Mariah Stackhouse hopes shes the female Tiger Woods

By Associated PressApril 1, 2009, 4:00 pm
PEACHTREE CITY, Ga. ' With a mouthful of braces and a yearning to get her drivers license, Mariah Stackhouse comes across as the typical teenager.
Then she picks up a golf club.
Thats when she becomes the next black hope.
In a sport desperately lacking in African-Americans outside of Tiger Woods, Stackhouse certainly stands out. Having just turned 15, shes already climbed as high as No. 29 in the American Junior Golf Associations national female rankings and currently stands 33rd, making her the top-rated black player on either the girls or boys list.
If I get an opportunity to play professional golf, she said, Id definitely like to give that a try.
Her rise to prominence provides a handy roadmap for African-Americans trying to reach the top levels of golf, but also reveals just how many obstacles there are along the way.
Its a big financial investment and a huge sacrifice, said her father, Ken Stackhouse. Ive known (African-Americans) who played before us, and their concerns were always the same. They never really got all the support they needed financially. As a consequence, they were never able to rise to the level Mariah has. Fortunately, she had support early enough to make a difference.
For Mariah, it started with a doting father ' I was always a daddys girl, she said unabashedly ' who loved golf and willing to spend the time to teach it to his daughter, beginning at age 2. Stackhouse also has a job in the residential construction and design business that allows him to take time off when Mariah is playing tournaments during the spring and summer.
I know most people arent as lucky as we are, he said, relaxing with his daughter on the patio at the Braelinn Golf Club in this links-oriented suburb southwest of Atlanta.
Even with those built-in advantages, the Stackhouses still needed a hand from others.
A local pro, King Simmons, allowed Mariah to hone her skills on several Atlanta city courses, free of charge. Then Ralph Boston, who won an Olympic golf medal in the long jump at the 1960 Rome Games, met Mariah and her father at a local tournament. Impressed by their passion for the game, he hooked them up with a prominent golf course owner who operated a club where Boston was a member. That allowed Mariah to practice and play at high-quality layouts around the metro area, minus the huge cost.
If you look at any person whos been successful in anything, theres been someone along the way who gave them a helping hand, said the 69-year-old Boston, who also won long jump medals at the 1964 and 68 Olympics before going on to a successful business career. Pass it forward. My mother used to say a lot of things like, When you get in a position where you can help someone, help them open the door and let someone else in.
Stackhouse knows his daughter never would have made this far without benefactors such as Boston and Simmons. A top-level junior golfer can spend as much as $35,000 a year for course time, equipment, coaching and travel expenses.
She certainly would have gone into another sport if not for those peoples help, he said. I couldnt have provided it golf-wise. Nowadays, youve got to have a team of people.
Mariah has a swing coach she meets with once a month, but her father handles most of the instruction. Shes been able to advance without doling out big money to attend one of those prominent golf academies.
We still get literature all the time from those camps, but we never did any of that, Stackhouse said. We just worked. All the guys always compliment Mariah on her work ethic. She works hard.
Mariah still remembers when it first struck her that she might have a future in golf. She was 5 or 6 years old and had just returned from spending three weeks with her grandparents.
When I went out on the range, I was hitting my 5-iron, she said. I dont think I ever hit a club that good, and I had not hit a club in three weeks. I just came back and was hitting it so perfectly. I remember my dad saying, Wow, youre pretty good.
She had a nice little draw, Stackhouse chimed in. I remember it distinctly. That was niiiice. I knew I couldnt hit shots like that.
While there are certainly no guarantees that Mariah will grow up to become just the fourth African-American woman to play on the LPGA ' heck, shes still in ninth grade ' her father has considered the significant role she might play in luring other minorities to the white-dominated sport.
She could do a lot for women, but particularly African-American women, by inspiring them to get more involved in golf, Stackhouse said.
For the most part, Stackhouse keeps those thoughts to himself. He doesnt want to weigh down his daughter with a heavy social burden. Its hard enough to make a 20-foot putt without considering what impact it might have on an entire race.
I dont really think about it, Mariah said. I just love to play golf.
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  • Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

    Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

    Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

    "He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

    The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

    Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

    "I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

    Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

    "From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

    "And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

    "There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."

    Move over Lydia, a new Ko is coming to LPGA

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 5:11 pm

    Another gifted young South Korean will be joining the LPGA ranks next year.

    Jin Young Ko, the Korean LPGA Tour star, informed the American-based LPGA on Sunday night that she will be taking up membership next year. Ko earned the right by winning the LPGA’s KEB Hana Bank Championship as a nonmember in South Korea in October.

    Ko, 22, no relation to Lydia Ko, first burst on to the international spotlight with her run into contention at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry two years ago. She led there through 54 holes, with Inbee Park overtaking her in the final round to win.

    With 10 KLPGA Tour titles, three in each of the last two seasons, Ko has risen to No. 19 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.

