[by Chris Garrett, Online Marketing Editor]
"We're playing #2 on Thursday." Emotions range from disbelief and excitement to nervousness, inadequacy and elation. All the legendary stories about #2 and the "turtleback" greens flood your mind as soon as you get your tee time. The U.S. Opens, the Ryder Cup, the TOUR Championships, Senior Opens, the U.S. Amateurs, the historic North/South matches, Payne's win in 1999, epic collapses, greens rolling like asphalt. How would a 12 handicap hold up on this Donald Ross gem in the sandhills of North Carolina?
Click here to begin the slideshow.:
Over 100 FootJoy associates from various departments converged on Pinehurst last week for the semi-annual sales meeting and Thursday afternoon was set aside for the notorious 2-man best ball competition. Our foursome consisted of myself and Mike Lowe from Marketing and Tom Downs and Paul Teeter from Product Development. My initial thoughts...from the tees, the course looks immaculate yet fairly docile. The fairways are very generous (when the rough is not US Open height) and even the bunkers that dot the fairway don't really come into play when you're not playing the tips. Even if you stray from the fairway, which we did, the trees are thin so you almost always have a clean lie on the pine straw and a clear shot to punch out. But, boy, look at those greens...
We started on the par-3 sixth hole, a relatively harmless opening hole until you see the false front and are told that long is dead, too. My shot was long and left and Mike was pin high in the deep trap on the left so were both resigned to make bogeys. Next hole was a dogleg right par four. Plenty of room off the tee so aim at the tree straight out on the left side of the fairway to avoid the bunkers on the right. Mike was to the right, I was left with a clear shot at the green. My approach was pin high, landed on the left edge of the green and rolled quickly into a bunker. Mike executed a fantastic recovery shot from the right trees but also caught a greenside trap. We both struggled to get out and made bogey. Next hole. Straight away, par five. I was left, Mike was right but both had shots at the green. Mike hit a great shot that hit pin high. As we were all congratulating him on a makable eagle putt, we noticed the ball was on the move again....something many people experience on a Ross design. It didn't stop until it slid off the green and down into a collection area 8'-10' blow the level of the green, turning a simple eagle putt into a difficult up and down. The best we could do was par. And that was the story all day. You could drive the ball great, but that just gave you an opportunity to consider going at the flag. While chipping and putting is paramount at #2, the players who score consistently well are the ones puring their irons with exceptional distance control and a high trajectory that places the ball softly on the green. We never really had a "blow up" hole, it was just one shot into or around the green that had you tapping in for par or bogey. Mike estimates he hit 13 greens in regulation while the ball was in the air, but actually only hit maybe 4-5 when the ball came to rest.
The par 3's are the holes that seemed to sneak up and get us. No matter the tees you play, you're almost always under 200 yards. Just be sure you hit to the spot the caddy gives you. Very rarely can you miss and get away with it.
"Remember the Birdies"
Not playing from the tips did enable us to have shots at birdie, which are the holes you'll always remember. Mine were on #4 and #10, Mike's was on #16, all par fives for amateurs. The tenth is a slightly uphill dogleg from right to left. After a drive out to the corner, I was loose with a five iron that ended up 30 yards right of the green in the pine straw. I managed to pitch the ball to the near edge of the green and it released perfectly to about eight feet. Made the putt and had my first birdie on #2. The second was on another par five, the beautiful downhill fourth hole. Another drive to the center of the fairway set up a perfect 3R Cobra Baffler from about 210 yards. Hit a nice draw that landed softly on the green, just over the bunker, and rolled to about 15 feet. One of our caddies, Stan, said I was in the "kill zone," which kind of freaked me out until I was told that's a good thing. Well, apparently the swing thought when staring down an eagle putt on #2 should NOT be how cool it would be to make eagle on #2. Missed the putt on the low side but tapped in for another bird.
