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If you combine a good cause with good friends in good spirits playing some pretty good golf, you get exactly what you got Wednesday: A good time.

Almost too good a time.

Bubba Watson and Harold Varner III teamed up to beat Jason Day and Wesley Bryan, 3-up, in a nine-hole charity exhibition at Detroit Golf Club, which hosts the first round of the PGA Tour’s Rocket Mortgage Classic on Thursday.

Odds: Handicapping the Rocket Mortgage Classic field: Who’ll win at Detroit Golf Club?

Carlos: Welcome back, Rocket Mortgage Classic. We definitely needed you

Watson helped organize the event, which raised more than $1 million for the tournament’s initiative to help end the digital divide in Detroit and ensure every resident has access to the internet, technology and digital-literacy training.

Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert’s philanthropy in Detroit inspired Watson to put the match together.

“And then when the Tour, I took the idea to the Tour, they blessed me with the opportunity,” he said. “Obviously with the Rocket Mortgage team behind us, they let us do it and run wild with it. So it was a dream come true that they let me do it.”

Read: Rocket Mortgage Classic tee times: The complete list

With Tour commissioner Jay Monahan watching the group tee off on the 10th hole from a safe distance, the antics started right away when someone mentioned Watson would tee off first.

“I’m teeing off first!” Varner insisted like a jealous sibling, as he began to tee up his ball. “He always goes first.”

And go first he did again.

It was a casual match, with players walking and talking the whole time, much like a practice round. On the 12th green, Day stood near the hole when Watson missed a 20-footer for birdie. Watson shot him a glare and said: “You wished that out.”

Day took it a step further.

“I willed that out,” he said. “I didn’t wish that out.”

As they walked off the green, Varner had a question.

“Hey, Bubba,” he said. “How do you hit it so far when you’re so old?”

Varner is 29. Watson is 41.

“It’s God-given,” Watson said, before he blasted a towering fade over the trees on the 13th hole.

The teasing was incessant. When Varner dropped an iron on the 13th tee that knocked his ball off the tee, players yelled at him: “Penalty!”

The players walked the course. But Varner fell behind and hitched a ride in a cart to the 14th tee. As he approached, Day noticed Varner had suddenly put on a mask.

“Hey, man,” Day said. “Did you catch COVID on the way up?”

“No,” Varner said. “You can’t ride in a cart without a mask.”

On the 16th green, Watson got the revenge he was waiting for when he stood by the hole as Day missed a 20-foot putt.

“Hey,” Watson said to Day. “I wished it out.”

Varner clinched the match when he made a 30-foot eagle putt from just off the 17th green. He and Watson celebrated with a socially distanced air fist bump.

“Oh, my God it feels good to be a champion again,” Watson crowed as he walked off the green.

After the match, Rocket Mortgage Classic tournament director Jason Langwell told the players how much money was raised and presented the winners with championship belts. Watson said he would kick in $25,000 and Varner thought about why he agreed to play in the match in the first place.

“I mean, the cool thing is, Bubba was riding in his car and he was like, ‘Would you play?’ ” Varner said. “I’m like, ‘Yeah, I’ll play.’

“But as it got closer to things we were doing, I just thought it was really cool (that’s) what it’s about. I just couldn’t remember not having internet growing up. Like some kids had internet and then we got it like a year later, but like I couldn’t imagine being in high school and not having internet.”

Contact Carlos Monarrez at cmonarrez@freepress.com and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.

Kevin Na sinks a 23-foot birdie on No. 18 in Round 4 at Travelers

In the final round of the 2020 Travelers Championship, Kevin Na makes a 23-foot birdie putt on the par-4 18th hole.

  • In his final round at the Travelers Championship, Kevin Na hit 12 of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens in regulation, and had a great day on the green leaving no misses on putts within 10 feet. Na finished his day in 5th at 16 under; Dustin Johnson is in 1st at 19 under; Kevin Streelman is in 2nd at 18 under; and Will Gordon and Mackenzie Hughes are tied for 3rd at 17 under.

    On the par-4 first, Kevin Na’s 126 yard approach to 6 feet set himself up for the birdie on the hole. This moved Kevin Na to 1 under for the round.

    Na got a bogey on the 443-yard par-4 seventh, getting on the green in 3 and two putting, moving Na to even-par for the round.

    On the 523-yard par-5 13th, Na had a birdie after hitting the green in 2 and two putting. This moved Na to 1 under for the round.

    After a 282 yard drive on the 296-yard par-4 15th, Na chipped his second shot to 7 feet, which he rolled for one-putt birdie on the hole. This moved Na to 2 under for the round.

    On the 444-yard par-4 18th hole, Na reached the green in 2 and sunk a 23-foot putt for birdie. This moved Na to 3 under for the round.

In front of a horde of NASCAR fans, many of whom were wearing “Black Lives Matter” and “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirts, Bubba Wallace said “the sport is changing” after an emotional race Monday at Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama.

Wallace, NASCAR’s only Black full-time driver, was joined by all 39 other drivers and their crews in a march down pit road as they pushed his No. 43 to the front of the line in the moments before the race. The gesture came one day after a noose was found in Wallace’s garage stall. When the group reached the front line Monday, Wallace climbed out of his car and wept.

If not for a shortage of fuel, Wallace might have had a chance to race for the win. A late stop for gas led to a 14th-place finish, but Monday still felt like a win for Wallace. He went to the fence and, through the wiring, slapped hands with a group of fans as they cheered.

He apologized for not wearing a mandatory mask but said he didn’t put it on because “I wanted to show whoever it was: You are not going to take away my smile.”

“This sport is changing,” he said. “The prerace deal was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to witness in my life. From all the supporters, from drivers to crew members, everybody here, the badass fan base, thank you guys for coming out. This is truly incredible, and I’m glad to be a part of this sport.”

Ryan Blaney, who won Monday’s race in a photo finish, said Wallace has been one of his best friends for 15 years, and he called the prerace show of support a special moment.

“And it showed how you’re not gonna scare [Wallace]. You’re not gonna scare him,” Blaney told ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt. “He’s really strong. He’s gonna rise above it and fight this.

“So we just wanted to show our support. I wanted to show my support for my best friend. He’s just been someone I’ve really, really loved for a long time, and I’m gonna support him 100 percent along the way for many years to come. I hope a lot of people will look at that and learn from everyone coming together and supporting each other. That’s what it’s gonna take to make things better.”

The idea for the gesture came up Monday. Jimmie Johnson said in a drivers chat that he would stand with Wallace during the national anthem. Then Kevin Harvick shared the idea that the drivers should push Wallace’s car to the front.

“I’m happy to play a role in it. I want to. I know I need to,” Johnson said after his 13th-place finish. “And I feel like to see the garage area stand up as they have as well in the last few weeks, and then again today, is sending a very strong message, and I’m very proud of our sport.”

Standing alongside Wallace for the national anthem was Richard Petty, the 82-year-old Hall of Fame driver known as “The King.” Wallace drives the No. 43 Chevrolet for Petty, who issued a scathing rebuke after the noose was found, calling for the “sick person” to be expelled from NASCAR forever, a move that NASCAR president Steve Phelps insisted will happen when the person is caught.

Sources told ESPN’s Marty Smith that Petty decided to travel to Talladega after the noose was found and that he said the “most important thing for me right now is hugging my driver.” This marked the first race Petty had attended since the sport was shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Workers painted “#IStandWithBubbaWallace” on the infield grass before Monday’s race, which was postponed from Sunday because of inclement weather.

Two weeks ago, Wallace successfully pushed NASCAR to ban the Confederate flag at its venues, though the sanctioning body has not outlined how it will enforce the restriction. Disgruntled fans with Confederate flags drove past the main entrance to the Alabama race track prior to Sunday’s race, and a plane flew above the track pulling a banner of the flag that read “Defund NASCAR.”

Hours after the race was postponed by rain, NASCAR said the noose had been found. The sanctioning body vowed to do everything possible to find who was responsible and “eliminate them from the sport.” Wallace said in a statement Sunday that he was “incredibly saddened” by the act.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said she was “shocked and appalled” by the “vile act” against Wallace, an Alabama native.

“There is no place for this disgusting display of hatred in our state,” Ivey said. “Bubba Wallace is one of us. He is a native of Mobile, and on behalf of all Alabamians, I apologize to Bubba Wallace as well as to his family and friends for the hurt this has caused and regret the mark this leaves on our state.”

Talladega County Sheriff Jimmy Kilgore said NASCAR contacted the FBI, which is handling the investigation. The FBI field office in Birmingham, Alabama, did not immediately return a message left by The Associated Press.

