Road Hole Shorts

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Archive for July, 2011

The Women’s Open was an event to remember

By Mary Armstrong/For the Sun-News
Posted: 07/14/2011 09:50:47 PM MDT

This past weekend, I was fortunate to travel to Colorado Springs and see the Women’s Open in person.

USGA and other friends made it all possible and I want to thank them. Unfortunately, I was too late to get media credentials, which would have been even more fun.

If you’ve never been to The Broadmoor, I want you to know that in my opinion it ranks second to none for beauty, historical suave and demanding golf. It also has darn impressive lightning, thunder and horizontal rain. We did get wet, but it was worth it.

If you’ve never treated yourself to a professional golfing event before, it’s much different from watching it on TV. Personally, I prefer the “sit and wait” approach over the “pick a group and follow them” mode. I like to go out and see the course first. Along the way, I’ll make mental notes about what looks like a good place to “plant” myself. We spent the day walking on Saturday before we were drenched and nearly subject to shock therapy as we waited in line for our bus to the parking lot during the quite dependable afternoon thundershowers.

On Sunday we watched the 12th hole, a 200-yard par 3 that drops about 40 feet to the green. The USGA had set up some stands behind the green and it was very easy to see the golf ball off the club and often for the full flight as Cheyenne Mountain provided a perfect background. The difficulty that the players had reading the greens became very apparent to us. Every player that attempted a putt from the left side of the hole overestimated the break to the back of the green and missed right – most also went far past the hole – so judging speed was an issue as well.

I’ll always remember the chimes from the Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun. The Shrine sits high up on Cheyenne Mountain overlooking Broadmoor and the City of Colorado Springs. The Shrine’s Westminster Chimes ring on the quarter hour and music is played periodically as well – I believe every two hours. I understand the 80-foot tall building is incredible as it was constructed from a single 6,000-pound boulder. We never got a chance to visit the Shrine, but I’ll never forget player after player continuing undeterred by those chimes as they unexpectedly rang.

Golf Tourism in New Mexico – not with this Governor

While attending a Rio Grande Golf Course Superintendents meeting in Santa Fe this week, I learned that in March the governor pocket-vetoed a bill introduced by Carlsbad Republican Senator Vernon D. Asbill that would have promoted golf tourism in New Mexico.

Economic studies by respected professionals have pegged golf’s contribution to the New Mexican economy at between $500 million and $1 billion dollars annually. The hospitality industry is perhaps the biggest beneficiary, but the demographic of a golf tourist correlates to someone that will buy art, local crafts, and other goods that tourists typically desire.

The golf business already contributes well to our economy, but Arizona’s golf tourism market is significantly larger (estimated at over 3.5 billion). New Mexico’s superior weather and friendly, small-town atmosphere means the golf-tourism bone is dangling right in front of us. The bill would have devoted ten dollars for license plate fabrications and administration. The remaining $25 would go to the New Mexico Department of Tourism, earmarked for golf tourism promotion. The state was guaranteed by the New Mexico Golf Alliance that it would not lose money on the first run of the plates.

There are over 40 different specialty plates available to New Mexicans. Most plates are targeted to public servants – military, firefighters, police and emergency medical technicians – but a number are for special interests, such as organizations and causes. How much do you suppose Wildlife Artwork, Boy Scouts Centennial, and Amateur Radio Operators contribute to the State’s economy?

Perhaps the governor misunderstood the intention of the bill. This is one license plate that would result in far more traction into the golf tourism business than the earmarked $25 per license plate would provide. When seen by out-of-staters, the distinctive “Golf New Mexico” emblem and slogan would become an icon for New Mexico’s terrific golfing weather and outstanding golfing venues.

The golf industry in New Mexico has made a concerted effort to promote golf tourism. A few years ago, the New Mexico Golf Tourism Alliance was formed. A matching grant from the New Mexico Tourism Department helped them make strides in attracting golf tourists, but $40,000 doesn’t go far when it comes to national marketing. However, they did make progress and I believed proved that a good marketing program can have results.

There’s no doubt the golf course owners (a number of which are municipalities) in New Mexico would benefit from a strong golf tourism marketing program, but our hospitality industry would gain as much or more. Perhaps I don’t understand New Mexico politics, but a bill that would cost the State nothing or nearly nothing and have the potential to bring more tourists here would seem to be a no brainer.

