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Golf Joins Hoops on March’s Stage

By David Shefter, USGA

| Mar 11, 2019 | Liberty Corner, N.J.

Industry leaders are gathering in Tokyo this week for the 5th USGA Golf Innovation Symposium. (USGA/Steven Gibbons)

March is the time when most sports fans turn their attention to college basketball and the spectacle known as March Madness. But the hardwood isn’t the only place where bouncing balls will be capturing the imagination of sports fans.

While brackets and NCAA tournament office pools might be the talk around the water cooler, the golf world has some significant events going on this week, from an important symposium to the PGA Tour’s signature competition. Here are three things happening in the game that you should know:

Industry Leaders Gather in Japan

While many of the game’s greatest players are competing in The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass this week, some of the most influential minds in the world of science and technology are gathering a half a globe away in Tokyo, March 12-13 for the 5th USGA Golf Innovation Symposium.

Conducted in partnership with Cisco, the official technology partner of the USGA, the symposium offers industry leaders an opportunity to share best practices and engage in dialogue to improve facility productivity, enhance the golfer experience and provide increased access for everyone who enjoys the game.

Held in collaboration with the Japan Golf Association, the symposium will feature presenters from the U.S., Mexico, the Republic of Korea, Australia, Hong Kong, Iceland, New Zealand and France. PGA Tour winner Shigeki Maruyama and 2004 Olympic track and field gold medalist Koji Murofushi, both of Japan, will be the keynote speakers. Maruyama will serve as Japan’s golf coach for the upcoming 2020 Olympic Games in Japan.

JGA Chairman Tsunetada Takeda will open the symposium by welcoming delegates to Japan, and USGA CEO Mike Davis will present a vision for how the game of golf can come together to tackle the challenges facing golf facilities around the world.

Rand Jerris, the USGA’s senior managing director of Public Services, will reaffirm the imperative of the USGA’s challenge statement – to reduce golf’s consumption of key resources by 25 percent, and to improve golfer satisfaction by 20 percent, by 2025 – as well as the organization’s commitment to lead golf toward a more sustainable future.

The symposium will consist of three half-day sessions, each addressing a key theme:

  • Improving Facility Productivity (March 12, afternoon)
  • Enhancing Golfer Experience and Participation (March 13, morning)
  • Urban Golf Opportunities (March 13, afternoon)

The symposium will be streamed live, with the video, schedule of events, and speaker bios available here.

Players Party

It is arguably one of the strongest fields in golf. Some consider The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., the “fifth major.” While it might not have that status, it does enjoy a lofty spot on the competition calendar. All the top players from the PGA Tour and many stars from the European Tour are in the 144-player field. Many of the holes are iconic, including the island green on the par-3 17th hole, where so many Players Championships have been won or lost. With the revised PGA Tour schedule, The Players has moved back to March following a 12-year stint on Mother’s Day weekend. This was to accommodate the PGA Championship switching from its traditional August date to May.

From a USGA perspective, the championship offers an opportunity to play in the next three U.S. Opens. The champion receives a three-year exemption into the field. Two years ago, Si Woo Kim, of the Republic of Korea, took full advantage of that opportunity. U.S. Open champions expected to compete include Tiger Woods, Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and defending Players champion Webb Simpson.

Twenty-five years ago, Woods made some history at TPC Sawgrass by claiming the first of three consecutive U.S. Amateur titles by rallying to defeat Trip Kuehne in the 36-hole final. Woods has since claimed two Players Championship titles at the venue.

Happy Birthday Mr. Jones

This Sunday is not only St. Patrick’s Day, but also the birthday of  one of the game’s greatest players. Robert Tyre Jones, who died in 1971 at the age of 69, was born 117 years prior to this Sunday. Jones is the only player to capture what is known as the Grand Slam, having won the U.S. Open, The Open Championship conducted by The R&A, the U.S. Amateur and The Amateur Championship conducted by The R&A, in 1930. All were considered major championships at the time.

The Atlanta native, who retired from competitive golf after his remarkable feat, won four U.S. Opens and five U.S. Amateurs. He also won The Open Championship three times.

Jones further cemented his legacy by cofounding Augusta National Golf Club and the annual Masters Tournament. Since Jones’ amazing 1930 season, only two other players have managed to win three majors in one season: Ben Hogan (1953) and Tiger Woods (2000). Woods won four consecutive majors between 2000 and 2001, having captured the last three of 2000 (U.S. Open, The Open Championship and PGA Championship) and the 2001 Masters.

David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at

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