Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Lydia Ko-LPGA Winner!


On many levels, Lydia Ko’s victory in the final LPGA event of the season is truly remarkable. She became the 2014 CME Group Tour Championship winner, and took home the inaugural CME Race to the CME Globe, and the one million dollar prize, to boot!


Not only that, but she won $ 500 000 for winning the event. That puts her earnings well over the two million mark for the season, and she maintains her status as third in the world. Imagine what she will accomplish once she reaches her 18th birthday!


You read that correctly. In one interview session last week, she was warned not to put any alcohol in her tea, as she is still a minor. And she was a minor when she won her first LPGA event in Canada. She won the 2012 and the 2013 CN Canadian Women’s Open events, both as an amateur. This was her third LPGA victory this year.


Once she had captured the title, in a playoff, she fielded several questions, in a remarkably composed manner. She has to explain her circumstances to her friends back home in New Zealand. “Sometimes they’re, like, Oh my God, you’re a millionaire, and blah, blah, blah! But the great thing about my friends is most of them don’t play golf. When I’m hanging around with them,  we don’t talk about golf, or the hook I hit on 7 or whatever. So that’s what I really love. I can get off the course, get my mind free, and just be a teenager.” Truly, quite remarkable.


When she had finished the final round of the tournament, she was required to play in a playoff against Carlota Ciganda from Spain. She had already tucked away a million dollars at that point, but that didn’t seem to have a great impact. “I thought I would be much more nervous than I really was. I said, Okay, let’s just hit the fairway and put myself in good positions. At the end of the day I won, so it’s been amazing.”


Michelle Wie also had a shot at the big money. She did play well, but came up just short. Stacy Lewis completed her season in style, taking home the “Player of the Year” title, the Vare Trophy, and the Money Title. She is the first American to do so since Betsy King did it in 1993.


Several veterans also played a round of golf with the LPGA players prior to the actual tournament. This tied in with the “Wounded Warriors Project”. Throughout the year, the CME Group donated$ 1 000 to the project for every eagle posted by the LPGA players. More than $ 300 000 was raised in this manner this past year.


                                                                     Laura Diaz
Laura Diaz kept a watchful eye on her foursome as they played through the rain. B. J. Jackson, originally from Iowa, appreciated her suggestions. I have never played so well he told me. I wish she could keep on eye on my game all the time! She pointed out a couple of items for sand shots. Jackson stroked the ball from the trap within inches of the cup. Great success.


Laura’s father walked the course with the group. He hailed from upper New York State, and worked at one time at Union College in the sports area. We talked about skate sharpening, discussing the finer points. I told him that the father of the Mahovlich brothers looked after blades at the Leaside Arena in Toronto. He knew Peter from the Glenns Falls area, where Pete golfs. Always a small world.


Ko has also been named as the LPGA “Rookie of the Year”. She did not miss a cut last year in 12 events, and she made the cut in every event she played in 2014. She began the season thinking, “Go out there and have fun, have a couple of top ten finishes, and really just learn more about the tour and what it’s like to play on the tour full time.”


She still is not completely happy with her game. “I think my game needs work in every area. On the day I am hitting the ball well, I wasn’t pitting well. So this week my putting really helped, and that’s one of the biggest things I’m going to work on.”


She appreciated visits from her mother and father and her brothers during the week.


Golfers were most impressed with the course called Tiburon, in Naples, Florida. There were nasty winds, and a bit of rain. All in all, a great week for women’s golf, and a pretty fair week for the young Ko girl!


Time to head back to Aukland, for a little home cooking!!



James Hurst



Monday, November 17, 2014


Nick Taylor-Champion

Quite unexpectedly, about a week ago, Nick Taylor emerged from the pack as the winner of the Sanderson Farms Championship, in Jackson, Mississippi, on the American Professional Golf Association Tour.  He carded eight birdies on the final round to score 66. He bogeyed the final hole, but was well aware that he did not need a par to win.

Following his victory, he spoke with his wife who had just finished work as a social worker in Canada. The 26 year old golfer from Abbotsford, British Columbia picked up more than $700 000 for his victory, as well as exemptions for 2016/2017 on the PGA tour. They planned to go to Mexico this week to celebrate the win. He has another tournament there to close out the season.
I am certain that his win came as no surprise to Taylor. 

