PRESS PASS
Joe Logan 
 
The Wyndham Championship will always be the GGO to me
Thursday, August 15, 2013
By Joe Logan

I realized it was Thursday a little while ago, which means the start of another PGA Tour event, so I turned on the TV for some background noise.  Lo and behold, this week’s tournament was the Wyndham Championship at Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, N.C.  I stopped what I was doing and sat down to watch for a while.

 

To most golf fans, the Wyndham Championship is a second-tier tournament with a so-so field.  It falls the week after a major – in this case the PGA Championship -- so the big names like Tiger and Phil are nowhere to be found; they’re home resting, or, more likely, off reaping the rewards of the millions they knock down.

 

For me, the Wyndham Championship will always occupy a special place in my heart.  Years ago, before every tournament had its sponsor’s name in the title, the Wyndham Championship was known simply as the Greater Greensboro Open, or the GGO for short.  I grew up in a small town 2½ hours east of Greensboro.

 

The 1961 GGO, when I was 10, was the first PGA Tour event I ever attended, not long after my father discovered golf and quickly became addicted.   At the same time, my father bought me my first set of junior clubs and I, too, quickly became addicted.

 

On our maiden trip to the GGO, my father and I were both awestruck by the whole scene --  the pros with their big bags and confident swings, the TV cameras and Sedgefield CC, a fancy club with a hilly Donald Ross layout that was nothing like our scruffy little 9-hole club back home.   The trip to the GGO became an annual father/son ritual that lasted for the next four or five years. 

 

This was so long ago, it was in the years before the PGA Tour felt the need to put up ropes between the pros and the fans.  You could stroll up the middle of the fairway, which I did.  Once, I remember walking along with some pro, who put his arm around my shoulder and asked me about myself and about my trip to a big-time golf tournament.  Whew, have times changed.

 

We would drive up  to Greensboro early Saturday morning, attend the GGO until the last shot was struck, then head to our room at the nearby Howard Johnson Hotel.  One year, as we ate breakfast in the HoJo’s restaurant on a Sunday morning, in walked a couple of pros.  I have a vague recollection that one of them was George Bayer, a good player and a bear of a man.  But I know for sure that the other was Bobby Nichols, who a year or two later would win the 1964 PGA Championship.  

 

Nichols and Bayer no sooner took a seat on a couple of stools at the counter before my father began prodding me to go ask them for their autographs.  I was a shy, scrawny kid, but after much hemming and hawing, I finally screwed the courage to give it a shot, to approach these exotic golf pros.  I don’t know why I say "give it a shot" because they couldn’t have been nicer when I interrupted their first cup of coffee.  I think Bobby Nichols signed my HoJo’s place mat.

 

I also have a distinct memory of the 1963 GGO, won by Doug Sanders, he of the short backswing, colorful outfits and reputation for fast living.  On that Sunday afternoon, as Sanders stepped to the 18th tee at Sedgefield with the victory on the line, the fans were stirring with excitement.  Feeling the pressure, Sanders backed off his tee shot and asked for fans around the tee to settle down, let him hit his tee shot.

 

"Come on, folks," said Sanders, "I need to win this thing because I’ve got a big alimony payment to make."   Everybody laughed.

 

 


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Iím back! I think.
Friday, July 26, 2013
By Joe Logan

Now, where was I?

 

The last time I sat down to write a blog for MyPhillyGolf was June 17, the Monday after the U.S. Open at Merion, plus the birthday of both my sisters, 15 years apart.  But that’s another story.

 

The next morning, before sunrise, I drove to Pennsylvania Hospital in Center City, four blocks from Independence Hall (and where both my children were born), to undergo total right hip replacement surgery.  It had been less than a year since I underwent total left hip replacement surgery.   Granted, most people would call that a lousy year for hips in the Logan household, except that both surgeries went well and my doctor assures me I will be back on the golf course in a few weeks.  He is less enthusiastic about my future as an Irish dancer.

