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Friday, September 29, 2006

Support Freedom of Speech - Support Williams and Fainaru-Wada and Redeker

Every golf writer, blogger, journalist and red-blooded American should join me in supporting the rights of free speech and freedom of the press for three people - the "steroid journalists" from the San Francisco Chronicle who broke the Barry Bonds bombshell and French Journalist Robert Redeker who is on the run from Militant Islamic Extremists who issued death threats in response to an article critical of Islam and Mohammed. The extremists released information on how to find and murder him in the name of Islam.

First, District Judge Jeffrey White basically said his hands were tied and that he had to hold Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada in contempt of court for failing to reveal sources who leaked Bonds' grand jury testimony.

They would never work again if they caved. In a choice between your livelihood and your freedom, you have to choose your livelihood. Freedom without the ability to earn a living isn't freedom at all.

I am a lawyer and I have a deep respect for the sanctity of the grand jury process, but here, the equity is clear. Hopefully the shield law which would protect journalists from jail time for failing to name sources will get passed. They are free pending an appeal to the 9th Circuit.

If the Ninth Circuit can find a way to take God out of the Pledge of Allegiance and find a way to make Grokster legal under copyright law, they can do far less yoga here and do the right thing. These guys are fighting for the health of our children and for the sanctity of fairness in sports. They should be repsected and praised, not punished for doing an excellent job.

Next, French philosophy professor Robert Redeker is on the run for his life tonight for exercising his right to free speech.

Redeker made inflammatory comments against the prophet Mohammed and Islam and the Quran.

Redeker's comments were unwise, over-the-top and he should have known they would provoke backlash. He should have been far more measured and chosen his words with greater care - but his ignorant actions still should never provoke the much more violent and illegal reaction of murder.

The death threats which followed his piece's publication prove that Islamic Extremists rely on intimidation and threats of violence and even murder to silence opposition and spread their hegemony. A fatwa such as the one under which Redeker lives (and Salman Rushdie before him) is nothing more than saying "I must kill you now to suppress criticism of my religion and because my God tells me." There is no room in civilized society for such barbarism.

This is a letter from Redeker to a friend seeking sanctuary:

“I am now in a catastrophic personal situation. Several death threats have been sent to me, and I have been sentenced to death by organizations of the al-Qaeda movement. [...] On the websites condemning me to death there is a map showing how to get to my house to kill me, they have my photo, the places where I work, the telephone numbers, and the death fatwa. [...] There is no safe place for me, I have to beg, two evenings here, two evenings there. [...] I am under the constant protection of the police. I must cancel all scheduled conferences. And the authorities urge me to keep moving. [...] All costs are at my own expense, including those of rents a month or two ahead, the costs of moving twice, legal expenses, etc.

It's quite sad. I exercised my constitutional rights, and I am punished for it, even in the territory of the Republic. This affair is also an attack against national sovereignty – foreign rules, decided by criminally minded fanatics, punish me for having exercised a constitutional right, and I am subjected, even in France, to great injury.”

Just imagine for one minute that it were you. Your life would never be the same simply because you spoke your mind.

No one should ever have to suffer such persecution for engaging in intellectual debate. On this point, we must not submit.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Lorne Rubenstein piece on Celtic Manor on Golf Observer

Here's a terrific piece by a terrific guy. My Golf Observer colleague Lorne Rubenstein has this great piece on the 2010 Ryder Cup Venue Celtic Manor. He also tells us that Ian Woosnam chose red on Sunday for the European Team because he wanted to pay homage to the "Red Dragon" on the Welsh flag.

The article is here.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Police report: Dallas Cowboys Terrell Owens overdoses on pain medication; publicist disagrees

While details are still sketchy, the sports world has once again ground to a halt because of Terrell Owens.

According to police, Owens overdosed on pain medication, taking at least seven pills. Owens was hospitalized last night.

The article is here.

According to Jamie Aron's story, the police report reflects that Owens was asked by police if he tried to harm himself and responded, "Yes."

Hours later, Owens' publicist denied reports that he attempted suicide claiming that Owens was "groggy" when asked the question about intending to harm himself.

Editor's Note: We are currently attempting to secure further details. Obviously the complexity of this story need time to let events unfold, not a rush to "what does this all mean." I'll leave that for Sean Salisbury. The Dallas police did say that this was not being treated as a criminal matter - attempted suicides usually are treated in such a manner. Believe it or not, it's not illegal to commit suicide, just to attempt suicide.

Even if this whole thing is a helluva snafu, this is not the way to impress his new employers. There was an interesting prop bet which had it even money whether Owens lasted a full year in Dallas. I wonder if that just changed...

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Video - Darth Vader calls Palpatine to tell him he crashed the Death Star!

Again, thanks to Czaban for finding this world class bit of comedy from Comedy Central's Adult Swim.

Darth Vader calls Palpatine collect to tell him the Death Star got roached by a motley bunch of flyboys.

Priceless - "Oh, I'm sorry. I thought my mighty Dark Lord of the Sith could protect a thermal exhaust port that's only two meters wide!"

In three minutes they completely undress all the nonsense of the last three movies. Thank you!

Video - Steve Williams drops Tiger's 9-iron in the lake at the Ryder Cup

Steve Czaban found the video of Steve Williams nearly taking a header into the River Liffey and sacrificing (temporarily) Tiger's 9-iron. Look at Woods' expression. He looks like he needed a vat full of antacids.

Click here for the video.

Reading list - John Coyne "The caddie who knew Ben Hogan"

Here's a great read for you - John Coyne's "The Caddie Who Knew Ben Hogan"

John is a master writer whose prose reads as well aloud as to one's self. He is a first-rate story teller, crafting a richly detailed story of golf days long past and of heroes we wish we'd seen play in their heyday.

John has a website here.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

It was a team effort, but Darren Clarke shone brightest

You couldn't cheer because you were crying, you couldn't cry because you were cheering, but both felt heartwarming and overwhelming anyway. In one unforgettable weekend Darren Clarke gave us a golf performance for all time. Gritty, courageous, inspiring, grateful, humble; a broken man held all the golf world on his back this weekend and we held him up in return.

Struggling past the bitter loss of his soul mate, his better half, his confidante, his partner, Clarke gave his departed wife Heather's memory a tribute that will last throughout recorded golf history.

"She rousted me out of bed, she made me practice, she would have wanted me here" Clarke reminisced, misty-eyed. "The reception everyone gave me was something I'll never forget."

In return, shouldering a loss we all dread in the deepest recesses of our souls, Clarke took on the greatest golf challenge in the world - defeat the U.S. in the Ryder Cup. Clarke responded with the virtuouso performance of his life.

This was his magnum opus. Playing with the heaviest of hearts, yet bouyed by teammates and country, he crafted a perfect 3-0 record.

Courage is the ability to be strong, brave and resolute in the face of adversity, but valor is the ability to be courageous in the face of insurmountable odds and certain failure. That was what Clarke showed us today - valor. His ability to come back and perform at the highest level after such heartbreak is an example to us all. No trophy of victory can ever make up for the loss in his heart, but he created an indisputable masterpiece with which to pay tribute.

Happily, his triumph was embraced by everyone, European and American alike. Though we root for our respective flags, espouse our respective politics, defend our favorite sons with passion, we all stood united as one golf world in acknowledging and savoring something that will never fade in the cultural memory of the game. That's what Samuel Ryder envisioned when he started this competition. It doesn't matter what side wins or loses as long as the game and its spirit win every time.

This year, Clarke's victory was the game's victory and the game's victory was our victory. It was a shared victory - something both sides of the pond were proud to witness. Though there was Casey's incredible walk-off hole-in-one, there was Garcia's fire which the Europeans rallied around and there was Olazabal's remarkable resurgance, this was Clarke's Cup.

