DSGA 2010 Player of the Year Justin Martinson prepares for life as a pro.
If memory begins at the age of three for most of us, then Justin Martinson’s entire store of recollections revolve around golf.
“My dad gave me my first set of clubs when I was 3 years old,” says Martinson, the Delaware State Golf Association’s Player of the Year for 2010 and a 2010 University of Delaware graduate.
“He really loved those clubs,” says
Martinson’s dad, Jack, of that first set, made by renowned clubmaker Fisher-Price.
Later graduating to that great father-son tradition of a cut-down driver, Justin accompanied Dad—a single-digit handicapper—to the driving range. “He was always accurate and on target,” says the proud father.
By age 8, Justin began playing tournament golf and, by 10, “knew that golf was going to be my future,” he says.
Justin recalls breaking 70 for the first time at the age of 12. “I shot a 69 playing with my dad on a course in northern
California, and followed it up with a 67.”
That was when Jack knew he had gone as far as he could as a teacher and it was time to let the professionals nurture and shape his son’s skills. By that time, though, Jack had already instilled in his son some of those intangibles that all eventual pros will recall in their own development.
“I taught him to have fun practicing,” Jack says. “I’d invent little games for him to play while chipping and putting on the practice greens.”
In what might turn out to be the best lesson of all for his son, Jack also imparted the wisdom of “focusing on one shot at a time, make the best of a bad situation and never let temper take over.”
Justin didn’t win a tournament until he was 16, after his family had moved to Kennett Square, Pa., from South Korea. “He had a lot of second-place finishes,” says Jack, “but it took playing in the International Junior Golf Tournament circuit in Hilton Head, S.C., where he won six of those tournaments in one year.”
There, Justin competed against some of the best high school prospects from around the world.
“He matured during that time,” Jack says. “He learned how to win and developed that level of confidence needed to win.”
Justin was also under the expert guidance of golf instructor John Dunigan, who was teaching at Hartefeld National in Avondale, Pa., at the time.
“Dad was supposed to be looking for housing,” jokes Justin, “but he went looking for a golf instructor for me instead.”
“I pulled into Hartefeld looking for both,” corrects Jack. “I talked to John about Justin and he said, ‘Bring him over for a lesson.’”
With his trademark effusiveness, Dunigan reported back to Jack after that lesson, “This kid is first class. Of course I’ll teach him.”
Dunigan says Justin’s mechanics were “fantastic,” adding “he hit the ball harder than his size would indicate he should. His short compact swing allows him to generate a lot of power.
There’s not a lot of moving parts, which just goes to show that weight shift is not as important in a golf swing as efficiency.”
But it may be his dad’s lesson of developing a short memory that, with Dunigan’s tutelage, has propelled Justin to the threshold of amateur achievement and perhaps even a breakthrough as a professional.
Building on those early international junior tournaments, Justin has produced an impressive resume of wins, including the Philadelphia Amateur and the 2009 Delaware Open, where he set the course record at Fieldstone with a 63. (PGA Tour player Sean O’Hair reclaimed that course record Justin had wrested from him by carding a 61 at Fieldstone last summer.)
Among the reasons the DSGA cited for naming Justin its Player of the Year for 2010 (and for the second consecutive year) was his play in the DSGA’s Amateur Championship (which he won) as well as the 2010 Delaware Open (in which he
Justin’s plans to turn pro this year, and then begin competing in mini-tours, while participating in Monday qualifying for the Nationwide Tour, as well as qualifiers for the U.S. Open. He will compete in the annual Tour’s Q School tournament, with the hope of earning his PGA playing card by 2012.
Jack, a marketing professional, knows what it takes to bankroll a budding star on the big circuit. “It’s about fundraising and sponsorships, and finding an agent who understands that to develop a professional golfer is no different than developing a business product.”
Justin’s job will be to find a good caddie, for which dear old dad does not seem to be on the candidate list. “He fired me once during a tournament I was caddying for him,” Jack says, laughing.
Another time Justin apparently fell back on the caddie adage of “show up, stay up and shut up.”
“Justin approached me during a round at the Delaware Open and informed me I should ‘be quiet until I ask you for something.’ Thing is, he was right, and he went on to win the tournament,” Jack says.
Nevertheless, Justin cites his dad as one of his earliest, most profound influences. He adds Dunigan to the list as well, for the five years they’ve been together, during which Dunigan taught him to play “three-hole tournaments within tournaments” as an aide to develop short memory of forgetting the bad stuff immediately.
Justin puts Tiger Woods in his category of influences, but with a serious caveat based on recent events. “What’s happened to Tiger as a result of his off-course activities shows the importance of keeping golf and your private life completely separate,” he says.
So far, that doesn’t seem to pose that much of a problem, since Justin has trouble even identifying a private life so far. “I don’t have off-time from golf,” Justin says. “Even during the winter, I’ll practice in the basement when the snow is flying outside.”