 

Total hip replacement, in all honesty, is not that much fun.  It involves a gruesome incision along the side of your hip, about were your pants pocket is.  It also involves a surgical pry bar, a power saw and a titanium rod and ball joint that are snapped back into place.  After they stitch you up, you get through the next couple of weeks or so on powerful, mind-numbing narcotic painkillers.  As much as I needed them, I absolutely hate them, and for the life of me, I cannot imagine how anyone gets addicted to them.  They do the job on the pain, but for me, it comes at a cost of a dark, thick mental fog.   I couldn’t think clearly and I certainly couldn’t write anything coherent or worth posting here.  I spent most of the first two or three weeks post-hospital tossing and turning in bed at night, then sleeping on the couch all day.  (You do not want to roll over on your bad hip in the middle of the night.)

 

There were days at a time that I didn’t go on the internet, check my email or read one of the dozen newspapers and magazines I subscribe to.  I laid on the couch watching TV – well, I laid there; whether I was actually watching is debatable.  Come to think of it, I must have been watching, because I have developed a pathological hate for cable news (CNN, MSNBC, Fox).  Last year, when I had my left hip done, the big story on cable news was the murder trial of Casey Anthony.  You could not escape it.  This time, it was George Zimmerman’s trial for shooting Trayvon Martin.

 

In the middle of it all, my big-screen, high-def TV died.  One of my first trips out of the house, using my cane but still limping horribly, was to go to Costco to buy an even bigger, high-def-ier TV.  In a sign of how far we have come as a civilization, my ex-wife’s husband came over and did the heavy lifting to install the new TV. I thanked him and promptly returned to the couch and took a nap.

 

If there was a highlight of my time on the couch, it had to be Phil Mickelson’s two weeks in Scotland.  I did not miss one minute of either the Scottish Open (I’d had to turn down an assignment to cover it for a magazine) and the British Open.  No sport benefits more from the advancements in big-screen high-def-ery than golf.  Castle Stuart, site of the Scottish Open, was designed by homey Gil Hanse, and it looked amazing on TV.   We swapped emails and he was thrilled for Mickelson to win.

 

A week later, I am still walking with a cane but I am off the drugs, stronger and trying to climb back onto the horse, if not into the golf cart just yet.   I am surfing the web with zest, I am reading my email and my magazines -- I am plugging back into life.  Today, I even sat down and wrote this.  It’s a start.


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Steve8x[8/2/2013 6:29:21 PM]
Greetings from the desert. Glad to hear youíre on the mend. Let me know when youíre ready for a winter escape. A day at the 16th hole at the Phoenix Open will do wonders for you.
The Muni Golfer[7/29/2013 8:48:41 AM]
Joe, glad to hear things went well. Hope your back on the golf course and hitting the ball long and straight very soon. Take care.
Eleanor Thompson[7/26/2013 3:05:34 PM]
You forgot to mention your newly svelte look. Not the best way to lose weight, but whatever works.

Buddy Marucci, Bill Greenwood, Brad Bradbeer 
Final observations about Merion and the Open
Monday, June 17, 2013
By Joe Logan

-- What a spectacular U.S. Open for Merion!  The City of Philadelphia thanks you, Philadelphia sports fans thank you, the entire world of golf thanks you and hails you.

 

Merion put its neck and its reputation on the line to host this Open and worked out better than anyone ever could have imagined.  No player finished under par?  That’s astonishing, especially after all the predictions (I made a few myself) that these guys could go low and embarrass Merion in the process.

 

-- Who deserves the most credit?  I’ve got two names.  One is Matt Shaffer, the superintendent at Merion.  That guy could grow grass in a cave.  He worked miracles and he never panicked, even when rains of Biblical proportions early in the week threatened to wash away the course and the Open.

 

The other is Mike Davis, executive director of the U.S. Golf Association.  If you had to pick one guy to stand up and take a bow for the success of the Open, it would be Davis.   He was the junior staffer who was sent to Merion in the early 2000s to tell the club it was no longer a viable candidate to host the Open.  What he saw, and the people he met, changed his mind.

 

Davis, in turn, convinced his boss, then-executive director David Fay.  Together, they sold the USGA Executive Committee.  When Fay retired a couple years ago and Davis succeeded him, the Open at Merion became his baby, right down to setting up the course each day.  If you could buy stock in Mike Davis, I’d bet the family farm.

 

-- One guy who deserved a share of the spotlight this week slipped in an out of town very quietly, walking the course for two days but otherwise drawing no attention. I am referring to Bill Greenwood, who was the chairman of Merion’s Green Committee from 1994 to 2006;  he was instrumental in masterminding and ramrodding the restoration project that made the Open possible.

