Golf guide 2013
GOLF, the republic, columbus, ind., Thursday, MARCH 14, 2013 1
2013 SPECIALS RATES Afternoon Special
Weekday / Weekend After 1pm Play Unlimited Golf w/Cart For $28
Weekdays Before 11am Play 18 Holes w/Cart For $23
2013 PROGRAMS Once-A-Week Card • $60 Initial Card Cost Receive One 18 Hole Greens Fee w/Cart per Week Receive One 9 Hole Greens Fee w/Cart per Week Use It or Lose It • Weeks Do Not Carry Over Valid Weekdays or Weekends Anytime $25 For 18 Holes • $15 for 9 Holes Multi-Play Card
$100 Initial Card Cost Receive 20 Eighteen Hole Greens Fees Receive 20 1/2 Price Range Usage Pay $20 During Weekday Play Pay $25 During Weekend Play
Senior Card (60+)
$60 Initial Card Cost Weekdays: $20 for 18 Holes w/cart Weekends: $25 for 18 Holes w/cart
2013 MEMBERSHIP RATES Single $1000 (w/ Unlimited Cart $1,525) Couple/Parent-Child $1,250 (w/ Unlimited Cart $1,925) Family $1,450 (w/ Unlimited Cart • Call For Rates) Junior $325 • Player Card $100
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On the cover
Christian Fairbanks of Columbus North High School chips onto the green during the 2012 boys state golf tournament at The Legends Golf Club in Franklin. Photo by Andrew Laker. Otter Creek to host juniors page 16.
Otter Creek . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 Timbergate . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 Spikeless shoes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 Belly putters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 Overcoming drought . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 Ted Bishop page 4
The First Tee . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
Comments should be sent to Jay Heater, The Republic, 333 Second St., Columbus, IN 47201 or call 812-379-5632 or email@example.com. Advertising information: Call 812-379-5652. ©2013 by Home News Enterprises All rights reserved. Reproduction of stories, photographs and advertisements without permission is prohibited.
Harrison Lake Country Club page 12
Golf idols page 22
Call Keith Clark, Head Golf Professional, for additional inquiries: 812-342-6012
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By Ashley Petry
ed Bishop has a reputation. Everyone who knows the Franklin resident, who was recently elected president of the PGA of America, uses the same word to describe him — competitive. “He is very competitive on the golf course, and it goes along with his leadership style,” said Derek Sprague, vice president of the PGA of America. “He’s very passionate about playing and winning.” Ted’s wife, Cindy Bishop, has witnessed that competitive streak firsthand. She often tells the story of a nine-hole couples’ tournament in which they played shortly after their 1976 marriage. Cindy had only recently learned to play, and she still struggled with her short game. When they reached the eighth hole, she and Ted were several strokes under par and poised to win. But after getting onto the green in two strokes, their game fell apart. “We proceeded to take six more shots because I would putt the ball off the green, and he would have to putt it back on the green,” Cindy said. “We kept doing that, and he ended up whirling his putter into the pond.” Cindy told him to retrieve the club from the pond, which he did despite his white pants. They went on to play the ninth hole of that tournament and countless rounds of golf in the decades that followed — always with a fun but competitive edge. “He is extremely focused and extremely competitive,” said Pete Bevacqua, the new chief executive officer of PGA of America. “You can tell he was a great athlete growing up. He’s carried over those competitive juices to the golf course.”
Picking Up a Club Ted, who is originally from Logansport, wasn’t always a golfer — at least, not a serious one. His earliest golfing experience was in junior high school, when he and some friends bought a nine iron and a sleeve of balls at a hardware store and played from lamppost to lamppost in a public park. “As a kid, I watched a bit of golf on TV, and I enjoyed that,” Ted said. “The thing that probably attracted me to golf at a young age was that I thought it was really cool the way those guys dressed. I’ve never been afraid to wear that stuff.” In high school, Ted played basketball and baseball. When he got a summer job at a golf course after his junior year, he worked there for months without ever picking up a club. But he enjoyed the work so much that he kept coming back, summer after summer, and finally learned how to play — and play well. Seeing a future as a golf course superintendent, he switched his major at Purdue University from journalism to agronomy. After graduation, he took a job in Linton as a golf pro and superintendent at Phil Harris Golf Course. He stayed there for 17 years, earning PGA membership in 1985 and developing one of the largest celebrity golf tournaments in the nation. 4 GOLF, the republic, columbus, ind., Thursday, MARCH 14, 2013
A golf legend Franklin’s Ted Bishop is ready, willing and able to take PGA of America to new levels Getting to Know Ted Bishop
His golfing pet peeve: Slow play. “I’m a firm believer in playing ready golf,” he said. “Just get to your golf ball and hit it.” His favorite celebrity golf partner: Bishop has played rounds with many celebrity golfers over the years, but a recent highlight is playing with Rory McIlroy. “He’s a great guy,” he said. How he blows off steam: More sports. “I’m a huge baseball and football fan,” he said. “To me a great stress reliever during the summer is to go home and watch the Yankees.” His vision for retirement: More golf. “I’m looking forward to the day, and it’s a couple of years down the road, when I have the opportunity to play three or four times a week and can … really practice and work on my game,” he said.
photos by josh marshall
PGA President Ted Bishop of Franklin
In 1991, Ted and his family moved to Franklin, where he set about opening The Legends Golf Club as its general manager and PGA director. Soon after, the Indiana Golf Association and Indiana PGA Section relocated their headquarters to the Legends campus, later constructing the Indiana Golf Academy and Indiana Golf Hall of Fame on site. “Everything that happens in Indiana pertaining to golf happens right here in Franklin,” Ted said. His professional focus has worked wonders for his golf game. His handicap index is a low 3.2, and several times he has tallied a rare score of 65. (Even Tiger Woods has never shot better than a 61 in tournament play.) Ted has qualified four times for the Indiana Open, gotten three holes in one and played the legendary Augusta National course in Georgia and St. Andrews course in Scotland. Later this year, he’ll be inducted into the Hall of Fame he helped build. “I grew up in a town where baseball and basketball were a big deal, but you can’t play those sports all your life,” Ted said. “I think the competitiveness I developed playing sports at a high level benefited me later on when I was playing golf. My nerves have always been pretty good because of that.”
