PRESS PASS
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:

 

MAYBE EVERY 25 YEARS

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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The Squeeze...I wish it was better
Tuesday, June 2, 2015
By Joe Logan

I have finally watched the latest golf movie, The Squeeze, and I am here to report that it is better than I expected but not as good as I had hoped for.  Oh, well.

 

Granted, you can count the truly inspired, well-done golf movies on a couple of fingers (Tin Cup, The Greatest Game Ever Played), three if you are among the many people who regard Caddyshack as an comedy achievement and enduring cult classic.   Even if Caddyshack can elicit several good laughs from me, I personally have always been a little embarrassed for the game of golf that such buffoonery represents the pinnacle of the genre.

 

In the case of The Squeeze, it is the first time I can recall feeling that the golf action – the actual playing of the game in the movie – surpasses a supposedly true story that nonetheless strikes me as a bit hokey.

 

If several industry indicators mean much, know that The Squeeze did not spend much time in theaters, before going to DVD, streaming and downloadable on iTunes.   In the old days, they called that going straight-to-video.

 

The plot revolves around a likeable small-town, half-poor Southern kid, Augie, who turned himself into a shockingly excellent self-taught golfer.   Augie is so good, in fact, that he gets recruited against his better judgment (and the complete opposition of his girlfriend) by a sleazy gambler named "Riverboat" to hustle rich guys out of their money on the golf course. 

 

After a couple of early hustles, they head to Las Vegas, where the stakes get into the millions and death threats start to come at Augie from every direction.  The movie takes you to the precipice of life-and-death drama, then, poof, wraps everything up very nicely in short order.  What, that’s it?

 

The Squeeze does have its admirers.  I came across a couple of favorable reviews on line.  And just yesterday, I was playing golf with a guy from Las Vegas, where much of the movie was filmed.  I asked him if he had seen The Squeeze yet?

 

"No, but I want to," he said.  "I hear it’s really good, with a great story."

 

 

 

 


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More love for Philadelphia Cricket
Wednesday, May 6, 2015
By Joe Logan

Finally, Philadelphia is starting to get some of the golf tournaments it richly deserves.

 

In June, the newly-restored Philadelphia Cricket Club Wissahickon Course will host the National Club Professional Championship.  For club pros across the country, this is the biggest deal all year.  It’s also a great tournament for fans.

 

Then, in 2018, Aronimink GC will host the BMW Championship, the penultimate FedEx Cup event of the year on the PGA Tour.  This, no doubt, is thanks to the fine job Aronimink did as fill-in host of the then-AT&T National in 2010 and 2011.  It also bodes well in the club’s quest to land a major or a Ryder Cup.

 

Earlier this year, the USGA announced that Cricket’s Wissahickon course will host the 2020 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball, a new much-anticipated event. 

 

And just yesterday, the PGA Tour announced that it is bringing the 2016 Senior Players Championship to Cricket and the Wissahickon course.

 

For local golf fans, this is a bonanza that was long in coming.  For Philadelphia Cricket, which has often found itself in the shadows of Merion GC, Aronimink GC and Pine Valley GC, this trio of tournaments -- the National Club Pro, the Senior Players and the Amateur Four-Ball -- is nothing less than a major conquest and sign of respect.


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Steve[5/7/2015 4:05:14 PM]
Yes, it’s about time. I foresee more. How about a US AM at Cricket using their 2 courses? Foster’s restoration of the Tillinghast course has brought the club into the higher echelon of classic courses, jumping from 102 to 32 on Golfweek’s ratings of Classic courses.

My first round of 2015 is in the books, and it was a doozy
Monday, April 27, 2015
By Joe Logan

My first round of the young golf season is finally in the books and, let me tell you, it was a doozy.

 

Before Saturday, my last round was Dec. 10th, in Arizona, during an annual golf trip/confab for golf writers.  That trip is always good to get in a few mid-winter rounds, plus catch up with my old pals from the golf circuit.

 

Back home in Philadelphia, my first round of the year is usually when we get the first day of decent weather.  I’ll drop whatever I’m doing and go play.  Some years that’s mid-March, some years, mid-April.

 

This year has been different.  Not that we haven’t already had good weather; we have.  There have been four, five, maybe six days just in the past three weeks that I was itching to grab the clubs and head out the door.

 

Problem was, ever since Easter, I have been nursing a sprained left ankle.  It’s not the worst sprain I’ve ever had, but it blew up like a volley ball, turned black and blue, and hurt like hell.  I’ve been hobbling around, to some degree, ever since.

 

I wish I could say the sprain was due to some impressive athletic endeavor on my part.  Not so.   Rather, that Sunday night three weeks ago, walking to my car in the dark, with my arms loaded with stuff, I stepped in a small hole, rolled my ankle and went crashing to the ground like a 100-pound sack of potatoes.  I slammed into the side of my car so hard I put a little dent in it.  Before I even tried to get up, I laid there for a minute or two taking a personal physical inventory. 

 

Head?  There was blood over my eye.  My twin titanium hips?  Much to my relief, they felt fine.  Elbows and knees?  Scrapped and a little bloody but nothing to worry about.  Ankle?  Not so good.  Instantly, as I laid there, I had visions of my golf season being postponed until about August.