Even American's love and revere him. I choose those words with precision - this is not grudging respect, this is not an "oh don't forget about" remembrance - Clarke has led so many times by example - championing, indeed living the spirit of the game. He has become a standard to which we hold our own performances - a paragon of virtue. That is what it means to have a true golfer's soul.

Clarke flat out dismantled Tiger Woods head to head in the Finals of the 2000 World Match Play Championship. Clarke took a self imposed penalty even though rules officials told him he need not last year in a European Tour Tournament. Clarke overcame the most bitter personal loss to record team triumph at the Ryder Cup and set an example for every fan everywhere.

That dear sports fans, is what it means to be a sportsman. Slante, Darren, thank you...and Godspeed.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

2006 Ryder Cup - Sunday signles pairings and the first walk off hole in one

As you scroll down the pairings, note how the two captains placed their players:

Europe USA

Montgomerie -- Toms
Garcia -- Cink
Casey -- Furyk
Karlsson -- Woods
Donald --- Campbell
McGinley -- Henry
Clarke -- Johnson
Stenson -- Taylor
Howell -- Wettrich
Olazabal -- Mickelson
Westwoods -- DiMarco
Harrington -- Verplank

As I look down the list, the only one I "oohed" and "aahhed" over was Westwood-DiMarco as for as an old fashioned "slobbernoggin" (John madden's word) of a battle.

Not too many other "marquee" matchups...Monty-Toms might be mildly interesting, if Monty doesn't mop the floor with him.Monty...right out of the gate.

By the way, tell me Lehman didn't see that coming, yet he sends David Toms off first. Infact, Toms and Cink? How are they gonna light a fire? Toms, even when he wins, isn't a fire brand that you rally around and no one has shrunk faster with a big moment on the line when it matters than Cink. I mean he's heralded as this great putter and has missed every money putt when they mattered most. And them anchoring with Verplank??? Please.

Maybe Clarke-Johnson will have some fireworks but, this time, score one for the way the President's Cup does the draw.Nevertheless, also score one for woosie...thoroughbreds out of the gate, studs to kick you home and a solid core. Lehman's looks haphazard by comparison.

Imagine some day......"Garcias on the board! Who wants him???"

Finally, what an exclamation point on the day - Paul Casey finishes off his match with the world's first ever Walk off hole-in-one. Win or lose, that was truly a golf moment for all time.

Friday, September 22, 2006

2006 Ryder Cup Saturday Four Ball pairings

1. Cink-Henry vs. Casey-Karlson

[Author's note - it took Tom Lehman 52 minutes to come up with that??? He flirted with missing the deadline for submitting the picks by only a couple of minutes...what's the penalty I wonder? One hole in the first match???]

2. Mickelson-DiMarco vs. Garcia-Olazabal

3. Woods-Furyk vs. Clarke-Westwood

4. Verplank-Johnson vs. Harrington-Stenson

Any idea when we might see Vaughn Taylor? Are we finished with Brett Wettrich? Notice how today, the stud pairings (Woods-Furyk, Mickelson-DiMarco) were matches 1-4, but now they are 2-3 for Saturday? Well Woosnam did the same thing, but also managed to out-flank Lehman in the 1-4 matches. He had a great hunch he played there, effectively guessing where Lehman would play his depth and counterpunched well.

Finally, Golfweek's Jeff Rude had this to note about the choice of The K Club:

"Let's just suppose that someone blindfolded me, dropped me onto the K Club, yanked off the eye cover, sent me on an 18-hole walk and asked, "Where are you?" The answer, without question: La Costa. However, when you stand on No. 18, you feel you just got airlifted onto the last at Doral Blue."

Exactly. I wonder what he'd say about TPC Utica...err...Turning Stone Casino? Hey Jeff! Where'd you get airlifted? Saskatoon?

Just a note - it took the first group of the day - Woods, Furyk, Montgomerie and Harrington 5:20 (FIVE-TWENTY!) to play 18 holes...with nobody in front of them...on a parkland course.

The Euros APPEAR...ON PAPER...to have a huge advantage in matches 1 and 4. If they don't cash in those two "penalty kicks" of the draw, the U.S. should breathe a big sigh of relief. Down 5-3 already and maybe looking at 10-6 by Saturday's end if they play carelessly.

Things I DON'T like about the Ryder Cup Vol. 9 + live Ryder Cup Scores

Take a look at this photo. Why is Luke Donald's fiance Diane wearing the back half of Harry Potter's broomstick in her hair? And how can Elin walk around the course in those stiletto heel black leather boots???

See? This is why I hate all the "wives and girlfriends" rubbish at the Ryder Cup, (click here for real time scoreboard). We're in Dublin, not Paris. This is a golf tournament, not a runway. For goodness sake, she looks like Tim Burton's take on Minerva McGonagall (below).

Finally, this year people are overwhelmingly admitting the whole fashion show aspect of the wives-girlfriends participation has become an overdone caricature. My client, Jaret Reddick, is right when he sings "The whole world's just too obsessed with who's the best dressed and who's just a mess." (New single - "High School Never Ends," click on the link, it plays automatically).

Here's an idea to REALLY make the wives and girlfriends relevent. Scrap the "March of the wives" and all the high-school fashion show "pageantry" (and believe me, we are not buying that stale coffee Dan Hicks is trying to sell.)



3. Give out "WiGis (Wives-Girlfriends) Cup."

Seriously, they get far MORE face time, they get to dress up and it makes for something more interesting and enduring than "who dressed up more like a peacock. How awesome would it be to see Amy and Elin sweating bullets over four footers while Laura Westwood and Caroline Harrington are doing their best Paula Creamer deathstares to intimidate them from rallying from 2-down late!
There - that's must see TV for golfers.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Friday Morning pairings - 2006 Ryder Cup

Morning Best Ball "Four Balls"

1. Woods-Furyk vs. Montgomerie-Harrington

Boy that alone is worth the price of admission! Talk about a heavyweight bout...

2. Cink-J.J. Henry vs. Casey-Karlsson
3. Toms-Wettrich vs. Olazabal-Garcia
4. Mickelson-DiMarco vs. Clarke-Westwood

For the record. Tiger's record on Friday matches is 1-7. However, this is the first time he has been paired with Furyk. Tiger's overall record is 7-11-2.

Sergio Garcia is 10-3. Colin Montgomerie has never lost a singles match in seven tries. At least the rookies are getting some early P.T. to calm the nerves. Watch Cink and Verplank play the afternoon alternate shot.

2006 Ryder Cup Predictions at the K Club

Boy, just when the Euros had the U.S. right where they wanted them, the tables have turned.

The entire buzz lead up to this Ryder Cup has been:

1) They are deeper 1-12 than the U.S.;
2) They are a more unified team than the U.S.;
3) Tiger doesn't care about this like he does the Majors;
4) They have home field advantage;
5) The US stinks at four balls and will be in a deep hole come Sunday.

Boy how quickly things change.

The Dubliner - a widely circulated tabloid across the pond - woke a sleeping Tiger in the worst way. Everyone associated with golf has seen those photos for about two years now and knows they are fakes. It's one of the most widely spread Internet hoaxes in sports.

What the heck is the Dubliner doing trolling out those in a thinly veiled and marginally tongue in cheek article the week before the Ryder Cup? Well, 1) getting itself sued and sued successfully for defamation. The test is did they know they were fake OR DID THEY PUBLISH THEM WITH A RECKLESS DISREGARD FOR THE TRUTH. Since that Internet hoax existed for two years prior, their only hope is to have a homer Judge rescue them because on the law and facts, they lose at a summary judgment motion.

I know Tiger's lawyer for those cases - it's Mark Lee of Manatt Phelps and Phillips in LA. And let me tell you, that firm is an 8,000 lb. gorilla. The Dubliner is going to get a full broadside and rightfully so. Shame on the Dubliner for such despicable "journalism."

