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20 years after golfer Payne Stewart’s tragic death, son Aaron carries his legacy

Aaron Stewart spent his summers on the road as a PGA Tour kid. The behind-the-scenes visits at the Columbus Zoo during the Memorial Tournament stand out among his favorite memories as well as the “music man” under the big tree on Hilton Head Island.

He grew up on tournament golf.

It’s not surprising that Stewart would want to follow in the footsteps of his father, Payne, a three-time major winner and sporting icon. A humble Aaron calls it more of a blessing than an expectation that he’s now back in golf. The former SMU player (just like dad) was recently named vice president of sports marketing for Diamond Resorts and executive director of the LPGA’s Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions.

Oct. 25 marks the 20th anniversary of the day Payne’s tragic death played out on television screens across the country. Four months after Payne won the U.S. Open at Pinehurst, a private Learjet carrying the golfer and five others crashed near Aberdeen, South Dakota, after flying on autopilot for several hours.

“The fact that this is 20 years is pretty crazy to me,” said Aaron. “To think that amount of time has gone by.”

Aaron said he recently did an interview for PGA Tour radio with his sister Chelsea, who works for AT&T, and they talked about how their dad would’ve gotten along in today’s PC society. Imagine trying to control him on Twitter, Chelsea said.

“It never came from a mean-spirited place,” said Aaron of his father’s jokes. “Everybody knew that’s Payne having a good time. He was able to get away with it.”

Aaron, 30, looks a lot like Payne. People tell him that all the time. They also tell stories, and Aaron never tires of hearing them. The Stewart family still keeps in touch with many of the PGA Tour families Aaron and Chelsea grew up with.

After completing the program, Stewart landed a job that had over 400 employees reporting to him.

“He was special,” said Flaskey of Stewart taking on such a hefty role at a young age.He grew up on tournament golf.Aaron Stewart, son of late PGA Tour icon and World Golf Hall of Famer Payne Stewart, has been named Executive Director of the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions. Stewart, who also serves as Vice President of Sports Marketing for Diamond Resorts, will oversee all aspects of the LPGA Tour event to be held January 16-19, 2020, at Four Seasons Golf and Sports Club in Orlando, Florida.

After several years as National OPC Program Manager and Regional Marketing Director, Stewart and his wife, Naiara, took a break from work to travel the world, an adventure that had long been in the making.

They visited 40 countries that year, spending the most time visiting family from their mom, Tracey’s, native Australia.

One of the reasons Flaskey created the Diamond Resorts TOC was to focus on a younger demographic. Millennials account for 12 percent of Diamond’s total membership.


“We know millennials want to travel,” said Flaskey. “They want to get out there and go.”

When Aaron and his wife returned to the U.S., they decided to move back to Orlando, Florida. He returned to the company in March as Director of National Partnerships.

The 2020 Diamond Resorts TOC takes place Jan. 16-19 on Tranquilo Golf Course at Four Seasons Golf and Sports Club Orlando. Winners from the last two seasons are invited to play alongside sports stars and celebrities. Eun-Hee Ji won the 2019 edition along with former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz.

The tournament, which averaged 15,000 fans over the weekend in its debut, aims to be the biggest party on tour. To that end, there will be three concerts in 2020. While LPGA pros compete for $1.2 million over 72 holes, the celebrities vie for their own $500,000 purse using a modified Stableford format. The event has raised $3.5 million for children’s healthcare.

With the LPGA adding a second stop in south Florida after the TOC – the Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio – the field at Tranquilo might be stronger in 2020. Michelle Wie’s victory at the 2018 HSBC Women’s World Championship makes her eligible for the season-opener should be healthy enough to compete.

Part of what attracted Flaskey to bring back a TOC format to the LPGA was the fact that it’s an earned event. In Stewart, he has found a man who is uniquely qualified to lead it.

“We just think that growing up in a lifetime of golf brings credibility to our event,” said Flaskey of Payne’s only son. “It helps us really take it to the next level.”


Tiger Woods announces new golf-entertainment business venture

Tiger Woods is getting into the golf-entertainment business with a new business venture that will compete with the likes of TopGolf, Drive Shack and other venues that marry traditional golf with cutting-edge technology.

TGR, Tiger Woods Ventures and PopStroke Entertainment Group Thursday announced they have entered into a strategic partnership.

Founded in 2018, PopStroke is a technology-infused golf-entertainment concept featuring professionally designed putting courses and food and beverage.