Officials at Sonoma Raceway in California said Monday that they are looking into what could be a similar incident after “a piece of twine tied in what appeared to be a noose” was found “hanging from a tree on raceway property” on Saturday. The track’s president said the incident is under investigation by the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department.

After Monday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway, Aric Almirola, who finished third, said he was speechless when he found out that a noose had been found in Wallace’s garage stall.

“So you see people lash out and show signs of evil and darkness, and it just comes from a bad place,” Almirola said. “And I think the most important thing you can respond with that is light and love. And showing how to stand up and how to show positivity and have a heart. And I feel like, as an industry, that’s what we did today.”

Former NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. took to Twitter to offer his support for Wallace in the wake of Sunday’s incident.

Lewis Hamilton, Formula One’s only Black driver and its reigning champion, also offered his support via Instagram.

“It’s disgusting that this is happening, stay safe and alert out there bro,” Hamilton wrote. “Supporting you from afar, proud of you.”

After the race Monday, Wallace said he is going to “keep on truckin'” and looks forward to racing next weekend at Pocono Raceway.

“Hey, I’m still smiling,” he said. “Long week ahead of me — probably a couple weeks, probably a couple months. … So I’ll be ready for Pocono.”

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Getty Images
After shooting 2-over 73 and playing himself out of the tournament, Bubba Watson didn’t have much to celebrate Saturday at the RBC Heritage.

He did, however, have reason to shell-ebrate.

Watson avoided a bizarre rules decision after hitting his tee shot into a greenside bunker at Harbour Town’s par-3 17th hole and discovering a small crab under his ball. Just as PGA Tour rules official Slugger White arrived on the scene, the crustacean decided to avoid any further issues, crawling out from under Watson’s ball and flipping over on its back in the sand nearby.

Able to play the ball, Watson didn’t need a ruling. But still, the situation provided plenty of great commentary.

“Stick your tee down there, man,” Watson told his playing competitor, Rory McIlroy, as they waited for White. “It won’t get your finger, and if it does, it’ll be funnier.”

McIlroy then quipped: “Soft shell?”

Watson kept insisting that he didn’t want to play the shot with the crab under his ball because, “I don’t want the world to get mad at me.”

He went on to further explain: “There was a camera and, you know, people get mad cause I’d hit an animal. … We got enough issues in our world right now, we don’t need crab issues.”

Luckily, a potential crisis was averted, and Watson splashed safely out of the sand before making bogey. Still no word, however, on the status of the crab after Watson’s caddie, Ted Scott, mentioned it looked to be “playing dead.”

This isn’t Watson’s first brush with wildlife on the golf course. He also had to put his zoology knowledge to the test at the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits when his ball came to rest on a small anthill.

Watson called a rules official over, but after the official informed Watson that ants were not considered burrowing animals per the Rules of Golf and he would have to play the shot, Watson went on a bit of an ant rant.

“Okay, but I have a question for you,” he said to the official. “Since it’s an animal. It is an animal, right? Do you agree with that? It’s burrowing, it’s digging a hole. It’s either an ant bed or it’s an animal digging a hole. It’s one or the other.”

Not getting anywhere with the official, Watson tried one last-ditch effort to get relief: “So, if some guy was allergic to ants and he got an ant on him, you could [not] care less?”

This time around, Watson avoided a crabby rules discussion – well, kind of.

The stage is set for Inter Miami CF to continue their inaugural season, with Major League Soccer announcing last week that its season will resume starting July 8. But when Inter Miami returns to the field, they’ll do so without fans at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando — meaning South Florida fans and Inter Miami CF Stadium will have to continue to be patient for the team’s long-awaited home debut in Fort Lauderdale.

As a part of the club’s “We Are the Sky” campaign, Inter Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender wrote a poem that discusses missing the emotions fans would provide during a home game — but from the stadium’s perspective.

The team’s March 14 home opener against the L.A. Galaxy and ensuing home games were postponed in mid-March due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. The only time Inter Miami fans were able to watch the team suit up at Inter Miami CF Stadium was during an a practice session that was open to season-ticket holders on March 10 — two days before MLS suspended the season.

“All of the players, the club and the community were really looking forward to having the inaugural [home game],” Callender said. “It would’ve been a crucial time to build a relationship with our fans. It’s our home. The stadium itself hasn’t been able to be used as much as we thought it would be used this year. My approach to it was ‘If I am feeling this way, and I’m a player then how would the place feel in these times?’

“Not only do we miss out on spending time in the stadium, but the stadium misses out on spending time with us.”

In the poem, Callender wrote: “The darkest hours summon the brightest lights, and in this light, the herons fly. Alike the herons, I’ve embodied stillness, and since I can’t impress, I must confess…You are the heart, you are the soul, you are the presence that makes me feel whole, you are the community I was built for, you are the fans that we fly for.”

In both the poem and in a conversation with the Sun Sentinel, Callender credits the fans for bringing life and energy to the stadium that the team will miss during the tournament. Inter Miami plans to resume their season in Fort Lauderdale after the tournament end, but it’s unknown whether those games will be played without fans in the stadium.

“In some sense,” Callender said, “the stadium does come alive when the people are there.”

As for how he’s feeling about playing without fans, Callender said it’ll be a challenge but said it’s the right environment for the league to plan in amid the pandemic.

“Collectively as a league, every team wants to play in their own stadium,” Callender said. “Even though it’s a bummer that we can’t be in our home stadium, we’ve all been urging to play so it’s an opportunity to get back on the field in a proper environment.”

By Adam Stanley, PGATOUR.COM

  • James Nicholas is an avid outdoor photographer. (Courtesy of James Nicholas)

It’s rare to see a Korn Ferry Tour player who is an Ivy League alum.

More rare, perhaps, to learn that alum was the pre-med track.

Rarer still to see that Ivy League alum on a pre-med track also boast a serious following on Instagram and YouTube – his photography and video work racking up millions of views and thousands of likes.

But that’s James Nicholas.

After earning 2020-21 Korn Ferry Tour status by advancing to Final Stage of Q-School, Nicholas – who was first alternate at the Panama Championship, Country Club de Bogota Championship and El Bosque Mexico Championship – is eager to test his mettle against some of the best in the world.

First, though, the 23-year-old spent a few minutes with PGA TOUR Digital to chat about his love of photography, how someone with a degree in ecology and evolutionary biology managed to become a professional golfer, and how his grandfather helped Joe Namath and the New York Jets win Super Bowl III.

So you went to Yale, one of the most prestigious post-secondary institutions in the world, and you played multiple sports. How did that come to be?

I grew up playing tons of sports, but I grew up in a family where school came first. My dad went to Harvard. He was a baseball and football player there. My mom was a talented athlete as well. I played a ton of different sports, but my parents were always like, ‘You have to finish your homework before you go play with your friends.’ That’s how I learned how to manage my time well. Growing older I realized I wanted to do sports in order to get me into the best university possible. At that moment in time, it was going to be hockey. I always wanted to play hockey – it was my sport. I traveled every weekend for hockey. In my freshman year of high school, I had a college offer for lacrosse and I was talking to colleges for hockey and football. Naturally I was going to play those sports in high school, and golf was just a sport I was decent at, at best, but I wasn’t ever going to play competitively. In my freshman year I broke my collarbone in football and then I re-broke it in hockey. I went to the nurse’s office to get my approval to play lacrosse and she looks at me and said, ‘Maybe it’s best if you play something with less contact’ (laughs). I ended up playing golf.

I joined the team as a freshman and I made the (state championship) as a freshman and that was the first time a freshman had made it in a long time. That gave me the motivation to really practice and elevate my game to the next level. The next couple of years I got better and in my junior year (of high school) I got the itch, fell in love with the game. My college coach, Colin Sheehan, came to watch me at a high school tournament and he said he wanted to have me at Yale.

How did you manage your time with football, hockey, and then eventually golf?

At that point I had an offer for football as well and I just fell in love with it. The campus is beautiful. New Haven (Connecticut) doesn’t have the best rap but it’s an awesome city and I was lucky enough to be there. The golf course is the best college course in the country. From there it was purely dedication and once I quit football I focused all my time on school and golf. It was hard to juggle the two – I’m taking four biology classes. There’s biology, chemistry … the list goes on and on for all the pre-requisites for pre-med. It never gets easy. Pre-med was the harder track but I grew up in a family where my father was a doctor, my grandfather was a doctor. They were both doctors with the Jets. My grandfather won Super Bowl III with the Jets. It was a tradition. I would always ask my dad, “How was surgery today?” so I was always interested in it. Science was always my favorite thing in school – science and math. I always felt that biology would be my major at Yale, but I never really thought how hard it would be. If I was to dedicate my time, I could do it.

Wait, your grandfather helped win a Super Bowl? Like Joe Namath and those New York Jets?

He was the team doctor (laughs). He was the one that operated on Joe’s knee and developed the knee brace that Joe wore in Super Bowl III.

That’s pretty cool.  

It’s always amazing. During the 50th reunion for Super Bowl III, in 2019, we went on the field, since my grandfather passed away (in 2006). We were there with the whole team during the ceremony and it was pretty awesome to have all the guys come up to me and tell me stories about my grandfather. My dad was the water boy for that team. All the stories they told me were just amazing.

During this time of COVID-19 and the uncertainty surrounding it, and not playing professional golf right now, did you ever think, ‘Maybe I should pivot and be a doctor?’

Once I quit football my sophomore year, I told myself I was going to become a professional golfer. Now that I have Korn Ferry Tour status, this has been my main focus. Obviously I’d love to help any way I can but I’ll leave that to the professionals. I’d have to go through four years of med school anyway before I could help, so it’d be a while (laughs).

In terms of playing at Yale, your scoring average improved tremendously year after year. What was the key to that improvement and what did you learn?

I always went back to look at my scoring average and in my freshman year I think it was 74.5, which is horrific. Then in my senior year it was 69.1 I look back and just … I didn’t leave the course. I would wake up at 6 a.m. every day, practice until 9 a.m. at the course, then went to class from 9-2 p.m. and then I’d practice from 2-6 p.m. and then I’d study until 11 p.m. and I’d do the same thing every day. During the winter there was an indoor facility and if I wasn’t in class I was in there, either studying or practicing. I’d hit 100 golf balls, then study or work for an hour. Sometimes I would sleep in that room. The security guards came to kick me out a few times. The dedication helped me change from a below-average college player to accomplishing everything I did at Yale.

How have you felt through this calendar year so far? You have limited Korn Ferry Tour status and it’s been a long break through the early part of 2020.

There have been ups and downs. Just getting to Final Stage was a big goal, which I did, and I secured my card but then everything re-focuses and I wanted full status. I missed by three shots at Final Stage, which was a bummer, but I played great. I was really happy with it as a first try out of school. I was told I could get a few starts and I was in the field for the first two events that got canceled (due to COVID-19). I had my chance there and I was looking forward to getting in and reshuffling into the full status category. But I’ve been itching to get going and itching to get starts, but everyone is going to be playing now with the break. Even the PGA TOUR guys are going to try to play in some (Korn Ferry Tour) events, so I’m going to play the Monday qualifiers. It’s a different path than I expected to take, but I still have an opportunity. It’s going to be a little harder but I’m looking forward to it. Hopefully I can make something happen.

You’ve got a couple of Instagram accounts plus a well-followed YouTube channel. How did you get into that side of the media?

nicholasswing-847-nicolas

(Courtesy of James Nicholas)

That story really started when I was 13-14. For Christmas I was given a GoPro Hero 1 – it was the very first GoPro ever made. It was impossible to use; the battery died every five minutes, and it was just the first shot at them making a camera you could take under water and attach it to your surfboard. That was something I wanted to do. I wanted to bring it into the water, surf with it, and get cool videos of me and my brother and my buddies just having a good time in the summer. That’s what it started as – I just tried to capture the moment. I slowly started using editing software and I realized I could make awesome videos and compilations of all these shots I’d taken. I started doing that and posting them on YouTube, and different companies reached out to me and were like, ‘Do you mind if we send you a couple of hats you can wear?’ and I was like, as a 15-year-old, ‘Free stuff? Yeah! Send it my way. I’ll wear that.’ Fast-forward a couple of years and Greyson Clothiers had reached out (via friends) and we were the media team at the Greyson, an up-and-coming company at the time. We met up with Morgan Hoffmann and we did this huge shoot and that’s when it really took off. I thought I could really do something and help grow brands while growing my own brand and having fun.

What’s the aesthetic you’re going for? Most of your photos have the same kind of look and vibe to them.

I love being creative and doing things that are youthful and energetic and modern. I think a lot of the golf ads are just so boring and streamlined to this one look, and that’s what made me want to focus on the golf side of the content. Before then I had posted on YouTube just videos of all my travel stuff – like there was one video to Iceland and that video has over 1 million views now. Once I got with Greyson and started doing all their content, it made me believe I could do it in golf and make golf more interesting and capture a wider audience.

People have bucket-list courses they want to play, but do you have a list of places you want to go to shoot?

The best combination of my love for travel and golf would be Lofoten Links in Norway. There’s a picture for the cover of GOLF Magazine under the Northern Lights and it is unbelievable. It’s unbelievable. That is the dream, to be playing under the Northern Lights. There’s nothing cooler or more majestic than seeing those. And to combine those with a golf course is unbeatable.

Sand Valley, Bandon Dunes, those are two courses that photograph really well. I definitely want to go back to Scotland and England and take photos of the links courses. I first went over there with my Yale golf team and I was able to do a bunch of drone work but I did all videos. I think photos have been catching my eye more. I want to blow them up on walls. I want to sell them in pro shops.

How have you felt using a drone has changed photography?

No one sees courses from that perspective. When you put a drone up there, it’s like a whole new perspective. I flew it at my home course the other day and you’re like, ‘Wow.’ The contours, the architecture … it’s so cool. It makes you appreciate golf-course architects more.

You have a girlfriend and her name, it’s … America?

Yup! America – just like the country.

Is she a content creator as well?

She’s like my model. It’s perfect. She’s starting to be a content creator but for food. She’s an amazing chef. During quarantine we’ve just been focused on golf and cooking – and it’s been awesome. She started her own food Instagram and it’s been blowing up.

She’s the queen of all foodies and I guess I’m starting to become one as well.

There are usually some perks to being on the winning bag at a PGA Tour event – a little something extra for the effort, as Carl Spackler once elegantly put it – but a car?

That’s what happened at last year’s Charles Schwab Challenge, where the tournament winner was awarded a glacier-blue 1973 Dodge Challenger that had been fully restored by Steve Strope, who is renowned for his custom work on American muscle cars from the 1960s and ’70s.

Kevin Na pocketed the $1.314 million paycheck and donned the tartan winner’s coat, but the keys to the car went to longtime caddie Kenny Harms. It has to go down as one of the coolest gestures to celebrate a victory.

“I don’t know of a better one,” said Harms, who has caddied for the likes of Hall of Famers Hale Irwin, Raymond Floyd and Hubert Green since 1991 and worked for Na for more than a decade.

Harms’ wheels have been making the rounds at some car shows, including SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) in Las Vegas, and so Harms says he’s only put about 400 miles on his prized possession.

The car buff already owns a 1998 black Porsche 911 Carrera convertible and a 2006 Porsche Cayenne, but he had his eye on the Dodge Challenger as soon as he spotted it on Tuesday of tournament week sitting along the 10th hole at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas.

“It was kind of silent before everyone teed off and I said, ‘Hey, Kevin, when we win, I’ll look a lot better than you in that car with my baby blue eyes. When we win it, you’re going to give me the car, right?’ ” Harms recalls. “He kind of looks over at the car, looks at me, looks back at the car a second time and says, ‘Yeah, if we win.’ I said, ‘No, when we win.’ He said, ‘All right, I’ll give you the car if I win.’ For some reason, I kept saying, when we win. I had the weirdest feeling we were going to win that week.”

Colonial has been Na’s personal ATM for several years, but victory had eluded him until now. He cruised to a four-stroke victory and flipped the keys to Harms.

“It doesn’t drive like a typical ’73 Dodge Challenger,” said Harms, who once ponied up $200 to buy a ’73 rusty green Camaro, his first car. “The only thing that is original is the shell of the car. Everything else has been replaced. I’m told it was bought for $20,700, stripped it down to the metal and they put $180,000 in parts and $200,000 in labor into it. It’s a piece of art to me.”

Kenny Harms

Among the many disappointments of the suspension of current MLS season and the seasons of leagues throughout the world is that it is halting the progress of many young players making important steps in their development. In MLS, the 2019 season was one of the most promising in league history in terms of the success of young American players. It remains to be seen how 2020 will go, but there were promising signs from the first two weeks.

Tanner Tessmann, 18, was one of the players off to a strong start before the season was halted. The midfielder signed for FC Dallas just days before the team’s season opener. With injuries plaguing Dallas during the preseason, Tessmann got the start for the first game against a strong Philadelphia Union team. He ended up going the distance and assisted on Paxton Pomykal’s goal to close out a 2-0 win.

“There were lots of emotions but all good emotions,” Tessmann recalled. “Signing was a great experience. My family got to be there. I debuted and played the full game. We got the win. So, it was a perfect week. Those emotions were super high and I stayed level headed.”

Playing in his preferred No. 8, box-to-box central midfield role, Tessmann’s numbers against Philadelphia were very good both offensively and defensively over the full 90 minutes.

• 90 minutes
• 60 touches
• 2 key passes
• 71% pass completion
• 1 successful dribble
• 3 aerials won
• 1x fouled
• 7 tackles
• 1 interception
• 4/8 accurate long balls

In the second game, Tessmann remained in the starting lineup and played 61 minutes in 2-2 tie with Montreal. While he played more of a defensive role in the midfield, his passing was still exceptional. He completed 95.6% of his passes including four of five accurate long balls.

“Honestly, I thought I would get more tired and I was going to have bad touches and get shut down quicker. But it was a really good game,” Tessmann said after the Philadelphia game. “It was a tough game to play in. I did feel like I belong. This was a huge achievement for me just to kind of know that I could play at that level. A month ago, I was playing with the U-19s in Mexico. To come and play with the MLS team, it was a real achievement. The ball moved a lot faster and the players were fast. But I felt like I belonged.”

Born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama area, Tessmann moved to Dallas to join the FC Dallas academy in 2016. He was in the club with midfielders such as Weston McKenniePaxton PomykalBrandon Servania and Thomas Roberts – who all have extensive experience with either the U.S. national team of the youth national teams. Now he will hope to follow in their footsteps and be part of the team’s impressive developmental pipeline.

Last year, Tessmann began to show signs of breaking through. He won the Development Academy’s U-18/U19 Golden Ball for 2018-2019 season after leading FC Dallas to the U-18/U19 Academy championship. He also began playing for the club’s USL League One team, North Texas SC, which won the title with a win over Greenville in a final where Tessmann played the final 19 minutes plus stoppage time.

Following 2019, Tessmann emerged as one of the best 2001-born American prospects based domestically. He clearly had options as to where to begin his career but the pipeline that FC Dallas had built was too hard to pass up with a high likelihood of earning quality first-team minutes this season. It’s the first step of many which he hopes also includes winning silverware with Dallas and eventually being sold to the higher levels of Europe.

“We have a great pipeline of players that come through and then you see them on the national team, you see him going overseas like Weston McKennie,” Tessmann explained. “So, it really just helps all the players at FC Dallas that move here to really believe in themselves a little bit more and know those dreams that you have are right there in front of you for the taking. I just think that FC Dallas is the best place in America for sure to grow as a player and get opportunities that I don’t think a lot of other clubs can give you with Bayern Munich and the FC Dallas academy.”

“They want what’s best for the players,” he added about FC Dallas. “When you reach the pinnacle of MLS they want you to keep getting better. … They want you to reach your highest potential and overseas where you can do that. They aren’t scared to sell their players and see where that path can take them. They believe in their players that they can play at the next level. I love that about FC Dallas that they aren’t scared to take those risks and push their players beyond the FC Dallas first team.”

One of the more interesting and well publicized facts about the 6-foot-2 Tessmann is that he also had the option of heading to Clemson University to play both soccer and football. A gifted kicker even though he didn’t play high school football, Tessmann had a scholarship offer from Clemson’s powerhouse football team and was recruited by head coach “Dabo” Swinney, who is also a family friend of the Tessmanns.

While it appeared as if he was going to head that route, he came to terms with Dallas and insisted that his priority has always been soccer. The opportunity to join FC Dallas was the quickest opportunity to put him on his desired career path.

“It would have been a great experience at Clemson to do that but I’ve been a soccer player since I was little, and that’s been my dream to play overseas in Europe and for the national team,” Tessmann said. “I’ve never had dreams to be a football star in the NFL as a kicker. I’ve been focusing on soccer, I continue to focus on soccer. … And I dedicate all my time to soccer — just becoming a student of the game and working hard every day to make my dreams come true.”

As for his other soccer dream, the national team, that remains very much alive at this point. He is eligible for the current U-20 team which, if everything returns to normal quickly, will attempt to qualify for the 2021 U-20 World Cup in Indonesia this June. He was part of the team’s first camp of the cycle last September under then coach Tab Ramos but was not part of the roster for new coach Anthony Hudson’s first camp in January. Tessmann says, however, that he has spoken with Hudson about being part of the team.

Competition will be tough to make the U-20 team and Tessmann is among several quality players in contention for the No. 8 and No. 6 defensive midfield roles for the team. The others being Colorado’s Cole Bassett, Internacional’s Johnny Cardoso, Bayern Munich U-23’s Taylor Booth. But with his size at 6′ 2″, his athleticism, and his skill on the ball, Tessmann could potentially offer something different to the group.

“With the U-20 World Cup, a bunch of players have blossomed there,” Tessmann said. “You saw Brandon Servania last year — he wasn’t really playing with FC Dallas, went to the U-20 World Cup, really did well with the team, and then came back and started pretty much every game. Same with Paxton Pomykal. And we have a great team. I really enjoyed being with those guys when I go to camp. And we love each other and we fight for each other even though we’re from different clubs and we get along really well. It would just be an honor to go and represent my country in a World Cup.”

The Iso: Walker Zimmerman

The Players’ Tribune is introducing a new series called The Iso. With so many of us keeping our distance from each other in a variety of ways, we decided to ask some of our favorite athletes to share how they’ve been dealing with life in the Covid-19 world, and how they’re spending their time away from their sport.


Our first two games this season were at home on February 29 and away on March 8. And then we found out a few days later that everything was gonna change. The season was being pushed back — postponed for eight weeks, at least. I think I realized at that point that this wasn’t something that was gonna blow over any time soon.

I’m in Nashville with my wife, Sally. Locally, the mayor issued a 14-day stay-at-home order, which actually ended up being extended through at least part of May. We’re limited to just the essentials — grocery store, post office, that sort of thing.

My parents are doing a really good job of taking it seriously. They’re down in Atlanta. I don’t think my dad’s even left the house. My mom’s gone to the grocery store when needed. It’s funny, I was FaceTiming my brother and his wife — they live about 30–45 minutes from my parents — and they told me that my parents came over to drop something off, and showed up with masks and gloves and wouldn’t go inside the house. That was like mid-March. It’s great that they were so ahead of the game on that.

It’s definitely different adjusting to everyday life now. Having to work out on your own. It’s been crazy for everyone, but thankfully I’m staying pretty busy around here.

I’m actually on a pretty good routine right now. I’m waking up around eight o’clock. Then I’ll head downstairs and make some breakfast. I’ve been cooking a lot. That’s been so fun. Making some eggs and bacon with an avocado on the side every morning. Then I’ll give that some time to digest and hit my workout for that day around 10. While digesting my food I do a crossword puzzle — I’ve had a yearlong crossword competition with Daniel Lovitz. We both complete the USA Today crossword and the NYT crossword. I’m currently down 52–58 on the year….

I’m trying to stay accustomed to our training and game-day schedule in Nashville. So what that looks like is:

  • Sundays are a day off.
  • Mondays are a lighter recovery day, assuming that you played a game on Saturday, so in quarantine that’s biking and maybe some stretching.
  • Tuesdays I’ll do something a little bit harder — some high-speed running and a body-weight workout.
  • Wednesdays are another day off, since that’s what we’d do during a normal week of training.
  • Thursdays I pick it back up, going about 6o–70%, in terms of capacity.
  • Fridays I might go for a light jog and stretch, going lighter just as I would to get ready for a game.
  • Saturdays are our usual game days. I’ll push it and try to go really hard — trying to get a lot of mileage and sprints in to simulate the wear and tear of a game.

Really, sticking to a routine is what’s keeping me sane. It distracts you from having a lot more free time than you normally would. Instead of five or six hours at a training facility, I’m basically only working out for two hours a day now. So what do you do with those extra four hours? I’d recommend it for people trying to figure out how to meaningfully fill their days.

Courtesy of Walker ZimmermanMy wife and I are busy for sure. We closed on a house here in Nashville on March 16, so we have all of these things to do. After my workouts, it’s straight to opening boxes and building — using an Allen wrench to put together more patio furniture, chairs and barstools than you could imagine.

I’ve really stepped it up in the kitchen. Normally, Sally does the majority of the cooking, but since we’ve been in this house and this new kitchen, I’ve really taken on the responsibility. I made some ridiculously good salmon one day — a barbecue base with some spices on it. Really, really enjoying the cast iron, so I cook it on there — skin down — maybe five minutes, then broil it face up to get a little char on top and coat with a little lemon juice and barbecue sauce. Turned out super tender and flaky. So good. (I’m gonna make it again on IG Live on Friday, so check it out if you want the pro tips.)

