Monday, June 30, 2008

Juniata Golf Club; "Philly's Tin-Cup Course"

Over the past year, I have chronicled on this blog the transformation that has taken place at my home course, Juniata Golf Club. Now it seems, the world outside of Philadelphia has taken notice too. The Christian Science Monitor's June 23 edition carried an article, "Philly's tin-cup course," which tells of the rebirth happening at this 78-year-old course that was designed by noted golf architect Ed Ault:

PHILADELPHIA - Augusta National this is not. This is Juniata, where a defaced sign warns you to lock your car and take your valuables. Where the backs of benches advertise security services and union locals. Where the "clubhouse" is actually a cart barn. And this is the new and improved Juniata, as it inches itself out of the path of a possible developer's bulldozer.

Conditions at the 78-year-old Juniata Golf Club, always the poor relation of the six city-owned public courses, had deteriorated in recent years, the victim of scarce funding, vandalism, and neglect. When a 2003 fire destroyed the clubhouse – and the bathrooms – there was no money to rebuild, and many golfers stopped coming. Those who did were increasingly irate at having to pay even $20 greens fees, only to encounter trash and weeds, vandalism, graffiti, and worse. Juniata was losing money, and last year the Fairmount Park Commission, which owned the course, cut off funding altogether.

It suggested to Bob Wheeler, the retired Philadelphia policeman who was club manager, that he put together a nonprofit foundation to run the course. Now, with the new club just a few months into its first season, Mr. Wheeler is credited with leading the resurrection of Juniata. "He took the idea and ran with it," says Barry Bessler, chief of staff of the park commission.

A reclamation effort began in earnest last summer. Today the course is busy, its tournaments and greens-fees business thriving. The women golfers, turned off by porta-potties introduced after the fire, have returned. And the greens, once again, are green. Joe Logan, who covers golf for the Philadelphia Inquirer, recalls visiting Juniata when "there wasn't a blade of grass to stick a tee in." Now, "for what it's trying to be, it's a success story. Juniata is a lunch-bucket golf course and they're proud of it."

Read the entire story here.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Ramblings of Gary McCord

I recently completed reading Just a Range Ball in a Box of Titleists, On and Off the Tour with Gary McCord. First published 10 years ago, the book was the second written by Gary McCord, the CBS golf commentator and part-time Champions Tour player. His first, Golf for Dummies, was co-authored with former Golf Digest Senior Editor John Huggan.

At just over 200 words, the book is more a collection of short essays, with each chapter written in much the same way McCord commentates during CBS golf broadcasts. Some give an insightful, witty look into McCord's playing days, his early tour sponsorship by Lawrence Welk, his start in broadcasting, being banned from The Masters telecast, working with Kevin Costner on the movie Tin Cup, the difference between the U.S. and British Opens, and the golf games of celebrities such as Alice Cooper, Hootie & the Blowfish, Clint Eastwood, Eddie Van Halen and Charles Barkley. He also delves into his life off the tour; playing at San Luis Rey Downs Golf and Country Club with his compadres Fairway Louie, Willie "Brain Damage" Rains, Unemployed Lloyd, Mad Max and Lock & Load; playing in their nine-hole worst-ball scramble with their ex-spouses, affectionately known as "The Ex-Wives Conflict."

But McCord also waxes poetic about climbing inside a golf ball as it flies down the faiway, the idiosyncrasies of the golf swing, getting a lesson at night in the dark, filming a FootJoy commercial underwater, a tournament ending written as a Shakespeare play and other stuff that just makes you scratch your head and hope the next chapter will be better.

If you love listening to McCord on the weekends, you'll love this book. I enjoyed it, but not as much as some of the other golf books I have read over the past few years. But if, like Tom Watson, you believe McCord is over-the-top and disrespectful to the traditions of the game, then I recommend you read something else.