PopStroke currently has one facility in Port St. Lucie, Florida. Locations in Scottsdale, Arizona, and Fort Myers, Florida, currently are under development, and several additional sites are planned for 2020 and beyond. TGR Design and Tiger Woods will be responsible for designing the putting courses at all future PopStroke locations.

“This is a natural extension of my golf course design philosophy and my TGR Design business,” Woods said. “Our goal has always been to design courses that bring people together and are fun for golfers of all abilities and ages.”

Infusing the traditional putt-putt experience, which hasn’t changed in years, with a dose of technology is expected to create a more social and entertaining experience.

The PopStroke experience is enhanced with a technology platform consisting of the soon-to-be released electronic scorekeeping golf ball, the “iPutt” ball. The ball transmits scores electronically to the custom PopStroke app, which can be downloaded in the Apple and Android App stores. Players will be able to compete against each other in a tournament environment while earning “Pop Bucks” through the PopStroke loyalty rewards app program.

“Some of my happiest memories are spending time with my pops (Earl) on the golf course having putting contests,” Woods said. “I’m looking forward to others enjoying time with their kids at PopStroke. This is a new way for individuals to experience the game of golf. It’s about bringing people together.”

Food, soft drinks, signature cocktails, a variety of craft beer and wine options are also available on the app for delivery directly to a golf course location or at the onsite full-service restaurant and bar. Woods has previous experience in the restaurant business as owner of The Woods Jupiter, his flagship restaurant in Jupiter, Florida.

“Tiger Woods has had the most significant impact in growing the game of golf around the world and his investment and partnership in PopStroke will undoubtedly introduce the game to a new and wider audience of participants,” said PopStroke founder Greg Bartoli.

Pete Bevacqua, former CEO of the PGA of America and president of NBC Sports, has agreed to be a member of the board of directors.




Golf has a history with dogs that dates to the origins of the game in Scotland. In the United States, we’ve been a little slower to adapt dogs into our golf culture, at least as we play the game. Superintendents and golf professionals, though, have realized that work can be so much more enjoyable with a friendly pup in tow. We couldn’t agree more.

These are a selection of our favorite golf dogs we’ve encountered over the past couple months. And in honor of National Make a Dog’s Day, thanks to the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America for the help, we bring you some of the best furry friends we’ve come across.

SOURCE:  golfdigest

Why do Japanese golf courses have two greens on every hole?

During Monday’s Japan Skins, the high-powered foursome of Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Hideki Matsuyama and Jason Day were presented with a challenge at the fourth hole: Play to the left green or the right green — dealer’s choice. Woods took aim at the right green but misfired, hitting a pull that ended up directly between the right and left greens.

“That was such a bad shot,” he said, exasperated but trying to stay light-hearted on the broadcast. “I tried to hit a cut and pull-hooked it!”

Up near the green, he adjusted his plan, chipping instead to the left green, where he rolled in a putt for par.

It’s not rare for a course to feature a hole with an alternate green. No. 8 at Pine Valley, No. 13 at Streamsong Black and No. 4 at Cabot Cliffs are three high-profile examples. But many courses in Japan, including this week’s Zozo Championship host course, Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club, have two such greens on every single hole.

The two-green system originated from a desire to keep greens playable across different seasons. Because Japan has hot, humid summers and cold winters, they could use a different grass type on each green to allow for options based on the weather. Tyler Pringle of American Golf notes that summer greens would typically feature bermuda or zoysia, while the winter greens would favor bent grass.

Advancements in turf management mean that two greens with two different grass types has become less necessary at many courses. Still, many in Japan and some others in South Korea maintain two greens on every single hole. There are benefits to having double the greens, of course. Twice as many putting surfaces means half as much wear and tear. It means no need to reduce greens fees for aeration periods. It also frees up one green per hole for required renovation or maintenance, and it provides some variety for course regulars.

There are also drawbacks, of course — twice as many greens means twice as much maintenance, which means increased budgets and transfers indirectly to more expensive golf. Still, the dual green phenomenon is something different. This week, Zozo Championship competitors will see action on both the left and right greens at No. 4, though not at the same time like in the skins game. Collin Morikawa, for one, was amused by the dual greens.  “I don’t know a place that has two greens unless you’re playing soccer golf,” he said. You can see more examples of the double-greens below.



Temporary golf course to open inside Busch Stadium next month

Busch Stadium has hosted baseball, soccer and football games, and it looks like golf is next.

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – How would you like to play a round of golf inside Busch Stadium? Well, that will be possible next month.

Stadiumlinks is transforming baseball heaven into a 9-hole golf experience Nov. 1-3. You’ll take your shots from tee boxes placed all around the stadium concourse and aim for holes on the baseball field.

