By BILL BROTHERTON
Golfers should be in the best of moods. CBS is providing exhaustive coverage of the self-important Masters golf championship this weekend. FOX-25 meteorologist/fox Shiri Spear predicts a rain-free four days, with temperatures in the 70s on Monday and Tuesday, delighting linksmen/women who are polishing their shoes and rescuing their clubs from the garage. Grass on some local courses is starting to turn green.
But golfers are grumpier than usual. All anyone is talking about is how the buffoons at the Ladies Professional Golf Association robbed Lexi Thompson of a championship last weekend.
To recap: At the ANA Inspiration tournament in California last Sunday, Thompson was assessed a 2-stroke penalty for improperly marking her ball the day before, then another 2 strokes for signing an incorrect scorecard. Thompson marked a 1-foot putt with a coin on the 17th green during her third round, but she replaced the ball one-half inch out of position.
The absurd part: A TV viewer alerted the LPGA by email. Not an official. A TV viewer. By email.
Even worse: Thompson had already played 12 holes of her final round when an LPGA rules official approached her on the course and informed her of the penalties, which erased a three-shot lead. She somehow qualified for a playoff, but lost on the first extra hole to So Yeon Ryu.
You might recall that Dustin Johnson was given a one-stroke penalty in last year’s US Open because some clown watching on TV pointed out that the world’s No. 1 player’s ball had moved on the fifth green before he putted. Johnson still won by two strokes.
And officials wonder why golf viewership is plummeting. The absence of Tiger Woods might have something to do with it, but boneheaded decisions like this certainly play a role. It seems everybody’s a referee now.
Woods immediately came to Thompson’s defense on Twitter. Tiger’s tweet: Viewers at home should not be officials wearing stripes.
Jack Nicklaus, Phil Michelson, Ricky Fowler … nearly every pro, male and female, rallied to Lexi’s defense, even though the video clearly shows she mismarked her ball. Once a scorecard is signed, that should be it.
Even LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan said the controversial penalty had reduced him to tears. “It’s a great example of something that’s 100 percent right by the rules and feels 100 percent wrong on all functions,” said Whan.”The penalty in this case doesn’t fit the crime and it drives me crazy.”
NBC golf analyst Dan Hicks got in a hot lick: “Another embarrassing day for golf and rules which just don’t make any common sense.” And cohort Jimmy Roberts added “This whole rules debacle is so bad for golf. Just makes the establishment look like a bunch of over-officious fools.”
My take: the Russians are behind it. Remember, the email-sender has not been identified. An official CIA investigation will find that Vlad Putin was sitting in his Barcalounger, watching women’s golf and sipping his sixth Mikhail’s Hard Lemonade. For some reason, he was rooting against Lexi Thompson, who those of us who watched her at the 2010 Curtis Cup at Essex CC in Manchester-by-the-Sea know is a lovely young lady. Under the influence of the sickeningly sweet alcoholic beverage, he decided to cause trouble. He probably texted his Minister of Nastiness to hack into the LPGA site and cause trouble.
I bet Putin’s behind that April the Giraffe mess, too. Just wait, she’s not pregnant; she’s two months overdue for heaven’s sake. The webcam’s probably some twisted social experiment to see how long people will watch a “pregnant” giraffe. Eventually, viewers will turn away.
That will happen to professional golf, too, if dumb decisions like this continue.
Bill Brotherton is editor of North Shore Golf magazine. Reach him at email@example.com.
The United States Golf Association announced minutes ago that Ray Bourque, who retired as the most prolific scoring defenseman in National Hockey League history and was a longtime Boston Bruins captain, has been named honorary chairman of the 38th U.S. Senior Open Championship, which will be conducted June 29-July 2 at Salem Country Club in Peabody, Mass.
Bourque, who played 20-plus seasons for the Bruins and led the franchise to a pair of Stanley Cup Finals appearances, won the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top defenseman five times and finished second to Mark Messier in 1990 for the Hart Memorial Trophy as the league’s most valuable player. He finished his career with the Colorado Avalanche in 2001, winning his lone Stanley Cup in his final game. Bourque was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2004 in his first year of eligibility.
“Being named honorary chairman of the 2017 U.S. Senior Open is a thrill for me,” said Bourque, who received the 2003 Lester Patrick Award for outstanding service to hockey in the United States. “I’ve been playing golf most of my life and have been a member at Salem Country Club for 25 years. Every round there is special. I love the game and its traditions and I’m looking forward to helping with the championship and being associated with the very best senior players in the world.
“I’ve worked with kids my whole career and one of the great benefits of this event is kids 17 years old and under get in free with a ticketed adult. That’s an opportunity for a lot of young people to see some of the top golfers in the history of the game on one of the best Donald Ross courses up close and in person.”