Going Pro Early in his golfing career, Ted got involved with PGA of America, which represents 27,000 members and apprentices nationwide. It is the largest working sports organization in the world, and it oversees high-profile events such as the PGA Championship, the Senior PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup. Ted served on numerous PGA committees and boards over the years, but his journey to PGA leadership officially began in 2008, when he was elected secretary of the organization. He later served for two years as vice president. His presidential term — an unpaid, volunteer position — will last two years and will be followed by a two-year term as honorary president. “When you undergo this commitment, you know you’re devoting eight years of your life to this,” he said. “I was ready for the challenge.” So far, he seems to be right. In just the first month of his term, he hired a new CEO, named a new Ryder Cup captain during a live “Today” show appearance and leaped into an industry-wide debate about anchoring golf clubs. “Nothing is wishy-washy about Ted,” Bevacqua said. “Once he takes a stance, and it’s usually a very informed one, he is full-bore ahead. It’s great to
Bishop in his office at The Legends Golf Club in Franklin. know we have a president who is so steadfast in his convictions and so knowledgeable about the game.” When Ted selected golfer Tom Watson as Ryder Cup captain, for example, he surprised many industry analysts. But Watson, an eight-time majors champion and four-time Ryder Cup veteran, may have been the perfect choice. He previously served as Ryder Cup captain in 1993, the last time the U.S. team won on foreign soil. “It was a choice that was outside the norm, but when people heard the reasoning, they said it made perfect sense,” Bevacqua said. “There might have been some more obvious, formulaic choices, and this was going back into the archives a bit. It was a bold move, but it was a decision that Ted took very seriously.” Ted said his primary responsibility as president is to improve the quality of life for golf professionals across the nation — a task made more difficult by the recent economic downturn. He is working with the PGA to create innovative programs that will get new players involved in golf and keep them interested in the game. For example, the PGA now offers a program called Get Golf Ready. For about $100, consumers
“Everything that happens in Indiana pertaining to golf happens right here in Franklin.” — Ted Bishop
get five lessons with local PGA professionals, who provide all the equipment and lots of on-course experience. The program is designed to combat perceptions that golf is difficult, time-consuming and expensive. So far, about 80 percent of Get Golf Ready students have stuck with the game, Ted said.
Bringing Work Home Even in his personal life, Ted is surrounded by golfers. His two daughters, Ashely Davidson and Ambry Bishop, both attended college on golf scholarships after years of playing in junior leagues. “He never tried to be our main teacher,” Ashely said. “I would say he was more of an encourager. We were hard on ourselves if we didn’t play well, and he was great at pumping us back up and reminding us that it was just one round.” She now works as the events and membership coordinator at Legends, while Ambry is a PGA assistant professional at St. Andrews Golf Club in New York and head women’s golf coach at St. John’s University. And although Cindy had never played golf before meeting Ted in a physics class at Purdue, she was a fast learner. She coached girls golf at Franklin High School for seven years, leading her teams to statewide top-three rankings five times. All three women said they are proud of Ted’s achievements — and eager to see what he accomplishes in his new PGA role. “As long as I can remember, he had this goal of wanting to be involved in PGA of America,” Ambry said. “I think the passion and energy he puts into it doesn’t ever die. He has more and more energy each day for the job, and me being a PGA member, I know that’s a good thing.” GOLF, the republic, columbus, ind., Thursday, MARCH 14, 2013 5
At a glance Otter Creek Golf Course Where: Columbus Rated: No. 5 best public course in Indiana by Golf Digest Opened: First 18 holes in 1964, additional 9 holes in 1995 Designed by: Initial 18 holes by Robert Trent Jones, additional nine by his son, Rees Jones Head pro: Chad Cockerham
Hardly par for the course Artistry of Otter Creek remains vivid
Photo by Joe Harpring
By Jay Heater
hile it might be a fantastic piece of artwork, the Otter Creek golf course is not quite the Mona Lisa. So head professional and manager Chad Cockerham knows he has to dabble at times to keep the course current and at its colorful best. On the other hand, he’s not about to give his personal Mona Lisa a black eye. “I think there is a delicate balance,” he said of the course that was opened in 1964. “We want to keep what was gifted to the community and designed by Robert Trent Jones. It’s more of a stewardship from this point forward. We want to keep the integrity of the original design.” Cockerham has to find ways to do just that as the game itself changes with advancement in equipment design and players who can launch a golf ball greater distances. “Part of updating has to do with current game trends,” said Cockerham, who became the assistant professional in 1996 and took over as head professional the following year. “We’ve expanded the practice area three times since I’ve been here. We doubled it, and then we doubled its size again. We have more hitting space now. “Slowly, over the last 10 years, we have been adding length to the holes. The course was built at 7,200 yards, which was unheard of. This course has hosted state and national events, but many of the holes were not playing like they were supposed to play. We’ve added about 320 yards to the course. We have plans to get to 8,000.” With players hitting so much farther today, fairway bunkers sometimes don’t come into play on the tee shot. Cockerham explained that those bunkers must come into play off the tees so golfers are rewarded for good shots and penalized for a bad one. Fortunately for Otter Creek and those who play it, there is a lot of
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open space. “It’s extremely fortunate that we have a lot of land,” he said. While moving tees back and creating hazards are obvious ways to add difficultly to holes, Cockerham said that those who rate courses understand changes that the public might consider to be very subtle in nature. “Several years ago we redid the irrigation system,” he said. “You get mechanical wear on parts. You also have newer computer-controlled systems now and timing systems. “Our irrigation system used to be single row (down the fairway). We went to three rows and, in many cases, five rows. Now it runs down the edge, and you can water the rough. From a players’ standpoint, the rough will be healthier and thicker. The (ratings people) will see that.” Ratings people also notice bunkers. “Two years ago we had a renovation project where we finished all our green-side bunkers. The bunkers are the most expensive things to take care of because they have an intricate draining system. When water comes into a bunker, it brings silt, debris and grass. That’s something raters definitely see. The playability of bunkers is very important. “We have 88 bunkers on the original 18 holes.” Other regular upkeep can change the look of the course. “You have to continue updating with trees,” he said. “You plant every year because you know you are going to cut down trees. Trees run through their life cycle and suffer wind damage.” As the course changes over time, Cockerham said, his staff keeps a close watch on how players are scoring on each hole and playing the holes the way Jones intended. “We’ve done some good record-keeping,” he said.
