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Dennis George, Golf Columnist
In a move that was not completely expected, the PGA Tour announced last week that it will not fight the ban on anchored putters that goes into effect in January 2016. That doesn’t mean that some PGA players will not file suit to prevent the implementation of the rule. The previously announced decision by the USGA and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club to prohibit the anchoring of putters will have the most noticeable effect on the enjoyment of the game of golf than any rule enacted in my memory.
I must confess here that I am not a good putter. There’s a reason that my license plate reads I3PUTT. I don’t use the long putter. Several years ago when I tried it a few times with no success, my good friend Tommie Hurst of Bardstown said, “Throw that (blankety blank) thing away.” But I have many friends who use both belly and long putters anchored to their bodies.
The new Rule 14-1b will not pry the long putters or belly putters from hands of golfers. They can still use these putters: they simply can’t anchor the end of the putter against their bodies and create a pendulum that reduces some of the shakiness of the hands. While there is no data suggesting such a stroke provides an advantage, there’s no doubt that the recent success in major tournaments by players using such putters forced action on the part of golf’s governing bodies.
Putters have been anchored for years in compliance with the rules but not as much on the European tour as in America. Undoubtedly, the R&A went into defense mode when Ernie Els won the 2012 British Open at Royal Lytham and St. Annes with a putter against his belly and long putter aficionado Adam Scott finished second.
The ruling in effect is telling thousands of golfers that a stroke they have mastered over decades is no longer allowed. Recent major winner Keegan Bradley is one of many young golfers who grew up using anchored putter methods.
Why now? Why after decades of being legal is it suddenly illegal?
Let’s look at how long players have used these putters and nothing was done (courtesy of The Golf Channel).
1983: Battling the yips and bad knees, Champions Tour player Charlie Owens begins using a 51-inch putter that he anchored to his sternum. He won twice in 1986 using the putter, which he called “Slim Jim.”
1989: After nearly two months of debate, the USGA and R&A announce that the long putter will continue to be permitted under the Rule of Golf. At the time USGA executive director David Fay said, “Putting is a very individualized art form. To inhibit a golfer’s individual style would take some of the fun out of the game.”
1991: Rocco Mediate wins the Doral Open, becoming the first player to win a PGA tour event using a putter anchored to his sternum.
2000: Paul Azinger wins his first tournament in six years when he used a belly putter to win the Sony Open.
2011: USGA executive Director Mike Davis said, “We don’t see this as a major trend. We don’t see this as something that is really detrimental to the game.
Later in 2011: Davis said, “To date, there’s no evidence they are giving anybody an undue advantage.”
The PGA Tour did ask the USGA and Royal and Ancient to issue a temporary reprieve for those who play the game for fun. If you’ll recall, amateur players were given an extension on replacing their square grooved clubs after that they were deemed non-conforming.
For several years now, there have been those who believe that there should be a difference in rules that professionals play by and those that rule the amateur game.
Greg Norman tweeted last week, “BIFURCATE (obviously his word and not mine) the rules for Pros and Ams. We are pros and can and should adapt to any equipment and rule. I believe the Ams should have all the help they can get from the rules to love playing the game.”
Old timers like myself may remember Slammin’ Sam Snead resorting to croquet style putting out of desperation in 1966. By 1968, the R&A and USGA had changed the rules and deemed such a style illegal. At the time, Jack Nicklaus called the rule “ridiculous.”
Local golf news
• Most golfers can only dream of making a hole in one or living long enough to shoot their age.
Well, a Campbellsville man accomplished both of them on July 1.
Eighty-one year old Gene Money used a gap wedge and watched his ball one-hop into the cup on the 109-yard par-3 No. 14 hole at the Campbellsville Country Club en route to shooting a 75.
It was the fourth career ace with three of them coming on that hole.
Despite a heart attack and some physical ailments in recent years, Money says that he has shot his age his past ten rounds.
It reminds me of a conversation I had with a Bardstown friend who was an accomplished golfer until his death at the age of 91.
I asked John Prewitt if he had shot his age lately and he responded in his gruff tone, “ I’m mad as hell if I don’t shoot my age.”
• David Alan Newton recorded his second career hole-in-one on July 2. He used a six-iron to ace the 173 yard No. 6 hole at the club.
• Locals competed last week in a Musselman-Dunne Tour event at Rosewood Golf Course in Lebanon. Results include: Boys’ 10-and-under: Adam Kehoe (2nd); Boys’ 13-14: Jake Kehoe (tied for 7th) and Connor Wilson (tied for 11th); Girls’ 14-15: Sarah Dickens (tied for 4th); Championship Boys: Derek Keeton (tied for 5th); Championship Girls: Carlie Hazel (5th); and College Men: Cody VanMeter (3rd).