Maryland Terps

A volunteer who tracks flight of golf balls

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A volunteer who tracks flight of golf balls

HONOLULU (AP) The Sony Open is known for the royal palms that blow gently in the Pacific breeze, the endless ocean, the rolling surf behind the 16th green and along the 17th hole, and the lady on No. 9.

Hardly anyone knows her name, but they sure know her moves.

Liz Taga is the volunteer on the tee at the par-5 ninth hole at Waialae Country Club. She monitors the gallery movement and uses an orange paddle to show the flight of the tee shots so the marshals in the fairway have an idea where the golf ball is going. That's simple enough. Volunteers at every PGA Tour event do that.

But none like Taga.

``It's the best pre-shot routine in golf,'' said Grant Berry, the caddie for Carl Pettersson.

``She's intense,'' Scott Piercy said.

Taga keeps the orange paddle tucked between her legs as the player gets ready to tee off. When he stands over the ball, she holds the paddle over her head, not unlike a samurai warrior, the base of it nearly resting on the bill of her visor. She is a picture of concentration. Once the ball is in the air, Taga goes to work.

She takes a couple of steps forward, slowly, and then the pace quickens, like a cat ready to pounce. Her fingers work their way down the paddle as she moves the orange board slightly to the left or right, depending on the direction. Finally, she lowers the board as the ball descends and gives it a demonstrative jab toward the ground when it lands.

``My supervisor came in and told me, `It's a little dramatic, Liz.' But it's so exciting,'' she said. ``But my facial expressions, I need to tone that down. I just feel so bad when the wind starts to blow the golf balls.''

Taga isn't trying to bring attention to herself, and she opened her mouth in surprise when told all the players know who she is, even if they don't know her name. She loves the civility and respect of golf. She thinks the world of the players. And all she wanted to do was the best job she could.

That's where Bo Van Pelt comes in.

``My first time was in 2005 and Bo Van Pelt and three other pros came to the tee,'' Taga said. ``I was asking questions of my bosses, and they teach you left, center and right because we track the ball. That was basic training. But I wanted to be a good volunteer. So I said to him, `Excuse me, sir, could you show me want you want me to do.' And he said, `I'd love to.' They went back to the green and showed me every step of the way.''

Van Pelt was contacted at his home in Tulsa, Okla. He was asked about the Sony Open, and a volunteer, and that was all he needed.

``The lady on No. 9?'' he said. ``She's awesome.''

Van Pelt remembers the day Taga asked for a little guidance, mostly on where she was supposed to stand. Van Pelt used to caddie as a boy, and he recalled getting chewed out for standing behind his player in his line of sight. So he shared with Taga what he learned that day.

``I told her to stand where you're looking at my back or looking at my chest,'' Van Pelt said. ``Stand right in line with the tee markers, and no player will ever move you, and people down the fairway can see you.''

As for the moves?

``That same year on Saturday, somebody said, `Did you tell the lady at No. 9 to do that?' And I hadn't paid attention to her because she's behind me,'' Van Pelt said. `She has flair, pizzazz. I give her all the credit for that.''

Taga takes her job so seriously that she had her eyes checked to make sure she could sufficiently see the ball. But she cringes at the thought of her first day on the job during the tournament. The first player to hit, she never saw the ball. She just stood there.

``My boss came running down and said, `Liz, what are you doing?' And I told him that he hit it so fast I never saw it. He asked if I knew who that was and I didn't know anybody. They called him the `Walrus,''' she said.

It was Craig Stadler, one of the quickest players in golf.

She knows them now, particularly Van Pelt for showing her where to stand, and Bubba Watson. The Masters champion was so intrigued by Taga that he had a special paddle made for her so that she could sign it.

How popular is Taga?

Pettersson was on Facebook earlier in the week when he saw a posting from Jarrod Lyle, who played the Sony Open last year. It wasn't much longer that Lyle discovered his leukemia had returned, and he faces a life-threatening battle back home in Australia. Pettersson said Lyle had one comment about the Sony Open that made him smile.

``Is the lady on No. 9 still there?''

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Mike Locksley reportedly makes big addition to Terps staff with former Tennessee head coach

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Mike Locksley reportedly makes big addition to Terps staff with former Tennessee head coach

When Mike Locksley was hired to become the University of Maryland's newest head football coach earlier this month, it was expected that his biggest impact would come on the recruiting trail. Locksley has a well-deserved reputation as one of the best recruiters of talent in the DMV, and his hometown connections were a major draw for the university and its boosters.

His recruiting acumen doesn’t just apply to players, it seems. He’s begun putting together a coaching staff at Maryland, and many of the rumored candidates would represent major “gets” for a school of Maryland’s stature and reputation.

Former Tennessee head coach Butch Jones has accepted a position as tight ends coach and associate head coach for the Terps, Jeff Ermann of InsideMdSports reported on Tuesday.

Jones was a head coach for a decade prior to spending 2018 as an offensive analyst for Alabama, an off-field position. In the years prior, he spent time at Central Michigan, Cincinnati, and most recently Tennessee. He holds a career record of 84-54, and is 4-2 all-time in bowl games. He had a winning record at each school.

The title of associate head coach is a nice addition for Jones, but a former SEC head coach who experienced some success would seem to be somewhat overqualified for a position coach. Jones, similarly to Locksley, was attempting to rehabilitate his reputation under Nick Saban at Alabama, and is likely aiming to return to head coaching one day.

It’s still a nice coup for Maryland, as Jones comes to College Park with a reputation as a good offensive mind and a stellar recruiter. Jones signed multiple top-10 recruiting classes at Tennessee, and while coaching in the SEC has certain advantages, his recruiting acumen fits in well with Locksley.

