Pro For A Day

by Matt McConnell

 Jul 16, 2019 at 7:41 PM

Pro-Ams offer unforgettable experiences

You're excited for the day. You’ll be doing something you love. But man, there sure are a lot of people watching you – and cameras clicking. Playing the historic Sedgefield Country Club is a thrill on any given day, but playing the Pro-Ams next to an actual PGA Tour player is on a whole other level.

The Wyndham Championship offers two Pro-Am experiences, the first presented by BB&T on Monday and the second on Wednesday benefiting the Louis DeJoy and Aldona Z. Wos Family Foundation. While you are treated like royalty with the Wyndham’s high-end customer entertainment, it is the closest feeling you will ever get to actually playing on the PGA Tour.

On the first tee, where you get to meet the tour player you are paired to play golf with the next 18 holes, nervousness sets in. “Wow, I am really about to play golf with this guy?” goes through your head while you take photos with him.

The PGA player is introduced by the starter to the surrounding crowd in the stands. After he hits his tee shot down the middle and receives applause, your anxiety really kicks in. Your name is announced next to tee off. You must hit a great shot down the middle in front of everyone like the Pro... but you’re shaking. Some people thrive under this pressure, but others find it difficult to just tee up their golf ball.

After the first drive, a sense of relief takes over as you begin to walk away from the crowd and really get to enjoy your day. It is so much fun as PGA Tour golfers are very personable and give you all of their time. The atmosphere gets more relaxed from hole to hole as vendors serve small bites of high-end dishes from their restaurants. Even though you’re burning calories walking the course with a caddie, your stomach remains full at all times.

The caddies fuel themselves for the additional energy needed to carry the golf bags but also get in on the golf action. The par 3 on #16 brings extra excitement as the caddies get their chance to win a free car displayed next to the tee box if they hit a hole-in-one.

After you make it through your day up to the elevated #18 green, everyone shakes hands with the spectators viewing from the luxury platforms. It’s an event where everyone wins, as more than half of the Pro-Am sponsorship goes to charity.

Back Nine Banter

The first year McConnell Golf hosted the Wyndham Championship in 2011, John McConnell was paired to play with Webb Simpson in the Pro-Am. Webb struggled throughout the day, landing in bunkers and missing putts. On the back nine John McConnell turned around and whispered to his sons, “There is no way this kid is going to make the cut.” Four days later Simpson captured his first PGA Tour win with McConnell, his new biggest fan, looking on.

One of McConnell’s favorite memories interacting with a pro came in 2015 when he played with Ollie Schniederjans in the Monday Pro-Am. He told the rookie that his low ball flight was perfect for the windy conditions in the Open Championship where Schniederjans finished in the top ten a month prior. Schniederjans confidently responded by saying, “My game is good anywhere,” as he struck the ball low over Sedgefield’s fairway.

That Wednesday, McConnell played with Tiger Woods, who asked him if anyone had hit the drive into the creek on #18, to which he said, “No.” Well, McConnell was sure sweating it when Tiger teed off on 18 that Saturday, tied with lead, as he came up just 15 yards short of the creek.

In 2017 Wyndham winner Henrik Stenson was also paired with the McConnells during that week’s Pro-Am.


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Palmer's Greensboro Legacy

by Mike Purkey

 Mar 21, 2018 at 4:21 PM

The King's Affinity for Greensboro

The first ACC golf tournament was staged in 1954 at Old Town Club and was won by Arnold Palmer, who had re-entered Wake Forest after a three year hitch in the Coast Guard. Palmer had withdrawn from school, despondent about the death of his close friend and Wake teammate Buddy Worsham.

Worsham was responsible for Palmer being at Wake Forest. Worsham was a prized recruit and before entering school asked athletic director Jim Weaver if he could bring along a friend. Weaver wanted to know if that friend could play golf and Worsham assured the AD that Palmer could, indeed, play.

