Peter Uihlein's road less traveled paying off
By Tim Rosaforte
From the May 20 edition of Golf World Monday:
Peter Uihlein took the road less traveled, but it was longer than the one, say, Jordan Spieth took to the PGA Tour. Spieth went to the University of Texas before turning pro halfway through his sophomore year and in less than a semester locked down full exempt status for the 2014 season. He didn't have to travel much beyond Pebble Beach or Hilton Head to get full playing privileges in his home country.
Related: Peter Uihlein's win at the 2010 U.S. Amateur
Uihlein, 23, went to Oklahoma State, won the 2010 U.S. Amateur, and instead of going the sponsor-exemption route, got his passport and took off on a European Tour work-study program to places like India, Kenya and Kazakhstan. This was the same path Adam Scott took from the suggestion box of the same people who advised Uihlein.
Butch Harmon, who has been teaching Uihlein, and Peter's dad, Wally Uihlein, CEO of the Acushnet Company, who signed Scott to a Titleist deal when he turned pro in 2000, presented the idea. The famed European agent who signed Uihlein, Andrew (Chubby) Chandler, mapped out a schedule.
Uihlein, who won the Madeira Islands Open yesterday, was all in. Just as Scott believed it paid off before his Masters victory, so too did Uihlein before his first pro win. "It's hard not to listen to guys like that who have been around the block," Uihlein said before going out to celebrate with Brooks Koepka, with whom he shares an apartment in Florida. "I think it made sense even before I won today. Look at all the guys who started over here. It's just different being an American and doing it."
There were stumbling blocks early on, none worse than a trip to Morocco in March 2012 for the Trophee Hassan II that ended after an opening-round 83. Uihlein took nine weeks off during which he spent three weeks at Harmon's home in Las Vegas with Butch and wife Christy. "I really believe a young guy who comes out has it too easy on the U.S. Tour," Harmon said. "To go and play on the European Tour where the weather is bad, the courses different and the travel difficult, you become a better, well-rounded player in the long run."
The win gets Uihlein into this week's BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth and with a European Tour card secured, it has him looking at sponsor exemptions in the U.S. this summer. It also gives him bragging rights on Koepka, the Florida State graduate who won a European Challenge Tour event on May 5. They share an apartment in Palm Beach Gardens with Matt Broome, who is playing the Minor League Tour.
Related: "The next great American player" title doesn't always pan out
From his American base, Uihlein works out at PGA National with the same trainer as Stacy Lewis (Dave Donatucci) and works on his game at Floridian with Claude Harmon III and Old Palm GC, where Chandler has an office.
"This was quite a big win," Chandler said from his home in England. "He's been brave enough to do things differently when he could have had a lot of starts in the States, but he stuck to his plan. The idea was to learn the game before tackling the PGA Tour."
The road may have been less traveled, but it's leading Peter Uihlein back where he belongs.
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golfer and the game were changed forever.What a (Jason) Day for Sang-Moon Bae
By John Strege
Sang-Moon Bae already had a claim to at least a modicum of fame, courtesy of Golf Boys 2.Oh. Dial it up on You Tube and listen carefully, toward the end:
I took a vaycay at Sang-Moon Bae, I got a massage every single Jason Day
The Golf Boys are Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler, Hunter Mahan and Ben Crane, whose latest video has received nearly 3.8 million views on You Tube, no doubt leaving nearly 3.8 million viewers wondering where this Sang-Moon Bay is located and whether they too should plan a vaycay there.
Assuming they follow golf, they're likely to soon learn that Moon, as his colleagues call him, is not a destination resort, though if his golf swing was contagious, he'd be worth a visit.
"Fabulous golf swing," CBS' Nick Faldo said, after Bae outplayed Keegan Bradley down the stretch on Sunday to win the HP Byron Nelson Championship, his first PGA Tour victory.
Related: A closer look at Keegan Bradley's swing
His is a game that can travel, too, and it won't be in coach class. Only 26, Bae, a native of South Korea, also has 11 international victories, including three on the Asian Tour and another three on the Japan Golf Tour, where in 2011 he was its leading money winner.
If he or Bradley were stocks, they'd be strong buys at this point. This was already assumed about Bradley, who also is only 26 and already is a major champion and three-time winner on the PGA Tour. But Bae is relatively unknown, having joined the PGA Tour last year, when he earned $1,165,952, a figure, incidentally, that he exceeded with his victory at the TPC Four Seasons Resort in Irving, Texas.
