Furyk's game extends way beyond golf

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Furyk's game extends way beyond golf

Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Posted: 12 p.m.

By John R. Finger
CSNPhilly.com

NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. Old rivals die hard. Either that or old rivals just get old and like to talk about the old glory days. Oh yes, those halcyon days when we had more hair and could drill 20-footers from the corner...

Jim Furyk remembers those days, too, especially the part about the 20-footers from the corner, which he recalled in better detail than a pro athlete with his resume should. See, the 2003 U.S. Open champion and 2010 PGA Player of the Year was known less for his unconventional golf swing and stellar short game when he was a student at Manheim Township High School in Lancaster, Pa., and more for his stroke from the outside on the Blue Streaks basketball team.

At least thats how we remember it, though Furyk politely corrected some of those memories about his basketball career as he finished up a practice round at Aronimink Golf Club ahead of the AT&T National. Playing somewhat near his hometown (head out 30 west until you get to Manheim Pike and then make a right at Granite Run that will take you into his old hood), or at least close enough that fans waiting for autographs called out, Go Blue Streaks! at him, Furyk explained that the 20-footer from the corner against Lebanon wasnt as clutch as believed.

It was still a pretty big shot though.

We had to beat them once in the next two games in order to win the second-half title, Furyk said, before calling his abilities on the basketball court, average.

For a golfer (whatever that means), he still looks like he could give some high school kids a good run on the court after finishing up 18 holes. Fit and trim as he was in high school, Furyk is playing some of the best golf of his life these days. Perhaps the only things that betray his age are the list of tournaments won and a hairline that has disappeared and crawled away for good.

As for Furyk being just an average ballplayer, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Better yet, his shooting form was probably better than his golf stroke. Considering that he played at the quintessential suburban high school in which it was somewhat surprising to learn that John Hughes did not scout out the place in order to research some of his movies like Pretty in Pink or The Breakfast Club or even 16 Candles, they were no pushover for us at the inner-city McCaskey High. We always thought we could waltz into gyms like Manheim Township or Hempfield and just intimidate them because of our urban makeup, but that wasnt always the case.

Township could play and the reason for that was guys like Furyk knew their roles and were put in positions where they could rely on their strengths. For the gang at McCaskey and every other team in the Lancaster-Lebanon League circa 1988 that meant Furyk could not be left open.

You guys had more talent, Furyk conceded about our late 80s McCaskey team, but we put it together better.

Its difficult to argue with that considering Furyks team went to the league championship to face Warwick, which was a juggernaut that season with all-stater, Jack Hurd. If that name sounds familiar its because Hurd went on to start for four years at La Salle and has a spot in the Big 5 Hall of Fame. You can see his picture hanging on the wall at The Palestra if you look for it. Because of this fact, Hurd was the real star of the sports scene back then. Chalk it up to being the guy with a full ride to play for a Division I basketball program, while the other guy was best known for a sport that didnt exactly draw too many spectators on fall afternoons.

To some degree, Furyk went somewhat unnoticed in those days. Oh sure, we all knew how good he was at golf considering he won the state championship by a record 12 strokes. Even for high school where the talent parity in sports is not the same as it is in higher levels of competition, Furyk was like the Globetrotters playing against the Washington Generals.

All he needed was a bucket of confetti.

It wasnt like he shot par and everyone else was terrible, said a high school and amateur golf competitor of Furyks named Ben Miller, from Lancaster. He shot two great rounds and just ran away from everyone.

Thats kind of the way it was in the 2003 U.S. Open where he tied the all-time record for the lowest 72-hole score in tournament history. The difference there, of course, was that Furyk was beating Tiger Woods and not punk kids named Miller from Lancaster. Still, it was during his senior year at Manheim Township where his path to a career in golf first became crystal clear.

Up until his junior year he was really, really good, Miller said. But by his senior year there was no one who could compete with him. He just went to a different level.

But consider this just what in the hell was Furyk doing on the basketball court to begin with? Considering he was the top amateur golfer in Pennsylvania probably since Latrobe's Arnie Palmer tore it up, its a wonder he wasnt sequestered at Meadia Heights Golf Club hitting balls all day. Or, perhaps, if he had shown such talent for golf these days he could have been enrolled in one of those special schools where kids focus on their sport all day long with some book learnin sprinkled in.

Instead Furyk was a regular dude who played whatever sports he could. Miller says Furyk was a champion swimmer when he was a kid and played football, too. Still, think of the time he spent playing competitive high school basketball where an injury could have ruined one of the eras best all-around golf careers. Didnt anyone tell him to stop?

No, all my friends were on the basketball team, so it was a chance for me to hang out with them, he said, adding that some of the guys from the Township hoops squad were in his wedding and he still keeps in close touch with them now. Golf (obviously) didnt have that social aspect with all its need to shush anyone who makes even the slightest noise when shifting from one foot to another.

In Lancaster, Pa. in 1988 being on the golf team wasnt the path to popularity.

Playing golf wasnt too cool back then, Furyk said, noting that during the golf season he had to bring his clubs to school and stash them in the coachs office. There was no way I was going to ride the bus to school with my clubs, so I used to make my mom drive me. I wasnt going to be seen carrying my golf bag on the bus or around school.

Ah, but times change. What was uncool in the 1980s is viewed differently these days and one has to imagine that a state champion golfer would not get picked on for dragging his golf clubs around at school. Besides, it wasnt like the cool kids or jocks were pasting a kick me sign on his back in the hallways as if he were George McFly. This is Jim Furyk were talking about he was on the basketball team.