"Heading for Home"
While the entire Pinehurst #2 experience is obviously memorable, we remarked after the round that there wasn't really a "signature" hole or a hole you'll remember and say "wow." There are no waterfalls or island greens, no 600 yard par fives or 250 yard par threes (at least for us). It's the old cliche, the course is right in front of you. However, when you reach the 16th tee, you start to think of all the legends who have had this same tee shot with a chance to win a major championship. You're three holes from history.
The 16th is a par 5 that doglegs slightly from right to left. The tee shot carries the only water on the course and the left side is lined with bunkers, fescue and other native, and gnarly, grasses. A good tee shot to the middle or right will give you a nice look downhill at the green which slopes from back to front. Walking down the 16th fairway, look to your left and you get a glimpse at the adjacent par-3 17th hole and the 18th tee. While there are bunkers on either side of the green this is a good green to go for in two. Mounding behind and to the right of the green will keep wayward shots in play and short will give you an uphill chip.
The 17th is a straightaway par 3 protected left and right by bunkers. The green is one of few that is relatively flat so birdie is a possibility here....unless you dump your tee shot in the left trap. Once again, I was pin high but just left. After spending the previous day with Lowe getting bunker tips, I blasted out to four feet and made the putt for a satisfying par. Time to head for home.
The 18th at Pinehurst #2. Okay, this is a "wow" hole. The short walk to the tee doesn't allow for much contemplation but you can see the top of the clubhouse over the hill that hides the green on this par four. Right is trouble, as the fairway drops off on that side and several bunkers guard the edge. Left center leaves a nice approach and there's room off the left of the fairway as it's wide open to accommodate the grandstands which will be erected when the U.S. Amateur is played here in August. After a nice drive, I had about 120 to the stick. My caddie Rick said to play to the number which I did and ended up pin high but off the green to the left. The "wow" moment is when you're walking to your ball and look up to see the statue of Payne Stewart literally pointing at your ball. Now granted, I shouldn't have been there to begin with...the ideal shot is on the green...but once again, you can't help but get swallowed up in the history of this place. I did not make a 15-footer for par to win the Open, but I did make a four footer for bogey. No fist pump. Mike hit a flare to the right over the back of the green (the one place the caddie told him not to go). After a nice runner up-and-over the huge mound, he drained an eight footer for a par and yes, the caddies made him do the Payne Stewart one-legged fist pump.
"Closing Thoughts and Suggestions"
The day we played Pinehurst was probably one of the most spectacular days of golf I've ever experienced. Temps in the high 70's, bright blue sky and a slight breeze. That certainly added to the experience but there were several other factors that made it a day to remember. First of all, we walked. You can take a cart on #2, but I highly discourage it. The walk is spectacular and the routing is ideal. Tees and greens are close and there aren't too many hills to navigate. Walking also gives you more time with the caddies, which is my second recommendation...take one! Our guys, Rick and Stan, not only knew the course inside and out and provided invaluable reads and shot recommendations, they regaled us with stories on every hole. So and so drove the green here, this guy made a 10 here during the 2004 Open, etc. They explained who the Tin Whistles are and why they have plaques on every tee box. They pointed out Donald Ross' old home, just off the third green, and explained how he would sit out and watch how players played the hole. If it was playing too easy, he would change the green by adding a bunker or a slope or some other challenge.
There are very few homes around #2, so you don't hear much other than what you would expect on a golf course. However, you'll occasionally hear a train whistle and church bells. No car horns, or people yelling. It's very peaceful and serene, almost as Ross would have wanted it. The absence of carts (for the most part) and seeing groups with caddies also ads to the serenity. So walk, take a caddie and listen. And when you're done, grab a drink and pull up a rocker on the porch just steps from the 18th green to watch other groups try their luck on #2. It's an experience you'll never forget.
