5 Things: Couples, Jordan teammates again?

Basketball great Michael Jordan and captain Fred Couples had fun at the 2009 Presidents Cup.

Basketball great Michael Jordan and captain Fred Couples had fun at the 2009 Presidents Cup.

Could the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats be amassing more celebrity star power in its ownership group? First, Michael Jordan bought the franchise in March for a reported $275 million. Now, comes word in the Sports Business Journal that Fred Couples, who relocated to Charlotte this summer, recently bought a pair of courtside seats across from the Bobcats bench and said he also is interested in “buying a small stake in the team.”

Air Jordan served as assistant captain to Couples at the 2009 Presidents Cup, and Couples will lead the American squad’s defense of the Cup in 2011 in Melbourne, Australia.

No word if the Bobcats’ next ownership meeting has been scheduled Down Under.

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John K. Solheim of Ping

Generational hand-offs are never simple.

But Ping has fared well in passing the baton, and now the family company is ready to do it again: It recently named John K. Solheim – son of Ping chairmant John A. Solheim and grandson of Ping founder Karsten Solheim – to the post of president and representative director of Ping Golf Japan, effective Jan. 1, 2011.

In his new position, John K., 36, will lead all aspects of Ping’s business in Japan. He’ll also have additional responsibilities for the company’s activities throughout Asia.

The father of four has been Ping’s vice president of engineering since 2001. In that role, he oversaw all product development while managing a team of 60 engineers and research specialists.

“I’ve been preparing most of my work life for an opportunity like this,” said John K., whose appointment marks the first time a member of the Solheim family’s third generation has assumed the top leadership role at one of its companies.

Under John A. Solheim’s leadership, Ping skillfully maneuvered the numerous pitfalls of succession, bucking the statistic that 90 percent of family-run businesses never see a third generation.

John K., the oldest of John A.’s three sons, first worked for Ping as a high school student. Among his roles was working side-by-side with his grandfather, Karsten.

In recent years, the third generation has assumed a larger role at Ping, and they’ve been made plenty aware of an old maxim: The first generation creates the business; the second generation builds it; and the third generation ruins it.

“From as far back as my third grade teacher, I’ve heard that it’s usually the third generation that is the one that is known for blowing it,” said John K. in a 2007 interview.

Suffice it to say, he’s determined to prove it wrong.

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Frankie Minoza

Frankie Minoza, one of the top Asian golfers of the past 30 years, will finally have a chance to mix it up with the big boys next year.

The man from the Philippines gained full-exempt status on the Champions Tour, where he’ll face off with the likes of Fred Couples, Bernhard Langer and Mark O’Meara.

“It’s like a dream come true for me, and I am so happy,” said Minoza, who finished tied for second at the 2010 Champions Tour National Qualifying Tournament at TPC Eagle Trace.

Minoza, a multiple winner on the Asian Tour and Japan Tour throughout the past two decades, fired a closing 5-under 67.

His 13-under 275 total was even with Americans Lee Rinker and Phil Blackmar. Keith Clearwater took medalist honors at 272.

Minoza endured some nervous moments and needed a final-hole birdie to avoid joining a playoff for the fifth and final slot. He delivered.

Minoza competed in three events on the European Senior Tour this year and was twice runner-up – at the Chang Thailand Senior Masters and the Aberdeen Brunei Senior Masters. He has won 15 events worldwide., including Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, Singapore, Indonesia, Taiwan and Pakistan.

Minoza’s success completes a memorable year for Asian senior golfers. A fortnight ago, Thai Boonchu Ruangkit became the first Asian to win the European Senior Tour Order of Merit.

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Graeme McDowell and Martin Kaymer

Maybe, there’s a reason why Martin Kaymer and Graeme McDowell are No. 1 and 2, respectively, on the European Tour money list.

That reason can be found in one important statistic: stroke average.

Kaymer has an average of 70.01 to lead the European Tour with one tournament to go. McDowell trails by just .04, with an average of 70.05.

However, they’ve got serious competition. Among those in close pursuit: Charl Schwartzel – 70.1; Francesco Molinari – 70.24; and Lee Westwood – 70.3.

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Billy Hurley III

Sixteen months ago, Billy Hurley III was aboard a cruiser ship in Singapore. He was on the front lines defending Iraq’s oil platform in the Persian Gulf. He was guiding a ship through the Suez Canal.

So trying to advance to the finals of PGA Tour Q-School? Apparently, it’s simpler than some military cadence.

Hurley shot a final-round 67 Saturday and shared medalist honors at Southern Hills Plantation Club, keeping alive his dream to become the first U.S. Naval Academy graduate to play full time on the PGA Tour.

“Obviously, my game has come back quicker than I thought it would, and hopefully it just keeps getting better,” said Hurley, who finished at 18-under 270, tied with Scott Brown.

Hurley, 28, graduated from the Naval Academy in 2004 after a breakthrough senior season when he won six of the 12 events he entered. Upon graduation, he served on the guided-missile cruiser U.S.S. Gettysburg in Florida, then played on the U.S. Walker Cup team in 2005, taught Economics 101 at the academy and, oh yeah, turned pro in 2006.

The Navy denied his request to serve only two years of active duty, and Hurley fulfilled his obligation on a destroyer ship in Pearl Harbor. He played only five rounds of golf during that two-year stretch.

When he returned home to Maryland last summer, Hurley played well enough to qualify for the second stage of Q-School.

“I went there with very low expectations, and my golf swing wasn’t quite ready for the pressure,” he said.

So he split time this season on the eGolf and Hooters tours, capturing one Hooters title in March, earning $56,735 and finishing 15th on the money list. This time, with 16 months to hone his swing, he knew he was ready for a promotion.

“It’ll be interesting to see how the finals shake out,” Hurley said.

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