Friday, June 27, 2008

A New Low at Center Square

Center Square Golf Course
Center Square, Pa
Yards: 2939/3061 - 6000
Par: 35/36 - 71
Rating: 67.9, Slope: 119
Score: 46/44 = 90
Date: June 26, 2008

Center Square Golf Course in Eastern Montgomery County offered a unique opportunity to test my game on a layout that has hosted a major golf championship. In 1980 and 1997, the U.S. Women's Amateur Publinks Championship was held at this Ed Ault-designed course, and it is not hard to imagine why. Center Square features generous Rye/Blue Grass fairways and medium-sized Bent/POA greens. The greens are fast, offer subtle breaks and are guarded by nearly 60 bunkers. Except for the occasional blind tee shot, all the trouble at Center Square is right in front of you. It is in terrific shape for a public course and the greens fee are very reasonable; $29 to walk Monday through Thursday, $37 on Friday and $39 after 1 p.m. on the weekends. Carts are $15.

The 10th Hole at Center Square, a 378-yard Par 4

Although overcast, drizzling and extremely humid and muggy when we teed off at #1, the day turned out to be pretty nice as the sun finally popped through on the back nine. Coming off my lackluster performance at Rock Manor, I was hoping for a little bit more from my game at Center Square. And did I get it! I played well from the tee, generally finding the fairway. When I didn't, my course management kept me from posting a big number. My ball striking was the best it has been this year; I hit several greens in regulation. The new TaylorMade r7 irons are allowing me to get the ball in the air with great distance, whether from the tee, fairway or rough. My short game allowed me to get up-and-down when I needed it. The only down side again was my putting. I still three-putted too many greens. I did manage to make four pars, including two of the three Par 5s. It all added up to a 90, my lowest score ever on a course of Par 70 or higher! In fact, I missed a putt of about seven feet on the 18th hole which would have given me an 89!

Center Square Scorecard

Following the round, my golfing buddy Ken and I enjoyed delicious sandwiches and beverages, while catching a few innings of the Phillies game in Center Square's Champs Sports Bar.

A view of the clubhouse, Champs Sports Bar and the 18th green from the 13th tee

A few additional views of Center Square Golf Course:

The 3rd Hole, a 160-yard Par 3

The 5th green is protected by a large bunker

The 8th Hole is a 388-yard dogleg left

The 9th Hole from the tee box

The 187-yard Par 14th Hole.
The power lines do not come into play.

The tee marker for the 16th Hole, a short Par 4

The downhill 15th fairway from the 16th tee box

The 18th Hole, a 133-yard Par 3 over water

The view of the back nine from the 18th tee

Photos by The Muni Golfer

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A Rock Solid Course -- Rock Manor

Rock Manor Golf Course
Wilmington, Del
Yards: 2831/3149 - 5980
Par: 36/36 - 71
Rating: TBD, Slope: TBD
Score: 51/47 = 98
Date: June 24, 2008

Today I took my clubs and game down I-95 to Wilmington, Delaware to try the newly renovated Rock Manor Golf Course. A municipal course owned by the City of Wilmington, "The Rock" as it is affectionately known has recently re-opened after two years of re-design and re-working under the direction of golf architect Lester George. For a municipal golf course, George and the City of Wilmington have done a magnificent job of lengthening and transforming "The Rock" into a first rate course. Four sets of tees make this course playable for golfers of just about any skill level. The fairways are generous and in fantastic condition, while the greens are smooth and extremely quick. A beautiful, circa 1921 building is being refurbished and will serve as the Course's clubhouse in the very near future. Because the renovation and redesign of the course is so new, the rating and slope have yet to be determined by the Delaware State Golf Association. The course is being managed by Billy Casper Golf, which is also managing three of Philadelphia's public courses.

The future clubhouse at Rock Manor

Today also marked my annual golf outing with Robert Levis, the Chair of Temple University's Chemistry Department, and his father. Also joining us for today's round was George Baran, Associate Dean of Temple's College of Engineering.

Rock Manor Scorecard

We started our round on the back nine, which opens which a 528-yard Par 5 that doglegs right. I started off well, making a 6 on the Par 5, and played steady golf, making two pars: at the short 305-yard Par 4 14th and the 172-yard Par 3 16th. A gusty wind made club selection tricky all day and speed of the greens made it very tough to get approach shots, pitches and chips close to the hole.

The view from the first tee, a 90-degree dogleg right.

