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Rugge's USGA legacy: Harmony with clubmakers

James Achenbach

Early in 2000, just after Trey Holland had been elected to his first term as U.S. Golf Association president, I sat down with him for breakfast and conversation at Pebble Beach Golf Links.

Holland, normally a quiet and introspective man, was overflowing with conversation. He had not been seated more than 45 seconds before announcing, “We have hired Dick Rugge as senior technical director.”

Rugge, 64, announced his resignation Nov. 5 after nearly 13 years on the job. He will step down Feb. 2, ending a regime that took a giant step toward clarifying current and future golf equipment rules.

What captured my attention 12 years ago was the confidence with which Holland was speaking. “We are very, very pleased with this decision,” he said with conviction.

My reaction: Gulp!

Rugge was one of my closest friends in golf, but I had no idea this was about to happen. I called him, and Rugge explained he had been contacted by a firm whose job was to create a short list of candidates for the USGA.

The search for a leader of the USGA Research and Test Center was widespread, but few observers expected the final choice to come from ...

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Els turns to IMG for management

IMG, the management and marketing giant, announced today the signing of Ernie Els to a representation deal, marking a rebound for the firm beset by recent agent and player defections.

IMG will manage business affairs on a worldwide basis for Els, 43, who captured his fourth major title at this year’s Open Championship. The South African, who was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011, has more than 65 titles to his credit, including 19 on the PGA Tour. One of the Tour’s marquee players, Els has expanded his off-course endeavors to include golf course design and wine businesses.

The victory at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in July revitalized the career of Els, who had undergone a couple of management changes. After a long tenure with agent Chubby Chandler, Els signed last fall with Pros Inc., a new firm launched by industry veterans Buddy Marucci, Vinny Giles and Giff Breed. According to an IMG statement, Els’ “management at Pros Inc. will be moved to IMG.”

Explaining his decision to join IMG, Els said: “IMG has a global network of offices, loads of experienced and dedicated golf staff operating in every aspect of the game so ...

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The First Tee’s fundraising effort tops $106 million

From 1997 through 2011, The First Tee impacted more than 6.5 million youth, according to the organization.

By 2017, it expects to influence an additional 10 million youngsters.

It’s an ambitious goal, but the group already has cleared the biggest obstacle to achieve its vision: Earlier this month, the First Tee announced it has raised $106.2 million in gifts and pledges to finance its drive for greater participation.

The sum exceeds the $100 million target set by the fundraising campaign, which launched in July 2011. The First Tee Campaign for 10 Million Young People, however, will continue to raise funds through the remainder of the year. (For more information about the initiative, visit www.thefirsttee.org/campaign)

“An extraordinary commitment is being made by many to support the work of The First Tee at chapters and schools, and the investment will greatly enhance our ability to positively impact millions more young people,” said Joe Louis Barrow Jr., The First Tee’s chief executive.

The First Tee’s mission is to build character, instill life-enhancing values and promote healthy choices among young people through the game of golf.

The funds raised will be used for several initiatives, including ...

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Another Tiger stop? Euro Tour adds Turkish Open

Alex Miceli

ANTALYA, Turkey -- In a year when events have been dropping off the European Tour schedule like leaves on a tree, Turkey has stepped up and committed to a tournament that ultimately will be the penultimate event to the Race to Dubai, that concludes the European Tour season.

The three-year deal will bring the $7 million Turkish Open to a tour that has lost much more than that in prize money and prestige over the last three years, but now gain one in a place that is at least close enough to call it Europe with the Antalya region, in the Asian part of Turkey.

The announcement was made fittingly during the second day of the Turkish Airlines World Golf Final by Keith Waters, CEO of the European Tour, Ahmet Ali Ağaoğlu (President of the Turkish Golf Federation) and Andrew Chandler (Managing Director of International Sports Management).