Each shot is somewhere between 60-150 yards and scoring is based on where your ball lands. You can play in groups of two, four, six, or eight and will need to book a tee time in advance. Make sure you join the waiting list, here, so you can set up a tee time.

Each player within your group will be provided with 18 complimentary golf balls to use on the Stadiumlinks course.

Here’s an example of what the course looked like in other stadiums, such as Citi Field in New York, Minute Maid Park in Houston and the LA Memorial Coliseum.



Five things the best golf instructors see in your swing that you don’t

Walk the range at a tour event and you’ll see a squadron of instructors capturing video, with the teacher and player huddling to figure out which magic adjustment might make the difference between first place and 50th on a given week. It’s certainly interesting to eavesdrop on what they’re discussing—in fact, it’s why we’ve been showing swing sequences in Golf Digest since the 1950s. But hearing about Dustin Johnson’s key to hitting his 4-iron incrementally better is only going to help you so much.

What does a top teacher see when he or she looks at your swing? And what kind of things are you missing when you have your buddy shoot you from down the line during your next practice session? We asked three top teachers—Jason Guss, Jason Sedan and Tom Rezendes—for the fundamental things they look at in an initial swing lesson, and how changing your focus to those things instead of the “prettiness” of your move will make you get better way faster.

“Can we all be honest with each other and accept that virtually nobody has the genetic gifts to roll out of bed and swing like Adam Scott or Anne van Dam?” says Rezendes, who runs the NorCal Golf Academy in Walnut Creek, Calif. “The important part to remember is that you don’t HAVE to do that to play well. A trained set of eyes sees what adjustments you need to make for you to swing your best, not necessarily look like a swing model.”

1. What your face angle is during your backswing

Where the face is pointing during the whole swing might be most under-paid-attention-to fundamental in golf. “Almost every good player has either closed the face or is about to when they come out of the transition at the top,” says Jason Guss, who runs the Jason Guss Golf Academy at Hawk Hollow, in Bath, Mich. “Players who struggle don’t have it square ever, or they’re even opening it at the start of the downswing—which causes a whole other chain of events. If you’re looking at your own swing or any other, is that face angle looking down at the ground when the club is halfway down to the ground on the downswing? I like to help players get keyed in on the face instead of the wrist movements that produce it because those wrist movements are so small.

2. How your technique matches your intention

What you’re trying to can (and should!) have a huge impact on what your swing looks like. “Students send me video of swings all the time and my first question is always the same—what are you trying to do here?” says Jason Sedan, who runs Fore Door Golf at Lake Winnipesaukee Golf Club in New Hampshire. “Most amateurs record a swing on the range, and it’s just a random swing that came after a random practice swing. But every shot should have a goal, a shape and a speed at which you’re trying to swing, and rehearsals that are about that exact thing.

“The next part is that the speed you swing changes a lot of the relationships within the swing. A video of a player making a smooth swing with a pitching wedge can tell a way different story than one where he or she is smashing a driver. You want to look at the full context, not just for one move you want to tear down.”

3. The underlying cause of your main swing problem

Putting an ankle brace on for a broken finger isn’t going to be very effective. Which means you need to look for the main source of your issues. “The phrase ‘over the top’ is one a ton of amateur players read and hear about, and a lot of them accurately see it about their own swings,” says Sedan. “But the way they go about fixing it doesn’t address the fundamental reason it’s happening. You probably see it as a swing path issue, but the swing path issue is a symptom, not the problem.

“If an over-the-top swinger just tries to flatten the club in transition and swing more ‘from the inside,’ all you’re doing is creating a swing that produces weak blocks to the right. Does that ‘fix’ the over-the-top? I guess so, but it just moved the problem into a different box. If you don’t address the open clubface that produces most over-the-top moves, you’re not addressing the problem.”

4. The movement of your swing in 3D, not 2D

A golf swing moves in three dimensions, which is hard to see on video. “You’ve heard of ‘angle of attack,’ but what does it really mean? And it’s so hard to see without a TrackMan or a trained eye,” says Guss. “But angle of attack gives a lot of clues about your bad shots. A player could be hitting these low hooks with the driver because he or she isn’t getting the weight transferred to the lead side. Ball position and swing direction work together. If you want to hit a higher shot or tend toward a fade, you adjust that ball position forward, which moves the swing direction left and the angle of attack upward.”

5. How your body segments work together to produce speed

“Most players (and a lot of teachers, to be honest) are focused on the basics—grip, posture, alignment—because those are the easiest to see,” says Rezendes. “There’s a place for that stuff, of course, and a place for launch monitor data like clubhead speed and distance, but I’m watching for a swing’s kinetics—how you produce force. What is making you do what you’re doing in your swing, and how is it impacting your shots?

