Monthly Archives: March 2016

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Southland: The Story Behind Rickie Fowler’s Hi-Tops

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While the golf world continues to debate whether it’s being ruled by a Big Three or Four, when it comes to fashion and flair, it’s a Big One.

Cobra Puma’s Rickie Fowler has long had the most emulated look on tour amongst fans and in January, he gave them another reason to walk in his shoes – literally.

A hi-top shoe Fowler unveiled at the Tournament of Champions at Kapalua proved an instant hit and will now get a chance to back it up in sales when it hits store shelves in June.

But Cobra Puma CEO and President Bob Philion is already counting on the impact of the new IGNITE shoe to be nothing less than major.

“The feedback and response has been tremendous,” Philion said.

With a “perfect-fit” Velcro strap, the shoe recalls the look of an 1980s-90s-ish hi-top basketball shoe, but it’s for the course, not the court. Tour players Keegan Bradly and Michelle Wie have been reported to have worn something similar.

The idea for Rickie’s shoe stemmed from a conversation Philion and Fowler had last year in Japan. Fowler, long an influential voice for Cobra Puma style, expressed an interest in his course style reflecting more of his personal style. He then mentioned he wears high tops off the course.

“He expressed an interest in wearing a hi-top cleated shoe on the course,” Philion said. “The result is the IGNITE hi-top, which we paired with a jogger style pant. We work closely with our Tour players throughout the development and design process to ensure we’re pushing the limits of when it comes to performance and style. That’s very important to us as a brand.”

Cobra Puma Head of Footwear and Accessories Grant Knudson said the media buzz the shoes created at Kapalua coincided with a hugely positive fan response on social media.

“I’ve never really seen anything like it for a shoe,” Knudson said. “The shoes went viral. It was truly lightning in a bottle. It has blown everyone’s expectations away.”

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In its current design, the shoes is in black and white, which is a bit understated given Cobra Puma’s splashy use of pastels. Knudson said color may be incorporated into future designs, but the initial offering will only be black and white.

When the staff projected the target demographics for the shoe, Knudson said ages 12 to 30, Fowler’s usual target, was projected, but the interest has actually trended much older.

Knudson said the shoe was originally thought of fashion over function. The staff discounted older golfers who had lower body instability or injury and see the shoe as having an orthopedic advantage on the course.

“That was something we didn’t foresee,” Knudson said. “People are looking at it as a way to perform better, and it has started a conversation internally of what really is the best shoe for people to wear. This shoe has some excellent potential benefits.”

We’ll all start to learn more when the shoes, which will retail for $200, hit store shelves.
Further stoking the shoe’s popularity and visibility, Knudson said, is Fowler’s continued strong start to the season, which has included a win in Abu Dhabi at the HSBC Golf Championship.

Adding a retail victory will only underscore for Knudson that Fowler’s career is soaring on all levels.

Knudson said, “Rickie’s truly at the top of his game right now.”

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Southland: Goat Hill Park Overview

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It’s a rare circumstance to be able to review a course with grass and without but alas that’s my opportunity with Goat Hill Park in Oceanside.

In 2014, I was invited to walk nine holes with course savior and new owner John Ashworth shortly after his plan to revive the course had been approved by the city to save the property from redevelopment.

Ashworth’s work at the course had barely begun. The pro shop was in the midst of a remodel, but the course itself, after years of neglect, consisted of little more than spotty greens, hardpan and acres of awaiting hard work. My most memorable shot was an approach to an uphill green. It missed by mere feet – and then came rolling back nearly 100 yards to mine.

I dubbed Goat Hill “the Charlie Brown tree of golf courses.” Ashworth coolly replied that the place simply needed a little love – and a lot of grass seed. He was right.

The turnaround is nothing short of miraculous. Aesthetically, Goat Hill is now a verdant gem dotted by wildflowers and other colorful landscaping, much of it the drought-tolerant variety.

The course now also glows with praise. The Golf Channel’s Matt Ginella in particular has heaped attention and adoration on the project. Last year he called it one of the best stories in golf and he recently rated Goat Hill among the top five short courses in the country.

The positive reviews and community support, which included 60 people showing up for a volunteer course maintenance day, has been gratifying and motivating, Ashworth said.

“People are loving it,” he said. “The response has been pretty overwhelming. We still have things to do, but it has come a long way.”

Goat par 3s

Ashworth wanted to restore the course’s status as a social hub and he’s done that by, among other things, making the course accommodate disk golf as well as real golf. Ironically, the greens are like trying to land on a Frisbee, making it a tough test of target golf. Greens in regulation here are the sign of a true golf marksman.

As a 65 playing 4,454 from the tips, the course might not sound like much on paper, but you can throw out the stats. There’s plenty of challenge here, including elevated greens with severe slops that can make misses especially penal.
A good example is the par 3 5th, a 139-yard hole with a green guarded by bunkers right and long was well as a severe drop-off on the right. I actually missed left onto a hill. My chip hit the green and ran through into a patch of nearly impossible rough. I took two futile swings and picked up.

The course makes you earn everything you get – and trying to overpower it only seems to invite more trouble. You can basically bag your driver here. A hybrid and some skillful iron and wedge play will take you a long way at Goat Hill.

“It’s a tough course, but it’s playable,” Ashworth said. “We wanted to make it a lot more playable for everybody.”
That’s in skill and comfort level on the course. True to its motto of “World Class, Working Class,” the course has dropped dress codes. That made for the interesting scene of a player putting out in board shorts in a nearby foursome.