Paul Teeter: "My first thought being out on the famed course was , my God, what am I doing out here, a hacker living a dream. When we had to wait before hitting was the times I looked around and thought about the history of the place, the bells ringing in the background, the statues watching us come up 18. Aren't we lucky to 'work' for a company that allows us do this on occasion. I went out with some friends Saturday night after returning and told them of two birdies I made, but somehow left out the many bogies and double bogies that crept onto my scorecard. How can I ever forget that day, sun was shining, weather was warm and the smell of the grass and trees was everywhere...there I was walking where the big boys go."
[by Michael Lowe, Sr. Interactive Marketing Manager]
FootJoy is truly a global brand with sales teams all over the world. I recently traveled to Australia to assist with the 2008 Australia / New Zealand sales meeting. The event was held at the Moonah Links Golf Resort in the state of Victoria. Victoria is in the southeast portion of the country and is known for lovely seaside views and wineries. It also happens to be where the Acushnet Australia headquarters is located (approximately 1 hour north of the host site). Moonah Links has two courses on site, the Open Course (designed by Aussie golf legend Peter Thomson) and the Legends Course (designed by Ross Perret). The Open Course has hosted two Australian Opens (2003, 2005) and plays annual host to the Nationwide Tour's Moonah Classic.
There are lots of great stories from my trip, so make sure to read the full text by clicking the [Read more -->] below the slideshow.
The meeting brought the full Aus/NZ sales teams (numbering around 20) as well as the internal sales, product and marketing teams together. The large majority of the Aus/NZ reps are what we refer to as "triple-combo", meaning they carry Titleist, FootJoy and Cobra products, however there are two FJ focused reps that service the metro areas surrounding Sydney and Melbourne.
The meeting went off without a hitch, as we introduced new shoe, glove and sock products. Australia's seasons are opposite of the U.S., so they're actually readying for their winter season. The products introduced at the meeting will be shown to their customers shortly after they leave Moonah Links, with the shipment scheduled for their Spring timeframe.
The meeting wasn't all business as we did get a chance to tee it on the Legends Course, a very naturally hilly and rugged track requiring a straight tee ball and pinpoint irons shots to elevated greens. My team included Andrew Reed (sales/mkt), Jamie Stickland (FJ Rep Melbourne), and my partner for the two-man best ball Daniel Butler (Triple-Combo Rep Queensland). One of the fun unexpected challenges I ran into in Australia is that EVERYONE has a nickname, which makes it really tough to fully match a face to a name (or names). The team I mentioned above quickly became Reedie, Sticks, Butts, and me...nicknameless. I have to have a really good nickname for my return trip, so submit your recommendations.
I'm sorry to say that the round was hampered by sideways rain more resembling a round in Ireland or Scotland rather than sunny Australia. When all seemed lost, the rain actually let up allowing for a very pleasant (but windy) back nine. I learned a valuable lesson...no matter where you're going, NEVER forget your DryJoys rain pants and RainGrip gloves!
I would have been a lot soggier had I not been able to get my MyJoys into Australia. Turns out Australia has VERY strict regulations on agriculture. They require you to declare "sport shoes" because they may carry traces of grass or pests they do not want in their country...sounds logical. Though I carefully cleaned my shoes before leaving, the outsole still had traces of grass which resulted in a trip to the agriculture quarantine line and a professional shoe cleaning (45 minutes). Note to self, always bring a brand new pair of shoes next time!
Following the event, we headed north to the Acushnet Australia offices (safely navigating a right-hand drive Camry on the left-hand side of the road!). We were given the full tour, which included sales/marketing/customer service, club assembly and distribution...very similar to U.S. operations, just on a smaller scale. After the tour, we headed off for a few days in Melbourne.
There are tons of things to do in Melbourne. I stopped by the annual Jazz Festival in Federation Square and even took in an Australian Rules football game. Aussie Football (or "Footy" as they call it) is a fantastic game that is the combination of the best parts of Soccer (non-stop action) and American Football (tackling and scoring). This particular day, the Hawthorn Hawks defeated the Collingwood Magpies by a score of 154 to 89. The attendance at the Melbourne Cricket Ground or MCG was over 76,000, though the stadium can hold over 30,000 more fans comfortably. The game was great, but if you ever get a chance to attend a footy match, you can't leave without trying the famous meat pies!