They are also 2) waking the sleeping Tiger. I know I go ballistic if someone even tangentially goes after my girl. Can you imagine how surgical, coldly ruthless, and merciless Tiger will be? For goodness, sake, that's his wife! And boy, isn't Furyk the perfect teammate for Tiger for this mission; equally cold, cunning and precise.

No, to quote Uma Thurman in Kill Bill I, "It's mercy, compassion and forgiveness I lack." Tiger will roar; he'll get four points this Cup.

Now lets debunk a few more myths.

1. The U.S. stinks at fourballs - Guess again...half our matches will be Tiger-Furyk and Phil-DiMarco. Lets say, conservatively, the US goes .500 for those matches. That leaves Toms, who can be competitive paired with Diet Pepsi Machine. He can play with maybe Johnson, Campbell, Cink or Verplank. That leaves the much maligned rookies so;

2. Our rookies scare noone - that's true, but all it will take to tip the balance is one hot guy - perhaps Zach Johnson. But again, this is the Ryder Cup - the place where Paul McGinley, Philip Price and Ignacio Carrido slew Goliaths and won Cup-clinching matches (or at least in Price's case, the difference maker...)

In the last ten years, when has the Ryder Cup ever held true to form? More crazy things happen in these three days than in all four majors combined. We were supposed to dominate in 2002 and 2004.


Last, home field advantage - many years ago when the Euros actually hosted the Ryder Cup at links courses like Birkdale and Lytham, they got the stuffing knocked out of them. Somebody got the seemingly counter-intuitive idea of lets build a gaudy monstrousity of a parkland amusement ride and try to beat them at their own game. Thus, The Belfry was born and has been the site of nary a single Euro loss. The K Club is another travishamockery (that's "travesty-sham-mockery" for those of you scoring at home)of a venue choice with its out-of-place fountains and waterfalls and target style shot requirements. The 80s are still "in" in the biggest way.

This time, that comfort will be like a warm blanket to the US team, especially the rookies. No vicious winds, not alot of strategy, no blind shots or quirky bounces - why not have the event next time at Trump Aberdeen.

OK, OK, I apologize for even joking about that. I meant Trump National of Western Nebraska:):)

NO, the US is doing everything right; keeping their heads down, their noses clean and their mouths shut. With Dubliner-gate, the world perceives them for what they are - mugged brutally like a man minding his own business on a quiet streetcorner. In turn, they respond like professionals - with dignity and quiet resolve. No, the only mis-step I have perceived is that I would have chosen Arron Oberholser over BOTH Cink AND Verplank. I think the choice of both of those players "left a little on the bench." The only other thing that can go wrong is if the rookies don't get into the matches early enough to be comfortable come Sunday Singles.

No, the Ryder Cup rarely if ever holds true to form. The Euros are scrambling and squabbling. The U.S. looks ready. The U.S. looks organized. They will not go quietly and they will acquit themselves early and forcefully. This one is gonna be a donnybrook and the U.S. looks rested and ready.

U.S. 14.5 - 13.5.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Kiran Matharu to spend year on Ladies European Tour, will play select LPGA dates

As many of you know, I am the U.S. lawyer for Kiran Matharu, the 17 year old British professional who recently won the Ladies British Amateur, played on the Curtis Cup Team and is the number one female player in the UK under their handicap system (she's a +4, the highest in the UK). As you also know, Kiran asked for an age exception so she could play in this week's LPGA Q School so she could compete on the 2007 LPGA Tour starting next March - after her 18th Birthday. The request was denied.

Showing wisdom and maturity beyond her years, Kiran decided to take the high road and not sue. Basically, all she asked Commissioner Bivens for was a chance to accomplish her goal on merit - on the golf course. Commissioner Bivens would not agree.

Kiran knows her talent will prevail soon enough and she would rather continue to build up her fanbase by making self-less and long-term decisions that promote the good and welfare of both the game in general as well as for herself. This woman continues to make wise decisions both on and off the golf course. It's no wonder she has so many fans on either side of the pond.


Last week, LPGA Commissioner Carolyn Bivens denied Kiran Matharu the opportunity to play in the LPGA Qualifying School. Kiran, who will turn 18 in February, had hoped her formidable record as an amateur and the outpouring of support from a great many in the UK and European Golf community, might have prompted Commissioner Bivens to reconsider her denial and allow Kiran to compete for her LPGA card. Sadly, the second request was also denied.

While Kiran is deeply disappointed, and while her entire team – family, business, legal and supporters - firmly believe that were she to pursue her rights under the law she would have prevailed, Kiran has decided not to pursue the matter further and take legal action. Quite simply, Kiran had hoped Commissioner Bivens would let Kiran’s golf game be the determining factor in whether or not she would make the LPGA Tour, not a court of law. In keeping with the spirit and the values of the game, Kiran decided she would rather settle this question with her golf clubs.

Kiran will now concentrate her efforts on securing her playing rights on the Ladies European Tour, where she has been playing this year since turning professional thanks to invitations from sponsors. She is looking forward to playing the Ladies English Open and competing in the Ladies European Tour Qualifying school in November. She will also be petitioning certain events on the LPGA Tour for sponsors’ exemption.

Kiran, who turns 18 in February still wishes to play in America in the future and will apply to the LPGA Qualifying School again next year, when she will no longer need a waiver to be granted to play as she will no longer be a minor.

Kiran is deeply grateful to all the people who have supported her application and to all her fans on either side of the Atlantic and she looks forward to playing in front of them and giving them a great deal to cheer about soon.

Issued: Wednesday 21st September 2006


Marcus Day

1 Furzeground Way
Stockley Park East

Middlesex, UK

UB11 1BD

Tel. +44 (0) 7771550832

Monday, September 18, 2006

An Open Letter to Ben Curtis

Sadly, with the "crucial" week two of NFL football occupying too many sports minds, Ben Curtis' inspiring victory at the last 84 Lumber Classic went unnoticed by too many in the sports world.

That is a disappointing reflection of our society, for Ben is a terrific role model both as a golfer and a gentleman. He shows us so much not through mere words, but actions.

Has there ever been a more underappreciated British Open Champion in history? Ben played so well for that difficult week at quirky St. George's, but all the media remembers is that he backed into the title when several golfers above him had fatal meltdowns.

After two difficult years where he played well on Thursday, but rarely on other days, he was labelled a fluke winner and dismissed offhand.

Now, finally, Ben has won twice at two formerly quintessential, but sadly forsaken tour stops - the Booz Allen (Kemper to the old schoolers) and the always fun 84 Lumber Classic.

But more than that, placid, low-key, but mature-beyond-his-few-years Ben has been a paragon of virtue for the fans. He hit balls on the range as Thomas Bjorn failed to get a tying birdie. His caddie - a man he met merely a week before - concisely informed him, "Ben, you're the Open Champion."

He simply put his club back in the bag, gave a phlegmatic look that could have easily been mistaken for "OK, what happens now" and sought out the loving arms of his fiance. No fist pump, no leap for joy, no tears, no self-aggrandizement. You would have thought he won the City Amateur in Columbus, Ohio.

His graceful, humble, thankful acceptance speech at the 2003 Open endeared him to UK fans, but was not carried by the American media. He won many hearts and minds that day. It was also touching that his win was soon to be followed by his marriage to Candace, his kind-hearted and down-to-earth wife. He graciously let the golf media cover his wedding festivitiesbecause that was a heartwarming story. He even surprised Candace with a Lexus as a wedding present.

Yet the media proved their exceptional prowess at "savaging second" and he was ignored simply because he was not winning tournaments and because he is a bland interview.

This year has been a breakout year for Ben on many levels. To the delight of true golf fans everywhere - yes, the many fans who revere the virtuous, noble side of our game - he won the Booz Allen and long deserved praise finally came, along with late recognition of a dedicated work ethic. Nevertheless, he is still woefully underestimated and underappreciated.

