I sure hope that there is a lot of great weather and rounds of golf left for 2019. But with the season-ending Tour Championship taking place this week, I thought it was time for a wrap-up and to hand out some accolades. I know these players, courses, and manufacturers will be honored to receive them…..


Moment of the year –

This was easy. Tiger Woods winning at the Masters was the biggest sports story of 2019 and really kicked off the golf season in the Midwest with an emotional bang. The whole celebratory scene behind the green was incredible, and the entire week (and events leading up to it) was straight out of a Hollywood script. No matter the circumstances, health or otherwise, Tiger will always contend at Augusta. He and the place just fit.


Disappointment of the year –

Rory McIlroy at The Open at Royal Portrush. He had everyone clinging to every swing during the 2nd round. He poured all his heart and soul into that round but came up short to miss the cut. The hometown lad and course-record holder was certainly the favorite heading into the event, and nobody guessed he wouldn’t play the weekend. Especially since he had a win and 10 top-10’s in 11 starts for the year. Shane Lowry kept the Irish dream alive and played spectacular golf to capture the Claret Jug in his homeland.


Player of the Year –

Surprise, surprise……its Brooks Koepka. Number 1 in the world, 8 top 10’s including another major at the PGA and a WGC. He’s 1st in eagles, 9th in birdies, and 4th in scoring average at 69.4. Pretty good for a guy that usually only plays the top events. 


Player to watch in 2020 –

Jason Kokrak. Made the Tour Championship on the number (30) with a birdie on the last hole at Medinah on Sunday. He’s had a nice career since his rookie year of 2012, keeping his tour card since. But this is his first trip to the Tour Championship as a member of the top 30 in Fedex Cup points. Always among the leaders in driving distance, Jason’s 2019 was his best season on tour so far. He had 5 top 10 finishes including a runner-up to Paul Casey at Valspar. He is going to get that first win sooner, not later. Rooting hard for my buddy from Warren, Ohio.


Irons of the Year –

Mizuno JPX 919 Hot Metal Pro. A players’ iron with all the forgiveness and technology of a game-improvement stick. Chromoly 4140 metal leads to the highest ball speeds of any Mizuno iron. A design called CORTECH leads to a high COR and extreme forgiveness and stability. With a thinner top-line and minimal offset, they set up like a dream. Plus, there’s a reason Mizuno irons find their way into the bags of tour players without a club contract. They want to play the best. 


Driver of the Year – 

Tour Edge continues to kill it at retail with their woods and hybrids. The Exotics EXS driver was our winner of the Golf HQ March Madness Driver testing, and continued great success throughout the season. At $299, the EXS outperformed most of its $500 peers when it came to spin rate and launch angle. That combination lead to extreme distance and the dual carbon crown and toe design makes it one of the most forgiving on off-center hits. 


Ball of the Year –

Wilson Duo Soft. The best performing 2-piece golf ball on the market. Boasting an industry low 29 compression, this ball somehow spins on the green. The Duo Soft also registered the lowest spin rates with miss-hits off the driver. You won’t find a better ball for $22 per dozen. 


Women’s Set of the Year –

Callaway Solaire. For $1000 she gets everything she needs in a sleek package with a great looking bag. The Solaire set eliminates the guess-work and offers all matching shafts with a consistent look and feel throughout. You get more bang for your buck as quality and technology are not sacrificed here. Available in a couple different color ways to suit any female player. 


Golf Shoes of the Year –

Adidas Tour 360 XT Parley Limited. Constructed of materials made from 100% recycled waste from the ocean’s floors, the Parley is a limited edition with a Tour 360 sole for ultimate comfort and stability. The color way is an awesome array of blues representing the ocean pollution project. 


Apparel Brand of the Year – (Men) 

Straight Down. My favorite clothing display in the store is our Straight Down area. The top-of-the-line fabrics, vibrant colors, and unique patterns really stand out. People really can’t believe how thin, soft, and comfortable their apparel is when they try it on. It looks and feels great and launders well. (Women) Jo Fit. The Jo Fit brand has been our #1 selling women’s apparel line online and in store. They have developed a flattering, chic, and high end collection that looks great on women of all ages, shapes, and sizes. Different length skorts and shorts to suit your needs, and everything are made of the best performance fabrics in golf. 


Must Play Course in Youngstown –

Links at Firestone Farms. This public course in Columbiana hits on all cylinders; beauty, conditions, challenge, and value. The par-72 layout was designed by famed architect Brian Huntley and features four picturesque par 3’s and four risk-reward par 5’s. There is some elevation change and multiple water hazards, and the wind can be a major factor as it is a links-style course. The track flows naturally and there isn’t a bad, forced hole on the entire property. 


Must Play Course in Western PA –

Located 45 minutes north of Pittsburgh and one hour east of Youngstown, resides the Hurdzan-Fry designed Olde Stonewall GC. This track is on the higher end green-fee wise, but your round will be a memorable one with a cell phone full of gorgeous pics. From the 13th tee you can see about 75% of the course, including the castle clubhouse behind the 18th green. Be kind to yourself and play the right tees, but most of the greens are well protected with exceptional bunkering, ravines, water, and waste areas. A beautiful drive awaits you on the back 9 as the cart path crosses bridges and weaves up and down a wooded mountain. The back to back par 3’s are breathtaking and number 15 is one of the toughest I’ve ever played. A top notch staff and wonderful pro shop greets you, and excellent food and extremely cold beer mugs inside Shakespeare’s pub and grill welcome you post-round. 


Enjoy the game and each other,

Written by Seth Zipay, Head Golf Professional
Published by Craig Walton

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