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:


Then and now: the more things change, the worse they get

By Mary Armstrong/For the Sun-News

Posted: 07/07/2011 09:40:39 PM MDT


One of those “this day in history” columns happened to catch my eye recently. This one was from the Montreal Gazzette.

On this date (July 4th) 1977, Judy Rankin won an LPGA Major (at the time) and pocketed $13,000. Dave Eichelberger won a “normal” event on the men’s tour for a $26,000 paycheck.

Most people agree that the LPGA has diminished over the years – they don’t have the purses, the players with “name recognition” or the number of events. I’ll never acknowledge that men are conceded No. 1 over the women because “that’s the way it’s supposed to be” – or for any other reason for that matter. However, conceding that is the way it has been in our culture for as long as history has been recorded begs the question: Have things gotten better or worse on the LPGA tour?

The fact that Rankin’s winning total was exactly half of Eichelberger’s triggered my inquisitive mind. Last week, Yani Tseng’s winning check was for $375,000 while Fredrik Jacobsen won $1,080,000 at the Traveler’s Championship.

Yani got about 35 percent of what Jacobsen did – and she won a major?! Yes, there’s no doubt that the margin of disparity between the LPGA and PGA tours has widened. The real question is why? I’m in the process of a project that I hope will answer or at least shed some light on that question. Stay tuned.

 Follow up on last week’s quote from Judy Rankin.

In the Wegmans LPGA Championship TV Commentator Judy Rankin remarked best on what makes Yani Tseng successful in the game. “The thing, Yani said, that she does the best in her game is – she has fun.” And, “If you are a parent and you want your young child to play golf and maybe excel at the game – but even just to play the game – I think having fun is the very first component.”

I received several positive comments about the article. There are too many examples of burn-out or worse due to an overbearing parent. Erica Blasberg’s story, which I covered a couple of months ago, was perhaps the most notorious, but there are hundreds if not thousands out there whose names we don’t know because their kids failed to make the big time. Judy Rankin was clearly speaking from the heart as Yani smiled wide. Perhaps her own experience growing up was instrumental in her strong feelings.

Flash back 50 years ago to the summer of 1961. The cover of the Aug. 21st issue of Sports Illustrated was adorned with the picture of Judy Torluemke. The photo of the 16-year-old St. Louis native had the subtitle “The Best Girl Golfer”.

Some would say Judy’s rise to golf celebrity was meteoric. Earlier that summer, Judy played in the Women’s British Amateur. After nearly missing the early-summer event because her family couldn’t afford the trip, a couple of her father’s friends pitched in and she was off to Scotland and the Carnoustie Links (site of the 2012 event as well). After a first-round bye, Judy was outmatched to a 3-down score after 12 holes. She made a gallant comeback, but fell short, losing 1 down on the 18th. Young Judy was disgusted with her play and seemingly had enough of golf, vowing to quit the game.

Two weeks later, a Sports Illustrated editor called to tell Judy (or more likely her father) that they planned to put her photograph on the cover of a future issue, but only if she was planning to play in the upcoming U.S. Women’s Open. However the decision was made, Judy agreed to play in the Open and that’s where the story turns interesting – at least to me.

Now, Judy Torluemke was an accomplished player. By that time she had won countless Peewee golf tournaments and even more girl’s junior events (some before she was old enough to enter). She also had already won the Missouri Women’s Amateur Championship and finished as the low amateur in the 1960 U.S. Women’s Open.

Sometime between the Women’s British Amateur and the release of the SI August 21st issue, Judy Torluemke hit a bump in her road to LPGA stardom. The inaugural Missouri Girls State Amateur Championship was the occasion, as girls from all over the state gathered at Grandview Golf Course in Springfield (later the course name was changed to the Bill and Payne Stewart Golf Course). The field included two particularly promising players. Judy was from St. Louis, the other, from cross-state rival, Kansas City. The two had crossed paths earlier that year, in the Missouri Women’s Amateur, which Judy had won. The Flash from Kansas City wasn’t intimidated though. She shot an opening round of 74. The two played together on the second day when the Kansas City Flash faltered slightly before finishing strongly with an 80 and a three-shot margin over the future LPGA star Judy Torluemke Rankin.

Who was the Flash? A woman I play golf with most every Tuesday morning at Sonoma Ranch Golf Course.