With Palmer and Worsham as the anchors, Wake Forest won three Southern Conference championships. Palmer won the ACC individual title in 1948 and 1949 and was the NCAA individual winner in 1950.

On October 14, 1950, Worsham and teammate Gene Scheer went to the Wake Forest homecoming dance in Durham after Palmer and Jim Flick turned them down, going to a movie instead. That night, a one-car wreck killed Worsham and Scheer.

Palmer left Wake Forest after the 1954 ACC Championship without graduating, heading instead to a career on the PGA
Tour. When he started having success as a professional, he endowed the Buddy Worsham Scholarship at Wake Forest in 1963. Years later, Palmer endowed another scholarship in his own name and went on to endow six more scholarships
at Wake. But the Worsham Scholarship remains the most prestigious.

The Greater Greensboro Open tournament became important to Palmer. He played it 13 times, even coming to Greensboro during the years the tournament was played the week before the Masters, when most big-name players skipped the event to get ready for Augusta.

Palmer always said he had an affinity for Greensboro and the GGO, drawn to Sedgefield because of the memories of his old friend and teammate, Worsham. And as if playing in the event was not enough to boost the fortunes and galleries of the GGO, he once called in a big favor and got his friend Bob Hope to come to Greensboro and play in the pro-am.

In 1965, Palmer agreed to attend the first Champions Dinner. While flying to town, he encountered bad weather preventing his landing in Greensboro. He could land in Charlotte but would need a ride to Greensboro. Jim Melvin, Greensboro’s mayor at the time, convinced the Highway Patrol to pick up Palmer at the Charlotte airport and race him to Greensboro. And race they did: They made it to the dinner in an astounding 45 minutes.

Palmer never won the GGO, coming close in 1972 when he had a two-shot lead with three holes to play. A triple-bogey
coming in thwarted his chances. But that hole on his resume doesn’t diminish what Palmer meant to Greensboro and the tournament now known as the Wyndham Championship.

Last August, the Wyndham installed a plaque dedicated to Palmer on the Wall of Champions behind the ninth green at Sedgefield. With his grandson, Sam Saunders, in attendance, the plaque was dedicated.

It reads: “Widely considered the most important figure in golf and one of the most influential players in Wyndham Championship history, Arnold Palmer had five top five finishes in 13 appearances at Sedgefield. In 1963, Palmer established the Buddy Worsham Memorial Scholarship at Wake Forest University in memory of his friend and teammate who died in a car accident while in school. Since that time, scholarship winners have been a consistent presence in the tournament field, always with great appreciation and admiration for Arnie.”

This plaque now serves as a permanent reminder of Palmer’s contributions. Now, there’s something tangible that will
remind people of his legacy every time they pass.

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The First Tee

by Martha-Page Althaus

 Dec 19, 2017 at 4:07 PM

Take a look around your garage, chances are, there are some golf items you just don’t use, or need, anymore. But instead of throwing these things away, one group of Sedgefield members found a way to donate items where they’re needed most.

The First Tee of the Triad serves 1,500 kids, ages seven to 18, through golf clinics, classes, and camps. Last spring, the Cardinal Ladies Golf Association at Sedgefield’s Dye course, led by Nancy Patefield, collected gently-used golf bags, clubs, apparel, shoes, and more for The First Tee. And coming up soon, another donation is planned.

“We realized we have so much extra stuff that we take advantage of,” says Patefield. “How many golf towels do we really need? We all have an abundance of things to donate.”

Patefield moved to Greensboro from Texas last year, where her home club did a collection drive for USGA.

“We collected our old clubs, bags, balls, clothes, shoes, basically anything that was gently used or new, to donate to those girls,” she recalls. “So when I got to Sedgefield, I found out about The First Tee and asked about the possibility of donating to that cause. We put it out to the Sedgefield Dye membership and pretty soon collected a van full of stuff for both boys and girls.”

The initial donation was a big success, and Patefield hopes now that the word is out, even more Sedgefield members will make a bigger effort to help The First Tee. Donations will be accepted through May 2018, making it the perfect time for early spring-cleaning.