Before any slight changes are made, he seeks lots of input, including premier players who have been on the course. “We do seek outside sources,” he said. In a February Golf Digest article, Otter Creek was ranked the 10th best course in Indiana and the fifth best public course. Newer courses might be pushing Otter Creek a bit down the list, but Cockerham said the course is first class all the way. “Ratings depend on where you look and who is doing them,” he said. “Rock Hollow was eighth (in the Golf Digest rating of all courses in Indiana). There is no way on God’s green Earth that Rock Hollow is better than this one. “Then you have Pete Dye courses that are $375 to play.” Keith Clark, the head professional at Harrison Lake Country Club and the former head pro at Otter Creek, said that fewer than a handful of courses in Indiana could host a PGA Tour event right now. He said Otter Creek is one of them. “We had the PGA look at our facility,” Cockerham said, noting that eight years ago one of the biggest blocks was the lack of hotel rooms. “You can go 40 miles, so we couldn’t grab those Indianapolis hotel rooms. Since then, we’ve added more lodging. We write a lot of letters. “We will host whatever event we can. Tournament golf is what I enjoy doing.” He said the course could play tough, even for the best players in the world. “It’s all in the set-up,” he said. “You let the rough grow up to six inches.” He said his staff was most proud of a national rating performed by Golf Digest in 2003.
“We were rated 31st in the country strictly on golf course architecture,” he said. “Any skill level can have fun at Otter Creek and be challenged,” said Columbus North High School golf coach Doug Bieker, who sees many of the state’s top golf courses with his team. “The course always is in great shape, and they always are striving to make it better. “That’s a credit to Chad and his staff. They should be complimented because of the shape it is in. When you drive into their parking lot, it’s not just Indiana license plates. People make it a destination, and once they go there, they come back. That says a lot.”
2013 Fee Schedule Season Pass Initiation Fee. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $250 Corporate . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .$5,000 Family (Golf, Cart, Range) . . . . . . . . . . .$3,100 Single (Golf, Cart, Range) . . . . . . . . . . . .$2,300 Family (Golf Only). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .$2,400 Single (Golf Only) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .$1,450
Junior (Age 17 and under) . . . . . . . . . . . . $375 Junior (Golf and Range) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $600 Young Adult (Age 30 and under, Golf only) $750 Annual Range Memberships (Single) . . . . . $300 Annual Range Memberships (Family) . . . . $400 *Initiation fee will be waived on all subsequent years as long as fees for the following year are paid before January 1st.
Weekends (walk) 18 Holes $32.00 . . . . . . 9 Holes $17.00 After Noon play 18 holes With Cart for $34.00 Cart (per rider) 18 Holes $17.00 . . . . . . 9 Holes $10.00
Green Fee (rate includes cart)
Weekends . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .$89.00 Weekends after Noon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .$59.00 Weekends Play All Day . . . . . . . . . . . . .$100.00
Fee . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .$250 Weekdays (walk) 18 Holes $26.00 . . . . . . 9 Holes $15.00 After 3 pm play 18 holes With Cart for $24.00
Weekdays . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .$79.00 Weekdays Play All Day . . . . . . . . . . . . .$100.00
11522 E. 50 N., Columbus, Indiana 47203 Golf Shop (812) 579-5227 • Fax (812) 579-9150
GOLF, the republic, columbus, ind., Thursday, MARCH 14, 2013 7
Photos by DON MEYER
The staff at Timbergate, from left, consists of Luke Moton, assistant pro; Troy Yarnell, grounds superintendent; Wendy Pile, bar manager; golf pro Kurt Balser; and Wayne Gibbs, general manager.
Timbergate Golf Course gains new members and amenities
By Barney Quick
he new era at Timbergate Golf Course, located at the Edinburgh exit on Interstate 65, is well under way. Membership is growing rapidly, and those members are seeing a whole new level of attentiveness to what they are looking for in a golf complex. “When I took over in mid-January 2011, we had 15 members,” says general manager Wayne Gibbs. “We’re currently up to 82. Rounds played here have increased by 6,000 in the last year.” Gibbs, whose management background spans various industries, says that his first task was to solicit feedback from those members about what was going right — and wrong. It became clear that customer service, course upkeep and year-round compelling reasons to visit the facility were the first matters to address. “Now, when you walk in the door here, there’s someone to greet you,” says Gibbs. “We have good people in the bar area and the pro shop. People are buying their clubs here. Bar sales have increased 33
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percent over last year.” He attributes the crisp look of the course itself to the superintendent of grounds, Troy Yarnell. “Troy worked at Covered Bridge, Fuzzy Zoeller’s home course. We’re very fortunate to have someone that knowledgeable on staff.” The new management team completely remade all the course’s bunkers last year. “We’re also addressing golf’s primary demographic — people 60 and over — by adding a senior tee this year,” says Gibbs. “That’s going to make their experience more enjoyable.” Another one of Gibbs’ early moves was to hire Kurt Balser as golf pro. The Ohio native had previously worked at two Greensburg-area courses, the Greensburg Country Club and North Branch. More recently, he also brought Luke Moton on board as assistant pro. Moton had been at Harrison Lake Country Club. “He’ll head up our youth program. That’s his strength,” says Gibbs. The course began a men’s league two years ago. According to Gibbs, it consisted of 14 teams the first year and doubled that number the second year. “We’re just starting this year’s sign-up and interest is big,” he says. A senior league will also be offered this year. Timbergate’s website offers a number of conveniences to members. Signing up for lessons or booking tee times can now be done online. One situation Gibbs noticed upon becoming manager was that space that should have been profitable was underused: “The banquet room wasn’t being rented out, and the bar was not making the kind of money it should have.” The bar was moved to a larger area, directly accessible from outside. Gibbs looked at the popularity of simulated golf in cold-weather months and spearheaded the purchase of two simulators to put in the banquet room. That move has boosted off-season activity. Gibbs says, “You don’t want your members going to another course.” Bookings for class reunions and business meetings have been increasing recently as well. Gibbs notes that golf outings have increased “about 10 percent” in his time as manager. Timbergate’s marketing effort primarily consists of radio and newspaper ads, e-blasts and ads in trade magazines, such as Golfer’s Guide. Gibbs says that word-of-mouth has been an effective tool as well. The course is owned by the town of Edinburgh, and its staff members are town employees. The Town Council approved the plan for the course in May 1995, and it was constructed in 1998. “I had worked with the town of Edinburgh on other projects,” Gibbs says. “I’d talked to the utilities manager about some issues at the course.” He assumed his current position in January 2011. “The Town Council is very supportive,” he asserts. “They trust my decisions, and they’re always there to help me out. The parks department takes care of my flowers. The sewer department blacktopped the parking lot. When we decided to acquire the simulators, I had to go to a council meeting and request $58,000. Approving that was a bold move on their behalf.” Gibbs is a Batesville native and still commutes from there, but he sees Edinburgh as a forward-looking community. “Between our course and the outlet mall, it’s becoming as much a destination as any other place in this part of the state.” The concentration of hotels near Edinburgh Premium Outlets is the link between the two attractions. Timbergate offers Stay and Play packages that conveniently coordinate tee times and room reservations. He would like to make Timbergate a cost-free asset to the town. “My goal is for this place to pay for itself, and I think we’re way ahead of schedule. We’ve seen solid progress in spite of a weak economy.” Gibbs considers it a point of pride that Timbergate, while being a public development project with statewide market objectives, thrives with immediate-scale resources: “The real story here is, ‘Local government succeeds.’”