It’s just been a blast, honestly, being in the kitchen. This is a great time for people to be cooking their own meals a little more than they normally would, and hopefully that leads to more awareness about what we put into our bodies. Health and nutrition are obviously important to me, and I hope this time is being used for others to find healthy foods that work for them and their nutritional plans as well.

We’ve been watching Schitt’s CreekThat’s our kind of end-of-day wind-down show while getting ready for bed. We’ve also done a few Netflix rom-coms. I’m a big Ozark guy and Sally’s not (it’s usually my show when I’m on the road), so I’m going to have to find some time to sneak it in.

I’ve seen some people walking, running, exercising outside, which is inspiring. I think that’s awesome. Continue to work out, continue to find ways to push yourself to stay in shape. For us athletes, especially, when we come back, it’s going to be really important to be fit, to be sharp. We can’t lose focus on what’s ahead.

I’ve also been using these days to FaceTime and connect with family. I’ve seen so many positive things on the Internet about people connecting with their families in new and significant ways. That’s really important, and it transcends soccer, football, and all the other sports and things that are canceled.

I’m hopeful that people will walk away from this knowing how important family really is. They’re who you want by your side when the world gets crazy and the going gets tough. Keep the banter alive in the chats. Make sure everyone around you is doing O.K. Stick together, because family will always be the most important thing.

Denny Hamlin is the latest athlete to join the ALL IN Challenge, which has pegged itself as the largest digital fundraiser ever.

Fanatics’ ALL IN challenges athletes across all sports to help raise $100 million for COVID-19 crisis relief. The money will provide food to those in need, specifically kids, elderly and frontline workers. The official statement says, “We challenge every athlete, sports owner, team, league, celebrity and artist to go ALL IN and donate one of their most prized possessions or create a once-in-a-lifetime fan experience.”

Denny Hamlin

@dennyhamlin

Hey @TikiBarber I accept your nomination for the and so does my friend @bubbawatson. We’re all in together to reach the $100 million goal & help feed those in need. Watch the vid and go to http://AllInChallenge.com . @LarryFitzgerald @MW55 @Nelly_Mo are you all in?

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Hamlin chose the latter as his effort to raise the funds after being nominated by former New York Giants running back Tiki Barber.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver and three-time Daytona 500 winner announced Tuesday he’s offering up the opportunity to play Michael Jordan’s new exclusive golf club in Florida alongside himself and PGA Tour’s Bubba Watson. That’s not all. In addition to the round of golf, the package will feature a private flight and VIP access to the 2021 Daytona 500.

How it works: Fans bid on prizes and experiences of their choice through an auction. Those bids then double as the fundraiser’s donations.

Many big sports names have accepted the challenged. Hamlin, Peyton and Eli Manning, Magic Johnson, Aaron Rodgers, Alex Rodriguez and Joel Embiid are just a few of the athletes. Leagues and teams also are involved.

All of the money raised will benefit the following organizations: Meals on Wheels, No Kid Hungry, America’s Food Fund, Feeding America and World Central Kitchen.

  • Bubba Watson’s bump-and-run leads to birdie at WGC-Mexico

MEXICO CITY – Bubba Watson would seem to have the right sort of game for Club de Golf Chapultepec, but he’s never done particularly well at the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship. His best, in three starts here, is a T9 in 2018. Truth be told, he played better when the tournament was at Doral, with four top-three finishes.

After a winless 2019 in which he finished 81st in the FedExCup, Watson was off to a solid start in search of his 13th PGA TOUR victory after an opening-round 67, two off the early lead.

“I’ve been hitting the ball great all year after training,” said Watson, who finished T6 at the Farmers Insurance Open and T3 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. “I’ve been working on getting fitter, getting stronger so I can hold positions and hit the shots I want to hit.”


No one wanted to talk about what’s behind his mini-revival, though. Instead, it was Watson’s casual round with singer Justin Bieber after missing the cut at the Genesis Invitational in L.A. The two played at Lakeside Golf Club with Ted Scott, Watson’s caddie, and three others, and Watson joked that Bieber is now his mental coach. (Watson has no mental coach.)

The other topic of conversation at Chapultepec has been Watson’s putting. He couldn’t buy one at The Genesis, but had 13 one-putts in the first round at Chapultepec, and on the often-tricky poa annua surfaces, no less. His 21 total putts in round one were a career low on TOUR.

But while putting comes and goes, and celebrity is its own thing altogether, Watson’s revival this season owes just as much if not more to his tee-to-green game.

“I know my ball-striking is where I want it to be,” he said. “My mind is where I want it to be and everything. Coming here, I was just hoping I’d get the right bounces and the right breaks. I know I can play around here if I stay committed to all the shots.”

Watson ranked No. 1 in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green in 2015, and fourth in that stat in ’16.

Then things started to fall off: 74th in ’17, and 45th in ’18 even as he won three times and finished 10th in the FedExCup. He was 38th in SG: Tee-to-Green last season, which is far from terrible, but 167th in SG: Putting as he plummeted to 81st in the FedExCup.

Self-coached and mercurial, Watson has never been a paint-by-number type of guy. His rises and falls can be hard to predict, or explain. This season, though, it’s pretty easy: Watson’s stats are up in both putting (51st, despite an off-week at the Genesis) and ball-striking (13th). That’s a useful combination, one that has seen him regularly work his way back into contention again after two decidedly lackluster years (2017 and ’19) in the last three seasons.

“You know, it’s — life sometimes throws you curve balls,” he said.

Perhaps, though, not so much in the thin air at Chapultepec, where the ball doesn’t curve as much. The ball-striking is there. The putting may be catching up. Bubba Golf is on the rise again.

The play-by-play looks like something out of a basketball player’s shot chart. Not a golfer’s.

“Shot hit 5’10.” ” “Shot hit 4′ 7.” ” “Shot hit 27′ 2.” ” “Shot hit 36′ 5.” ” “Shot hit 8′ 8.” ” “Shot hit 82′ 2.” ” “Shot hit 23′ 11.” ” “Shot hit 48 yds to the primary rough.”

It was after that 48-yarder when Kevin Na emerged from the nasty tree stuff on the ninth hole at the 2011 Texas Open, on his way to a duodecuple bogey 16 (12-over-par). The gallery applauded. He grinned. And he did again this week, when the tournament would have been played had it not been for its cancellation due to the coronavirus.

“Here’s a video u can laugh at! 2011 @valerotxopen when I made a 16 on a hole. #tbt #golfishard #골프어렵다 almost broke 80 lol,” Na shared on Instagram.

Fellow pros Bryson DeChambeauByeong Hun An and Danny Lee liked the post.

The PGA Tour followed up on its social media accounts.

“That time Kevin Na made a 16 at the @ValeroTxOpen,” one tweet read. Then some quick math. “If Kevin Na would’ve made par on the 9th hole in Round 1 of the 2011 @ValeroTxOpen he would’ve shot 68,” another tweet read.

Indeed.

The damage started off the tee, where Na hit his ball to an unplayable spot, picked it up, went back to the tee, then hit it right back to the same spot — before proceeding to drop his club in frustration on the follow through. The 5-foot, 10-inch shot, his fourth, hit him, leading to a penalty. Seven shots later, he finally escaped.

“I have no idea what you have,” caddie Kenny Harms said as they walked to the green.

“I don’t know,” Na said. “How are we gonna count all of the shots?”

“I have no idea,” Harms said.

“I can’t keep track,” Na said.

As Kevin Na fought his way to victory last week, he was in the midst of another contentious battle to save his name

Na maintained his lighter attitude a year later at the Texas Open, when he and Harms went back to their forest foe during non-tournament play. He improved his lie first with a garden shovel. Then an ax. Followed by a garden clippers. Finally, he used a chainsaw.

When the tournament started, Na took out his 2011 shirt and hung it from one of the trees in the area.

Herriman • Justin Meram has worn the No. 9 for practically his entire career. With the exception of a short six-month stint with Atlanta United last year, the Michigan native and newest attacker for Real Salt Lake had the number that corresponded to his position: goal scorer.

When RSL signed Meram earlier this month and began training sessions, the No. 9 wasn’t yet claimed by any of the other players on the roster. The number was retired in 2011 when former striker and coach Jason Kreis’ name was immortalized at Rio Tinto Stadium. But last season, he asked the organization to undo that action.

Meram eventually became the beneficiary of that move by Kreis. But before he could accept it, he made sure to get Kreis’ blessing. Kreis coached Meram during his stint with Orlando City, so the forward had no problem reaching out to him out of respect to make sure wearing the No. 9 was OK.

Kreis said he was fine with it, but offered a message to go with his permission.

“He told me to score a lot of goals with it,” Meram said. “That’s what I’ll try and do for this club.”

Meram made his regular season debut in the 70th minute of RSL’s scoreless draw with Orlando City. He walked onto the field to a chorus of boos and chants of “F— you Meram” from the crowd.

“It’s sports,” Meram said of his reception at Exploria Stadium. “Players get booed all the time in different venues. That’s how it’s going to be.”

When Meram played for the Lions for part of 2018, he made comments about acrimonious treatment he received from fans, particularly on social media. He was traded to Columbus Crew soon after.

Meram represents part of an overhaul in the attack for RSL, which lost scorers and playmakers like Jefferson Savarino, Sebastian Saucedo, Joao Plata and Brooks Lennon in the offseason. While the organization picked up some young talent at that position to fill those voids, Meram is the only one officially signed by the club with that level of experience.

Forward Giuseppi Rossi is another such player. The former Manchester United and Italy national team member played towards the end of the season opener, and his minutes figure to increase this week as RSL readies for Saturday’s home opener vs. the New York Red Bulls.

Before coming to RSL, Meram played 259 total MLS games and started 189, including playoffs. He’s tallied 46 goals and 39 assists in his career, which spans nine seasons and three teams.

Those numbers could matter even more considering the situation RSL has with its attacking players. A bevy of players are either injured or not fit because they are just coming back from injury. The list includes Sam Johnson, Damir Kreilach, Corey Baird and Maikel Chang.

JUSTIN MERAM AT A GLANCE

Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 165
Years of experience: 9
Best season: 2017 with Columbus Crew — 13 goals, seven assists

The team has such a dearth of attacking options right now that RSL coach Freddy Juarez played defender Aaron Herrera on the right wing all preseason. Meram might be counted on to be one of the team’s main playmakers while others get back to form.

Juarez said Meram’s experience was one of the reasons he felt he would be a good fit for the club. Meram’s experience veteran status also allows for less of a learning curve, Juarez said.

“It’s someone that wasn’t going to take the time to adapt,” Juarez said. “We thought with Justin Meram, [he] is a guy that can quickly just fit in as long as we just get him fit.”

Fitness might be the only thing holding Meram back. The organization acquired him a couple of weeks into preseason, so he’s really only had about four weeks of time with his new teammates and coaches.

But during that time, Juarez has put him to work. Aside from the Orlando game, Meram started all three official preseason games and played 90 minutes in two of them. He even finished a goal late in the loss to Phoenix Rising.

Meram is trying to get to his preferred level of fitness as quickly as possible, though. On a recent off day, he was at the training facility from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., staying longer than the equipment manager and team cooks, he said.

“I think I got in trouble for being here a little too long,” Meram said in jest, adding that all he really needs at this point is more minutes during games.

Juarez said Meram’s playing time during preseason wasn’t an indication of where he was leaning for one of the starting positions against Orlando. But the way he brought his attacking instincts to the team could cause Juarez to start him anyway.

“He’s not just a guy that can create for himself,” Juarez said. “He’s a good passer of the ball, he has good vision, he can create for teammates.”

Meram has bounced around the league in recent years, playing for Orlando, Atlanta and Columbus since 2017. He spent seven years with the Crew before all the moves.

Meram said he feels he has had just one tough stretch in his career. Other than that, all his stops have been positive and he’s been productive. The reason it didn’t work out with Atlanta United, he said, was due to contract negotiations. He added that the first time he left Columbus was at his request so he could “get a new adventure.”

Meram said he’s been welcomed into the rest of the team and it’s been easy for him to fit in. He’s living in a hotel at the moment, but will hopefully close on a house soon.

Meram was attracted to the team concept RSL brings and the way the team was built, he said.

“It’s always about the group and working hard,” Meram said. “Any time it’s a collective effort, you want to be part of it.”

At 31, Meram could be a the tail end of his career. It appears he would be just fine if it were to end in an RSL uniform.

“Hopefully I can stick here for a couple of years and possibly play out the rest of my career here,” Meram said.

By Staff Report | NASCAR.com | December 5, 2019 at 9:27 PM | NASHVILLE, Tenn.

The fans have spoken, and the legacy lives on for another year. Hendrick Motorsports driver Chase Elliott was named the 2019 NMPA Most Popular Driver on Thursday night during the year-end Champion’s Week banquet.

The annual award is determined 100% by fan voting, and Elliott, 24, topped the ballot for the second consecutive year.

“Just an honor, really, and just a big thank you to everybody who voted,” Elliott said after the awards celebration. “Obviously it took a lot of votes to make it happen and everybody that took time to do that, I do really appreciate it. Like I said out there, too, it’s more than a trophy or a sticker or an award, really and truly. So I just really enjoyed this past season and just seeing all the people that were at the race track that wanted to see us do good. And you can genuinely feel that, and that goes a long way. So I appreciate it, and hopefully try to make everybody proud next year, too.”

There’s a history there, of course. Elliott’s father, Bill, won the award a record 16 times, including 10 consecutive years from 1991-2000.

Read more…

 

LAS VEGAS – It takes a special type of human to get the yips and come out on the other side with a bright smile.

“I’ve always been told I was special growing up,” Kevin Na said with a laugh.

The laugh is contagious. As is the smile. If you didn’t know him you would never guess this was the guy who for a lengthy part of his career couldn’t pull the trigger on his driver. Or the guy who had a 16 on one hole during the 2011 Valero Texas Open. Or the guy who copped vitriol for being too slow on the course.

Having played PGA TOUR events since 2001, Na has seen a lot in this game. The above could have easily sent him into a deep state of depression. And while he admits there have been tough moments, the 36-year-old Na made a decision to always search for positives.

His natural humor helps. It is why we see things like him walking in putts, which has become a social media sensation. It is why he went back out to TPC San Antonio with a chainsaw to cut down some trees. It is why he set a speed record during the 2016 TOUR Championship, playing alone as he ran around East Lake in under two hours.

Kevin Na’s Round 4 highlights from Shriners LAS VEGAS – Of course it would come down to a putt. Kevin Na obliterated the TPC Summerlin greens this week at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open setting a PGA TOUR record for feet of putts made in a 72-hole event.

17-year-old Alec has been getting treatment for Brittle Bone Disease at the Chicago Shriners Hospital since 2002. At the 2019 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, Kevin Na surprised Alec and spent some time with the aspiring sports anchor.

The evolution of Kevin Na LAS VEGAS – It takes a special type of human to get the yips and come out on the other side with a bright smile. “I’ve always been told I was special growing up,” Kevin Na said with a laugh. The laugh is contagious. As is the smile. If you didn’t know him you would never guess this was the guy who for a lengthy part of his career couldn’t pull the trigger on his driver. Or the guy who had a 16 on one hole during the 2011 Valero Texas Open. Or the guy who copped vitriol for being too slow on the course. Having played PGA TOUR events since 2001, Na has seen a lot in this game. The above could have easily sent him into a deep state of depression. And while he admits there have been tough moments, the 36-year-old Na made a decision to always search for positives.

INSIDE THE PGA TOUR

 

 

It was an epic battle between Atlanta United and Minnesota United FC, in what would become a historic night for the U.S. Open Cup. Watch here to find out why it was so much more than just a match and see what ProSport Management clients Justin Meram/Atlanta United and Miguel Ibarra/Minnesota United FC, had to say about their part in it.

Justin Meram at the U.S. Open Cup

USSOCCER.com | Jonah Fontela

DISCOVERED BY CHANCE ON AN ARIZONA PARK, WIDE MAN JUSTIN MERAM TOOK A CIRCUITOUS PATH TO ATLANTA UNITED AND HIS FIRST OPEN CUP FINAL.

Justin Meram was at a crossroads. He’d just finished high school and there were options: College? Work? Follow his brothers into their dad’s construction business? He wasn’t thinking much about the future that one day in the summer of 2007, kicking around in a park in Scottsdale, Arizona when he caught someone’s eye. “I wasn’t recruited to play soccer in college,” said the Atlanta United wing-back and one-on-one wizard, now in his eighth year as a pro. “Someone just saw me playing in a park for fun.”

Read more

Sports Illustrated | By RYAN ASSELTA

Bubba Watson might be the ultimate horse-for-the-course player. Eight of his 12 PGA Tour victories have come on three tracks—Augusta National, Riviera, and TPC River Highlands.

