The Biz Blog


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Bridgestone to enter collegiate-licensing market

Little can match the fervor with which college sports fans cheer on their favorite teams. Now, supporters of select schools can display their school pride on Bridgestone golf balls.

The golf ball manufacturer, with operations in Covington, Ga., has entered into an agreement with 19 major colleges and universities to produce officially licensed team logo golf balls. School logos will be available on any model of Bridgestone golf balls through its custom logo department. The participating schools are: Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Louisiana State, Miami, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Ohio State, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Texas A&M, West Virginia and Washington.

The move enables Bridgestone to tap a segment of the "more than 190 million college sports fans across the country," according to Corey Consuegra, the company's golf ball marketing manager.

Terms of the collegiate agreements were not disclosed.

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Nike's chief club designer retires; remains as consultant

James Achenbach

Tom Stites, Nike Golf's chief club designer, has retired but will remain with the company in a consultant's role, Golfweek has learned.

“Officially Tom has retired,” confirmed Rob Arluna, Nike Golf’s global golf club business director. “Realistically he has embraced a new challenge at Nike Golf. He is moving into a consultant’s role, and we call him the Chief Imagineer. He will be working on future projects. These are our biggest ideas. Personally I think Tom’s best work is in front of him. All of us are excited about Tom’s role.”

Stites, who officially served as director of product innovation, has been with Nike since 2001, when Nike purchased Impact Golf Technologies – owned by Stites and headquartered near Fort Worth, Texas. Before starting Impact Golf, Stites designed clubs for several golf manufacturers, including Ben Hogan Golf.

“All along Tom was very upfront about this change,” Arluna said. “We planned very carefully for it. He wants to spend more time with his family, and he wants to concentrate on all our important projects moving forward.”

Stites will maintain an office at Nike's research and development center in Forth Worth, nicknamed "The Oven," but will ...

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R&A turns back clock in defending male-only clubs

Alex Miceli

GULLANE, Scotland – Gender discrimination in golf was front and center at the Open Championship during the R&A's news conference Wednesday afternoon at Muirfield.

The R&A knew it was coming, and chief executive Peter Dawson was prepared, but the answers still did not ring true.

The premise that discrimination in any way, shape or form is permissible flies in the face of most people's belief of common decency and morals in a 21st-century world.

But that’s not the premise that the R&A or Dawson took, and you could understand why. Not only do Royal St. George’s, Royal Troon and Muirfield not allow women members, but the R&A itself also does not allow female members.

“We've got, as you mentioned, politicians posturing, we've got interest groups attacking the R&A, attacking the Open and attacking Muirfield,” Dawson said during his defense of the R&A’s policies. “To be honest, our natural reaction is to resist these pressures, because we actually don't think they have very much substance.”

After numerous struggles for equality worldwide, it's clear that in certain golf clubs in the U.K. that discrimination is not only ...

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Els says Muirfield's all-male policy is 'weird'

Alistair Tait

Defending Open Champion Ernie Els has called Muirfield “weird” for the its all-male policy ahead of next week’s Open Championship at the Scottish Club.

Muirfield, home to the Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, is one of a few clubs in the United Kingdom that still refuses to admit women members. Other Open venues Royal Troon and Royal St. George’s also do not allow women to join. Neither does the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, the members’ club attached to the R&A.

“It’s going to be an issue,” Els said. “It is an issue. I’m not a member there. I’m a member at clubs around the world. I would like to believe that most of the clubs we belong to are open. It’s weird isn’t it?

“It’s not happening everywhere. We’ve got presidents, prime ministers, heads of companies who are women. It’s weird.”

The R&A has always maintained it takes its blue-ribbon event to the best courses, and Muirfield certainly fits that category. (It ranks fifth on Golfweek’s Best Classic Courses list of Great Britain & Ireland.) However, the issue is sure to be debated next week ...

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Rude: PGA, Tour's proposal a sensible compromise

Jeff Rude

Jeff Rude’s “Hate To Be Rude” column appears on on Wednesday.

The PGA Tour and PGA of America made a sensible compromise proposal, not to mention a savvy public relations move, on Monday when asking that the U.S. Golf Association delay the ban on anchored putting several years for recreational players.

The two organizations pointed out that there is precedent, that the USGA in 2008 followed a similar course regarding new groove configurations on golf clubs – 2010 for elite play but 2024 for recreational golfers.

The USGA has yet to comment but is expected to respond soon. Let’s hope that no news so far is good news, that America’s rules-making body will finally just say yes.

(Read full story on the proposal here)

As Joe Ogilvie, a member of the Tour’s Player Advisory Council, tweeted the other day, “For amateurs over 50 (the anchor-ban) rule should be 3024 not 2024. Zero downside to grandpa making a few 3-footers.”

Paul Goydos, a player director on the nine-man Tour policy board, said as much after the board, as well as PGA of America, voted to follow the USGA anchor ban, effective 2016.

“What’s the ...

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Scott says he won't fight anchoring ban

Alex Miceli

Golf’s “Gang of Nine” might not be so united against the recently approved ban on the anchoring stroke.

