Joe Logan 
More love for Philadelphia Cricket
Wednesday, May 6, 2015
By Joe Logan

Finally, Philadelphia is starting to get some of the golf tournaments it richly deserves.


In June, the newly-restored Philadelphia Cricket Club Wissahickon Course will host the National Club Professional Championship.  For club pros across the country, this is the biggest deal all year.  It’s also a great tournament for fans.


Then, in 2018, Aronimink GC will host the BMW Championship, the penultimate FedEx Cup event of the year on the PGA Tour.  This, no doubt, is thanks to the fine job Aronimink did as fill-in host of the then-AT&T National in 2010 and 2011.  It also bodes well in the club’s quest to land a major or a Ryder Cup.


Earlier this year, the USGA announced that Cricket’s Wissahickon course will host the 2020 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball, a new much-anticipated event. 


And just yesterday, the PGA Tour announced that it is bringing the 2016 Senior Players Championship to Cricket and the Wissahickon course.


For local golf fans, this is a bonanza that was long in coming.  For Philadelphia Cricket, which has often found itself in the shadows of Merion GC, Aronimink GC and Pine Valley GC, this trio of tournaments -- the National Club Pro, the Senior Players and the Amateur Four-Ball -- is nothing less than a major conquest and sign of respect.

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Steve[5/7/2015 4:05:14 PM]
Yes, it’s about time. I foresee more. How about a US AM at Cricket using their 2 courses? Foster’s restoration of the Tillinghast course has brought the club into the higher echelon of classic courses, jumping from 102 to 32 on Golfweek’s ratings of Classic courses.

My first round of 2015 is in the books, and it was a doozy
Monday, April 27, 2015
By Joe Logan

My first round of the young golf season is finally in the books and, let me tell you, it was a doozy.


Before Saturday, my last round was Dec. 10th, in Arizona, during an annual golf trip/confab for golf writers.  That trip is always good to get in a few mid-winter rounds, plus catch up with my old pals from the golf circuit.


Back home in Philadelphia, my first round of the year is usually when we get the first day of decent weather.  I’ll drop whatever I’m doing and go play.  Some years that’s mid-March, some years, mid-April.


This year has been different.  Not that we haven’t already had good weather; we have.  There have been four, five, maybe six days just in the past three weeks that I was itching to grab the clubs and head out the door.


Problem was, ever since Easter, I have been nursing a sprained left ankle.  It’s not the worst sprain I’ve ever had, but it blew up like a volley ball, turned black and blue, and hurt like hell.  I’ve been hobbling around, to some degree, ever since.


I wish I could say the sprain was due to some impressive athletic endeavor on my part.  Not so.   Rather, that Sunday night three weeks ago, walking to my car in the dark, with my arms loaded with stuff, I stepped in a small hole, rolled my ankle and went crashing to the ground like a 100-pound sack of potatoes.  I slammed into the side of my car so hard I put a little dent in it.  Before I even tried to get up, I laid there for a minute or two taking a personal physical inventory. 


Head?  There was blood over my eye.  My twin titanium hips?  Much to my relief, they felt fine.  Elbows and knees?  Scrapped and a little bloody but nothing to worry about.  Ankle?  Not so good.  Instantly, as I laid there, I had visions of my golf season being postponed until about August.


I proceeded to do all the things you can do for a sprained ankle:  Iced it, elevated it and rested it for the rest of the night.  The next morning, I went to the drug store and bought one of those maximum-support ankle braces.  Still, golf or any serious activity was out of the question, at least for a while.


Then, about a week ago, I got a call from a friend.  He and I had been invited by another mutual friend to play golf on Saturday at his club.  His club is Pine Valley.


I believe you can appreciate my dilemma.


I hadn’t swung a club or hit a ball in more than four months.  My ankle, while improved, was at best 75 percent, not to mention untested.  You can only take so much Advil without doing yourself harm.  And, of course, Pine Valley is not only a walking-only course, it is a beast of a walking course.


Still, Pine Valley is Pine Valley, bum ankle be dammed.   So, I gamely showed up at Pine Valley on Saturday morning, sporting a new, lighter compression ankle brace under my sock.  I was going to play if they had to carry me around on their shoulders like some kind of Egyptian pharaoh.


My swing was as rusty and creaky as an old barn door latch.  Much to my surprise, I was able to hit my driver pretty well.  My iron game stunk to high heaven, and around the greens I had all the finesse and touch of a blacksmith.


Since it was Pine Valley, and a gorgeous afternoon, so I tried to keep my whimpering and complaining to a minimum.  I hobbled and limped, struggling to keep up with the others, which can be tough on some of the sandy footpaths at Pine Valley.


One of the other guys in the group kept score in our little $2 Nassau match, and he was kind enough not to bring the scorecard to the table afterward at lunch. But, out of curiosity, when I got home, I sat down and reconstructed my round as best I could from memory.  I will tell you I had a handful of pars, several double-bogeys, two triples, one snowman and an "X," which I tallied as a second snowman.  On the positive side of the ledger, I had one tap-in birdie.  All I will disclose is that I shot somewhere north of 90, but south of 100.  Just another day at Pine Valley. 


