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.

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07 May
2019

LPGA's Park nearly "Retired" at 23

Written by Bob Oliver
 
 GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP, NJ --- Golf is a wonderful, testing, invigorating game. Oh, it’s anything but easy. If anything, it’s perplexing. It’s a game with a myriad of twists and turns which send some players to a championship while others to golf’s funny farm.
“It’s a game that can be hard to figure out, one where you think you have and all is well one day and the next comes unexpected adversity,” commented none other than Phil Mickelson several years ago.
One can have all the credentials, yet still not become a star. Mental challenges can outweigh physical ones. As Dennis Milne, the late Trenton Country Club pro, once told me, “I had a perfect shot on a par-3 hit the flagstick and bounce out of bounds.”
And this is fun?
You bet.
For years Annie Park build an impressive resume winning at the junior, collegiate and professional level, claiming top honors on the Symetra Tour. She graduated to the LPGA Tour in 2016 with high expectations but little to show for it. Park and the Tour just didn’t click.
What was supposed to be an easy transition didn’t happen, and so so efforts were interspersed with missed cuts and confusion.
Putting was a problem, and admittedly she went through eight different putting techniques.
At the depths of 2017 she seriously considered “retiring” from professional golf and dusting off her game for a job in journalism or marketing.
It wasn’t until her older sister Bo sat her down and gave a motivational kick butt talk that screwed Park’s head back on straight. “In a nutshell, she said I had talent, I was doing good things, but was overanalyzing things, letting things get inside my head,” said Park in the Stockton Seaview clubhouse this week. “Yes, I was struggling, but I also had a lot going for me. Everyone has a goal of playing the Tour, and here I was with my ticket. I had the game to make it work.
“I got a great talking to from Bo, that I needed to give it a shot, by best shot. Nothing less. She didn’t want me looking back with regrets. It struck home to me.”
Something Bo said struck a responsive chord, and Park began slicing and dicing the building blocks required to make it happen. With practice and dedication the long putter began working, and pitfalls became opportunities.
At the 2018 ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer Park entered the event closest to her native Long Island with optimism. Seaview’s Bay Course was, as usual, windy, difficult but fair, and Park was up to the challenge. She had confidence from a sixth place finish there the prior year, and was dedicating game toward optimism rather than worries.
Park completed three trips around the Donald Ross designed Bay Course in 16-under-par 197 that earned her a winning check of $262,500. That was slightly more than she had earned in her prior 47 LPGA events. Her closing 63 was sparkling effort.
The LPGA’s best, such as Juli Inkster, Betsy King, Stacy Lewis, Annika Sorenstam and Nancy Lopez had already won here, so Park’s name is in Hall of Fame company.
“Last year here was magical,” said Park, holding her young puppy Lexi. “It was a major weight off my back. I have confidence and believe other good things are coming.
LPGA NOTES --- The tournament has generated more than $34M in charitable donations over the year, and each season’s event generates more than $19M in economic development for the greater Atlantic City area…The event recently signed on to host the tournament through 2023.
10 Apr
2019

Players settling in to new rules

Written by Bob Oliver
 
 
 
It has been said that rules are made to be broken. But in golf, for real golfers, rules are the standard of play wanted and desired so that all competitors can battle evenly. 
Oh, sure, 80% of golfers do not have a "real" USGA handicap. 
One hears on the first tee, "I'm a 15". And then you watch that player shoot 80....or 100.
Still, even casual golfers tend to frown upon mulligans on every hole, gimmie putts of 20 feet for par, or moving a ball from outside the stakes inside the playing course.
The USGA completed a massive re-write of the rules with goals such as speeding up play, making rules more understandable, and overall simplifying a difficult game. While this reporter consistently points out strangeness of the USGA brain trust, the rule changes implemented for 2019 do make some sense. 
Right off the bat, one may leave the flagstick in the hole while on the putting green. There is no penalty for hitting the stick.  
For me, this makes sense. Heck, my eyes are bad. It's a whole lot simpler to leave flagstick in the cup while putting than having this guy stomp here, that guy wanting you on other side of hole, pulling and leaving on green for one player, tending pin for another.  While this can still occur, many of the regular players I compete with leave the pin in at all times. 
On a January day in Florida, nobody removed the flagstick from the hole the entire round. Not once.  And there was nary a problem. 
Another change was dropping ball from knee height.  Other than some asking what is knee height, it seems simple enough.
Also, on those pesky lost balls, you have three minutes to look for it rather than five. A time-saver. 
One can ground their club in a penalty area, repair spike marks, remove loose impediments in bunkers and play ready golf. 
A few seconds here and there and minutes are cut from the length of time it takes to play a round. 
One major play change that affects most golfers is the alternative to the former stroke and distance penalty for a lost ball or out of bounds shot to add two strokes to their score and drop a ball in the fairway rather than trudge back to the tee and take another stab at things. Now, this is not the case if one has played a provisional ball. In such a case you check for the circumstances of the first ball (OB?, Lost) and if it is either playing the provisional ball is the option. 
Overall, the new rules appear to be speeding up play, which for most means a more enjoyable game. It's nice the USGA is taking a step forward in this area.