JC Golf: Trick Shot Showman Craig Hocknull Returns For Golf Fest 2015

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Photo courtesy of www.youtube.com

Out of all the tricks in Craig Hocknull’s bag of amazing golf trick shots, the most impressive one at Golf Fest last year might’ve been one the crowd never knew about: Hocknull performed both shows with a significant injury.

“My thumb was broken,” Hocknull said, referring to the recurrence of an injury that forced him off the professional tours and for a time threatened his performing career.

But that context also makes the compliment he received for his performance at Oaks North all the more impressive. One of the show’s vendors told him, “You know you’re one of the best ball strikers in the world, right?”

A healthy Hocknull will return to Golf Fest on March 6-7 to perform his Outback Golf Show at 1 p.m. each day and amaze audiences again with his unique ball-striking display.

Watching videos of Hocknull’s shows evokes comparisons to a one-man golf X Games. Hocknull hits balls rapid fire. He hits shots from his knees. He hits balls off tall tees and with crazy clubs, including one with a hammer head and another with a whippy seven-foot shaft.

Seeing the shots on video is one thing, Hocknull said. Seeing them live is another.

“I hit each ball solid and for distance,” he said. “A lot of people can hit the ball, but they don’t have the control or hit it as far as I do. I can shape shots.”

Hocknull, who teaches in Arizona and has been a teacher of the year, is in his 13th year of performing and does around 20 shows a year. Hocknull is from Australia’s Outback and got introduced to the game at a young age. His show contains a lot of Aussie themes and elements – and audience participation.

Hocknull often hits balls thrown, or bounced, to him by audience members.

“That’s one of my signature tricks,” he said.

After coming to America to play college golf at Jackson St., Hocknull started to dabble with trick shots after he began his teaching career. He found the routine came easily to him.

“I was able to do most of them the first time I tried them, or within a few swings,” he said. “It was all pretty natural.”

After adding a little showmanship, such a golf magic tricks, Hocknull had a career.

Hocknull said his primary purpose is to entertain, but he hopes the show recruits people to the game.

“I went people to leave the show shaking their heads about what they’ve seen, but also to realize how much fun golf can be.”

He said he’s caught kids on the driving range after the show trying to toss balls in the air and hit them or emulate other parts of his act.

With his hand healed, Hocknull said he’s eyeing a return to competitive golf and possibly the Web.com Tour.

“It won’t be this year because it takes time to line up sponsors,” he says, “but I figure to have a good year competitively.”

Until then, the show goes on.

To purchase advance tickets or learn more about the show, go to www.golffestshow.com.

To learn more about the show and see Craig perform, or to book him for an event, go to www.outbackgolfshow.com.

Highlight Hole: No. 8 at Aviara

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As a rule, downhill par 5s in golf are just fun. Throw in some scenery and you’ve really got something special.

That’s what you have in No. 8 at Aviara in Carlsbad, home of the LPGA’s KIA Classic.

No. 8 plays to 519 yards from the blues and 489 yards from the whites, but you can throw those numbers out because of the topography. It plays much shorter.

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The tee shot is one of those that gets your juices going. There’s nothing but downhill and an interstate-wide, tree-lined fairway in front of you. Ideally, you want to be right here for the best approach angle and the good news is that you can go even more right than it seems. But the left side is manageable too; you just won’t be harboring hopes of getting home in two.

Strip one 290-300 on the right and you’re in the go zone here, but with an asterisk. The green is fronted by water – a creek to the left that fills a pond on the right. If the pin is front right, you’re laying up. A narrow green and surrounding water make it too much of a risky play.

However, pin middle or left and you’re likely thinking eagle, as the LPGA players undoubtedly do.

I’ve never gone for it here. My usual play is driver then 6- or 7-iron to a comfortable wedge shot. The approach amphitheater is one of the best on the course. At about 150 yards, you have a waterfall in the left, creating a bucolic setting.

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Looking down on the sizeable green, this is an approach shot you can feel comfortable sticking from a ways out, but I’ve always felt most comfortable about 100-120 yards out on the right side. A correctly judged shot should leaves you with a look at birdie, though there’s always that putt, which at Aviara tends to be slippery.

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The walk to the green from behind gives you another view of this beautiful hole to appreciate, looking back over the water and up the fairway.

The par 5s at Aviara, as at most courses, are your chance to really make a mark on the scorecard, but that’s particularly true at the 8th. You’ll be kicking yourself a bit if you let this one get away. No. 8 falls within a trio of downhill holes at Aviara that set up for a strong close to your front nine.

The recommendation here is to play the percentages, take a little time to appreciate the views and best of luck with the putt.