Anyway, my season is officially underway.






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Michael Bamberger’s new book ’Men In Green’
Thursday, April 23, 2015
By Joe Logan

If you’re looking for a good golf book to read, let me point you toward Michael Bamberger’s recently-released, Men In Green.


Bamberger, a senior writer at Sports Illustrated, is a friend, occasional golf partner and former colleague, dating back to our days together at the Philadelphia Inquirer, so I won’t pretend to present this as a totally objective book review.  It is not. 


That said, in my unbiased opinion, Bamberger is one of the best, if not the best, writer of his generation when it comes to golf and the people and issues associated with the game.  That’s what this book is all about – mini-profiles and stories about 18 people Bamberger has encountered or come to know and respect along the way in his career and golf travels.


He divides them into two categories:  "Living Legends," such as Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson; and "Secret Legends," which includes people you may or may not have heard of. 


Excerpt on Arnold Palmer and video interview with Bamberger


Among the "Secret Legends" is another top golf writer and friend, Jaime Diaz, contributing editor at Golf Digest and editor of Golf World; also on the list are two folks with Philadelphia connections:  Neil Oxman, who leads a double life as a political consultant and as Tom Watson’s caddie; and Chuck Will, a character if ever there was one and a man who spent about three decades as the top deputy to CBS’s Frank Chirkinian, who virtually invented the modern golf telecast.


There is one woman on the list, Mickey Wright, who many believe possessed the finest golf swing ever, by man or woman.  Because she has pretty much withdrawn from public life, the LPGA legend declined to fully participate in Bamberger’s effort, even if she was nothing less than gracious in rebuffing him.


Some of the best stuff between the covers of Men In Green is Bamberger’s many encounters with Palmer, who he admires and reveres immensely; and Nicklaus, who is his ultimate golf hero.  Bamberger’s take on the late Ken Venturi, the former U.S. Open champion and CBS golf analyst, evolves over time from good to, shall we say, less flattering.


If there is a main theme running through the book, it is Bamberger’s close, enduring and complicated friendship with Mike Donald, a former journeyman PGA tour pro whose moment in the spotlight was losing the 1990 U.S. Open to Hale Irwin in a sudden-death playoff.


Donald, confidant and an invaluable source of facts, history and insights on golf and golf people, rode shotgun in Bamberger’s old beater of an Subaru Outback on many of their cross-country road trips/interviews.  The dynamic between the two is worth the price of admission for any shrink, couples therapist or anyone trying to maintain a marriage or relationship.


I often judge books by whether I dread picking them up or whether I can’t put them down.  Men In Green is the latter.


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Spieth vs. McIlroy: The dawning of a rivalry
Monday, April 13, 2015
By Joe Logan

As much fun as it was watching young Jordan Spieth’s to wire-to-wire win in the Masters, the implications for the future of the game are even more exciting.


Golf always benefits from a good rivalry, and now that Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson is winding down after almost two decades, what better time to welcome the dawning of Rory McIlroy vs. Jordan Spieth battling it out for World No. 1 and every major championship title for the next 20 years?


Besides being golfing prodigies of the highest order, McIlroy and Spieth are both quite likeable and marketable, even if they are a little white-bread boring for some fans’ tastes.  But so what?


Now, if only money, fame and the inevitable temptations that come with both don’t bring them down (see: Woods, Tiger), we could have a good thing going for a while.


I don’t know about you, but I’ve already had my fill of Bubba Watson.

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Oh, to be a fly on the wall inside Tiger’s head
Tuesday, April 7, 2015
By Joe Logan

After just watching the Tiger Woods pre-Masters press conference, I was so pumped it was all I could do not to plunk down a few bucks on him to win.


Well, as it happens, I’m not a betting man.  I also like to believe that my Mama didn’t raise no fool.


By all outward appearances, Tiger has his confidence back.  He said he has been at home "working my ass off" and that his game is back to where it needs to be.  There is also his burning desire to win major title No. 15.


On the other hand, I cannot ignore the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that reality will rear its ugly head sooner rather than later, during his opening round on Thursday.


Even for the one and only Tiger Woods, the Masters is not the place to reappear on the scene after a two-month absence, and not the place to reestablish your golfing supremacy on a track that has only grown increasingly faster.  The expectations, and the pressure, will be suffocating, even for the man with the strongest mind in the game.


Oh, to be a fly on the wall inside Tiger’s head right now.  He exudes confidence, because he knows that is what is required.  He smiles, a little nervously if you ask me, because he would never let us see him sweat. 


He’s done this before – four times – and he can do it again.  Just ask Tiger.  The question is, is he is trying to convince us or himself?












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Ah, the Masters, the weakest field of the majors
Monday, April 6, 2015
By Joe Logan

I love the Masters as much as the next guy, maybe more.


Long ago, I drank – gulped -- the Kool-Aid, before I ever wrote a word about golf for a living.  Even as a kid, I was transfixed by Augusta National and everything about the tournament.


