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Tokyo golf club bars women, will force change in Olympic venue

By
Tom LaMarre, The Sports Xchange
Members of South Korea's women's golf team take a selfie at the Olympic Golf Course in Rio de Janeiro on Aug. 13, 2016. From left to right are Yang Hee-young, coach Pak Se-ri, Kim Sei-young and Park In-bee. Photo by Yonhap News Agency/UPI
Members of South Korea's women's golf team take a selfie at the Olympic Golf Course in Rio de Janeiro on Aug. 13, 2016. From left to right are Yang Hee-young, coach Pak Se-ri, Kim Sei-young and Park In-bee. Photo by Yonhap News Agency/UPI

Kasumigaseki Country Club near Tokyo, designated as the site of the golf competition in the 2020 Olympic Games, failed to reach a resolution ending its policy restricting women from becoming full members.

Ty Votaw, vice president of the International Golf Federation, told Golf.com that the club's decision could lead to the IGF moving the golf to a different course in the area.

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"The IGF has clearly stated to both Tokyo 2020 and Kasumigaseki C.C. our requirements that the golf competition be delivered according to the Olympic Charter," Votaw said in a statement. "If the club does not change its rules, then we cannot support holding the events at this venue."

According to Reuters, Kasumigaseki board of directors met following pressure from the public, the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee and the IGF.

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Members of the board were expected to take a vote on a proposal to allow women, but the vote was postponed after the resolution failed to garner the necessary unanimous support of its 15 members.

Board chairman Kiichi Kimura later complained to reporters that the increased scrutiny accompanying such a high-profile international competition has put him and his fellow members in a difficult situation.

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"That this situation has developed is a nuisance for us; it's really perplexing," Kimura said.

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The club's policy bars female members from playing on Sundays and certain holidays.

The Japan Golf Council is leading an effort to relocate the event to Wakasu Golf Links, a public course.

--Kevin M. Hall, who plays on the SwingThought Pro Golf Tour and the Advocates Pro Golf Tour, was awarded the Charlie Sifford Memorial Exemption into Genesis Open this week at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades.

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The 34-year-old Hall, who lost his hearing due to a form of meningitis before his third birthday, became the first African-American to earn a golf scholarship at Ohio State, where he was team captain as a junior and senior.

"It is with great pleasure that I accept the invitation in honor of Mr. Sifford," said Hall, who led the Buckeyes to the Big Ten championship and captured the individual title by 11 strokes as a senior in 2004.

"I had the privilege to spend time with Mr. Sifford early in my golf career and I am very aware of his history. I am very excited for the opportunity to tee it up with the best players in the world and compete in such a prestigious event as the Genesis Open on behalf of the late Charlie Sifford."

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Hall, who has competed in five PGA Tour events and 11 Web.com Tour events, met Tiger Woods, in his first year as tournament host of the Genesis Open, at a golf clinic in Cincinnati when Hall was 16.

That meeting in 1999 inspired him to get serious about golf, Hall said.

"Tiger told me to have a wider extension on the takeaway," Hall recalled. "It helped me hit the ball farther and straighter. Tiger then looked at me and said, 'See you on Tour someday.'"

The PGA Tour event at Riviera has given an exemption to a golfer representing a minority background since 2009 and this year named it after Sifford, who won the tournament in 1969.

Previous exemption recipients were Vincent Johnson (2009), Joshua Wooding (2010), Joseph Bramlett (2011), Andy Walker (2012), Jeremiah Wooding (2013), Harold Varner III (2014), Carlos Sainz Jr. (2015) and J.J. Spaun (2016).

--Ernie Els was supposed to make his 2017 debut on the PGA Tour last in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, but he withdrew before the start of the tournament because of a neck injury.

Els hopes to play this week in the Genesis Open at Riviera.

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Els called the tournament last Monday night from his home in Florida to tell officials that he was withdrawing.

"You have to be mindful of what your body is telling you and at times such as this, basically do the right thing," said Els, who finished second to Tiger Woods in the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.

"And I've been advised that the right thing this week, a diet of rest and recuperation, is making sure I get the proper treatment on my neck."

Els added that he would miss playing the three tournament courses on the Monterey Peninsula with surfing great Kelly Slater, who has become a close friend.