Bourque annually hosts a celebrity golf tournament to raise funds for the Celebrities for Charity Foundation, which he co-founded with former teammate Cleon Daskalakis 20 years ago. One of the most honored players in hockey history, Bourque won the 1980 Calder Memorial Trophy as the league’s top rookie and the 1992 King Clancy Memorial Trophy for leadership and humanitarian efforts. He was chosen as an NHL All-Star 19 times, including 13 first-team selections, and was voted All-Star Game MVP in 1996.
“Ray Bourque is one of hockey’s greatest players and his name is synonymous with the Boston Bruins and sports in New England,” said Stuart Francis, USGA Championship Committee chairman. “He has also served the game of golf, been active with charities in his community and will be a respected ambassador of this year’s U.S. Senior Open.”
Bourque, who was born in Saint-Laurent, Quebec, and was selected eighth overall in the 1979 NHL Entry Draft by the Bruins, collected 410 goals and 1,169 assists for 1,579 points in 1,612 regular-season games. His assists total is fourth all-time behind Wayne Gretzky, Ron Francis and Messier. Bourque’s five Norris Trophies rank behind only fellow Bruins’ legend Bobby Orr (8), Nicklas Lidstrom (7) and Doug Harvey (7).
Bourque was the longest-serving captain of the Bruins, a 12-year span. From his spot on the Boston blueline, he led the franchise to two conference titles, five division crowns, and one President’s Trophy for most points in a season. In 214 NHL playoff games, Bourque accounted for 180 points, with 41 goals and 139 assists. His jersey number, 77, was retired by both the Bruins and the Avalanche.
“In addition to being a hockey Hall of Fame inductee, Ray Bourque is a valued member of Salem Country Club and is extraordinarily generous with his time and talents, which he shares with numerous North Shore charities,” said William H. Sheehan III, general chairman of the 2017 U.S. Senior Open. “Ray will be active in the lead-up to the Senior Open, which includes hosting a junior clinic during championship week. We look forward to working closely with Ray as the club prepares to welcome the golf world to Salem Country Club in just a few short months.”
In his role as honorary chairman, Bourque, 56, will support the sixth USGA championship to be held at Salem Country Club. The course was the site of the 2001 U.S. Senior Open, when Bruce Fleisher defeated Gil Morgan and Isao Aoki by one stroke. Fleisher, runner-up in the previous year’s Senior Open to Hale Irwin, shot a final-round 68 that included 12 consecutive pars to finish the championship at even-par 280. During the final nine holes of the championship, five other players, including Aoki and two-time Senior Open champion Jack Nicklaus, were tied for the lead.
The U.S. Senior Open Championship for golfers age 50 and older is open to any professional and any amateur with a Handicap Index® not exceeding 3.4. The 2018 championship is scheduled for June 28-July 1 at the Broadmoor Golf Club (East Course), in Colorado Springs, Colo. In 2019, Warren Golf Course on the campus on the University of Notre Dame, in Notre Dame, Ind., will host from June 27-30.
U.S. Senior Open tickets are available online at www.usga.org/senioropen. Trophy Club, practice-round and championship-round tickets are available on a daily and weekly basis. Youths 17 and under are admitted free with a ticketed adult.
The North Shore of Massachusetts boasts a rich golf history. In the late 1880s, the North Shore was the summer playground for the wealthy and golf played a major role in attracting and engaging the well-to-do. A few holes began popping up on private land from Ipswich to Beverly to Gloucester. Then, in 1893, construction of the area’s first course began in Manchester and Essex County Club was established. Many more would follow.
Historians, even those who never struck a guttie or a liquid core ball with a niblick or a persimmon wood, have long been enamored with the North Shore and its rich golf legacy. The intrepid snow-bound crew of investigative journalists at North Shore Golf magazine decided to put their off-season to good use: Since we couldn’t dig up divots on frozen ground we opted to dig up little known facts, trivia and even best kept secrets about our courses, clubs and the people who helped make our region such a hotbed for golf.
By GARY LARRABEE
We’ve finally made it to 2017, a huge year for our resurrected North Shore Golf publication and our golf-crazy region.
Nothing looms larger than the area’s hosting of the 38th United States Senior Open championship, set for Salem Country Club in Peabody June 26 to July 2, featuring the greatest players in the world age 50 and older.
Play the world’s greatest courses at The Clubhouse in Middleton
By BILL BROTHERTON
Bob Bowman takes a mighty swing and splits the fairway with his tee shot. His playing partners, Mike Bondanza, Marc Jean and Jim Varzakis, applaud his effort, but not without a bit of good-natured ribbing. The foursome is about halfway through their round at Wildstone Golf Course in Cranbrook, British Columbia.