An increased emphasis on bar sales and the popularity of golf simulators have benefited the bottom line at Timbergate.
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GOLF, the republic, columbus, ind., Thursday, MARCH 14, 2013 9
Stepping out Sales of spikeless golf shoes spike
The Nike Lunar Control Limited Edition golf shoe features waterproof leather, a flywire midfoot saddle and Scorpion Stinger Spikes.
By Greg Seiter n Correspondent
olfers understand the importance of things such as stance, club selection and proper swing mechanics, but industry experts also emphasize the significance of wearing properly fitted shoes. The styles and colors of golf shoes now being seen on both private and public golf courses is becoming increasingly varied, and local professionals expect that trend to continue in 2013. “In the last couple of years, the spikeless golf shoe has really taken over,” said Andrew Craft, head golf professional at Dye’s Walk Country Club in Greenwood. “In fact, probably close to 75 percent of the shoes I bring in now are spikeless. That’s what I wear on a daily basis. “I can wear them in the shop, teach in them and then go play nine holes,” he continued. “They’re very comfortable and a little more durable than other types of golf shoes. They can be worn all day, and you don’t have to worry about damaging them.” Chad Cockerham, golf professional at Otter Creek Golf Course in Columbus, agrees. “Probably half our sales now are spikeless,” he said. “In some cases, you may lose a little traction with them, but you definitely gain in comfort. “If you’re going to be playing a hilly course or in wet conditions, you need to be a little careful with spikeless shoes, but for most people, they certainly provide enough traction.” According to Keith Clark, head golf professional at Harrison Lake Country Club in Columbus, golfers are also moving toward shoes that are more casual in
The spikeless Nike Lunar Bandon men’s golf shoe has a waterproof synthetic upper with asymmetrical zip for a modern look and protection in the wettest conditions. The soles have rubber integrated traction to help eliminate clogging and increase stability. their build and appearance. “It’s called a hybrid, and it’s both casual and spikeless,” he said. “Some call it the ‘Freddy Couples’ shoe because he’s really the first professional to wear that style on tour. “The hybrid is much more of a dock shoe with a flat bottom. It tends to be wider in the foot bed. People tend to wear them off the course and into the evening. The way they lace up is a little more conforming. They lace up similar to a tennis shoe and are adjustable to the feet for overall comfort.” Craft says there are even golf shoes on the market
10 GOLF, the republic, columbus, ind., Thursday, MARCH 14, 2013
now that don’t have any laces at all. “There’s a knob on the back of the shoe that adjusts and releases wire that actually pulls the shoe tighter,” he said. “It’s a neat feature and really compresses to the foot.” With such a strong movement toward spikeless and casual golf shoes now — ones that differ so significantly from what was the golf course norm just a few years ago — some might argue there’s really no reason to purchase separate golf shoes at all. However, for the most part, Craft disagrees. “Spikeless shoes still have rubber nubs on the bottom, and there’s a certain degree of traction involved,” he said. “They’re a spiked shoe without the spikes, and they’re much better for playing golf in than just a regular pair of tennis shoes. “Plus, if you’re a recreational player and only play a few times each year, they’re going to last a long time. However, I do tell parents that kids really don’t need golf shoes when they’re first starting out.” Clark believes the purchase of sport-specific shoes is justified by other reasons, too. In fact, he says golf shoes are specifically built to help a golfer with his swing. “If you’re just wearing a pair of running shoes, they may not slip a lot on the course itself. But for me, if I’m swinging my club 80 to 100 miles per hour, I’d definitely rather have shoes that are built to hold me up for that purpose.” For the most part, the upper sections of today’s trendy, more casual golf shoes are still made of leather or a similar product, but the soles are generally composed of rubber or an athletic material that allows them to twist in a variety of ways, thus provid-
ing a golfer’s foot with more room to grip the ground. “They’re much more durable now, and they really fit the foot well,” Craft said. “They also have great waterproofing. Regular tennis shoes don’t have that.” When it comes to shopping for golf shoes, there are many things to keep in mind, and local pros do their best to make recommendations based on variables such as desired price and expected frequency of play. “If someone knows how much they want to spend ahead of time, we can give them options and explain the differences,” Cockerham said. “How many times do they play each week? Are they a walker or a rider? Do they typically play in the morning or afternoon, and do they prefer a tennis shoe look or a classic look? These are all things that need to be taken into consideration.” For the golfer, there’s perhaps no variable more important than comfort. “Golf starts from the ground up, and the last thing a golfer wants is uncomfortable feet,” Craft said. “The golf swing is about weight shifting, and if your feet are bothering you, the transition from back foot to front foot during that swing is going to be a lot harder.” As far as price goes, the general consensus among Clark, Cockerham and Craft is that a pair of wellmade, waterproof golf shoes, adequate for today’s
Left: Attempting to appeal to a new generation of golfers, Duca del Cosma produces “sneakers for the golf course.” The lightweight shoes are made for comfort as well as elegance, the company says. Above: The Ashworth Cardiff Leather shoe has a spikeless, rubber outsole that provides traction on the course and comfort off it.
average player, can be purchased for $80 to $100. Of course, things like style, high-tech stabilization, leather and enhanced waterproofing can drive the cost up to $200 or more. Beyond the changing styles, area professionals are noticing a color explosion on local courses, too. “We’re seeing a lot of color in apparel and footwear, and it’s even showing up on golf clubs,”
Cockerham said. “Color and personalization will be the next big thing in the golf industry.” Clark agrees. “I’m seeing bright reds, yellows and greens. It’s all about marketing and fashion,” he said. “The younger generation is getting into it. Rather than having to wear traditional saddle shoes, they feel more comfortable in wilder colors.”
