SEWANEE, Tenn. – As a retired Episcopal minister, King Oehmig has spent a lifetime delivering a message of salvation.
So when he talks about what architect Gil Hanse’s renovation of the University of the South’s golf course will mean to this 1,500-student liberal-arts school on Monteagle Mountain, Oehmig (pronounced EM-ig) takes on an air of a revivalist.
“It has turned out to be an incredible revamp,” said Oehmig, who earned a doctorate in divinity from the school popularly known as Sewanee after having played golf at Virginia in 1969-73. “It’s one of the great stories not only in golf but in American golf.”
Golf historians might blanch at such fire-and-brimstone praise of an out-of-the-way nine-holer. But Sewanee dreamed big with this renovation, which will open to alumni for a June 7-8 tournament before welcoming public play June 9.
“Sewanee is such a unique fit,” Oehmig said. “It’s like Oxford in Appalachia, kind of out in the middle of nowhere.”
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Nature and religion have nurtured students at the University of the South since the school’s 1857 founding by the Episcopal Church. The 13,000-acre campus, dotted with buildings of locally mined sandstone, serves as a living ...
Five years ago, architect David McLay Kidd was on his way to inspect the site for a potential course in Costa Rica when his client redirected him to Nicaragua. Big difference. Costa Rica is a relatively stable democracy and popular destination for golfers and other tourists. Nicaragua is an undeveloped socialist state just two decades removed from a civil war and with no history in golf.
“Like every other westerner, I’m thinking there are going to be contras hiding in the trees with AK-47s getting ready to shoot me,” Kidd recalled, amused by the memory.
Kidd began to warm to the idea of working in Nicaragua after visiting the artsy coastal town of San Juan del Sur, then touring the project site on Guacalito Bay, on the Pacific Coast just north of the Costa Rican border. And his client, Nicaraguan mogul Carlos Pellas, proved to be persuasive.
In February, Kidd and Pellas will open the course at Guacalito de la Isla, a $250 million resort project along a part of the coast best known for its world-class surfing. Kidd now is so enamored with the region that he has begun construction on a vacation home near Guacalito’s third ...
It’s now been more than a week since the election, yet the postmortems continue. While the previous two federal election cycles in 2008 and 2010 were “wave” elections – new, energized voters emerged and rocked the electoral math – 2012 was a “turnout” election. President Obama’s formula this time around was to get every possible supporter to the polls while simultaneously driving down Gov. Romney’s turnout.
There’s a similar parallel to be drawn with golf. Right now the golf industry is putting a lot of resources behind a wave strategy, with programs designed to recruit people who have never played the game. I would suggest that the industry would be far better off pursuing a turnout strategy, in which most of its time and money is spent getting existing players to play more often.
I’m not alone in this thinking. In his “Outside the Ropes” newsletter earlier this month, Jim Koppenhaver of Pellucid Corp. wrote: “I would maintain that, in the short-term, we don’t critically need more golfers; let’s focus our shortest-term efforts on a ‘get-out-the-play’ effort to incite more engagement among those (myself included) who are already in the game but only marginally so ...
MULLEN, Neb. -- To reach Dismal River Club, visitors turn off of Highway 97 and travel 17 miles on a paved, one-lane road that ripples across the plains, occasionally cresting on a wave of asphalt that leaves one wondering what, if anything, is approaching from the other side. If it’s a Ford F150, be prepared to drop a wheel off the side of the road and keep on motoring.
Welcome to golf in the wild, vast, untamed heartland. Spanning 3,000 acres, Dismal River Club is the sort of place where one might go not just to play golf, but to disappear off the grid.
“It’s like a dude ranch for golf,” said CEO Chris Johnston, who leads the ownership group that took over the property three years ago.
Johnston bears a passing resemblance to the late comedian John Candy, and presides over the property with a similarly amusing shtick. On a tour of the clubhouse, Johnston led a guest past the bar and quipped, “Now we’re entering the wing of sin” – pointing to hand-crafted poker and billiards tables – “and atonement,” nodding toward the fitness room across the hall.
That sense of humor no doubt has come in ...
NORMAN, Okla. – Throughout his life in golf, Jerry Cozby has racked up his share of honors, as a college player and in 40-plus years as a PGA club professional.
Cozby played for two junior-college national champions at Odessa (Texas) College in 1960-61 before transferring to Lamar, where he played his last two years.
During his 41 years as head professional at Hillcrest Country Club in Bartlesville, he earned PGA section and national awards.
Retired since late 2009, Cozby, who turns 71 on June 9, reflects on a lifetime of service through golf with an honor that tugs at his heart: Golfweek’s Father of the Year.
“This award means so much to both me and (wife) Karole,” Cozby said at the recent men’s NCAA Southwest Regional. “It’s about more than just hitting a golf ball, giving a lesson or running a pro shop. It’s about family, and that’s one of the most important things in anyone’s life.”
During Father’s Day weekend at Innisbrook Resort in Tarpon Springs, Fla., Cozby will become the 30th recipient of the Golfweek award. The June 16 luncheon coincides with the annual Golfweek Father & Son Open. Previous honorees include Jack ...
San Francisco – Some 50 years ago, when he was in his early teens and a junior member at The Olympic Club, Johnny Miller often played the front nine of the Lake Course over par, but he never finished 18 underfed.
Regardless of his score, all of Miller’s rounds came with the same highlight: a refueling stop, between the 10th and 11th holes, at the snack shack run by Bill Parrish, whom Miller addressed as “Mr. Parrish” but everyone knew as “Burger Bill.”
A big-band trumpeter by training and an entrepreneur by necessity, Parrish earned his nickname in the early 1950s when he set up shop, with a trailer and a grill, alongside Lake Merced in San Francisco, just across the road from The Olympic Club.
Burgers and hot dogs were the mainstays of his menu, and fishermen were his target market, but golfers also became faithful patrons. The best-selling item was the “burger dog” – ground beef, lightly seasoned, shaped into what looked more like a sausage than a patty, and served on an old-fashioned hot dog bun.
A lot of people loved them. But enough Olympic members were so addicted that in 1954, they made Parrish an offer.
For sale: Oakhurst Links, one of America’s oldest golf clubs. Established in 1884. Original layout was faithfully restored in 1994. Nine holes, 2,235 yards. Annually hosts a national championship. Course is played exclusively with replica pre-1900 hickory clubs and gutta-percha balls. For sale at auction. Will accept best offer.
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That would be Sam Snead, who is pictured striking the first tee shot here at the 1994 reopening of Oakhurst Links. Lewis Keller smiles. Keller always smiles when he recalls his old friend.
Nearby, there’s a photo of Snead, the local hero, practicing at Oakhurst in 1938. By that time, the course had been abandoned, but Snead still came out to beat balls in the pasture. It was Snead who in 1959 persuaded Keller to buy Oakhurst Links, which Keller used as a summer retreat.
The two men first met in 1941, when Keller was a student at Maury High School in Norfolk, Va. He won a drawing to caddie for Snead at the Virginia State Open at Ocean View Golf Course, but was so intimidated by Snead that he switched bags with a classmate who was scheduled to loop for Snead’s playing partner ...
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- It’s 11 p.m. in The Greenbrier’s Casino Club, and waitresses dressed in evening gowns are passing out complimentary flutes of champagne to each guest. The uber-elegant, 103,000-square-foot casino suddenly is flooded with orchestral music – an original arrangement called “The Greenbrier Waltz,” we’re told – as two couples dance from the marble staircase to the faux springhouse in the center of the casino.
Some gamblers stop to watch and take pictures, while others seem oblivious to the dancers. An attractive young blonde at the craps table, about 20 feet from the springhouse, screams “Six! Six!” while at a nearby blackjack table a man yells, “Boom!” every few seconds.
Some, though, savor the charm of the moment. At the bar in the Twelve Oaks lounge just off the casino floor, John Love of Charlottesville, Va., has been nursing a gin and tonic and waiting for the toast. “I really enjoyed that,” Love says, almost giddy, after the dancers have departed. Love grew up near here, in the coal country of southern West Virginia, and tells everyone at the bar that as a young man he sometimes circled the ornate driveway at The Greenbrier ...
David Holland, like many Bay Area golfers, loves Sharp Park Golf Course. On May 19, he plans to be at the legendary course to celebrate the 80th anniversary of this Alister MacKenzie design. However, when most golfers return to work the next day, they’ll leave the course behind them.
For Holland, 63, Sharp Park has become his work – maybe even his calling. He tried retiring after working for the U.S. Forest Service for 34 years – the last four as national recreation, heritage and wilderness director. Then he went to work for San Mateo County, spending six years as parks director before becoming assistant county manager last year. Now much of his time is spent studying Sharp Park’s finances and operations to determine whether San Mateo should consider taking over the course on a day-to-day basis. The beleaguered course, owned and managed by San Francisco even though it sits outside of city limits, is at the center of a legal and political fight for its life.
Many of those who know Sharp Park consider it a national treasure. Holland counts himself among those who would welcome the chance to place it on firm footing – but only if it ...
It is widely accepted that Arnold Palmer popularized golf for the masses with his swashbuckling playing style and off-the-charts charisma. James Dodson, who helped Palmer write his memoir, certainly has a soft spot for The King, but insists we not forget three legends – Byron Nelson, Sam Snead and Ben Hogan – who all were born in 1912 and set the stage for Palmer’s generation and those who followed.
As Dodson recalls Snead growling, “You tell Arnold if it hadn’t been for me and old Ben and Byron, hell, nobody would’ve ever heard of him!” There’s no doubt a touch of overstatement there, but it’s clear that Dodson is sympathetic to that argument, as was Palmer, who told the author, “We all owe them a big debt of gratitude.”
The three giants dominated tournaments in the 1930s and ’40s, and in their own ways drove the game forward. Nelson, prodded by his first wife Louise’s pointed reminder that it’s the Indian, not the arrow, stopped toying with his clubs and started his “five-year transformation plan” that would reshape the modern golf swing. Snead’s sheer power and athleticism overwhelmed his opponents when he emerged from ...
LONDON – Peter Alliss has enjoyed a long, fruitful career in golf because he hasn’t taken the game too seriously. That trait shines through in his commentary.
Alliss transitioned seamlessly from a successful playing career to an equally accomplished television career because golf came secondary to his interest in human nature. “I think the reason I’ve had such a long run is due to the fact I’ve never really been that interested in the golf,” Alliss said. “I’m always more interested in what’s going on outside the ropes than inside them.”
Alliss, 81, an Englishman, will be inducted May 7 into the World Golf Hall of Fame.
On this side of the Atlantic, Alliss, aka “The Voice of Golf,” has brought the game to millions via the BBC, observing things that often elude other commentators.
Alex Hay, who died last year, marveled at his BBC co-commentator’s ability to “find amusement in the goings-on around the golf course.”
“He’d be the one to wonder aloud if the man carrying the ice-cream cone over a sand dune at the Open Championship would make it without dropping the cone,” Hay once said. “He’d be more interested ...
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done to win a bet? If you’re of a certain age, perhaps you swallowed a few too many goldfish or marathon danced for hours on end.
For J. Smith Ferebee, a 32-year-old Chicago stockbroker in 1938, the bet was to play 144 holes – eight rounds – on Olympia Fields’ four courses in a single day, walking the whole way with a caddie.
(Olympia Fields originally had four courses, but now has two.) Even for the athletic Ferebee, who was known to breeze through rounds in 90 minutes despite often struggling to break 90, the wager seemed beyond the pale. But on Aug. 5, 1938, Ferebee completed the task, starting at 5:05 a.m. and finishing at 8:12 p.m.
The accomplishment, chronicled by Jim Ducibella in “King of Clubs,” became big news in Chicago and even nationally, with Ferebee appearing on Robert Ripley’s “Believe It or Not” radio show. Then a funny thing happened: Everybody started matching or exceeding Ferebee’s feat, including Josephine Baltrusis, a Chicago housewife who zipped through 154 holes on Aug. 24, never shooting higher than 90 over 18 holes.
Before rushing home to make ...
When Moe Norman would show up on Tuesday afternoons at the practice range of Canadian Open week, the PGA Tour pros would gather around and watch him. They might be the world’s best players, but they knew they were watching the world’s best ballstriker.
Moe Norman, 1929-2004, was a strange, elfin, legendary figure who treaded the backwaters of North American golf because he was too shy and too self-conscious to pursue it head on. He lived out a sad, shabby, itinerant existence, often sleeping in his car. He looked like he hadn’t been to a dentist in decades and sported worn-out clothes and split-open golf shoes. But when he put a golf club into the big muscles of his anvil-like hands, he hit powerful shots that flew dead straight and landed soft.
In the hands of veteran Canadian golf scribe Lorne Rubenstein, Norman’s life comes to the fore with respect and admiration. The book is part memoir, part biography – a literary genre best thought of as “in search of.” There’s a central mystery to Norman’s life that Rubenstein seeks to explain but ultimately cannot. Was Norman’s ballstriking genius the product of a kind ...
There is a tendency to think that everyone who goes to Ireland does so in order to play golf. After all, Ireland has, along with Scotland, the world’s greatest collection of links courses. Research shows, however, that only eight percent of tourists visit Ireland specifically to play golf. It is, however, an important business segment because golf tourists spend three times as much as leisure travelers.
Alison Metcalfe, vice president of marketing for Tourism Ireland for the past five years, recently discussed Irish golf tourism with Golfweek.
Golfweek: What is the state of Irish tourism?
Metcalfe: Last year was a turnaround year for us, a year of recovery. Actually, 2011 was a very good year for Irish tourism, almost one of our best years. It was a year of two halves. In the first half we saw very strong growth. We started to see growth in the fourth quarter of 2010 and it continued until about August. Then things slowed down starting in September. But in 2011, from North America, we’re up about 7 percent over 2010.
We’ve actually seen an increase in our share of the North American outbound market to Europe. I think there are ...
NEW YORK -- The story of Ferry Point Park is one that only this great city could produce. It’s a story that spans decades and is filled with characters worthy of a novel.
It began more than 70 years ago with a man who came to be known simply as “the power broker.” More recently this tale has included a bombastic billionaire tycoon with a serious golf habit. The cast also includes a pair of strong-willed mayors and the greatest golfer in history.
The story line hardly could be more improbable. It revolves around the development of a major championship-quality golf course on the most unlikely of locations – an old garbage dump under a busy expressway on the East River in the gritty south Bronx. It will, in true New York form, be the most expensive municipal golf course ever built. And it’s a project that everyone agrees will lose tens of millions of dollars, in part because of costly union contracts.
This is a Tom Wolfe epic just waiting to be told. Think of it as “Bonfire of the Vanities” meets “On the Waterfront.”
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Ferry Point is a 222-acre parcel under the north side of the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge ...