Teens on Parade at US Womens Open

By Associated PressJuly 2, 2003, 4:00 pm
NORTH PLAINS, Ore. -- At any other major championship, Sydney Burlison would look out of place. She fits right in at the U.S. Women's Open.
The 13-year-old girl with big dreams, wide eyes and a full set of braces just finished the seventh grade at All Saints Day School in Carmel Valley, Calif.
As the sun tried to fight through low clouds hanging over Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club, Burlison took her place on the practice range Tuesday, just down the row from defending champion Juli Inkster, 43, who has a daughter the same age.
Sure, Burlison is the youngest player in the 156-woman field, but only by nine days over Michelle Wie of Honolulu.
And remember Morgan Pressel from Boca Raton, Fla.?
Two years ago, she became the youngest qualifier in U.S. Women's Open history and attracted large crowds at Pine Needles. She made it back this year as a 15-year-old, only this time she's old news.
Teenagers are taking over the most prestigious tournament in women's golf.
Burlison, Wie and Pressel are among 14 teens on parade at Pumpkin Ridge, the most anyone from the U.S. Golf Association can recall. No one knows because for years the USGA only asked for the handicap, not the age.
If it's a record, it might not last long.
'I think you're going to see it every year,'' said Cristie Kerr, who thought she reached the moon by qualifying for her first U.S. Women's Open in 1995 at 17. 'As time progresses, as equipment gets better, as training gets betters, it's going to be a lot more normal.''
It used to be normal for players to show their driver's license when checking in. Now, it might as well be a student ID, or maybe even a library card.
Natalie Gulbis will be the old lady in her group in the first two rounds.
She's 20.
Gulbis will be playing alongside 19-year-old Christian Kim, an LPGA rookie, and 17-year-old Aree Song.
It wasn't like this three weeks ago in the U.S. Open at Olympia Fields, where the only teenagers walking inside the ropes were 16-year-old Tom Glissmeyer and 18-year-old Luke List.
Why more girls than boys?
'Girls mature faster. I think that's part of the equation,'' Dottie Pepper said. 'I was this height since the sixth grade, then I just bottomed out. They're making them bigger and stronger.''
Burlison already is 5-foot-6, while Creamer is closing in on 5-9. Aree and Naree Song, the twins from Thailand who will be freshmen at Florida next year, haven't grown much since they were 5-10 phenoms at 13.
Tiger Woods was scrawny as a teen, and his father said he never fully matured until his fourth full season on the PGA Tour.
'I think the difference is a 13-year-old girl can hit it as far as we can, and that's why they can compete,'' Kerr said. 'A 13-year-old boy isn't as strong as the men.''
Whatever the reason, the girls are here to stay.
Some might question the depth of women's golf that so many kids can earn a spot in the biggest tournaments. LPGA Tour commissioner Ty Votaw sees the cup as half full, and it doesn't hurt that nine of the teenagers at Pumpkin Ridge are Americans.
Only three Americans have won on the LPGA Tour this year.
'It's a reflection that the pipeline is getting filled more and more with players who are getting better at an earlier age than we've ever seen,'' Votaw said. 'What that suggests is a bright future for women's golf.''
Pressel takes part of the credit, saying she might have inspired others to dream big by qualifying for the Women's Open at age 12.
'There weren't all that many teenagers qualifying,'' Pressel said. 'There were plenty good enough, but none of them tried. Now, I guess they think they can do it. And they do.''
Most of the attention is on Wie, who two weeks ago became the youngest player to win a USGA title for grown-ups at the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links. Earlier this year, she played in the final group of an LPGA major at the Nabisco Championship.
Paula Creamer is not all that impressed.
The 16-year-old from Pleasanton, Calif., is quick to point out that she has beaten Wie the two times they have gone head-to-head. The most recent was at the U.S. Women's Open qualifier in Florida, another tournament that spoke volumes about the youth movement.
Of the six spots available, four went to teens -- Aree Song, Creamer, Wie and Pressel.
Wie and Pressel wound up in a three-way playoff for the remaining two spots. Pressel got in with a par, Wie by making a short birdie.
What followed was a scene that Pressel remembered from two years ago.
'It was kind of funny,'' Pressel said. 'As I walked off the green, there must have been 50 people -- cameras, everything -- standing around her and her family. I just looked back and laughed. I had two local people following me, and they left to talk to Michelle.
'It's not going to be the same.''
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage of the U.S. Women's Open
  • More LPGA Tour Preview Information