“We donated everything from golf towels and balls to shoes, hats, skorts, and even a seven-wood, because it was giving one member a fit!,” says Patefield.

The items that help kids in The First Tee may seem insignificant, but to those kids, even the smallest things make a difference.

“Some of these kids don’t have a collared shirt,” says Ellen Lapierre, director of volunteers and girl’s events for The First Tee of the Triad. “They love to wear those — it makes them feel like a golfer! Junior clubs are most beneficial, but womens’ clubs are great too, especially for teenagers who come in and don’t have any of the gear.”

According to Lapierre, the program gives kids a road map not only for success on the golf course, but for life in general.

“We want these kids to have the best future they can have,” she says. “We want to make these kids good golfers, but make them even better people. Sure, we teach them skills like putting, chipping, and course management. But we’re also teaching them, right from the beginning, how to shake someone’s hand, how to look people in the eye, and how to introduce yourself to someone. And most importantly, how to create and attain your goals.”

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Sergio's Road from Sedgefield

by John Maginnes

 Aug 25, 2017 at 1:58 PM

Sergio Garcia, the 2012 Wyndham Champion, has used Sedgefield Country Club as a springboard more than once in his career. The Donald Ross gem that hosts the Triad’s annual PGA tour stop is more than just another spot on the calendar for Sergio. It’s the place where it all started.

When Sergio’s birdie putt found the bottom of the cup on that glorious Sunday this past April, it marked the culmination of a life’s work. It was the coronation of a champion and the end of a sometimes agonizing journey. Sergio Garcia had won the Masters, and he would never be viewed the same again. Nearly 18 years after bursting onto the international golf scene at the PGA Championship at Medinah, Illinois, Sergio was finally a major championship winner.


The story begins in August 1999 when the exuberant Spaniard would duel Tiger Woods, the world’s best, and come up just short — but he would never walk in anonymity again. Four- teen months before at the Greensboro Open at Sedgefield, Sergio, then 18 years old, may have been anonymous in the golf world but he certainly wasn’t to the players on the Nike Tour (now Tour), the feeder route to

the PGA Tour. We had seen this kind of emergence a few years before when a skinny 20 year-old showed up in Milwaukee and said, “Hello, world.” Tiger ushered in a remarkable new era in golf. By 1998, he had broken records at the Masters, and it was obvious that the best was yet to come. So when the “next great player” arrived on our driving range, we were paying attention.

I remember thinking just how young Sergio looked that week at Sedgefield. But what we, the players, were most concerned about was his swing. Tiger had changed our approach to the game. For the first time in our lives, many of us went to the gym. We had our eyes opened. Sergio’s swing was lanky with a pronounced lag and down- cock of the wrists that was more old school than modern. He hit balls under the watchful eye of Victor, his father and lifelong swing coach. And Victor wasn’t letting anyone too close to his son in 1998.

Sergio would open that week with 72 on Thursday but come back with 67 on Friday to make the cut by a single shot. His 65 on Saturday was the low round of the day and put him in contention. A 68 on Sunday left Sergio in an unpaid, five-way tie for third. That last bit was fortunate for the other four of us that finished tied for third. Joe Ogilvie from Duke would go on to win that week, but it was Sergio’s debut in America that would be remembered.


After Sedgefield, Sergio won the British Amateur, which came with an invitation to the Masters the following year. At Augusta in 1999, Sergio would finish as low amateur and turn professional the next week. In July, he won the Irish Open shooting 64 in the final round for his first European Tour victory. That victory secured an invitation to the PGA Championship and a date with Tiger at Medinah.

The second-place finish for Sergio at the PGA Championship ensured that he would be the youngest player to compete on either Ryder Cup team. Sergio has represented Europe in every Ryder Cup with the exception of one, but more on that later. After 1999, his game progressed as anticipated. He would win on the PGA Tour for the first time at Colonial in 2001 and later that summer at Westchester.

