Butler Cabin, Augusta National (c) Burgh Golfer

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Lexi Thompson

source; womenplayball.com

I generally do not cover much in my blog about the LPGA Tour but wanted to include this post about Lexi Thompson.  Coming off a weekend where Michelle Wie captured her first major championship victory many other bloggers are writing about her and deservedly so.  She deserved to win and played a great US Open championship.  However, Lexi Thompson is playing great and for such a young player she continues to stand out.  I first watched her play last fall in the Solheim Cup and was immediately impressed.  She plays a fearless, aggressive style of golf.  The style of golf most great champions play.  The style of golf that wins major championships not “The Screen Door Open” as Lee Trevino would say. 
At the Kraft Nabisco Championship this spring she sprang to the top of the leaderboard in impressive style.  That is when I first noticed “the look”.  When Raymond Floyd was in his prime he had “the stare”.  That is what I liken Lexi’s look to.  They say the window to the soul is through the eyes.  If that is the case then I think the LPGA tour better pay very close attention to this young lady.  Not only is she one of the longest players on tour, she is one of the most aggressive. She hits driver where others layup, she attacks pins instead of aiming for the middle of the green and she is out there to hole putts.  Now this style of play sometimes backfires on days when the player’s timing is slightly off.  People might say that she is just young and that her game will mature.  That she will learn how to manage the course and her game better.  That may be true and there is no doubt she will continue to progress as a professional.  What stands out to me though is the internal drive and desire to win.  She possesses a competitive spirit that cannot be taught by a swing guru or sports psychologist.  These are intangibles that make a player not just good but great.  That is what I see in her stare.  The fact that she has this look while under pressure during a major championship says a lot. 
I can think of a few other great champions who had an intense stare under pressure; Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman, Tiger Woods and Tom Watson.  I am not trying to compare her career to these great professionals.  What I am saying is that if you watch Lexi closely the next time she is on TV; keep an eye out for the stare.  I think that stare is an expression that’s says, here I come, I am playing to win and I will do whatever it takes to bring home this championship. 
It will be fun to watch Lexi mature as a champion and she if she can continue to translate this look into more wins.  I would be very surprised if it did not. Who knows she may be the next American player to hold the #1 in world ranking.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Sunnehanna Amateur

source; sunnehanna.com

The 61st Sunnehanna Amateur Golf Championship will be held June 11th-14th at Sunnehanna country Club in Johnstown, PA.  This tournament hold a special place in my heart because it is held in my hometown and on a fabulous A.W.Tillinghast designed golf course.  I have played Sunnehanna Country Club many times in my life going back to my junior golf days and it is still one of my favorite golf courses in the country.  Not only is Sunnehanna a visually stunning property it is always in amazing condition.  So, if you have the chance to play this storied layout I highly recommend you take that opportunity. 
Over the years as I have traveled I have asked people if they ever heard of the Sunnehanna Amateur.  Most people say that they have not.  When I tell them it is one of the top amateur events in the country they are surprised that they have never heard of it.  It may be a well-kept secret but I would like to play a small part in changing that.  Here is a recent fact I found this week on Facebook regarding the Sunnehanna Amateur.  There are only two amateur golf tournaments that Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger woods and Phil Mickelson have played in: the Sunnehanna Amateur and the United States Amateur.  This pretty much proves my point that it is one of the most prestigious amateur golf events in the country.
I had the opportunity to watch Phil Mickelson play in the Sunnehanna Amateur when he was a junior at ASU.  I still remember him hitting his three wood off of the first tee and being amazed at how long he hit the ball.  I also remember him carrying doglegs and hitting shots that I just did not see.  You could tell even back then he was going to be an amazing player in the professional ranks.
Another neat part about attending the Sunnehanna Amateur is walking through the clubhouse.  There are pictures, trophies and memorabilia through the facility and it is really neat to see pictures of the great players who have played in the championship over the years. 
If you want to watch some of the future stars of the PGA tour, on a storied golf course, in a beautiful part of the country, you must attended this event at least once.  I promise you, that you will not be disappointed.  While in the area bring your golf clubs and play some of the great public course nearby.
Please visit their website for more information, www.sunnehanna.com
If you make it to Sunnehanna post your comments, we would love to hear what you think about the property and the championship. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Winning Golf Clubs