ViAnn Beadle went on to defend her title at the State Junior Championship the following year as well as defeat Joanie Colbert (PGA and Champions tour player Jim’s sister) in the Kansas City Women’s City Golf Championship. Another particularly intriguing aspect of this story is that ViAnn went on to play in the widely heralded Broadmoor Women’s Invitational. Her best finish there was the quarterfinals, where she was defeated by the legendary Judy Bell.

Today, ViAnn and I and the other ladies that play on Tuesday mornings enjoy casual play. Viann has little interest in competitions, but she remains highly competitive in her own realm. Above all, we have fun – strike that, we have a ball! Fifty years, hmm I used to think that was a long time.

 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:






Guest commentary: Congressional’s Open – fluke or faux pas?

By Mary Armstrong/For the Sun-News

Posted: 06/24/2011 12:28:55 PM MDT


A record-setting U.S. Open is in the books. I wonder how happy the USGA is about that. I imagine their Executive Director and exalted course set-up guru, Mike Davis wishes it hadn’t happened on his watch.

The hype entering the tournament preparations was for controlled conditions beyond that ever seen at a U.S. Open – or any other tournament for that matter. After the fact, I found myself asking “what had happened?”


The USGA’s agronomic arm – the Green Section – has been touting their new Trufirm technology for measuring playing surface firmness and the extreme care and expense that went into rebuilding Congressional’s greens two years ago.


Sure the elements were against them, but with manufactured sand that was “better” than natural sand and a “water evacuation” system in each green, I was led to believe they thought they could control these issues. Even more puzzling was the lack of investigation by NBC. Johnny Miller and crew were too busy “pumping the tires” of this and that young pro’s perfect golf swings.


Granted, there were some very talented players, but for me, the U.S. Open is all about the course. It’s the only tournament in America that really tests all of a player’s skills by presenting firm and fast conditions and exacting shot making. If you look at the scores over the last 40 years, the average score to par is minus 5.8 (rounded to tenths) with the median number being minus 3. Discounting Rory McIlroy’s outlier of minus 16, you might say the

field still reflected that degree of difficulty – as the nearest competitor to the youngster was only minus 8. If you are thinking that, I’d have to disagree with you as the telling figure is the number of pros that completed the tournament under par – and that was 20. Never before have so many shot such low scores.

I certainly don’t think McIlroy’s win was a fluke. He’s been showing steady progress since he came on tour. At Augusta, the last major, he folded his tent in the final round. His effort at Congressional presented a similar situation – an extended lead before the final round – but this time he closed like the pro he is. For me, this progression reveals a true champion. McIlroy isn’t done. He’ll keep improving, but the hype about him beating Woods and Nicklaus major wins is ridiculous and insulting to all three.


Perhaps the “blame” for the scoring fiasco lies with Davis. Largely as a result of his skills and consequentially his reputation for U.S. Open course set-up, he became Executive Director of the USGA this spring. It really seems like a case where Davis did great work under supervision, but when let loose he went too far.


Is the Peter Principle at work here? Has Davis risen to his level of incompetence? It may be another year or so before we know that. Next year the Open will be played at Olympic Club in San Francisco. In the most recent four Opens held there, the winning scores were Even, minus 3, minus 2, and seven over par. If the winning score is lower than minus 5, Davis clearly didn’t learn anything from this year’s fiasco. If Davis was a political strategist he would appoint his protégé to do the Open course set up, otherwise he may lose the big burger – his Executive Director’s position. When a proud but arcane organization’s records are shattered, the Board isn’t pleased. The reputation of the U.S. Open and the USGA is at stake, so Davis had better get a clue. Fluke, Faux Pas or flat-out failure, the USGA lucked out and got a deserving champion in young McIlroy. Let’s hope Mike Davis learned as much in his first major as Executive Director as McIlroy learned at the Master’s.




If you missed the first installment of what promises to be a very entertaining series on the Golf Channel, I suggest you look for its inevitable re-run there. David Feherty’s interview with Lee Trevino was everything I thought it might be – fun, raucous, and yet poignant and moving. Trevino’s unprovoked admission to wishing “he was more like Jack Nicklaus as a father,” was as emotional as you probably have ever seen Lee.