It remains unclear how much of an overhaul Maryland’s coaching staff will undergo under Locksley, though it stands to reason there will be some turnover. 24/7 Sports is also reporting that Locksley will be bringing on John Papuchis to coach special teams and linebackers, and Cory Robinson, a former director of player personnel at Maryland under Randy Edsall. Robinson’s role is not yet specified, though based on his experience it is assumed he’ll be working with defensive backs.

Elijah Brooks, longtime head coach at local powerhouse DeMatha, has also been rumored to be joining the Maryland staff, though it has not been reported at this time.

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NFL Playoff Picture: Who's currently in and currently out in the AFC heading into Week 15

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NFL Playoff Picture: Who's currently in and currently out in the AFC heading into Week 15

It was a wild Week 14 for the AFC to say the least.

There was the Miami Miracle and the Indianapolis Colts bringing the Houston Texans' nine-game winning streak to a halt.

January football is so close we can almost taste it. Here's where things stand in the AFC as we head into Week 15.

AFC Playoff Standings:

1. Kansas City Chiefs (11-2, 4-0)

The Baltimore Ravens weren't going to make this easy for the Chiefs, but Patrick Mahomes' ridiculous playmaking couldn't be stopped.

The Chiefs clinched a playoff berth in the 27-24 overtime win and can clinch the AFC West with a win over the Los Angeles Chargers Thursday night. 

Remaining Games: Chargers (10-3), @Seahawks (8-5), Raiders (3-10).

2. New England Patriots (9-4, 3-1)

A crazy 69 yard walk off touchdown from Dolphins' Kenyan Drake put the Patriots two games back of the Chiefs for the one seed and without home field advantage if they face them in the postseason.

Now as they head to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers, a bye week in January could be on the line.

Remaining Games: @Steelers (7-5-1), Buffalo (4-9), Jets (4-9)

3. Houston Texans (9-4, 3-2)

The Texans' nine-game win streak came to an end Sunday when Andrew Luck and the Colts earned a 24-21 win in Houston. 

Still two full games up of the Colts and Tennessee Titans in the AFC South, a bye week seems far-fetched as the Patriots hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over them. 

Remaining Games: @Jets (4-9), @Eagles (6-7), Jacksonville (4-9)

4. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5-1, 3-1-1)

Sunday was a debacle for the Steelers. Big Ben suffered a rib injury but came back in the fourth to lead his team down the field before kicker Chris Boswell's foot slipped out from underneath of him in what would have been the game-winning field goal. 

The 24-21 loss leaves the Steelers just half a game up of the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North as they host the Patriots Sunday and still have to visit the Saints. The division, and the playoffs, aren't a lock for the Steelers.

Remaining Games: Patriots (9-4), @Saints (11-2), Bengals (5-8)

5. Los Angeles Chargers (10-3, 2-2)

After narrowly beating the Cincinnati Bengals 26-21 Sunday, the Chargers have a short week as they head to Kansas City to face their division rivals on Thursday night.

A win over the Chiefs keeps the AFC West title up for grabs.

Remaining Games: @Chiefs (11-2), Ravens (7-6), @Denver (6-7)

6. Baltimore Ravens (7-6, 2-3)

Ravens-Chiefs was one of the most entertaining games of the 2018 season and proved that Lamar Jackson and the No. 1 overall defense can hang with the best. 

The good news is that they're still half a game back of the Steelers in the AFC North. The bad news is that they're in a four-way race with the Colts, Titans and Dolphins for the final playoff spot.

Three wins to close out the season is crucial. 

Remaining Games: Buccaneers (5-8), @Chargers (10-3), Browns (5-7-1)

In The Hunt:

7. Indianapolis Colts (7-6, 3-2)

Ending the Texans' nine-game win streak on the road is certainly impressive as it kept the Colts' playoff hopes alive.

Their remaining games won't make the road to the playoffs easy, but they do hold the tiebreaker over the Dolphins.

Remaining Games: Cowboys (8-5), Giants (5-8), @Tennessee (7-6)

8. Miami Dolphins (7-6, 4-1)

The Dolphins just continue to surprise us. Their 34-33 win over the Patriots was the highlight of everyone except Patriots fans' Sunday. 

The final playoff spot will be hard to reach as they sit behind the Colts but ahead of the Titans in head-to-head record.

Remaining Games: @Vikings (6-6-1), Jacksonville (4-9), @Bills (4-9)

9. Tennessee Titans (7-6, 3-2)

The Titans earned an AFC win over the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday, but their playoff hopes aren't within close reach.

They are no longer in the sixth playoff spot tiebreaker as they are behind both the Colts and the Dolphins. 

Remaining Games: @Giants (5-8), Redskins (6-7), Colts (7-6)

10. Denver Broncos (6-7, 2-2)

The Broncos lost to the San Francisco 49ers 20-14 Sunday, which some would say is not great for a team trying to wiggle their way into the playoffs.

Remaining Games: Browns (5-7-1), @Raiders (3-10), Chargers (10-3)

11. Cleveland Browns (5-7-1, 2-1-1)

Browns fans have a lot to be excited about as Baker Mayfield is a force and they earned another home win on Sunday against the spiraling Carolina Panthers.

With two division games still to be played, the Browns have a slight chance at the playoffs. Nonetheless, the 2018 season is hopefully the start of a new era for this organization.

Remaining Games: @Broncos (6-7), Bengals (5-8), @Ravens (7-6)

12. Cincinnati Bengals (5-7, 1-3)

Hue Jackson's bad luck continues with the Bengals as the playoffs are nowhere in sight.

Remaining Games: Raiders (3-10), @Browns (5-7-1), @Steelers (7-5-1)

Eliminated: Oakland Raiders (3-10), New York Jets (3-10), Jacksonville Jaguars (4-9) and the Buffalo Bills (4-9)

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