Golf Bucks County

By Bob Oliver

Middletown Country Club

Middletown is a compact 80 acres of challenging golf, with rolling hills and large specimen trees that have watched many golfers travel its fairways over time. It has retained its old time feel with tees and greens in close proximity, allowing golfers to walk the course if they choose.

The Traveling Golfer

With host Tony Leodora will travel both near and far to bring viewers a look at some of the most spectacular golf destinations in the world!

PGA Tour

Will Woods regain excellence?

Written by Bob Oliver on .

It has been said that there are liars and there are damned liars, stories and stories within the story.
It would clearly not be a lie that Dustin Johnson is currently the well-deserving World Number One golfer, a spot he’s held for nearly a year.
Johnson remains ahead of Jordan Spieth, with Justin Thomas right behind. A stellar season by Jon Rahm boosted him to fourth on the list, while Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Brooks Koepka, Hendrik Stenson and Rory McIlroywound out the top 10.
All are great golfers and they have combined for a bevy of major championships. The are the face of golf’s future.
Clearly the PGA Tour has a bevy of fine young talent. Each week a player emerges in form and dazzles the fans. Yet heading into the Hero World Challenge, an 18-player event in the Bahamas, the buzz was all about one Eldrick “Tiger” Woods.
Remember him?
2017 was a disaster for him, as his reinjured back kept him from competition, playing just one PGA Tour event and one European Tour event before being shelved for the season. Oh, there was that little brush with the law.
He fell to 1,199th in the World Golf Rankings, and there was speculation he might have to leave his sticks in the shed and retire to do whatever an icon does in retirement.
Still, a lot of hard work and a little luck has propelled Tiger back into the spotlight.
He entered the Hero World Challenge with a sponsor’s exemption – given to himself by himself he joked at the time, and there was talk he might not complete four rounds pain free and even if he did hot perform in a Tigerlike way.
Those pundits were incorrect, as Tiger finished in a tie for 9th and looked good doing it. Is he back, only time will tell, but having him back means a great deal for the game of professional golf. Only a couple stumbles in the third round kept him from competing for the title.
The wind one heard around the golf world after that event was the collective breath of relief by the golf industry as he complete a great first step back.
Fact is, Tiger Woods elevates star power to a totally different level. Viewership and readership soars when Tiger is in the field.
This is not a dig at the top-10 listed earlier, or any PGA Tour pro for that matter.
They are fine players, living up to the “These guys are good” slogan.
But none of today’s players bring out the casual golf fan like Tiger. None creates his buzz of excitement. None says to the golf public, watch this event.
The Hero World Challenge has been the highest watched golf event over the 2018 season, which began a couple months back. NBC and The Golf Channel posted significant gains over other golf coverage. Everyone wanted to catch a glimpse at Tiger. Everyone had an opinion on whether he’d have a successful return.
Years ago golf fanatics complained it was all Tiger, all the Time, when speaking of golf coverage. Good players were minimized as the cameras focused on Woods.
The Big Cat would be five shots back heading into the second, third or fourth round and the coverage would center around the possibility of him charging and winning.
He won so much, was in contention so often, that the fact that he was playing and contending brought those viewers to the tube.
But statistics don’t lie, as when he plays viewership skyrockets. He alone elevated PGA Tour purses by more than 1000% over the years, and witness the Hero ratings he still brings out the eyeballs
As evidenced by the Hero World Challenge, that star-power has not been dimmed. Tiger brings buzz to an exhibition.
To give some credence to Woods past impact, the 2009 Masters had twice the ratings as the prior British Open (where Tiger missed the cut) and three times the ratings of the 2008 PGA Championship which he missed due to injury.
When Woods is in contention, TV sets are turned on to see how he does. When he’s winning, it’s a bonanza for viewers, sponsors and the PGA Tour. Star power equates to numbers, and Woods brings out the best.
If you are a sponsor of a non-major, you want Tiger in the field, as that translates into thousands of ticket sales. If you are a golf fan, you want him there as added incentive to your golf “watch.”  
With 79 PGA Tour championships and 14 majors, Tiger is not a stranger to the victory circle. But the question is, what about now?
Will Tiger dominate in 2018? No way.
But if he stays injury free, he will contend and bring out his cache and star power.
It is expected he will play a few events prior to the Masters, which will have huge ratings if he could find his way into contention. Most likely he’ll play the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, a venue where he’s claimed seven championship. Likewise the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where a friendly Bay Hill site is close to home and another venue where he’s dominated with eight wins.
At this point, one has to surmise that Tiger’s comeback is week to week, as four rounds do not a season make,
Still, the Hero World Challenge was a good first step to the comeback story, and it’s clear that advertisers, tournament directors and golf fans are holding their breath and hoping it’s a long-lasting return.
Welcome back, Mr. Woods. 

Greenbrier Classic back, better than ever

Written by Bob Oliver on .

 

 

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, WV. - There was rain in the forecast a year ago in West Virginia, but nobody expected the severity of the eventual storm.