2013 GREEN FEES
Weekday Fees Walk 9 Holes............$10 18 Holes............$14 Ride 9 Holes............$16 18 Holes............$25
Weekend Fees Walk 9 Holes............$10 18 Holes............$14 Ride 9 Holes............$16 18 Holes............$26
12000 E. 225 N. Off State Road 9 Near Hope • 812.372.6031
GOLF, the republic, columbus, ind., Thursday, MARCH 14, 2013 11
the grass really is
greener at Harrison Lake
By Jay Heater
t’s almost spring and Harrison Lake Country Club members must be itching to get on the course. Besides the usual urge to play those first rounds of the year, Harrison Lake members have another reason to be excited. Keith Clark and Brad Allen. Clark, the new head pro at Harrison Lake, has been charged with the duty of bringing the best out of the club and its gem of a golf course. The course had been suffering from drought conditions in 2012, which affected fairways and greens. Other conditions as well left the greens a notch below the pristine standard the club had been known for presenting. “I am really excited about the direction Harrison Lake is going,” said Columbus North High School golf coach Doug Bieker. “To be brutally honest, I was worried last year with the condition of the course. You have to credit Mr. (Bob) Haddad.” Recognizing the need to make some changes, Haddad, the club’s owner, hired Clark and a new course superintendent, Allen. “I’ve met with both of them,” said Bieker, whose high school team benefits from the club’s commitment to the community. “They have made great strides already. I can tell you from speaking with our kids on the team that (late last year) the course already was in better condition than it had been in all year. They are making great strides, and I think Harrison Lake is going to come back.” Bieker said Haddad deserves the credit because “it takes a lot of money to bring something like that back.” Clark just focuses on the future.
Clark helps Doug Stender with his back swing during a lesson on the country club’s driving range. 12 GOLF, the republic, columbus, ind., Thursday, MARCH 14, 2013
At a glance Harrison Lake Country Club Where: Columbus New head pro: Keith Clark New superintendent: Brad Allen Par: 72, 6,412 yards from the blue tees Opened: 1947 photos by Andrew Laker
Keith Clark is the new golf pro at Harrison Lake Country Club. “There will be changes on the golf course done by our new superintendent,” he said. “He has finished renovation of four bunker complexes. That work will continue. We have targeted 11 of them. We also have been doing some tree root pruning.” Clark said that task is done by special equipment that was rented. “Members will see that those roots are gone from close to the cart paths, the bunkers and the greens. That was one of the issues we were having with the greens.” Another issue was moss on the greens. Overgrown trees were preventing some of the greens from getting the proper amount of sunlight. Limbs were trimmed, and six trees on the course were removed. “We plant two for every one taken down,” Clark said. A United States Golf Association consultant came to the course late last year and gave opinions about what it needed. Haddad listened. “Mr. Haddad has put a lot of resources into the course this off-season,” Clark said. “Anything that needs to be done. And our members will notice the detailing talents of Brad.” Clark said work will continue. “We need to work on our drainage and figure out ways to get water off the course quicker,” he said. “But our members will notice turf conditions fairly soon. It’s just overseeding. We are bringing back the areas that had turf damage. People will notice the speed of our greens. They will be absolutely pristine, as true as they
will find anywhere. It is the legacy of our golf course. “We can’t be here if we have less than great conditions.” Clark, a veteran golf course head pro and manager, has made several stops around the country, including a run at Otter Creek from 1989 to 1997. He always has loved the course at Harrison Lake. “This is a good, old course,” he said. While Otter Creek is one of the top-rated golf courses in the state, Harrison Lake doesn’t have the length to be a top 10 course. “We’re a different (kind of course),” said Clark, who is the Indiana PGA vice president. “The serenity of our area undoubtedly is a huge bonus. We are an old golf course that is cut into the woods. “This course is very playable for all skill levels. It is a course that will challenge you. We will host the State Senior Team Championship in June. For us, great referrals are more important (than rankings). We want to offer the best one-on-one services a person can get. We want to go above and beyond. Mr. Haddad wants to make Harrison Lake the pillar of the community.” Besides the work on the golf course, Clark has worked to add more events at the club. “We’ve added events for couples and more memberguest tournaments,” he said. “We’ve got two ladies groups, and they are going to add new activities. We will be having some ladies-only clinics and more junior leagues. We will have some enhancements for our junior camps. People will notice the activity going on.” The course also will continue to support high school golf. “It’s a privilege for us to play there,” Bieker said. “This is my 18th year as coach, and it’s amazing how many people come up after you’ve had dinner and ask about the kids and how they are doing. Certainly, Harrison Lake always has supported the team and allowed us basically
Clark records video of Stender’s swing. to have free access. They have helped us so much, and the staff has helped our kids when they need help. I know that Mr. Clark is a big supporter of junior golf. “I’m expecting them to help us get over the hump this season (to win a state championship).” Information about Harrison Lake Country Club or about membership: 812-342-4457.
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The long and short of it Use of anchored putters raises issues for golf administrators
photos by Andrew Laker
Ike Brinson demonstrates use of a chest putter recently at Otter Creek golf course.
By Ted Schultz
ke Brinson started using a belly putter because of his bad back. If the United States Golf Association has its way, he and others won’t be able to use the special putters in competition. The USGA has proposed a ban on anchoring clubs to the body in tournaments beginning in 2016. “I had back surgery when I was 26, and to play competitive golf and to practice with a conventional putter, it’s hard on your back,” said Brinson, 41. “So to get myself to practice a little bit more without my back bothering me, I went to the long putter. That’s how I started dabbling in it.” Brinson has been playing golf for almost 20 years and is a member at Otter Creek. He plays in the city tournament and has played in state amateur and Indiana Golf Association events. He’s used a belly putter on and off for three years and pretty steadily for the past year. “It’s not very easy to get used to,” Brinson said. “It makes 3-footers easier because it takes your hands out of it, but it does not make 30-footers easier. You still have to roll the ball. You still have to pick a line and get the speed right.” That’s one of the reasons Columbus North High School senior Ian Smith recently went back to a conventional putter after using a long one last season. “I thought that it was easier on short putts because a lot of people have what they call ‘yips,’” Smith said. “I thought I had more control over my line on short putts. I knew from experience I made a few more long putts a round with the short putter. I have a lot more distance control with the short putter.” Smith also returned to the conventional putter because of the proposed ban on the belly putters. “It was more of a practicing tool than anything,” Smith said of a belly
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Side-by-side comparison of a chest putter, from left, a belly putter and a traditional putter.
