Saturday, February 28, 2009

Getting Ready for the 2009 Golf Season

As the calendar page gets ready to turn to March, it means starting to plan for the upcoming golf season. As you have read previously in my golf new year's resolutions, three of my stated goals are:

1) Get myself physically ready to play golf before the season starts -- My wife and I have scheduled to begin walking two nights per week--Tuesdays and Thursdays--beginning this Tuesday. If the weather is bad, we plan to walk indoors at a mall. As weather permits, we plan to walk outdoors. This should help get my legs in shape to walk at least 9 holes in the beginning, and hopefully, 18 holes by the time April arrives.

2) Visit the driving range at least once a week from March through May -- I'll probably hit the driving range for the first time next Saturday. After that, my plan is to visit the driving range on Wednesday nights to hit, at the minimum, a small bucket of balls to get my swing back into shape. I may also stop by the putting green at Juniata Golf Club on either a Saturday or Sunday each week to work on my short game for at least an hour.

3) Begin playing as soon as weather permits, but no later than the first week of April -- If all goes as planned, and the weather cooperates, I'm hoping to play my first 9 hole practice round of the season the weekend of March 14 or 21. I'm planning on my first full 18 hole practice round March 28. That should set me up well to begin playing for real when April arrives.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Uneven Lies with Pete McDaniel

This past Monday I had the opportunity to hear Pete McDaniel, Golf Digest Senior Writer and author of Uneven Lies, The Heroic Story of African Americans in Golf, speak at Temple University. McDaniel talk was part of the University's observance of Black History Month and sponsored by Temple's Office of Community Relations. McDaniel's book has also been produced into a documentary, "Uneven Fairways," which is currently airing on The Golf Channel.

In his talk, McDaniel took us on a bus ride through time, back to 1896, when the first U.S. Open was being held at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club on Long Island. Many of the top players of the day, who hailed mosted from Great Britain and Europe, threatened to withdraw because John Shippen, a black caddie had qualified to play in the Open. The USGA held firm that Shippen and another minority--a Native American--would be allowed to compete. Shippen led the tournament after the first round, and later finished fifth, before becoming this country's first golf professional.

Our journey, via McDaniel, took us to Boston in 1899 where dentist George F. Grant, an African-American, avid golfer and Harvard graduate, developed and patented the first wooden golf tee. We stopped in Harlem, N.Y., to learn about Althea Gibson, a celebrated tennis champion, winning the 1957 U.S. Open and 1958 Wimbledon Championship, before later becoming the first black female pro golfer, competing for more than a dozen years on the ladies pro golf tour.

We met such notable black golfers as John Brooks Dendy, who once opened a round with a 1, 2, 3 and 4 on his first four holes en route to shooting a 59. Ted Rhodes, who was nicknamed "Rags" because of his always stylish attire, while winning 150 tournaments, but never was allowed to compete on the PGA Tour.

McDaniel enlightened us about Dewey Brown, a light-skinned African American who earned membership in the Professional Golfers Association of America and worked in the Poconos as a club professional at Shawnee-on-the Delaware in the 1920s and 30s. In 1934, his membership in the PGA was revoked and the "Caucasian only" rule was added into the PGA's by-laws. This rule wasn't rescinded until 1962.

We also ventured to nearby Cobbs Creek Golf Course, which was the home course for awhile to Charlie Sifford, who at age 39 finally made it to the PGA Tour when the "Caucasian only" rule was abolished. Sifford received death threats at tournaments and once had someone defecate into the cup on the first hole while attempting to qualify for a PGA event in Phoenix. But Sifford persevered thanks to advice from Jackie Robinson, who had broken the color barrier in baseball about 15 years before.

We learned about Joe Louis, the Brown Bomber, who is probably better known for his exploits in the boxing ring, but was a very good golfer and became the first African American to compete in a PGA event when he was allowed to enter the 1952 San Diego Open as an amateur on a sponsor's exemption. McDaniel said that Louis was "civil right leader without ever knowing it."

