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Just Hit It

Frank Thomas, the famed former USGA Technical Director for 26 years, shares his views on equipment, marketing and returning the game to its core values in a new book "Just Hit It." For every book sold, the AGA will receive a $5 donation. This a ground-breaking book is a collection of Frank’s trademark candid sharing of his extensive knowledge at the USGA, in addition to his time as design engineer at Shakespeare Sporting Goods, where he invented the graphite shaft. "Reading this book is like engaging [Frank] in a discussion, with the words, ideas and passion flowing freely," said 18-time major championship-winner Jack Nicklaus. "There are few people I know more knowledgeable about the technical aspects of the game of golf, and very few more passionate about the need for integrity and vision in all aspects of the game."
 

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A Passion for Golf

Five years ago, Shelly Haywood’s life was happy and uncomplicated. She was an assistant golf professional at Tucson Country Club, working for her husband, Michael. She was able to satisfy her competitive side on the West Coast Ladies Golf Tour. She was an avid cyclist, eventually hoping to compete in a triathlon. And she was “mother” to her two cats, Paws and Newman. It was when Haywood added coaching to her resume that she realized what she really wanted to do. She led the Rincon High School girls’ team to a third-place finish in the state championship and coached Andrea Ratigan to the individual title. “I’ve always wanted to coach,” Haywood said. “I have a degree in Professional Golf Management at New Mexico State. And coaching at the college level is the ultimate.” But Haywood was out of the college loop, when a simple phone call changed all of that. “Greg Allen [U of A women’s golf coach] needed an assistant. He called me one night and asked my advice. I recommended Shelly,” said Dennis Palmer, director of golf at the Tubac Golf Resort and a former Wildcat golfer. Allen checked Haywood out with U of A men’s coach Rick LaRose and received another strong recommendation. He hired Haywood “I didn’t know Greg,” Haywood said. It didn’t take Haywood long to make her mark in women’s collegiate golf. After her first year she was given the LPGA’s highest coaching honor, National Coach of the Year. And she was still an assistant coach. “That meant a lot because it was voted on by my peers,” Haywood said. “After the 2007 season, there were lots of changes in college golf,” Haywood said. “The Vanderbilt job opened up, and I knew Greg would like to go there because it was close to where he grew up.” Vanderbilt hired Allen and it didn’t take U of A athletic director Jim Livengood long to name Haywood as the successor. “He said he felt it was an obvious choice to promote from within,” Haywood said. “I know what is expected here. Arizona has always been a top-10 program. And I played against Annika [Sorenstam] and Leta [Lindley].”
In three years Haywood was now in charge of one of the premier programs in women’s college golf, one that had produced the two most dominant players on the LPGA Tour in the past decade, Sorenstam and Lorena Ochoa, and had won two national titles. Before taking the head job, Haywood learned quickly that there are definite road bumps in the world of college coaching. She helped recruit Juliata Granada from Columbia, one of the top prospects worldwide. Before enrolling at U of A, Granada turned professional. She has earned more than $2 million and won a tournament on the LPGA Tour. The next year Haywood helped land Esther Choe from Scottsdale, the American Junior Golf Association’s Girl’s Player of the Year. In April, however, after competing on a sponsor’s exemption in the LPGA’s Nabisco Championship, Choe also turned pro. “What really hurt is that both told us their decision late so we couldn’t sign anyone else,” Haywood said. Last season, her first as U of A head coach, Haywood lost her No. 2 player, Andriana Zwanck, early in the season. Zwanck said she was homesick for her home country, Spain. The Wildcats, definitely a player short, still managed to qualify for the NCAA championships once again. “Our best finish was third,” Haywood said. “We had three opportunities to win. But Alison Walshe did win three times.” So what is Haywood’s coaching style? “I tell everyone that passion is my favorite word,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what you do, be passionate about it. I’ve learned not to be so intense. But I’m very competitive. I want to win.”
Haywood hired former Wildcat Laura Myerscough as her lone assistant. And her husband, Michael, is now her volunteer assistant. “I’d hire him even if we weren’t married,” Shelly said. “I think he’s the best teacher in the city.” Michael Haywood, who was named Professional of the Year by the Southwest Section PGA in 2007, said he doesn’t mind working for his wife, which is a complete reversal of roles from the past decade. “One of my proudest moments was watching her create her own identity and her own vision,” Michael said. “She hasn’t held back. She’s implemented her own style, and she has a work ethic second to none. She’s a traditionalist by nature. She’s about success, and she’s going to succeed.” In her first full year as Arizona head coach, Shelly Haywood has proven she can recruit. Her freshman class lists two-time Kentucky state champion Nikki Koller; No.1-ranked Mexican junior amateur Margarita Ramos; No. 1 French junior amateur
 
