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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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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02 Apr
2017

Ban viewers who call/write on rule violations

Written by Bob Oliver

 

I called into Major League Baseball offices and let them know a ball called in yesterday's Washington National’s game was actually a strike.  

To my surprise, MLB didn't change the call.  

Interestingly enough, a wrong call was made on for holding in the Philadelphia Flyers-New York Rangers hockey game over the weekend on a play which led to a goal. I e-mailed the National Hockey League offices and let them know, but they too didn't change the call.

But some yahoo burro calls or writes the LPGA Tour and drops a dime on Lexi Thompson in the ANA Inspiration and before you can say “bingo” the LPGA penalized the tournament leader and ultimately cost her $154,509 in prize winnings as well as a championship.

What did Thompson do? Kick her ball out of the rough? Roll a putt by throwing instead of using a putter? Start handing out mulligans? Wear uncoordinated clothing colors?

Nope, none of the above.

The 22-year-old was: 1) given a two-shot penalty Sunday for incorrectly marking her golf ball on a green during Saturday’s round, and, 2) given a two-shot penalty for signing an incorrect scorecard. The penalties were given a day later.

Thompson did not knowingly replace her ball on the green incorrectly, her playing partners saw no violation, and rules officials walking with the players said nary a word. But a day later words like “ridiculous”, “unbelievable”, “wrong” and “stupid” were uttered by professional golfers when informed of the situation.

For years viewers have called in potential rules violations and the practice has got to stop.

Last year the blowhard callers nearly cost Dustin Johnson the U.S. Open Championship and may have cost Anna Nordqvist the U.S. Women’s Championship.

A couple years ago Mrs. LPGA, Juli Inkster, was in one of those endless waits on the tee (about 30 minutes) wanted to stay warmed up in an event. So she inserted a weighted attachment (a "doughnut" similar to what baseball players use in the on deck circle) and took some practice swings. That's it. She could just as easily lifted her golf bag 10 times, and that would have been perfectly legal.  

A television viewer contacts the LPGA, and Inkster, just a couple shots out of the lead, gets to leave the course on a walk of shame.

Give me a break. I know, I know, rules are rules. I know Dustin Johnson was in a phantom bunker at the PGA Championship and grounded his club (where was that rake, anyway?). I know that because after the tournament they took a picture of it, and sure enough, it was a bunker. But in the heat of battle, with people standing in the "hazard" all day, nobody could tell.

There was a rules official right there, watching the whole escapade, and he didn't think it appropriate to say anything to Johnson.

Give me a break.

Years ago a caller reached the PGA Tour office (don’t they have better things to do) and informed that Craig Stadler violated a rule by kneeling on a towel before hitting a shot from soggy ground. Maybe this was right after playing partner Judge Smails threw a ball onto the green, but it was Stadler who was penalized.

Say what?

Bottom line is that there are playing partners observing the play with the opportunity to question a situation. Rules officials generally travel alongside the leading groups to offer help and expertise. And the tours monitor the life feed from the event.  There is absolutely no reason for a Tour to be taking phone calls and e-mails from viewers of an event.

Lexi Thompson is an honorable, rules abiding, upstanding lady. If she broke the rules, she should be disciplined. But this idea that a random caller, a member of the armchair sitting television police, can simply call in and affect the outcome of a tournament is ridiculous. Incredible. It would never, ever happen in other major professional sports.

Golf is supposed to be a gentleman’s game, a gentlewoman’s game. There are rules officials all over the course, but none of them had problems with the above situations. No, some yahoo watching a TV or mobile device in their underwear becomes arbiter and drops a dime on a player. Have to call BS on that one.  

Players regularly call penalties on themselves. Bizarre calls and e-mails should not. Brian Davis did call a penalty on himself and it cost him victory at Hilton Head a couple year’s back. So it's not like players are cheating and getting away with it. They police themselves. By allowing callers, emailers, whatever to call the game is a sham. This is not American Idol, where you call in to an 800 number and make your feelings known. It is professional golf and it looks amateurish.

Here's an idea. Create a the new FWL: Fantasy Watchers League. Participants can watch sporting events and call in infractions. They get points for each time they uncovered a dastardly deed. At the end of the year the winner could pick his or her sport and actually wear an official's outfit and "work" a game. The comedy of that would be priceless.

Until then, shut up.

No other major league sport offers such a venue for millions of armchair rules officials to call in and change the outcome of a tournament. Period.

This boorish behavior has got to stop. Now.

Put viewers on a Do not call list. Don't answer e-mails. Establish a new rule that anyone calling in a violation be permanently barred from the game for a year and all e-mailing and telephoning privileges revoked. Stop the insanity!