Heres the really interesting part

During Furyks senior year Billy Owens of Carlisle High and later Syracuse University (and then six different teams in the NBA), was the best basketball player in Pennsylvania. Fortunately, Furyk says, he never had to face Owens in basketball. But where it gets interesting is Owens is exactly 11 days older than Furyk and was the more heralded athlete during high school and for many years after, too.

But Owens has been retired from the NBA since 2001 while Furyk, at age 41, is coming off of one of his best seasons of his career. Though he has missed three cuts in 2011, he is hardly a shrinking violet.

Yes, past the age of 40, Furyk is just getting started.

Thats why golf is a great game, he said.

E-mail John R. Finger at jfinger@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow him on Twitter @JRFingerCSN.

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Today's lineup: Phillies try to salvage game against struggling Anibal Sanchez

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Today's lineup: Phillies try to salvage game against struggling Anibal Sanchez

Justin Verlander mowed down the Phillies last night in a 3-1 Tigers victory, but the Phils have a chance to strike back this afternoon against a struggling pitcher who hasn't had much career success against them.

Anibal Sanchez will take the hill for the Tigers and oppose Aaron Nola in today's series finale (1:10 p.m. on CSN). To say Sanchez hasn't had a great start to his season would be an understatement. He's 3-5 with a 6.32 ERA and opponents are batting .270 against him.

In his career against the Phillies, Sanchez is just 4-8 with a 4.94 ERA. Granted, most of those numbers came in the early part of his career with the Florida Marlins, when he regularly faced powerful Phillies lineups. As one might expect, Ryan Howard, who is again in the lineup today as the designated hitter and batting fifth, has seen Sanchez plenty of times. His 42 at-bats against Sanchez are tied for third-most against the 32-year-old righty. Howard's done OK against Sanchez — 9 for 31 (.290 average) with two homers and four RBI. Maybe some familiarity will finally lead to a breakout game for Howard. But, if his massive slump is any indication, maybe not.

For as poor as Sanchez's start to the season has been, Aaron Nola's first six weeks of 2016 have been at the other end of the spectrum.

Today's Phillies starter is 3-3 with a 2.85 ERA. But he's been better than those numbers show.

His .900 WHIP is third in the NL, as is his 5.82 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His 6.45 hits allowed per nine innings is fourth in the NL, as is his 1.65 walks per nine innings. His 64 strikeouts rank eighth in the NL. Imagine if he got more than the 2.89 runs of support he's been getting in his starts.

As for the rest of the Phillies' lineup today, the only changes see Andres Blanco getting the start for Cesar Hernandez, batting seventh and Cameron Rupp behind the plate, batting sixth.

Phillies
1. Odubel Herrera CF
2. Freddy Galvis SS
3. Maikel Franco 3B
4. Tommy Joseph 1B
5. Ryan Howard DH
6. Cameron Rupp C
7. Andres Blanco 2B
8. Tyler Goeddell LF
9. Peter Bourjos 1B

Tigers
1. Cameron Maybin CF
2. J.D. Martinez RF
3. Miguel Cabrera DH
4. Victor Martinez 1B
5. Nick Castellanos 3B
6. Steven Moya LF
7. James McCann C
8. Mike Aviles 2B
9. Jose Iglesias SS

Watch: Miguel Cabrera gives Jeremy Hellickson thumbs up for fooling him on nasty pitch

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Watch: Miguel Cabrera gives Jeremy Hellickson thumbs up for fooling him on nasty pitch

The Phillies once again couldn't find much offense and fell to the Tigers in Detroit last night by a final of 3-1.

But at least the pitching showed something.

There was a fun moment between Jeremy Hellickson and Miguel Cabrera after Hellickson threw quite a nice pitch that fooled Miggy.

Here's how Jim Salisbury described the fun battle:

Hellickson served up a down-the-middle fastball to Miguel Cabrera in the first inning and Cabrera swatted it for an RBI double. He has four RBIs in the first two games against the Phillies.
 
In the third inning, Hellickson struck Cabrera out on a nasty changeup for the third out. The pitch was so good that Cabrera flashed Hellickson a thumbs-up before spiking his helmet to the ground.
 
Hellickson’s changeup has been very good lately.
 
“I really feel comfortable with it right now and I’m throwing it for a lot of strikes,” he said.

And here's the thumbs up:

Eagles 2016 training camp schedule features 2 open practices

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Eagles 2016 training camp schedule features 2 open practices

Eagles rookies, quarterbacks, and select veterans will report to training camp on Monday, July 25. 

The rest of the veterans will report on July 27, with the first full-team practice of training camp taking place on Thursday, July 28 at 3:30 p.m., the team announced Wednesday. 

The majority of training camp practices this summer under Doug Pederson will take place at the NovaCare Complex, beginning at 8:15 a.m., which is earlier than the team practiced during camp under former head coach Chip Kelly. The early practices hark back to training camps under Andy Reid at Lehigh, although now the team will have its walkthroughs in the afternoon. 

The Eagles will have two practices open to fans at Lincoln Financial Field: Sunday, July 31 at 10 a.m. and Sunday, Aug. 14 at 7 p.m. Both open practices are free and don't require tickets. Seating will be on a first-come, first-serve basis. 

The Eagles will have several off days throughout camp: Aug. 2, Aug. 9, Aug. 12. And camp ends on Aug. 16, with the preseason opener vs. the Tampa Bay Bucs in the middle, on Aug. 11.