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!

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. 

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!

 

 

30 Jan
2017

Daly and Loudmouth Golf a true team

Written by Bob Oliver

 

If ever there was a person who was clearly an enigma, it would be John Patrick Daly.

On one hand, he’s a two-time major champion, a guy who shocked the world by winning the 1991 PGA Championship after surprisingly getting into the event as the ninth alternate. On the other hand, he’s battled alcohol, gambling and an assortment of vices that kept him from winning more than four times on the PGA Tour.  

John Daly’s life would easily be defined as “My Way.” A winner of championships on the PGA Tour, European Tour (1995 British Open), Sunshine Tour, Asian Tour and Web.com Tour, Daly has earned a fortune playing golf. Living life, he’s spent a fortune and been involved in numerous on and off course incidents. Along the way he wore out more welcomes than an obnoxious relative.

Still, his long drive prowess (he was first to record an average drive distance of more than 300 yards on the PGA Tour) and renegade bad boy attitude made him loved or hated by millions of golf fans. Love him or hate him, he always garnered headlines.

Now a member of the PGA Tour Champions, Daly is competitive but has yet to win.

“I’m playing well, I’m hitting the ball well and managing my game but I just haven’t put it all together there (on the Champions Tour),” explained the man alternately known as Wild Thing, Long John and The Lion. “It’s all about my putting. I’m not making any putts.”

At the PGA Merchandise Show, where he was endorsing the Loudmouth Golf line of clothing, Daly was cautiously optimistic that his putting stroke would come around. When reminded that he had always been a streaking putter, Daly smiled that shy yet knowledgeable smile of his.

 

 

“You are exactly correct!” he commented. “That’s been a trait of mine. There have been times when I step up to a putt and know I’m going to make it. I get that confidence going and all of a sudden things are good and all is well. I just have to get into that mode to win out there.”

He’s tried various putters, grips and strokes, but nothing is working to his hopes at this point, and no doubt a putter or two might accidentally “drown” if not working properly. But there’s hope and confidence that putts will soon start dropping and a win will follow.

Daly is a good old boy with lots of interests, and fun is at the top of the list. Fun could be course design (he has a handful to his credit), music (he’s recorded a few songs), but it’s golf that is a passion.

“I love the game, but there are times when the game doesn’t love me back,” he said with a smile.

Daly’s association with Loudmouth Golf is a perfect match. He loves his (Arkansas) Razorback, Dallas Cowboys, St. Louis Cardinals, Candy Crush and Graffiti sets, garners attention on the course with his ensemble, and garners attention for the brand.

“The absolute great thing about Loudmouth is that you can get dressed in the dark,” joked Daly with a huge grin. “Everything matches! But seriously, we have so many colorful designs we have something for everyone. I know you never know what the public will take a liking to, but Woody (Loudmouth’s Scott “Woody” Woodworth) will try just about anything.

“Loudmouth is reflection of a really cool lifestyle, it’s great to be involved with them. Its style fits my style.”

“JD has been a great addition to our team,” said Woodworth, who said the association with Daly was years in the making. “He’s not just a spokesperson, he actually gives us great advice and helps with our products. He has some great ideas and we have put some of them into play. It’s a good team.”

Woodworth said Loudmouth borrowed conceptually from golf’s past, when crazy colors were turned in by designs worn by golfers such as Johnny Miller. By the 80s such designs were passé, but became rejuvenated by Caddyshack’s notorious Al Czervick played by Rodney Dangerfield.  It took a while before Loudmouth led the new resurgence of colors, but their splash has been felt worldwide.

Woodworth founded the company in 2000 and has stuck to its core business model since. “We want to entice the world to enjoy our product,” said Woodworth. The company has long had the slogan, to develop products for those who want to stand out, smile and have fun.

Daly is the perfect spokesperson for the company. His fans will be able to see him up close in personal in Loudmouth outfits on the PGA Champions Tour, but he also hopes to play a couple PGA Tour events including the Greenbrier Classic, as well as a couple Senior Asian Tour events and the British Open.

“Mr. (Jim) Justice has that great event, and they went through so much with the cancellation last year due to the horrific floods. I’d like to help out in any way I can,” said a serious Daly, who corrected himself by calling Mr. Justice "Governor." Justice was elected governor of West Virginia last fall.