As a host to the North County Junior Golf Association, Goat Hill seeks to introduce more young players to the game. Ashworth said the course has succeeded in a being a local catalyst, but its growing reputation and good word of mouth is starting to make it a bit of a tourist draw.

“We definitely have a strong local following, but we are getting more tourists people from San Diego and tourists as they hear about it on things like the Golf Channel.”

Ashworth continues to balance his dual roles of managing the course and running Linksoul, his golf lifestyle clothing brand. Ashworth said balancing the two roles continues to be a challenge, but he truly treasures his time at the course.

“It’s a bit like being a caretaker, but I love the people who work here and who come here, and I meet a lot of new people. I spend a lot of time here because I love it.”

A strong month of play in January has given Ashworth hope the course will be sustainable and profitable sooner than expected.

Ashworth has some remaining projects at the course, but hopes to eventually hold a grand opening, possibly this summer. He said the staff and the community certainly have something to celebrate.

“It’s had its ups and downs, like anything, but for the most part, it’s been a real pleasure,” Ashworth said, “and it’s a real feel-good story for golf.”

Goat tee marker

Goat Hill Park By The Numbers

3/8 – Holes that share a double green, a rarity in American golf

5 – Par 3s on the front nine; the back only has 3

6 – Number of the hole converted from a par 4 to a 3

450 – Length of the course’s only par 5 from the back tees

1952 – Year the course opened as a nine-hole country club

2014 – Year Ashworth took ownership, saving the property from redevelopment

$26-32 – Weekday/weekend green fee without cart

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April Southland

Tanay

PGA Magazine: The FIO Pro-Am Completes A Dream Month For Seattle Golfer

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Photo by David Mulvaney of www.pacificphotodesign.com

You can find this story in print here

Billy Tanay once smashed a drive over 500 yards in a long drive competition. That’s the shot the now 59-year-old sees in his dreams.

In terms of his golf life, however, that shot is like another lifetime ago for the Seattle resident as age and injury had eroded his skills and limited his play.

Tanay didn’t recapture that titanic distance during a dream playing opportunity in January, but he perhaps got the next best thing: Three days of playing and practicing amongst the pros.

Tanay won an online contest sponsored by Hyundai to participate in the pro-ams of the first three PGA tournaments of 2016. After being the only one chosen from around 17,000 entrants, he slogged through the rain in Kapalua alongside J.B. Holmes, strolled in the Palm Springs sun next to Stewart Cink and hiked the lush fairways of ocean-side Torrey Pines paired with Billy Horschel.

Tanay didn’t card a birdie over three rounds, but you’d never know it from the wide smile he flashed walking off the final green on Torrey’s North Course in January.

“It was a great day,” he said. “Being around these guys in an environment like this, it’s hard not to have a great day.”

Tanay’s Bunyan-esque stature towered over his group, including Horschel, but he admitted feeling humbled by the game at which he used to excel. He played sparingly a year ago after having reconstructive shoulder surgery. He then made about “six to eight” trips to the driving range after getting the call about the contest in early Dec.

In his prime, Tanay had a drive measured at 486 yards in a long-drive competition. That’s his recorded record. The aforementioned 500-yard drive comes with a bit of lore.

“It was off the end of the grid. They couldn’t find it. But it was estimated north of 500,” he said, adding, “Unfortunately, I’m at least 100 yards short of what I used to be.”

A reminder from J.B. Holmes to take the club away “low and slow” helped but Tanay says he never really regained his old swing during his three-week “whirlwind golf career” in January, though he did have a promising range session at Torrey.

“But I lost it on the first tee,” he said. “It’s frustrating to get this opportunity and not play well, but I’ve just lost touch with my swing after being away this long.”

The highlights, instead, belonged to Tanay’s professional playing partners, most notably J.B. Holmes on the Plantation Course at Kapalua.

“J.B. Holmes played so well in Maui even though it poured rain and we had 30 mph wind for the first nine holes. It just didn’t affect him at all – and it killed everybody else.

“He had a 20-foot putt and got his hat blown off. He still drained it.”

Tanay said moments like that were the real lessons of his tour.

“Just watching them play you can learn so much. It’s fun. It really is.”

Tanay’s wife Debbie traveled with him to each stop and called it a thrill to see her husband have the experience.

“But I think I’ve been more nervous than he has,” she said. “He just gets up there and plays.”

Tanay said his competitive long-drive days got him accustomed to crowds. He wasn’t fazed by the galleries, nor hitting alongside the pros.

“All three were fantastic to play with. And the caddies and everybody were just great.”

Horschel gave Tanay a signed caddie bib after the Torrey round. Tanay said he’ll also have a few autographed group photos arriving in the mail from his tour.

“Those are fun,” he said. “They’ll take up a nice wall somewhere.”

But Tanay said the best takeaway was a re-discovered love of the game.

“This made me realize how much I miss getting out there and playing like I used to. I will get out and play a lot more from this point. It put me back in touch with the game,” he said.

Michael Stewart of Hyundai, who played with Tanay at Torrey, said that’s the outcome Hyundai wanted for Tanay and what it hopes to instill in more players.

“Golf has been a great sport for Hyundai. All of golf is a good audience for us and we want to get more people interested in playing,” Stewart said.

Tanay will have a new set of TaylorMade RSI irons in hand while he ramp his rounds in 2016.

“I’m glad I jumped at the chance to do this,” he said.