Archive » February 11, 2010
GOLF & TRAVEL
By Ray Navis, Contributing Writer
The Ivy League has never been known as a hotbed of golf prodigies. This is changing rapidly due in large part to California-grown talent and coaching. Many prominent junior stars are now considering such schools as Harvard and Columbia instead of just focusing on the normal sports-minded universities. How and why did this happen?
Kevin Rhoads is the Harvard Women’s golf coach. He came on board six years ago and his results have been nothing short of spectacular. Harvard has won the last two Ivy League Championships and is also doing well in major college events. At a recent college event in Las Vegas, the team finished 7th out of a field of the top 18 programs in the country. A closer look at his roster shows that four of his eight players come from California and all four are starters. They hail from La Crescenta, Alameda, Alamo and San Diego.
Rhoads has quite an impressive background in golf himself. In addition to being a coach, he is also the Head Teaching Professional at The Country Club in nearby Brookline, Mass. If that name rings a bell, it could be from the hit golf movie, “The Greatest Game.” You see, it was at The Country Club where Francis Quimet put golf on the world stage in his upset U.S. Open victory over Harry Vardon and Ted Ray.
Rhoads grew up in Northern California and played golf on the UCLA team, graduating in 1995. His family tree in golf is about as extensive as one can get. His father, Rick, is the long time Head Professional at San Francisco Golf Club. Rick and his brother Ron both played for a number of years on the PGA Tour having grown up in the Los Angeles area. Ron was the Head Pro at Riviera Country Club for many years and helped open Sherwood Country Club in Westlake Village. Kevin has another uncle and aunt who were also scratch players. In fact, his aunt Lorraine Rhoads is the mother of PGA Tour player Roger Tambellini, who grew up in the Paso Robles area.
On a personal note, Kevin had a chance to give back to his famous golf family several years ago. His father was seriously ill and in need of a new kidney. Son Kevin gladly donated one of his own.What greater gift can a son offer to his father and family? Kevin’s wife, Lisa Yuen, is a theatre actress with Broadway credits to her resume.
Ivy League draw
Certainly having a person of Rhoads’ quality is a large reason for Harvard’s golf team success. Another one may well be parental influence. Many college players aspire to play on the LPGA, which is getting tougher and tougher each season. If you put all your eggs in that basket, your chances of success are really quite small. Practical parents might choose an Ivy League degree and all the doors it can open. Santa Barbara golfer Sara Ovadia may well have started this move when she chose Columbia five years ago. No doubt her success there has given this idea to other Southern California players as well. It will be a bit of a transition for players interested in this path. For starters, the weather is an issue. Not a lot of golf played in the New England area between November and March. The teams do schedule several trips to warmer climes and have extensive indoor practice areas.
At the end of the day, using golf as a vehicle to get into an Ivy League College may well be the best use of all that practice time spent as a youngster. Keep at it, though, as Rhoads told me his players all shoot mid-70s and a few even lower.
One of the hits of the recent PGA Show was the new Nike SQ Machspeed Driver. PGA Tour star Justin Leonard tested the driver last fall, including putting it into play in the President’s Cup Matches.
“This is my new secret weapon,” said Leonard. ”I am hitting it 10-12 yards further and am excited to put it into play.” Now I myself pay a lot more attention to what those players not known for length choose to put into their bag. The average player has a lot more in common with Justin Leonard than most of the bombers on the PGA Tour. Nike Golf’s engineers have worked hard on the aerodynamics, and this new driver features a lower center of gravity for higher launch, given more distance. For more information, visit NikeGolf.com.