He says his teammates, the routine of preparing for tournaments (beginning two weeks before the tournament starts) and the post-tournament afterglow (or aftershock) help keep him grounded.
Apparently, it’s all working. Of the young Martinson, Dunigan says simply, “he’s one of the most likeable young men I’ve ever met.”
And one who, once you meet him, you’re not likely to forget—no matter how short your memory.
Page 2: Blaise of Glory | Blaise Giroso is featured in GAP’s “Legends” video series.
Blaise Giroso is featured in GAP’s “Legends” video series.
Blaise Giroso began his golf career at 16, with his only formal lessons coming from the pages of Ben Hogan’s “Power Golf.” The Delawarean eventually became one of the dominant area players during the 1980s.
The Golf Association of Philadelphia recently recognized Giroso’s achievements by leading off the 2011 edition of its “Legends” video series with his profile.
“I started by knocking around golf balls at my dad’s place of business when I was about 8 or 9 years old,” says Giroso. “I started playing on a regulation course at Arrowhead in Pottstown because they allowed 11-year-olds to play.”
By 1980, however, Giroso had already made a name for himself in amateur golf, starting off with a win at the Rock Manor club championship on the day of his graduation from high school. “I was late for the ceremony because I’d won,” he says.
By the start of that decade, Giroso had won the 1978 Blue Hen Classic, the 1979 Delaware State Golf Association Better Ball tournament, and then went on to win his first Delaware Amateur the day after turning 21. Giroso won five DSGA Amateur titles, along with a 1984 Delaware State Open championship. In the 1980s Giroso claimed a Patterson Cup trophy (beating, among others, local legend Buddy Marucci in a playoff) and captured three Silver Cross Awards, given to the golfer with the lowest aggregate score in the Amateur
and Patterson Cup tourneys.
Despite all of his success to that point as an amateur, Giroso says he never considered turning pro. “My idol had been Jay Siegel, who was successful as a businessman and father along with being a top amateur,” Giroso says.
Yet in 1994, at the age of 36, Giroso collected sponsorship money from friends and qualified for the Canadian Tour,
where he finished 54th on the money list. But after two failed attempts to pick up a PGA Tour card at Q school, Giroso, with a young son by then, asked himself, “What am I doing?”
He regained his amateur status, and competed until 1998.
“I played in the 2007 and 2010 Delaware Amateurs, but really play golf just for fun now,” he says.
Married and the father of two teenage boys (older son Blaise has played in numerous junior tournaments, won Fieldstone’s junior championship and is on the Salesianum School golf team), Giroso is content to “live golf through my son,” tend his real estate business and play an average of 10 or 12 rounds per season.
“I still love the game,” he says.
Launched in 2010, GAP’s “Legends” video series features prominent local players recalling their experiences and
accomplishments both on and off the golf course. Giroso’s appearance marks the fifth installment in the series. O. Gordon Brewer Jr. of Pine Valley Golf Club, Herman J. Fry of Reading Country Club, John Guenther Jr. of Heidelberg Country Club and Lincoln Roden III of Huntingdon Valley Country Club have been previously featured.
Page 3: Players of the Year | Who’s tops in the GAP?
Who’s tops in the GAP?
Michael Brown of Lookaway Golf Club used a victory at the Philadelphia Open to capture the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s Player of the Year honors. Brown, 37, needed the win after failing to even qualify for the Amateur Championship, missing the cut by a “head shaking” six shots. A seventh-place finish at the Mid-Am helped seal the deal for POY.
Charles McClaskey of Back Creek Golf Club took the GAP Super-Senior Player of the Year by winning the Brewer Cup and the Super-Senior Amateur title, amassing a points total that was 215 points clear of the runner-up for the top honors in this division.
LedgeRock Golf Club’s Chip Lutz used a record-shattering total of 822.5 points to catapult himself to GAP Senior Player of the Year honors. With a second-place finish at the Warner Cup, the 55-year-old then won national tournaments in Tennessee and Colorado to help amass a points total more than 180 points ahead of the second-place finisher for senior top honors.
Philadelphia Country Club’s Ted Brennan won medalist honors at the Junior Boys’ Championship Qualifier, a third-place finish at the Christman Cup and posted a win at the Jock MacKenzie Memorial to earn GAP Junior Player of the Year honors. His performances at these three events led to his capturing the Harry Hammond Award for the lowest aggregate score for those tournaments.
Page 4: Players of the Year | Who’s tops in the DSGA?
Who’s tops in the DSGA?
For the second consecutive year, Hartefeld National’s Justin Martinson is the Delaware State Golf Association’s Player of the Year. In addition to qualifying for the U.S. Amateur, Martinson won Delaware’s Amateur Championship and placed 9th in the state’s Open Championship. He has now completed the DSGA’s “trifecta” by winning the junior, amateur and open championships.
In 2010, Back Creek Golf Club’s Mark Surtees earned his second straight DSGA Senior Player of the Year. It is his second straight senior title. His win at the Senior Championship helped seal the deal for his winning points total.