“Turkey is one of the fastest developing golf nations in the world,” Ağaoğlu said. “I am very honored to make this announcement and to be able to bring a top-class European Tour event to Turkey. We believe that Turkey, and in particular Belek and Antalya, is the best golfing destination in Europe and one ...

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Spain's standing on Euro Tour takes another hit

Alistair Tait

It’s just as well that the European Tour expanded its horizons globally many years ago. As the news from Spain reveals, the Tour can’t rely on traditional markets anymore.

The cancellation of the Andalucia Masters at Valderrama brings to four the number of Spanish tournaments that have been scrapped this year. In a news release Sept. 12, the tour announced that despite a formal legal agreement with the Junta de Andalucía, the Oct. 18-21 has been canceled.

“This is extremely disappointing news to receive, especially at such a late date,” said George O’Grady, the European Tour’s chief executive. “We have been long-term partners with the junta for over 25 years. We have worked together to promote the region, and the Junta de Andalucía and the European Tour have enjoyed an exceptionally strong and committed long-term partnership.”

Add the Andalucia Masters to the Madrid Masters, Castillo Masters and Iberdrola Open as Spanish events to drop off the 2012 European Tour calendar. Last year, there were seven Spanish tournaments on the European schedule. This year, the number is down to three: Andalucia Open, won by Julien Quesne; Spanish Open, won by Francesco Molinari; and the Volvo World Match ...

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Northern Texas PGA teams with school golf initiative

A seamless transition from school-based golf education to playing the game at neighboring courses.

That's the vision the Northern Texas Section of the PGA of America and TGA Premier Junior Golf intend to make a reality.

The partnership announced Aug. 30 between TGA – a franchise business that organizes youth golf programs in schools – and the Northern Texas PGA aims to better shepherd juniors and their parents into the sport.

With more than 750 members working at more than 300 facilities, the Northern Texas PGA will align with local TGA programs to develop activities and events that help shift learning from school gyms and playgrounds to courses. For example, the partnership will promote the NTPGA Team Golf initiative that introduces children, ages 7-14, to "fun, social" tournament play through 9-hole, team stroke play competition.

"By reaching the general public through school-based enrichment programs, it makes golf accessible and affordable… and the Northern Texas PGA is a perfect partner to create a pathway for growing the game and creating avid golfers for the future," said Joshua Jacobs, chief executive officer of TGA.

TGA enables franchisees to offer its golf curriculum – which also emphasizes academics, health education and character-building – at schools, childcare ...

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Trump's Scotland course among best

Bradley S. Klein

• For Bradley Klein's rater's notebook on Trump International Golf Links Scotland, click here

ABERDEEN, Scotland - Sometimes it takes several holes to realize how good a course is.

With Trump International Golf Links Scotland, the light went on in the middle of the fourth fairway, as I surveyed my second shot on a dramatic par 5 and realized I had several options – all of them with meaningful consequences for the ultimate path to the green.

That’s when I had to acknowledge that despite all the blaring horns and blithering hype about the place, this actually is a very sound layout.

But goodness, was there an awful lot of clutter and hype to sort through on the way to the first tee. Don’t these owners (and their advisers) know that when you tout a place as “the world’s greatest golf course,” it creates ridiculous expectations that no place can meet? Apparently, that’s what Donald Trump figured he needed to get the Scottish people to back him during five years of political wheeling and dealing in one of the most controversial course-development projects that Scotland – or for that matter, the entire golf industry – has ever seen.

For ...

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Highlights, lowlights from PGA's TV coverage

Martin Kaufmann

A look at some of the highlights and lowlights from final-round coverage of the PGA Championship by TNT and CBS:

8:58 a.m.: The CBS crew can barely contain their excitement as Tiger Woods birdies No. 13 to get to -1, five shots off the lead.

9:17: “Oh, boy. Oh, my goodness,” Gary McCord moans as Woods blocks his drive way right on No. 15. “That’s the closest we’ve had anyone to the ocean this week,” anchor Jim Nantz says.

