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Ohio golfer, 93, scores hole-in-one in final round of career

It was a great way to cap off a long golf career.

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Ben Bender, 93, who has been playing golf for 65 years, played his final round at Green Valley in Zanesville, Ohio, last month. He went out in style, scoring his first hole-in-one, the Times Recorder of Zanesville reported.

Plagued by hip bursitis that caused him to cut his round short, Bender used a 5-wood to score an ace at the third hole at Green Valley.

"I'd come close to some hole-in-ones, but this one was level on the green before it curved towards the hole and went in," Bender told the Times Recorder. "I was in awe watching it. I played a few more holes, but my hips were hurting and I had to stop. It seemed the Lord knew this was my last round so he gave me a hole-in-one."

Green Valley manager Steve Galloway said that Bender got off to a rocky start, shooting at least a 7 on the other five holes he played.

"(Ben) shot 8 on 1 and 7 on 2 so you guessed it, a hole-in-one on 3," he said. "What an amazing feat by Ben (in his final round)."

Bender, a former 3-handicapper who has played since he was 28, played six days per week when he lived in Florida.

When he retired, Bender moved back to Zanesville and regularly played Green Valley, the Times Recorder reported.

"I was lucky to play golf this long, but I never expected (a hole-in-one)," Bender told the newspaper. "It was the last time I was able to play, and I think God had a hand in this. I loved the game and hate to give it up, but I can't play forever.”

Golfer's tee shot hits bird in mid-air at PGA Tour event

This is not what Kelly Kraft had in mind when he wanted to shoot birdie.

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Playing at the RBC Heritage PGA Tour event at Harbour Town Golf Links on Friday, Kraft’s tee shot at the par-3 14th hole glanced off a “giant, black bird” and fell into the water in front of the green.

The bird flew away, and so did Kraft’s chances of playing this weekend.

“It cost me the cut, most likely,” Kraft told PGATour.com. “There was a helping wind, and I hit a 7-iron, caught it perfect. It was probably 30 yards off the tee box and this giant, black bird swooped in front of it and hit it and the ball fell 20 yards short in the water. It would’ve been in the middle of the green. It might have been close. I got screwed.”

Hitting a bird on the golf course is a rarity, and Kraft called for a ruling from a Tour official. 

“Robert Garrigus (Kraft’s playing partner) came running up to me first,” said Mark Dusbabek, one of the Tour officials on site. “He said, ‘His ball hit a bird in flight! That’s a cancel-and-replay, right?’”

Wrong. The cancel-and-replay rule only applies when a ball hits a man-made object, like a power line, ESPN reported.

“The big difference is a bird is a God-made object,” Dillard Pruitt, another rules official, told PGATour.com. “Whereas a telephone wire is man-made. It’s just a stroke of bad luck. It doesn’t happen very often, but today is Friday the 13th. Freaky Friday.” 

Kraft was forced to take a double-bogey on the hole. He recovered slightly with birdies at No. 17 and No. 1, but bogeyed the seventh hole to finish at 1-over par 71. His two-round total of 143 meant Kraft missed the cut by one shot.

“It’s kind of a dumb rule that you can’t re-tee there,” Kraft said. “If you hit a power line, you can re-tee, and if a bird moves your ball while it’s resting you can replace it. But there’s nothing you can do about this.“This has got to be more unusual than a hole-in-one. Two moving objects colliding? I mean you hit balls all day long on the range and you don’t hit another ball in the air.”

Jack Nicklaus’ grandson sinks hole-in-one, brings grandpa to tears

Gary Nicklaus, 15, aced the ninth hole as the caddie for his grandfather Jack Nicklaus.

Known as GT, the younger Nicklaus scored his first-ever ace and had his grandfather in tears in a wild celebration. The 78-year-old Nicklaus finished tied for fourth at 4-under par. Their playing partner was 82-year-old Gary Player who finished tied for 10th.

Nicklaus, the six-time Masters champion, said he ranks the hole-in-one by his grandson as his number one golf memory.

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“To watch your grandson do that is special,” a still choked up Nicklaus said.

Gary Nicklaus said he was just trying to hit the ball on the green.

“For that to happen was unbelievable,” Gary Nicklaus said. “… It was surreal.”

Nicklaus said he asked his grandson three days ago whether he wanted to take the last tee shot. When he agreed, Nicklaus said he told the youngster he would get a hole-in-one.

The 68-year-old Tom Watson won the Par 3 Contest.

Nick Fleetwood and Thomas Pieters finished tied for second at 5-under par and Adam Hadwin and Chez Reavie finished tied for fourth with Nicklaus. 

Tiger Woods' shot lands in woman's handbag

Tiger Woods has made millions of dollars playing golf, so why was he rummaging through a woman’s handbag during Friday’s second round of the Valspar Championship?

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Woods, who charged into contention with a 3-under-par 68, hit his second shot at the par-4 ninth hole -- his final hole of the day -- to the right of the green. It landed in the handbag of Marianne Cousins, a 57-year-old resident of Clearwater, Florida, who was attending her first golf tournament, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

“We knew when he hit it, and then of course I didn't see it,” said Cousins told the Times. "All day I've been saying 'I don't even see them. How do people even see the ball until it hits on the green? All of sudden my friends started screaming, "It's in your bag!”

Cousins carries a clear plastic bag, one she takes to Tampa Bay Buccaneers games, where she is a season-ticket holder, the Times reported.

People around Cousins told her not to move, and definitely warned her not to touch the errant golf ball that was nestled in her handbag.

“I just froze there,” Cousins told the Times. “When Tiger came up and said ‘where's the ball?’ I said, ‘In my bag. Between my feet. I didn't touch it.’

"And he said, ‘thank you.’”

By rule, Cousins’ bag was considered an obstruction, which allowed him to take a free drop. So Woods reached into Cousins’ bag and continued playing. He chipped to within six feet but missed his par putt for his only bogey of the round, the Times reported. 

Woods ended Friday in a five-way tie for second place, two strokes behind leader Corey Conners, ESPN reported.

Stacy Lewis ends LPGA victory drought, pledges tournament earnings to Houston

Earlier this week, women’s professional golfer Stacy Lewis promised to give back to her hurricane-ravaged hometown. Sunday, she delivered in a big way.

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Lewis won the Cambia Portland Classic, earning her first LPGA title since June 2014. The 32-year-old, who grew up in the Houston suburb of The Woodlands, promised in a Wednesday tweet that she would donate her tournament earnings to help relief efforts for the victims of Hurricane Harvey. After shooting a 3-under-par 69 to win Sunday’s final round, Lewis donated her first-place check of $195,000.

“You know, when I said that I had the goal of winning the tournament -- you got to get a lot of things right, to go your way," Lewis told Golf.com. “Just what we're going to be able to do, we're going to be able to help rebuild houses and get their homes back. That's more important than anything."

Lewis still lives in the Houston area with her husband, Gerrod Chadwell, who is the women’s golf coach at the University of Houston. She had not won an LPGA event since the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship -- a drought of 83 starts. She had been the runner-up 12 times during that period.

One of Lewis’ sponsors, Marathon Oil, is pledging $1 million to the relief efforts, LPGA Tournament officials told ESPN. KPMG, another one of her sponsors, pledged to match her $195,000 donation.

Saturday night, Lewis said winning for Houston this week would be “up there” with her two major tournament victories.

“It would be probably one of my most special wins, just to be able to do this for the people in Texas and to do it too when everybody is watching,” she told Golf.com. “I kind of put all the eyeballs on me and put some pressure on myself, so it's nice to kind of see myself performing, too.”

Lewis finished at 20-under 268. She opened with rounds of 70, 64 and 65 to take a three-stroke lead into the final round.

Phil Mickelson to skip U.S. Open for daughter’s graduation

Family is more important than golf. That’s the message that Phil Mickelson seems to be sending.

The pro golfer withdrew from the United States Open so he could attend his daughter’s high school graduation, The New York Times reported.

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Commencement is scheduled for June 15, the same day that the Open’s first round. Graduation will be held at Pacific Ridge School in California. The Open is being held at Erin Hills in Wisconsin.

“So there’s just really no way to make it, no matter what the tee time is,” Mickelson said.

His daughter Amanda will attend Brown University and major in Egyptology.

The Open is the only major Mickelson has not won, The Times reported.

Photos: Who is Angela Akins, Sergio Garcia’s fiancee?

Angela Akins, 2017 Masters champion Sergio Garcia’s fiancee, is a reporter for the Golf Channel and played for the University of Texas women’s golf team.

Who is Angela Akins, Sergio Garcia’s fiancee?

As Sergio Garcia took his first major title by winning the Masters, he was cheered on by fiancee Angela Akins. Judging from interviews given by Akins and information in the public record, the 31-year-old has lived an interesting life that also involved a lot of golf. 

>> Stars align for Garcia Masters win

Who is she? 

Angela Akins is a reporter for the Golf Channel. 

Where is she from?

Akins is from Marble Falls, Texas. 

Is Akins a golfer?  

Definitely yes. Akins transferred from Texas Christian University to the University of Texas, where she played for the UT women’s golf team. 

“[My teammates and I] created some lasting memories when we were at Texas,” she said to TexasSports.com. “We worked very hard every day practicing and staying in shape, but we were always having fun.”

She told the Statesman in 2015 she still plays golf regularly. Akins (in 2015) was the women’s club champion at Spanish Oaks Golf Club in Austin and played with what the paper called “a stout handicap of 3.” 

What else connects her to UT? 

Funny you ask. According to the TexasSports.com interview, her father was Marty Akins, an All-American quarterback for Texas. She said he introduced her to the Longhorns at a young age. 

Oh, and her grandfather is legendary Texas high school football coach Ray Akins.

“When I first got my chance to interview at Fox Sports Southwest, I was asked if I knew anything about football and I just had to laugh,” Hamann said in her Statesman interview. “About the only sport I love more than golf is football, and Texas football is the best.”

That’s a lot of famous relatives. 