Wherever he plays, the fans will follow.

“Awesome, the fans have always been awesome. I can’t explain it,” said Daly, attempting to explain the unexplanable. “Maybe a lot of fans just love a guy who is real, who has his ups and downs. People relate to me in some way. I am simply a guy who is different, who’s crazy, who’s done dumb things. I’m honest about it, though, I admit it when I do stupid things.”

Daly has done scores of stupid things over the years, no doubt, but he’s also done a world of good with his play and his support of charitable organizations. No if he can get that putting stroke to begin firing on all cylinders, victories will come.

Daly Notes: Daly’s first album “My Life” included guest vocals by Willie Nelson, Darius Rucker and Johnny Lee, and he wrote/co-wrote eight songs on his album including “I only know one way”.  He sang back up to Kid Rock on the song “Half Your Ago”…Daly has put a new Vertical Groove driver in his bag and serves as that company’s goodwill ambassador...Daly has fond memories of Philadelphia area, and is amazed the PGA Tour no longer has a tour stop. "We played the Senior PGA at Philadelphia Cricket Club, and that was a nice track."

17 Nov
2016

Golf a four season sport - Jersey Gems

Written by Bob Oliver

Well, there you have it. Don't put your golf clubs in the deep recesses of the garage or basement for the winter. 

It's a given there has been frost on some recent cold Bucks County mornings. Heck, it will probably snow for Christmas. But look, many have been playing their best in recent months after a great season on area courses. Why mess up that great swing by putting one's clubs away and starting over next spring?

Why go through the agony of rekindling that grooved swing? Playing to your lowest handicap of the year at a time when you haven't hit a golf ball in months?

Okay, we are not all jet-setters who can dump the clubs in a G-4 and head to Florida or another warm location. 

Here's are a few suggestions.

1) When the weather gets into the 50s without a great deal of wind, make sure the clubs are in the car and get out even if only for nine holes. Winter golf is generally faster as less people are on the golf course.

2) Basements are great places for practice swings. Just make sure the munchkins aren't lurking around. 

3) Make some notes of the great, and not so great things you accomplished in 2016. Think of a plan to build on them. 

4) Sneak away for a long weekend of golf, using a cheap air fare to the south or anywhere warm. If that doesn't fit the budget, think of a drive that will accomplish much of the same. Winter golf at the Jersey Shore, Ocean City Maryland, WIlliamsburg Virginia can be found inexpensively and the weather can be much warmer than Bucks County. Not significantly warmer, but warmer.

While thinking of these items think about places you want to play in 2017. My goal this year was to play 30 "new" courses. That is, courses I've never played before. I am sitting on 29 and am ready for another!

Make sure you don't miss playing great courses within driving distance. Two of my particular favorites are the Atlantic City Country Club and Shore Gate Golf Club, both on the Jersey Shore and within a 90 minute ride with traffic.

Atlantic City, renovated in 1999 by Tom Doak, is a classic seaside gem. Located in Northfield, just a couple miles from Atlantic CIty, the "Home of the Birdie" provides an outstanding test of golf with upscale amenities. Great challenge on the course, great food inside the clubhouse. And a wealth of history.

There have been six USGA events held at Atlantic City, including the 1948 (Babe Zaharias), 1965 (Carol Mann) and 1975 Women's Open (Sandra Palmer). It was also the site in 1980 of the first Senior PGA Tour event, the PGA Inaugural Seniors.

Atlantic City and its sister courses, Ballamor and Scotland Run, have long been rated among the best places to play in the state of New Jersey. It's a quick ride and great test.

We've long loved the Shore Gate Golf Club, located just off the Garden State Parkway Exit 17, where one finds a true sparkling oasis amid the Jersey pines. Shore Gate (see story in the New Jersey section of courses on this site) has always been a top-notch layout, but if possible has only gotten better with age.

The fairways are superb, the greens are tantalizing but smooth and true, and the overall venue outstanding.

Recent years has seen the integration of new fescue which frames the course, giving a pleasing view and direction of where one goes with their tee ball. It also can be found near bunkers, almost like a do not hit here sign.

Shore Gate is a must play shore course.

As Sayresville's Jon Bon Jovi sings, "Who says you can't go home again??