LPGA needs to ride wave of excitement from Solheim Cup

By Associated PressAugust 24, 2009, 4:00 pm
2009 Solheim CupSUGAR GROVE, Ill. ' A roar went up and thousands of fans immediately headed to the next hole, a wave of red washing through the trees at Rich Harvest Farms.
Its a commonplace scene when Tiger Woods is playing. This rock star treatment, though, was for the women. From the practice rounds to the closing ceremony, fans ' young and old, male and female, hardcore golfers and people who dont know a pitch from a putt ' packed the Solheim Cup, and players delivered with one of the most riveting events in years.
It was the perfect advertisement for womens golf. The next question is, could it also be the remedy for the LPGA, which has seemed more like a bad soap opera in recent months?
You want to know how this will help the LPGA? I just think if more people could come out and actually watch us play ' Ive been out here, as you guys know, a long time, and Ive never seen the golf that these women play now, veteran Juli Inkster said Sunday night.
We have a great product, and the more people see that and write about it, itll be great for us.
Like everything else, the economy has taken its toll on the LPGA. There are 28 official money events this year, six fewer than last year. The Corning Classic was played for the last time this year, and McDonalds is dropping its sponsorship of the LPGA Championship.
But most of the tours problems centered around former commissioner Carolyn Bivens, who was essentially forced out by the players earlier this summer. Bivens was credited with signing new TV deals, upgrading the quality of courses and increasing coverage of child care, but her missteps got the most attention ' and often overshadowed the players.
She was widely criticized last year when she proposed an English-only policy for tour players. Though never instituted, it garnered wide attention, with one California lawmaker calling it borderline racist. Early in Bivens tenure, a dispute over media credentials disrupted the Fields Open.
Weve got some great golf, Inkster said. If people would write about the golf and not about all the other stuff, we would be great.
That, though, is now up to the players.
After rallying for what turned out to be a critical halve in the Americans 16-12 victory over Europe on Sunday, Inkster said this was her last Solheim Cup and that shell play a limited schedule next year. Its hardly a surprise, considering the seven-time major champion is 49 and hasnt won since 2006.
But its the end of an era, and means the tour is firmly in the hands of its youngsters.
Take the U.S. Solheim Cup team. Half of the players were 25 or younger. Michelle Wie, whose 3-0-1 record led the team, is all of 19. Paula Creamer, who contributed three points, is 23. Morgan Pressel, whose 3-and-2 victory over Anna Nordqvist sealed the win, is 21.
I said thank you to Beth Daniel because if she hadnt picked Juli Inkster, I would have been the oldest on the team, joked Cristie Kerr, who is just 31.
Its not just youth, though. The kids can play.
Brittany Lincicome, 23, won the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the years first major. Creamer has eight wins on the LPGA. Pressel and Wie, of course, were in contention for a major before they got their drivers licenses.
A few years ago, it looked like American golf was very old, and we had quite an old team on the Solheim Cup, Pressel said. Now its younger than ever.
The key, as always, is Wie.
She has drawn comparisons to Woods since she was in grade school, and had a deal with Nike as soon as she turned pro. Whether its her skill ' she can drive it further than some men ' or that she dared to tee it up against the guys, she captivates fans and has the potential to drive the game to new heights like Woods did with the PGA Tour.
But she has to win, and she has to show more of the personality that charmed fans at the Solheim Cup.
Her teammates had raved about her, promising that everyone would see an entirely different side of her. Sure enough, Wie was so animated that U.S. captain Beth Daniel worried at one point she was too excited. She screamed after big shots and pumped her fists. She played to the crowd, raising her arms and cupping a hand to her ear to ask for more noise. When the Americans clinched the cup, it was Wie who grabbed a big American flag and ran around the 18th green.
By the end of the weekend, fans were greeting her with whimsical cheers of Wheeee!
It was the most fun Ive had playing, Wie said. I think Ive said that multiple times this week, but every hole seemed like walking down 18 of a major championship times 100. I mean, these crowds were absolutely amazing, and to have 11 other team members as great as these people, it was just so fabulous.
But its another two years before the LPGA will have this kind of lovefest again. As the players went their respective ways Monday, the challenge will be to maintain the enthusiasm of the Solheim Cup when theyre opponents instead of teammates.
Were going to be good, Inkster said. You guys just have to be patient with us.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Solheim Cup
  • Getty Images

    Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

    By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

    One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

    Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

    "I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

    Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

    "I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

    Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

    "Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

    Getty Images

    Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

    Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

    Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

    “I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

    The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

    “I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

    Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

    This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

    The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

    Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

    The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

    Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

    A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

    And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

    The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

    Masters victory

    Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

    Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

    Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative

    Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ

    Green jacket tour

    Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

    Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

    Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket

    Man of the people

    Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

    Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

    Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief

    Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together

    Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

    Growing family

    Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

    Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018

    Departure from TaylorMade

    Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

    Squashed beef with Paddy

    Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

    Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'

    Victory at Valderrama

    Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

    Getty Images

    Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm