Joe Logan 
A few memories of Arnold Palmer
Monday, September 26, 2016
By Joe Logan

The outpouring for Arnold Palmer has been heartwarming and deserved.  He was truly one of the most remarkable American icons of the past century.


When the news alert hit my cell phone last night, and the generous and respectful tributes began to pour in, I couldn’t help but think back over my own interviews and personal encounters with The King over the years.


A few:


- Whenever Palmer was in the room, it was a pleasure to stand back and watch the adulation, the adoration.  Everyone smiled when they saw Arnie.  Everyone wanted to get a moment with him, to tell him how much they loved him.  Even very rich men swooned like little kids.  Women melted, no matter how old he was.  Arnie just exuded magnetism and charm.


Unlike many celebrities who shrink in such situations, or become aloof, Arnie basked in it, loved it.  He knew that to make fan for life, all he had to do was be cordial and, say, "Hello, nice to meet you."


One such moment still stands out in my mind.  It was late in Palmer’s Champions Tour career, when he was pretty much a ceremonial golfer but still the biggest draw in the field.  One day, when he walked off the 18th green, he was approached by a woman who began to gush over him.


I’ve seen plenty of famous people – plenty of famous golfers – who would have blown right past that woman.  Palmer did not.  He stopped and listened to what the woman had to say.


"Arnold, you probably don’t remember me," she began.  His ears perked up; he was intrigued.


She launched into a tale about how 25 or so years ago, when she was a girl, she had shyly run up to him at a tournament and asked him to autograph her visor.  He had stopped then, as now.  Now, years later, that little girl was having her second moment with Arnie, holding out that visor to show him that she still had it.


Palmer looked at the visor, then at the woman.  It was obvious he had no recollection of her or of autographing her visor.  But he didn’t tell her that.  He smiled and said, "It’s so good to see you again..."


Palmer left that woman on Cloud 9, just like he left so many other people in life.


- The first time I ever interviewed Palmer was in 1983, at a Champions Tour event outside Boston.  He was 53 at the time, no longer competitive, frustrated with his game.  But he was still Arnold Palmer, in all his glory.


For much of the hour-long interview in his hotel room, he sat at a table, autographing the stack of photos and memorabilia that get sent to him every day.


-  Palmer always gave some of the best press conferences in golf.  Many of today’s star players go through the motions of press conferences reluctantly, sometimes sullenly.  More than a few of them only show up for press conferences because the PGA Tour requires it. They don’t need think they need the press any more. If they have something to say, they’ll say it on Twitter, not to the media.


Not Palmer.  He valued his relationship with the press, and even cultivated personal relationships with many of the writers and TV people who covered him.  Ask Palmer a question and you’d likely to get a long, thoughtful, candid answer.  And he never ended a press conference until all the questions had been asked and answered.


- It was no secret that Palmer’s relationship with Ben Hogan was chilly at times.  Even when Palmer was the biggest star on the PGA Tour, you wouldn’t know it from Hogan’s reaction.


I once asked Palmer about his relationship with Hogan.  There was a long silence before Palmer finally said, "He never called me by my name..."


- I shook hands with Palmer a number of times over the years.  He had maybe the best handshake ever.  Here is a blog post I wrote about it in 2013:



When NBC’s Dan Hicks and Johnny Miller welcomed Arnold Palmer into the booth at Bay Hill a few moments ago, Hicks joked that it was good to feel Arnie’s handshake again.


I totally agree – you never forget Arnold Palmer’s handshake.


It’s not that Arnie is one of those bone-crusher guys, not at all.   His is just a firm, friendly, manly handshake.  Two quick pumps and he releases.


What makes it so unforgettable is Arnie’s hand itself: it’s big and strong and as padded as a major league catcher’s mitt.  The fingers he wraps around your hand are as thick and beefy as sausages.  You feel like you’ve fallen into the embrace of a mama bear or something.


And I don’t care who you are, or what you can or cannot do for him, Arnie looks you in the eye, smiles and says it’s good to see you.  It’s one of the reasons Arnold Palmer is one of the great ambassadors the game has ever had.


- In the early days of Golf Channel, before they had a stable full of high-priced on-air talent, it was a leaner operation.  Most nights, primetime programming consisted of Peter Kessler hosting interview shows.


For one of those shows, on Sunday nights, they flew in a steady stream of newspaper and magazine writers down Golf Channel studios in Orlando.  Oftentimes, they’d put you up overnight at Bay Hill Resort because Palmer, who owned Bay Hill, was one of the founders and early investors in Golf Channel.


I was one of the writers they flew in, probably a half-dozen times.  One Monday morning after the Sunday night show, I walked into the restaurant at Bay Hill for breakfast, before heading to the airport.  It was early and the place was almost empty, except for staff and one table over in the corner.  There sat Arnie and Winnie, just the two of them, having breakfast.


Arnie looked up in my direction and nodded.  I nodded back.  I didn’t want to intrude; I took a table on the other side of the restaurant to give them their privacy.


- I once spent the morning at the offices of Arnold Palmer Enterprises, across the road from Latrobe Country Club and only steps from Palmer’s home.  The offices also serve as a sort of Palmer Museum, full of memorabilia from his legendary career.


Palmer’s longtime, loyal assistant Doc Giffin, had promised to give me a tour.  Palmer himself wasn’t expected to be there that day but it turned out he was.   At one point, he came out of his office, shook my hand and we chatted for a few minutes, before he was off to make a phone call.


A day later, I was back, along with a couple of fellow golf writers.   Doc had invited us to play Latrobe CC, the course where Palmer grew up and which he has owned for many years.  Afterward, we had lunch in the Latrobe grill room, a comfortable, no-frills place.  It still ranks as one of my Top 10 days in golf.





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Bill Lyon 
My days at the Masters will Bill Lyon
Thursday, August 4, 2016
By Joe Logan

As I watched Bill Lyon toss out the first pitch at the Phillies game last night on TV, I must confess my eyes got a little watery.


At the risk of stating the obvious, Bill Lyon, the retired Inquirer sports columnist who is chronicling his battle with Alzheimer’s in the paper, is one of the all-time greats.


Besides being a superb and deservedly-celebrated columnist, Bill is one of the most decent men I have ever known.  He grew up on a farm in the Midwest and he has made his way through life like -- well, like a man who grew up on a farm in the Midwest.


In 33 years as the Inquirer’s premier sports columnist, Bill never wrote a cheap hit-piece on anybody, at least not that I saw.  Oh, he would take somebody down a notch or two, if they needed it, but he never did it in a mean-spirited or snarky way.  Why clobber somebody over the head with a bat when you can do the job with a hatpin?


During my 26 years at the Inquirer, Bill sightings were rare, even after I moved to the Sports Department in 1995.  You might see him in the old office at 400 North Broad Street once, twice a year, tops – the joke was that Bill was required to present himself in person to the editors at least once a year.


The beat writers who covered the Phillies, Eagles, Sixers and Flyers saw Bill more often, usually in the press box at games.  Since my beat was golf, my sightings were less frequent.


But every year, I could count on seeing Bill for a week, at the Masters.  For a stretch of years there, the Inquirer sent me and Bill to the Masters.  The Inquirer had prime seats, side-by-side, in the media center, and I always looked forward to spending serious time with a man who earned his place in the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame at the keyboard.


For an entire week, Bill and I would talk – about Augusta National, about Tiger, about office politics back home, about his dear wife Ethel, who was battling cancer and emphysema.  If he said it once, he said it a thousand times, "She’s the toughest woman I know, like a linebacker."



Daily Routine


Our daily routine at the Masters was to arrive at the media center in the morning, check our emails, read what other writers and columnists had written that day, then take a stroll around the golf course.  Bill called Augusta National the "cathedral of sports."  He isn’t much of a golfer, if at all, but he always said the Masters was his most fun week of the year covering sports.


We especially liked walking the back nine at Augusta, lingering for an hour or so at Amen Corner.  We might follow the leaders, or we might not. It would be early in the day so the daily deadline pressure had not yet kicked in.  We were both waiting to see what would unfold before we could begin planning what to write for the next day’s paper.  (This was in the days before you had to live-blog every hole, every shot, every development.)


One of the truly great benefits of covering the Masters is that press credential gives you access to the clubhouse.  Most days, Bill and I would enjoy our lunch --leisurely and luxuriously for a couple of newspaper hacks -- on the clubhouse balcony overlooking the course.  You never knew who might sit down at the table next to you – Amy Mickelson and a couple of other player’s wives, big-time sports agents, a past Masters champions, anybody from the world of golf.


No matter what we ate (burger, club sandwich, chicken sandwich), both of us invariably ordered Augusta National’s famous peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream for dessert.  Once, when ordering the cobbler, I joked to the waiter, "And don’t be stingy with the ice cream."


Bill laughed out loud.  He loved that line.  Thereafter, every time he would order the peach cobbler, he would wink at the waiter and say, "And don’t be stingy with the ice cream."



Big fan of Bill


One morning, when we were about to head out on our daily trek around the course, Bill needed to pop into the restroom.  As I waited by the door, I noticed a vaguely familiar face approaching, headed out to the course.


After a moment, it dawned on me who it was: Joe Queenan, the acerbic author, critic and essayist.  Queenan has lived in NYC for years but he has written extensively about having grown up in Philadelphia.  As is his custom, I gather, he was dressed in black, perhaps to reflect his often dark moods. "Aren’t you Joe Queenan?" I asked.


Queenan didn’t know me from lunchmeat, so he looked at me quizzically, then looked at the press credential hanging around my neck.  "Philadelphia Inquirer," he said, nodding.  Queenan told me he loved reading the Inquirer as a kid, especially the great sports columnist Bill Lyon. 


"Well, if you stand here for another minute or two, you can meet him,"  I said. Instantly, Queenan’s scowl turned into a smile.  "Seriously?"


"Seriously," I said.


When Bill walked up, I introduced him to Queenan, who proceeded to gush over him like a teenage girl meeting Beyonce.  Bill stood there with his aw-shucks modestly, thanking the stranger for his gracious comments.  When Queenan left, Bill admitted he had no idea who Queenan was.  Later, back at our laptops, I had Bill do a Google search on Queenan.  He was suitably impressed.


No techie


Like many newspaper scribes of his generation, Bill adapted to the transition from portable typewriters to laptops as best he could.  But he was no techie, not even a little.  Fortunately, Bill’s son was a techie and he had rigged Bill’s laptop to function with almost one-button ease.  Compose a column?  Two buttons, tops, to get it ready to go.  Send the column to the office?  Same thing.


Not everything worked every time, though.  Occasionally, something would go horribly wrong and Bill would panic that he might have accidently deleted his column.  Not that I am tech-savvy myself but I would stop whatever I was writing and plunge in to assist, often as my own deadline loomed.  When we would finally resolve the problem, the look of relief that would sweep over Bill’s face was unmistakable to total.


Bill’s son also had his laptop set up so that when Bill turned it off, the shutdown process would end with a photo of his grandkids that popped up, in their jammies, saying, "Night, night, Pop-Pop."  That was music to Bill’s ears.   He would listen and watch his grand kids with glee every evening, then turn to me with a satisfied grin, like the fawning Pop-Pop that he was.


His column


From a beat-writer’s perspective, there was another important thing about Bill that was impossible not to appreciate.  Even though he was the big dog, the lead columnist, before he settled on a topic for his column, he would run it past me.  "What are you planning to write?" he would ask.  "I don’t want to get in your way."


That was flat-out, nice-guy courtesy.  He didn’t have to do that.  If he wanted, Bill could have stepped all over whatever I was planning to write – that’s the prerogative of the lead columnist.  I would have had to adapt.  But he never did.  If I was already halfway through a story similar to what he had in mind, Bill would pick another topic.  He always had two or three good ideas he was considering.



Meatloaf and pancakes


In the early years, when Bill finished his column and packed up to leave the media center, I would often invite him to join a few of us for dinner, or take in one of the many functions and parties that go on in Augusta during Masters week.


Thanks, but no thanks.  Bill had his routine and he stuck to it.  Year after year, he stayed in the same modest motel on the edge of town – I think it was a Days Inn – where he could dine alone over a meatloaf dinner, or maybe the roast turkey special, then return to his room to watch whatever ball game he could find on TV.  In the morning, after a hearty breakfast and the morning paper, Bill would return to the golf course and we would do it all over again.


One of Bill’s annual rites of spring was to buy another item of Masters merchandise.  Since he is not one to drop a bundle, his trip to the merchandise center was well-considered.


Most of us come would out of the merchandise shop with two or three bags full of swag for ourselves and our friends and family back home.  Bill was a one-bag guy, usually a shirt with the Masters logo – well-made, carefully picked.  That was it.  That was enough.



Bill is what he seems like


I miss those weeks at the Masters with Bill.  Of all the high-profile people in the media I have known over the years, Bill may be the most genuine.  He does not present one face to his reading public and another behind the scenes.  He’s no Jekyll and Hyde prima donna.   He is exactly what he seems like.


As I watched Bill toss out that baseball last night, it was obvious that advancing age and Alzheimers are beginning to take their tolls.  It makes me sad.  I makes me pine for the old times on the balcony of the clubhouse at Augusta, where we could dine like kings and joke to the waiter, "And don’t be stingy with the ice cream."




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Trump Ferry Point 
Bausch Collection now has 327 course galleries
Monday, July 25, 2016
By Joe Logan

Now, where was I?


It’s been a while since I posted a fresh blog – a year and three days, to be exact.  It’s not that I didn’t write any new blogs; I did.  I wrote several, about various topics – the inconceivable irrelevance of Tiger, the gradual decline of Phil (except for the British Open), the blossoming of youngblood stars like Jordan Spieth and Jason Day, the embarrassing rules disaster at the U.S. Open, and, of course, the maddening ups and downs of my own golf game.  But in each case, after I looked back over what I had written, I’d "spike" them, as we used to day in the newspaper business.


I don’t know, I just didn’t feel like I was adding much to the conversation.


All the while, my associate Ron Romanik was blogging away.  If you read Ron regularly, you know that he does his own thing.  He writes about who or what in golf that catches his interest, which is good, because Ron is a smart guy and offers keen insights and observations.


Ron recently invited me out for a round at his new club, Coatesville Country Club, in Chester Country, which I had never played.  Coatesville, a 1921 Alex Findlay design, turned out to be a reminder that there are plenty of friendly clubs and choice courses in the area that I still haven’t gotten to. 


While I fiddled, Professor Joe Bausch has also been busy.  Last time I wrote about Joe, in July 2015, the total number of golf course photo galleries in his Bausch Collection stood at 274.  Joe has added another 53 course galleries since then, for a total of 327.


No course escapes Joe’s notice – take, for example, Mermaid GC, a nine-hole, par 3 course in Blue Bell.  It’s right there alongside elite clubs like Merion and Aronimink.  As it happens, I am familiar with Mermaid.  Twenty years ago, I used to take my son and his buddy there when they were about 10 years old. 


Joe B. has also ventured farther afield to include (so far) 10 courses in the New York City/Long Island area.  One of the most impressive is Trump Ferry Point, in the Bronx, which has some of the most spectacular vistas this side of Pebble Beach or Old Head in Ireland.  I know that because I’ve played all three.   In fact, Joe and I made the trip up to Ferry Point together, only days after it opened.


It’s hard to imagine anyone who takes more pleasure in experiencing new courses than Joe.  During the summer, when he is off from his duties teaching chemistry at Villanova, Joe tees it up at least three or four times on a slow week.


If he is not playing golf, Joe is researching golf courses, fishing around in the microfiche in the library at Villanova.  My friend and fellow golf writer Jeff Silverman, who has written club histories for Merion and Gulph Mills, credits Joe with turning up stuff about both clubs that he likely never would have come across.


