Golf Blog

South Bend Bound

On January 4th of 1980, I entered this earth at Memorial Hospital in South Bend, Indiana. In 2019, I would return to South Bend and so would the US Senior Open. Just think about all of the details over the past 39 years that had to fall into place to align these two events. But honestly, who cares!?! I was here to explore some of the golf in South Bend, cover the US Senior Open and take on the Warren Course at Notre Dame. It was time to Visit South Bend.

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Jake from Visit South Bend escapes the sand.

Jake from Visit South Bend escapes the sand.

My partner in crime for the week was Jake from Visit South Bend. Jake plays to a solid 6 handicap but in terms of a golf sidekick, he is a scratch player. Since Jake and I had decided that we needed to warm up our own swings before watching the professionals, we headed out to nearby Blackthorn Golf Club.

Designed by Michael Hurdzan, Blackthorn Golf Club opened up in 1994 to critical acclaim. Like many of Hurdzan’s designs, it was an instant success. Golf Digest ranked it as the #4 best new public golf course in the country that year.

Considered by many local golfers to be the #1 public golf option in the South Bend area, Jake and I tackled the golf course with enthusiasm.

The finishing hole at Blackthorn requires two well placed shots if you want to think about putting for eagle.

The finishing hole at Blackthorn requires two well placed shots if you want to think about putting for eagle.

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After finishing the 12th hole at Blackthorn, the golfer is treated to a golf barn ride on the way to the 13th tee box. That’s right! The cart path goes right through an old rustic dairy barn! The golf course property used to be an old farm and the dairy barn has been converted into a golf barn. I would rank it in the top 5 golf barns that I have seen.

Golf Barn alert!!!

Golf Barn alert!!!

When I originally wrote this post, I decided to put these golf barn photos on Twitter to see what other golf barns people enjoy. It turns out that there are many folks that get into a good golf barn. This thread is worth a look if you a golf barn type person.

Another member of my top 5 golf barns is at nearby Cog Hill.

Another member of my top 5 golf barns is at nearby Cog Hill.

The current #1 golf barn is at Sun Country Golf Course in Cle Elum, WA

The current #1 golf barn is at Sun Country Golf Course in Cle Elum, WA

After managing to break 80 at Blackthorn, it was time to go watch the pros break 70 at Notre Dame’s Warren Course for the US Senior Open. Steve Stricker was the man in charge that day. He grabbed a hold of the early lead with a smoking good 62. He would follow up that 62 with a 64 to move to -14 and threaten the US Senior Open scoring record books. As I would later find out, the course isn’t really that easy.

Jimenez mentally prepares himself to hit a laser beam down the left side of the fairway.

Jimenez mentally prepares himself to hit a laser beam down the left side of the fairway.

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Retief Goosen and Tom Watson chat it up.

Retief Goosen and Tom Watson chat it up.

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Jeff Sluman gets animated for the camera.

Jeff Sluman gets animated for the camera.

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Jimenez eats something

Jimenez eats something

I was not shy about flashing my fancy media VIP credentials.

I was not shy about flashing my fancy media VIP credentials.

It was pretty much like Wayne’s World but with more golf.

It was pretty much like Wayne’s World but with more golf.

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Convinced that we had actually learned something from the professionals at Notre Dame, Jake and I hit the course early the next morning. This time we were headed to Elbel Park Golf Course. Located right next to the Mud Lake Wetlands, the course was not as muddy as we expected it to be. Instead of mud balls, we found mud birdies.

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That afternoon, our group decided to gang up on Jake and beat him badly at golf. There was no real reason why we decided to go after Jake so hard, but it was our stated goal to “make Jake cry.” We threw everything we had at him, but Jake would not budge, he holed clutch par putts and hit fantastic iron shots down the stretch. Not only did he hold onto his wallet but he also defended his golf honor valiantly. That sunny day in South Bend, we did not make Jake cry.

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Usually, I hate Canadian Geese, but these fellas were oddly polite.

Usually, I hate Canadian Geese, but these fellas were oddly polite.

The 2nd green at Elbel Park Golf Course

The 2nd green at Elbel Park Golf Course

That afternoon, we headed back to The Warren Course for some more Senior Open action.

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Going into the final round, Stricker had built himself a 6 shot lead and it looked like Sunday was going to be a victory walk for the 52 year old. Jake and I decided to take a walk of our own around the Eberhart Petro Golf Course in nearby Mishawaka before catching the conclusion of the golf tournament. The golf course opened in 1929 and plays across the mighty St Joe River 4 times.

The 4th green at Eberhart Petro lacks sand but it does not lack character. I am a fan.

The 4th green at Eberhart Petro lacks sand but it does not lack character. I am a fan.

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The tee box on the 3rd hole at Eberhart requires a precise drive over the St Joe River.