I have been looking for new irons for a while now.  For me this process began about two years ago.  Like everyone else I wanted to see what all of the major club manufactures had to offer.  So, I studied the market in all the usual places; spring golf expo, golf stores, pro shops, online reviews, etc.  Since I prefer a blade or modified blade iron this limits my choices.  I have never been a fan of game improvement irons but certainly understand the need for them in the marketplace.  So, for me it came down to the Titleist AP2 Irons.  Last summer I had a chance to hit the irons at a local club and was even fit on the spot for the specifications based upon my swing.  So, my mind was made up, it was only a matter of time before I made the purchase.
So, I ended the year intent on entering the 2014 golf season with new irons.  Now, fast forward from last summer until the spring of this year.  I was attending an industry conference in Washington DC this past February.  Like most conferences they had an opening dinner and events program scheduled for the first evening.  As my colleagues and I entered the ballroom there was a set of Ping Irons setting on a pedestal and a raffle barrel right beside it.  All of them were eager to enter the drawing with a chance to win some new sticks.  Since I have never been a fan of Ping irons I had no interest in entering.  When asked why I was not entering I said first, because I never win raffles.  Second, since I did not like the irons even if I did win I would end up selling them.  However, after being told I was the only “true golfer” in the group I was talked into entering. 
Before the program began they moved the raffle barrel onstage and said they would soon pick a ticket from the barrel and announce the winner of the golf clubs.  As I was assured by a couple of my colleagues that they were going to win, I dismissed their comments with a laugh.  With my back to the stage the moderator spun the wheel and mixed up the tickets.  She eagerly reached into the wheel and grabbed the winning ticket.  She then proceeded to tell the five hundred people in attendance, “and the winner is.”  Yep, you guessed it, she called my name.  In shock I began to high five my colleagues and proceeded to the stage to claim my prize. 
My next thought was how am I going to get these clubs back home?  The moderator told me that would not be a problem that someone would call me and make the arrangements.  I said, great, and then I asked if I had to accept these exact clubs or if I had any choice in the brand or model?  Much to my surprise, she said I could have any clubs I wanted.  I would be given an allowance to buy what I wanted and would need to pay out of pocket for any expenditure beyond that amount.
The next time you have a chance to enter a raffle, you should, as you might just win.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Book Review- Caddy for Life

I recently finished reading the Book “Caddy for Life” authored by John Feinstein.  Most of us know John from his appearances on The Golf Channel and for providing commentary at PGA Tour Events.  John has a long history of following and writing about the PGA Tour and is a respected author of several other golf books and many years as a journalist.
The book was based upon the life and Professional Caddying career of Bruce Edwards.  For those of us that follow golf regularly Bruce Edwards was the long time caddy for Hall of Fame PGA Tour star Tom Watson.  For thirty years Bruce walked the fairways with Tom during some of his greatest triumphs in golf.  However, there is a not a story book ending about this player-caddy partnership.  That is because Bruce passed way in 2004 of (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.  Although Tom and Bruce did not close out their careers by walking off into the sunset together that does not matter.  What does matter is that they had a unique and special relationship on and off the course for over thirty years.
I can no way describe the type of person Bruce was with any accuracy or clarity as I never knew the man.  However, John Feinstein did a wonderful job in this work describing what an amazing human being Bruce was.  He described Bruce in countless ways throughout the book as a charismatic individual; liked and respected by his fellow caddies and players on tour.  He spoke of his unbridled enthusiasm throughout his life and career, even up to the very end.
The only thing I can critique about the book is the level of detail in it about Tom Watson’s golf career.  I realize that you must include Toms on the course play when you are writing a book about a PGA Tour caddy.  It seemed, at times like I was reading a chronicle about Tom Watson’s golf career “on the course.”  However, do not let this one critique prevent you from reading this amazing work.  You will be a better person by getting to know how special Bruce Edwards was as a person.  After reading this book you will come away with a better perspective on life.  As I did, you may ask yourself why I can’t be more like Bruce?  Why can’t I have his perspective and attitude?  Why can’t I treat everyone as he did?
I just played in a charity outing at Wethersfield Country Club in Hartford, CT.  This is where Bruce got his start as a young caddy when the Greater Hard Open was played there.  All day long I could not help but think about Bruce, his history on that course and where he developed the love for caddying.
As much as this book is about golf, it is also about life.  It is about personal friendship, professional respect, sacrifice and loss.  We all face challenges in life and some of us do a better job than others in dealing with them.  Bruce Edwards was an amazing role model in how to deal with adversity.  For this reason alone you should read this book.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