Actually, I just got an email from Joe a few minutes ago.  It’s Monday (most private clubs are closed) and it’s 90 degrees outside, so Joe had no plans to play today.  But if I had something going for the afternoon, he wrote, "I could be tempted..."



For the complete list of courses Joe has added or updated since my last blog, check this out:


1.  American Classic

2.  Arrowhead Blue

3.  Fenway

4.  Ferry Point

5.  Fisher's Island

6.  Flying Hills

7.  Gambler Ridge

8.  Golden Pheasant

9.  Hay Harbor Club

10.  Huntington

11.  Inwood

12.  Kresson

13.  Meadia Heights

14.  Medford Village

15.  Old York Road

16.  Paramount

17.  Rehoboth Beach

18.  St. Georges

19.  Whitford

20.  Sleepy Hollow

21.  Wild Oaks

22.  Rich Maiden

23.  Overlook

24.  Mercer Oaks East

25.  Pleasant Hills

26.  Spring Mill CC

27.  Dauphin Highlands

28.  Glen Hardie

29.  Town & Country

30.  Forsgate CC - Banks

31.  Wedgwood

32.  Sakima

33.  Philadelphia Country Club - Centennial Nine

34.  Penn National - Founders

35.  Penn National - Iron Forge

36.  Sandy Run

37.  Worthington Manor

38.  Pocono Manor

39.  Ledgerock

40.  Oakmont

41.  Pittsburgh Field Club

42.  Chester Valley

43.  Waltz Golf Farm Par 3 Course

44.  Lawrenceville

45.  Greenacres CC

46.  Fieldstone

47. CC of Scranton – Falls Course

48. RiverCrest Golf 7 Preserve

49. Bayonne

50. Skyway

51. Mount Airy

52. Spring Mill CC Par 3 Course


Updated albums:


1.  Bella Vista

2.  Five Ponds

3.  Harkers Hollow

4.  Hickory Valley - Ambassador

5.  Jeffersonville

6.  Landis Creek (fka Limerick)

7.  Limekiln

8.  Middletown

9.  Paxon Hollow

10.  Ramblewood

11.  Shannondell

12.  Stonewall - North

13.  Westover

14.  White Clay Creek

15.  Whitemarsh Valley

16.  Upper Dublin (fka Twining Valley)

17.  Cobb's Creek

18.  Concord

19.  Juniata

20.  Ballamor

21.  Philadelphia Cricket Club - Wissahickon

22.  Patriots Glen

23.  Union League Golf Club at Torresdale (fka Torresdale-Frankford)

24.  Center Square

25.  Philadelphia Country Club

26.  Kimberton

27.  Blue Bell

28.  Green Valley

29.  Hidden Creek

30.  Lookaway

31.  Walnut Lane

32.  Makefield Highlands

33.  St. Davids

34.  Flourtown

35.  Brigantine

36.  Stone Harbor

37.  Heidelberg

38.  Aronimink

39.  Philadelphia Cricket Club - St. Martins

40.  Manufacturers

41.  North Hills

42.  Glen Mills

43.  Waynesborough

44.  Rolling Green

45. CC of Scranton

46. Mountain Branch

47. The ACE Club

49. JC Melrose

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Merionís prospects for a future U.S. Open just got dimmer
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
By Joe Logan

If you read between the lines, today’s news out of the U.S. Golf Association probably dims future hopes of Merion Golf Club getting another U.S. Open.


The USGA announced three future Open sites: 2022 is going to The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., 2023 is going to Los Angeles Country Club and 2024 is returning to Pinehurst No. 2.


It is no secret that Merion, which has hosted five Opens, including the 2013 Open, hopes to land another Open in the "mid-20s," in the words of Bill Iredale, chairman of the club’s Championship Committee.


For Merion’s hopes, the Open going to Brookline in ’22 is a gut punch.


Here’s why:  Over the past decade or so, the U.S. Open has increasingly become not only a major sporting spectacle but also the biggest moneymaker for the USGA.  To keep the money flowing, the USGA needs big venues, like Pinehurst No. 2, where daily crowds approach 50,000, not smaller venues like Merion, where crowds in 2013 were limited to about half that size.