10:17: Third-round play ends. TNT host Ernie (“EJ”) Johnson says final-round play will begin at 11:44 a.m. Until then, Johnson says, we’re going to be showing you some of what has gone on already. That means more Tiger highlights. I’m kind of bummed that TNT isn’t switching to the “Falling Skies” rerun that was supposed to run in this time slot.

10:18: TNT’s Vince Cellini asks Woods how he likes the long final day. “That’s why we lift all of those weights, run all of those miles is to be fit and ready for these things.” Cellini: “You’re looking good. Keep lifting, man.”

10:20: EJ ...

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PGA of America to support Sticks for Kids

Continuing its full-court press to grow the game, the PGA of America is partnering with the Golf Course Builders Association of America Foundation to expand the Sticks for Kids program.

The GCBAA's youth initiative provides golf courses with 10 sets of junior clubs for use at no charge. The program currently has 450 participating sites, with a presence in all 50 states and 17 international military bases. More than 63,000 children are playing the game as Sticks for Kids beneficiaries.

The PGA plans to pair its junior development program – the PGA Sports Academy powered by United Healthcare – with Sticks for Kids, providing youth with quality instruction with minimal or no cost.

"It’s important that the PGA of America support any program that makes clubs more accessible, and this program does exactly that,” said Allen Wronowksi, the association's president.

Since its founding in 1997, the Sticks for Kids program not only has promoted the game of golf to youth, but has served as an advocate for environmental stewardship and physical activity. The GCBAA is a nonprofit trade association for course builders and suppliers to the course construction industry. The foundation is its charitable arm.


PGA of America's team golf targets youth, parents

If there's a common complaint about the game of golf, it's this: It lacks the shared thrill and camaraderie of team sports.

Of course, there are exceptions such as the Ryder Cup, but, typically, team golf has been reserved for elite pros and amateurs. Until now.

A newly created team version of golf – endorsed by the PGA of America – not only may raise the sport's profile, but could be the long-awaited catalyst the golf industry has been seeking to spark interest among youth and their parents.

What's being called PGA Junior League Golf, industry leaders hope, will be golf's answer to Little League Baseball.

PGA Junior League Golf already is underway, albeit still in a developmental phase. But with more than 120 teams in 22 markets participating, the PGA of America just announced that the program is ready for a national rollout in 2013.

Much like other youth sports leagues, PGA Junior League Golf features teams with as many as 14 players on a roster – all adorned in team jerseys (with uniform numbers on their backs). Head-to-head matches against other teams are conducted as two-person scrambles – underscoring teamwork and reducing pressure on any one player ...

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R&A: Success will not hasten "anchoring" decision

Jeff Rude

LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England -– The fact that, for the first time, the winner and runner-up of a major championship used long or belly putters “does not have a direct bearing on the discussions” to change the rules regarding those clubs, Peter Dawson, chief executive of the R&A, said the morning after the Open Championship.

“They were going on well before what has happened yesterday,” said Dawson, mindful three of the last four major winners have used a long or belly putter. “The situation is that the R&A and the USGA do have this subject firmly back on the radar. We appreciate that there is much speculation about this and that we need to clarify the position as soon as possible. And I think you're going to see us saying something about it one way or the other in a few months rather than years.”

In the field of 156 players, 27 used long putters and 16 went with the belly version, said Jim McArthur, chairman of the championship committee. Dawson said that represents a dramatic increase over the last five years.

Dawson said the governing bodies are examining the situation “from the a method of stroke standpoint ...

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TGA franchise expands into Pacific Northwest

Golfweek Staff

TGA Premier Junior Golf, a franchise business that runs school- and community-based golf programs, has established a post in North Seattle.

