots taken by an opponent who is out of sight is equal to the square root of the sum of the number of curses heard plus the number of swishes. ~Michael Green, The Art of Coarse Golf, 1975

If profanity had an influence on the flight of the ball, the game of golf would be played far better than it is. ~Horace G. Hutchinson

They say golf is like life, but don’t believe them. Golf is more complicated than that. ~Gardner Dickinson

I guess there is nothing that will get your mind off everything like golf. I have never been depressed enough to take up the game, but they say you get so sore at yourself you forget to hate your enemies. ~Will Rogers

If a lot of people gripped a knife and fork the way they do a golf club, they’d starve to death. ~Sam Snead

Golf is a day spent in a round of strenuous idleness. ~William Wordsworth

Golf gives you an insight into human nature, your own as well as your opponent’s. ~Grantland Rice

Golf is a good walk spoiled. ~Mark Twain

They throw their clubs backwards, and that’s wrong. You should always throw a club ahead of you so that you don’t have to walk any extra distance to get it. ~Tommy Bolt, about the tempers of modern players

Man blames fate for other accidents but feels personally responsible for a hole in one. ~Martha Beckman

When I die, bury me on the golf course so my husband will visit. ~Author Unknown

I’m not saying my golf game went bad, but if I grew tomatoes, they’d come up sliced. ~Attributed to both Miller Barber and Lee Trevino

Golf balls are attracted to water as unerringly as the eye of a middle-aged man to a female bosom. ~Michael Green, The Art of Coarse Golf, 1967

Columbus went around the world in 1492. That isn’t a lot of strokes when you consider the course. ~Lee Trevino

 I’ve spent most of my life golfing – the rest I’ve just wasted. ~Author Unknown

Actually, the only time I ever took out a one-iron was to kill a tarantula. And it took a seven to do that. ~Jim Murray

If you’re caught on a golf course during a storm and are afraid of lightning, hold up a 1-iron. Not even God can hit a 1-iron. ~Lee Trevino

I know I am getting better at golf because I’m hitting fewer spectators. ~Gerald Ford

I would like to deny all allegations by Bob Hope that during my last game of golf, I hit an eagle, a birdie, an elk and a moose. ~Gerald Ford

Golf isn’t like other sports where you can take a player out if he’s having a bad day. You have to play the whole game. ~Phil Blackmar

Golf is the cruelest game, because eventually it will drag you out in front of the whole school, take your lunch money and slap you around. ~Rick Reilly, “Master Strokes,” Sports Illustrated

Golf is an open exhibition of overweening ambition, courage deflated by stupidity, skill scoured by a whiff of arrogance. ~Alistair Cooke

But you don’t have to go up in the stands and play your foul balls. I do. ~Sam Snead, to Ted Williams, arguing which was more difficult, to hit a moving baseball or a stationary golf ball

A hole in one is amazing when you think of the different universes this white mass of molecules has to pass through on its way to the hole. ~Mac O’Grady

The uglier a man’s legs are, the better he plays golf. It’s almost a law. ~H.G. Wells, Bealby, 1915

One of the advantages bowling has over golf is that you seldom lose a bowling ball. ~Don Carter

A “gimme” can best be defined as an agreement between two golfers, neither of whom can putt very well. ~Author Unknown

Golf is the most fun you can have without taking your clothes off. ~Chi Chi Rodriguez

When I putt, my emotions collide like tectonic plates. It’s left my memory circuits full of scars that won’t heal. ~Mac O’Grady

The only time my prayers are never answered is on the golf course. ~Billy Graham

I never pray to God to make a putt. I pray to God to help me react good if I miss a putt. ~Chi Chi Rodriguez

Yeah, after each of my downhill putts. ~Homero Blancas, asked if he had any uphill putts

A golf course outside a big town serves an excellent purpose in that it segregates, as though a concentration camp, all the idle and idiot well-to-do. ~Osbert Sitwell

Gone golfin’… be back dark thirty. ~Author Unknown

Born to golf. Forced to work. ~Author Unknown

My body is here, but my mind has already teed off. ~Author Unknown

If you call on God to improve the results of a shot while it is still in motion, you are using “an outside agency” and subject to appropriate penalties under the rules of golf. ~Henry Longhurst  

And finally: I’ll shoot my age if I have to live to be 105. ~Bob Hope

Sorry Bob, you only made to 100.

History of Golf’s Majors

By Mary Armstrong – published in the Las Cruces Sun News 04/08/2011

This week the Master’s Golf Tournament signals the beginning of the men’s majors.  Including this week’s event, the U.S. Open in June, the British Open in July and the PGA Championship in August comprise the majors as we know them today. 