Brookline is Boston’s version of Merion – an old, classic course that enables the USGA to demonstrate that it still cares about the legacy of the game.   But the USGA can only afford to bite the financial bullet so often.


Obviously, nothing is official.  Heck, Merion could land the Open in 2026 or 2027, but don't count on it.


For a little background, check out this exchange between Merion’s Iredale and David Fay, former USGA executive director turned Golf Digest columnist.


Today, after the announcement, I spoke with Iredale to find out if the club had any reaction.  He composed his thoughts in an email, which is has agreed to let me quote:


We knew of (or were pretty sure of) '22 and '23. We did not know of '24 but are not surprised. Pinehurst is a terrific Open venue. We are now hoping for '26.


We have a good feeling about hosting the Amateur in '30. In the meantime we are hosting the GAP AM next year, the Women's Eastern Golf Assoc AM in '19 and the Pa AM  in '21.


So we are content with what we have in store but maybe, once again, it will get even better. In '04 and '05 we were content with the upcoming '05 Am and the '09 Walker Cup. Then we were awarded the '13 Open.


Deja vu is possible!





Truth be told, these days, Merion is probably a better venue for smaller events, like the U.S. Amateur and Walker Cup.  In Iredale’s email, the Amateur in 2030 obviously refers to the 100th anniversary of Bobby Jones winning the Grand Slam at Merion.


If Merion never hosts another Open, so what?








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Great Womenís Open, great Lancaster CC, bad FOX
Monday, July 13, 2015
By Joe Logan

LANCASTER – The verdict is in and it is safe to say that Lancaster Country Club just pulled off one of the best U.S. Women’s Opens in a long, long time.


Everything about the Open this past week was first-rate.  The players loved the golf course, which, by the way, was in immaculate condition.  USGA officials were practically giddy over how well-received the championship was the by Lancaster community.  On the weekend, there were 25,000 spectators a day.   I’ve been to Women’s Open’s where I doubt they had that many fans all week.


A big ingredient for success was taking the Women’s Open to a small- to mid-size market, where locals appreciated it and supported it in ways that big cities often don’t.


"It’s great when you're the biggest story in town for the week," one USGA official told me.


My guess is, the USGA will take the Women’s Open back to Lancaster CC as often as the club is willing to host it.  It sort of makes you wonder why it took these two so long to get together in the first place.


FLYNN GEM:   Another thing the Women’s Open did was raise the stock of the Lancaster CC.  I’ve played it a number of times over the years, and I walked it again ta couple of times during the Open.  The inescapable conclusion is that Lancaster CC is one of William F. Flynn’s finest designs.


If you could somehow hook it to a trailer hitch and drag it 50 miles closer to Philadelphia, Lancaster CC would be regarded as perhaps the finest Flynn courses in town, right up there with Huntingdon Valley CC and Rolling Green GC.  You could make a strong argument that it would be the No. 3 course in the area, behind only Pine Valley GC and Merion GC.


KOREAN DOMINATION:      If we needed any further proof, the Women’s Open demonstrated that women’s golf in America is dominated by Koreans.   Much of the time on Sunday, the only non-Korean surname on the leaderboard was Stacy Lewis.


You can debate all you want about whether that is a good thing or a bad thing for women’s golf, but it is most certainly a thing.


FOX HUNT:  FOX Sports is only two championships into its gazillion dollar, long-term contract with the USGA, and I’m no TV critic, but so far, I am underwhelmed.


When the FOX deal was announced last year, I recall a certain amount of insinuation that NBC Sports was too ho-hum, old-school, that FOX would introduce a modernized, jazzier presentation.  Cool commentators, innovative graphics – the kind of stuff that FOX has brought to the their NFL coverage.


So far, I’m not seeing it.   Either FOX vastly underestimated how tough it is to produce golf tournaments, or the USGA vastly overestimated what FOX brought to the table, other than much, much more money than NBC.


The viewers are the losers.   In the booth, the biggest disappointment is Greg Norman.  He may be a Hall of Fame player, and a shrewd, self-made millionaire many times over, but in the booth, he’s a journeyman.