As he won the 84 Lumber Classic - wearing the colors of his hated football nemesis, the Pittsburgh Steelers instead of his beloved Cleveland Browns - few media gave him the attention he richly deserves. ESPN, the worldwide leader in sports, waited until signing off from their bedrock foundational sports show "SportsCenter" to merely add in passing (while the outro music was playing), "by the way, Ben Curtis won the 84 Lumber Classic." The New York dailies reduced his win to a one sentence bullet point in a short roundup piece, while offering full coverage of all the NFL slate - even the games only gambling degenerates could like such as "niners-cardinals" and "ravens-raiders."

What a sad commentary on the state of our media. T.O. preens and pimps like a thug and they all run for quotes, but a good noble man - who is expecting his first child in a week and who's devoted wife surprised him at the 18th green is ignored. To Ben's unending credit, he's merely satisfied with a job well done, a kiss from his wife and a small article from the local Ohio paper in his hometown.

Tommy Lee Jones' character "Two-Face" was right - holy men are martyred and junkies grow legion. Well not on my watch.

Happily, golf has not yet descended fully into the lowest common denominator cesspool as so many other sports. Yes, the "rocket sled to hell," as sportswriter and broadcaster Steve Czaban
likes to call it, tries its hardest to dumb down golf (see Open, Phoenix...err...FBR and Black, Bethpage), but golf and true golfers and golf fans nobly resist. Edmund Burke is spot on, "the easiest way for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing."

I believe in you Ben. Yes, I've never gotten too many great quotes from you for articles, but I don't care one jot. You speak more with your actions than mere words ever could. I'll root all day for the over achiever - the guy who is - to mix sports metaphors for a moment - second in the gym and the second to last one to leave (Don't worry, Vijay will get the lights), the guy who dives into the stands for the loose ball and the guy who runs the floor the same way whether winning or losing by twenty.

Grace, class, humility, kindness; that's a role model, that's the Curtises. Devoted to each other, earning every accolade though hard work and perseverence, nary a snap, snipe or sour note to anyone. These are the people we should esteem and put on pedestals as an example. We all might rise a little higher as a society.

Old fashioned nobleness, family values and honesty are the core of our great game. fans gravitate so much more to players who embody those virtues. Ben Crenshaw - respectful, grateful and humble, Phil Mickelson - affable, sincere and folksy, Jack Nicklaus - equally graceful and thankful in historic victory or bitter defeat and dedicated to the greater glory of the game, not himself; they are true champions.

Ben Curtis, you are a champion in all the ways those great men were. That is a trophy more precious than three Claret Jugs. True golf fans know it and we are ever so grateful for your good example, even though the myopic, greedy and misguided fail to appreciate it. Some day, as your win tally mounts, they - begrudgingly or belatedly - will acknowledge you. But everyone with a true golf soul respects and esteems you right now.

We are all the richer for your success.

Kudos to Hooked on Golf, Golf Chick for excellent work on Michelle Wie debate

Two long time bloggers have done some excellent work on the Michelle Wie debate.

Tony K at Hooked on Golf had this hilarious picture (and the one from my piece below on "What Planet are Wie on?"). The statistical analysis is particularly telling. I hope he can do a chart analyzing all ten of Michelle's tries. That would be interesting.

Next, I really love when an old blogger shows promise in their writing and top-level analysis to boot. Golf Chick had this downright poignant observation on the Wie debate. She says it should appear back on her site soon. She writes:

"Michele’s [sic] failures in the PGA tour events aren’t so much about her being female as they are about her lacking experience. However, her performance to date definitely indicates that her presence there in the first place has everything to do with that “novelty” aspect which is gender related. It’s becoming embarassing. Maybe they should start a “teen phenom” tour and have all the best boys and girls compete against one another. Then she could gain the experience she needs without having to accept all the sponsors’ exemptions and the boys would have a shot as well since they’re not getting those now. She does need to play more than the LPGA is currently allowing before she can get her card, I just don’t think it should be with proven players on the PGA when many mini-tour players could kick her ass. I think her ambitions are terrific and she should stick to them, but she needs a better path and better representation in order to get there instead of being a cash cow."

This is laser-like precision...and it's refreshing that it is a woman's perspective that is something other than fawning adulation. Golf Chick, that was some first rate critique. Good job with some of the other work on your blog recently too.

Look, Michelle should have a heart to heart with her team and spend sometime kicking in the face of her competition and then try again. She also should realize people are shamelessly cashing in on her in an unusual way that may not be best for her career. Let this girl enjoy what little time left she has to be a girl. Let her have some of her stolen youth. At the same time, her interviews and interactions with all players - male and female - indicate that even though her golf is gifted, she needs to mature. With all the money and exposure, that needs to happen even more quickly than her first win. She has not endeared herself to many in the cloistered golf industry and her perceived "favors" she gets are seen as unearned by many of her peers. Noone can deny that she has not exactly made the most of her oppurtunity.

Meanwhile, it is someone else's turn to go up against the guys. It's not her fight alone, you know. Personally, I can root all day for fiesty and gritty competitors like Paula Creamer. With Silly Season approaching, surely some rich flounder can can kick down enough cake to get Paula, Wiesy, Annika and somebody else in a steel-cage throwdown. That would sell tickets like hotcakes.

Photo credit: Tony K - Hooked on Golf.

Ben Curtis wins last 84 Lumber Classic, press buries story

The press buried a terrific story this weekend.

Ben Curtis, the quiet, but affable pro who is best known for winning the 2003 British Open won his second tournament this year at the 84 Lumber Classic.

Curtis became a hero to everyman golfers across the globe when he played steadily for four days at quirky, tricky Royal St. George's, then watched in amazement as the field fell beneath him at tournament's end. The rookie pro, playing in his first major happened to be getting married a few months from then and the "fairy tale, rags to riches story of the nice kid from Ohio who done good" introduced the golf world to a really nice steady, even keeled guy and his equally charming, down-to-earth wife.

Ben fell off the radar screen for two years for two reasons. Until this year, he would play great only on Thursday and Friday. This year, that trend has ended as he won the Booz Allen Classic earlier this summer.

However Ben is a also quiet, humble guy by nature so he offers journalists bland quotes. That is no reason to bury Ben winning his second tournament of the year, but that's exactly what ESPN and the New York news media did.

ESPN's entire coverage of golf on "SportsCenter" was delivered by the anchor as they were signing off with an offhand, oh-by-the-way "Ben Curtis won the final 84 Lumber Classic."

But we sure had wall to wall coverage of the all-important Packers-Saints game. In fact, all night every network gave endless analysis and superlatives over the ridiculous minutiae of week two football, without so much as a single golf highlight. If it were Tiger, Phil or Michelle Wie (who was every single ESPN highlight Thursday and Friday night), we would have seen golf. Moreover, "SportsCenter" was really just TJ and Berman going over the day's NFL action ad nauseum. It's merely Week 2 and they are trying to sell us that "we almost had seperation in the NFC East."

Please, that's just crazy talk. It's Week 2. Nobody is "getting separation" from anybody.

Except the Patriots - their division is putrid.

I'm surprised. The tournament was also broadcast over ESPN, but since they have no more golf starting next year, there is no reason for them to beat the drum for the game. It's just not as sexy as Lord Football....ahh...now I get it.

Sadly, in both New York major dailies, golf was reduced to a one paragraph of bullet points.

Here was the entire coverage in today's New York Post - "Ben Curtis carded a 70 to finish at 14-under par 274 to win the 84 Lumber Classic by two shots over Charles Howell III yesterday in Farmington, PA."