Sergio would win six times over those next five years and add the Player’s Championship in 2008. Over that same period, he would win six more times on the European Tour. But as Sergio approached his 30th birthday, others were winning on golf’s biggest stage and Sergio was left wanting.

There were times when Sergio was his own worst enemy. He was almost too honest with the press about his frailties. In August 2008, Sergio would lose to Padraig Harrington at the PGA Championship in a heart breaker. Harrington had beaten Sergio the year before in a playoff at the Open Championship. By 2008, Sergio’s futility in the majors was becoming the stuff of lore.

Following the 2008 season, Sergio’s game fell into a precipitous decline. In 2009, he failed to win a tournament anywhere in the world for the first time in his career. The following year was no better and saw a major championship season go by without a Top-10 from Sergio, the first time in a decade that he had failed to contend in a major. That same year, Sergio failed to make the Ryder Cup team for the first time since 1999. Captain Colin Montgomery invited Sergio to be a vice-captain in hopes that it would inspire both the team and Sergio. It worked, at least for the team. Things started to turn around in 2011. He finished in the Top 10 at the US Open, where all eyes were on Rory McIlroy, who won by eight. Sergio would shoot 68 on Sunday at the British Open later that year to slip into the Top 10. Then in late 2011, he would find the winner’s circle again for the first time
in three years. He was the host of the Castello Masters, played at the golf course he grew up on when he finally won again. He would win the next week in Spain again at the Andalucia Masters, which this year Sergio will host at Valderrama.

It appeared that Sergio was back on the right track heading into the 2012 season. But golf is a hard game, and the demons that plague a golfer over time are rarely silent. At the Masters, Sergio was in contention after two rounds, but shot 75 on Saturday. After the round it was difficult to process what Sergio was saying. “I’m not good enough ... I don’t have the thing I need to have,” he began. “In 13 years I have come to the conclusion that I just need to play for second or third place.”

Obviously the exorcism of Sergio’s demons was incomplete. His maturity incomplete as well. We had watched him grow from boy to man on the golf course, but there was still much to learn.


The rest of 2012 was less than stellar. Coming into the Wyndham Champion- ship at Sedgefield, Sergio was 102 in FedEx Cup Points and his focus was in question. He employed a caddie from Eagle Point that was arranged by the tournament committee. But being back at Sedgefield reminded Sergio of the 18-year-old boy who had visited more than a decade before. Seeking his first PGA Tour victory in more than four years, Sergio would have to wait until Monday to get his final shot. Rain halted the final round while the leaders were still on the front nine on Sunday.

But Sergio would post a final round 66 — good enough to bring him back to the winner’s circle. He would take the momentum of his Greensboro victory and parlay it into a trip to the Tour Championship and then on to the Ryder Cup. Fittingly, Sergio was part of the greatest comeback in Ryder Cup history that year. His crucial victory over Jim Furyk in the singles was a critical point for the Europeans, who overcame a six-point deficit on the final day. Serendipitously, that feat occurred at Medinah, where Sergio made his first mark in 1999.

Golf fans have enjoyed nearly two decades of Sergio Garcia. Or should I say, golf fans have had a love/hate relationship with Sergio over the years. He was at times polarizing. We have seen him grow from an incredibly talented boy to an international star. He has endured controversy and criticism and yet at times there has never been anyone as hard on Sergio Garcia as Sergio himself. When Tiger called him a “whiner,” Sergio’s reply was that Tiger was finally telling the truth. But with Sergio, it seems that all of those negatives have over time transformed to a positive.

The lifelong bachelor has turned a corner both personally and professionally. He will marry this year. And he is now a major champion. At 37 years old, Sergio’s journey is far from complete.

John Maginnes is a former PGA player and hosts the popular Katrek & Maginnes On Tap broadcast on the PGA Tour Satellite Radio Network.

