Monday, August 8, 2016

116th U. S. Open in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - City of Champions

116th U. S. Open Spectator Square

June 2016
Father's Day Week

     For more than a year we knew we would make this trip.  With much to celebrate, it was a call to come home.  Oakmont sits less than 5 miles from Dad and that right there would be worth the trip but with the Penguins victorious and many local courses marking anniversaries, it seemed the whole city was celebrating. 
     We stopped on route in southern Virginia to visit a dear friend.  At 92, Ginny still plays golf and keeps a locker at Kinderton Country Club.  She introduced us at the clubhouse, telling them that I am her Godchild and a flood of emotion flowed right over me.  She has known us all our married lives, me since Dad was in the Navy with her husband Gobe, since before I was born.  This was the kind of trip it would be, full of heartbeats, hard to golf.

Gobe's Bluebird Houses still
line the fairways of
Kinderton Country Club

     But golf we did, playing the front with her toward the end of the day on lush hills that Donald Ross and Dick Wilson laid down in 1947 when Burlington Mills looked for an anchor of recreation to keep their empoyees from drifting away.  Hard to imagine anyone today wanting to leave one of the prettiest parts of the country with farms and timberlands hugging miles and miles of Kerr Lake Reservoir along that North Carolina/Virginia border.   Some of the friendliest people in the world are at the quaint visitor's center in South Boston, Virginia.  They helped us map our way through beautiful, historic country roads all the way to Hagerstown, Maryland from which point I could find my way "home".

Champion Lakes Golf Resort
Ligonier, Pennsylvania
Celebrating 50 Years!

     Dick Groat is a home-town son - raised on the East End of Pittsburgh just a few miles away from the storied Forbes Field where he would play shortstop for the Pirates from 1956 to 1962, including 1960, the year they beat the Yankees at home in the World Series.  An all-around athlete who played basketball for Duke, his career includes years as a radio commentator for Pitt men's basketball.  He knew he wanted to raise his family in the city he loved and when the kids were small started building a golf course with teammate Jerry Lynch just east of town in the Ligonier Valley. 
     Pittsburgh is a small city.  Everyone knows everyone, so it seems.  Growing up with his middle daughter, I had gone to Champion Lakes often, but many years later this would be my first visit as a golfer.

Champion Lakes, Hole 2
     Western Pennsylvania is surprisingly rural.  It doesn't take long for farms to appear after heading east from the boroughs of Pittsburgh.  And as with all farming communities, folks here rally in support of each other.  We had come to play rather late on a Sunday, thinking the course and clubhouse would be quiet and we might have a few minutes to visit with old friends.  We arrived to a full parking lot as an impromptu dinner was in full swing to benefit a local family who had lost their home to fire just a few days before.  With a B & B and two guest houses, Champion Lakes is popular with groups and they had already been hosting a 2-day outing but everyone was welcome.  It felt like an old-fashioned barn-raising.
     The Lynch House now operates as the B & B, but this is not your lace curtains and tea B & B.  Each of the nine quarters is named for a Pirate teammate including Bill Mazeroski, Elroy Face, Bob Friend and Bill Virdon.  The decor is complete with authentic memorabilia and the restaurant's menu would satisfy a steelworker!

Chestnut Ridge from
Champion Lakes Back 9

     Just 5 miles north of historic Ligonier and 10 miles east of Arnold Palmer's Latrobe, it's clear why Mr. Groat would choose this spot to build his dream in 1966.  Embraced by the folds of Chestnut Ridge, wrapped within the Laurel Highlands, welcomed by friends old and new, it feels like coming home.

To watch a special moment in Pirate History, go to
for Game 7 of the 1960 World Series!

The Bob O'Connor Golf Course at Schenley Park
Home of The First Tee of Pittsburgh

     Schenley is a special place - a city park, a public course, a link between the past and the future, it's a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Golf Course and encompasses all that Pittsburgh holds dear.  My brother was a caddy here when kids were allowed to be.  Titans of industry played here in the day.  Opened in 1902, it's the only golf course in the city limits, its fairways sometimes crossing the picturesque roads that carry cars, bikes, runners and students heading to the museums and universities of Oakland.
Bob O'Connor Clubhouse at Schenley

     At 4620 yards, this walker's course will fool you.  It includes some of the steepest hills I've ever climbed with a golf bag and on occasion I would have to stop to catch my breath.  Weather-permitting, it's played year-round and, weather-not-permitting, there are now several state-of-the-art simulators thanks to very generous donors who understand the importance of this golf course.
     Renamed Bob O'Connor after a Pittsburgh Mayor who liked to play here, it's the home of the First Tee of Pittsburgh and every single penny profit goes to support it.  The week we were there Dick's Sporting Goods, a Pittsburgh company, was helping them celebrate their 15th year with a "Tee It Forward" gala and benefit that included celebrities like President George W. Bush.  And the day we played most of the staff and kids were volunteering at Oakmont.  My brother would be so proud.  I know I am.