“For example, how centered your thorax is over your pelvis has huge ramifications for how much energy you can deliver into the ball. And if your hip joints are working correctly in conjunction with your pelvis, that’s a major differentiator between good players and players with less skill. Good players turn ‘into’ the trail hip joint instead of rotating the whole pelvis in the backswing. That might seem like a subtle difference, but it’s why Cameron Champ hits it the way he does instead of the way you do. He’s producing more energy, not finding a set of swing positions.”


Five things Brooks Koepka can realistically improve for 2020

How can Brooks Koepka improve? On the surface, this is a demanding, heedless ask. The man became the first player to be a repeat PGA Championship and the U.S. Open winner in a career, and became just the fourth player to finish top four or better at every major in a calendar year. It is like telling John Mulaney to be funnier or the Rock to hit the gym before beach season.

And yet, there is room for Koepka to grow. Heck, he didn’t even win Player of the Year honors. (Too soon? Too soon.) So we analyzed Koepka’s performance from last year, and the ones before it, to identify five things Koepka can refine for 2020.

To preface, there are trade-offs to consider. Someone who blasts the ball distances that give roll-back proponents nightmares is not likely to be accurate off the tee, and telling Koepka to hit more fairways will syphon the power that serves as such an advantage. These suggestions also have to be pragmatic; you can’t expect one who consistently ranks outside the top 100 in a certain area to suddenly become an elite performer in that skill. Besides, even at the height of their powers, Tiger, Nicklaus and Hogan all had flaws in their games. (Dodging lightning) OK, not flaws, but they weren’t the best at everything. That’s golf.

Keeping those parameters in mind, here is how Koepka’s trajectory can continue to rise next season.

Par 3s

Koepka’s par-3 performance cost him the green jacket. He was three over on Augusta National’s par 3s, seven shots worse than Tiger Woods on said holes. For those that spent April in a coma, Koepka finished the tournament one stroke back of Tiger.

The Masters wasn’t an aberration. Koepka lost the Honda Classic by one to Keith Mitchell. Koepka was four over on the par 3s to Mitchell’s four-under mark. Essentially, he was three to four swings away from a two-major, five-win campaign. For a guy who desperately seeks chips to place on those broad shoulders, this would be a start.

On the year, Koepka finished 52nd in par-3 scoring, and 44th the season prior. The disparity in his par-3 scoring against high finishes on par 4s (first in ’19, 15th in ’18) and par 5s (10th in ’19, third in ’18) can be correlated to his driving prowess. Where the equation becomes curious is against a smorgasbord of strong iron numbers: 11th in greens in regulation, fifth in fairway proximity, first in shots from 175-to-200 yards, 10th in approaches under 200 yards, and 11th in sg/approach.

Thing is, he racks up his share of red on par 3s, in the top 20 in this category heading into the final two weeks of the year and ultimately finishing 29th. But when he misses, he misses big. Continuing his momentum will be dependent on Koepka keeping the bogeys at bay on par 3s.

The Masters - Final Round
Andrew Redington

Long Range Putting

Koepka owned one of the better strokes on tour in his fledgling years, ranking in the top 20 in strokes gained/putting from 2015 to 2017 (with a career-best standing of fifth in 2017). But his figures with the flat stick have dropped over the past two seasons, coming in 48th last season and 69th in 2018.

There are two culprits for this plummet, the first output—or lack thereof—from deep. Koepka ranked 108th in conversion from 15 to 20 feet, 114th in 20 to 25 feet and 72nd in putts over 25 feet. When his putting was at its peak in 2017, Koepka ranked 33rd, fifth and first, respectively, from those distances. Bringing those ranks to the middle of pack would make Koepka more formidable around the hole.

Also helping …

Three-Putt Avoidance

Aside from 2017, this is an arena where Koepka has consistently struggled. His ranks since joining the tour in three-jacks:

2019: 123rd
2018: 156th
2017: 60th
2016: 167th
2015: 95th
2014: 76th

Part of this can be explained by a high birdie-putt conversion rank (17th in 2019, 10th the season before), an aggressive mindset conferring longer-than-desired comebackers. Pulling the reins back on that opportunistic approach could lead to fewer bogeys … but also to fewer birds, so that blanket answer does not suffice. Most likely, to improve in this area, Koepka would need to shore up those areas where meat is left on the bone: three (95th), five (94th) and seven (116th) feet.