"The Big Easy," as Els is known, began the year by playing in events in his native South Africa, Singapore and Qatar, where he tweaked his neck while working out in a gym.

--Michael Block, head pro at Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club in Mission Viejo, Calif., shot 2-under-par 69 at El Caballero Country Club in Tarzana in the Club Car Aggregate Series and earned an exemption into the Genesis Open.

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Block, who won the 2014 PGA Professional National Championship, will play in his ninth PGA Tour event, including three majors. He made the cut at Riviera in 2013 before finishing 76th.

Kenny Pigman of Goose Creek Golf Club in Mira Loma, Calif., finished second at El Caballero with a score of 71, followed by Paul Holtby of Tierra Rejada Golf Club in Moorpark, Calif., at 73.

--Maverick McNealy of Stanford is one of 28 golfers named to the Ben Hogan Award watch list by the Friends of Golf, the Golf Coaches Association of America and Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas.

McNealy, a senior from Portola Valley, Calif., claimed his 11th victory for the Cardinal in the Nike Golf Collegiate Invitational, tying Tiger Woods and Patrick Rodgers for the school record.

Others on the watch list include Sam Burns of LSU, Cameron Champ of Texas A&M, Wyndham Clark of Oregon, Sean Crocker of Southern California, Jared du Toit of Arizona State, Jorge Garcia of Florida, Doug Ghim of Texas, Gavin Hall of Texas, Nick Hardy of Illinois, Rico Hoey of Southern California, Sam Horsfield of Florida, Viktor Hovland of Oklahoma State, Will Long of Auburn, Patrick Martin of Vanderbilt, Dylan Meyer of Illinois, Collin Morikawa of California, John Oda of UNLV, Chandler Phillips of Texas A&M, Doc Redman of Clemson, Scottie Scheffler of Texas, Matthias Schwab of Vanderbilt, Greyson Sigg of Georgia, Jimmy Stanger of Virginia, Sam Stevens of Oklahoma State, Braden Thornberry of Mississippi, Alejandro Tosti of Florida and Will Zalatoris of Wake Forest.

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The Ben Hogan Award selectors obviously got it right the last two years, each time choosing Jon Rahm of Arizona State, who three weeks ago claimed his first PGA Tour victory in the Farmers Insurance Open.

Other winners since the inception of the award have been D.J. Trahan (Clemson, 2002), Ricky Barnes (Arizona, 2003), Hunter Mahan (Oklahoma State, 2003), Bill Haas (Wake Forest, 2004), Ryan Moore (UNLV, 2005), Matt Every (Florida, 2006), Chris Kirk (Georgia, 2007), Rickie Fowler (Oklahoma State, 2008), Kyle Stanley (Clemson, 2009), Nick Taylor (Washington, 2010), Peter Uihlein (Oklahoma State, 2011), Patrick Cantlay (UCLA, 2012), Chris Williams (Washington, 2013) and Patrick Rodgers (Stanford, 2014).

--Tiffany Joh, who plays on the LPGA Tour, reported that she is cancer-free after a melanoma scare.

The 30-year-old from San Diego, a four-time All-American at UCLA, had an irritation on her scalp that tested positive for melanoma. She told Golfweek she considered the spot only a nuisance for almost a year until a friend and melanoma survivor advised her to have it checked while they were surfing.

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Joh said the doctors were surprised by the positive diagnosis because melanoma is not prevalent among people of Asian descent.

"You know I've always suspected I had a little Caucasian in me," Joh quipped. "I don't turn red when I drink alcohol, I'm not lactose-intolerant, I'm surprisingly bad at math and decent at parking. ...

"Somewhere between that dark period spent deep in the throes of Google/WebMD searches and now, I started to think about how I would go about tackling a really difficult golf course.

"I'd try to find humor in the (bad) situation, chip out into the fairway, and continue to stick to the game plan. Because ultimately, the most important shot isn't the first one or the last one, it's the one that's right in front of you."

After the melanoma was removed from Joh's scalp, skin was stretched out and stapled back into place. After 10 days, Joh was told tests showed the melanoma had not spread.

Joh, whose two pro victories came in the 2010 ING New England Golf Classic and the 2011 South Shore Championship on the Futures Tour, is surfing again and plans to play for the first time in 2017 on the LPGA Tour at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup in Phoenix from March 16-19.

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