 

I proceeded to do all the things you can do for a sprained ankle:  Iced it, elevated it and rested it for the rest of the night.  The next morning, I went to the drug store and bought one of those maximum-support ankle braces.  Still, golf or any serious activity was out of the question, at least for a while.

 

Then, about a week ago, I got a call from a friend.  He and I had been invited by another mutual friend to play golf on Saturday at his club.  His club is Pine Valley.

 

I believe you can appreciate my dilemma.

 

I hadn’t swung a club or hit a ball in more than four months.  My ankle, while improved, was at best 75 percent, not to mention untested.  You can only take so much Advil without doing yourself harm.  And, of course, Pine Valley is not only a walking-only course, it is a beast of a walking course.

 

Still, Pine Valley is Pine Valley, bum ankle be dammed.   So, I gamely showed up at Pine Valley on Saturday morning, sporting a new, lighter compression ankle brace under my sock.  I was going to play if they had to carry me around on their shoulders like some kind of Egyptian pharaoh.

 

My swing was as rusty and creaky as an old barn door latch.  Much to my surprise, I was able to hit my driver pretty well.  My iron game stunk to high heaven, and around the greens I had all the finesse and touch of a blacksmith.

 

Since it was Pine Valley, and a gorgeous afternoon, so I tried to keep my whimpering and complaining to a minimum.  I hobbled and limped, struggling to keep up with the others, which can be tough on some of the sandy footpaths at Pine Valley.

 

One of the other guys in the group kept score in our little $2 Nassau match, and he was kind enough not to bring the scorecard to the table afterward at lunch. But, out of curiosity, when I got home, I sat down and reconstructed my round as best I could from memory.  I will tell you I had a handful of pars, several double-bogeys, two triples, one snowman and an "X," which I tallied as a second snowman.  On the positive side of the ledger, I had one tap-in birdie.  All I will disclose is that I shot somewhere north of 90, but south of 100.  Just another day at Pine Valley. 

 

Anyway, my season is officially underway.

 

 

 

 

 


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Michael Bamberger’s new book ’Men In Green’
Thursday, April 23, 2015
By Joe Logan

If you’re looking for a good golf book to read, let me point you toward Michael Bamberger’s recently-released, Men In Green.

 

Bamberger, a senior writer at Sports Illustrated, is a friend, occasional golf partner and former colleague, dating back to our days together at the Philadelphia Inquirer, so I won’t pretend to present this as a totally objective book review.  It is not. 

 

That said, in my unbiased opinion, Bamberger is one of the best, if not the best, writer of his generation when it comes to golf and the people and issues associated with the game.  That’s what this book is all about – mini-profiles and stories about 18 people Bamberger has encountered or come to know and respect along the way in his career and golf travels.

 

He divides them into two categories:  "Living Legends," such as Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson; and "Secret Legends," which includes people you may or may not have heard of. 

 

Excerpt on Arnold Palmer and video interview with Bamberger

 

Among the "Secret Legends" is another top golf writer and friend, Jaime Diaz, contributing editor at Golf Digest and editor of Golf World; also on the list are two folks with Philadelphia connections:  Neil Oxman, who leads a double life as a political consultant and as Tom Watson’s caddie; and Chuck Will, a character if ever there was one and a man who spent about three decades as the top deputy to CBS’s Frank Chirkinian, who virtually invented the modern golf telecast.

 

There is one woman on the list, Mickey Wright, who many believe possessed the finest golf swing ever, by man or woman.  Because she has pretty much withdrawn from public life, the LPGA legend declined to fully participate in Bamberger’s effort, even if she was nothing less than gracious in rebuffing him.

 

Some of the best stuff between the covers of Men In Green is Bamberger’s many encounters with Palmer, who he admires and reveres immensely; and Nicklaus, who is his ultimate golf hero.  Bamberger’s take on the late Ken Venturi, the former U.S. Open champion and CBS golf analyst, evolves over time from good to, shall we say, less flattering.

 

If there is a main theme running through the book, it is Bamberger’s close, enduring and complicated friendship with Mike Donald, a former journeyman PGA tour pro whose moment in the spotlight was losing the 1990 U.S. Open to Hale Irwin in a sudden-death playoff.

 

Donald, confidant and an invaluable source of facts, history and insights on golf and golf people, rode shotgun in Bamberger’s old beater of an Subaru Outback on many of their cross-country road trips/interviews.  The dynamic between the two is worth the price of admission for any shrink, couples therapist or anyone trying to maintain a marriage or relationship.

 

I often judge books by whether I dread picking them up or whether I can’t put them down.  Men In Green is the latter.

 


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Spieth vs. McIlroy: The dawning of a rivalry
Monday, April 13, 2015
By Joe Logan

As much fun as it was watching young Jordan Spieth’s to wire-to-wire win in the Masters, the implications for the future of the game are even more exciting.

 

Golf always benefits from a good rivalry, and now that Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson is winding down after almost two decades, what better time to welcome the dawning of Rory McIlroy vs. Jordan Spieth battling it out for World No. 1 and every major championship title for the next 20 years?

 

Besides being golfing prodigies of the highest order, McIlroy and Spieth are both quite likeable and marketable, even if they are a little white-bread boring for some fans’ tastes.  But so what?

 

Now, if only money, fame and the inevitable temptations that come with both don’t bring them down (see: Woods, Tiger), we could have a good thing going for a while.

 

I don’t know about you, but I’ve already had my fill of Bubba Watson.


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