The front nine, our second, started off very well as I made my first birdie of the year at the 345-yard Par 4 1st Hole. I hit a three wood off the tee to the left side of the fairway, which doglegs right at a 90-degree angle. I was left with 135 yards downhill to a green which slopes from right to left. I hit a 9 iron to 20 feet left of the pin, which was in the back right portion of the green, then sank the uphill putt for birdie! I made bogey on the next two holes, a Par 5 and Par 3, respectively. The Par 3 3rd Hole is very challenging, requiring a tee shot from an elevated tee over wetlands to an elevated green that is protected by two large bunkers that swallow short tee shots. From the 3rd Hole on, my game started to desert me and limped home with an 8-5-6-7-7-5 over the last six holes. Putting was my nemesis through most of the round at Rock Manor. I missed more putts from 5 feet or less than I care to think about. But I capped off my day by sinking a 35-foot putt that broke hard to the right off a hump in the green.

The green at #1. I-95 traffic is speeding by just behind those trees and bushes.

A round at "The Rock" is worth the 45 minute drive down I-95. It is a welcomed addition back into the public golf arena of the Delaware Valley. A few additional views of "The Rock":

The 3rd Hole. A 157-yard Par 3 over wetlands.

The downhill Par 3 5th Hole plays over a small creek.

The Par 4 17th Hole.

The course known as "The Rock."
Photos by The Muni Golfer

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Road Test: A Round at John Byrne Golf Club

John F. Byrne Golf Club
Philadelphia, Pa
Yards: 2273/2610 - 4883
Par: 33/34 - 67
Rating: 63.9, Slope: 105
Score: 45/53 = 98
Date: June 21, 2008

I decided it was time to test my game on a new layout this week, so I traveled to Northeast Philadelphia for a round at John F. Byrne Golf Club. Formerly Holmesburg Country Club, Byrne Golf Club was acquired by the City of Philadelphia in the late 1960s. Set in a valley that sees the Torresdale Creek wind its way through the course, the Alex Findley layout is now being managed for the City by Billy Casper Golf. John F. Byrne has a little of everything: tight, tree-lined fairways; wide open fairways; holes that play downhill; holes that play uphill; holes that play both downhill and uphill; Par 3s, 4s and 5s; 10 holes that play over water; and smallish greens, with some well protected by bunkers. Quite a bit of renovation has been done to course over the past few years and the conditions are fairly good for a municipal tract. Also, the young man working the counter signed me up for the Golf Philly Rewards Card. The card earns points when you play at Byrne, Cobbs Greek or FDR and can be redeemed for a free round of golf after you've earned five points.

The opening tee shot over Torresdale Creek

I teamed up on the first tee with Brian, a graduate of Thomas Jefferson University who is completing his residency in emergency medicine at Hahnemann Hospital. I played well on the front nine, going out in 45. I made two pars; one at the Par 3 2nd Hole and one at the short Par 4 4th Hole. Two 7s, at the 7th and 9th Holes were the only blotches on the scorecard. My short game bailed me out on several occasions as I chipped close to the hole.

John F. Byrne Golf Club Scorecard

I kept the momentum going on the back nine, including making a 30-foot par putt on the 516-yard Par 5 12th Hole. I almost manged to do no worse than bogey on three of the four Par 3s on the back, and bogeyed the Par 5 16th after hitting my third shot from 150 yards way right of the green.

The short 293-yard 4th Hole from the green. Tee shots must make it through a narrow opening over Torresdale Creek.

But at the 371-yard, Par 4 17th Hole, a lapse in judgment turned a good round into a mediocre one. After hitting my 17 degree hybrid off the tee into the left rough, I had about 153 yards to green from a poor lie. The green at 17 is very narrow in the front, with bunkers left and right, and wider in the back. The green also slopes front front back to front. With the hole cut in the green's narrow neck, I hit a 5 Iron for my second shot and pulled it left of the green under some tall pines. Now I faced going over the bunker to the narrowest part of green if I wanted to hit at the flag. The smart play would have been to hit towards the back of the green and two-putt for bogey, double at worst. I tried to lob a sand wedge over the bunker but caught the very end of a limb that held about three pine cones and my ball dropped straight down into the left bunker. I blasted my sand wedge out of the bunker, over the green and into the right bunker. I then hit it right back over the green and into the left bunker. I tried to chip it out, but didn't get the ball high enough and it rolled back into the bunker. I blasted out again, but again, I went over the narrow part of green into the right bunker. Fully frustrated, a light bulb came on and I opted to blast out of the bunker towards the back, wider portion of the green. My long downhill putt broke right-to-left and rolled about 5 feet past the cup. My next uphill putt just grazed the edge, and when I finally tapped in, I has an 11!