The hour long show was filled with fun stories and even featured a clip of David doing “stand-up.” His gig featured his story as an elderly starter at the Royal Durbin Golf Club in Johannesburg South Africa. Unlike the British Open Starter Ivor Robson, this old coot was a bit long winded. When his run-on introductions at the first tee met headlong with quick playing South African Harold Henning….well, as you can imagine the result was hilarious. My advice – tee up Feherty! On the DVR every week.


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:





Guest commentary: Movin’ on up – to a kinder gentler round of golf

By Mary Armstrong/For the Sun-News

Posted: 06/30/2011 09:00:39 PM MDT


The Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) of America and the United States
Golf Association (USGA) are collaborating to promote “Tee it Forward,” a new
national initiative.

From July 5-17, the two organizations will be encouraging players to move at
least one tee set to more thoroughly enjoy the game.

You may have noticed advertisements or public service announcements during
some recent tournaments. Jim Hyler, President of the USGA said, “This is an
innovation that we think will appeal to golfers of all skill levels because it
gives them a new challenge that better aligns with their abilities.”

The concept was developed by Barney Adams, the founder of Adams Golf. His
feeling was that players were too often playing courses at lengths that
overmatched their abilities. He advocated for all players to try the “forward
tees” so that they would be able to experience the course at the same relative
distances as a touring professional.

Many male amateur golfers today choose the second longest tee set. Those
distances are usually about 6,700 yards for the full course. This would equate
to PGA Tour Players playing a course measuring 8,100 yards, which is about 700
yards longer than a typical PGA Tour layout. The initiative isn’t so much about
creating new sets of tees. Many courses already have several tee sets that are
available every day. However, many courses still even today do not offer a set
of tees short enough for the average novice or average female player.

Often times there are relatively flat spots on the fairways that can serve as a
teeing location and players that need a shorter course should move forward for a
more enjoyable round.

Beside lower scores, players may benefit from using a wider range of clubs,
fewer lost balls, less time looking for balls and slightly quicker pace of play.

Yani and Rory

Yani Tseng overmatched the field at last week’s second LPGA major of the
season and in the process obliterating Rory McIlroy’s much ballyhooed recent
U.S. Open win. Both McIlroy and Tseng are 22 years old, and they both played in
Nick Faldo’s invitational junior event, but that’s really where the similarities
end. McIlroy has won a few times on tour and won his first major going away at
Congressional by 8 shots. By contrast, Yani Tseng has won seven LPGA events and
FOUR MAJORS – the most recent by 10 shots. Not only that, she is the world’s
number one ranked female player and the youngest golfer in history to hold four
major titles – male or female.

There’s no doubt that golf in general is fortunate to have Rory and Yani as
their most recent major champions and most promising young stars. Both appear to
be “good people” as well as very skilled players. It’s so refreshing to hear
honest, forthright answers to broadcaster’s questions. It allows us to believe
that these kids aren’t the product of “giant spin machines.” Yani’s English
isn’t the best. You can imagine how good your Taiwanese would be after only a
few years, but she’s not derailed by the language. ESPNW columnist Mick Elliot
said it pretty well, “Although far from chatty, she has mastered English every
bit as well as Boo Weekley.”

It was great that Rory was able to share his win with his Dad on Father’s
day, but his Dad should take note that Yani didn’t really blossom until her
father stepped away and let her mature on tour. In fact, her father and family
stayed up into the wee hours to watch Yani win on television from her native
Taiwan. I often feel that parents are much too involved in their children’s
developing games.

I recently competed in a USGA qualifier. There were 14 contestants for three
positions. We played in twosomes and I was in the first group. We played in
about three and a half hours, as did a couple more groups after us. However, the
fourth group was nearly an hour behind the group in front of them. The reason:
two young girls with their fathers on the bag. Despite both having played well,
they came off the course looking as though they had been put through the
wringer. By contrast, this past weekend, Yani Tseng strode up the fairway,
smiling ear to ear, on her way to her fourth major at the age of twenty two.
Judy Rankin commented best on what makes Yani Tseng successful in the game:

“The thing, Yani said, that she does the best in her game is – she has fun.
If you are a parent and you want your young child to play golf and maybe excel
at the game – but even just to play the game – I think having fun is the very
first component.”

We all want the best for our children. What more can you ask for your child
than to enjoy the things they decide to do. Encourage your child’s teachers,
whether it be in golf or in school, to help them enjoy what they are teaching
them. Having fun is the fastest, most effective and enduring enticement to

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: