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 Feb

Koepka: Remember the Name

Written by Bob Oliver


Okay, time to toot my horn. Less than a month ago on 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.

30 Jan

PGA Show displays innovation

Written by Bob Oliver

ORLANDO, FL. – There are many ups in downs in the world of golf these days. Names like Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth, Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy are on the up, up and up, while Tiger Woods sees his game on the down, down and down.

Yet everything is rosy at the 62nd PGA Merchandise Show. The place was jam-packed with everything from new clubs and fashion to destinations one must see to believe. The Show offered something for everyone in the world of golf under one roof, and everything one can touch is new and improved.

The Show – which some call the Major Championship of the Golf Business - brings together more than 1,100 companies from throughout the world of golf, offering their latest and greatest golf clubs, balls, other equipment, fashion, trinkets and destination packages just to name a few. There are educational activities and State of Golf presentations featuring the biggest names in the industry.

It was not uncommon to see a Major Championship winner walking down the aisles, admiring the booths. Hundreds of golf media members had microphones, pens and pencils to chronicle the event, and golf professionals gazed at everything new in the world of golf.

While scaled back somewhat from its heyday --- the economy isn't booming if you had not noticed --- the "Show" still offers new product ideas that dazzled the 45,000 pros and industry representatives from all 50 states and 70 countries that grace the forum every year.

“Every year I marvel at all the people, their products and solutions,” explained LPGA Hall of Fame Member Annika Sorenstam, a New Jersey fan favorite and three-time winner of the ShopRite LPGA Championship at Seaview. “Our game has had its ups and downs but the PGA Show brings together the best people and shows our game is still growing. It’s an exciting kickoff to a new season. The PGA Show is a special event.”

Sorenstam, along with PGA of America officials and PGA Tour stalwarts like Bubba Watson, Graeme McDowell and Hall of Fame member Greg Norman addressed conferees at the state of the game sessions, while numerous other players could be seen wandering the conference center. The Golf Channel provided 12 hours of life coverage, and Sirius Satellite Radio provided number interviews in their programming.

From any viewpoint, the PGA Show was big….really big.

The major manufacturers bring in Tour professionals to help peddle their wares to the thousands of PGA professionals making buying decisions for the coming year. And no booth is too big or too small, for even the small inventor can be found hawking wares to a captivated audience.

It’s a Who’s Who of the Golf Business, wrapped up in the Orange County Convention Center. There are millions of dollars of sales as pros stock their shops for the coming season. Innovation is prevalent, as “new and different” is applied to golf products rather than soap.

Obviously, the big names in the industry attempt to outdo each other, but in the end the goal is to get their new products into the hands of players. As with most recent Merchandise Shows, technological advances were the buzz on the playing hardware, while enhancements to accessories and high tech shoes could be found throughout the building.

As at one’s local driving range, divers always create a buzz at The Show, with all the major manufacturers displaying the latest and greatest bombers that whet the appetite of those players looking for a little extra yardage. All the big names, from Callaway to TaylorMade to Titleist to Bridgestone, to Ping to Minuzo and others all brought out their best to woo the buyers.

The TaylorMade R15 driver promises to be another game changer from the company that’s been using technology to develop new offerings for years. The R15 is offered in a pear shaped glossy black or satin white finish and comes in two head sizes (430cc and 460cc). The R15 offers numerous adjustments to home the club precisely to one’s game as the golfer can adjust both clubface and lie angles and loft. According to officials the 460cc club is extremely forgiving on mis-hits, while the 430cc is the company’s lowest spin rate driver.

Tour Edge golf continues to be on the cutting edge of high performance fairway woods, and its new Exotics E8 Tour Fairway Wood is not only hot but can be tailored to a player’s needs. The E8 allows a player to dial up precise ball flight opportunities developed by offering multiple adjustable lofts and lie angle.

“We found that players love the flexibility of personalized adjustments tailored to their swing,” explained Joanne Miller of Tour Edge. “But it’s not just adjustability. We have a state of the art manufacturing process and the Diamana +Plus Series shafts are standard on the E8. We believe players will absolutely love these clubs.”

Adams golf unveiled its Pro Red Hybrid, getting design kudos for its ability to help correct a player’s tendency to slice or hoot by adjusting weights in its removable sole plate. Small weights, from 2 grams to 25 grams, can be moved to allow more flexibility in ball flight.

Callaway Golf President Chip Brewer was excited with the reception his company’s XR irons have had, and the XR driver has been added to the family. These clubs, which use Cup 360 design, are built for maximum club head speed. That speed translates to added distance, which some have said calculates to two additional clubs longer that prior irons. The XR irons also feature a high speed cavity back. Callaway also displayed its Big Bertha 815 driver which has a lower center of gravity , new face technology and promises lower spin with forgiveness. It was sweet to swing on demo day!