But the road to success in the golf world is not at all easy, and requires great patience. He won the Canadian Junior Championship in 2006, and the Canadian Amateur in 2007. He qualified for the U.S. Open in 2008 and 2009. He was a first team All American in 2009 and 2010. He was named Canada’s top amateur in 2009. He made his first PGA cut in 2008 at the RBC Canadian Open. In 2010, after a great career at the University of Washington, he rose to # 1 ranking in the world as an amateur. 

He began his professional career in 2011, and earned enough money on the PGA Canada TOUR to gain full status for 2012. He finished 30th on the Order of Merit. Even in 2012, he did not win any tournaments, but finished 11th on the Order of Merit. In 2013, he finished 7th on the Order of Merit to gain exemption into the Tour Qualifying Tournament finals. He finished 11th to gain conditional status on the Tour. He went on to finish 37th in the Priority Ranking, earning his PGA card for the 2014-2015 season.

His win at the Sanderson Farms Championship was of great significance to Canadian golf. He is the first player to move from the PGA TOUR Canada to the PGA Tour, and win. He is the first native Canadian to win since 2007, when Mike Weir won.

I am certain that the path to this championship was not an easy one. I have followed golfers on the PGA TOUR Canada, and I have seen the joy and the sorrow. But the rewards are great, once achieved. 

He had played the Pro-Am on Monday, prior to the tournament. “It was huge for me to see the golf course early. And the greens, honestly, were faster on Monday than they were all week.” Reflecting on the course itself he stated: “I loved it. It fit my eye.”

The first person to congratulate Nick at the scorer’s table was Canadian Adam Hadwin. “We’re staying together this week. Adam had such a great week. I’ve been rooming with him a lot.”
The night before the final round, Nick made some alterations to his game. The day before, he felt he had “hit the ball well off the tee, but it was a little sideways.” At that point he said he worked on “a bit of posture”.

He gave credit to the other Canadians at the tournament, David Hearn and Graham DeLaet. He knows that the road has been paved by Mike Weir, and older greats including Al Balding, Gary Cowan, Dave Barr, Ian Leggatt, Stan Leonard, Jim Nelford, Bob Panasik, Jim Rutledge, George Knudson, Glen Hnatiuk, Richard Zokol, Brad Fritsch, Stephen Ames, Rod Spittle, Pat Fletcher, and yes, even Moe Norman. 

Enjoy the moment, Nick. Continue to hit ‘em straight. Off to the LPGA event this week in Naples.

                                                       James, Tiffany Joh, and Joanne
James Hurst           
November 16, 2014  

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


Space in Sport

I have been thinking about space, lately. This is not a “Star Trek” space, not “The Final Frontier”. But space in sports, and its importance. Space is critical in all areas of sport, and certain athletes know how to utilize it better than others. Most successfully.

Rob Gronkowski is a tight end for the New England Patriots. He is a massive guy, six and a half feet tall, more than 250 pounds. Because of injury, he was missing from the Patriots’ lineup for several games. A couple of weeks ago, he returned to the game, and his impact was critical. He creates space because of his size. He also creates space because of the way he moves. He knows how to work defenders, and he can move laterally across a goal line, and snare a pass, leaving middle linebackers in his wake. And it helps to have a guy like  Tom Brady to zip the ball into Gronk’s catching zone.

It also helps to have other good receivers to take the heat off Gronkowski, occasionally. Julian Edelman is tiny, relative to Gronkowski. Five feet, ten inches tall, and less than 200 pounds. But he has learned to find space on the field as a wide receiver, and Brady finds him as well. He is virtually a carbon copy of Wes Welker, another small receiver who bolted from the Pats to join Payton Manning in Denver.

On the other side of the field, there are certain defensive players who excel in using space effectively. Troy Polamalu roams around the defensive backfield for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He has done that effectively for many years. He is also tiny, relative to the other players in the NFL. He has been a Pro Bowl player eight times, and has more than 700 tackles to his credit in his career. He sticks opponents when he tackles; some coaches refer to the process as tackling through a player. He makes you keep your head up.

Wayne Gretzky mastered a few space techniques in hockey. He could find open spaces better than anyone else when he played the game. Part of it came from his brilliant anticipation, part from his skills. Certain snipers also have a sense of space: Brett Hull and Steven Stamkos come to mind. They locate themselves in an open space on the ice, and prepare to shoot. It also helped Hull to have someone like Adam Oates to feed him the puck. In a whisper, the puck was in the net.