Campuses at the edge of Schenley
include Pitt's Cathedral of Learning
A Good Finish at Schenley

Grand View Golf Club

Celebrating 20 Years

     The Monster On The Mon sits atop Matta Hill on the eastern edge of Pittsburgh, overlooking the Monongahela River with vistas that are at once beautiful and poignant.   The Steel City's tight-knit triangle of glittering skyscrapers is in clear view to the right, to the left are General Braddock's hills where pre-Revolutionary War skirmishes happened underfoot.  And below sits the USX Edgar Thompson facility, the first and last remaining major steel mill in Western Pennsylvania.  Like the city around it, this golf course is tough.

Mow up, Back down


A Garden Variety Golfer in Steeler Country
     The gentlemen we were paired with had come for the Open.  One Aussie, one Scot, they were duly impressed with the steep terrain, the lush grass - that's what three rivers will get you!  They were also thankful for our prior knowledge as shot-making is key here.  Distance is a hard thing to judge.


     We talked a little about the history of the city, the industries that made it, the people who love it.  One of them pointed out the tee markers as evidence of that - little anvils, black, silver, gold and copper - but underneath each one was steel.

Oakmont Country Club
A Garden Variety Golfer in the
Oakmont Rough

and the 116th US Open

     Nothing prepares you for your first look at Oakmont.  It's reputation as the hardest golf course in America sounds debatable, until you walk onto its grounds.  And the decades of growth that followed Henry Fownes' original design would begin to hide that fact from view, but since going back to the 1903 landscape all is laid bare again - it's formidable.
     The Allegheny sweeps along the north of Oakmont toward its confluence downtown with the Monongahela, forming the great Ohio River.  The golf course sits on the top of the bluffs at the mercy of wind and snow and sun.  Its icy-slick greens are a unique strain of Poa annua (common bluegrass) that thrives here and nowhere else.  Bunkers deeper than Matt Kuchar are standard.  And the Church Pews - the Church Pews are where penance is served.

Matt Kuchar assessing a sand shot
Oakmont Church Pews
Angel Cabrera, a Past Champion
and Pittsburgh Favorite


USGA Officials on the 18th

     Everyone seems to come to this Open.  Everyone in Pittsburgh, almost certainly.  My Dad's neighbors were volunteering on the 6th.  I found out later a classmate was behind the big board, posting numbers.  Friend's kids were working with caterers.  School bus drivers were brought in from every surrounding school district to shuttle patrons.  We only attended Tuesday's practice round but the event was everywhere that we went.  Everyone talked about it.  Everyone watched it.  Golfers, non-golfers, when the Open comes to Oakmont, this city embraces it.  Proud to be known as the home of the hardest golf course in America.  Right at home in the City of Champions.


Back Again in 2025

Sunday, February 21, 2016

2016 PGA Merchandise Show and Demo Day

2016 PGA Merchandise Show and Outdoor Demo Day
January 26 - 29, 2016

      #ThxPGAPro - the phrase means Thank Your PGA Pro - and beginning with Outdoor Demo Day at Orange County National Golf Center and Lodge and throughout the 2016 PGA Merchandise Show it was a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the PGA of America.

     Some of our most memorable moments this year were spent meeting, visiting with and listening to an incredible array of PGA Professionals.  Lee Trevino who opened the show and spoke of hard work, dedication and the long-lasting relationship of a student and a teacher, who signed our 1968 issue of Golf Magazine with his picture on the cover- then the newly crowned US Open Champion! - serious on that cover - all smiles ever since.  Bob Toski, age 89, instructor and member of the PGA Golf Professional Hall of Fame, author of The Touch System For Better Golf, "the best book I ever wrote" he told us as he signed our dog-eared copy we had brought to show him, laughing and joking and playing to the crowd around us.  Lexi Thompson at Demo Day, just recently turned 21, so generous with her time and so kind to her fans.  The Shark, Greg Norman, with a lineup to meet him, forearms still as strong as timber even while just holding a pen.  And Nancy Lopez - Nancy Lopez is certainly special.  One of the greatest ambassadors that golf has, people flock to her and she has all the time in the world for them. 

Lee Trevino crediting Bill Eschenbrenner,
Friend, Mentor & PGA Master Professional

Nancy Lopez gives all the time in the world to a
Garden Variety Golfer
     The PGA Show is a finely-tuned machine, providing for everything and that includes transportation for participants from the vast number of hotels back and forth to the venues.  Our last day was cold and wet, people huddled from the rain as they hurried to their rooms.  We followed an older gentleman out of the coach - he clipped along despite a limp.  We asked if he enjoyed the show and yes, he had.  Was he a vendor?  No.  He was a teaching professional.  We never got his name but before he ducked into his room we shook his hand and he enchanted us with a smile.  He reminded us so very much of Mr. Bill Morgan who taught generations of golfers at Southridge Golf Course in Deland, Florida from 1968 into the new millennium.  He was the first teaching pro we ever knew, one of the most generous men we've had the pleasure to meet.  Thank you, Bill Morgan.  We hope we've done you proud.

Products and People that caught our attention -

Clubs and Shafts

Amazing Cre      We were introduced to this company last year.  Club designer Dono Kim continuously works on reducing drag with these beautiful clubs.



