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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01 May
2017

Nordqvist eyes ShopRite 3-peat

Written by Bob Oliver

 

GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP, NJ --- It is easy for golf fans to believe that professional golfers have the life, from private jets to multiple homes to “help”.

True, for some at the top of their game, and mostly PGA Tour stalwarts.

In the world of women’s professional golf the purses are smaller and the elite number in the handful, or less. It’s a whole different world.

Not that the golf isn’t good. On the LPGA Tour it’s week in, week out outstanding. Competitive. Fun to watch.

Still, the “life” is somewhat different.

There are planes to catch…hoping for an upgrade. There are outfits to pack. There are normal responsibilities. It can be all encompassing, and it puts a toll on relationships and friendships.

Anna Nordqvist has seen it all. She’s a seven-time winner on the LPGA Tour, including the last two LPGA ShopRite Classics presented by Acer. She was runner-up in last season’s U.S. Women’s Open. She’s won three tournaments on the Ladies European Tour. Her resume is solid, and along the way she’s earned more than $8,000,000 worldwide.

But it’s not all fun and games for the 29-year-old Swede.

“It can be a grind, it’s very difficult to be with your family and friends when many are not in the United States,” explained the runner-up in the 2017 U.S. Women’s Open. “I kinda like the (Atlantic City) area and this golf course because it brings out the best in players. And it’s a venue where my mother has come over (from Sweden) to watch. It’s been so satisfying winning with her nearby. She’s a good luck charm.”

Now a resident of Florida, Nordqvist has a limited group of friends, but made a goal this year of spending more time away from the game. Picking her spots. Enjoying life as well as the game. She still practices and works on golf but she’s expanded her life horizons and friendships.

“Of course I think of relationships, starting a family, doing things outside of golf. And while golf is my number one priority right now I am cutting back a little of my schedule to enjoy life. I need to find ways to refresh myself, and that means playing a little less and doing other things. I must be a person, and not just a professional golfer.”

As with any goal, it’s not easy, as the Swede really wants to compete on the Solheim Cup team this fall for countrywoman captain Annika Sorenstam, which means she has to play a handful of European events. Thus, a recent tourney in Spain.

“Annika has been a great inspiration, so there’s nothing I want more than to be on her team,” said Nordqvist, who turns 30 later this year. “It’s been a while since I arrived in America with two suitcases and a golf bag to play college golf in Arizona. There are things I still need to accomplish.”

One goal is to three-peat at Stockton’s Seaview Resort, where a year ago she carded rounds of 64-68-64 for a 196 and successful title defense.

“Our tour is very competitive, and each week the best players in the game really go after it,” explained the one-time youth swimmer who would be a graphic designer if not a professional golfer. “Seaview is an outstanding course. It’s not that long, but it is immensely difficult with the fescue grasses and postage stamp sized greens. And when the wind turns itself on, wow, what a challenge.”

The ShopRIte LPGA Classic presented by Acer annually brings more than $19-million in economic benefit to the greater Atlantic City area, and regularly sees a great LPGA player win the event. In its 29 years names like Sorenstam, Juli Inkster, Cristie Kerr, Karrie Webb, Stacey Lewis and Brittany Lincicome have claimed championships. Nordqvist is proud to be part of that group.

“Strong players win here because the (Donald Ross designed Bay Course) is compact, tight and full of challenges. Hit the wrong side of the green and you will roll off and be looking at bogey. You have to be at the top of your game to win here,” said Nordqvist. “I love this place.”

Several years ago Nordqvist, despite her successes, considered giving up the game.

“I was lost for a while, I just was unsure about everything,” remembered Nordqvist. “I missed my friends in Sweden and from college, and I really missed my family. When you are in college you are so busy, going to classes, playing golf, doing those things full-time. That changed after turning pro, because you are always on the road and friends and family are in the background.

“I had some difficult months, went through some bumps in the road, and set some goals. I no longer think about quitting golf, but of doing the right things on and off the course. I’m at peace with myself and my game.”

Nordqvist smiled, took a deep breath, and stated: “I want to enjoy the moment.”

Seaview and the ShopRite Classic is a great moment in time for the Swede.

CHIP SHOTS: This will be the 29th playing of the event, and Nordqvist is the first to successfully defend her title….The Swede has 57 top-10 finishes…She was involved in call-in controversy last year at the Women’s Open, where a viewer dropped a dime on her and later she was penalized, causing her to lose that championship. At the time she was above the controversy, but admits it hurt…Neshaminy’s Brittany Benvenuto is in the tournament field, playing before "local" fans for the first time as an LPGA member. 

16 Apr
2017

This dog learns new tricks

Written by Bob Oliver

If there ever was a golf Cinderella story, it simply must be the assent of Wesley Bryan to PGA Tour Champion.

The South Carolina native has been a media darling for years, competing in the golf reality show Big Break and entertaining with his brother George with their trick shots on You Tube. The Bryan Brothers videos have been viewed by nearly 10 million people on the latter, where their “Rapid Fire” and “Range Picker Shots” are legend.

Novelty items, sure. But there is no doubt Wesley Bryan can play at golf’s highest level. He proved it at the Heritage Classic where he carded rounds of 69-67-68-67 for a 13-under-par 271 and the championship. Clutch pars on the final two holes sealed the deal over Luke Donald.

No more double takes from fans who wonder if he could really play, because he’s proved he surely has game.

What is remarkable is how quickly the transition from showman to stardom has occurred. A 2012 University of South Carolina grad, Bryan and George played in mini-tour events while perfecting their trick shot routines. Everything from George hitting a sand shot that Wesley hits in the air to a fairway a couple hundred yards away to, well, unbelievable shots from all over a driving range or golf course.

The internet was abuzz with their trick shot antics, but along the way the goal of competitive golf success was always first and foremost.

Last year saw Wesley Bryan on the Web.com Tour. There he played in 13 events, missing four cuts, but on the positive side had seven top-10 finishes and won three events, earning a battlefield promotion to the PGA Tour. He posted a top-10 finish at the John Deere Classic late in the season.

This season Bryan has been remarkable, with fourth place finishes at the Genesis Open and Honda Classic and a seventh at this Valspar Championship.

Still, winning for the first time on the PGA Tour in his rookie season is quite the feat. Especially when he’s most known for his trick shot repertoire. It helps to have brother George on the bag, and along the way you have to think there have to be trick shot hijinks in their minds.

Given the difficulty of some of their trick shots, one could imagine that shots on the course come easy. Not the case, as the difference between the two worlds are night and day. Still, having made hundreds of impossible shots over the last few years must place a positive note in the recess of Bryan’s mind, so when faced with a challenging shot the mind merely says, “You can Do it.”

Rags to riches, Bryan has earned nearly $2-million on the PGA Tour this year. He’s the darling of galleries, and the future is bright.

Clearly he has more game than a casual observer would have surmised.

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