putter. “It really helps with reading the lines on the green. Now I’m more consistent with the short putter. I feel like switching back will help me in the long run.” “He’s finding out that he has a lot of talent, and the short putter is working just fine for him,” said Jeff Smith (no relation), who is the teaching pro at Otter Creek. J.J. Johnson, 70, has used a belly putter off and on for the past several years. His son, Andy, 40, a former state champion from North, used one for a year on the mini-tours. “I think he decided it wasn’t fair and went back to the standard way of putting,” J.J. Johnson said. “A lot of guys complain about them out on tour. They are a lot easier to putt with.” Three of the past five major champions used belly putters, including 2011 PGA Tournament winner Keegan Bradley. “Keegan Bradley has never used a conventional putter,” Brinson said. “I think that probably scares the USGA a little more than somebody that has a bad back. Kids are starting with them, and it just makes them better putters.” “It seems like people go back and forth,” said Steve Cohen, general manager and head professional at Greenbelt. “They’ll use it for a while, and then they’ll go back to regular putting. They’ll use it as a practice technique. The putting stroke anymore has become more mechanical. It’s more of a rocking motion with your shoulders, and with the belly putter anchored,
you pretty much have to use your shoulders. That’s pretty much the thought process for people who practice with it.” Chad Cockerham, general manager and head pro at Otter Creek, said that for the first time ever, the PGA Tour might not use USGA rules in competition, and there could be separate rules for professional play and amateur play. “That makes it almost impossible for us to do any type of administration for events,” Cockerham said. Brinson said he plans to use the belly putter until someone tells him he can’t use it anymore. “I think a lot of people are overreacting to this thing, and I don’t think they’re ever going to get it banned,” he said. “I think there’s going to be a lawsuit by tour players. If they do (get a ban), it will probably be at the tour level only. “Anything that makes the game better, I’m all for,” he said. “If USGA thinks banning the long putter is better for the spirit of the game, I trust their judgment.” Cohen said average golfers have nothing to worry about. “It’s kind of been overblown to where the average golfer is worried they can’t use it anymore,” Cohen said. “For the vast majority of golfers — I mean 97 to 98 percent of people playing golf — if you can enjoy the game better or score better because of using it, hey, use it. I’m not going to run out on the first green if somebody is using a belly putter and say, ‘Hey, Joe, you’re not allowed to use that putter anymore.’”
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National junior tournament comes to Otter Creek
By Jay Heater
ndiana University golf coach Mike Mayer has talked to quality players all over the world about joining his program. He has found, though, that there is plenty of talent not so far from home. Another example of that will be the American Junior Golf Association tour event that will be held July 1 to 4 at Otter Creek golf course in Columbus. The Under Armour/Jeff Overton Championship will match many of the nation’s most talented 12to 18-year-old golfers, and in some cases, international golfers as well. “You will see premier golfers, not only from the area, but the Midwest and the entire country,” Mayer said. “Some will be PGA golfers, no question about it. A large majority will play at the collegiate level. These will be the most talented men and women in the country. The opportunity to see rising stars is exciting. “We definitely will spend every positive moment we can there.” The AJGA hasn’t hosted an event in Columbus since 1990. A former winner of the event at Otter Creek is Phil Mickelson. photo by Tommy Walker
Christian Fairbanks and Michael VanDeventer of Columbus North High School study the green before putting during a match against Columbus East at Otter Creek golf course. 16 GOLF, the republic, columbus, ind., Thursday, MARCH 14, 2013
“Absolutely I am glad they are having the event here,” said Columbus North High School boys coach Doug Bieker. “I think what the country is going to realize, along with colleges around the Midwest, is what a deep talent pool we have in Indiana in junior golf. Certainly, my own team is blessed with talented kids.” One of Bieker’s Bull Dogs is Christian Fairbanks, who already has verbally committed to Indiana. “We will be able to compare our kids on the same day with some of the best junior golfers in the world,” Bieker said. “It will be good for golf fans because you are not going to be fighting 50,000 people and you very well might be watching the next Phil Mickelson or Tiger Woods or Rory McIlroy. “We’re going to see where we are, and I would be shocked if we are not right there. I think we will represent Columbus well, and I know Otter Creek will represent the community well.” Mayer said he is glad he can watch the event. “Otter Creek is an outstanding venue,” he said. “You want to see the golfers tested, and you want to see them challenged. In my opinion, and obviously I was born and raised in North Vernon so I might be biased, but Otter Creek is one of the best, if not the best, golf courses in Indiana. It is classic in so many ways. “That’s one of the many things I am excited about. What will these local players do and how will they stand up in a national tournament? It is one thing to play in a local event, but this is a national stage. Your comfort level changes.” Otter Creek General Manager Chad Cockerham said the AJGA event is another chance to showcase his golf course. “This is a chance to show people the facility that we have,” he said. “An event like this might bring golf into people’s lives.” He said the event will need well over 100 volunteers from the community, and many of them will be seeing golf up close for the first time. There will be a hospitality tent that might attract others to the course for the first time. Jeff Smith, a teaching pro at Otter Creek whose daughters, Caroline and Rebecca, play varsity golf for Columbus East High School, is hoping the tourna-
When the first American Junior Golf Association tournament was held at Otter Creek Golf Course in 1987, the winner was a teenager named Phil Mickelson. Twenty-six years later, Mickelson has three Masters victories and ranks 10th on the all-time PGA Tour winners list. ment stimulates youth golf in the Columbus area. “It’s going to raise awareness that kids can get really good at this,” he said. Smith is in charge of presenting a junior clinic day just before the start of the tournament that will be set up to introduce young golfers to the sport. But he also is starting a First Tee program in Columbus. “One of the big functions of the AJGA is to raise enough money to get to less fortunate kids to teach them the game,” he said. “So we are putting together a First Tee program.” Smith already has begun a foundation for the First Tee program. He has started teaching a golf course indoors at the Foundation For Youth in Columbus. It is a six-week program. Then after the tournament, he is hoping the First Tee program becomes a reality. “It is such a good program that exposes our game to kids, teaches them
golf and also how to be a great person,” Smith said. “We have a great environment for it. And we want to continue to grow golf.” Bieker said that he hopes Smith is successful. “That is one of the exciting byproducts of an AJGA event,” Bieker said. “You get direct monies to the community. Jeff always has been supportive of junior golf, and he has worked with a lot of our kids. He loves the game of golf and (a First Tee program) gives him a chance to give back to the community something you are passionate about and that you love.” AJGA Midwest Regional Chairman Matt Larson said the event should bring about $250,000 to the local economy. The tournament will be made up of 144 golfers, who must qualify. Of the field, about 25 percent will be female.