It started to sprinkle, evolved into a downpour, and escalated from there. Soon rain became a deluge, and as the day went into the night the situation only got worse. Torrential rains savaged and caused flash flooding of streams, with things only getting worse from there.

Down at the Greenbrier Sporting Club Bubba Watson was at his vacation home for a brief respite of PGA Tour play, planning some fly fishing and downtime with his family. That expectation was cancelled as Mother Nature had a really bad day last June 24.

“I’ve lived through hurricanes,” said Watson when the storm subsided. He remembered those hurricanes that hit the Florida panhandle. “I have to say none of those hurricanes hit with the power and intensity of this storm, I never saw anything like this.”

The storms devastated the area, ravaging homes, businesses and upending lives. Homes were captured floating down rivers in what was called a 1000-year storm. Streams overflowed, roads were turned into raging rivers, storm waters spread like a virus and destroyed everything in their path. Topping the disaster was a tornado.

Low lying fields became lakes, terror was in the minds of residents as possessions were gone and years of memories erased.

“The storm hit us with everything but the kitchen sink,” explained Greenbrier Resort Pro-Emeritus and golf Hall of Fame member Lee Trevino. “Heck, we have pictures of houses floating in the streets, of cars and refrigerators floating down rivers. This area (White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia where the Greenbrier Resort is located) was devastated. It ravaged the infrastructure, it ruined businesses, and there was loss of homes and lives. I mean, storm water was measured in feet, not inches. We were wondering if Noah was going to show up at some point."

The aftermath of the storm saw 23 people killed in the West Virginia flooding, more than 1,200 homes and 100 businesses destroyed and more than 100 million dollars in losses to the area.

“I visited Louisiana after (Hurricane) Katrina,” commented Phil Mickelson, “and the devastation to this area was on that kind of scale considering the impact on the communities.”

The historic Greenbrier Resort was officially closed for business purposes but used for emergency housing as the weather’s devastating winds and rains wreaked havoc with the area.

The storm was clearly catastrophic. More than 40 counties were declared disaster areas.

Along the way, and merely a footnote to the storm losses, was the cancellation of the 2016 Greenbrier Classic, the PGA Tour event that generates millions of dollars of much needed economic value to the area.

Today, the Greenbrier County and surrounding areas are during an economic rebound, as people from all over have banded together to help with the area’s new look.

The Greenbrier Resort remains as an economic engine, and the 2017 version of the Greenbrier Classic is expected to provide a springboard step along the way to the area’s rebirth. A year ago the Greenbrier Resort served as emergency housing for displaced homeowners who saw their lives upended. Owner Jim Justice, who later in the year was elected Governor of the state of West Virginia, insisted that the Greenbrier Resort be a keystone to the after-storm actions.

“Our area was devastated, and we attempted to do whatever we could to help out the community,” explained Dr. Jill Justice, who now serves as CEO of the Greenbrier after her husband’s election to Governor. “As we look ahead to the golf tournament, we see it as an important step in normalcy. We will make it happen, as the entire community has rallied together.”

In the aftermath of the storms the entire area and friends from throughout the United States offered aid. One local program supported by the Greenbrier, Neighbors Loving Neighbors, has helped the area with its rebuilding efforts and with food drives.

“Over the last year we’ve been instrumental in the rebuilding of more than 600 homes,” explained Bibi Mamone, the Greenbrier Classic’s executive tournament director. “The NLN program has been such a success, providing support to area residents effected by the flooding, rebuilding of houses and community buildings (e.g., gymnasiums) and helping in any way we can.”

Support from The Greenbrier and the PGA Tour family has been quick and full of impact.

Donations of canned food gets one tickets to the 2017 event, following the footsteps of what was to be a hallmark of the 2016 event. For free ticket information, visit the Greenbrier Classic web site at http://www.greenbrierclassic.com/Tickets/Weekly-Badges/Weekly-Grounds

The Greenbrier golf courses – the Old White TPC designed by Charles Blair Macdonald, the Seth Raynor designed Greenbrier, and The Meadows – were decimated by the floods.

“The courses at the resort were essentially washed away. I was here with my son, and the rain started coming down in torrents, I mean, you could not see the trees on the other side of the parking lot it was coming down so hard,” remembered Trevino. “Mr. Justice made the decision to keep the courses closed after the storms and not simply do a patchwork fix on them. He wanted the courses to return in spectacular style.”

Noted golf course restoration guru Keith Foster was brought in to return the Old White TPC to MacDonald’s vision, while Mickelson will rework the Greenbrier course beginning this summer. That course was site of the 1979 Ryder Cup. The Meadows course will be updated and redesigned with the addition of 20 lots to the Greenbrier complex in the last year.

“Mr. Justice wanted, no, he demanded that we not endorse a band aid approach to the rework of the Old White TPC Course,” commented Greenbrier VP of Golf Burt Baine. “That was the correct decision. No stone was to be unturned. His orders were to do things the right way. Keith Foster took those marching orders and made sure it happened.”

On day one after the storm subsided, the Greenbrier Resort team understood the severity of the situation and plans began on how to right the ship.