I’ve sat through enough Greg Norman interviews and press conferences to know that he is plenty smart, and thinks quickly on his feet.  So, why is he finding it so difficult to bring that A-game to his commentary?  Johnny Miller anticipates the next shot, and senses what a player is thinking, then he lays it all out there for the viewer, without fear or favor.  Norman seems to be reacting to what he sees on the monitor in front of him – and a bit timidly at that.


For Johnny Miller, his livelihood depends on his insightful and candid commentary. For Norman, this FOX thing is only a side gig, a break from his golf course design and many business interests.  You’ve got to wonder whether he wants to be a TV guy badly enough to devote the time and effort to be as good as viewers deserve.



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Joe Bausch[7/14/2015 7:42:13 PM]
This tournament was simply the best. Congrats to all involved.

Jim Smith Jr. at the 18th on Wednesday 
Philadelphia Cricket wins the 48th Club Pro Championship
Thursday, July 2, 2015
By Joe Logan

Endings don’t come much crueler in golf tournaments than the way Ben Polland melted down Wednesday on the 72nd hole of the PGA Professional National Championship at the Philadelphia Cricket Club.


It was painful to watch.  I was sitting just off the 18th green when the whole thing went down.


Polland, 24, an assistant pro at Deepdale GC in New York, held a four-shot lead for much of the final day.  But by the time he reached the 72nd at Cricket’s Wissahickon Course, his lead over playing partner Matt Dobyns was down to two.


But Polland was cruising.  He appeared to be in command of himself and the tournament.  It was truly his to lose, which he did.


A so-so tee shot left him with an awkward lie in the fairway bunker at Cricket’s 18th, a hole notorious for wrecking good rounds and upending the outcome of matches.  Foolishly, one might suggest, Polland, 24, tried to muscle a 7-iron out of a bad lie, to reach the green.  Instead, he found the creek that crisscrosses the 18th fairway.


Polland had no choice but to take a penalty drop, then he hit his fourth shot to 10 feet.  He putt – and his attempt to escape with a bogey – came up short of the hole.


Meanwhile, Dobyns, 37, head pro at Fresh Meadow CC in Lake Success, N.Y., a wily veteran and winner of the national club pro championship in 2012, hit his approach shot to four feet and smoothed in the birdie putt.


Poof, a three-shot swing, just like that.  Dobyns walked off the green with the win and a $75,000 check.  Polland walked off the green looking like somebody had hit him in the gut with a fungo bat.


Afterward, he lamented the crummy lie in the bunker and his effort, in hindsight, to go for the green.


Dobyns took no pleasure in watching Polland crash and burn.  "When he hit the ball and it went in the water, I was shocked," said Dobyns.  "I felt really bad for him, because I know Ben and know him well."


Besides Dobyns, the big winner of the week of Philadelphia Cricket Club, which staged the event magnificently.  Dan Meersman, director of grounds, had both the Wissahickon and Militia Hill courses groomed to perfection, despite the 1½ inches of rain that pounded the area the night before the championship started.


Also earning a bow was Jim Smith Jr., director of golf at Cricket.  He all over the place – on Golf Channel, in the pro shop, schmoozing like the pro he is.  On Wednesday, Smith spent the entire afternoon standing behind the 18th green, greeting every single player in the field as they concluded their rounds.  He got a lot a slaps on the back.






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Juicy reading about Merion on the eve of the U.S. Open
Tuesday, June 16, 2015
By Joe Logan

Although I missed it in Golf Digest’s U.S. Open preview issue, there was some very interesting reading, especially for the folks at Merion Golf Club .


In his monthly column for the magazine, former U.S. Golf Association executive director David Fay weighed in with his thoughts on potential venues for future U.S. Opens.  The headline was, The Odds of Hosting a U.S. Open are Getting Tougher.


Merion, host of five Opens, including the 2013 Open, more or less gets dissed.


Remember, David Fay is a man who played no small role in helping Merion land the ’13 Open.  It was Fay, then executive director, who dispatched Mike Davis, now his successor, to head down to Merion to break the news to the storied club that its days of hosting Opens were over.   The course was too short, the property too cramped.