The short Par 4 5th Hole. Out of bounds to the right and tee shots to the left carry down the hill.

My frustration carried over to the 338-yard, uphill closing hole. My tee shot made it over the creek and left me with about 125 yards to the green. But I chunked my second shot, mis-hit my third and came up short with a wedge on my fourth shot. I hit a hybrid chip from about 5 yards off the front of the green and came up woefully short. I ran my first putt about 3 feet past the hole, then lipped-out the come-backer for an 8. So I shot a 98 with an 11 and an 8 on the last two holes.

The 10th Hole viewed from the tee.

But John F. Byrne was a good test of where my game is right now. I feel my confidence growing and hope to carry it over to this week as I have rounds scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday.
Photos by The Muni Golfer

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Iron Test at Juniata

Juniata Golf Club
Philadelphia, Pa
Yards: 2735/2070 - 4805
Par: 34/32 - 66
Rating: 63.2, Slope: 106
Score: 47/44 = 91
Date: June 16, 2008

I took my new TaylorMade r7 irons for a test round today at Juniata Golf Club. I was delighted that they were everything I expected. I did perhaps my best ballstriking with my irons this year. I was especially pleased with how they cut through the rough and got the golf ball airborne. They had great distance and were very accurate; I hit the ball just about where I aimed. I did hit a few shanks, but I think that has more to do with adjusting to ball position with these irons.

As for my round today, I started out on the back nine because of a morning outing that was finishing up on the front side. At the Par 4, 360-yard 11th Hole I hit a good drive and had about 95 yards to the elevated green. The first test of my new irons. I hit the gap wedge that went high into the air and landed about 10 feet right of the hole. Judging from my ball mark on the green -- always remember to repair your ball marks on the green -- the ball hit and hopped about six inches before stopping. I missed the birdie putt, however. If I could have made any putts today I could have easily shot in the low 80s. I played steady golf through the first seven holes on the back side before my concentration and my legs began to wane. I went 7-5-7-7-6 on holes 17 through 3, but I somehow caught a second wind and parred four of my last six holes -- the 4th, 5th, 7th and 9th. Here's how I made those four pars:

4th Hole, Par 4, 380 yards -- I hit a 4 Wood off the tee and had a Gap Wedge from the left portion of the fairway. I went right under the ball and left it short of the green, but hit a soft chip to a foot. Tapped in for par.
The 4th Hole at Juniata Golf Club

5th Hole, Par 4, 360 yards -- I hit driver and my tee shot made it over the ridge in the fairway, leaving 135 yards to the green. I hit a 7 iron to the right fringe and two-putted for par.

7th Hole, Par 4, 275 yards -- My 4 Wood off the tee was a huge draw that found the left rough, just clearing the tree line. I hit a Pitching Wedge to 15 feet behind the hole and two-putted for par.

9th Hole, Par 4, 380 yards -- I hit my best drive of the day, crushing my driver up the right side of this uphill hole, landing just in the rough about 98 yards from the center of the green. I choked down on a Pitching Wedge and hit it to the left side of the green, some 25 feet below the hole. Two-putted for par.

While my swing and game seem to be rounding into shape, I think I need to start walking a few nights a week to build up some leg strength and stamina because this was the second time my legs have felt sluggish during the round. And without strong legs, your swing suffers tremendously.
Photo by The Muni Golfer

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Trading Up to New Irons

Yesterday I took 21 old clubs that I no longer used, or used very sparingly, to the Golf Galaxy in Mount Laurel, N.J., and traded them in for a new set of irons. The clubs I traded in were a set of TaylorMade RAC OS2 irons (3-AW), a TaylorMade R510 driver, a TaylorMade R5 Dual 3 wood, a TaylorMade R540XD 5 wood, two TaylorMade RAC chrome wedges, an Adams a2 hybrid, a Nickent 3DX ironwood hybrid, an Orlimar Trimetal Plus hybrid, a Cleveland 691 sand wedge, a Wilson Dyna-powered sand wedge, a Ping Zing sand wedge, and a Precept Tour Premium driver.