Franchise rights were acquired by local businessman Brad Kirkpatrick. TGA has been welcomed by industry leaders who have made it a priority to halt slumping participation and grow the game. Though promoting golf among youngsters long has been a growth strategy, its success often has depended on volunteerism. TGA adds an economic incentive and makes junior golf a viable business venture, according to its founder Joshua Jacobs.

“Brad’s business background along with his passion for youth and sports is a perfect recipe for TGA success and growing the game of golf and impacting youth in the Seattle area,” said Jacobs, TGA’s chief executive officer. “TGA now covers every region of the country and we are very excited about the opportunity to bring our first TGA golf franchise to the Seattle area and enriching the lives of youth through our unique five level golf enrichment program.”

The TGA franchise in North Seattle is expected introduce golf programs at elementary and middle schools, child-care centers and community based organizations. Its aim is to transition students to local partner golf ...

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Royal Portrush deserves the Open Championship

Alistair Tait

PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland -- The next available date for the Open Championship is 2017. The R&A should pencil Royal Portrush into that slot. This links course deserves the game’s greatest championship.

The recent Irish Open proved that beyond a shadow of a doubt.

If the R&A wondered about the demand for big-time golf in this part of the world, all it had to do was read the numbers and weep with joy. This event sold out weeks early, and fans flooded through the gates. With the emphasis on “flooded.”

Even incessant rains couldn’t dampen the spirits of Northern Irish golf fans. It rained almost the entire third round, yet more than 30,700 poured through the gates that day alone, and attendance was 130,785 for the week. That tops the 123,000 who turned up to watch the 2009 Open Championship at Turnberry, Scotland.

“You can’t do anything about the weather, but the fans have been fantastic,” Graeme McDowell said. “They have come out in their thousands this week, umbrellas in hand. They couldn’t be stopped.”

If they couldn’t be stopped for a European Tour event, imagine their enthusiasm at seeing the world ...

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Web.com's deal comes with potential Tour business

Change often is embraced reluctantly. Just ask sports fans who have witnessed their favorite stadiums or events adopt the name of the latest sponsor du jour.

Such hesitancy, if not disdain, might follow in the wake of the PGA Tour’s recent announcement that its developmental circuit now will be dubbed the Web.com Tour. The little-known Internet services and online marketing company based in Jacksonville, Fla., replaced Nationwide Insurance as the umbrella sponsor June 27. The 10-year agreement took effect immediately.

But adding Web.com to the marquee is a “win-win” for the PGA Tour and the company, according to sponsorship experts. And as far as the fans are concerned, marketers say, they’ll get over it. Indeed, fans begrudgingly have accepted sponsorship as an integral part of modern sports business. Case in point: Since its founding in 1990, the Tour’s developmental circuit has featured five umbrella sponsors – Ben Hogan, Nike, Buy.com, Nationwide and Web.com – without suffering permanent backlash.

“Fans know that sponsorship is important to keeping any sporting event vibrant and healthy,” said Richard Burton, the David B. Falk Professor of Sport Management at Syracuse University. “Give the PGA Tour credit that they’ve been ...

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Martin: PGA Tour correct on FedEx points decision

The PGA Tour’s decision to award full FedEx Cup points to Fall Series events was the correct choice. It was the only choice. Sponsors weren’t going to spend millions of dollars for second-class status.

And that’s who this decision was meant to please: sponsors. For players, this decision makes things a little more complicated. The FedEx Cup is now almost a year-round race. Players’ buffet of tournaments just got a bit bigger. But while their options increased, the size of their stomachs did not. Star players, those with the liberty to pick where they appear, will only play so many weeks each year.

The fields of fall events will look similar when this change takes place in 2013. As announced in March, the PGA Tour season will begin in October 2013 with the current Fall Series and conclude in late September 2014 with the Tour Championship. This change is in concurrence with wholesale changes to the PGA Tour’s qualifying structure.

Players who live year-to-year on the PGA Tour are accustomed to a busy fall schedule as they try to keep their card. Now they’ll be playing these events to get an early start on their ...

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