Bobby Orr and Bobby Hull created space for themselves with their skating ability, and their strength. Quite often, they would wind up behind their own net, pick a lane or two, and rush up the ice to create scoring opportunities. Their speed helped them swoop around defencemen, leaving goaltenders at their mercy. Gordie Howe created space for himself with his size, and, of course, with his elbows!

                                           Gordie, placing his famous elbow in my gut.

Bob Gibson hurled for the St. Louis Cardinals. He let it be known that home plate was his. He had a message pitch for any player who tried to occupy any space over home plate, after stepping into the batter’s box. Gibson would throw the next pitch at his head. More than ninety miles an hour. Certainly a dangerous practice, not intended to injure, but just to relay an idea: “I own home plate”.

Michael Jordan created space with his athleticism, and his anticipation. Shaq did it with his size. LeBron James does it with size and skill, making him the best player in the game today. His move back to Cleveland has rejuvenated the spirit of the Cavalier fans. A tip of the hat to a former Boston Celtics player, Bill Russell, who had a pretty good night many years ago. Thirty points and forty rebounds in one game. You read that correctly. No doubt that Russell created a little space for himself under the basket!

Always worth the price of admission!!

James Hurst
November 10, 2014       

Tuesday, November 04, 2014


In the Cards! Hockey 2014

For a brief moment last week, when all of the planets were aligned, we had the perfect sports fan’s scenario. The time was near the end of the World Series; the NBA season opened that night; the NHL was in full swing; the CFL and the NFL were well into their seasons. All four major sports, crying for headlines.

Here in the Southern States, American college football takes a big bite out of the sports fan’s psyche. Even if you only attended elementary school in Kentucky, you will still become a rabid fan, especially during the “Sweet 16” of the college basketball finals in March. Everyone gets on board, and it’s not a bad thing.

I prepared myself for this year’s NHL season by purchasing the set of 600 O-Pee-Chee cards before I headed south. OPC has always been a leader in the sports card hockey world, and I have been faithful to the cause. There are 500 cards in the main set, followed by 50 rookie cards, and 50 “marquee legends”. The Bobby Orr card is a good example of the legends group. On the back of the card is a list of all of Orr’s career statistics, including that magical year when he had 139 points. He also had a plus 124 that year. Nowadays, if a player is plus 20, he is in the upper echelon of all NHL players.

One of my friends here in Fort Myers usually brings news from Chicago. There is a full page article about Andrew Shaw in the October 17, 2014 edition of the Chicago Sun-Times. Shaw discussed his desire to improve on faceoffs, and he talked about learning from Jonathan Toews in practice. “He is the best cheater in the NHL when it comes to faceoffs. It’s something you can’t learn overnight. It’s something that’s going to take time to get better at. You always want to start with the puck, so you’re not chasing it down and trying to get it back.”

Hawks coach Joel Quenneville indicated that he would like to see Shaw win half of his draws. He shared some of his hockey philosophy with the Sun-Times: “Young players, they get smarter, they get stronger, they get more aware of the tendencies of their opponents. As they get older, they know the referees a little bit. So we expect them to progress (in the faceoff circle). I thought he had good progression last year in that area, and, hopefully, he keeps going.”

Regarding the Florida Panthers, Roberto Luongo has been stellar this year. They are embarking on a road trip after success at home. Luongo played five years for the Panthers prior to his stint in Vancouver. The Panthers will rely heavily on Luongo, and hope that the rookies will continue to improve. They expect to make the playoffs. From that point on, anything can happen.

Both the Kansas City Royals and the San Francisco Giants were wild card teams entering the baseball championships. The Giants’ Madison Bumgarner has become the toast of the town, and rightfully so. He etched his name in the record books beside the greats of the game. With a few more years similar to the past year, he will be a lock for the hall of fame.

Former Belleville Bull Matt Beleskey has spent six seasons with the Anaheim Ducks. He has become a really solid player, although we do not hear a lot about him. He is playing on the left coast, as is Brad Richardson, now in Vancouver. Belleville’s Matt Cooke has been in the NHL for 15 seasons. How time flies! He is a valuable veteran for the Minnesota Wild, and he keeps the opposition honest at all times.

Keep ‘em sorted!!

James Hurst
November 4, 2014 

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