I have had very good experiences doing trades with Golf Galaxy to upgrade my clubs. In fact, the RAC OS2s that I traded in yesterday were acquired during a previous trade-in at Golf Galaxy. And, they made the process of trading in your clubs even easier. You can go to their Web site and click on the Global Golf Price Book Web site, which allows you find out the value of the clubs you want to trade in. The Global Golf Price Book quotes you the purchase value of the clubs, not just the marketplace value.

After Golf Galaxy agreed on the price stated by the Global Golf Price Book, I had a decision to make on what to get. I was going back and forth between a set of TaylorMade's r7 irons or Tour Burner irons. The sales associate at Golf Galaxy allowed me to hit both into a net and on the golf simulator. Both irons felt really solid, but I settled on the r7 irons, getting a set of 4-iron through gap wedge. According to TM's Web site, the r7 irons are "Engineered for a wide range players who prefer an iron that's easier to launch high and straight while also offering excellent workability. Inverted Cone Technology provides higher COR and increased average ball speed for greater distance. Exceptionally deep cavity design creates a low and deep CG, making it easier to launch the ball higher for the optimum combination of carry and control." The specs are almost identical to the irons I've been playing, and I like the fact that the irons have a medium sole width and moderate offset. I have put them in my bag and relegated the TaylorMade 200 irons into a backup set. I look forward to trying the new irons out tomorrow on the course.

Also yesterday, my wife and I went to the Oxford Valley Mall, where we shopped for our mutual birthday presents. I settled on adding to my golf wardrobe with four new golf shirts from the PGA Tour collection, which I picked out at J C Penney. I also bought myself three additional PGA Tour shirts at Boscov's and two from the Champions Tour line they sell at Macy's.

Shirts Photo by The Muni Golfer

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Heat of Battle at Juniata

Juniata Golf Club
Philadelphia, Pa
Yards: 4805, Par: 66
Rating: 63.2, Slope: 106
Score: 42/X = 42
Date: June 8, 2008

With temperatures reaching the mid-90s and a heat advisory in effect, I decided to only play nine holes at Juniata Golf Club. Because of the oppressive humidity, I waited until 3:30 p.m. to tee off. I took it slow walking and made sure I drank plenty of water while on the course, which was pretty empty. Of course, in these brutal conditions, I managed my best nine hole score--42--of the year so far. I hit my irons pretty well today; probably some of the best ball striking I've done this season. Here's a re-cap of my round:

1st Hole, Par 3, 160 yards -- I hit a six iron off the tee, landing just in the rough in the front left of the green. I hit a lob wedge on the green to about 10 feet and two-putted for a 4.

2nd Hole, Par 4, 260 yards -- Hit a 4 hybrid off the tee, coming to rest in a bad lie in the right rough about 75 yards short of the green. I hacked a 53 degree wedge to about 25 yards, just on the fairway. I hit my lob wedge over the bunker guarding the green to about 12 feet and two-putted for a 5.

The Par 4 3rd Hole at Juniata

3rd Hole, Par 4, 390 yards -- My driver off the tee was a pull hook into a pine tree that guards the left side of the fairway and settled in the rough of the 4th hole, about 210 yards from the green. I muscled my 17 degree hybrid to about 80 yards, but my third shot with a wedge was fat and flew right. From 30 yards I pitched onto the green and two-putted for a 6.

4th Hole, Par 4, 380 yards -- I pushed my 3 wood off the tee into a grouping of trees and brush off the right side of the fairway, but I had an opening to punch an 8 iron out towards the green, finishing about 5 yards short and left. I chipped a lob wedge on short. From about 15 feet, I ran my first putt past the hole a good 6 feet and missed the comebacker for another 6.