After the U.S. Golf Association and R&A endorsed Rule 14-1b last month, three prominent touring pros who use the anchoring stroke with long or belly putters – Tim Clark, Carl Pettersson and Adam Scott – were disclosed to have retained Boston’s Harry Manion as legal counsel.

During last week’s Memorial Tournament, Scott, the recent Masters champion, made it clear that he had sought legal advice merely to gather information and be sure that his views are expressed to the PGA Tour.

“There’s no intention of filing suit or making problems,” Scott said, “but this is a business, and I’m treating it professionally and I have professional counsel to do that.”

Keegan Bradley, who has not been publicly linked to the potential litigants, appears resigned to the ban.

“I’m so sick of this issue,” said Bradley, who won the 2011 PGA with a belly putter and continues to use the anchored stroke. “I’m ready to do whatever they tell me. I’m fine with the short putter.”

Tour commissioner Tim Finchem met with the Player Advisory ...

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Rude: Anchoring ban for good of whose game?

Jeff Rude

The U.S. Golf Association news conference Tuesday that announced an ill-advised ban on putter anchoring was striking for myriad reasons, not the least of which was the large, logoed signage behind the dais. Repeated numerous times on the backdrop, the message read thusly: “For the good of the game.”

Those six words prompt questions and dissent. We can start simply with “Whose game?” Certainly not the multitudes who use a long putter while playing for fun. Certainly not those who switched to anchoring to enhance enjoyment or because of physical ailments. Certainly not people who changed in order to make more putts and better embrace their time-consuming, expensive and difficult hobby.

No, not John Q. Public’s game.

Let’s not kid ourselves. The ban, to start in 2016, would seem to focus on “sport” rather than “game.” On competition rather than recreation. On game-face golf rather than social golf. And therein lies the shame.

While many professionals’ livelihoods will be negatively impacted, the great unwashed and the game’s growth are most affected. Gratification and participation not only sound alike, they are entwined in any activity.

Little wonder that PGA of America president Ted Bishop reacted Tuesday by ...

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Equipment brands tap into social media

David Dusek

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – For decades, television cameras, reporters and photographers have taken fans inside the ropes at golf tournaments and special events. With the growth of blogs and social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, equipment manufacturers now can do the same – and they're sharing behind-the-scenes information that gearheads love.

For example, Nike Golf has approximately 1.9 million "Likes" on Facebook, the most among golf equipment makers. The company posts photographs and video clips routinely, and they typically get a thumbs-up by thousands of readers.

On Twitter, TaylorMade's social media manager, Charles Kautz (@CharlieTour), routinely sends messages and photographs from PGA Tour stops, including this one from the Players Championship:

"My job really started as a pilot role at the beginning of last year," Kautz said on the range at TPC Sawgrass. "Internally, we felt like there was a lot going on out on Tour that we were capturing, but not necessarily capturing in a way that would be exciting for golfers. The reps out here on tour are so busy that it's hard for them to capture information and distribute it. I don't think they really realized the value of the ...

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Rude: It's time for Vijay to sing a little

Jeff Rude

Jeff Rude’s “Hate To Be Rude” column appears on on Wednesday.

After all that fuss about deer antler spray, after all the debating and screaming and conjecturing and expending of emotional and financial capital and backroom and clubhouse lawyering and eleventh-hour laboratory testing, remarkably we have come to this: Deer antler spray is no big deal after all.

Or, as Shakespeare came up with comedically more than 400 years ago, “Much ado about nothing.”

The monster that was deer antler spray, of course, exceeded its 15 minutes of fame with regard to Vijay Singh. The Fijian twisted in the wind of public opinion and a PGA Tour investigation for three months since admitting he used the now-famous but apparently unhelpful deer antler spray, then on the Tour’s banned list, in late January.

He continued to play among whispers if not shouts, only to be cleared Tuesday because of a simple but powerful memo from the World Anti-Doping Agency to the Tour that in part read: “The use of deer antler spray (which is known to contain small amounts of IGF-1) is not considered prohibited.”

And so that is that. Or is it?

For certain, the silent ...

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Rude: PGA Tour likely to act soon on Singh

Jeff Rude

Now that the Masters is over, the PGA Tour is likely to act soon on the case of Vijay Singh, one Tour insider said Wednesday.

In early February, the three-time major champion admitted he used deer-antler spray, but was unaware it could have contained IGF-1, a banned substance with HGH-like properties. The review has gone beyond the 45 days the Tour used as a ballpark timeline.

The Tour apparently didn’t want to take away focus from the Masters, where Singh is a past champion, the Tour source said.

In a sense, Singh’s mistake was as much not asking for a ruling as it was taking the substance. Per the Rules of Golf, players are responsible for knowing the rules of the Tour’s drug policy.

Guy Kinnings, an IMG agent who represents Singh, said Wednesday the Tour said it would “let us know ahead” of any action. But Kinnings had not yet been notified, he said from the United Kingdom.

“Vijay has said throughout that he did not do anything knowingly,” Kinnings said. “He has assisted as much as he can in the (Tour’s) process.”