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Golf professionals are prepared to cope with another dry summer
Ready, set, water By Steve Mcclure n Daily Journal correspondent
18 GOLF, the republic, columbus, ind., Thursday, MARCH 14, 2013
ust off those golf clubs. Pick out your favorite spring apparel and get ready to hit the links. Gone, but not forgotten, are the brutally hot summers of 2011 and 2012, when temperatures soared and dry conditions created unique challenges for golf course superintendents. Last year’s golf season began rather mild with little precipitation and unseasonably warm conditions in February. The lack of rain continued through the spring and summer, bringing record hot temperatures and drought conditions to the whole state. Indiana recorded a dozen 100-degree days and 48 90-plus degree days through the summer. The drought also dropped the water tables for several of the state’s reservoirs. Snowfall and above-normal rainfall through December have helped, but a full balance has not been fully restored. Ask any golf superintendent or golf professional and they all say the same: Recovery from drought conditions requires careful watch, but having ample water supplies is one of the most important requirements. “These conditions are cyclical and happen about every 10 years,” said Chip Essig, master golf professional for Hickory Stick Golf Club in Greenwood and Heartland Crossing in Camby. “Rainfall has a way of helping golf courses recover on their own. It’s not a perfect science, and no irrigation system is perfect on its own.” Additionally, irrigation systems typically are designed to supplement rainfall rather than replace it. During severe droughts, communities limit water usage for non-critical activities like landscape irrigation. So course superintendents, if they have to rely on city water sources, prioritize areas. Greens are most important, followed by approaches and sur-
Gibbs said keeping Timbergate in tip-top shape takes a real team effort. “There are no shortcuts to success,” he said. “It’s akin to Cummins in Columbus manufacturing a bad engine. If you have a bad engine, things don’t go well. The same is true at our golf course. We do all that is necessary to achieve success.” Mike David, Indiana PGA executive director, knows full well the complexities of keeping up with conditions created by sizzling hot temperatures. “There are so many variables at play, and they can turn on a dime if weather dictates with heat and no rain,” he said. “Those with ample water supplies and knowing how to deal with turf diseases and insects usually come out pretty well. Those who don’t suffer.” At Dye’s Walk in Greenwood, Andrew Craft is forecasting a good year ahead. “We are excited since we are now member-owned and a not-forprofit,” he said. “Obviously, extreme weather conditions play an important role in the golf business. However, with our drainage and irrigation systems and adequate water supplies, we are equipped for the challenge. “When temperatures hit triple digits, it doesn’t matter how much water you pour on fairways, there’s still going to be brown spots indicating dormant turf.” As to volume of play when faced with temperatures well above normal, Craft said people just get used to it. “Golfers will be golfers — they still want to play. They just choose different tee times on a summer day because there are still plentiful hours to choose from.”
rounds. If these areas are kept in good condition, the course is still playable and can be kept open. Essig also noted that each golf course reacts differently during stressful weather conditions. Kevin Custis, golf superintendent at Hillview Country Club, said the course in Franklin had ample amounts of water last summer. “We have to keep a careful watch daily on what the conditions are and what steps we will take to remedy those dry spells,” he said. “On a typical day when we’re up in the 90s, we keep our greens moistened, not particularly for root protection, but to reduce the surface temperature by as much as 10 to 12 degrees. We may do this several times a day, and then at dusk, conditions improve.” Former Hickory Stick golf pro Keith Clark, who is now in the same capacity at Harrison Lake Country Club in Columbus, echoed the opinions of his colleagues. “A lot of people ask me, what do you do all winter?” he said “In answer, I tell them I get done what I couldn’t get to during the regular season from March through October, including working with our golf superintendent Brad Allen on a so-called to-do list. “When you’re trying to maintain a 150- to 200-acre golf course with a variety of turfs and topography, there’s a lot to think about, especially during those hot summer conditions. Most of our area golf courses pump anywhere between 200,000 to 400,000 gallons of water per day supplied by lakes, retention ponds, wells and reclaimed water sources.” But water is water, right? Not even close. Water sources, according to the United States Golf Association, vary widely, often within a community or a single course. Wells may be in different aquifers, and the irrigation lake may be filled by a combination of storm water runoff, recycled water from a sewage treatment plant and potable water from a city supply. Even with a single source, said the USGA, the quality of water changes depending on time of year and environmental conditions. At Timbergate Golf Course in Edinburgh, General Manager Wayne Gibbs said, “We are very fortunate here to be sitting atop a fairly significant aquifer that supplies us with the much-needed water resources to irrigate our course. Our 150-acre course of irrigated greens, fairways and tee beds take an enormous amount of water to keep the bent grass from sustaining irreparable damage. “At the peak of the drought, we were pumping 700,000 gallons of water each and every night, which equated to approximately twotenths of an inch of rainfall.”
Hickory Stick Golf Club in Greenwood GOLF, the republic, columbus, ind., Thursday, MARCH 14, 2013 19
The First Tee expands reach in Indiana By Mike David
ome 18 years ago, a movement was under way to bring The First Tee to Indianapolis. Meetings were held, committees were formed, a home-site was selected. Talks eventually stalled, and the quest to have a First Tee influence in Indianapolis was put on hold. Fast forward to 2009. A First Tee chapter was finally formed in Indianapolis, becoming the third First Tee chapter in the state. The First Tee of Indianapolis did an excellent job of getting The First Tee’s National Schools Program into Indianapolis area schools. Through the NSP program, the First Tee of Indianapolis was reaching more than 8,000 children in 22 IPS elementary schools. The future for The First Tee of Indianapolis, however, was very much in doubt. Due to limited sources of funding and an uncertain financial future, an effort was spearheaded by then First Tee board member Alice Dye to have the Indianapolis First Tee Chapter come under the Indiana Golf Foundation umbrella.
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Formed in 1994 with an annual operating budget of $800,000, the foundation was viewed as the organization that could provide long-term sustainability to The First Tee and offer growth opportunities that could potentially reach tens of thousands of kids in Indiana. That process was completed in late 2011. The name and geographic scope of the chapter were changed to The First Tee of Central Indiana, and a new plan was developed. Within months of this transition taking place, a new movement was under way to once again expand the reach and scope of The First Tee in Indiana. The slow start for First Tee programming in Indianapolis was history, and the program was now on the fast track to not only reaching central Indiana youths but those interested in golf throughout the state. As of December, The First Tee of Indiana now has the ability to offer First Tee programming to children from Evansville to South Bend and Terre Haute to Richmond, and all communities in between. The mission of The First Tee is to impact the lives of young people by providing educational programs that build character, instill life-enhancing values and promote healthy choices through the game of golf. That mission fit perfectly into the foundation’s mission of “Teaching life lessons through the game of golf,” making the decision to pull The First Tee under the foundation’s administration an easy one. The First Tee (www.thefirsttee.org) is an initiative of the World Golf Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in St. Augustine, Fla., at World Golf Village, home of the World Golf Hall of Fame. More specifically, it is an international youth development organization introducing the game of golf and its inherent values to young people. Through after-school and in-school programs, it helps to shape the lives of young people from all walks of life by reinforcing values like integrity, respect and perseverance through the game of golf. And it’s making a difference. Research-proven programs are having a positive impact on participants, their families and their communities: • 6.5 million participants reached since 1997. • 10,000 volunteers actively engaged. • 5,100 elementary schools offering The First Tee National School Program during the 2012-13 school year. • All states in the country offering The First Tee programming. • Four international locations. Since its inception in 1997, The First Tee has introduced the game of golf and its values to 4.7 million participants and students in 48 states and five international locations – Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and Singapore. There are now 196 First Tee chapters. The First Tee was founded and is supported by golf’s major organizations, including: • Masters Tournament.
• The PGA of America. • PGA Tour. • United States Golf Association. • Ladies Professional Golf Association. In addition, former President George W. Bush serves as honorary chairman. He succeeds his father, former President George H.W. Bush, who served as The First Tee’s honorary chairman since the organization’s inception before shifting to an honorary chairman emeritus role. The First Tee curriculum focuses on nine core values that are inherent to the game of golf: honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy and judgment. These values are ingrained in The First Tee curriculum, making First Tee programs more about turning out well-rounded individuals than accomplished golfers. The opportunities for reaching thousands of Indiana youths are numerous. Moving forward, The First Tee of Indiana will look to expand the number of youths it reaches by adding affiliate sites around the state. Currently, an affiliate site in Richmond is reaching more than 2,000 kids through the NSP and another 200 in summer programs. An affiliate site in South Bend/Elkhart (Michiana) has just been added, and an NSP will be offered beginning this fall. Plans call for affiliate sites to be added in 2013 in Bloomington, Columbus, and Orange and DuBois counties (south central). Potential plans for 2014 include expansion into the Evansville, Valparaiso, Terre Haute and Lafayette
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markets. Within the next two years, as many as 40,000 elementary school students could be part of First Tee programs in their elementary schools. The First Tee of Indianapolis accomplished some great things in its first couple of years of existence with the National Schools Program. The goal is to get The First Tee programs into more schools throughout Indiana and ultimately to look for more on-course opportunities for the kids. By coming under the foundation umbrella, there is tremendous growth potential for The First Tee in Indiana. Those sentiments were echoed by Kent Knorr, manager of golf course operations for Indy Parks and Recreation. “Under the leadership of the Indiana Golf Foundation, the opportunity for continued success is greatly increased,” Knorr said. “This transition will give The First Tee the best opportunity for growth not only at our Indy Parks golf courses, but also throughout Indiana.” “I am very excited for the youth in central Indiana,” said Al Arrigoni, associate director of mid–south region affairs for The First Tee. “The First Tee is committed to the success of young people by introducing the game and its positive inherent values. The Indiana Golf Foundation has at its core a great passion for the game and is the indisputable leader of the game in Indiana.” While it took some time for The First Tee to land in Indianapolis and eventually to become a statewide program, it is now making up for lost time. Mike David is executive director of Indiana Golf Office.
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Young golfers keep eyes on pros
By Elizabeth Ream
rofessional golf has exploded into a multimillion-dollar industry with its own channel, major events that capture the world’s attention and a whole lot of star power. But does it have golfers who capture the imagination of kids? At one time, Tiger Woods was the “Be Like Mike” of golf, sending children to the driving range with dreams of wearing trademark red shirts on Sundays. Personal problems and injuries might have dimmed some of Woods’ star power among younger generations. So whom do young golfers look up to today? Columbus North High School golfer Jake Coffey said Woods remains his favorite. “I really enjoy Tiger Woods,” Coffey said. “He has been my favorite player for a long time. The only reason that scandal hit the press big time is because he is one of the best golfers in history.” Columbus East High School golfer Sam Jackson also said that Woods is still his favorite player, mainly because he is fun to watch and has had a lot of influence on the growth of golf as a sport. “Tiger had a ton to do with growing the sport,” Jackson said. “It is something about the way he plays. He takes risks, and people enjoy that. He has brought a lot of attention and money to the sport because he is so talented.” North golfer Christian Fairbanks has been impressed by the current No. 1 golfer in the world. “Not until Rory McIlroy came about did I really have a favorite player,” said Fairbanks, who has signed to play at Indiana University when his high school career is finished. “I have been following him for about four years now, and he is great.”
Rory McIlroy, left, shakes hands with Tiger Woods at the BMW Championship PGA golf tournament at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel.
Fairbanks’ teammate, Michael VanDeventer, said that McIlroy has become one of his favorites, too. “I like everything about him, but putting and hitting on the greens are what win tournaments,” VanDeventer said. “I am always looking to pick up on something new that can help me and give me higher chance for success.” Otter Creek head pro Chad Cockerham said he isn’t surprised to still hear Woods’ name mentioned prominently. “Most of our younger and junior players hold a deep respect for Tiger,” he said. “I had the same thing growing up for Jack Nicklaus. “But you do hear McIlroy a lot now and some Ricky Fowler. Some of these guys are active on Twitter and Facebook, and they use the social media to get to kids.” It appears that many young golfers watch the PGA Tour more to pick up tips than to find role models or idols. Columbus East golfer Caroline Smith said she watches professional golf not for specific players but for what she can learn about the game. “I never got into it that much growing up,” she said. “Now I love watching Tiger and (Phil) Mickelson, but I don’t really have a favorite player. I look at all the golfers’ swings and strokes and even their attitudes and how they control themselves. I think that has helped me to improve my game.” The overall product might carry more of a punch than any one player. “I think the growth that golf has experienced in the media definitely affects younger kids wanting to get involved in the sport,” Jackson said. “When
22 GOLF, the republic, columbus, ind., Thursday, MARCH 14, 2013
I watch golf, I see players that are so talented, and I want to try to be like them. They are very regimented, and that is something that anybody can take to their game.” Whether or not they have a true favorite, the young golfers are watching. “When I got older and started watching big tournaments, I got really into it,” VanDeventer said. “I feel like every kid growing up sees professional athletes such as Michael Jordan or LeBron James, and they want to be like them. Golf has become more popular, and I think that has influenced the interest of younger kids to get involved in the sport.” While the young golfers might not have a Bubba Watson poster in their room, they might be wearing the same brand of golf pants. “Players are really in tune to what the professionals are wearing and which equipment they are using,” said Columbus East varsity boys coach Tom LaBarbera. “I have noticed that my golfers at East will dress up from what they were wearing to school, just to come to golf practice. I think some of that comes from what kids see in the media.” Columbus North golf head coach Doug Bieker said that many young golfers today do strive to emulate what they see on television, but only to a certain point. “In the beginning, my players watched big-name golfers, and they all wanted to be able to drive the ball a long way,” Bieker said. “When they start understanding the game more, they realized that it is the hard work on the wedges and the short game that makes the biggest difference. When they realize that, that is when they really start to get better.”
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