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A Conversation with Mark Brazil

by John Maginnes

 Aug 11, 2017 at 2:30 PM

Wyndham Championship Tournament Director Mark Brazil has served at the helm of the event for 16 years, where he has overseen both a title sponsor change and a venue change. We caught up with Mark as final preparations were made for the 2017 Wyndham event.

JOHN MAGINNES: The Wyndham Championship’s 2012 winner is now a Masters Champion. How did that hit you?

Mark Brazil: I have been friends with Sergio for a long time. Like so many, I’ve been pulling for him to break through. As good a ball striker as he is, I felt he could win any major. But for him to do it at the Masters, where there is such a premium on putting, is incredible. So to have another one of our champions win a major just adds to the historical significance of our event.

JM: This is especially true, considering that talk about your defending champion Si Woo Kim and his Players Championship.

MB: Well, you look at what he did here last year. He won in such a dominating fashion with hardly any hiccups that it wasn’t as surprising to us. He has one of the best swings in golf. What was surprising about that win was that he has had back and wrist injuries, so we didn’t know that he was going to be a factor in the event at all. I loved what he said at the awards ceremony, where he referenced how he felt down the stretch at the Wyndham. Remember, this kid turned 22 this summer. We could be looking at a Hall of Fame career.

JM: It’s been nearly a decade since the Wyndham returned to Sedgefield. What do the players tell you now about the golf course?

MB: When we first came, they loved the design. The PGA Tour doesn’t see too many Donald Ross courses, so we had a hit with the course. But what has happened since then has kept them coming back. The condition of Sedgefield, the greens and the fairways are pristine year in and year out. The players know what to expect, and Sedgefield keeps delivering. The house is always in order.

JM: Tell us about the fan experience at the tournament this year.

MB: We are going to have a little differ ent experience this year. Margaritaville is not coming back, but we are going to have something different and exciting in that popular space. We are excited about unveiling it, although I can’t at this time. You’ll just have to check it out. We are creating a new location for the Polo merchandise tent. That is an area we are trying to improve. We love seeing Wyndham Championship shirts at golf courses all year long. And, of course, they are Polo.

JM: Anything else different that we might notice?

MB: There is going to be a different look

and feel. Still with a vacation theme, but a different spin. In a lot of ways, we leave the theme of the event up to Wyndham. We want them to feel true ownership of the event and the best way to do that is to give them authorship of the look and feel. And from that, we do our best to

create the best fan experience we can at the tournament. It doesn’t matter if you bought a $10 practice round ticket or a hospitality ticket — we want you to walk away feeling like you got great value and had a great time.

JM: For the second year in a row, the Wyndham Championship was named the most fan friendly event on the PGA Tour. How does that feel?

MB: The recognition is always nice. We continue to try to grow the event but maintain the principles that make the Wyndham Championship a unique experience on the PGA Tour.


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A Conversation with Kris Spence

by John Maginnes

 Apr 25, 2017 at 4:32 PM

Kris Spence is known as a “Donald Ross Restoration Specialist,” a title to which he smiles and is eager to point out that there are “a few of us.” And that is just how Kris is, ready to deflect attention away from himself. His efforts in that regard have been in vain. He has been praised and awarded for his work on some of Donald Ross’ great golf courses. Kris has been at the helm of the renovations and restorations at Greensboro CC, Forsyth CC, Cape Fear CC in Wilmington, and Sedgefield CC, host of the Wyndham Championship, to name a few. 

When you meet with Kris at his office in a nondescript office park near the airport in Greensboro, you may be in for a bit of a surprise. “We’ve been here for a couple of years. Maybe we ought to hang some pictures,” Kris says to me as we are walking out the door for lunch. 

There are two things interesting about that statement. The first is that Kris can be forgiven for his lack of interior decorating talents. His exterior decorating more than makes up for it. And second, Kris begins every story with the word “we,” even though when we left the office there wasn’t another soul there. 