5th Hole, Par 4, 360 yards -- I again pushed my tee shot with the driver slightly right, but I made it over the crest of the fairway and had about 155 yards to the green from a downhill lie in the rough. I hit a 6 iron just short to the front right of the green, then chipped a pitching wedge to about 5 feet and sank the putt for a par 4.

6th Hole, Par 4, 350 yards -- Because the sprinklers were running on the left side of the tee box, I teed up on the right and attempted to hit a fade with my driver, which I did, although my approach was from the left rough about 160 yards away. Because the second shot is uphill to an elevated, I hit the 4 hybrid, which I absolutely nuked over the green. My attempted flop shot with a lob wedge from about 15 yards landed on the cart path an one-hopped onto green. I two-putted from about 12 feet for a 5.

7th Hole, Par 4, 275 yards -- I hit my 17 degree hybrid off the tee with a draw and landed in the left rough about 95 yards away on this 90 degree dogleg left. I three-quartered a pitching wedge up onto the green, about 30 feet from the flag. The first two-thirds of my putt was uphill, but I ran it my first putt about 10 feet past the hole, but made the comebacker for a par 4.

8th Hole, Par 3, 190 yards -- Again hitting the 17 degree hybrid off the tee, I played a soft draw that landed short but ran into the left rough. Although I was pin high, I had to hit a lob wedge about 5 yards onto the green and I hit it about 8 yards. I made the 7 foot putt for a par 3.

9th Hole, Par 4, 380 yards -- I pulled my tee shot waaaay left into the rough on the right side of the 17th fairway. With a tree line between me and the 9th green, I hit an 8 iron over the trees about 15 yards short of the green. I lobbed on to about 8 feet and just burned the edge with my par putt, settling for a tap-in and a 5.
Photo by The Muni Golfer

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A Reality Check at Juniata

Juniata Golf Club
Philadelphia, Pa
Yards: 4805, Par: 66
Rating: 63.2, Slope: 106
Score: 50/46 = 96
Date: June 3, 2008

A day after watching four of the top 20 golfers in the world play at The ACE Club, I took my game to the ever-improving Juniata Golf Club for a round. I should have payed better attention. While my game off the tee wasn't that bad, my ball striking with my irons was a mixed bag of inconsistency; some good shots, some thin shots and some fat shots. I also struggled with my touch around the greens, but that is to be expected by my lacking of playing. My putting was decent. It all added up to a disappointing 96, especially after I started 4-4 on the first two holes and had a wedge shot of just over 100 yards for my approach on the 390-yard, Par 4 3rd Hole. But it was fun to be hitting a golf ball on a golf course rather than on a driving range. And I did have a good time with my playing partner, Jerry, who I paired up with on the 1st Tee. Hopefully, I get in more rounds in the coming weeks, I'll knock the rust off my game, improve my ball striking and sharpen my touch around and on the greens.

As I have written in previous posts, Juniata Golf Club continues to get better and better. The Juniata Golf Foundation, the non-profit organization which took over management of the 81-year-old course on January 1 of this year, has been doing an outstanding job of transforming the course into a hidden gem among the Delaware's golf community. I took these pictures so you could see how the course is shaping up:

The downhill, Par 3 1st Hole, with the Tacony Creek behind. Just before I took this photo, a deer wandered behind the green and into the bushes.

The view from the green looking back at the 390-yard 3rd Hole.

One of the new benches that can be found on the many of the tee boxes.

The 4th Hole, a 380-yard Par 4. Notice the 200-yard (blue), 150-yard (white) and 100-yard (red) yardage markers lining the right side of the fairway.

The 7th fairway from the elevated tee box. The hole is a sharp dogleg left over wetlands.

The elevated 11th tee looks out over the Tacony Creek to a fairway that doglegs slightly to the right, then plays uphill to a small, elevated green.

The wide open 17th Hole requires a tee shot over the Tacony Creek and plays uphill to a long but narrow green that slopes severely towards the fairway in the front third.

The short Par 3 closing hole plays about a club longer to an elevated green guarded by two deep bunkers.

The 9th (back flag) and 18th (foreground) Holes share a double green.