While IMG represents the golfer, Singh has “handled (this matter) very much ...

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IMG acquires Honda Classic operator

Alex Miceli

IMG Worldwide announced today that it has acquired IGP Sports & Entertainment Group and will expand IGP’s office in North Palm Beach, Fla.

Terms were not disclosed.

With the acquisition, Ken Kennerly, the Honda Classic’s tournament director who has led IGP Sports, will join IMG Golf as head of its North American events division.

The acquisition will add the Honda Classic to the IMG stable of events and provide the global management company a significant presence in Florida. As many as five IMG staffers from the Cleveland and London offices will move to Florida, according to Guy Kinnings, senior vice president and global head of IMG Golf.

“The acquisition allows us to create an instant presence in South Florida, a market that has always been very important in the professional golf industry and where a number of our clients are based,” Kinnings said.

Kennerly said IMG’s size will allow him to develop additional business that he was unable to procure with IGP.

“It’s about time they’ve come and diversified and moved out of Cleveland a little bit,” said Trevor Immelman, an IMG client. “There’s no doubt that having an office in Florida is going to ...

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Tait: Success at Merion could pave path for Royal Porthcawl

Alistair Tait

PORTHCAWL, Wales -- Lovers of classic links like Royal Porthcawl should watch this year’s U.S. Open at Merion with interest. A successful staging of America’s national championship at Merion should provide food for thought for those who would love to see Royal Porthcawl one day host the Open Championship.

Wales has never staged an Open Championship. Indeed, it is the only country in the United Kingdom not to host the game’s oldest major. It’s maybe about time that was corrected.

Merion could provide the template.

Anyone who’s been to Merion will tell you it’s hard to imagine staging a modern U.S. Open over this fine Philadelphia course. It may have staged four U.S. Opens in the past, but the last time the USGA took the U.S. Open to this fabled course was in 1981, when David Graham became the first Australian winner of America’s national championship.

Of course, 32 years ago the U.S. Open wasn’t as big a deal as it is now. Merion hasn’t been on the USGA radar since because it was previously seen as too short, and not having the space to accommodate a ...

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Tait: Avantha Masters proves bifurcation already exists

Alistair Tait

Bifurcation is the big word on everyone’s lips these days. I’m not sure why. A bifurcation of one part of the rulebook already seems to exist. An example of that was obvious in the closing stages of the Avantha Masters in Delhi.

Once again we saw that professional golf doesn’t always conform to the simple laws of etiquette most ordinary club golfers obey.

South Africa’s Thomas Aiken triumphed in India to win his second European Tour title. However, he waited longer to record that victory than he should have done.

Playing in the last group along with China’s Wenchong Liang and Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand, Aiken faced an interminable wait on the 18th tee while Scott Hend in the group ahead consulted a rules official after hitting his tee shot into a pond.

The Aiken trio spent nearly 15 minutes waiting back on the tee while Hend discussed where to take a drop along with playing companion David Drysdale and the official. Of course, any club handicapper knows the correct procedure in this situation. It’s obvious from the rulebook – simply let the group behind play through.

Page 19 of my rulebook makes it pretty ...

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Nicklaus, Phelps headline new Golf Channel season

Martin Kaufmann

When I heard that David Feherty was going to open the 2013 season of his eponymous interview show by talking with Jack Nicklaus, my first thought was: How will the Golden Bear react to the host’s scatological humor?

Not to worry, however, a more restrained Feherty visited with Nicklaus at his home in West Palm Beach, Fla.. “Feherty” is one of two season premieres airing on Golf Channel on Monday. It follows the season debut of “The Haney Project,” now in its fifth season.

For more than a half century, Nicklaus has lived a very public life and has never been reluctant to share his opinions. So there’s not much new ground for Feherty to plow. Still, it’s good viewing.

With Feherty, Nicklaus comes across as the favorite uncle you seek out for life advice. The episode is a reminder that Nicklaus is a son of the Midwest, and he still speaks to the values of the heartland, such as when Feherty asked him how he handled losses.

“My dad said to me, ‘Jack, (when you lose) put a smile on your face, make sure that the person that you’re congratulating genuinely thinks that you’re ...

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Q&A: Pat Finlen, GCSAA president

Bradley S. Klein

Finlen, 54, a certified golf course superintendent from The Olympic Club in San Francisco, has headed the maintenance operation at the 45-hole Bay Area club since 2002. Last year, he worked with the U.S. Golf Association on the setup and conditioning of the club’s Lakeside Course for the U.S. Open while managing a total reconstruction of the club’s Ocean Course with architect Bill Love. Finlen, the new president of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, answered Golfweek’s questions on the eve of the industry’s trade show in San Diego.

Why take on the presidency of the GCSAA after a year like that?

Actually, the timing is perfect for me, for the club and for the GCSAA. This will be my eighth year on the board, and that service has helped me become a better superintendent, a better manager and a better person. So I don’t see it as time away; I see it as time invested.

What changes are your fellow superintendents making as you adjust to a tougher business climate?

Many of the budget cuts actually started right after 9/11, so superintendents were better prepared for what hit the country ...

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