And we haven’t even said that New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is her cousin.

Where has she worked as a journalist? 

According to her Golf Channel page, Akins was a reporter and co-host for several FOX Sports Southwest programs. These included “Fox Football Friday,” a live four-hour highlight show of Texas high school football, and “Access Golf,” a half-hour golf lifestyle program. She also covered college football for Conference USA and the Southland Conference. 

She joined the Golf Channel in 2015 as a reporter, on-air personality for the evening news program and interviewer for the PGA Tour. 

Akins credits UT with helping start her journalism career. 

“Our professors taught us how to be the best journalists, how to report objectively and with integrity and how to represent The University of Texas when we ventured into the world,” she said. “Without the support I received from my family, professors, coaches, the academic staffs in the athletics and communications departments and my teammates, I would not be where I am today.”

Photos: Who is Angela Akins, Sergio Garcia’s fiancee?

Does she still live in Texas?

Taking a job with the Golf Channel required moving to Florida, she said in her interview with TexasSports.com. Akins said she misses her home state.

“In my opinion, Austin is the greatest city in the world,” she said. “We have the best food and music and there's so much to do. I miss running around Lady Bird Lake, playing golf on all the great courses and all the amazing outdoor activities the city has to offer. Every year I try to make it back to several UT football games and support the Longhorns. And I watch a ton of Texas sports on television.”

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When did Akins and Garcia get engaged? 

The two announced they were getting married in a tweet in January.

Do they play golf together?  

Absolutely. Akins’ Twitter and Instagram accounts are full of adorable pictures of the two of them having fun and playing golf together. 

Sergio said from a golfer’s perspective, he appreciates having Angela and her father Marty around.

“It definitely helps, there's no doubt about the background that the whole family has,” Garcia said in a Golf Digest interview. “Marty is a very, very positive, very, you know, outspoken and very, very confident kind of guy, and it definitely helps when he's encouraging you and things like that. Those things are nice to see. Angela is the same way. They are all very competitive. So you know, they are positive things to help out, for sure.”

Show me some of these adorable photos, please. 

Of course.

When are they getting married? 

The Sun says they are scheduled to be married after the Open Championship in July.

McIlroy on playing with Trump again: ‘I’d think twice about it’

After the criticism he received, Rory McIlroy said he would “think twice” before accepting an invitation to play golf with President Trump a second time.

McIlroy indicated he didn’t agree with some of things that Trump has said, and was more interested in seeing the scene that accompanies playing golf with a president than his opinion on issues.

He said President Trump was more interested in discussing the grass put on the greens than politics.

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McIlroy discussed playing with President Trump in a news conference Tuesday ahead of the Masters Tournament.

The two played together at Trump International in Florida in February.

“I felt I would have been making more of a statement if I had of turned it down,” he said. “It’s not a tough place to be put in, but it was a round of golf and nothing more.”

McIlroy is a four-time major winner who only needs a green jacket to complete the Career Grand Slam.

Should golf rules change to make game easier, faster?

tThe rules on the golf course could be changing and it could be the biggest adjustment since the first rules were published in 1744.

The U.S. Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club are looking to change the rule book, slashing the number of rules from 34 to 24, USA Today reported.

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Once decided, there will be six months for players to comment with the plan to implement the rules in January 2019.

From the feedback period to reviewing, writing and approving, here are the key dates in the #GolfRules2019 process. pic.twitter.com/bsUzPVPD43— USGA (@USGA) March 2, 2017

The changes can't come soon enough for some.

"The game is going to die because it's too slow, two difficult and there's too many rules," Kevin Kisner told USA Today. "Our generation wants instant everything. You can pull out a phone and Google anything, but you have you pull out a rule book that's got 700 pages to figure out what rule infraction you broke."

The changes include:

  • Flags can stay in the hole during a putt
  • Caddies can't line up a player.
  • Balls can be removed from bunkers with a two-stroke penalty
  • No penalty if a ball accidentally moves on a green

Proposed USGA/R&A rule changes to modernize the game pic.twitter.com/J3010GVIOX— Golf Swagger (@mygogi) March 1, 2017

Some of the changes are being embraced, while others are not being accepted by all players.

USGA has gotten the rules changes right. This is a great start to modernizing the rules for both pace of play and simplicity!!@USGA— Paula Creamer (@ThePCreamer) March 1, 2017

Change is the price of survival. Kudos to the@RandA & @USGA for taking steps to help modernize our game for today's fast-paced world.— Gary Player (@garyplayer) March 1, 2017

I applaud the @USGA & @RandA for the common sense changes to make the #RulesofGolf more fair & logical, as well as much easier to understand— Tom Watson (@TomWatsonPGA) March 1, 2017

Maybe there should be professional rules and amateur rules because I'm not getting a good vibe about some of these proposed changes— Daniel Berger (@DanielBerger59) March 1, 2017

To read more on the rule changes, click here.

Take an interactive journey through the history of golf's Rules. https://t.co/eB5SWEyj8I pic.twitter.com/reOLYNfaA9— USGA (@USGA) March 1, 2017

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