 

Greenwood lives on Cape Cod these days and is no longer even a member of Merion but, arguably, none of this would have happened if not for him.   Greenwood was at Merion on Tuesday and Friday, walking with Buddy Marucci and Brad Bradbeer, both members of the Green Committee with him back in the crucial years of the restoration.

 

I spoke to Greenwood by phone on Saturday, and he was happy for Merion and happy to see the work of his committee come to full fruition.  "Everybody is thrilled," said Greenwood.

 

As Greenwood tells the story, it was the summer of 1995 and Merion was hustling to re-grass its greens in time for a 100-year anniversary celebration of the club the following year,  which was going to include a members-only tournament on the East Course.  Problem was, over the years, trees had been planted all over the course that had grown to cast long shadows over fairways and, more problematic, over several greens.

 

Paul Latshaw, the superintendent at the time, told Greenwood.  "I can’t grow grass in the shade."

 

Two days later, when they took out a tree that was blocking the sun from getting to the 15th green, Grenwood and Latshaw liked what they saw.  It opened up the hole so much, they began looking at other trees, other shade patterns.  One thing led to another, until the full-blown restoration project was born,

 

"This is Merion’s big moment," Greenwood said Saturday.  Did he miss being part of the hoopla of the Open? "Nah, my big moment was six years ago."

 

-- I know we all were pulling for Phil Mickelson to win the Open, and he would have been a great champion.   But Justin Rose is a great substitute.  An proper Englishman, Rose is a gentleman, very popular among his peers, and he has as a gorgeous golf swing.  He was on the short list of great players who hadn’t yet won a major.  Now that he has, look for him to win more.  Rose is a fine addition to the list of remarkable championship Merion has produced.

 

-- Working for the week in the big media center next to the big merchandise tent was a pleasure, especially listening to out-of-towners marvel at Merion and Philadelphia.  Because there is hasn’t been a major here since 1981, and there is no regular PGA Tour stop, many of my media colleagues hadn’t been to Philadelphia before and knew very little about the city.  What they saw, they loved.  Most of them could not believe that cool little Merion had been quietly sitting here for all these years and they didn’t know a thing about her.

 

-- Just because the Open was a success, don’t necessarily expect Merion to be back in the U.S. Open rota of courses every 10 years or so.  I’d be surprised if they want to host another Open for another 20 to 30 years.  Despite all the great publicity for Merion and the city, hosting an Open is a hassle and an imposition on the club and its members for years.  Merion needs and deserves a breather.

 

There’s another thing, which I hadn’t thought about until a Merion mentioned it to me the other day:  There’s a bit of the passing-of-the-torch going on inside Merion right now.  The U.S. Amatuer in 2005, the Walker Cup in 2009 and now the Open were the work of an older generation of very active Merion members.  Now, their work is done.  They are ready to step back and let a younger generation of members assume leadership roles at the club.  It’s up to those younger people to want and seek out future Opens.

 

-- Finally, this is my last blog post for a week, maybe two.  Last summer, I was out of commission for a month or so because of left hip replacement surgery.  Less than a year later, same thing on my right side.

 

Assuming the surgery goes as well as it did last time, I’ll be back at my laptop in a couple of weeks playing golf again in 8-9 weeks, in mid- to late-August.

 

Until then, I am your faithful golf correspondent.    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Fran[6/18/2013 4:52:03 AM]
I agree completely but I think a debt of gratitude is also owed to the local townships, the neighbors and the volunteers. They were all great hosts and very friendly. Philadelpphia which always takes a black eye from the national media looked like the major league city we always knew it was. A speedy recovery Joe.

So far, Mike Davis is looking pretty smart
Thursday, June 13, 2013
By Joe Logan

Tiger Woods, Rory McIlory and Adam Scott are still on the course in the first round, but the inescapable conclusion so for is that Mike Davis was right and most of the rest of the world of golf was wrong: Merion can still host a U.S. Open.

 

Davis, of course, is the executive director of the U.S. Golf Association.  He was also the staffer, back in the early 2000s, who was dispatched to Philadelphia by then-executive director David Fay to break the news to Merion that it was no longer a candidate to host an Open.

 

Once at Merion, Davis saw enough to convince him otherwise.  He returned to Golf House and informed his boss that he thought the conventional wisdom was wrong, that if everybody put their heads together, Merion was up to the task.

 

Within months, Fay made his own trip to Merion, played the course, and came around to Davis’ way of thinking.  Together, they convinced the Executive Committee of the USGA.

 

Now, Fay is gone, and the Open at Merion has become Davis’ baby.  The master plan, or the vision, is in his head.  It was also Davis who told Merion superintendent Matt Shaffer how to prepare the course, and Davis who sets it up each day.  So far, Davis is looking very, very smart.

 

Phil Mickelson has the lead, with an opening round of 3-under 67, on a day that he felt Merion played as easy as it possibly could.  It seems unlikely that anybody is going to go truly low, embarrassing Merion in the process.

 

From the looks of things, Merion is going to hold up just fine.  The Open is off to a good start.


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Thanks, Golf Channel, for reminding us what the Open is about
Tuesday, June 4, 2013
By Joe Logan

How about a round of applause for Golf Channel for Monday’s wall-to-wall coverage of U.S. Open Sectional Qualifying, which they dubbed "Golf’s Longest Day."

 

Starting with their "Morning Drive" show until they signed off at midnight from Merion GC, Golf Channel had reporters filing live reports from all 11 Sectional Qualifying sites.  I don’t know about you, but I checked in a bunch of times throughout the day, then settled in last night for three or four straight hours.

 

What they captured was precisely what I like about the Open  -- that it’s open, at least to anybody with a 1.4 USGA index or better.  If you’ve got the game and a check for $150, sign up and give it your best shot.

 

Yesterday, like every year, there were stories of joy and triumph and there were stories of heartbreak and disappointment.  One of those guys coming up just short was 18-year-old Brandon Matthews, who has been a standout on Temple’s golf team all year.

 

At the 36th hole at Century CC in Purchase, N.Y., Matthews was forced to take an unplayable lie, just off the green.  He figured he needed to get up-and-down to perhaps get into a playoff, or qualify as an alternate for the Open.  Instead, Matthews proceeded to hit a flop shot into the hole, for a 67, and what appeared to be a spot in the field at Merion.  Alas, a few holes behind him, another 18-year-old amateur, Gavin Hall, birdied the final four holes to deny Matthews’ dream.

Brandon MatthewsBrandon Matthews
(Photo: USGA)

 

For every sad story, there were stories of success – Gavin Hall, for example.  Golf Channel was all over them.

 

Unless you see these things play out, it’s easy to forget that the best stories from the Open often come from the journey to get there, not the actual championship.  Few of these Monday qualifiers will make the 36-hole cut at Merion.   We’ve seen them time and time again – guys who shot 67-68 to get into the Open then shoot 81-82 once they get there.

 

I’ve interviewed a hundred of them over the years.  They’re amateurs like Brandon Matthews and Gavin Hall, or club pros who give it a shot every year.  It’s the pressure, or the grand stage, or maybe they just spent everything they had in the Qualifier.  Even when they miss the cut by a mile, they generally have one thing in common: a smile on their face.

 

So what if they missed the cut?  They made it into a U.S. Open and, at least for a week, got treated like golfing royalty.  They get that sense of accomplishment and they get the excitement of sharing the experience with their friends and families.  They get issued player’s badge, which they can keep for the rest of their lives, and they often get assigned a locker three or four lockers down from Tiger or Phil or Rory.  It’s all they can do not to jump up and down like a kid on Christmas morning.  For most of these guys, making it to the Open is a dream come true, the highlight of their golfing life.  Even if they miss they cut, you can never take that a way from them.

 

So, thanks, Golf Channel, for reminding us of what the Open is all about. 


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Professor Joe Bausch 
Bausch Collection adds 12 more course galleries
Friday, May 31, 2013
By Joe Logan

There is no grass growing under Joe Bausch’s feet.

 

Okay, that’s corny, I know, but Bausch, our resident golf addict and course photographer, has recently uploaded another dozen courses to the Bausch Collection, our ever-growing archive of course photo galleries.  He’s now up to more than 160 courses in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland.  So far as I can tell, this is the most comprehensive collection of golf course photos anywhere in the Philadelphia region.

