Jacksonville Sports Day

SEELY: Russ Libby Candidate for PGA of America Post

HIDDEN HILLS

By FRED SEELY

They owe Russ Libby a big one and he’s working hard to make sure he gets it.

Libby, who owns Hidden Hills Country Club here in Jacksonville, is one of three candidates for the post of secretary of the PGA of America. The job isn’t much in itself, but it’s a guaranteed lilypad on the jump to be president of the giant association.

Libby should have been elected two years ago but— gasp! — political correctness got in the way.

He was a heavy favorite over two others, having done due diligence in campaigning. But then the PGA president, an Indiana pro named Ted Bishop, made some very incorrect remarks about a variety of things and was canned.

In the backwash of that, there was criticism that the PGA was nothing but a good ol’ boys network which, of course, it was and is.

One of Libby’s rivals was a very acceptable lady named Suzy Whaley, who wasn’t going to win but who now had some thing really going for her: a “she,” not a “he.” The PGA’s, past presidents banded together and sent out the word: get behind Whaley and things will calm down.

Calm down they did after she won. Libby finished second but, in doing so, certainly won the sympathy of a lot of voters and, for sure, the past presidents.

Come back in two years, he was told, and two years is now.

His opponents appear to be 1) very qualified and 2) road kill:

Jim Richerson is from Kohler, Wisc., has the title of general manger and group director of golf at Whistling Straits and Blackwolf Run. His background includes a year running PGA Golf Properties.
Rick Murphy runs two big teaching facilities in Greensboro, N.C. He’s been active in the PGA forever and is now on the national board.

Voting day? It might get lost in the aftermath of the national election which will be Nov. 8, the same day the PGA of America’s annual meeting opens in New York City with the vote sometime that week.

Just when we thought the networks would let Tiger Woods drift quietly into his next career, here comes 7-year-old Charlie Woods with a 55 in a South Florida event.

You may have noted the passing of Chris Blocker, a tough Texan who had a reasonable PGA Tour career. If you were around when the old Florida Citrus Open was played at Orlando’s Rio Pinar, you may remember him as putting on one of the great Tour temper tantrums. It was in the early 70’s and Blocker had a 4-shot lead at halfway.

The course was dry and after Blocker teed off, the green staff turned on the sprinklers right behind his group. Can’t remember too many details after that, other than Blocker went ballistic and so did his score. In recent years, he and pal Billy Maxwell co-owned Hyde Park.

Maxwell’s still active and his favorite golf tip is worth repeating, though none of us can do it: “When you hit a good shot, remember what you did. Then do it again.”

Jacksonville Beach-based architect Bobby Weed (he did the TPC Valley, Palma Ceia and the Timuquana renovations, among others) has the contract to work over one of the South’s top courses, Grandfather G&CC at North Carolina.

Hard to believe because North Carolina is such a great golfing state, but the first new course in SIX years has just opened near Wilmington. It’s a development that had been planed but was stopped by the downturn.

U.S. Open debacles: Chambers Bay condition in 2015, final-round rules back-and-forth in 2016. Not if, but when a head (or heads) will roll out of the USGA headquarters.

Lots of dirt and trees being moved at the TPC Sawgrass. The old entrance road is gone, as are the trees that flanked it. The new road will let you see the clubhouse as soon as you pass the Tour headquarters. One major earthmoving project is between nos. 6 and 7, where there will be a lake almost as big as the lake between 9 and 18. Ahead of schedule, we hear.

Not ahead of schedule: the Nona Blue sports bar just outside the gates to the TPC Sawgrass. It was supposed to be ready two months ago to get the big business around the Players tournament.

Might be great for countries on the fringe of the golf world but the Olympics adds just another piece of late-season clutter to the PGA Tour. Then add our lack of interest in the Olympics and it all adds up to an idea whose time should never have come. Methinks they should have seen what they were getting into when the politically correct foreigners dumped on Billy Payne’s idea to play at Augusta National in 1996 because there were no women members.

When will we care about the Olympics again? Since Russia went sideways, it’s just a TV show in the U.S. Believe it was TV guru Roone Arledge who said we’ll get off our couches “When Al Queda gets a team.”

Bill Foley is chairman of the big Jacksonville-based Fidelity National Financial and is in the news as the owner of the new Las Vegas franchise in the National Hockey League. But lots of golfers know him as perhaps the best golfer among the big-time CEOs. He’s a single-digit at Jacksonville’s spiffy Pablo Creek Club and he and his wife own the big-time Rock Creek Cattle Company resort in Montana with its acclaimed Tom Doak course.

Comments? I’m at fs4569@comcast.net.

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