FIO and AT & T Salute Military Service With Ultimate Fan Experience

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From left: JR Luna, Director of Retail Execution, AT&T Southwest & Hawaii; Anthony Jay Johnson, U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer; Art Felix, Director of Sales, AT&T; and Loren Mansell, Business Operations Director, AT&T.

Story and photos courtesy of Gable PR

U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Anthony (Tony) Jay Johnson enjoyed the golf opportunity of a lifetime this year when he won a day at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines with 19 of his friends and family, hosted by AT&T.

To recognize a service member or veteran who has served or is serving our country, AT&T and Farmers Insurance Open hosted a contest during January where all current and former members of the United States Armed Forces were encouraged to submit a “patriotic selfie” and/or brief description using #ATTSalutes of why they or someone else who has served or is serving deserved a day at the 2015 Farmers Insurance Open. Johnson was nominated by a friend and won the contest.

Johnson, a resident of Tierrasanta, recently moved to San Diego with his family to be stationed at Afloat Training Group, where he is responsible for checking on-ship systems and protocols. Johnson joined the Navy after graduating high school over 20 years ago and has been deployed seven times, mostly in the Arabian Gulf.

On Sunday, Feb. 8, Johnson attended the golf tournament with his wife, four children and other military members and retirees that he has befriended throughout his travels. The group was hosted in the Pacific Club, a semi-private venue on the 18th fairway, and treated to all-inclusive hospitality and phenomenal golf viewing valued at $6,000. AT&T executives also attended the event to celebrate with Johnson and thank him for his service.

In November 2013, AT&T announced that it was stepping up its veteran recruiting efforts with the goal of hiring 10,000 veterans and their family members into career opportunities over the next five years, consistent with its commitment to equal employment opportunities. In 2013, AT&T hired nearly five times as many veterans as compared to 2012.

JC Golf: Golf Fest Returns To Oaks North On March 6th and 7th

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For the third straight year, Oaks North will be hosting Golf Fest, a two-day showcase of the latest equipment and a host of other golf-related products and services.

The event drew around 2,000 people last year and Oaks North Head Professional Lloyd Porter expects a strong turnout again. Golf Fest is on March 6 and 7 this year from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“Both days, there’s a huge rush at 9 a.m.,” Porter says. “People are lined up all the way down the fairway. For a typical golfer, it’s exciting because you can see everything in one spot. There aren’t a lot of opportunities like that in Southern California.”

Golf Fest is an event for all ages and abilities. While adults sample products, juniors and beginners can play a six-hole loop for free, with a paid admission ($10 – children 10 and under are free. Parking is $5). Free lessons from a JC Golf pro are also available.

But the big draw is the new equipment, which is set up for testing on the driving range. This year’s vendor lineup includes Callaway, Cleveland/Srixon, Cobra, Ping TaylorMade, Tour Edge and Wilson.

Representatives from each company will be on hand to assist with testing and to answer product questions.

“You’re talking to the experts on every product,” Porter says. “And you’re actually on the driving range so you can see what’s going on.”

And equipment can be fit on site as well, meaning golfers can play their new equipment the same day. The North and East courses remain open for play during the event.

“We’re unique in that we keep the course open,” Porter says. “You can play golf and then enjoy the show.”

Around 70 vendors will be on site, providing everything from custom putters to range finders to massages.
Food (hamburgers, grill chicken sandwiches) and beverages (beer, soda) are also available as part of day that has a carnival-like atmosphere.

Other highlights include:

- A trick shot exhibition at 1 p.m. each day.

- A putting contest on the 9th hole of the South course.

- A hole-in-one contest on Saturday at 3 p.m.

- A goody bag provided by Golf Fest

And to make Golf Fest an even better value, paid admission includes a free future round of golf (Friday – Carmel Mountain Ranch; Sat. – Twin Oaks).

“You can’t lose,” Porter says.

To purchase advance tickets or learn more about the show, go to www.golffestshow.com.

Maderas: Five Great Reasons To Host A San Diego Wedding At Maderas Golf Club

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Maderas Golf Club hosts 40-50 weddings a year and cherishes every opportunity to be included in someone’s special day.

San Diego wedding planner Laura Rizzo, owner of Weddings By Design, is one of the more frequent bookers of weddings at Maderas and has graciously agreed to provide her insights about the club as wedding venue.

Rizzo has been coordinating weddings for 25 years and began working with Maderas about three years ago. She says she immediately saw potential when she first toured the venue.

“It’s kind of a hidden gem,” she says. “Everyone raves about the golf, but the grounds and facilities are all impeccably maintained as well.”

Follow the link to discover five great reasons to host your wedding at Maderas.

http://www.maderasgolf.com/five-great-weddings-to-host-a-san-diego-wedding-at-maderas.blog

Chamblee on Woods

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Photo courtesy of USA Today

I’ve read a lot of takes on Tiger since the Farmers ranging from the rational – “It might be time for golf fans to get over Tiger Woods” – to the extreme – “Time to talk retirement?”

However, I haven’t read anything like what Brandel Chamblee has written and he makes his point through a well-told anecdote and piece of golf history I hadn’t read previously. Whether you agree with him or not, I think there are lessons in here for all of us.

I’m not comparing myself to Woods by any means, but I can relate to some of what he writes in that process has overridden result in my swing and taken it down the path Chamblee describes. I’m trying to temporarily ditch analysis and rediscover feel.

Anyway, thought this merited more than a retweet … And if you’re discovering Chamblee in print for the first time, he’s actually quite a strong columnist.

golfchannel.com/news/brandel-chamblee/woods-quest-swing-perfection-causing-his-downfall/

At FIO: A Salute to Service

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Editor’s note: Reposting this because it’s getting searched on my blog. This explains the military protocol and tradition of the 14th hole. This is what I wrote last year.

When I arrived at the course today, I made a point to make the 14th hole on the South Course my first stop. I’d heard about the tournament’s annual tribute to the military and wanted to see it for myself.

What I witnessed is an incredibly classy use of a golf hole.

For those unfamiliar with a tradition that is now in its fifth year, the flag on 14 is an American flag. When the golfers reach the green, one of the caddies removes the flag and hands it to one of two waiting servicemen, who are in full dress.

The servicemen hold the flagstick to prevent the flag from touching the ground in a breach of flag etiquette.

When play of the hole is finished, the caddie retrieves and replaces the flagstick and then two more servicemen rotate in for the next group.

This is all staged at a hole were the grandstand, called the Patriots’ Outpost, is filled with active-duty soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen and Coast Guard, all of whom receive free admission to the tournament.

What a great way to give back to the veterans and honor their service.

The hole is sponsored this year by a company called ViaSat, which is a provider of network services.

ViaSat President Rick Baldridge says half his company’s business involves the military so sponsoring the hole was a natural. The sponsorship included providing the attending servicemen with free Wi-Fi at the event.

“San Diego is a great military town, and giving these guys a venue to come out and bring their families, it’s exciting to them. The military guys love golf. That’s why all the bases have golf courses.

“It’s a noble game and it’s a noble way to honor their contributions.”

I can’t improve on that, but I’ll just say I wish all, instead of some, golfers acknowledged the servicemen before moving on to the 15th tee. Doesn’t seem much to ask.

JC Golf: Daniel Miernicki Endures A Tough Torrey Pines In PGA Debut

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Daniel Miernicki with caddie Ben Itterman, left, and father Paul, the Director of Instruction at Twin Oaks.

Daniel Miernicki has played hundreds of rounds at Torrey Pines but never one like Thursday.

Under the spotlight of the PGA Tour for the first time and amidst course conditions akin to a U.S. Open, Miernicki made his Tour debut. He had his moments but the South Course had a few more as it took four strokes from him after he shot even par through 11 holes. He finished with a four-over-par 76 heading into his second round on Friday on the easier North Course in the Farmers Insurance Open.

Miernicki, an All-American at the University of Oregon, Monday qualified with a 65 at El Camino Country Club and carried that momentum to the first hole Thursday. He blasted his opening drive 40 yards past his playing partners and then hit his approach into the green slope and watched it settle five feet below the hole. He converted for birdie for a stellar start to his round.

He gave that shot back when he missed the green right on the par 3 3rd and couldn’t get up and down. A birdie on the par 3 8th would be his only other birdie of the day.

Miernicki made back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 12 and 13, the toughest stretch of the course, to let shooting par slip away. He then had consecutive bogeys on Nos. 15 and 16. The rough in particular was thick and unforgiving as part of a course set up similar to last year, which many dubbed the toughest Farmers course ever.

Miernicki said the course conditions wore him down a bit.

“The course is really hard, and I struggled a little at the end. Maybe I got a little tired because it’s been such a long week. But it was fun,” he said.

“It was a good start, and I didn’t play that poorly. It was just a tough day. And it’s unlike playing any other event with all the people out.”

Miernicki had only one practice round prior to the tourney. That showed particularly, he said, on the greens.

“I struggled with the green speeds for sure,” he said, “and that’s something that’s just tough to prepare for.”

But Miernicki felt confident that going four- or five-under on the North on Friday would have him in contention to make the cut for the weekend.

“I feel good that I’ll have a chance to make up some strokes,” he said. “The North sets up better for me off the tee.”

Miernicki’s gallery included his father, Paul, the Director of Instruction at Twin Oaks. He called the day and week, overall, “as good as it gets.”

“I thought he was fabulous,” he said. “I couldn’t be more proud.”