 

I was delighted to hear from one MyPhillyGolf regular reader that he uses the Bausch Collection exactly as Joe and I envision it – as resource material and a reference guide.  The guy I was talking to is the general manager of a club in the area.  A while back, when he was in the midst of a job search, he would go directly to the Bausch Collection whenever someone mentioned a certain course or club that might be hiring.  I’ve talked to other people who wouldn’t think of playing a course without first checking it out through the Bausch Collection.

 

As I written several times before, Joe doesn’t do this for a living; he’s chemistry professor a Villanova.   But golf and documenting each new course he plays is his passion.  Joe is also heavily involved in the restoration of Cobbs Creek GC through Friends of Cobbs Creek.  He’s in these two videos I did about the restoration effort (Part 1, Part 2).

 

Joe is an equal opportunity photographer.  He plays and shoots the best of the best (Merion) and he plays and shoots plenty of the working-man’s courses (Twining Valley).  Basically, he never met a course he didn’t want to photograph.

 

The most recent additions are:

The Architects Club

Bala GC

Gilbertsville GC

Green Valley CC

Hawk Valley GC

Northampton Valley CC

Overbrook GC

Philadelphia Cricket – St. Martin’s

Rolling Turf GC

Sea Oaks GC

Twining Valley GC

Worcester GC

 

Enjoy.


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A few quick observations about the í71 Open rebroadcast
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
By Joe Logan

Watching all three hours of last night’s rebroadcast of the 1971 U.S. Open playoff between Jack Nicklaus and eventually winner Lee Trevino at Merion was like climbing into a time machine.  I felt like Marty McFly in "Back to the Future."

 

A few observations:

 

-- Jack Nicklaus might be the greatest player of all time but you could grow a 5 o’clock shadow for him to pull the trigger over a putt.  I mean, come on, I don’t know how he survived his career without back problems.  Every putt, as Jack leaned over the ball for an eternity, I was wondering:  What is he waiting for?  What is he thinking about?  Do you think he knows or cares that we’re all going bonkers?

 

-- I had forgotten what a unique, stylized yet fabulous and effective swing Lee Trevino had in his prime.  I could watch him for another three hours.

 

-- Even back then, the rough at Merion was impossibly thick, long and gnarly.  You could lose a small child in there.

 

-- How about those candy-apple wing-tippy saddle shoes?  They were quite the rage back then.  I had a pair myself, with the little flappy things.  I wore them all through high school and into college.  If my non-golf friends had seen them...well, I made sure they never did.

 

-- Did you catch the quick greenside interview with Trevino after the final round of regulation?  He said of Merion, "It’s a great golf course; it’s a thinking man’s golf course."  Not much has changed.

 

-- Even then, Merion was a pint-sized Open venue.   They said it was the first time the Open was a sellout.  They also said the gallery was limited to 14,000 per day because the grounds were limited to 126 acres.  This year, the gallery will be 25,000 per day.  Could be close quarters so make sure to bring your breath spray.

 

-- Even then, the predictions were that the pros would "tear old Merion apart."  "They certainly haven’t so far," said the commentator.   "Only one player is under par."

 

-- Finally, as my golf writer buddy Jeff Silverman just called to point out: How about those marshal uniforms?  Wow!  "Have you ever, in your life, seen anything so bad?" said Jeff. 


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Joe[5/30/2013 5:04:49 AM]
I wonít claim to be a golf historian. In that regard, I bow to my friend James W. Finegan. But I have played the game for 50 years and I am old enough to have watched Jack Nicklaus in his prime, and I was among those who resented him in real time when he dethroned Arnold Palmer. Iím also a huge fan of Jack Nicklaus. I have interviewed him often and I have the utmost respect for him as a man and as a father, and I revere his accomplishments as a player. Itís just that I think he took longer over a putt back then than he did later in his career -- or so it seemed as I watched that í71 playoff.
Andy Mous[5/30/2013 4:38:45 AM]
Joe, guess youíre not much of a golf historian, nor Nicklaus fan. it is fairly well known that Nicklaus took a long time over putts. His competitors were amazed that he could even pull the trigger after being over the putt so long. Not sure why it took a í71 Open rebroadcast for you to know that? Holing 5-6 footers on 15, 16 and 17 in the final round with the Open on the line were amazing. Imagine the hype had Tiger done that...


 
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