The tee box on the 3rd hole at Eberhart requires a precise drive over the St Joe River.

After another great round of golf at Eberhart, it was time to head back to Notre Dame to catch the final round of the US Senior Open.

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After making birdie on the first hole, Stricker opened up a 7 shot lead and never looked back. The victory lap was on and we happily followed along for the ride.

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Jerome Bettis and Tim Brown made a visit to the media center.

Jerome Bettis and Tim Brown made a visit to the media center.

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Steve Stricker plays his shot into the 3rd hole.

Steve Stricker plays his shot into the 3rd hole.

This volunteer is concerned, Steve Stricker is not.

This volunteer is concerned, Steve Stricker is not.

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It was barely a two man race with Jerry Kelly trailing Stricker by at least 5 shots all Sunday.

It was barely a two man race with Jerry Kelly trailing Stricker by at least 5 shots all Sunday.

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An excellent display of friendship unfolds on the 72nd hole.

An excellent display of friendship unfolds on the 72nd hole.

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After watching Stricker stroll around the Warren Course like it was a pitch and putt, I figured that I could probably break 80 on this golf course myself. Fortunately, I was going to get the opportunity to try. Playing from the same tees with the same Sunday pins as the pros, could I break 80? I asked this question on Twitter and Instagram. 61% of the audience voted that I could break 80. I knew there would be some disbelievers, so I decided to record every single one of my strokes. In the end, there would only be 77 of them. The video below is for the 61% of you who believed. The other 39% can go fly a kite.

One of the best parts about visiting South Bend, IN is that Chicago is just up the street. Even though South Bend had all of the golf that I needed, a trip up to Chicago is a nice little plus when visiting South Bend. I paid a visit to the Sears Tower and Chicago Golf Club before heading out of town.

2016 US Open Predictions

Last year, for my 2015 US Open predictions, I correctly predicted that Jordan Spieth would finish atop the pile at Chambers Bay.  However, this does not mean you should empty out your bank account and run to Vegas with this year's picks.  However, if you do manage to cash in, my usual fee is just 10%.

Top 5

  • Jordan Spieth - Comfortably holding the #2 slot in the World Golf Rankings, Jordan will also finish the 2016 US Open comfortably in second place.  Enraged with jealousy, Phil Mickelson will send out a tweet demanding a recount of Spieth's strokes.
  • Dustin Johnson - Just one year removed from the devastating events at Chambers Bay, DJ will display his ability to forget the events of the past and play like the golf animal he is.  Unfortunately, Oakmont's greens will send him several 3 putt reminders on Saturday and he will fall down the leaderboard.  In the end, DJ will back door it with a fine Sunday that sneaks him into the top 5.
  • Jason Day - Jason's ability to hit the long high ball gives him an advantage over most of the field this week.  Combined with his growing mental advantage, his skills will be too much for the rest of the field.  Jason Day will comfortably raise the trophy on Sunday after winning by 3 shots. 
  • Justin Rose -  After his US Open win at Merion in 2013, Justin has played with an edge that few other players have.  With a near ode to his 1998 hole out finish at the Open, Rose lips out from the fairway on Oakmont's difficult 18th.  He finishes in 3rd place.
  • Brooks Koepka - Nobody in the field may be trending stronger than ole Brooksy right now.  With two second place finishes in his last two events, Brooks wil be a force to reckon with.  After sharing the lead going into the weekend.  Brooks ends up slipping down the stretch and finishes alone in 4th place.  In a consolation victory, Brooks wins convincingly in an online poll as "Best looking golfer at US Open"

Notables:

  • Phil Mickelson - With just about everyone in the world expecting Phil to finish in 2nd place in a US Open for the 7th time, he will actually finish in 22nd place.
  • Bubba Watson - Watson will shoot himself out of the tournament in his Tuesday practice round by complaining about the green speeds and general difficulty of the course.
  • Ricky Fowler - Fowler will suffer a minor Friday evening injury to his swiping finger in an intense barrage of Snapchats.  While not a limitation to his play, the Band-Aid on his finger will prove a difficult distraction to overcome.
  • Rory McIlroy - Unfortunately, it's more of the same this week for Rory.  Plenty of birdies offset with some big numbers.  The 8 Rory makes on Saturday is too much to shake off.  However, Rory handles it in stride and cracks the top 10.  In a seamingly meaningless side competition, Rory wins the "Tightest Golf Shirt" event.

Story Lines:

  • The biggest victor in this year's open is Oakmont.  In a return to a more classic US Open test after the previous year's at Pinehurst and Chambers' Bay, Oakmont shines.  The lightning fast greens and deep rough provide a terrific challenge for the players and the golf massochists of the world rejoice.  Jason Day takes the trophy at +4.  Johnny Miller's 63 at Oakmont in 1973 looks even more improbable.
  • The 300 yard par 3 8th hole at Oakmont paves the way for the 1st 600 yard par 4 in 2025.
  • Billy Horschel decides to upgrade his Octopus pants from the 2013 US Open at Merion to Sharknado pants for his Sunday round at Oakmont.
  • In a surprise invitation by USGA Executive Director, Mike Davis, I am invited to play Oakmont on the Monday following the competition.  I shoot a spiritied 112 with 45 putts.