Once I started going to the Masters with a notepad and a press pass, nothing changed.  I inhaled the springtime air in Augusta, and the way the Masters signaled the dawning of another golf season.  I soaked up the pomp and circumstance, the corny piano jingle we all associate with the tournament.  I didn’t even roll my eyes at the over-the-top reverence of CBS’s coverage, or the stunning pomposity of the club and its members.


Even as a hard-core cynic and sourpuss, when you walk through those gates and make your away around that golf course, all your defenses go right out the window.  No need to apologize.  It happens to everybody.


My unabashed love so stipulated, it is hard not to notice that, in point of fact, the Masters always has the suckiest field of any major championship.  This year is no exception.


For one thing, the Masters field is by far the smallest, rarely more than 100, usually less, when other majors have 156.  The small field is then diluted by the traditional inclusion of past champions who have utterly zero chance of winning.  Uh, I’m thinking Ben Crenshaw, Sandy Lyle, Mike Weir, Larry Mize, Tom Watson, Ian Woosnam, Bernhard Langer...I could go on.


Then, there Augusta National’s traditional and quaint inclusion of a number of amateurs who also have no chance of winning:  the U.S. Amateur champ and runner up, the British Amateur champ, the U.S. Mid-Am champ, the U.S. Publinks champ and, more recently, the Asian-Pacific Amateur champ and the Latin American Amateur champ.


In Augusta National’s noble effort to grow the game globally, the field is increasingly full of international players that I’ve never heard of and certainly couldn’t pick out of a line up.  Even if they somehow play their way onto the leaderboard, the guys in the control truck at CBS go into full panic mode.  For ratings purposes, they need Tiger, Phil, Rory, somebody we at least recognize.   They have and will settle for Fred Couples hanging in there on Thursday and Friday.


Bottom line, out of this year’s field of 98, there are maybe 30 to 35 guys who have a plausible shot at winning the Masters.  I wish I believed Tiger Woods was among them.


Of course, come Sunday afternoon, I, like you, will be glued to the 55-inch high-def window onto the luscious green golfing mecca of Augusta National, even if it comes down to Charley Hoffmann battling Joost Luiten for the green jacket.


It’s a sickness, really, for which there is no antidote.  Whaddaya gonna do?



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Jim Finegan at AT&T at Aronimink GC 
Remembering Jim Finegan
Friday, March 13, 2015
By Joe Logan

The first time I ever met James W. Finegan Sr., was in 1995, while he was still working on his definitive history of golf in Philadelphia, A Centennial Tribute to Golf in Philadelphia.


The occasional was a small, annual golf event at the Philadelphia Cricket Club, hosted by our mutual friend, Michael Bamberger, senior golf writer for Sports Illustrated.  I was familiar with Finegan’s name, but I didn’t know him or much about him.  That all changed when we were seated next to each other at the post-round dinner in the Flourtown clubhouse.


Nobody could tell a story like Jim Finegan.  Skinny as the shaft of a 1-iron, with a manner of speaking that defies description, when Finegan regaled you with a tale, he was all arms and all superlatives.  That 20-foot putt you made on the 12th was the single finest putt he had ever seen struck by an amateur or a professional. That course he played last month in Ireland was simply superior to anything anyone has designed in the last 100 years, case closed.


Finegan could go on and on like that, and he usually did.  In conversation with Finegan, you mostly listened, and happily so.  How could you not?


That night at the dinner, as Finegan told me about the book he was writing to commemorate GAP’s 100th anniversary, he mentioned he had been working on it for almost five years.


Five years? I couldn’t imagine working on a writing project for five years.


By the time his three-inch thick masterwork was published, in 1996, I was the newly-appointed golf writer for The Philadelphia Inquirer.  GAP sent me a copy, which promptly became the single most valuable reference book I have ever owned.  I still refer to it religiously to this day.  Anything or anybody I ever needed to know about having to do Philadelphia golf, Finegan had researched exhaustively and written about with authority, in great detail.  Dense with facts and perspective, I came to wonder how he ever wrote that book in only five years.


On the rare occasion that I couldn’t find precisely what I was looking for in Centennial Tribute, I would pick up the phone and call Finegan.  By then, we had become friends.  We would play golf together, meet for lunch, spent 45 minutes at a time on the phone.  Not only was he a bottomless storehouse of information and memories, Finegan was the single most quotable source I have ever known.  The man simply spoke in quotes.


He was generous with him time, his expertise and his praise.  How many times did the phone would ring and it would be Finegan?  "Joseph, that piece you had in the Inquirer this morning was simply amazing.  You told me things I did not know.  I don’t know how you do it – and on deadline!"


No, Jim, I don’t know how you did it.


Jim Finegan was the master.  I was, I am, his student, in awe of his talent and his charm, grateful to have known such a unique and endearing character.


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Joe Bausch[3/13/2015 5:37:55 PM]
Thanks for the nice tribute, Joe. I was at his presentation a few months ago on John McDermott. Wonderful.
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