TPC Scottsdale Stadium Course - Course review

    Source; www.tpc.com/scottsdale

Look who’s back, BurghGolfer is Back…..Nah Nah, Nah.  Ok, I am no Eminem but I felt it is appropriate since I have not posted a Blog on this site in a LONG time.  It is not that I have lacked things to say, I have just been busy. 
So, I wanted to start back by writing a few course reviews from our recent Annual Spring Golf Trip.  We went to Scottsdale again this year and played four great courses.  As we have done in the past we played TPC Scottsdale on the final day.  Once again, we had awesome spring weather, 70’s at tee off and low 80’s throughout the round. 

I have to say I love playing this golf course.  First, it is cool to play a great golf course that the pros play each year.  Second, the TPC is a very “playable” golf course for the average player.  What do I mean by that?  The course is right in front of you.  There are few blind tee shots, hidden fairway bunkers, etc.  Second, the forecaddies are great.  I love playing golf with a caddie, but if you cannot have a full caddie the Forecaddie is the next best thing. 
We have all seen the bleachers on TV of the 40,000 fans on the par 3 sixteenth.  So, the staff has told us on two different occasions that it takes three months to put the bleachers up on that hole and two months to take them down.  Can you imagine all that effort for the 5 days the players are there?

Another thing I like about the course is that it is a second shot golf course.  As I mentioned the course is right in front of you off the tee.  However,   you really need to know where to hit your second and approach shots into the green.  For example, on 18, I bombed a drive off the tee and only had 117 into the green.  I was in between clubs and the caddy reminded me to stay right of the pin to avoid the slope.  I did listen to him however; I hit my 52 degree wedge harder than normal and pull my second shot.  This led to a difficult first putt which I left 10 short of the hole.  Which I went on to miss and three putted.
In my normal course reviews I talk about the golf course, driving range, facilities, pro shop and service.  However, for this review all I can say is that it is world class.  It has everything you could want, need or desire in a public golf course.  The staff is exceptional, the pro shop is fully stocked and if you need to work on your game there is no better range.
Sadly, they are about to redesign the TPC course starting in April 2014.  Not that I am opposed to changes to the course but it will never be the same again.  So, they will be closed for 8 months while the renovation takes place.  I am sure the redesigned TPC will be just as fun and challenging as the original.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Hitting down the target line

I recently had the opportunity to play in our states Mid Amateur Championship.  I was excited to play with other guys my age, and on a great golf course under tournament conditions.  One of the main reasons why I play in these types of events is to test myself but to also discover the weaknesses in my game.  When playing a difficult golf course under pressure the weaknesses in your game will come through.  In this particular event my weakness was my iron play accuracy.  I was striking the ball cleanly enough; however, my accuracy was not what it needed to be.  So, after some reflection on a cause and I came up with a remedy. 