The remainder of my trip was spent in Sydney (an hour + flight north) where I spent the day with one of Sydney's finest, Glen Feast. Feastie (see, another nickname) is a Titleist focused rep in Sydney and we had a great day visiting some of his premiere accounts. Our stops included both on and off course locations:
After the great day in the field (thanks Feastie), we spent the remaining part of our trip in Sydney taking in all the must-sees tourist destinations in Sydney. Stops included the Harbour Bridge Climb, the Opera House, a harbour cruise, and of course Bondi Beach. All in all, the trip was a wonderful experience for my first time 'Down Under'. I feel very fortunate to have had the chance to participate in the meetings. I look forward to getting back real soon.
Australia/New Zealand is a fantastic golf and travel destination, so if you ever find yourself 'Down Under' having forgotten your trusty FJ gear, head to the nearest golf shop where you'll be sure to find the latest selection brought to you by our top-notch sales team from Acushnet Company.
Jay Haas fired a final round 6-under 65 Sunday to win the Principal Charity Classic for the second year in a row. It's also the second victory for Haas in as many weeks after he won the Senior PGA Championship last week at Oak Hill.
Haas began the day three shots back but a bogey-free 65 featuring six birdies, including three on his last five holes, enabled him to finish the week with a 10-under 203 total for a one shot victory. Haas wore Classics Tour golf shoes and a SciFlex glove en route to his 12th career Champions Tour triumph.
The stats show just how dominant Haas was, despite the narrow margin of victory. He led the field in Driving Distance, Driving Accuracy and Sand Saves and was fourth in Greens in Regulation. With two victories in two weeks, Haas now leads the season money list and the Charles Schwaab Cup points race.
"It was a sweet win for sure. To do it under pressure when you need to do it, there's nothing like that," said Haas, who was one of 18 players within three shots of the lead entering the final round. "It's nice to do it when the heat's on. I'm on a roll right now."
The FootJoy team is on location this week at the Pinehurst resort for our semi-annual brand meeting and will be bringing you updates on what's happening this week. Not only will we give you images and information from the resort, we might also be able to give you some ideas for what to expect from the 2008-2009 FootJoy line of products.
While we hoped Wednesday would be a beautiful afternoon for golf on Pinehurst #4, about all the day was good for was field testing the new outerwear, which has been completely rebuilt from the ground up...new construction, new zippers, new material, etc. And according to the players we spoke with, the reviews were all positive. Despite driving rain and cool temps, the outerwear was greeted with rave reviews from players of all levels of ability and wetness, clearly making any day playable. Look for some sneak peeks of the outerwear and other cool new products in the coming days and check back tomorrow when we take our best shot at the Donald Ross legend...Pinehurst #2!
Check out the slideshow below from our tour of Pinehurst on Tuesday.
Jay Haas survived a wild final round at a stingy Oak Hill to hang on and win his second Senior PGA Championship in three years. Haas endured a five-bogey, one-birdie round of 74 to finish the tournament at 7-over 287 and claim the title.
Haas calmly converted a 2-foot par put on No. 18 for his 11th victory on the Champions Tour and second Senior PGA Championship after wining in 2006 at Oak Tree. He also becomes the 13th player to win at least two Senior PGA titles. Haas relied on a full arsenal of FootJoy products this week, including Classic Tour golf shoes, a SciFlex glove and FootJoy Performance Outerwear.
You would be accurate in saying the players "survived" Oak Hill this week. Haas’ 7-over was the highest winning score in relation to par in the 69-year history of Senior PGA, shattering the previous high of 2-over set by Sam Snead in 1970 at PGA National at Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. It also marked the second-highest winning score in Champions Tour history, two short of Arnold Palmer’s 9-over at the 1981 Senior Open at Oakland Hills.