FIO Course Report: “The Best Farmers Course Ever”

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A year ago, a mild winter made for ideal course conditions at Torrey Pines and allowed for a U.S. Open-like set up.

This year timely rains and mild weather again made for optimal conditions and have resulted in what City of San Diego Course Superintendent Paul Cushing says is “the best Farmers course ever.”

Cushing forecasted a winning score again in the single digits. A year ago, Scott Stallings shot a 68 on Sunday to score a one-shot victory at nine-under.

“The rain really helped with our rough. We have incredible rough. We’ve had to mow it twice already,” Cushing said.
“It’s just going to be great conditions out there this week.”

A few of the pros commented that it was the toughest Torrey set up they’ve seen. Tiger Woods, in particular, noted the green speeds.

“I was shocked at the green speeds,” he said after the Wed. pro-am. “They’re usually not set up this fast.”

Should make for another week of a tight leaderboard and possibly another horse-race Sunday finish.

Maderas: Farmers Preview and Predictions From Chris Mayson

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The last time we saw Tiger Woods’ winning aura was when he pulled into the parking lot at Torrey Pines for the Farmers Insurance Open a year ago.

As the reigning Player of the Year, it was anticipated Tiger would take another victory lap around Torrey Pines, a track where he’s won on eight times as a professional … and that’s so not what happened.

After getting thrashed on the North Course by Jordan Spieth on Friday, Woods managed to make the cut but miss the secondary cut on Saturday. We later learned of Tiger’s back issues, which led to him missing much of the season.

The tournament unfolded as a Sunday horse race where, at one point, it looked like an unprecedented six-man playoff seemed possible. Instead, Scott Stallings, a name many fans probably had to Google search, emerged as the winner by a stroke.

This year Tiger returns under what couldn’t be a more different set of circumstances. Here we preview this week’s event followed by picks from our Maderas Direction of Instruction Chris Mayson.

1. Bizarro Tiger – The golf world is wondering what to make of Tiger after his short-game yip-fest in Phoenix. Coming off a career-worst 82, and with football season over, you can bank on his Thursday round getting the full attention, and scrutiny, of a round at a major.

Can Woods piece it back together on one of the courses where’s most comfortable? No one knows, and Vegas is doubting it – posting him at 50-to-1 odds.

Instead of people asking if Tiger can win, they’re wondering if he can make it to the weekend. Quite a different set of a circumstances for a 14-time major winner, indeed.

2. A Tougher TP –
Favorable weather conditions, namely a mild winter, in 2014 allowed for a set up closer to a U.S. Open and Torrey Pines took advantage. A similar set-up seems likely this year.
That means a lower-scoring tournament, where it’s doubtful someone goes low and pulls away. That could leave us with a Sunday leaderboard more like last year.
Several media members panned last year’s set-up as being too tough for a February Tour event, saying it created “boring” scoring conditions. They might be hitting copy-and-paste on those columns this year. We’ll see.

3. Time for Spieth, Fowler? – After trouncing Tiger on Friday, Jordan Spieth was the story of the tournament last year until he ran out of gas on Sunday. It was later learned he played on an injured ankle.
Can Spieth come back and finish the job this week? Or will it be another 20-something – Rickie Fowler.
Fowler finished top-five in every major last year, a spectacular year only lacking a victory. Fowler’s visage is everywhere on the course this year. Will it be featured on next year’s winner’s poster at the course entrance? We’ll see.

4. A Favored Son, Anyone? – Pat Perez, a graduate of Torrey Pines High, finished a shot behind Stallings last year after being forced lay up on No. 18. It was Perez’s best finish in the event, but a shot short of the outcome he’s been dreaming of since he worked the range for this event as a youth. There’s no doubt he’ll have the crowd support. Will Perez finally raise the trophy on No. 18 on Sunday this time?

5. DJ’s back –
After a six-month leave for “personal reasons,” Dustin Johnson makes his 2014 Tour debut at Torrey. As the consensus most talented player on Tour for several years running now, will Johnson now have the discipline and focus to turn that potential into a major championship? He can gain some momentum this week with a strong showing. At a minimum, it’ll be fun watching him bomb it on the par 5s at Torrey.

Now to a few predictions and insight from Chris Mayson, who’s been working with Brendan Steele this week at Torrey.

Mayson: I would have to go with Jason Day. Day is a long hitter and an accurate driver of the ball, which is a huge advantage on the South Course. Day also finished second at Torrey last year so he knows how to play well around these courses.

My other favorite would be Dustin Johnson. DJ is very long off the tee, is fresh off a long layoff and probably has a chip on his shoulder and a point to prove. DJ won his first event of the year in 2013 and 2014 and is looking to complete that trifecta at Torrey.