May 26, 2013

Golf: Putter ruling made, but not everyone is pleased

By Tom Chard tchard@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Jeff Seavey, an assistant pro at the Samoset Resort in Rockport, has used a long putter with an anchored stroke since 2003. Seavey used it when he played in the inaugural Deutsche Bank Championship (2003) on the PGA Tour before it became part of the Fed Ex playoffs.

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Jeff Seavey, one of the top golfers in Maine, has used the anchored putter since 2003, but remains just as sharp with the short putter.

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By 2016, Seavey likely will have to find another way to putt.

On Tuesday, the United States Golf Association, the governing body of golf in this country, banned the anchored stroke. It was a ruling that was expected since the USGA proposed it six months ago. The ruling will go into effect in 2016.

In addition of being the rules arbiter, the USGA conducts 13 national championships, including the men's and women's U.S. Opens and U.S. Amateurs. It runs the handicapping system.

The ruling in conjunction with the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews says Rule 14-1b defines a putting stroke as "freely swinging the entire club."

Said the USGA president, Glen Nager, "We strongly believe that this rule is for the betterment of the game."

Many question that because the long putter, anchored by the chest or midsection, added enjoyment for thousands, particularly seniors. Most golfers who adopted anchored putting did so because they were poor putters using the conventional method. They often had the yips, which happens when a golfer continually misses short putts because of sudden hand movements.

An anchored stroke takes the hands out of the stroke and theoretically cures the yips.

Seavey went to the long putter because he found that using it anchored was a better method for him. The same with Shawn Warren, an assistant pro at Nonesuch River and a top player in New England.

"This is not going to make a huge difference for me," said Seavey. "I can still putt with the short putter. Last fall when I heard the proposed ruling, I played nine holes with a short putter and was 2 under. The next time I used a short putter I was on the final hole and asked one of my playing partners if I could use his putter. I rolled an 8-footer dead center.

"What irks me with this ruling is that the USGA talks about growing the game and this will have the opposite effect. The long putter has been around for 40 years. There are players who have based their entire careers on it."

Seavey has won two of the last three State of Maine Championships and qualified for five of the last eight PGA National Club Pro Championships.

"The USGA is banning anchoring the putter because a few guys at the top don't like the looks of it," he said. "If it's such a great technique, why isn't everyone using it? It's doesn't work for all. It's not a better way, it's just a different way. You still have to have the ability to match up the line and the speed to make a putt. What style you use doesn't matter. It's a skill, not a tool."

Many believe the USGA, feeling compelled to rule, should have done so a lot sooner.

The buildup to the issue has people taking sides and now that a ruling has been made, divisiveness likely will continue.

The PGA Tour and PGA of America are against the change. There's a chance the PGA Tour will continue to allow anchored putting, along with the PGA of America, whose thousands of club professionals are members.

(Continued on page 2)

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