Philadelphia !!!

After receiving an invitation to play the historic East Course at Merion Golf Club, a full scale golf trip was planned.  Sean Ogle of Breaking Eighty and I were coming to Philadelphia to take on one of the nation's greatest sporting and golfing towns.  We arrived at our accomodations just off of the 1st fairway at Merion and had time for an evening stroll to preview our round the next day.  The home we were staying in actually served as the USGA headquarters during the 2013 US Open.  A couple of lucky dogs indeed !! 

A quick preview stroll of Merion's 10th hole.

A quick preview stroll of Merion's 10th hole.

After a fantastic day on the course, we decided to hit the showers.  If you ever have a chance to play Merion, I highly recommend the showers.  I can only describe the feeling as stepping under a waterfall of golf history.  

For our second round, we had the privilege of stepping out onto one of the area's most exclusive clubs at Gulph Mills.

One of the days many missed opportunities would come on the par 5 7th in the form of a short missed eagle putt.

One of the days many missed opportunities would come on the par 5 7th in the form of a short missed eagle putt.

After a tense match with the women, it came down to the 18th hole.  Just look at the competitive ferocity Sean displays as he rolls in his putt for par on the uphill 18th hole.  Victory would be ours and the series would be tied.  Unfortunately, our gracious hosts for the first several days would have to depart before a deciding match could be played.  Looks like a return trip will be necessary.

Move over Tiger Woods' fist pump.

Move over Tiger Woods' fist pump.

With 2 rounds in the books it was time to jump on the Tilly train and visit the final resting place of Mr AW Tillinghast, Philadelphia Cricket Club.  We were fortunate enough to be guests of Mark and John of the Philadelphia Golf Association and we had one of the final tee times before Senior Player's Championship took over the course.  You can view all of the photos from our round here.

I suffered a sandy fate at the par 3 10th hole.

I suffered a sandy fate at the par 3 10th hole.

With the halfway point behind us, we decided to head into town to get our tourist activities on.  On the menu was Rocky, steaks, and the Phillies.

The dueling steakhouses of Geno's and Pat's.  Serious decisions must be made.

The dueling steakhouses of Geno's and Pat's.  Serious decisions must be made.

Our round at Rolling Green would go into extra holes as we upgraded from 18 to 27.

Our round at Rolling Green would go into extra holes as we upgraded from 18 to 27.

The opening hole at Aronimink inspires excitement.  I couldn't get to the 1st tee fast enough.

The opening hole at Aronimink inspires excitement.  I couldn't get to the 1st tee fast enough.

An old caddy shack between 7 and 11 adds some character to the golf course.

An old caddy shack between 7 and 11 adds some character to the golf course.

The course at Aronimink was a pleasure to photograph and a fine way to conclude an all world trip to Philadelphia.  

Sean starts the trip off right by ripping one down the middle.  You can see how close the dining area is to the 1st tee in this photo.

Sean starts the trip off right by ripping one down the middle.  You can see how close the dining area is to the 1st tee in this photo.

Bobby Jones completed the Grand Slam of Golf on this very green.

Bobby Jones completed the Grand Slam of Golf on this very green.

It was the men vs the women for an all out death match at Merion.  Sean and i would succumb to the rough and suffer a devastating defeat in what would later be coined "The Massacre at Merion"

It was the men vs the women for an all out death match at Merion.  Sean and i would succumb to the rough and suffer a devastating defeat in what would later be coined "The Massacre at Merion"

The opening hole at Gulph Mills lets visitors know they are in for a delicious test of golf, aka a testy treat.

The opening hole at Gulph Mills lets visitors know they are in for a delicious test of golf, aka a testy treat.

Our foursome for 2 great rounds at  Merion  and  Gulph Mills .

Our foursome for 2 great rounds at Merion and Gulph Mills.

The clubhouse comes perilously close to the 2nd green at Philly Cricket Club.

The clubhouse comes perilously close to the 2nd green at Philly Cricket Club.

One of the more classic yet unique tee markers that I have encountered..

One of the more classic yet unique tee markers that I have encountered..

Not a golf course

Not a golf course

Polishing my model poses in front of the rocky steps.

Polishing my model poses in front of the rocky steps.

Geno's or Pat's Poll

For our fourth round of the trip, we were headed out to Rolling Green.  The William Flynn design did not disappoint.  Our host Mike was as knowledgable as anyone could be about the golf course and taught us the finer points and strategies of the classic design.  We made plenty of double bogies anyways.

