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Golfing Green: 'Average' Joe Will Aim To Crack Century Mark

By Matt Hombach

Can an average golfer break 100 on a U.S. Open course? That’s what NBC and Golf Digest are teaming up to find out. 

After the best in the game, including Tiger Woods, struggled through four brutal rounds at Oakmont Country Club near Pittsburgh during the 2007 U.S. Open, Woods mentioned in a post-tournament press conference that there was no way the average golfer could break 100 on a course set up for a U.S. Open.

That comment spurred the marketing gurus at Golf Digest and NBC to create a contest to find out if Woods’ assumption is true. Nearly 60,000 golfers were nominated last year to become that one lucky “average” golfer who is put to the test at the site of this year’s Open, Torrey Pines Golf Course outside San Diego.

The pool was whittled down to 2,500 and then to a final 11 by a panel of judges from NBC and the magazine. The finalists were interviewed and played golf earlier this year in Dallas. After that outing, the final five were selected and online voting began on www.GolfDigest.com to elect the winner who will challenge the gorgeous oceanfront layout, lightning fast greens and deep rough at Torrey Pines in June.

Online voting wraps up this week, and the winner will be announced in early May.  
The five finalists make up a diverse group. The sentimental favorite is John Atkinson, a 38-year-old father of three from Nebraska who was recently diagnosed with inoperable Stage IV lung cancer. Atkinson, who never smoked, is fighting the disease bravely, keeping a positive attitude and still playing a ton of golf, maintaining an 8 handicap. Statistics show that 98 percent of patients with his diagnosis will die within five years.  

The other entrants include a Navy fighter pilot, a hedge fund manager who was a member of the infamous card-counting Massachusetts Institute of Technology blackjack team, a former college soccer standout who just recently took up the game and a cop from southern California who plays to a 6.4 handicap.

As of the latest tally, Atkinson was in the lead, but other nominees were in striking distance. The Web site took the vote count down in the final days to add to the suspense.

As if playing Torrey Pines in U.S. Open conditions isn’t tough enough, the winning golfer will also have NBC cameras in his face throughout the 18-hole trek. The network is taping the entire round and will edit it into a one-hour show to be shown immediately before the final round of the U.S. Open. 

There will also be three celebrity playing partners to contend with. Pop star Justin Timberlake, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo and “Today” host Matt Lauer will be teeing it up with the winner. 

Mountain Branch To Host Tournament

The Polakoff Foundation is still accepting entrants for the third annual Golf Outing and Auction to Fight Glaucoma, held June 16 at Mountain Branch Golf Course in Joppa.

The Polakoff Foundation works to raise awareness and help find a cure for glaucoma, a disease  that affects 3 million Americans each year and can eventually cause a total loss of vision.  

The cost is $185 per golfer and includes breakfast, 18 holes of golf, starting at 8:30 a.m., with a lunch and auction to follow. 

For more information or to register visit www.polakoff-foundation.org or call 410-420-8132. Sponsorship opportunities are available.

Golf Injury Prevention
By Bert Bradford, D.C.

Let's take a look at how strength affects the golf swing. Strength is necessary to improve your golf shot; it stabilizes and accelerates the swing. While strength training is important, training should not reach a level that interferes with flexibility. 

Strength training for golf should focus on the core, the lower body and the upper body.  

Why strength training? If your muscles are tired and weak during the back nine, your swing will be less stable, causing a lack of accuracy.

At the top of your backswing, 75 percent of your weight is being supported in the right foot and leg. If your quadriceps is weak, you will not be stable at the beginning of your downswing.

Weak muscles can cause various problems on the course. If your adductors are weak, you will not initiate the shift of weight from right to left correctly. If your core strength is low, it will affect your ability to flex, extend, side bend and rotate. These core movements are the necessary components of developing club speed in the swing. If your shoulder, arm and wrist strength is weak, you may be more prone to injury when your club catches the thick grass or the ground.

Next time, how swing mechanics can cause or prevent injury.

Dr. Bert Bradford is a practicing chiropractor with 19 years experience in chiropractic
and physical therapy.

Issue 3.18: May 1, 2008