Chris Hickman of Wild Quail Country Club won the 2010 DSGA Junior Player of the Year award as a result of winning his second consecutive Junior Championship and padding his points total with a tie for seventh in the Amateur Championship.
Page 5: Sharpen Your Game | Strategic Links helps businesses improve their skills on the course and in the workplace.
Strategic Links helps businesses improve their skills on the course and in the workplace.
Looking to add a fresh spin to your company’s next corporate outing? Strategic Links plays to the synergies between success in business and success in golf. A division of Strategic Solutions International, a Wilmington-based management consulting firm, Strategic Links aims to help companies large and small to improve team dynamics, maximize productivity, and strengthen relationships between employees.
Using the popularity of golf as the No. 1 leisure activity for business professionals, Strategic Links tailors a variety of educational programs to its clients.
“It’s for golfers and non-golfers. It’s experiential learning,” says Doug Dowd, director of client services. “Our goal is not have someone sit in a classroom and be lectured to. Team dynamics is what it’s all about. How you can bring that team together and how you individually can contribute to the team.”
One program uses golf as a metaphor for handling a variety of possible problems. While playing 18 holes, employees learn how to handle pressure and manage disagreements. The lessons help participants translate what they learn on the golf course to the real world. Another program challenges teams to manage changing conditions as they execute a business strategy on the golf course.
Operated by its SSI consultants and PGA/LPGA professionals, Strategic Links has provided services to DuPont, Hewlett Packard, Boeing and Merrill Lynch, among others.
This summer Strategic Links will hold its Executive Golf School in five locations throughout the United States, including the Philadelphia-Wilmington area.
For more, call (302) 999-1977, or visit ssizone.com. —Lauren Zaremba
Page 6: Keeping the Clubs Swinging | Local courses make creative adjustments to survive the tough times.
Local courses make creative adjustments to survive the tough times.
The closing of venerable Delaware National Country Club at the end of last year, combined with the earlier announcement of the shuttering of popular Three Little Bakers golf club in Pike Creek, Del., seemed to bode ill for the local golf industry’s fight to survive economic decline, severe weather and other problems.
“The economic downturn shrunk disposable incomes, and the oppressive heat of 2010 stressed turf grasses, forcing us to increase maintenance budgets,” says Jeff Robinson, director of sales and marketing for Forewinds Hospitality, which manages Deerfield Golf & Tennis Club in Newark, Del. “With the time factor involved in playing a round of golf and the price of greens fees, many golfers were finding it increasingly difficult to simply find the time and money to play regularly.”
Yet many area courses have been able to survive, if not thrive during the difficult times, with a combination of diversification, and prudent management of maintenance programs with a stable, experienced staff.
Inniscrone Golf Club General Manager Lori Van Sickle says she has one staffer who’s been with the club for 23 years. “That kind of longevity is what helps a club maintain its uniqueness and identity when golfers visit and is part of the reason they return.”
Robinson agrees. “Our staff has remained stable throughout our management of Deerfield.”
A big reason golfers return is how well the course has maintained its grooming even during the hottest and wettest months of the season. Van Sickle says Inniscrone’s staff is told “how the course is in great shape. That helped us
retain our members rather than lose them.”
Robinson says Deerfield’s longstanding reputation as a well-conditioned course has helped its Rewards program (discounts for repetitive rounds) to continue to grow.
“When it comes to maintenance, you’ve got to spend money to make it,” Robinson says. “And that’s something you can’t defer, because the longer you defer, the longer it takes for a course to come back.”
But there are ways to save money.
Allen Liddicoat, designer and owner of Frog Hollow in Middletown, Del., says raising mower heights helps prevent turf disease as longer grass is sturdier and healthier.
“We lowered our pesticide costs as a result, but were able to maintain speeds on the greens by extra rolling,” Liddicoat says.
Frog Hollow expanded its bidding process, which Liddicoat says helped control costs. “We’re also a spray field for Middletown’s effluent and we have introduced more native grasses, both of which have kept our watering costs low.”
Liddicoat says diversifying Frog Hollow’s products and services to appeal to a more family-oriented golfer, along with expanding its banquet facilities, has helped create revenue streams beyond those coming from rounds played.
“We’ve held golf camps for kids and actually increased our advertising budget for our banquet room,” Liddicoat says.
Inniscrone’s Van Sickle says involving staff in marketing efforts to attract new players and members has increased staff roles as ambassadors for the course, while offering incentive-based increases to their earnings. And Robinson says Deerfield’s banquet, catering and special events program helped sustain the club during the downturn in course play.
But Van Sickle may hold the hole card when it comes to sustaining operations through tough times. “Seven members of my family are involved in various aspects of the operation here at Inniscrone,” she says. “Dad is our handyman, my brother and sister-in-law handle banquets and an uncle installed our phone system.”
Then there’s the collection of nieces and daughters serving part time on the beverage carts.
People, prudence and patience would seem to be the three Ps keeping a course operating at par during tough times.