Watson returns to the latter for this week’s Travelers Championship, where he has won three times—including last year, when he fired a final-round 63 to take the title by three shots. SI.com’s Ryan Asselta caught up with Watson to discuss why he loves this event so much, turning 40 and so much more.

Read more…

Monday, May 26, 2019 | Associated Press

FORT WORTH, Texas — Kevin Na always believed he could win at Colonial, so he paused to visualize his name on the Wall of Champions at the first tee before making another run at it.

The South Korean-born American will get to read his name on that wall next year.

Na birdied four of the first eight holes and shot a 4-under 66 for a four-shot victory over Tony Finau on Sunday on the cozy course made famous by Ben Hogan, securing his third career PGA TOUR win and second in 10 months.

“On the first tee, I saw that wall, looked at the names, right below Justin Rose,” Na said, referring to the defending champion. “And in my head, I engraved my name on it. I was just trying to visualize success before I teed off.”

Read more…

 

When Daniel Hemric was growing up in Kannapolis, dreaming of becoming a NASCAR driver, Friday afternoons were hard. A long week of school would be nearly over, but the last few minutes of his final class seemed to last forever.

“I couldn’t wait to get out of school on Friday,” Hemric said, “to go back to the track on Friday night.”

Hemric was in kindergarten at the time.

Read more

Associated Press | By Steve Reed

CONCORD, N.C. (AP) — The idea of having even a slim chance to race his way into the NASCAR All-Star race this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway seems surreal for Daniel Hemric.

After all, this is the track where it all started for the 28-year-old rookie Cup Series driver.

He grew up a few miles down the road in Kannapolis, North Carolina, and raced go-karts at CMS when he was 7 years old. He watched Jimmie Johnson win the All-Star race here from the grandstand. And this is where he ultimately put himself on the auto racing map by winning the Legends Million in 2010, collecting a $250,000 first place prize — the largest paycheck at the time in Legends car racing.

Read more

 

 

 

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (MAY 9, 2019) — PROSPORT Management has signed a marketing representation agreement with New York Jets running back/wide receiver Ty Montgomery, who becomes the agency’s first NFL client. Montgomery signed with the Jets in April after spending three-and-a-half seasons with the Green Bay Packers and a half-season with the Baltimore Ravens.

Montgomery took the NFL by storm in 2016 when he moved from his drafted position of wide receiver to become the Green Bay Packers starting running back in the middle of the campaign. He went on to rack up over 800 total yards from scrimmage, while averaging 5.9 yards per carry. Shouldering the workload in the Packers backfield, the 2015 third-round draft pick also set an NFL record for most yards after contact (5.1) during a single season. Montgomery’s ability to switch positions mid-year helped the Packers reach the NFC Championship game.

Versatility has always been Montgomery’s forte. He was named to the 2013 NCAA All-American team as a kick returner, as a junior at Stanford. In the NFL, Montgomery has started and produced at running back, wide receiver and kick returner—amassing a total of 2,618 all-purpose yards in four seasons.

Off the field, Montgomery has formed his own 501(c)(3) charitable foundation titled My 10 Percent, that supports and empowers the forgotten youth in society by giving them hope for a future that they desire and faith that what they desire is possible. His charitable works include supporting foster care initiatives, working to fight the epidemic of human trafficking, and various other programs that support forgotten youth. For more information visit iamtymontgomery.com.


PROSPORT MANAGEMENT SIGNS DEWAN HERNANDEZ, FORMER UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI PLAYER

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (APRIL 7, 2019) – PROSPORT Management has signed Dewan Hernandez, formerly of the University of Miami, as their first basketball client. Hernandez declared his entry in the 2019 NBA Draft in January and has been training in Charlotte, N.C.

“We are excited to welcome Dewan Hernandez to the PROSPORT Management family,” said Nate Conley, Dewan’s agent. “With his talent, strong work ethic and character, we expect he will have a long and successful career.”

In his sophomore year at Miami, Hernandez, a 6’11”, 235 pound forward, averaged 11.4 points, 6.7 rebounds and shot 57 percent from the field while averaging 25.8 minutes per game.

“After looking at my options, I signed with Nate and PROSPORT Management as I felt I would get a more personalized approach to my career,” said Dewan Hernandez. “I’m looking forward to the draft and all the opportunities the future will bring.”

A five-star recruit out of Miami Norland Senior High School, Hernandez was a participant in the 2016 McDonald’s All-American Game, the 2015 Under Armour Elite 24, All Miami Dade Team 2014, 2015 and 2016 and Miami Dade 6A Player of the Year Award for the state of Florida in 2015 and 2016.

Hernandez joins an impressive group of clients at PROSPORT Management, who manage high-performing, highly-marketable, championship caliber athletes. Golfers Bubba Watson and Kevin Na, NASCAR drivers, Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin and MLS and international soccer players, Walker Zimmerman, Christian Ramirez and Justin Meram are among the elite athletes the company represents.

About PROSPORT Management
PROSPORT Management is a full-service, sports talent management firm that represents elite professional golf, racing, soccer and basketball athletes in the United States and abroad. The group offers a broad network of services and a proven track record of business relationships built on trust and integrity.

Contact: Nate Conley
nc@prosportmanagement.com

CHARLOTTE, N.C., | May 1, 2019 | PRNewswire

cbdMD, Inc. (NYSE American: YCBD) has just announced that professional golfer, Bubba Watson, has officially partnered with Team cbdMD. As part of the multi-year agreement – beginning at the second major of the 2019 PGA Tour season, the PGA Championship in Farmingdale, NY – Watson will feature the cbdMD logo on both sides of his headwear at all PGA Tour events. The deal also includes a wide range of additional, integrated marketing opportunities to promote the cbdMD brand.

On Tuesday, April 30, Watson’s official partnership kicked off with a tour of the cbdMD headquarters and lab. Today, Wednesday, May 1, Watson will be present in New York City as the cbdMD stock ticker symbol, on the New York Stock Exchange, officially changes from LEVB to YCBD.

Watson is a 12-time PGA Tour winner, with signature victories at The Masters Tournament in 2012 and 2014. In February 2015, Watson attained a career-high 2nd place in the Official World Golf Ranking. He is currently ranked 18th in the World. “I’ve personally felt the benefits of cbdMD’s products,” said Bubba Watson. “cbdMD is the safest on the market and I am proud to partner with them to help millions feel better.”

Read more…

By Reid Spencer | NASCAR Wire Service | February 17, 2019

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Five weeks after the death of Joe Gibbs Racing president J.D. Gibbs, the driver he discovered won the Daytona 500 for the second time.

In a two-lap dash in overtime Sunday at Daytona International Speedway, Denny Hamlin held off teammate Kyle Busch to win the 61st running of the Great American Race, an event that featured massive fireworks with five late cautions that left 14 cars on the lead lap at the finish.

The victory was Hamlin’s 32nd in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, and it broke a 47-race drought for the 38-year-old from Chesterfield, Va., who had stickers on his No. 11 Toyota Camry commemorating J.D. Gibbs and Glen Wood, patriarch of the Wood Brothers Racing team who passed away on Jan. 18.

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KENOSHA, Wis.Feb. 11, 2019 /PRNewswire/

Jockey International, Inc. (Jockey), a 143-year-old brand recognized around the world for its premium underwear and apparel, today announced the next chapter of its inspiring brand campaign “Show ‘Em What’s Underneath, Show ‘Em Your Jockey.” The latest heroes to be featured are professional golfer Bubba Watson and his wife, former WNBA player, Angie, who show the strength of family in building a life where love and commitment to each other comes first.

Hear their story…

ForePlay Podcast: Kevin Na

Released on Feb. 11, 2019

Kevin Na joins the show! The 2-time TOUR winner details how he made a record 16 on a par-4, how he overcame the swing yips to win the 2018 Greenbrier, what the USGA needs to do to improve the U.S. Open, and how good it felt to make birdie after overruling his caddie at Colonial. Without Kevin, we discuss Phil’s victory at Pebble (complete with a legendary darkness dispute), the current state of the Glover family, the upcoming Genesis Open featuring Tiger Woods, and Riggs makes his official Masters prediction. Side note: you gotta hear Frankie’s voice.

Listen to the podcast… (hear Kevin @ 50:47 mark)

TODAY Show: Bubba Wallace

Black History Month | Bubba Wallace on paving the way for NASCAR’s next generation

Released Jan. 29, 2019

Bubba Watson joins the show alongside longtime caddie Ted Scott just after playing 18 holes with Riggs. The two discuss their relationship and how the internet has interpreted it; they tell stories from winning two Masters; Bubba reveals what he’s done with his green jackets and breaks down his relationship with the Ryder Cup; and Bubba discusses his struggles and why his 2018 rebound year means so much to him. There’s also MUCH more. All time show.

