Jacksons Dreams Coming True
The first goal wraps up next week at the NCAA Championships. The other takes shape this summer after her last amateur tournament, the U.S. Women's Open in July.
It all began when Jackson, then an 8-year-old from Belton, came to Furman for an outing featuring LPGA stars -- and former Paladin standouts -- Beth Daniel and Dottie Pepper.
'There were definitely times since then I asked myself if that was really what I wanted to do,' said Jackson, the Southern Conference Player of the Year who shot a final-round 66 to win the NCAA East Regional last week. 'Now that it seems so close, it's definitely what I want to do.'
Also heading to the NCAAs in West Lafayette, Ind., from May 20-23 is the South Carolina golf team and its leader, senior Kristy McPherson. McPherson finished second at the regional, four strokes behind her friend Jackson.
'It definitely shows South Carolina's got one of the strongest junior golf programs out there,' said McPherson of Conway.
And Jackson, a surprise runner-up at the U.S. Women's Amateur last summer, appears ready to follow the LPGA legacy of former Furman players Betsy King, Daniel and Pepper.
'I felt like she had all the tools,' said Furman coach Mic Potter, who coached Pepper, Joan Delk, Jen Hanna and others to the LPGA.
What Jackson didn't have at first was the drive to spend hours on the range grooving a swing. She says her mind wanders as practice drags on. It's sometimes hard for her to work during time away from campus.
Jackson and Potter talked of her inconsistency after last season. She had won the SoCon Championships, but then followed that by finishing 45th in the NCAAs.
Jackson finally realized she couldn't stay sharp without drills. The work proved successful at the U.S. Women's Amateur last summer, where she stunningly reached the 36-hole final match before losing to Becky Lucidi 3-and-2.
That qualified Jackson for this year's U.S. Open at Pumpkin Ridge in Oregon. And it also showed her that practice can indeed make perfect.
'It's good to see you have that success,' Jackson said. 'It makes you want to work more.'
Jackson's rise continued this season. She had seven top-10 finishes this year, including the East Regional individual victory, after only four such placings her first three seasons.
Part of her success, Jackson says, is how she typically shrugs off the bad shots very quickly. During her 66 at the East Regional, she had a double-bogey 6 on the 7th hole. Jackson told herself, 'Oh well, I guess I'll need about five birdies coming in.'
'That's what I did,' Jackson said.
One of Jackson's toughest challengers at the Purdue course could be South Carolina's McPherson. She's won twice this year, including the Lady Boilermaker Invitational played over the championship course.
South Carolina coach Kristi Coggins says McPherson played strongly at the East Regional, but got surpassed with Jackson's stellar 66. 'That's what you want to happen if you lose,' Coggins said. 'Kristy played very, very well' at the regional.
Jackson thought her approach to the game convinced Potter she could succeed. 'He saw me have a hole-in-one and he saw me have a 13,' she said. 'Between those two and the way I handled it, it kind of helped him think I could come her and play.'
Her calm attitude typically stays on the course. At tests, at home, in her personal life, Jackson says she's as uncertain and edgy as most normal 22-year-old college students. Potter thinks Jackson's demeanor will help her through the grind of the developmental Futures Tour later this summer and LPGA qualifying school this fall.
Soon after Jackson plays at the U.S. Women's Open, she'll hook up with Furman teammate Leigh Turner and McPherson to travel to Futures Tour events this summer. 'Just to be out there to take that next step and not being alone is going to be an amazing experience,' McPherson said.
Furman's Potter sees Jackson as a future LPGA champion. 'Whether she wants to be the best player of all time is another story,' he said. 'As laid back as she is, it's kind of hard to get her to commit to something like that. But I could see her going along at her own pace, and all of a sudden, she's No. 1.'
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm
Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:
Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red
Ball: TaylorMade TP5x
Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff
Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.
While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.
Watching Andrew Landry and Jon Rahm in playoff. Walking off tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me ? Talking at all. ?— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.
0 words— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The issue is I don’t want to make you a bit relaxed or comfortable. High pressure, good.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you watch the end of the NFL games yesterday ? Enough said.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
I didn’t say you couldn’t be friends and competitive. But in a playoff, 1 tiny mistake and you lose, and that devastated me. Friends before and after, competitors during play.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you win ? It’s all about surviving the competition to test yourself.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.
Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over
The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.
As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.
Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.
And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.
And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.
McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.
The Ryder Cup topped his list.
Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.
When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.
“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”
McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.
Or similar assertions from TV analysts.
“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”
European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.
And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.
The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.
Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.
And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.
Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.
The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.
The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.
More bulletin board material, too.
Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.
Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions
Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.
The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.
It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.
The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.
“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”
Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.