Happy New Year! As we ring in 2013, many people are quite happy to see 2012 in the rear-view mirror. While 2012 wasn't the greatest of years for most, it did have its wonderful moments. Here are a few of my favorites.
Youth is served. At the U.S. Open in San Francisco, 17-year-old Beau Hossler thrilled everyone when he not only threatened to finish as low amateur, but was in contention to win our national championship.
Hossler saw as much air time as the biggest names in golf as he briefly took sole possession of the lead on Friday and played himself into contention on Saturday.
In the end it was not to be, but the cheers he heard all week and the standing ovation he received as he strolled to the 18th green on Sunday certainly left an impression on the California native.
"To hear them chanting my name, that's pretty awesome," Hossler said.
On the LPGA, 15-year-old Lydia Ko pulled away from the field at the Canadian Women's Open to become the youngest winner in the tour's history and only its fifth amateur champion.
The South Korean-born New Zealander, and top-ranked female amateur in the world, birdied five of the first six holes on the back nine en route to a final-round 67, a three-shot victory and a place in history.
Guan Tianlang barely weighs 125 pounds and doesn't hit the ball far enough to reach some longer par-4s, yet the eight-grader from China will tee it up among the tall pines, dogwoods and azaleas come Masters week.
The 14-year-old sank a 5-foot par putt to complete a wire-to-wire win at the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in Bankok for a one-shot win and an invitation to the Masters.
"I will be training maybe a little harder," Guan said about tackling the tough Augusta National course. "It will be great fun."
Let them in. Speaking of Augusta National, for the past decade the 80-year-old club's restrictive membership policies have been called into question. Until 1990 the club excluded blacks from its rolls and until 2012, women were excluded from becoming members, as well. The club maintained that as a private club its membership issues are a private matter.
All that changed when the club added former secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, and South Carolina businesswoman, Darla Moore to the club in August.
Anchors away. Late in the year, the United States Golf Association and the Royal and Ancient, rules-makers and self-appointed keepers of our game, announced a proposed rule banning the anchoring of a club or hands to one's body during any stroke. The rule, which will likely go into effect on January 1, 2016, will virtually eliminate belly and long putters from the game, at least for those playing in sanctioned professional and amateur tournaments.
After Keegan Bradley won the 2011 PGA Championship using a belly putter, sales jumped from around 5 percent to 20. Use of putters requiring an "anchored stroke" on the PGA Tour saw a rise to over 15 percent in 2012 versus just six in 2010.
Medinah meltdown. After spanking the European Ryder Cup team for the first two days to take a 10-6 lead going into Sunday's singles matches, the U.S. squad went into a September hibernation.
The Euros won the first five matches on Sunday, stunning the U.S. team and the partisan Chicago crowd. In the end, it was three heart-wrenching losses that did in the U.S. team. Justin Rose birdied the final two holes for a 1-up win over Phil Mickelson. Jim Furyk bogeyed the last two holes to lose to Sergio Garcia. Steve Stricker lost the 17th hole with a bogey and could only look on as Martin Kaymer made a clutch 5-footer to clinch the cup 14-1/2 to 13-1/2.
The super season you didn't even know about.
Branden Grace finished 2011 by qualifying for the European Tour's 2012 season. By the end of the year, the South African was the best player you very likely never heard of.
Grace claimed five victories on three continents and cashed in $3.5 million in winnings. The 24 year old climbed the world rankings at light-speed starting the year at 271 and finishing the season ranked 34th. His opening round of 60 at Kingsbarns was the best on any tour and helped lead him to a victory that impressed most of his peers.
As we bid goodbye to the past year, I wish for us all to enjoy a healthy and prosperous 2013. I hope your memories in the year to come are happy and filled with joy. Happy New Year, everyone.
James Stammer has been an avid golfer and golf enthusiast for nearly 40 years. He hosts the Thursday night golf show on WSTU 1450-AM. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.