A friend of mine always used to say “a road to somewhere leads nowhere”.  He used that in context of business planning but I also see an application in golf.  In other words, when you setup to hit a shot without an exact target you are not likely to hit it.  So, I went to the range to apply this philosophy in my practice routine.  I decided to use the same routine that Jack Nicklaus has always taught about target alignment.  Jack always says to stand behind the ball while lining up the shot and then select your target.  From there, pick your end target as well as an intermediate target such as a spot of grass in front of your ball.  The idea being that it is easier to line up to a target a few inches in front of the ball rather than a hundred yards out.  So, I employed this method but took it one step further and here is where it made the difference for me.  I not only aligned to that intermediate target but I also hit through the ball on that line to the short range target.  The positive results for me were two things.  First, my ball was starting out on the exact target line I was aiming for and ultimately, ending up at the target.  Second, my clubface was much squarer at impact resulting in a more solid strike.  This leads to better distance control and shot trajectory.  My thinking was if this drill is good enough for the greatest player of all time, then it is good enough for me.  There is one final aspect to this method that I like.  In performing this technique you will find yourself driving down the target line and through the ball.  In other words, your focus becomes driving through the ball to the target rather than the “hit” at impact.  Most of us are so focused on hitting at the ball not hitting through the ball.  Your focus becomes more target driven than impact driven.

I am not a PGA Professional nor do I claim to be.  However, when I do find a drill or tip that works both on the course and practice range I like to share it.  So, the next time you go to the range give this tip a try, you may also find that it leads to better impact and more accurate golf shots.

Let us know if this works for you, I would like to hear your feedback.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Practice vs. Preparation

            As we enter the summer golf season it is time to sharpen our games for competitive golf events.  This includes all aspects of our game both physical and mental.  I do not play that many events each year due to my work schedule however, I try and play a handful that I enjoy competing in.  I know that I am not one of those guys who has endless access to practice facilities, lessons and competitive games to prepare.  My schedule mainly consists of a few Mid Am events that I can qualify for, the Club Championship, a Match Play event and a few invitational’s.  I would love to play more competitive golf but the bottom line is that I do not have the time to spend on my game in order to prepare. Actually, I prefer to play competitive golf over social golf any day of the week but that is not an option.
I decided to write this blog because I wanted to put my thoughts down on paper describing the differences between practice and preparation as I see it.  I see practice as more of a repetitive, physical action that comes from the time spent on the practice tee.   Whereas, I see preparation as more of a mental exercise.  I truly believe to play great golf in competition you need both elements and need to prepare for both accordingly. 
Now, it is no secret that you need the physical and mental aspects of the game.  What I am suggesting however is that you need to focus on both and think about both distinctively.
For practice, there is no substitute for going the range and hitting golf balls to hone your swing.  Likewise, there is nothing better you can do to improve your scores than to spend time on the practice green chipping and putting.
The difference for me in preparation is how do you think about your practice and how do you situationally prepare?  Most of us go to the driving range or practice green and just hit balls, chips and putts repetitively.  There is very little thought on what the target is, where the ball should land or how the putt will break.  When I prepare for an event I hit each practice shot to a specific target, each chip to an intended spot and each putt on a particular line.
Another preparation tip I employ is to put myself in a frame of mind during practice to hit that specific shot, chip or putt as if it was under intense pressure during tournament conditions.  I know that is difficult to reproduce those feelings of pressure that you get when playing in competition.   However, we must make every attempt that we can to try. 
So, the next time you prepare for an event do not just stand there and beat balls.  Do not stand there and just hit chips.  Do not stand there and putt to the nearest hole.  Instead, hit a golf shot that you will face during the round.  Hit pitch shots or chips that will matter in saving a stroke or a hole.  Finally, do not just lag the putt rather, try and make it while at the same time leaving yourself a short comeback putt.

How do you prepare for golf tournaments?