Pittsburgh, PA
April 23, 2018
    News           Sports           Lifestyle           Classifieds           About Us
Pirates Q&A
Headlines by E-mail
Home >  Sports >  Notebooks Printer-friendly versionE-mail this story
Golf Notebook: Happ's grass is always greener

Sunday, March 03, 2002

By Gerry Dulac, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

Keith Happ is an agronomist with the greens section of the United States Golf Association, which means it is his job to assist USGA member clubs with turf conditions and course playability.

Happ is one of three USGA agronomists who service courses in the Mid-Atlantic region, but he recently opened an office in Mt. Lebanon because of the number of private clubs in Western Pennsylvania.

His job is to meet with the course superintendent and a club official and tour their golf course, offering suggestions and recommendations to improve turf conditions.

Part of that is explaining why a course such as Oakmont can have firm fairways and lightning-quick greens - optimum USGA conditions - and smaller clubs with lesser maintenance budgets cannot.

"I tell them what's real and what's achievable," Happ said.

Happ will be a busy man in the next couple years. The USGA has four championships in this region the next six years - the 2002 Curtis Cup matches at Fox Chapel Country Club, the 2003 U.S. Amateur at Oakmont, the 2004 U.S. Women's Amateur at the Kahkwa Club in Erie and the 2007 U.S. Open at Oakmont.

"Keith has been very helpful to superintendents in Western Pennsylvania," said Tom Bettle, superintendent at Birdsfoot Golf Club in Freeport, which will open in the summer.

Happ conducted a USGA turf seminar last Monday at the Radisson Hotel, Monroeville, as part of the three-day Western Pennsylvania Turf Conference and Trade Show at the ExpoMart.

The idea is to further educate course superintendents of the latest equipment and techniques available to them to improve turf conditions. Many superintendents from Western Pennsylvania and the state attended the show, as well as Penn State agronomy professor George Hamilton and turfgrass specialist Dr. Peter Landschoot.

The Pennsylvania Turfgrass Council, which is comprised of golf course owners, landscapers and lawn-care industries, donated $200,000 to Penn State to assist with turfgrass research.

It's one of the reasons course conditioning - whether private or public - has dramatically improved in the past 10 years.

"You can go back to the early '80s," Happ said.

"U.S. Open conditions of the early '80s are daily conditions now at a lot of clubs."

A Strange mistake

Chris DiMarco's fast start to the season - he leads the PGA Tour in earnings - is good news for the University of Florida graduate with the "claw" putting grip. However, it is somewhat disconcerting to the man who bypassed DiMarco for last year's Ryder Cup team - U.S. captain Curtis Strange.

Strange used one of his two wild-card selections on Scott Verplank rather than choosing DiMarco, who finished 12th on the money list ($2.595 million) and won the Buick Open. At the time, Verplank, too, was playing very well.

But DiMarco is at it again, winning the Phoenix Open, having three other top-six finishes and emerging as one of the best players on the PGA Tour. And he cannot be part of the Ryder Cup matches, which were postponed until this fall after the events of Sept. 11. Strange has said the players who qualified and were picked to be part of the U.S. team will remain the same.

Strange's mistake was not picking DiMarco last season. That gaffe will only be exacerbated this season.

Master-ful changes

Greg Norman played a practice round at Augusta National last week and said the renovations have not altered the appearance of the course.

"The course still looks like it's been there forever," said Norman, who played with Raymond Floyd, Robert Floyd and 2001 U.S. Amateur runner-up Robert Hamilton in a tuneup for the Masters. "They did a wonderful job adjusting the fairways and moving the right amount of dirt to make it look like it has never been touched."

The changes, which were done by architect Tom Fazio, have lengthened Augusta National 285 yards and changed some of the angles on tee shots. One of the most dramatic is No. 7, which has been lengthened 45 yards and transformed into a narrow 410-yard par 4.

"Instead of hitting 2-iron and a pitching wedge, you'll have to hit driver then a pitching wedge or a sand wedge," Norman said on his Web site, Shark.com.

"It just makes you a bit more conscious off the tee about where you want to put the ball. I thought they did an excellent job on this hole."

Showing support

The USGA will back the Dennis Walters Golf Show, the first time the USGA has established such a relationship with an individual.

Walters, a paraplegic who performs trick shots from a customized golf cart, has appeared at the Mario Lemieux Celebrity Invitational at Nevillewood. He will appear at several USGA events this year, including the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black.

Dissa and data

There have already been four first-time winners this year on the PGA Tour (Jerry Kelly, Matt Gogel, Len Mattiace, Kevin Sutherland). Last year, the tour didn't have a third first-time winner until May when Robert Damron won the Verizon Byron Nelson Classic.

What may be the greatest golf school of all-time - the first Top 100 Teacher Weekend, sponsored by Golf Magazine - is April 18-21 at the World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Fla. Among the featured instructors are short-game guru Dave Pelz, Jim Flick and Bob Toski. The event is limited to the first 300 registrants. Packages start at $1,995 and includes meals and accommodations. Info can be found at GOLFONLINE.com or calling 1-877-288-9688.

Cutter & Buck, one of the leading shirt manufacturers, announced its 2002 sponsorship deals with players on the PGA, LPGA, Senior PGA and Buy.com tours. The apparel company's staff includes Kelly, Damron and Jeff Gove from the PGA Tour; Anika Sorenstam, Charlotta Sorenstam, Mhairi McKay, Jenny Lidback, Pat Hurst and Nancy Harvey of the LPGA Tour; Dave Stockton and Deray Simon of the Senior PGA Tour; and Erik Compton of the Buy.com Tour.

Gordon Brewer, a two-time U.S. Senior Amateur champion, has been named captain of the U.S. men's team for the 2002 World Amateur Team Championship in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Back to top Back to top E-mail this story E-mail this story
Search | Contact Us |  Site Map | Terms of Use |  Privacy Policy |  Advertise | Help |  Corrections