But once Davis got to Merion and took a good long look at the restored East Course, he thought otherwise.  Davis returned to USGA headquarters in Far Hills, N.J., and did everything he could to change’s Fay’s mind.  That led to Fay’s own visit to Merion and, he too, changed his mind.  The rest is well-documented history of an Open that generally got rave reviews.


Now comes Fay’s June column that basically handicaps club’s chances of staying in the Open rotation.


Fay writes:


The Open dance card has become overcrowded, and the list of very attractive wallflowers is growing.


For much of the 20th century, the Open was played at private clubs near large and mid-size cities. Unlike the British Open with its rota of 10 seaside links courses, the U.S. Open has been a movable feast, with no formal rotational schedule. In the past 50 years, the U.S. Open has been played on 23 courses.



Next, Fay offers his personal predictions about who’s in, who’s out:


At the top of his list as "locks every 10 years" are Oakmont (8 Opens) and Pinehurst No. 2 (3 Opens).  He describes Pebble Beach and Shinnecock Hills as "locks" every 10 years, too, presuming the clubs are willing to host the Open.


 A few more predictions later, Fay’s column gets very interesting.  To wit:



Merion (five Opens)

The Country Club At Brookline (three Opens)

These two squared off for the right to host the 2013 Open. At the time the decision was made, The Country Club's composite course had yet to be reworked by Gil Hanse.


Merion would need to get the full support of the community as it did in 2013. It worked then, but with the changes in the game and the size of the place, could it succeed 25 years from now? That's probably too much of a gamble. The members would have to consider whether another Open could hurt Merion's reputation. If so, it might be time to step aside, as Myopia Hunt did after its fourth and final Open in 1908.


Another Open could hurt Merion’s reputation?  It might be time to step aside?


This, despite the fact that it is a badly kept secret, if it is a secret at all, that Merion has already reached out to the USGA about hosting another Open in the 2020s, and it definitely wants to host the 2030 U.S. Amateur on the 100th anniversary of Bobby Jones winning the Grand Slam there.


I couldn’t help but wonder what Merion thought about Fay’s column – specifically Bill Iredale, chairman of the club’s Championship Committee.  If anybody knows about whether Merion might be thinking about stepping aside, it is Iredale.


Turned out, Iredale hadn’t seen Fay’s column, either.  When I sent him a link, he most definitely had a reaction, which he put in writing in the form of a letter to the editor of Golf Digest.  Iredale sent me a copy as well and gave me permission to quote from it.


What the heck, here’s Iredale’s letter in full:


I consider David Fay to be a friend and supporter of Merion Golf Club. We worked together to have the USGA conduct the '05 Amateur, the '09 Walker Cup and '13  Open at Merion. But, based on his comments in this article, he may not be aware of the level of commitment of the Merion membership to continue with our Championship story.


The Merion membership feels strongly that we are a golf club and one that enthusiastically supports championship golf. After the '13 Open the Board of Governors authorized our Championship Committee to continue to have the Club host smaller, but meaningful championship events. Merion will host the Golf Association of Philadelphia Amateur in 2016, the Women's Eastern Golf Association Amateur in 2019 and the Pennsylvania Golf Association Amateur in 2021.


After a brief rest, Merion hopes to host a U S Open in the mid 2020s and the Amateur in 2030, the centennial year of Bobby Jones completing the Grand Slam with his Amateur win at Merion.


Those invitations are in the hands of the USGA.


As to the crucial "support of the community" there is no doubt, based on the post '13 Open comments we have received, that Pennsylvania, Haverford Township, Haverford College and our immediate neighbors would enthusiastically support those future USGA Championships at Merion.


So.....The USGA may not accept Merion's Open invitation for the mid 2020s but the Club does not plan to step aside and we are not worried about our reputation....any more than we were before our 7000 yard East Course hosted the '13 Open. And, everyone knows how that turned out. The Championship story at Merion will continue!


Bill Iredale

Chairman Championship Committee

Merion Golf Club





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