    Ko told Sunday afternoon that she was struggling over the decision, with a Monday deadline looming.

    “It’s a difficult decision to leave home,” Ko said after the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, when she was still undecided. “The travelling far away, on my own, the loneliness, that’s what is difficult.”

    Ko will be the favorite to win the LPGA’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award next year. South Koreans have won that award the last three years. Sung Hyun Park won it this year, In Gee Chun last year and Sei Young Kim in 2015. South Korean-born players have won the last four, with New Zealand’s Lydia Ko winning it in 2014. Ko was born in South Korea and moved to New Zealand when she was 6.

    Ko released this statement through the LPGA on Wednesday: 

    "It has been my dream since I was young to play on the LPGA Tour and I look forward to testing myself against the best players on a worldwide stage. I know it is going to be tough but making a first win as an LPGA member and winning the Rolex Rookie of the Year award would be two of the biggest goals I would like to achieve next year."

    Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:22 pm

    Gerina Piller, the American Olympian golfer and three-time Solheim Cup veteran, is pregnant and will not be rejoining the LPGA when the 2018 season opens, the New York Times reported following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

    Piller, 32, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is due with the couple’s first child in May, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz reported.

    Piller declined an interview request when sought comment going into the CME Group Tour Championship.

    Piller told the New York Times she has no timetable for her return but that she isn’t done with competitive golf.

    “I’m not just giving everything up,” Piller said.

    As parity reigns, LPGA searching for a superstar

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:00 pm

    Apologies to the LPGA’s golden eras, but women’s golf has never been deeper.

    With the game going global, with the unrelenting wave of Asian talent continuing to slam the tour’s shores, with Thailand and China promising to add to what South Korea is delivering, it’s more difficult than ever to win.

    That’s a beautiful and perplexing thing for the women’s game.

    That’s because it is more difficult than ever to dominate.

    And that’s a magic word in golf.

    There is no more powerful elixir in the sport.

    Domination gets you on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on ESPN SportsCenter, maybe even on NBC Nightly News if the “D” in domination is dynamic enough.

    The women’s best chance of moving their sport to another stratosphere is riding the back of a superstar.

    Or maybe a pair of superstar rivals.

    Photos: 2017 LPGA winners gallery

    A constellation of stars may be great for the devoted regular supporters of the women’s game, but it will take a charismatic superstar to make casual fans care.

    The LPGA needs a Serena Williams.

    Or the reincarnation of Babe Zaharias.

    For those of us who regularly follow the LPGA, this constellation of stars makes for compelling stories, a variety of scripting to feature.

    The reality, however, is that it takes one colossal story told over and over again to burst out of a sports niche.

    The late, great CBS sports director Frank Chirkinian knew what he had sitting in a TV production truck the first time he saw one of his cameras bring a certain young star into focus at the Masters.

    It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” Chirkinian once told me over lunch at a golf course he owned in South Florida.  “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’

    “The thing about golf, more than any other sport, it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where people will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

    And they go gaga when it’s one star so radiant that he or she dominates attention.

    “It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading, or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”

    The LPGA is in a healthy place again, with a big upside globally, with so much emerging talent sharing the spotlight.

    Take Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

    The back nine started with Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie making the turn tied for the lead. There is no more powerful pairing to sell in the women’s game today, but there would be no duel. It would have been too far off script as the final chapter to this season.

    Parity was the story this year.

    Sunday in Naples started with 18 players within two shots of the lead.

    Entering that back nine, almost a dozen players were in the mix, including Ariya Jutanugarn.

    The day ended with Jutanugarn beating Thompson with a dramatic birdie-birdie finish after Thompson stunned viewers missing a 2-foot putt for par at the last.

    The day encapsulated the expanding LPGA universe.

    “I’ve never seen such crazy, brilliant golf from these ladies,” said Gary Gilchrist, who coaches Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng. “It was unbelievable out there. It was just like birdie after birdie after birdie, and the scoreboard went up and down. And that’s why it’s so hard to be No. 1 on this tour. There’s not one person who can peak. It’s all of them at a phenomenal level of golf.”

    If Thompson had made that last 2-footer and gone on to win the CME, she would have become the sixth different world No. 1 this year. Before this year, there had never been more than three different No. 1s in a single LPGA season.

    Parity was the theme from the year’s start.

    There were 15 different winners to open the season, something that hadn’t happened in 26 years. There were five different major championship winners.

    This year’s Rolex Player of the Year Award was presented Sunday to So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park. It’s the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

    Thompson won twice this year, with six second-place finishes, with three of those playoff losses, one of them in a major championship. She was close to putting together a spectacular year. She was close to dominating and maybe becoming the tour’s one true rock star.

    Ultimately, Thompson showed us how hard that is to do now.

    She’s in a constellation we’re all watching, to see if maybe one star breaks out, somebody able to take the game into living rooms it has never been, to a level of popularity it’s never been.

    The game won’t get there with another golden era. It will get there with a golden player.