0 Yards and In

Stated above, it’s unfair, unrealistic to ask a player to be great in every category. What’s interesting is that Koepka has risen to such heights without a semblance of a short game.

He’s ranked 83rd or worse in every season but one on tour in sg/around-the-green, and has been particularly brutal inside 10 yards (98th in 2019, 97th in 2018, 132nd in 2017). Between this and the aforementioned putting troubles, it’s mind-boggling that Koepka ranked 11th in bogey avoidance.

However, it is not as if Koepka lacks touch. (Save for when his girlfriend comes in for a kiss.) He was 12th in scrambling in 2018 and ranked a serviceable 42nd last year (aided by a 58.43 sand save percentage, 22nd on tour). Additionally, some of these woes could be attributed to Koepka’s wrist injury and restricted practice schedule the past two years. Now given time and health, don’t be surprised if Koepka’s able to tighten these screws up.

Fan Engagement

Just kidding, wanted to make sure you are still paying attention.

Rough Work

Koepka is a machine with his irons from the fairways. In the rough, not so much. His production from last year:

Approaches from 125-150 yards: 139th
Approaches from 150-175 yards: 169th
Approaches from > 200 yards: 116th
Approaches from 200-225 yards: 153rd

He’s not a total disaster, ranking fifth in shots from 50 to 125 yards, but the disconnect from the short to thick stuff is clear.

Without making excuses for Koepka, this is another facet that likely parallels with his wrist ailment. Conversely, he ranked 102nd in driving accuracy. Though the strokes gained metrics have shown getting the ball closer to the hole is more paramount than keeping it straight, it does put the onus on getting it done with the second shot, fairway or rough be damned.

And should Koepka improve this skill set, or any mentioned above, well … that sound you just heard were the sighs from Koepka’s competition.

Unlucky golfer’s ball was so deeply embedded even the rules official couldn’t believe it

It might be the most annoying thing in golf. It’s in the top five, at the very least. You hit a shot that, by all accounts, wasn’t that bad, only to find it embedded deep in the ground.

That happened to one unlucky golfer this week, and even the official giving the ruling couldn’t believe what he was seeing.

It came during the first round of the Molly Murphy Crowley Collegiate Invitational in Portland, Oregon. A golfer from University of California—Davis’ women’s golf team hit an approach shot that embedded itself so deeply in an area near the bunker that it was almost underground entirely.

The rules official, after pointing out where the ball was, took a picture because of how rare a sight it was.

Lots of golf fans were asking what the ruling would be in this situation, and while I’m no rules expert, under rule 25-2, it would appear that because this ball did not embed in a “closely-mown area through the green…fairway height or less,” it’s good old fashioned play it as it lies.

Presumably, she would’ve had to take an unplayable, though. Either that or opt for a shovel.

25-2Embedded Ball Rule

If a player’s ball is embedded in any closely-mown area through the green, it may be lifted, cleaned and dropped, without penalty, as near as possible to the spot where it lay but not nearer the hole. The ball when dropped must first strike a part of the course through the green.



How Often Should You Regrip Your Golf Clubs?

There are two ways to tell when you need to regrip your clubs — if your grips look worn or if they are slippery. You should replace your grips about once a year, depending on how often you play and the conditions in which you play and store your clubs. If you don’t use a glove, you might have to change your grips more often than the recommended time frame.

Change your grips every 18 months if you play golf two or three times a week and you live in a temperate climate that does not allow year-round golf. You are not overusing your clubs and you are not wearing down your grips. They should last you at least 18 months.

Replace your grips at least every 12 months if you are playing four or more times a week in temperate climate. Your clubs should last you five or more years, but to get the most out of them, you should change that grips yearly. Sweat, grime, high temperatures and other weather conditions will compel you to change your grips if you want to get the most out of them.

Change your grips every nine months if you are playing three times a week or less in an extremely warm or humid climate. The hot weather will have an impact on the clubs and will either wear out the leather or stretch the rubber. You are not likely to see a difference in your grips, but you will feel the change. When grips get worn out they tend to get stiff and hard.

Replace your grips every six months if you are playing four times a week or more in high heat and humidity. You are putting your clubs to the test and that will not wear them out but it will ruin your grips. Sweat, heat, humidity, grime, dirt and sand will all tend to tear apart your grips. They will lose their elasticity quickly when you use them that much.

Change your grips every two years regardless of the conditions if you don’t play more than twice a week. The rubber will lose its elasticity and the leather will lose its moisture. You want a club that responds to your grip so don’t hesitate to change them if two calendar years have gone by since the last time you replaced them.

SOURCE:  Golfweek