No mention that it's the last 84 Lumber Classic so Tim Finchem can run his "Fed Ex Cup" next year to try and revive eyeballs to golf as football begins. No mention that it was held at the opulent Nemacolin Woodlands Resort's excellent Pete Dye "Mystic Rock" course. No mention that tournament founder Joe Hardy plans on having some kind of pro event despite getting bumped from his slot unceremoniously. No mention that Ben's wife Candace - 8 1/2 months preggers, surprised him by popping onto a van and hiding out behind 18 green until he finished. Not even any mention Ben, who is licensed to wear NFL gear, won in Pittsburgh Steeler colors even though he is a lifelong Browns fan. (Nemacolin is an hour and a half outside Pittsburgh.)

The media thinks that, compared to football, this story just isn't sexy enough. Well, I know I speak for all the golf world and every true golfer when I say this:

1. I think a nice, hard-working humble guy winning a big pro golf tournament is sexy enough for us.

2. I think having the grace to compete. let alone win, in the colors of a team you hate is sexy enough for us.

3. I think a kiss from your pregnant wife on the 18th green after you've won a four day grueling tournament is sexy enough for us.

We need more stories like this, not less; more hard working, humble family men - less scowling, self aggrandizing, loudmouths thugs. More Ben Curtis, less Chad Johnson.

Friday, September 15, 2006

What Planet are Wie on?

As we go to press, Michelle Wie closed out the first nine holes at Nemacolin's Mystic Rock Course with a dismal 42. That's six-over par for the front nine and six-over in a mere five hole span. She stands at plus-eleven overall, tied for dead last with Boyd Summerhays at the 84 Lumber Classic.

But the situation is so much worse not for the score, but for the fact that Team Wie cannot see the global perspective.

Take this example: when asked about her 5-over 77 yesterday, she answered, "I don't feel like I shot five-over."

Well that's just pure, weapons-grade BOLONIUM! No, in golf, your score is what the card says it is.

Here's another head scratcher. "I'd like to make the top 20, but I'm not going to rush it."

You better rush, and quick, because after a third straight last place showing and an 0-for-10 record in the top men's tours, even the Wie friendly media are starting to jump off the bandwagon. Take this headline from Fox Sports - "Wie overmatched again vs. the men at 84 Lumber Classic." Even ESPN - who's ONLY highlights on "SportsCenter" yesterday were of Wie's 77 - you read that right...not a single shot of any other player, but three full minutes of the 125th player - finally broke down and said "Wie getting buried at 84 Lumber."

Nevertheless, there's Michelle, telling the press before today's debacle "I'm going to go out with the same mind-set I had today, just try my hardest and keep plugging away. I think I'll be shooting a low score."

77-81=158, +14

Has any player that regularly comes in 115th or thereabouts gotten more ink? No. They also don't get paychecks.

Now that her round is mercifully over with a forgettable 81, let's look at the cold, hard facts. Michelle had fewer birdies than any other player. Michelle had more bogeys than any other player. She is 122d out of 134 in driving distance. Her longest drive, 286 yards on day one and 285 yards on day two were - wait for it - dead last in the field. She was 110th in greens in regulation. Last, she was 125th in putting.

Then of course, there's the famous quote about how she thinks she has a realistic chance of making the Ryder Cup Team - after going 0-9 at against the cut at men's events on major tours.

What planet are Wie on?

More to the point even if she does it once, why would anyone want to be the cellar team...perennially? How is just struggling to make the cut a career? Even if she eventually makes her next cut, she cannot have a financially viable career making one out of eleven cuts. No, this entire expiriment has devolved the PGA Tour to 155 people going to the office and working for a living trying to feed their families and one person who does not have to worry about earning a living playing golf who instead lives off her sponsor chasing personal goals.

Not to mention she got her playing playing partners put on the clock both days...for the third tournament in a row.

Finally, there is the most concerning statement of all - "If I only play against the women I only get good against the women." Is there any wonder why she has the biggest target of all on her back when she has to play LPGA events? She has won nothing in three years. Therefore, she has not earned her chance like Pauls Creamer has. Or Nat Gulbis, Annika again, any one of several great Asian born players (stop me anytime...)

Sadly, it is time for an agonizing re-appraisal of this whole affair. Michelle, who consistently plays both men's and ladies events on special exemptions has put herself between a rock and a hard place. She was promised to us as a Lady Tiger. She isn't. She has repeatedly been given special favors to try playing against men - she has failed every attempt. What happens if she goes to the LPGA and does NOT dominate? Wie'll know wie've been had.

The worst possible thing that could happen has become a reality. Michelle's game - excellent for the LPGA tour - has been exposed as inadequate at the PGA and European Tour level. The problem is this: if she does not dominate the LPGA, we will know for certain she was not truly deserving of all the special favors and legs up she got over the last three years. She also certainly won't be the most welcome person there after saying "I think I'd just get bored playing against the women."

She had no business making that remark. She won the "vaunted" Women's Am Pub Links. I'll pause for a second so you can go look that up. Back already? Good. So because she won an amateur tournament against mediocre amateurs, she gets to turn her back on the Annika Sorenstams of the world and all their remarkable achievements. Ho hum...so boring.

Listen to this quote - from the person who just finished 77-81 dead last and is 0-for-10:

"I just had a bad two weeks, that's it. No more, no less," she said. "I feel like I'm getting better and better. My game is progressing -- my shots are actually going to the fairway now. My shots are feeling solid....I'm really enjoying it. Obviously, everyone knows my ultimate goal is to play in the Masters. I like playing out here, making cuts -- start making cuts -- start getting Top 10s. I mean, who knows what's going to happen?"

I'm sorry, but I must be confused because the scoreboard says something different. Is there anyone else that thinks Michelle needs a reality check here? These are not the comments of a professional playing to earn a living.

Scott Verplank agrees:

"Obviously, she's some sort of phenom being a 16-year-old girl who can play like she can, but honestly there's not a male or female in the world who can compete out here at that age," Verplank said. "I'm sure there are some very fine 16-year-old boys who can play, but it would be awful hard for them to come out here and make a scratch.

"If I was her adviser, I would tell her to go kick all the ladies' tails around for about four years and if she wants to try again when she's 20, 21 and grown up more, and maybe a better player, come on back."

Michelle has hand-picked events that have particularly weak fields - featuring players 50-150 and never made a cut. She plays her home course (The Sony), and two courses at which she regularly vacations - Mystic Rock and Deere Run - and still never made a cut. In baseball, if a guy goes 0-10, he's benched. In basketball, if you miss ten shots in a row, you don't get passed the ball. John Hall missed two - not ten, two - field goals and he was fired.

No, the time for the special exemptions is past. If Michelle wants to play against the men, she should go to Q school and do it like every other person who plays on the tour. She has done nothing with all the special favors and it is downright unfair to the other women who deserve a shot and unfair to the men who work hard each week to put food on their tables and food on their backs. You want to play on the men's tour? Then be like Smith Barney and do it the old fashioned way - Earn It.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Two poignant pieces by Ron Sirak - Women's Open champ should get bid to U.S. Open

Ron Sirak has two excellent pieces two ponder:

1. This piece on how hitting into galleries and clubhouses and getting a free drop is unfair. Personally, I also thinks it violates the spirit of the game as well; and

2. This piece on the latest Michelle Wie windmill tilt.

Again, I ask the question. If we absolutely, positively have to have a woman make the cut in a men's event right now...if all women's sporting history has to depend on this happening this second...why not give someone who isn't 0-9 (and 1-9 if you count the SK Telethon...err...Telecom Open) a chance?

What is wrong with Paula Creamer? Natalie Gulbis? Kristina Kim? Someone from the UK?

Also, I'll say it again. If we give a bid to the US Open to the winner of the US Amateur and the other national championships/USGA events, the winner of the US Women's Open should get an automatic bid too. She certainly has better credentials than the winners of the Am and the other automatic USGA bids.

Then it becomes a meritocracy - no exemptions, no back room backstabbing, no assessment of who's brand is hotter; pure talent - which is what the game is supposed to be about.