McDaniel's talk was educational, entertaining, but more importantly, enlightening. We learned about the many talented golfers who were denied the opportunity to compete on the professional tours, simply because of their skin color. We heard about the UGA, or "Chitlin Circuit," where these golfers who ply their trade, hone their game and compete against each other less-than-pristine courses for meager purses in pursuit of a dream.

I also had the opportunity to have lunch with McDaniel on Monday, where he updated on the current status on Tiger Woods. McDaniel has co-authored co-two books: "Training a Tiger--The Official Book on How to Be the Best" with Tiger Woods, and "Training a Tiger--A Father's Guide to Raising a Winner in Both Golf and Life" with Earl Woods, Tiger's late father. McDaniel says that Tiger's game is in very good shape and he has spoken with Tiger's swing coach, Hank Haney. McDaniel predicts that Tiger will return to the PGA Tour at Doral, instead of the World Match Play, as many are predicting. He believes that Tiger will then play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational tow weeks later, before taking a week off before The Masters.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Golf Digest's Pete McDaniel to Speak at Temple

Golf Digest Senior Writer Pete McDaniel, the author of "Uneven Lies: The Heroic Story of African Americans in Golf," will speak at Temple University on Monday evening, Feb. 9, 6 p.m. on the 2nd Floor of the Entertainment and Community Center, 1509 Cecil B. Moore Ave. McDaniel's book has been produced into a documentary, narrated by actor Samuel L. Jackson, which will debut on the Golf Channel Feb. 11. As someone interested in golf and its history, we invite you come hear McDaniel speak. His free public talk is being held in honor of Black History Month and is being sponsored by Temple University's Office of Community Affairs. In addition to authoring "Uneven Lies" and being a Senior Writer at Golf Digest, McDaniel has also co-authored two books: "Training a Tiger--The Official Book on How to Be the Best" with Tiger Woods, and "Training a Tiger--A Father's Guide to Raising a Winner in Both Golf and Life" with Earl Woods, Tiger's late father.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Greater Philadelphia Golf Show

Last Sunday I attended the final day of the Greater Philadelphia Golf Show. The show was held at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks, Pa. The show returned to Philadelphia after a several year absence following the closing of the Fort Washington Expo Center.
There were numerous golf vendors at the show, including such retailers as RockBottomGolf, Edwin Watts Golf and Wheat Road Golf. There were plenty of bargains to be had on both new and used golf clubs. TaylorMade, Callaway, Nike, and Cleveland seemed to dominate the club offerings, with a few also offering Mizuno, Srixon or Bridgestone.
There also a few exhibitors offering information of golf packages and golf travel to places such as Myrtle Beach; Florida; Ocean City, Md.; and Williamsburg, Va., but there were fewer representatives from area golf courses and country clubs as I have experienced at past golf shows.
The show also offered the opportunity to try the latest equipment from the major manufacturers at an indoor Demo Range, and there were contests for closest to the pin, longest drive, and putting.
One of the neatest things I saw at the show was the Arnold Palmer Indoor Golf Game, which The Muni Golfer actually received as a kid from Santa in the late 1960s. A miniature Arnold Palmer is attached to the end of what looks like a club shaft, but by pulling on a trigger on the underside of shaft, you can make The King swing one of several clubs--Driver, 4-wood, two irons, a wedge and a putter. Arnold hits small styrofoam balls to a felt green, around which you can place plastic replicas of a water hazard and two sand bunkers. Once on the green, you putt a marble into the cup, complete with flag, which fits into a small round cut-out area on the green. Watching the man who brought this game back to the marketplace hit balls brought fond flashbacks to my childhood.
I went to the GP Golf Show, not looking for clubs, but for accessories, particularly Wilson Staff products. I was very disappointed that so few vendors carried anything from the Wilson Staff line. I did, however, find a slightly used Wilson Staff FwC 7-Wood at one vendor for $19.95. The club needed a little cleaning and re-gripping, but it was a bargain too good to pass up. It was my only golf purchase of the day.

Photos by The Muni Golfer