Kris is a natural born storyteller and his story is unique at least in the context of the present day. He didn’t study landscape engineering in college like so many of his colleagues; he came from the golf course superintendent side of things. He started in the early 80s at Atlantic Athletic Club before he was hired by the owners of Forest Oaks CC, which was then host to the GGO (now the Wyndham Championship). “We hosted a PGA Tour event when I was only 23, which was cool. Later on we needed to rebuild some bunkers and a couple of greens and we kept it in-house and it turned out okay,” Kris says of his start in golf course architecture. 

That is when Kris says he “got the bug” for golf course design and construction and went to work with Jack Nicklaus’s group building and opening the Governor’s Club outside of Raleigh. From there he was hired by Greensboro CC, which at the time had 36 holes in need of renovation. At the Irving Park Course, a Donald Ross design, Kris said, “We started dabbling, moving a bunker here, taking out a bunker there that they didn’t like, and it just snowballed into a full-blown renovation.”

 From there, Kris left Greensboro CC and embarked on a career as a builder, designer, and golf course architect. His company can do everything from the master plan to the simplest renovation, and he says that is what has sustained them. It has also given him the opportunity to work with some of the biggest names in the business. 

When the subject of Sedgefield comes up, Kris gets a gleam in his eye. “Originally, we had two sets of plans that contradicted each other,” he says. He recalls a meeting at which the general manager just happened to mention that they had come across some old papers. Kris asked the manager to retrieve them. These documents turned out to be the final and definitive plans that Ross used to design Sedgefield. 

“Sedgefield was going to be a 36- hole facility with an equestrian area. Later they decided to scrap the second 18 and make it a neighborhood. For example the 11th hole was originally routed on top of the hill to the right where the houses are. When Ross moved the fairway down on the side of the hill, he created a fairway that leans one way and a shot that has to go the other way.” 

Kris recently finished a renovation of the Dogwood Course at Country Club of North Carolina in Pinehurst, and he continues to work throughout the country. When you look at the work that Kris Spence and his team have done over the past two decades, you have to be impressed. Not bad for a greenskeeper who started dabbling. Then again, Donald Ross got his start as a greenskeeper— and so did Old Tom Morris. That puts Kris in pretty good company — and maybe that’s the “we” he’s referring to.

John Maginnes is a former PGA player and host the popular Katrek & Maginess on Tap broadcast on the PGA Tour Satellite Radio Network


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Off Course Play

by Jessie Ammons

 Dec 05, 2016 at 2:36 PM

With short days and cold weather wintertime usually means retiring your clubs and hunkering down, but it can be a time of opportunity.

Time to Focus

“Winter is a great time to focus on certain changes that you postpone all spring and summer,” says Sedgefield Country Club Director of Fitness Sherri Tallant. “It does not have to be very time consuming, you don’t need hours in the gym or a lot of heavy weight lifting in order to get huge benefits.”

Tallant is not just a personal trainer but is TPI certified, which means she’s gained a deep understanding of how the body’s strengths and weaknesses affect a golfer’s swing. “In the spring and the summer, most of our members’ time should be spent playing golf,” she acknowledges. “But in the winter, don’t just put your clubs away and forget about your golf game until spring.” Tallant recommends going to the fitness center or any space outfitted with mirrors. “Just watch your golf swing,” she advises.

Tallant adds that cooler months are the best time to start working on your short game. “Putting and chipping tend to be the two things that get rusty the fastest,” she says. “Stick to practicing in the mirror and you’ll stay tee-time ready come spring.”

Be Flexible

Less time on the course also means more time to spend on stretching and strengthening. “In the off season, golfers should spend more time in the gym doing things like yoga classes,” Tallant says. Sedgefield offers a six-week yoga program that meets for an hour once weekly, and most of her members sign up for two back-to-back six-week sessions.

“Through yoga, you’re not necessarily making your muscles longer, but you’re keeping them from getting shorter, which they would do if you don’t use them,” Tallant explains. “Strength training and stretching lengthens that muscle right back out and helps with rotation, which speeds up your clubhead speed. It’s absolutely awesome for golfers to do in the off season.”

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