5 Things: Moving on up to PGA Tour?

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Adam Bland

How do you warm up for PGA Tour Q-School? Well, if you’re Adam Bland, you nearly win the Australian Masters.

Bland had the biggest payday of his golfing career Nov. 14, earning $153,000 when he finished one shot behind Stuart Appleby. However, it came with some disappointment; he led by as many as five shots in the final round. But there’s no time to dwell on that.

“I’m just going to let it sink in,” the South Australian said. “Take the positives out. . . and hopefully put them towards tour school over the next few weeks.

“I’m in a great frame of mind now. . . I hung tough in the pressure situation. Tour school is exactly the same and if I can keep the ball rolling and the momentum going, I think that everything (will go well).”

The 28-year-old is now in Seaside, Calif., for the second stage of Q-School at Bayonet and Black Horse. He shot 71 Wednesday and is tied for 26th.

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Errie Ball

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At the first Masters in 1934, from left: G. Sargent, Errie Ball, Charlie Yates (who died in 2005, the second-to-last survivor of the first Masters) and host Bobby Jones Jr.

They say golf is a game of a lifetime, and few have lived those words quite like Samuel Henry “Errie” Ball. Born Nov. 14, 1910, in Bangor, Wales, Ball is golfing royalty.

“I don’t feel 100,” he said Sunday at his birthday party. “That’s for sure.”

Ball’s is a life well lived, and nearly 300 people celebrated the occasion at Willoughby Golf Club in Stuart, Fla.

No less than Bobby Jones recruited him to come to America. The years melt away when he reminisces, but the name of the ship? It was so long ago, he can’t remember.

“It may be the Mayflower,” he joked.

During the eight-day trip across the Atlantic, he met Maxie Wright. She was engaged. So was Ball. No matter, they were married two months later – to each other. She’s 96 and they’ve been sweethearts for more than 73 years.

The man is a living museum of golf, old enough to have seen Harry Vardon, the 1896 British Open champion, play in person, and pair with the likes of Tommy Armour, Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson and Sam Snead. Of the 72 players who entered the 1934 Augusta National Invitational, otherwise known as the first Masters, Ball is the only competitor still alive. To hear Ball tell it, heading into the final day all he had to shoot was no worse than 71 and he would get invited back next year. “I blew it,” he said. “Shot 86.” Twenty-three years passed before he returned to Augusta in 1957, the longest stretch between appearances.

Ball qualified for 20 U.S. Opens, the PGA Championship 18 times, and dominated the Illinois PGA section during a distinguished playing career. At 95, he still gave lessons every day but Sunday. Until July, he drove himself to the club three days a week. Just days ago, Willoughby member Nancy Ford scheduled a lesson.

“I’m ready to start teaching again,” Ball said with gusto.

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The generous In-Kyung Kim.

For a 22-year-old, In-Kyung Kim thinks big. Not just in terms of golf, though she does expect big things from her game, but in terms of life. Kim looks at the big picture – whether it’s the environment, worldwide disasters, or a child’s dream and an opportunity to help.

“It’s the same with golf, with love,” Kim said. “You can’t always wait. You have to give what you have right now.”

Moments after clinching the Lorena Ochoa Invitational Nov. 14, Kim said she planned to donate her entire paycheck – $220,000 – to charity. Half of the money will go to Ochoa’s foundation, the other half to an American charity of her choice. That’s a large chunk of the $1,121,381 she has earned this season.

Kim decided months before she arrived in Mexico that when she won again on tour, she would donate her entire check. When she called back home to Korea after the victory, her father asked, “Well, did you really do it?” Kim confirmed.

“She does so many great things,” Kim said of Ochoa, “and I wanted to be a part of it.”

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Will Tiger Woods stick with the Nike putter?

During his tenure as Nike Golf’s marquee endorser, Tiger Woods gradually has filled his bag with Nike clubs. For much of the time he has stuck with 13, the only exception being his prized Titleist Scotty Cameron Newport 2 putter.

But he experimented again with a Nike Method putter at the Australian Masters, where he finished fourth Nov. 14. Woods used the Newport 2 for the first three rounds and switched to a Method 003 in the last round. He was 6 under par for the final six holes.

At the 2010 British Open, Woods used a Method 001; after three rounds with the Nike putter, he returned to the Cameron for the final round at the major.

The Method 001 is an Anser-style putter, and the 003 is a mid-mallet. Woods cited the same reason for using these putters – the greens were too slow for his Cameron.

“It was fun to make a couple of putts,” Woods said after the Australian Masters. “It’s amazing what happens when you get a putt to the hole. It actually does go in.”

The Nike Method putters (there are five models) commonly sell for $249. Nike is rumored to be rolling out a more affordable line of Method putters for 2011, but the company hasn’t confirmed such additions.

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At the Asian Games' opening ceremony.

New Zealand and America may not be eligible to take part in the Asian Games this week, but coaches from those countries have helped to shape the medal-chasing teams from China and Thailand.

Kiwi Gareth Winslow and American Gerry Norquist both have high hopes that the women they have prepared for Guangzhou will not finish empty-handed.

“We have an exceptional team,” said Norquist of the Thai trio of Ariya Jutanugarn, Thidapa Suwannapura and Jaruporn Palakawong.

They are aiming to deliver Thailand’s first-ever Asian Games golfing medal. “I was astonished when I was told that Thailand hasn’t won an Asian Games golf medal, but these girls are good and certainly have a chance,” said Norquist, a former player who won on the Asian Tour and European Tour.

For his part, Winslow said his team is prepared fly the China flag.

“Although we have quite a young team, these players have proven themselves over the past several months to be the best women golfers in China,” said Winslow, who has lived in China for the past six years.

After the first round Wednesday, China had the lead, and Thailand was in fifth place.

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