Isabelle Boineau and Mesa Red Mountain High School’s Ashley Malaska, daughter of PGA professional Mike Malaska. “We recruited some really good kids, and they’re all great students with above a 3.8 grade point average,” Haywood said. “I think definitely we’ll be a top-20 team. People don’t realize how good we’re going to be.” U of A also returns Alexandra Llaneza, a sophomore who will compete for Mexico in the World Amateur Championship in Australia in October. She recently finished third in the Canadian Women’s Amateur. “The four I’ve signed all said their dream was to be at the University of Arizona,” Shelly said. “If I’ve got to convince a kid to come to school here, I’m not going to want them on my team.” Besides good grades and a desire to attend U of A, Haywood also looks for prospects who are multi-sport athletes. “I love kids that are athletic enough to play other sports,” she said. “And I love good putters.” Haywood said her best finish on the West Coast Ladies Tour was third place. “I’m still a good player,” she said. “Sometimes we have a match, Laura [Myerscough] and me against the girls. We can keep up.” Now 41, Haywood’s goal of eventually competing in a triathlon is on hold. She still cycles regularly. “But you have to swim, and I just hate it,” she admits.

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Little One

The Little One began with a Big idea. Dan Bonomo wasn’t the first golfer ever to become frustrated with his apparent inability to make a simple golf swing. Something similar caused Karsten Solheim to create Ping and Gary Adams to conceive Metal Woods, which became Taylor-Made. Dan’s objective was a little simpler—”Find A Way” because “Just Do It” was already taken. Verbal or written advice will only help you so much. Sooner or later you have to develop, feel and train yourself to master a functional swing to enjoy golf, and Dan’s constant “over the top” swing was driving him crazy. Dan’s baseball background brought back memories of a training aid for batting: a thin heavy rod that helped hitters “groove” a swing and strike the ball more solidly. Why wouldn’t that work in golf? The Little Club was born in the year 2000. The concept of the baseball rod, the Thunder Stick, helps create a focus on a smaller impact area. The Little Club’s head is just large enough for a golf ball, but otherwise is the normal 7-iron length, loft and weight. “It’s a paperweight,” said Kendall Thomas, head professional at the PGA Superstore in Scottsdale, when he saw the head. An hour later he was hitting balls into a net with the paperweight laughing like everyone else when they realize how easy it is to hit the ball. Obviously a small-headed club would demand greater focus on swing path and timing, leading the player to a more careful swing than they would have with a normal club. That’s the key, according to Tour Professional Gary Birch, who also happens to be an amateur psychologist. “You’re in an unknown environment hitting this club, so you have no unrealistic expectations; you don’t feel you should hit a ball solidly.” But, you do, time after time. You’re essentially swinging the sweet spot, learning through feedback to improve your impact position. Training aids abound, but only a few help you coordinate the whole of the swing. The Little One does that, and amazingly well. When you graduate to your own clubs after a 15-ball warm up with Little One you’ll find your swing a little slower and more controlled, but, like Gary, you will likely add a half club to your usual iron distances. Your club appears so much easier to hit that you’ll swing without any tension. Try the Little One, it may make you a lot better! Or at least, it will win you a few bets while others are laughing.
You can find one for yourself at azgolf.org, or directly from Dan at [email protected]

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Las Vegas Oasis

Mesquite, Nevada is a laid back "Mini Vegas" that showcases spectacular Golf

By Dan Gleason

This resort community 80 miles north up the Interstate from Vegas is becoming increasingly fashionable for Arizonans
who want to mix golf, gaming and recreation in a laid back and beautiful setting. This scenic resort community, hugging the Arizona- Utah border, showcases the same kind of small-town flavor and big-city fun that has made Laughlin a popular Vegas alternative. The half-dozen resort hotels in Mesquite—there are also several smaller motels—include a handful of golf resorts that include full-service casinos. You can enjoy big time entertainment in a small town atmosphere that is also ideal for meetings and corporate retreats, and is an easy drive up I-15 to scenic wonders like Bryce Canyon Zion National Park and Cathedral Gorge.

Yet for us golfers the main attraction is golf, golf and moregolf, and there are some dandy courses in and around Mesquite. The Oasis Resort and Casino has two of them— CasaBlanca Golf Club (www.casablancaresort.com) and The Palm Golf Club (www.oasisresort.com). You can build your own packages with several courses in and around Mesquite at www.golfmesquitenevada.com CasaBlanca Golf Club zigzags along the Virgin River and might knock you for a loop from the back tees, but there are four more sets of kinder tees to make it enjoyable for every level of player. “Fairways here are generous,” says Gary Moore, manager of golf shop operations for both courses, “but if you spray the ball you will either be fishing it out of a water hazard or you’ll be in jail in the desert.” An average of three to four bunkers a hole and water on 12 holes definitely favors the shot-maker over the slugger. The bentgrass greens are big, smooth and undulating, and usually kept at a reasonable pace of 9 on the Stimpmeter. The river coils through this scenic layout where the Virgin Mountains provide icing for the eye candy. The Palms isn’t quite as long as Casablanca, but it can get pretty grouchy from the back tees at 6,800 yards. “The front side is fairly flat and wide open,” Moore explains, pointing out that while there are several bunkers there isn’t much water. However, the back side plays up into the hills and includes several elevated tee shots, including the signature hole, No. 15, which drops 114 feet from the tee down to the fairway.