Hear the epidosde…

ESPN.com | Jeff Carlisle, U.S. Soccer Correspondant | Jan. 11, 2019

Expansion side FC Cincinnati selected UCLA midfielder Frankie Amaya No. 1 overall in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft on Friday.

Amaya, 18, is the youngest player in the draft, but his upside is such that he’s expected to adapt well to the professional game, even in a central playmaking role that is usually the domain of foreign players.

The Generation Adidas player spent just one season at UCLA, making 14 appearances, 10 of them starts, while scoring two goals and adding two assists.

However, it was with the U.S. Under-20 team that the Santa Anna, California, native has drawn the most attention, helping the U.S. qualify for the FIFA U20 World Cup late last year.

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Paul Pogba named world’s most marketable athlete of 2018

SportsPro Media | Jan. 2019

SportsPro has never laid any claims to objectivity when compiling its annual list of the world’s 50 most marketable athletes. That is probably for the best.

Calculating marketability is undoubtedly an inexact science, one that relies on no small amount of informed guesswork and, increasingly, a complex and highly unpredictable array of contributing factors. Though many faces – from bonafide greats to overhyped underachievers – have come and gone over the years, SportsPro’s criteria has remained unchanged since the conception of the list in 2010. Each summer, athletes from across the world have been ranked according to their marketing potential over the coming three-year period, with particular emphasis placed on value for money, age, home market, charisma, willingness to be marketed and crossover appeal. Now, however, we’ve sought to bring a degree of science to the art of assessing athlete marketability.

Thanks to analytical data and advanced social media monitoring tools provided by Hookit, SportsPro’s official data partner, the composition of this year’s list has been informed by an all-new criteria: the Hookit Marketability Score.

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By: David Dusek | GOLFWEEK –  January 1, 2019 12:18 pm

Kevin Na, who won last season’s A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier, is in Hawaii preparing for the Sentry Tournament of Champions. On New Years Eve, a few hours before the clock struck 12 on the East Coast, he took to Instagram and made a major equipment announcement.

Although it is tough to tell from the photo, it appears Na already switched to Callaway’s Apex Pro irons, and there were several photos of him playing last season with a Callaway Epic driver, including at the Tour Championship at East Lake.

Na, who is originally from South Korea but who lives in Las Vegas, turned pro in 2001 and has won more than $28 million in official prize money.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

SOCCER, GOLF, RACING TALENT AGENCIES MERGE TO FORM PROSPORT MANAGEMENT (Dec. 18, 2018) – Four of the top talent management agencies across the professional global sports of soccer, golf, and racing have officially merged to form PROSPORT Management. This merger brings together a client list of athletes in top soccer leagues and various national teams from all over the world, a two-time Masters champion, a U.S. Open champion and three Daytona 500 winners.

The move combines golf agent Jens Beck of PROSPORT Management, racing agent Rod Moskowitz, formerly of FUEL Sports Management Group, and soccer agents Mike Gartlan, formerly of COR Sports Management Group, and Oskar Olsen, formerly of Onfield Management. The new organization will keep its current offices in Scottsdale, Ariz., Charlotte, N.C., Southern California and Mexico City.

“Our main priority has always been to help our clients maximize their potential,” said Jens Beck, a principal in the new PROSPORT Management organization. “By bringing these agencies together, we create better scale for our clients especially when it comes to sponsorships and other marketing opportunities.”

Highlighting PROSPORT’s client list are PGA Tour star Bubba Watson, NASCAR stars Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin and MLS and International soccer players Walker Zimmerman and Erik Palmer-Brown.

“Our goal is to be considered an elite and distinctive sports management agency,” said Oskar Olsen, a PROSPORT principal and co-head of the soccer business. “This merger gives us unique access to an unbelievable group of talented and experienced people who will provide even more tools and guidance for our all of our clients.”

The golf roster of Watson, Geoff Ogilvy, Kevin Na, and Aaron Baddeley, has earned 26 PGA Tour career wins, including two Masters and a U.S. Open title. The racing roster of Hamlin, Elliott, Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray, Bubba Wallace and Brett Moffitt have accumulated 157 career NASCAR national series wins, including three Daytona 500 victories, one NASCAR Cup Series championship and one NASCAR Truck Series championship. Soccer clients, Justin Meram, Ola Kamara, Fanendo Adi, Christian Ramirez, Jorge Villafaña and multiple others on the roster, have won a combined five MLS Championships, four Supporter’s Shields and have multiple caps on various national teams.

“With the new organization, we will continue to be a nimble, quick-moving organization with a focus on service,” said Mike Gartlan, a PROSPORT principal and co-head of the soccer business. “We believe elite athletes deserve and demand a company that can provide the level of service and performance their talents require.”

Although the companies have been in partnership for several years and have worked together in various capacities, there was never a formal agreement. The principals realize they can do more for their clients together than as separate entities.

“We’re working with, and targeting, high-performing, highly-marketable athletes who don’t want to get lost in a huge roster of clients,” said Rod Moskowitz, a principal in PROSPORT Management and head of racing. “By bringing these agencies together, we are growing our resources and providing more value for our clients.”

About PROSPORT Management

PROSPORT Management is a full-service, sports talent management firm that represents elite professional golf, racing and soccer athletes in the United States and abroad. The group offers a broad network of services and a proven track record of business relationships built on trust and integrity. For more information, visit prosportmanagement.com.

By Ben Everill | PGATOUR.COM – July 09, 2018

Sometimes patience goes a long way, and things can be worth the wait. Just ask Kevin Na, who has produced plenty of highlights between victories on the PGA TOUR, but finally produced those that matter most: Winning ones.

Welcome to the Monday Finish, where Na said yeah on the greens at The Old White TPC over the weekend to streak away Sunday for a dominant win.

FIVE OBSERVATIONS

1. Good things come to those who wait. When Kevin Na won the 2011 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, the prevailing thought was it would not be his last victory. Most pundits might not have said he’d win an epic number of tournaments, but the majority expected Na to make his presence felt in the winner’s circle again. The confidence of that happening dwindled with each passing missed opportunity and throughout a period where Na just could not pull the trigger on his swing. He had six runner up results since his Las Vegas triumph leading into this week.

But after a less than stellar opening round, where he gave up nearly two strokes on the field in putting, Na found his groove. His performance on the greens on the weekend was first class. His Sunday efforts on the way to a 6-under 64 and a five-shot win showed a calmness in the moment he’d been missing. Saturday he made 124 feet, seven inches of putts. Sunday it was 143 feet, eight inches. See more about his putting stats below. Six birdies in seven holes set up the win. And a clutch par putt on the 12th, after his only bogey the hole before, showed he was ready.

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LAS VEGAS – It was hardly a surprise to hear Chase Elliott’s name called as the 2018 Most Popular Driver during the NASCAR Champion’s Week banquet in Las Vegas.

Elliott’s fellow drivers joked about it throughout the week, many of them already predicting Elliott to win it long before his name was called. Kyle Busch even clowned with Elliott during his media obligations offstage.

“When all your peers answer the interview as if you’ve already won, it kind of makes it odd,” Elliott said with a smile. “… It’s a great honor to have.”

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by ALAN SHIPNUCK | GOLF.com – Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Johnny Ruiz is a young touring pro from Southern California patiently playing his way through golf’s minor leagues — the Canadian tour last year and the Web.com in 2018. Anonymity is part of the deal on these circuits, with sparse galleries and minimal media coverage. But Ruiz has discovered that wherever he goes a very specific kind of fan finds him. “Last year, my caddie and I always laughed about it,” says Ruiz, “because at every single tournament someone would send me a message saying, ‘I’ve been watching your swing on Instagram for so long, can you grab me a ticket so I can see  it in person?’”

Things got more intense when he qualified for the 2017 Canadian Open on the PGA Tour. His swing coach of five years flew north to caddie for Ruiz, and they were serenaded throughout the week. “On almost every hole,” he says, “people were yelling out George’s name. It was kind of crazy — he was getting more love than most of the actual players.”

The guru in question is George Gankas, who inspires in his followers a fervor reserved for religious revivals. Gankas has more than 100,000 disciples on Instagram (@georgegankasgolf), and dozens of top young players treat his riffs as holy scripture. They flock to him because his ideas are at once simple and radical, and he preaches speed above all else. No one on the PGA Tour averages as much as 125 miles per hour of clubhead speed with their driver. (Dustin Johnson clocks in at 121.) Gankas has 20 players in his stable of collegians and mini-tour warriors swinging it 130 mph or above. But his appeal transcends mere mechanics.

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