Maybe better than his swing was the way he handled the pressure after squandering a four-stroke lead over Bradley. The last five holes are the most difficult stretch on the course with winds howling and he played them in even-par to win by two.
"We all marvel at this golf swing," Faldo said, "but I marvel at his mental strength as well. He showed great strength today. It wasn't very right for awhile and to face the big five holes to get in and shoot [even], fantastic."
Related: Our favorite fast players on the PGA Tour
Faldo also predicted that Bae won't be "a flash in the pan." Bae is banking on that as well, aiming as he is to represent South Korea in the Olympics in 2016. Military service is mandatory in South Korea and he has yet to fulfill his obligation, but an Olympic medal or a major championship would exempt him from service.
Until then, and with apologies to the Golf Boys, Sunday will serve as the finest (Jason) Day of his career.
Ken Venturi, 82, dies 11 days after Hall of Fame induction
By John Strege
His was a life in two acts, neither of which he would have scripted for himself. It was not particularly easy, and often not fair, but Ken Venturi took his cues from its challenges.
"Fate," his friend and colleague Jack Whitaker once told him by way of encouragement, "has a way of bending the twig and fashioning a man to his better instincts."
Fate cast Venturi with "an incurable" stutter that had him seek the isolation of golf and he became a U.S. Open champion. Fate robbed him of the dexterity in his hands and he became the longest-running lead analyst in television sports history.
"The full body of work, spanning everything involved in golf, there's nobody in that Hall of Fame that's done what he's done," his friend and long-time pupil John Cook said. "Maybe some have better records, more tournament wins, but the whole thing? None. He transformed television. He's been the biggest philanthropist in golf history of the things he's involved in that people don't even know about. Lifetime achievement? That barely covers it."
Venturi, 82, died on Friday, little more than a week after his induction in absentia into the World Golf Hall of Fame. He had been hospitalized following surgery for infections in his back.
Related: The golf genius of Ken Venturi
When he was elected to the Hall of Fame last fall, he summed it up this way: "The greatest reward in life is to be remembered."
Venturi will be remembered on a variety of fronts. When he was 13, "the doctor told my mother that I would never be able to speak as long as I lived, because I was an incurable stammerer. And I went out and found the loneliest sport I could find and took up golf."
At 24, he took a four-stroke lead into the final round of the Masters in a bid to become the first amateur to win at Augusta National. "For three dazzling days Venturi was within reach of a prize no amateur in the history of the Masters has ever been able to seize," the legendary writer Herbert Warren Wind wrote in Sports Illustrated. "But the Masters is a drama in four acts, not three, and on the fourth day it was exit Ken Venturi and enter Jackie Burke." Venturi finished second, still the best performance by an amateur in the history of the Masters.
Venturi would turn pro and win 14 PGA Tour events, including the U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club in 1964, when against doctor's orders he played the second 18 of a 36-hole day with temperatures upwards of 100 degrees and humidity in the 90s.
"When I came in off the 18th hole in the morning, I laid down next to my locker and Doctor Everett said, 'I recommend you don't go out, because it could be fatal,'" Venturi said last year. He defied the doctor's advice, shot 70 and won his only major championship.
Related: My Shot: Ken Venturi
Carpal tunnel syndrome in both hands ended his career in 1967 and the following year, CBS Sports Producer Frank Chirkinian offered the "incurable stammerer" a job as an analyst on its golf telecasts. He would hold the job until his retirement in 2002.
Underscoring his accomplishments on the course and in the broadcast booth was the quiet philanthropy to which Cook alluded.
"Kenny was emphatic about not getting publicity for it, but his life was dedicated to philanthropy," CBS' Jim Nantz, Venturi's broadcast partner for 17 years, said recently. "He had so many different charities he was involved with, and it was under the radar. He was building a home for abused women and children in Florida. Every offseason he traveled to Ireland to throw something for the mentally-challenged kids there. He was a huge figure in bringing golf to blind people.
"He moved mountains, and people didn't know that about him. I remember there was a piece of machinery at Loma Linda (Calif.) Hospital that was one of the forerunners to really being able to treat some forms of cancer. They had that piece of equipment in large part because of money that Kenny had raised through various charitable events throughout Southern California and the Palm Springs area. That machine by the way ended up being the machine that would reach Paul Azinger when he had cancer in his shoulder."
He was only following instructions. "I was taught by Byron Nelson and I asked him one time, 'how could I ever repay you for all you've done for me?'" Venturi said. "He said, 'Ken, be good to the game and give back.'"
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[Photo: The Washington Post]
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