Photos by The Muni Golfer

Monday, June 2, 2008

A Day with the Pros: The Exelon Invitational

I attended the 10th annual Exelon Invitational hosted by Jim Furyk at The ACE Club in Lafayette Hill, Pa. The fourball match featured host and Delaware Valley native Furyk teaming with Steve Stricker to take on Australia's Aaron Baddeley and South Korea's K. J. Choi. Baddeley and Choi defeated Furyk and Stricker 3 and 1, taking the $160,000 first prize. Furyk and Stricker split $120,000 for their runner-up finish. The event raised $300,000 for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Philadelphia. To see all of my photos from The Exelon Invitational hosted by Jim Furyk, click here.

Here is a recap of the match from The Sports Network:

Choi and Baddeley capture Exelon

Lafayette Hill, PA (Sports Network) - K.J. Choi and Aaron Baddeley won the Exelon Invitational on Monday, 3 & 1 over Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker.

The event, hosted by Furyk and held at the ACE Club in suburban Philadelphia, is a Ryder Cup-style fourball tournament.

Choi and Baddeley claimed $80,000 apiece for the victory and Furyk and Stricker earned $60,000 each in defeat, but the tournament's real beneficiaries were the Boys & Girls Clubs of Philadelphia, which received a $300,000 donation.

The players kept the mood serious early while they squared each of the first five holes.

Choi and Baddeley finally moved 1-up when they both made birdie at the sixth hole. Choi then rolled in a nine-foot birdie putt at the seventh to make it a 2-up lead.

Furyk knocked his tee shot at the par-three eighth to about seven feet, but missed the birdie putt with a chance to halve the deficit. The world No. 8 struggled with his putting all day, even getting tips from his partner Stricker.

"My game is mediocre right now," Furyk said.

Baddeley and Choi played better from the outset, consistently outdriving their opponents on the longer holes. Stricker reached down and grabbed Choi's thigh on the No. 9 fairway, surprised by the diminutive South Korean's strength.

At the 10th, Choi knocked a sand wedge to nine feet and made the birdie putt for a 3-up lead.

"If we can win one more," Baddeley said, "I think we'll be good. But we need one more. These guys are good."

Furyk and Stricker finally picked up their first win at the 12th hole, where Stricker drained a six-foot birdie putt to trim their deficit to 2-down. But they needed to make up ground quickly.

"Jim called it on the tee," said Stricker. "We need to birdie the next three holes."

They got another birdie at the 13th when Furyk knocked his approach in tight, but Choi spoiled things by rolling in a 30-foot putt for birdie to keep his team 2-up.

At the 17th, the mood lighter, all four players agreed to hit driver despite a large bunker next to the fairway that was right in the landing zone. Furyk put his tee shot in the fairway, but Stricker sent his into the bunker.

Baddeley then stepped to the tee with a three-wood.

"No, no," Stricker laughed. "I was hitting driver because you were going to hit driver."

Stricker motioned to Baddeley's caddie, who handed the Australian his driver. But the joke was on Stricker: both Baddeley and Choi smashed their drives up the fairway, and Choi sealed the win when he knocked his approach inside two feet for a conceded birdie.

They played the 18th hole anyway for an additional $25,000 for charity, and all four players hit their drives at the same time. Furyk sent his into the gallery, sending spectators scrambling.

They dropped four balls onto the ground at the top of the fairway and hit wedges onto the green at the same time, all four balls landing within 12 feet of the hole.

Baddeley's was closest, tucked in about four feet away. Which is about how the whole day went for his side.

"It's one of those days when losing doesn't bother me," Furyk said.

It is truly amazing to watch the PGA Tour professionals play in person. Television does not do justice to how incredibly long they hit the ball. What is even more amazing is the way they are able to miss a fairway or green, yet still make par the majority of the time.

Their smooth putting strokes and the way they are able to read the subtle breaks and undulations in the greens.

The ACE Club is a beautiful Gary Player-designed course, built over the rolling, hilly landscape of northwestern Philadelphia and southwestern Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. From the tips, it plays at 7,471 yards, with a rating of 76.1 and a slope of 146. It also features a 610-yard Par 5, which is the 3rd Hole. From the white tees, the course is 6702 yards, with a rating/slope of 72.7/137.

Photos by The Muni Golfer