And yes, the winner of the McDonalds.....err.....(Insert name of new sponsor, if any)...LPGA Championship should get a bid to the PGA Championship.

Who's with me?

Monday, September 11, 2006

New piece for Golf Observer, great stuff on Cybergolf

My new piece for Golf Observer will be up soon. It's called "Winged Foot: Graveyard of Champions."

In the meantime, here's some great work by my Cybergolf colleagues. Tim Bibaud has this great story on one of the greatest amateur tournaments in the world - The Causeway Coast Open, played every June along the coast of Northern Ireland.

Then, Chris Kretz Reviews such pressing matters as "Maimizing distance with the no-look foot wedge," "Cart skidding: asphault vs. gravel," and "How to leave downhill putts short."

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Coach Mike Fleck, strong senior class look to bring Ball State NCAA golf glory

Four years ago, Ball State University golf coach Mike Fleck recruited four highly touted talents to come play for him. Four years later, this returning core of seniors and some gifted new finds are primed to seize control of the Mid-American Conference and send some major college programs back home licking their wounds.

Fleck watches his charges intently as the play one of Indianapolis' gems, The Trophy Club, designed by Ball State grad Tim Liddy, a former protege of Pete Dye. "We like to travel around and play different courses because it's always a little tougher at a foreign course. We want our guys on the travel squad to have no fear when it comes to playing on someone else's course" Fleck says strongly. "These guys are very tough mentally."

One of the teams anchors is C.D. Hockersmith, who is best known for battling Michelle Wie at the Publinx in 2005 and for making the cut into match pay at the 2004 U.S. Amateur. Hockersmith looks equally at ease rolling in 30 footers over Liddy's devilishly undulating greens as he does saving par from fairway bunkers. "C.D.'s a thoroughbred" notes Fleck. "In the clutch, he can draw on that national-level experience."

C.D. is joined by fellow four year veterans Wayne Denger, Andy Skillman and Austin Steele. Denger and Skillman provided fireworks last year at their home tournament never seen before in Ball State history. Skillman crafted a masterful 64 and sat in the clubhouse with the school record for lowest 18 hole score. He didn't celebrate that feat long as minutes later, Denger posted a 63 and snatched the honors. Happily for both, BSU came form behind and won the tournament.

The future looks bright even after graduation next year as two talented freshmen enter BSU with equally superlative AJGA and high school accolades. Ross Cosat, whose kickin' Afro makes him look like the bass player for
The Hair Bear Bunch was the number 1 ranked senior in Indiana while Travis Smith was a Rolex All-American honoree.

With such a solid core, they will be a string contender for the Mid American Conference Championship and could even beat many of the Big Ten colleges at Midwest tournaments.

Liddy, was elated that the team chose to play the Trophy Club. "I'm so glad they were there. Go Ball State!"

Above: BSU players make their way around the green and Cosat's afro.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Jim Engh - The Dakota Kid Gunslings his way to the top

Since forming his own design firm in 1997, Colorado’s Jim Engh has won four “best new course” awards from Golf Digest, been named “Golf Architect of the Year” in 2003 (ahead of such luminaries as Fazio, Dye, Jones and Doak), built a reputation for getting world class work done on time and under budget, landed one gorgeous site after another on which to build yet another epic layout, and has developed a legion of loyal fans not just in Colorado and former home North Dakota, but all around the country.

Yet somehow the golf industry and fans actually underestimate Engh and fail to truly appreciate why he is such solid designer.

You read correctly. Underestimate the winner of multiple best course awards.

Because Engh has had gorgeous canvases on which to work - pristine, unspoiled North Dakota and gorgeous Colorado Canyonlands, and scenic Northern Idaho mountain tops - the uninitiated attribute his success to the superficial. “He’s great because he has the most postcard holes?” queries one player meekly. “It’s really pretty, if a little wild…” he trails off, speaking of Lakota Canyon Ranch, a runner up for Best New Public Course in 2005.

Well Jim Engh is already an epic golf course architect, but not because his courses are “another pretty face.” Fossil Trace Golf Club in Golden, Colorado, routed around 64 million year old fossil monuments might never have become a golf course and archaeological treasure without his tireless efforts to offer concessions to environmentalists. The Golf Club at Redlands Mesa might be far more ordinary instead of a quintessential example of world-class green settings and ingenious routing. The Club at Pradera (on which Engh owns a home adjacent to the 16th fairway with his wife Monie and two kids, Brian (10) and Bailey (8)) may be the best private course designed in 2005 due to its collection of unbelieveably tempting par-5s and Pinehurst-like greenside chipping swales.

Yes, I think Engh will be one for the ages when all is said and done, but his secrets are “lines of charm,” “trapdoors and hidden staircases,” and “muscle bunkers,” not merely virgin North Dakota, pristine Coeur D’Alene, Idaho and incomparable Colorado. The result is fascinating golf courses loaded with options and refreshingly innovative routings (try five par-3s and five par-5s frequently). Only then can you add in the jaw-dropping natural settings especially gorgeous green settings a la Mackenzie and Engh’s penchant for making the most of the routing process and well, we have a monster on our hands. Deciding which Jim Engh course to play is like deciding between a chateaubriand and the double lobster tails.


Jim’s introduction to golf was not pleasant. “I crashed my first golf cart when I was two years old.” Jim’s dad was a John Deere dealer who sold to course builders and helped build a local nine hole course, so Jim was on golf courses since leaving the cradle. “Well, Dad was playing and I hopped behind the wheel and hit the gas. I still don’t know how I could have done it, I was so small. The cart rolled over on top of me.”

It was a frightening crash. The cart crushed one of Jim’s kidneys and his life was in the balance for several days. “I was lucky though. I got up from my deathbed.” To this day, he still only had one kidney, he notes grimly.

Despite this particularly negative introduction to the game, Jim kept playing and studying golf and golf architecture. After all, if there is a wall that feels good against your head, it’s golf. Fellow architect and a buddy since Engh’s college days, Tim Nugent remembers an epic moment shared with his life long-time friend.

“In 1985, my dad hired him out of college and he helped us with Golf Club of Illinois before I had to go back to Arizona State for school. So we took a road trip together that summer to the U.S. Open at Oakland Hills. We jumped in my mom’s black ’79 Biarritz (the Oldsmobile, not the golf hole), blew out some carbon and stood right next to T.C. Chen as he did the infamous double hit” Nugent recalls. But timing was everything and Nugent and Engh grabbed a bit of history as well. “We snagged the divot Chen took before anybody was any the wiser and brought it back to the office in a film canister. We didn’t keep it or sell it. This was waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay before eBay you know.”

Other early memories were comical. Award winning architect Jeff Brauer remembers one colorful moment. “I first met Jim as a summer associate for Bill Kubly. You could tell he was a “gunner” (Kubly’s term for an up and comer) back then, but he was also green as peas. Once he left one of Kubly’s drafting tables in a pickup truck overnight in a rainstorm ruining it!”

Nevertheless, the folksy, humble, stand-up Jim survived the episode, taking it as a learning experience. “Happily, we all have a good laugh about it now.”

Jim worked with a wide variety of excellent designers in these heady, halcyon years. From 1987-1991, he worked for British design firm Cotton Pennick as its Director of Golf Course Design and Construction. The already worldwide presence of the firm (over 300 courses in more than 30 countries) was increased when International Management Group acquired the firm. They sent Engh to many far-flung corners of the globe – from Japan with great Japanese pro Isao Aoki to the European continent with Hall of Fame Golfer Bernhard Langer. From Joe Finger and Pete Dye to the Chinese and the Thai, Jim has designed everywhere across the Northern Hemisphere save Africa. Pretty good for a guy raised in North Dakota with a B.S. in Landscape Architecture from Colorado State. After a few trips to the UK to deeply study the great holes and courses there, Jim decided to form his own firm in 1991.