But was it always that way?  Has there ever been a tournament that once was a major, but no longer is?  Much has influenced the recognition of major tournaments.  Ben Hogan and Arnold Palmer, golf writers Bob Drum and O.B. Keeler, and the relative ease and expense of travel as well as the explosion of purses in the United States have all been factors.

Historically, several tournaments stood out from the rest.  The British Open, the U.S. Open, the U.S. Amateur, British Amateur, The Western Open (now known as the BMW Championship), and the British PGA Matchplay Championship.  In the 50’s the short-lived but lucrative World Championship of Golf was viewed as a “major” by its competitors as the first prize was worth ten times more than any other event at the time.

In 1930, Bobby Jones won The British Open, the U.S. Open, the U.S. Amateur and the British Amateur.  At the time – and still today – the feat was unimaginable and sports writers around the globe searched for a suitable term to describe it.  George Trevor of the New York Sun wrote Bobby Jones had “stormed the impregnable quadrilateral of golf.”  Sounds pretty impressive, doesn’t it?  Still, it was O.B. Keeler’s labeling it as the “Grand Slam” that holds true even today.  Incidentally, Wikipedia claims that Keeler borrowed the term from the card game “Bridge” and not from baseball.  Even today, Jones achievement – especially considering it required the participant to be an amateur – is viewed as the ultimate golf accomplishment.  It also set the standard that just four tournaments would be considered majors.

Whether Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts knew they would be instrumental in turning the major tournament world topsy-turvy is up for discussion.  Jones was perhaps the game’s greatest advocate for amateur golf and so it seems unlikely he would promote a largely professional event to replace either of the two amateur majors.  Regardless of the partner’s intentions, the tournament was incredibly fortunate that it was originally scheduled when sports writers were on their way back “home” from covering baseball’s spring training in Florida.  Many were more than open to spending a few days in Augusta to watch some golf.  The result was widespread publicity for the beautiful and exciting course as well as the very well-run tournament. 

The oldest of the majors is the Open Championship (we often refer to it as the British Open).  The Open was dominated by Americans in the 20’s and 30’s, but the American Tour from the 40’s onward offered unmatched purses which eventually resulted in few American stars taking the lengthy and expensive trip “across the pond”.  For a time in the interwar years The Canadian Open was considered by Americans to be the third most prestigious tournament.  Finally, in 1953 Ben Hogan ventured to Britain and won in his first attempt at the Open.  But it really wasn’t until Palmer attempted to match Hogan’s achievement in 1960 and his annual participation thereafter that the Open was able to garner the prestige and purses that kept it classified as a major.  Players were further encouraged to make the trip by the advent of the relatively quick and inexpensive transatlantic jet flights, which made it possible for players go to Britain and return without missing a single U.S. tour stop due to travel.

While the PGA was formed in 1916, the first “playing pros” organization wasn’t established until 1932.  After the War years, professional golf began to take off and through the 50’s and 60’s amateur golf dwindled in the public’s eyes owing to the rise of a “tour” of events around the nation that featured excellent play and iconic players.  In the late 50’s and early 60’s Palmer established himself, golf, and the professional tour as important cogs in the American sports machine.  It was during these golf explosion years that Palmer had a discussion with Pittsburgh golf writer Bob Drum about the modern Grand Slam and hence the modern majors.

Having already won Masters and U.S. Open, Palmer was asked by Drum about his prospects for the rest of the year.  In the typical confident, but unpretentious Palmer fashion, Arnold told Drum that he felt that if he could win The Open and the PGA Championship it would be quite an accomplishment.  Drum responded that such a feat would equate to Jones Grand Slam of 1930.  Drum spread the word and sure enough the idea of the modern grand slam and the new four majors stuck. 

Unfortunately, that year Palmer was a runner-up in The Open and finished tied for seventh in the PGA Championship (which he never won).  But the mold was cast, and over the next 50 years, the majors have remained the same. 

Since 1960, there have been a few threats to the major’s status quo.  The two greatest challenges have been The Players Championship and the Memorial Tournament.  The lack of a match play event as a major is conspicuous in its absence, and you can bet that the Brits feel even more strongly about that.  The reality is that golf has always been most exciting when played in head-to-head matches.  The current World Golf Championship – Accenture Match Play tournament could be a good candidate, but the prospects for adding a fifth major or supplanting one of the established four isn’t likely.  There has been some sentiment for the PGA to revert to match play as it was played until 1957.  However, match play events don’t fit well with the tour because either the field must be quite limited or the length of the tournament (number of days) must be expanded.

A golf architect in New Hampshire for over 20 years, Armstrong brought her craft to Las Cruces in January 2010.  She is the founder of Armstrong Golf Architects, which provides planning, designing, permitting and construction monitoring services for golf course projects.  You can comment on her writing and view past articles at her blog: