5 things: RSVP'd with excellence

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Simon Khan

Three players who gained 11th-hour invitations to the PGA Championship are making the most of their opportunity.

The PGA, in an effort to attract the strongest field of the four majors, traditionally gives exemptions to players in the top 100 who are not already exempt.

Last week, the PGA also invited three players ranked outside the top 100 – Korea’s Seung-Yul Noh, England’s Simon Khan and Spain’s Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano. Wise move.

All three made the cut.

The 19-year-old Noh shot 68 and 71, and is currently tied for third with fellow invitee Khan, who shot 69 and 70. Fernandez-Castano shot 70 and 73.

“I have come here as a invitee, and I want to play as well as I can,” Noh said.

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The Guangzhou Asian Games are in November.

Golf may still be in its infancy in China, but mainland golf officials are confident the country is already bridging the gulf with regional golfpowerhouses Japan, South Korea, India and Chinese Taipei.

The proof may be evident in November at the Guangzhou Asian Games, the quadrennial sporting extravaganza that Asian countries take every bit as seriously as the Olympics. And the pressure will be on the Chinese, playing on their home soil, to perform well.

“There is still a big gap between us and the Asian first-class golf countries.” said Zhang Xiaoning, secretary general of the China Golf Association. “We have been preparing for the Asian Games over the past two years. We have provided a lot chances for the amateur golfers and a lot of young players have stood out.”

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Coach Trevor Flakemore and his star pupil Jin Jeong.

Australia-based PGA professional Trevor Flakemore has some interesting insights into his star pupil Jin Jeong, the leading R&A amateur.

In a recent interview, Flakemore told of an incident that illustrated the South Korean’s talent. Jeong showed Flakemore a golf ball lodged in a hole halfway up a tree. The teenager had succeeded in hitting the ball to wedge precisely in the hole – after 30 minutes of trying.

“If a part of his game needs some work, he’ll go down and do drills for five hours,” said Flakemore, who has coached Jeong for five years. “Tell the other kids to do it and they’ll be there for five minutes. I had to stop him (from) practicing at times.”

Flakemore, who caddied for Jeong at the Open Championship where the 20-year-old won top amateur honors, said he sometimes feels like a surrogate father.

“He spends a lot of time with us and with our kids,” he said. “He’s a remarkable young bloke.”

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European Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie

European Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie likely won’t be completely happy at Gleneagles, Scotland, later this month when he finalizes his Ryder Cup team. Montgomerie went on record earlier this year as saying he expected potential team members to play in the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles, the last counting event for Ryder Cup points. Many Europeans of the U.S. PGA Tour will certainly play in The Barclays, the first event of the FedExCup series, which conflicts with the Johnnie Walker.

No one ever said being captain would be easy.

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Phil Mickelson (left) and Dustin Johnson make their way to the 17th hole as fans try to get an autographs during a practice round for the PGA Championship.

It’s no surprise that major tournaments, such as the PGA Championship, deliver an economic boost to the communities they visit.

But everyday golf is a year-round catalyst for jobs and consumer spending – and that’s the message PGA executives delivered with media attention focused on Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, site of the season’s final major.

The total economic impact of golf in the state is $2.4 billion – with more than 38,000 jobs and $771.5 million in wages attributable to the industry, according to Wisconsin’s Golf Economy Report. PGA chief executive Joe Steranka announced the results of the study, which was commissioned by Golf 20/20, a U.S.-based industry coalition.

The PGA has been on the forefront of an industry-wide effort to better educate national and local government leaders of golf’s economic and societal contributions. The campaign is aimed to debunk persistent stereotypes that golf is nothing more than an elitist activity and to recast it as an important industry comprising mostly small businesses.

“Golf is more than just an enjoyable pastime for thousands in Wisconsin,” Steranka said. “It is a billion-dollar industry that serves as a major contributor and driver of jobs, wage income and tourism.”

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