“We have found that it’s not a slogan, but our clubs test out longer because of our design,” explained Brewer, a Lower Moreland, PA, native who has turned around the fortunes of Callaway Golf with new innovations. “People tell us they are easy to hit and they love the extra yardage. They were a real hit at Demo Day and we believe they will be a hit with anyone who samples them.”

Driving irons, of the hollow face variety, are making a comeback, as Nike (Vapor Speed) and Bridgestone (J15DF) both introduced irons promising a high trajectory, distance and optimal forgiveness for the good player. You won’t see many Touring pros using these clubs as they require precise distance control which is harder to achieve. Still for many amateur players this style of club can be a valuable addition.

Cleveland Golf will continue to offer customized wedges in two finishes, raw (which will rust by design) and black satin. But finish is just the start, as performance is the goal and Cleveland promises its wedges will fit any player’s requirements. There are 11 models, from 48 to 60 degrees of loft, with the 56 and 58 degree wedges offering a standard and low bounce option. Tour players contributed to the 60 degree wedge design that offers low bounce, standard and wide sole, which is especially good for open face shots.

Feel and forgiveness is the objective of the new Scotty Cameron GoLo putters. The mallet flat sticks of today, in the bags of more than half of new putter purchases, use a blend of aluminum face-core sole and stainless steel frame to give the player a club that gets the job done in style with incredible accuracy.

Golf balls are changing, including the highly successful Pro V1 and Pro V1x from Titleist. These popular balls have a new softer cover that promises to increase spin required in one’s short game while improving feel off the club face. According to Titleist Director of Golf Ball Development Michael Mahoney, the newest ball was developed by more than 70 engineers who worked feverously on finding the best ball the company has had in its arsenal. “We believe we got it right,” explained Mahoney. “We believe we have a better golf ball.”

Do you prefer a “built up” feel in your golf tape? Would you like that feel without jiggering the grip with extra tape? If so, the Golf Pride MCC Plus 4 grips might fill the bill. These grips have a larger diameter on the lower portion of the grip to give the feel that many players seek.

Sun Mountain Golf continued its reputation as an innovative provider of superb golf bags with new legs and its ClubGuider travel gear. This team knows its stuff, as each year it brings to market usable, innovative and classy product.

Cape May’s own, Jerry Quinlan, was on hand to describe incredible opportunities to travel throughout Ireland and play stunning courses in the Emerald Isle. Quinlan’s Celtic Golf has been handling dream vacations for years, and the team can tailor arrangements that fit your budget. “Our golf vacations are custom built around our customer’s goals, and we do our absolute best to make each vacation memorable in every manner.”

The 2015 PGA Merchandise provided the cornucopia of opportunities to see the best of the new in the world of golf. Merchandise from the Show is available at most local pro shops and will undoubtedly help the games of low and high handicap players alike. Check out all the wonderful additions to the product lines!

Show Stoppers: Buddy Marucci, the 2008 United States Senior Champion, was on site and spent an hour being interviewed and answering question on Sirius Satellite Radio. Marucci is expected to play in this year’s Senior Am at Hidden Creek Country Club in Egg Harbor Township. “I’m really looking forward to it. A wonderful venue and it’s obviously a senior major…New styles of foot ware was found in many booths, as Puma Golf and Foot Joy each had new offerings. The Puma Titan Tour shoes are nicknamed the “Coolest Shoes in Golf” as their cooling technology was developed in the same manner that allowed Astronauts to be comfortable in space. Its Shape Lock memory foam allows for maximum comfort and stability. Not to be outdone, Foot Joy displayed its Hyper Flex show which is not only comfortable but helps control feet during the golf swing….Cutter and Buck displayed numerous new cuts of golf fashion are that is comfortable and stylish. 

22 Oct

Ramesh soars to PIAA crown

Written by Bob Oliver

Is there a blue moon? Did you hit the lottery? Will the Flyers win the Stanley Cup?

Ah, who knows?

One thing is for certain, Pennsbury High School's Vinay Ramesh is the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association's Class AAA State Golf Champion. Ramesh became the second player from Pennsbury and fourth Lower Bucks County golfer to win the coveted boys crown with a sudden death playoff win over Manheim Township's Ryan Dornes in play at Heritage Hill after both recorded 36-hole scores of 145. Ramesh won on the third hole of the playoff.

The Pennsbury golf scored rounds of 75 and 70 for a 145 closing from fifth place to first on the final day. Also posting a top-10 finish was Holy Ghost Prep's Steve Cerbara at 77-74--151 for eighth, while Council Rock North's Logan Fugelstad was 13th at 155 and Council Rock South's Lukas Clark 29th at 165. New Hope-SOlebury's Roland Massimino was second in the Class AA boy's division after a 77-72--149 effort.