The unique walking bridge on the long par 3 14th hole at Rolling Green.

The unique walking bridge on the long par 3 14th hole at Rolling Green.

With great weather for our first four rounds, thunderstorms were predicted for our final round at Aronimink.  The golf gods would side with us and push away the storms until after our departures.  A perfect segway into this clip from one of my favorite shows, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.  It is important to note that there is golf featured in this clip.

The 18th hole at  Aronimink  was the 99th hole of the trip.  Looks like we will have to come back to make it an even 100.

The 18th hole at Aronimink was the 99th hole of the trip.  Looks like we will have to come back to make it an even 100.

2015 US Open Predictions

Here are my US Open predictions for Chambers Bay.  They are in early this year, which should make them even more impressive.  As a disclaimer, I would also like to remind everyone just how hard it is to correctly predict golf tournaments.  

Top: 5

  1. Jordan Spieth - about 3 years ago, I predicted Jordan would win his 1st major at Chamber's Bay in 2015.  This long range pick is looking even more likely now that Jordan his risen to #2 in the world and claimed victory at the Masters.  Spieth wins by 1 draining a 12 footer for birdie on 18 that sends the crowd into a frenzy of total madness!!!
  2. Rory McIlory - Rory goes down swinging after suffering a tough double bogie on the 16th hole to give up the lead and lose by 1. Rory manages to roll in a nice birdie on 18 forcing Spieth to make his 12 footer for the win.  Ratings glory for FOX!!
  3. Jason Day - Another solid performance in a major by J-Day.  His all weather Adidas pants propel him up the leader board with the low round of the day on Sunday.
  4. Dustin Johnson- I originally had Sergio here but decided to go with Dustin Johnson.  This was based on the fact that I think Dustin is a better golfer at the current time.      
  5. Ryan Moore - Going with the hometown favorite to have a strong showing.  A tough Sunday round sees him fall out of a tie for the lead.

Notables:

  • Tiger Woods:  Tiger plays 2 of the 4 rounds under 70 and the other 2 not so much.  He finishes a respectable T-26th place.
  • Rickie Fowler:  Rick finishes in a tie for 6th ending that whole "top 5 in a major" thing he had going on last year.
  • Jason Dufner:  Dufman finds his grove and leads after day 1, he then turns in 3 sub par (above par) rounds to finish in a T-27, 1 shot behind Tiger.
  • Angel Cabrera:   My friend Joe will bet heavily for "El Pato" to pull this one off.  Joe will lose heavily.
  • Greg Norman and Joe Buck:  Earn moderate to bad marks as Fox's 1st time US Open commentating team.
  • Phil Mickelson:  Phil's driving holds him back this week.  Too much trouble off of the tee costs him a realistic shot at a Sunday run.  He finishes in a T-7 position.  He chips in a whole bunch though and people love it. 

Cinderella Story:

A 21 year old by the name of Ollie Schniederjans (a) from Georgia Tech plays like a man on a mission through 2 days coming into within 1 shot of the lead.  The papers erupt with Francis Ouimet stories of old.  People start chanting Ollie after every birdie, One particularly ambitious fan paints "Ollie Ollie Oxen Free" on her T-Shirt.  In short, people get real excited.....  Unfortunately, Ollie fades into a respectable finish over the weekend right along side Jason Dufner.  Not bad for a 1st timer. 

Winning Score in relation to par:  1 under par:  A near perfect score for the USGA.  The weather ends up being about 1 stroke nicer than expected.

 

Best Man and the Bunker

Back in 2012, I played Chambers Bay for the first time.  Even though a lot of memorable shots were struck over the course of the day, my favorite belongs to the man who would eventually become the best man at my wedding.  

There is an exceptionally deep bunker about 100 yards out on the 18th hole, that no one would ever want to visit.  You will undoubtedly see pros at the US Open doing everything possible to avoid it.  My man John had other ideas, he went right into the middle of that boss providing me this excellent photo opportunity.  You can sense his excitement in the photo.  He escaped and made bogie.

This past weekend, John was again in town and we decided to have another go at Chambers Bay. On the front nine, the birdies flew and both of us came to the 18th safely into the low 70's.  John was now acutely aware of the bunker from his last visit, but John is not the sort of man that will back down!  He went right after it sending his layup directly at the massive sand pit.  While it is poor form to wish another golfer such a miserable fate, I was obviously cheering that ball on.. "Oh, oh, get in there!!"  His ball rolled right into the heart of the beast again.

John is now 2 for 2 on trips to chambers bay and trips to that bus sized bunker.  To his credit, he made a great run at saving par, but carded another bogie.  As you can see in the photo, his excitement for this beach has only increased over time.  What a legend.

Same pants, same bunker, different hand gesture.

Same pants, same bunker, different hand gesture.