The foundations of Engh’s design philosophy are based solidly on the great design features of the great U.K. courses, which he has studied extensively (even though Engh is still a modernist and moves an average of 300,000 – 400,000 cubic yards of earth per design). Like Alistair Mackenzie, Engh eschews the doctrine of framing (where the player is spoon fed what to do on the tee box and responds to the dictatorial will of the architect) and instead keeps the direct line to the hole playable, even tempting, but perilous as well. Like Mackenzie he breaks up the direct line of play to the hole with hazards and creates the line of charm, a perilous but achievable short cut that requires perfect planning and execution. There is a boatload of danger right squarely in the direct line of flight to the target. Meanwhile, the other side of the playing field is wide and welcoming, but a longer way round. The player gets to pick how to play the hole – according to his talent and greed.

Realizing that Mackenzie was right, Engh gleefully delivers fascinating holes that are just as strong in Northern Michigan as they are in Canyonland, Colorado. The results translate best in Engh’s risk-reward par-5s. Many are short – reachable in two by many – but misses are punished mercilessly. “I’ll give a player a shot to reach a green in one shot less than regulation, but I sure won’t help him or make it easy!” he adds with an almost scandalized look as I note the par-5 green at 18 at Fossil Trace is not designed to be overly receptive to a long fairway wood approach. “If they want a putt for eagle, they have to hit two great shots to earn it.”

“I also love short holes” he continues smoothly. “There are a lot more options for all players, regardless of their skill level. I especially like a short par-5 to finish the round.” For example, Engh brings Fossil Trace, Red Hawk Ridge, and his private triumph and home course, The Club at Pradera to a crescendo with short par-5 finales.

“The shorter the hole, the more sex appeal I can add in terms of design features to make the hole interesting. Long par-4s can get dull. The shorter ‘in between-length holes,’ you know, short par-5s and par-4s are short enough for amateurs to have a shot at making par, but there is enough danger lurking that amateurs and experts alike stand as much chance of making six as they do three” he finishes excitedly.

Engh also has some Old Tom Morris and A.W. Tillinghast in him. Speaking of Old Tom’s design Machrihanish, the Good Dr. Mackenzie wrote in The Spirit of St. Andrews, “Some of the natural greens were so undulating that at times one had to putt twenty or thirty yards round to lay dead at the hole five yards away. These greens have all gone and today one loses all the joy of outwitting an opponent by making spectacular putts of this description.”

Well, Old Tom would be heartened to see some of Engh’s creations. Engh, like Morris and A.W. Tillinghast (at places like Winged Foot and Baltusrol) and like Mackenzie (at Pasatiempo and Crystal Downs), incorporated wild green undulations, for example, Fossil Trace and shaved greenside chipping swales instead of rough, most notably at Pradera. Engh’s greens have so many features and unique hazards, the green complexes are often a hole in and of themselves and the hole is frequently only beginning upon reaching the putting surface.

If there is a common theme to many of Jim’s holes, everything is a bowl. Fairways frequently have sidewalls that keep erratic players reasonably in play. With sidewalls at the green complex, there are a lot of player friendly bounces. “That’s where the payoff is” says Engh. “Not only does it keep people in play, but it creates options because there is more than one way to get on the green or get one close.” He is right. Errant shots gather close to the hole and result in a birdie putt instead of a difficult chip or wicked short-sided pitch.

If there is another common theme, Engh builds some of the greatest showstopper par-5s in the business. His three shotters are always filled with options and myriad angles of attack. Yet, like Mackenzie, the direct line of the hole is fraught with peril. Holes are tempting to experts but requiring pinpoint execution, but fair for average players. Like Alistair Mackenzie’s great par-5s, the timid golfer can play the three shotters by taking the long way around, but they lose strokes by avoiding risks.

The result of Engh’s cumulative philosophy is an array of challenging and interesting courses that place heavy emphasis on smart strategic play as well as solid execution. As a result, Engh says more in 311 yards than most architects say in 450.


Engh also designs with a unique artistic voice. His originality shines through in his trademark bunkering style (called “muscle bunkers” by the team) and in the unexpected twists in his designs that he calls “trapdoors and hidden staircases.”

“I was in Ireland touring Donegal Castle” Engh recalls energetically. “I had done this particular tour once before, so I slipped away from the main group up a back staircase and started exploring on my own. I found all sorts of trapdoors and hidden stairways and secret passages.”

“Golf courses are the same” he continues, his eyes flickering with enthusiasm. “Each time you play a course you learn another secret about it…some way to play avoid a hazard or some bump off which to play a creative shot. You learn something new every time you play a great golf course. So I incorporate the concept in my design and it makes for many exciting playing options. My goal is to create a course that you can play every day and never get bored and play every day and find some new way to attack a hole. Some people get frustrated, but it’s only because they are seeing something new and they haven’t figured out how to successfully play the hole. Most people like the course more with lots of options and interesting windows and trapdoors.”

Take, for example, the par-5 15th at Fossil Trace. The rock wall seen in the distance from the tee box appears to be the end of the fairway:


However, behind the rock wall is a hidden sliver of fairway which meanders its way to the back of the green and sidewalls to allow long shots to carom back toward the center of the green. Seen below, the green can be attacked from the front and rear.


“That’s something I try to accentuate on every course and on many shots” Engh instructs in the voice of a master of his trade. “There is always more than one way to get close to the hole.”

Engh also has a totally revolutionary and unique style of bunkering. – fanciful sperm-cell shaped squiggles set six to ten feet beneath heaving bumpy high-sloped rounded mounds that resemble a flexed bicep – hence Engh’s moniker “muscle bunkers.” The 18th at Fossil Trace is pictured below.

“I see a lot of Dick Nugent in Jim’s work now.” says Brauer thoughtfully, “But he has finely developed his own style. This starts with his philosophy of great plans and this extends to the general scale of the golf course and the general look, but with a fresh new concept and styling and bigger, deeper bunkers.” Tim Nugent agrees. “Sure, Jim gets great sites, but he also makes the most of them with great routings.”

To ice the cake, Engh has also built a reputation for coming in on time and under budget every time. Engh’s secret? “I’m stubborn, I have a hard head and I don’t listen to naysayers” he states mischievously. After the tableshares a hearty laugh, Engh continues. “The way I translate what I want to my shapers is through detailed contour drawings.”

Engh pauses for a moment, becoming a little nostalgiac before speaking. “One of the reasons why I liked Mike Strantz so much” he recalls both fondly and sadly “is that he communicated to his design team through sketches of the holes. I do something similar with my contour drawings. I do my contour drawings and luckily that form is the typical construction form and they can build it without many changes. I push the envelope on paper because if you have to change it after, that’s when jobs start to get expensive. I spend about 1000 hours each job on the contour drawings” Engh summarizes. “Then, it’s in the hands of my shapers.”

There is an old adage in the golf course construction business – much success will depend on the accurate interpretation and creation of the architect’s wishes. Although Engh plans out every single contour of every single yard of every single hole of every single course, his team of Mitch Scarborough and Tim Hartnett and the team of shapers must have the same DNA and neural synapses as Jim. “Mitch reads my mind and Tim is talented and enthusiastic. I’m the luckiest guy in the world to have the team around me that can take my contour drawings and turn it into a golf course.” Hartnett, a dead ringer for Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback “Big Ben” Roethlisberger, rivals Jim for lifelong passion for golf course architecture. How devoted is Tim? “When I broke my arm in high school playing basketball, I doodled golf holes on the cast. My doctor was astounded. He kept half the cast, my mom kept the other half.”

Jim is so loyal to his staff, when one shaper was tragically killed driving home in a snow squall, he dedicated a greenside plaque on the 8th hole at Red Hawk Ridge to his memory.