 
Then there’s Wolf Creek Golf Club (www.golfwolfcreek.com), perhaps unlike anything you have ever seen or played. For those who have experienced The Boulders in Carefree, it may bring that facility to mind, but Wolf Creek is even more dramatic, carved through desert rock like it was done with a giant chisel. It is one of the most visually spectacular courses in America, and one of the most exciting to play. In fact, Golf Digest rates Wolf Creek number 25 among the top 100 public golf courses and number 31 among the toughest 50 courses in America. The emerald green, rolling fairways dart in and out of the white rocks and along lakes and ponds. Another dazzling layout and a really enjoyable course, is Falcon Ridge Golf Club (www.golffalcon.com), located just off I-15. While it is truly fun to play for the average and higher handicap players, it is deceptively tough at par 71 at 6,550 yards from the tips. Golfers experience elevated tee shots from high plateaus, especially on the back nine. Besides the beauty of the high mesa views, there are plenty of water hazards that enhance the scenery and also come into play along the lush, rolling fairways and multi-tiered greens. The front nine is relatively tame, but the back nine will bowl you over with its beauty and keep you on your toes plotting your shots. The Oasis Golf Club (www.oasisresort.com). , not affiliated with the Oasis Resort, is Mesquite’s only 36-hole golf facility. Both courses are available for play on a package with most area resort hotels. The Palmer was designed by Arnold Palmer and is another scenic challenge in Mesquite’s rugged desert panorama. At par 71, with five sets of tees, the fairways work their way through desert canyons to contoured greens. Golf Digest has ranked this one among the “Top Ten You Can Play.” The aesthetic experience is enhanced by several elevation changes of tee-to-fairway plateaus that drop well over 100 feet.
To fashion The Canyons 18 at the Oasis, the existing Vistas course was redesigned and a second nine called “the Arroyo” nine was added. The Canyons course is no less spectacular than The Palmer, but compliments The Palmer with its natural beauty. With large, Bermuda grass greens and wide fairways, The Canyons makes for an enjoyable, yet more player-friendly experience. Through the www.golfmesquitenevada.com web site, there are also two golfing partners in nearby St. George, Utah—Coral Canyon Golf Club and The Ledges are a scenic, 30-minute drive north through the Virgin River Gorge. Coral Canyon is a rugged, spectacular layout carved through red rock outcroppings that may remind you of Sedona, and winding along dry washes and lakes. The Ledges, designed by Matt Dye—of the famous Pete Dye design clan—is equally scenic and challenging. It is also home to the Jack Nicklaus Golf Academy. And speaking of Jack Nicklaus, about 30 minutes south of Mesquite is another wonderful course available through the Mesquite package, the brand new PGA West course called Chase Golf Club at Coyote Springs. This Jack Nicklaus signature course is inundated with sugar-white sandy bunkers and a dozen lakes. From the back tees, it’s a monster at more than 7,400 yards, and like all PGA courses, if you take it on from the tips, you had better be able to really play the game, unless you are a masochist and like to be bruised and beaten. With multiple elevation changes and desert mountains on all sides, this layout provides an eye-catching backdrop on all 18 holes.

For those of you who want to experience the course the way the tour pros do, and they way your grandfathers might have, the course has a year-round caddie program. Another new course will be added to the Mesquite lineup at the end of 2009. Conestoga Golf Club, now under development from noted designer Gary Panks, will be a public/resort course that will add to the variety of local courses. Okay, so after a great day of golf, perhaps a soak in a mineral pool, a rubdown at a spa, a big dinner and a night of fun, where do you rest your head?
Pick and choose from several resort hotels, all of which have golf packages through the website, and several that offer gaming among their wide assortment of amenities. The Oasis Resort and Casa Blanca Resort both have full service spas, fine dining, live entertainment and their own golf courses. If you get a little trigger happy, the Oasis has a full-service gun club with target, trap and skeet shooting. After a day on the course, you can hit the spa or relax your golf muscles in the mineral soaking pools outside either hotel. You can take treatments at the spa, but you can also pay for having access to it without paying for treatments. The 210-room Eureka Hotel-Casino offers rooms with refrigerators and private spas while the Virgin River Hotel- Casino features a 24-hour casino and a 21-lane bowling center. If you prefer to be away from the casinos, you can also build your golf package with The Highlands Estate Resort’s condominiums and studios, or the nearby Falcon Ridge Hotel, which is situated at the cliffs and showcases wide, beautiful vistas. Although many people understandably love the excitement and glitz of the Las Vegas Strip, others may go for a less hectic, relaxed atmosphere that is far from the maddening crowd— but smack dab in the middle of the fun. Mesquite, surrounded by rugged desert mountains in the Virgin River Valley, showcases all of the exciting stuff that has made the word “Vegas” is synonymous with a good time.
 
 
 
 

 
 

 
 
 

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