“We knew how bad it was, and we committed to making all right again,” said Trevino. “Everyone got together and each aspect of the situation was divided into smaller pieces. Everyone played a part. What can we do here, what can be done there? How can we make the Greenbrier Resort a spectacular destination once again? There was no one thing, it was all encompassing. This is one hell of a team.”

All acknowledged that a strong Greenbrier Resort would be a strong centerpiece to the economic rebirth of the area. And with that knowledge, the idea that the golf courses be brought back imperative with a keen eye toward contesting a PGA Tour event on schedule a year later.

Mickelson says he’s circled the tournament’s July 3-9 dates on his playing schedule, and says he’s been lobbying other PGA Tour stalwarts to join him. Bubba Watson, 2015 “defending” champion Danny Lee, Kevin Kisner, John Daly and other top names will be in the field. As many as nine players with a major championship on their resume are expected to compete.

“I so much want to visit the Greenbrier and compete in the 2017 event,” explained Daly at the PGA Tour Merchandise Show in January. “I mean, wow, what that area had to go through a year ago with the storms. It was devastating. Anything we can do to help, we will.”

“The response I’ve been receiving has been tremendous,” added Mickelson, on site this week. “There is a strong association with the Tour, and I know there are scores of players who want to make sure this event shows the Greenbrier Classic and this area is back. We expect some real star power at the Classic.”

Tournament week will feature everything from its annual Concert Series to a Kids Zone, from autograph possibilities to the can’t miss “Learn with Lee” program put on by Trevino. Tributes to the first responders, people involved in the rebuilding of the area and friends will be front a center. And the PGA Tour players are expected to delight their fans with strong play.

It’s hard to imagine what has transpired in the last year, but the Greenbrier Classic is back.

“This place was beaten up, I mean, Mother Nature unleashed her fury,” explained Trevino. Pointing toward the flagpole near the golf clubhouse, he mentioned how high the water was at one point. “It rained a river. But while this place was down, you couldn’t count it out. We’re back!”

“Lee hit the nail on the head,” added Mickelson, who has been tasked with a redesign of what has been reduced by last year’s storm to a 12-hole course into a playable championship 18 over the next year.   “The Greenbrier Resort is back, wonderful as ever and ready for action.”

It has been a tough period for the area, but hard work and perseverance has brought the area back.

And the local community is making its way back in tandem with the resort rebirth. 

PGA Tour back...sort of

Written by Bob Oliver on .

The Delaware Valley has a storied history of men's professional golf, from numerous U.S. Open Championships to the PGA Championship. But hosting a regular tour event has long been a pipe dream.

Sponsors have not been able to back a regular season, regular, non-major championship. 

It just won't happen any time soon. 

Still, there are times when the biggest names in golf will play locally. Merion will host another open, and in August of 2018 the PGA Tour will be playing at the Aronimink Golf Club in Newtown Square in one of its four playoff events, the BMW Championship. 

Just a couple years back the Donald Ross designed Aronimink hosted the AT&T Championship for two years when its regular venue of the Congressional Country Club near Washington D.C. was being renovated in preparation for a U.S. Open. The players, and the fans, loved good old Aronimink.

It's a glass half full situation, but it will showcase golf in the Delaware Valley. 

Koepka: Remember the Name

Written by Bob Oliver on .

 

Okay, time to toot my horn. Less than a month ago on www.golfbuckscounty.com this reporter mentioned Brooks Koepka would be a player to watch in 2015 on the PGA Tour.

That prediction was met by a big "huh" by a number of commenters. Not John Huh, but huh, as in what the heck are you writing about?

Well, in Scottsdale this past week American Brooks Koepka outdistanced a star studded field to win the Waste Management Phoenix Open. The 24-year-old did it in style, ramming home a 50-foot putt on the par-5 15th hole at the Tournament Players Club for an eagle three.  His final round 66 ended the event at 15-under-par 269, one shot ahead of Bubba Watson, Ryan Palmer and Hideki Matsuyama. In an event where Tiger Woods missed the cut in his 2015 debut, Koepka was an eye opener with his performance.

Two years ago, Koepka missed qualifying for the PGA Tour. He made his way to Europe to hone his game, playing and winning on the minor league Challenge Tour to earn status on the PGA European Tour. Once there, he had an impact. He was more than comfortable, earning more than $2-million in prize money and more in endorsements. He captured the Turkish Open over a strong field and finished among the best in its season long competition.

Brooks Koepka. You may not know much about him, but you will as evidenced by his Waste Management Phoenix Open championship. Remember the name.

Tiger's to Blame!

Written by Bob Oliver on .

When last we heard from the ruling bodies of golf - the United States Golf Association and the Royal and Ancient Golf Association – the anchoring of a golf club against one’s body will be bloody against the Rules of Golf.

We’ve heard from high above that such golf strokes will be illegal effective in 2016.

Why? Because Adam Scott, Ernie Els, Webb Simpson and Keegan Bradley had the audacity to win four of the last nine major golf championships using putting strokes featuring their flat stick anchored against their body.