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Published: Tuesday, 5/27/2014 - Updated: 2 months ago

Spieth teaches championship contenders

PGA star, redesigned Inverness show off potential

BY DAVID BRIGGS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Jordan Spieth put on a 30-minute clinic at Inverness Club for members of Lake Erie First Tee before trying out the redesigned course. Jordan Spieth put on a 30-minute clinic at Inverness Club for members of Lake Erie First Tee before trying out the redesigned course.
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He did not carry himself like a wunderkind, or as USGA president Thomas O’Toole introduced the 20-year-old Texan, “the brightest spot in American golf.”

As the golfing star billed as the future of the sport gave a clinic to some 100 members of the game’s more distant future on Monday at Inverness Club, Jordan Spieth tried to play it cool.

PHOTO GALLERY: Spieth puts on clinic at Inverness

Yes, his swing comes and goes. Before the final round of his first PGA Tour win at last year’s John Deere Classic, he told the audience his shots sprayed like shrapnel on the driving range. Spieth sent one shot sideways, and as he recalled, “couldn’t keep the driver on the driving range.”

Yes, he gets nervous. During last month’s Masters, where he shared the 54-hole lead before finishing second, he said he could not sleep or eat.

Yes, he has insecurities. Spieth cracked that it was only the birth of his little brother that launched his golf career.

"My parents were going to give him all their attention, obviously, so I needed something to do,” he said. “I got the Little Tikes clubs when I was 2.”

Yet the everyman is anything but — a reality that snapped back when a young boy asked Spieth about the scores he carded as a 14-year-old.

On a good day? “High 60s,” he said.

As gifted as he is understated, Spieth hoisted the bar high for the members of Lake Erie First Tee — a program designed to introduce disadvantaged youngsters to golf.

Spieth put on a half-hour clinic on the driving range, then figuratively did the same on the famed course. After signing autographs for every participant, he played an exhibition round — replete with a gallery.

It was a rare spectacle — a chance to showcase one of the game’s top names and a remodeled course in search of a signature event.

Spieth said he embraces his role as an ambassador, even as his profile continues to mount.

Inverness Club board member Jerry Lemieux  holds the microphone for 11-year-old Mihir Joshi of Sylvania. Inverness Club board member Jerry Lemieux holds the microphone for 11-year-old Mihir Joshi of Sylvania.
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He won the U.S. Junior Amateur in 2009 and 2011 — joining Tiger Woods as the only multiple winners — became the first teenager in 82 years to win a PGA Tour event last year, and nearly surpassed Woods as the youngest Masters winner. Spieth came to Toledo in advance of this weekend’s Memorial Tournament in Dublin.

"More than anything, I love seeing the kids that love to golf because I can kind of look back a few years at them, and that’s exactly where I was,” Spieth said. “What golf’s done for me since then, and knowing that it can happen to anybody, that’s what’s really cool.”

The day also gave O’Toole, who was part of Spieth’s foursome, a chance to see the new-look Inverness. The course reopened this month after a $2 million renovation that resodded all fairways, tees, and greens, rebuilt several bunkers, and remodeled the conjoined Nos. 1 and 10 tees.

“It's great to have him here to see the updated course,” Inverness general manager Eric Rhodes said. “We've always had a great relationship with the USGA.”

Returning one of the game’s crown jewel events back to Inverness remains a longshot dream of the local golf community.

The course has hosted four U.S. Opens and two PGA Championships but neither since 1993 as the Glass City has become priced out in favor of larger markets with more corporate financial support. Inverness most recently was the site of the U.S. Senior Open in 2011.

“Inverness is a storied, historic USGA member club,” O’Toole said before his round.

“We cherish our relationship with this great club. We never talk publicly about our championship inquiries because it would compromise one club versus another. That said, one of the reasons I came today [was to see the course changes]. We're always looking at sites that can handle any of our 13 national championships, including international matches like the Walker Cup and the Curtis Cup.

“Certainly, the history and the resume that Inverness Club has puts itself in a category that's elite. So let's continue to see the improvements the club has made and all the other great things about the surrounding area, and we'll continue a dialogue with the club. We’ll see what best fits between the club and the USGA.”

Contact David Briggs at: dbriggs@theblade.com, 419-724-6084 or on Twitter @DBriggsBlade.



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