With a solid foundation buttressing his work, and a fiercely loyal team backing him, Engh got his break when fate paired him with Dave Liniger, owner of Re/max playing in a practice round for a local tournament. They became friends, and Dave asked him to design The Sanctuary Club on a 220 acre mountainous plot of land that tumbled through the high desert near Castle Rock and offered panoramic views of the valley floor hunders of feet below. When playing Sanctuary, movie buffs who saw The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King may be reminded of the view from the high towers of the white city of Minas Tirith overlooking the plains below. Engh’s first solo design, it won “Best new private course.”

(above, the first tee at Sanctuary is not for the heightrophobic.)

Sanctuary has only two members - Dave and his wife Gail. Rumors quickly circulated about the course. Internet urban legend recent spread a hilarious rumor in cyberspace that Liniger had sold the course in 1998 to a group of lesbian women who desired to “turn it into their Augusta National and make sure that no man ever plays there again.” Instead, the course has played host to countless charity tournaments. To date, charities have raised over $33 million through events at Sanctuary.

It’s a miracle the course exists at all. The Linigers battled through tough economic times until the early ‘80s, then had their own wedding delayed horribly when Gail was critically injured in a seaplane crash along with close family friends. It took months for Gail to recover and she proved Doctors wrong time and again who predicted she might never walk again. In 1988 Gail was recognized as one of the top ten women in the U.S. for her outstanding achievements in business, the arts and public service. In 1989 she was named “Entrepreneur of the Year” for the state of Colorado by Ernst & Young and Inc. Magazine. The great course they built as a family is yet another step in their great comeback story. “We didn’t accomplish these things by being brilliant, we did it because we never quit” Dave says pointedly.

It was a difficult site, but the things that make Sanctuary difficult topographically also make it exciting to play. The course also helped forger Engh’s reputation for “on time and under budget.” The land was purchased in September and construction began the next February. All in all, the entire course was conceived and built in about a year.

Since then, no other architect has a higher ratio of top awards to courses designed than Engh. Hawktree Golf Club in Bismarck, a welcome homecoming for Engh who spent many childhood years in nearby Dickenson, was runner up for Best New Public course in 2000. (Engh has returned to Dickinson to play in his local club championship for over thirty years.)

Next, Redlands Mesa won Best New Public Course in 2001, Tullymore won Best New Upscale Course in 2002, and Black Rock won Best New Private Course in 2003. That’s quite a tri-fecta.

Lakota Canyon Ranch and Pradera were both finalists in 2005 and made strong runs at the top accolades. As we go to press, Engh is finishing a new private course at Reynolds Plantation and starting a course in Napa Valley, California. Engh is even designing a new nine at Carne, the legendary plot of dunes landing the “Bloody Forelands” of northwest Ireland where Eddie Hackett built and epic links. That’s fitting. He brought the UK back here…now he gets to give back to the UK.

Engh’s few critics say the drawback of his moving a lot of earth means that he tends to superimpose golf holes on the land, rather than work with what the land offers. This critique, while true on its face, belies the actual reality. First, despite moving a great deal of earth, Engh usually reserves the bulk of the building for elevated tee boxes, while the fairways and greens play through the natural lay of the land. He may make some low areas lower and build many pulpit tees, but Engh, like Mackenzie, does not overpower the excellent natural settings he has been blessed to work on. Engh actually preserves what the land had originally, and also promotes the history and content of each plot to give a course a flavor of its natural setting.

Critics also decry his work as unwalkable, but that’s only Sanctuary and Lakota, both of which would be remedied by simply adding walking paths.

As a result, Engh resonates with players of all handicaps. Steve Josephs, a three handicap, is a veteran of multiple Engh designs. “Jim makes you think around the course. He’s demanding to lower handicappers because the drives require solid thought and strategy. You just can’t bang a driver out there. But he’s also friendly to higher handicappers because of the bowl shaped greens and fairways which bounce the ball back into play. I also love his elevation changes and undulations.”

Chris Burney, a bogey golfer from Texas also ranks Engh as his favorite architect. “He showed me things at Blackstone I had never seen before. The bunkers were unique and huge, yet the sidewalls and punchbowls helped keep the ball in play and gave everything an “amphitheatre” look. I can’t wait to play another Engh course.”


If Mike Strantz parallels Jeff Buckley, then Jim Engh is a young Led Zepplin. He has raw power, vibrant imagery and fearless style – no matter what the detractors say. You’ve never seen anything quite like this, but its diamond-hard foundations are the strategies of golf architecture we have embraced for centuries. He bequeaths substantive design features of real value to players and students of the game alike brought to life with vivid clarity. Moreover, his unique energy and fresh interpretations are palpable and infectious. Thankfully, they are also playable for high handicappers.

His par-5s especially may arguably be the best being designed today. The panoramic sweep and full blown grandeur of holes like 7, 16 and 18 at Pradera on the private side, his soon to be built three greened 18th at Reynolds Plantation and his amazing templates for the craft at 13 at Redlands Mesa and 18 at Lakota Canyon Ranch on the public side are heart-pounding.

As if the architectural talent weren’t enough, Jim plays to a 2.3 handicap index and competes in long driving tournaments, pounding out 300 yard lasers like a human Iron Byron. Some friends boast Jim could shoot 75 with a rake and an Easter egg.

Nevertheless, through all his successes at just his mid-40s, Jim is remarkably human, compassionate and generous. He has a great sense of humor. He took perverse delight in making me play the ball that embedded in the fossil monument at Fossil Trace’s famous twelfth hole. He gleefully prodded me 12 feet up the sandstone monument with my own ball retriever to “play the ball where it lies, Jay.” Also after I hit in the monument he commented “you couldn’t do that again in 64 million years” after I missed by five feet he impishly added “that’s the best shot you’ve hit in the last twelve holes.”


Oops! Once in 64 million years – your author’s ball embedded in Fossil Trace sandstone monument.


“Play the ball where it lies, Jay!”

Engh’s greatest source of pride is not his work, but his family; his wife Monie (pronounced “MOE-knee”) and children, son Brian, 11 and daughter Bailey, 8. “We have a house on Lake Coeur D’Alene [where he built Black Rock] and every year in the winter we go to Hawaii. I never play any golf. Instead it’s two tanks of scuba diving in the morning, then Mai Tais by the pool with Monie and the kids all afternoon” he notes with a serene smile, as though he’s momentarily back there.

Jim’s mom, who sadly passed away last December, is still his hero. “Jay she was a remarkable woman. I owe so much to her. She always tried to teach me to be humble and not be self-aggrandizing. If she ever heard me bragging about any of the honors I’ve been really lucky to earn, she’d be really disappointed and would shake her finger at me! She was wonderful and wise.”

Jim lets his hair down as well. “Monie and I are huge Van Morrison fans. I’ve seen him everywhere from the UK and Ireland to California to Colorado” Engh declares with the most rabid loyalty lighting up his face. He still goes to Red Rocks and the Odgen Theatre for many concerts. He even moshed with his 11 year old son during “The Last Rock Show” at a concert of rock band Bowling For Soup. “It was Brian and Bailey’s first concert” he recalls fondly.

Nicknames are part of the comradery of the Engh design team. “Jim is known across the globe as ‘Two mops’ because he spilled beer in an Irish pub so badly they needed two mops to clean up after him” chortles Tim Hartnett. For the record, Tim’s nickname is “Flipper” because of his habit of flipping the club in his hand five times before teeing off and three times before hitting other shots. He is even good humored when his friends playfully serenade him with the old TV theme song - “They call him Flipper! Flipper! Faster than lightning.…” But that’s what it means to be a part of the Engh team - lots of self-effacing humor, lots of plain old fashioned hard work, and “thank yous” all around, whether they’re from “Two Mops,” “The Dakota Kid,” “Gunslinger” or just plain “Jim.”