In girls play, Pennsbury's Jackie Rogowicz shot 75-79--153 to place 5th in Class AAA action behind Radnor's Brynn Walker, who outlasted Canon-McMillan's Lauren Waller in a playoff for the title after each finished at 146. Council Rock North's Madeline Herr was seventh after a 78-77--155 effort. New Hope-Solebury's Nina Kouchi was sixth in Class AA play at 90-82--172.

Ramesh became the first Pennsbury player since Russ Elkan claimed the coveted crown at Hershey Parkview in 1975 with a 148 two-day score. Also winning from Lower Bucks have been Council Rock's Brian Killough (1981) and Jon Rusk (1997). Other notable state champions have been Arnold Palmer (1946, 1947) and Jay Sigel (1960, 1961).

Council Rock North's Erica Herr, now competing at Wake Forest, is a two-time girls' state champion.

18 Oct

Courageous Brentz blasts to paralong drive title

Written by Bob Oliver


MESQUITE, NV --- The world is complete with folks who have a diverse set of views on just about anything. To some, the glass is half full, while others believe it’s half empty.

Jared Brentz is generally an optimist. But after his final round at “The Grid” here at the ParaLong Drive World Championships the 26-year-old Murfreesboro (near Nashville) resident had the look generally associated with defeat.

“I just felt I hadn’t done it, I didn’t think I’d hit the ball where I wanted to hit it,” said the highly competitive and internally motivated Brentz, who last May cranked a paralong drive world record 409 yards in winning a third national title and regularly bombs 350-yarders. “I know I didn’t hit it as far as earlier in the day, I wasn’t sure I’d hit the winner.”

A small smile appeared shortly after when it was announced his drive of 340 yards was good enough to win the world championship over a field which included nearly 50 inspiring competitors.

Brentz clipped runner-up Tim Herrmann of Minnesota by six yards in the world finals.

In long drive competition, players get less than three minutes to hit six drives that must come to rest on the grid to be counted. Competitors are hitting two or three to a group in the same timeframe, so one doesn’t really watch what others are doing.

“But, we can hear others, we can here the crowd when someone cranks one,” commented Anthony Netto, the paramobile 2-arm champion who claimed his division with a 289-yard blast. “You have a sense of what’s happening while you are hitting.”

In a sport where each of the competitors has a severe physical condition, Brentz has never been one who says “why me” or simply “why”, choosing instead to say why not. He’s faced more challenges than can be imagined, and while not always successful he knows deep down he tried his best.

Born with a condition known as arthrogryposis and club feet, he lived with that condition - and three surgeries along the way - until just after his 12th birthday. Then came the enormous decision: continue the pain and struggles of the disease with the alternative of amputation of both legs below the knees.

Wise and confident beyond his years when his parents and doctors described the alternatives, Brentz selection Option B and began a new life that, after extensive rehabilitation resulted in his playing for the high school varsity wresting and golf teams.

“There’s just something about me, when someone says I can’t do something, I turn it around and tell them to watch me. I love a challenge,” said the world champion paralong driver. “Today, well, this is really something.”

It was something as the assembled fans and media – The Golf Channel had a team to chronicle the event – can attest. Competitor after competitor entered the grid a smoked drives that would embarrass most of us. These guys and gals are long, uber long, ultra long.

And to a person they not only have a competitive spirit but are generally at rest with their physical challenge. 

Champions were crowned in 20 divisions, and overall champion Brentz found himself interviewed in prime time on The Golf Channel.

“That’s kinda cool, but the big story here isn’t me it’s all the competitors,” said the champion, who also won his division (two leg amputated below knees) with a 360-yard poke.

True, but he can’t deny his performance was not only stellar but inspiring.

“This trophy obviously means a lot to me, it’s a great accomplishment and I am proud to have it in my possession. Yet I know the real winners are all the competitors. They are all special in what they do.”

Assembled and competing were wounded warriors, victims of accidents of all kinds, from both sexes and ages. There was a blind division, a paramobile grouping and long drivers who blasted 300-yard pops with one arm by itself or with the aid of a second arm device.

Courage was the key word of the event, as each and every competitor displayed the guts that spring boarded a sense of optimism. Being there and competing made everyone a winner, clearly, but the bottom line was that these guys and girls are really good too.

Not a lot of woe is me in the group. Rather, as Brentz said, a sense of we can do this. We can accomplish goals.

Watching the ParaLong Drive Worlds wasn’t just watching a golf event. It was an inspirational story about dedication, desire and courage.

ParaLong Drive Blasts: Three-year-old Tommy Morrissey started the final day activities at the Mesquite Sports and Entertainment Complex with a ceremonial first drive. The one-arm youngster recently appeared on the “Ellen” television show and is quite a character…Bryce Brantz, Jared's twin brother, plays professional baseball including 9 games this year with the Boston Red Sox...Josh Williams won the one-leg below knee division with a  322-yard blast…The Casablanca and Eureka Resorts were among the stellar Mesquite businesses hosting the event…Ten countries were represented at the championships.