         Fujikura Composites America Inc. has a new speeder shaft that we liked very much.

DV8 Sports - all you need to practice
fitted into a backpack
The new Wilson Staff C200 irons 
have nice weighting

Compact and portable clubs included the Rival and Revel handheld shag bag and the DV8 Sports interchangeable head practice set in a backpack carry case.  Wilson Staff irons come in a variety of weighting options and the new Duo urethane ball has remarkably soft feel.

 just plain gorgeous!

     Ping was celebrating 50 years since founder Karsten Solheim invented the revolutionary Ping Anser putter.  Like most great inventions, it was created in a garage!  And like all great golf companies, Ping has been dedicated to contributing to the good of the game, creating the Solheim Cup in 1990 to celebrate Women's Golf and inspire girls to take up our sport.

  And we always return to Ben Hogan Golf.  This year hybrids have been added to their stable.  Their irons have expanded, too.  Higher handicappers are going to appreciate their PTx irons and low handicappers are going to love the Ft. Worth hi's.

Golf Aids, Toys and Accessories

     One of the first inventors we met this year was Dr. Dan Schummer who was so nice to give us a sample of his patented Tee Correct which aligns the ball height perfectly for your club.  Very simple, affordable and made in the USA!

     Night Eagle Golf/ Premier Glow Golf Balls puts the tech in glow-in-the-dark with their light-activated LED golf balls.  No excuse now for lost balls after dark!

Popticals folding eyewear
carried on a great campaign - classy glasses made in Italy have a unique disappearing hinge and flat arm design when closed.

                      John Mason, USGTF Golf Professional and developer of the ForeMat Habit Golf Training Mat, has given thoughtful consideration to posture, alignment and routine when designing his training surface, surely gleaned from his many years of teaching.  Friend, fellow golf instructor and PGA Golf Professional Hall of Famer Bob Toski joined him at his booth for great conversation and autographs.

New Helix bag designs by Coastal Shine Golf Trading Inc. include built-on wheels and a retractable hard shell sleeve that protects clubs during travel or shipping.

KLVN has developed a dual-bag system for quick release of your short irons when heading to the green or practice area.  Made in Chicago of injection-molded plastics, this was the newest looking product we came across at the show.

Two of our favorite products are on polar ends of the price scale
but could provide hours of enjoyment to any golfer- Chilly Cheeks, portable seat cushions that cool when it's hot and warm when it's not

and E6 Cloud by Trugolf, Inc golf simulation that is setting the bar.  Look for it soon in your favorite game room - even truck stop!

A shout out to the golf cart accessory companies who carry just about anything you can think of:  Stenton's Golf Cart Accessories Inc. and Nivel Parts & Mfg. Co., both of which could surely update our 1975 EZ Go!

                     And here's to Leighton Golf Umbrellas - putting a bright spot on a rainy day!


Apparel & Fabrics

     Sports fabrics and designs are synonymous with innovation, always striving for comfort, strength and style.  This year's show included a Textile Sourcing Pavillion which introduced international and domestic manufacturers to brands and buyers, showcasing the newest materials and opportunities. 

     Skechers has stepped into the apparel arena with a secret recipe for water resistance that somehow includes a ceramic on the fabric!


Foot Joys displayed a veritable candy store of shoes.

Nancy Lopez Golf designs take women from the last putt of the day to dinner at the clubhouse without breaking stride. 

      Antigua was showing off the Solheim Cup uniforms for 2017 - we're looking forward to seeing
what the Des Moines Country Club will have in store for that rivalry!  See our post on Greenskeepers for a look into what it takes to get a mid-western golf course ready for international competition!

Two very entertaining displays were Tilley Endurables who produce the indestructible Tilley Hat, tested by a zoo-keeper and a hungry pachyderm

                                       and Tabasco Apparel that will spice up your golfwear!

     A special mention here of Peax Power Shorts - a concept that no doubt evolved from the years that Jeff Booher PT, ATC has spent as a physical therapist.  Woven into the fabric of these compression shorts are diagonal energy-transfer bands that help those in rotational sports like golf improve their lower body transition for more power and distance in their swing.


     We would like to thank several groups who were representing golfers near and dear to our hearts. 
Veteran Golfers Association swappin' stories with a young golfer
Veteran Golfers Association, promoting the game of golf to veterans and their family members
National Alliance for Accessible Golf, Stephen C. Jubb, PGA, Executive Director
World's Largest Golf Outing, benefiting the Wounded Warrior Project
Salute Military Golf Association, providing rehabilitative golf programs and opportunities to post
9/11 wounded war veterans
Folds of Honor, special events include The Memorial Day Patriot Cup and Patriot Golf Day, providing scholarships and assistance to the spouses and children of those wounded or killed in service to America
     Generous with their time and information, these advocates for veterans and those with physical challenges understand the incredible role that golf can play as therapeutic sport.  Consider the gift that golf gives any of us and then consider the contribution it can make in the lives of those trying to come back to life.  Golf - it's a very, very special sport.
Folds of Honor, Flags Flying at the Outdoor Demo Day