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    Match Play security tightens after Austin bombings

    By Rex HoggardMarch 19, 2018, 8:06 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – A fourth bombing this month in Austin injured two men Sunday night and authorities believe the attacks are the work of a serial bomber.

    The bombings have led to what appears to be stepped-up security at this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club.

    “I was out here [Sunday]; typically that's the most relaxed day. But they had security officials on every corner of the clubhouse and on the exterior, as well,” said Dylan Frittelli, who lives in Austin and is playing the Match Play for the first time this week. “It was pretty tough to get through all the protocols. I'm sure they'll have stuff in place.”

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    The PGA Tour told The Associated Press on Monday that it doesn't comment on the specifics of its security measures, but that the safety of players and fans is its top priority. The circuit is also coordinating closely with law enforcement to ensure the safety of players and fans.

    Despite the bombings, which have killed two people and injured two others, the Tour has not yet reached out to players to warn of any potential threat or advise the field about increased security.

    “It’s strange,” Paul Casey said. “Maybe they are going to, but they haven’t.”

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    Rosaforte Report: Faxon helps 'free' McIlroy's mind and stroke

    By Tim RosaforteMarch 19, 2018, 8:00 pm

    With all the talk about rolling back the golf ball, it was the way Rory McIlroy rolled it at the Arnold Palmer Invitational that was the story of the week and the power surge he needed going into the Masters.

    Just nine days earlier, a despondent McIlroy missed the cut at the Valspar Championship, averaging 29 putts per round in his 36 holes at Innisbrook Resort. At Bay Hill, McIlroy needed only 100 putts to win for the first time in the United States since the 2016 Tour Championship.

    The difference maker was a conversation McIlroy had with putting savant Brad Faxon at The Bears Club in Jupiter, Fl., on Monday of API week. What started with a “chat,” as McIlroy described it, ended with a resurrection of Rory’s putting stroke and set him free again, with a triumphant smile on his face, headed to this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, and Augusta National in two weeks.

    The meeting with Faxon made for a semi-awkward moment for McIlroy, considering he had been working with highly-regarded putting coach Phil Kenyon since missing the cut in the 2016 PGA Championship. From “pathetic” at Baltusrol, McIlroy became maker of all, upon the Kenyon union, and winner of the BMW Championship, Tour Championship and FedExCup.

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    As a professional courtesy, Faxon laid low, respecting McIlroy’s relationship with Kenyon, who also works with European stars Justin Rose, Martin Kaymer, Tommy Fleetwood and Henrik Stenson. Knowing how McIlroy didn’t like the way Dave Stockton took credit after helping him win multiple majors, Faxon let McIlroy do the talking. Asked about their encounter during his Saturday news conference at Bay Hill, McIlroy called it “more of a psychology lesson than anything else.”

    “There was nothing I told him he had never heard before, nothing I told him that was a secret,” Faxon, who once went 327 consecutive holes on Tour without a three-putt, said on Monday. “I think (Rory) said it perfectly when he said it allowed him to be an athlete again. We try to break it down so well, it locks us up. If I was able to unlock what was stuck, he took it to the next level. The thing I learned, there can be no method of belief more important than the athlete’s true instinct.”

    Without going into too much detail, McIlroy explained that Faxon made him a little more “instinctive and reactive.” In other words, less “mechanical and technical.” It was the same takeaway that Gary Woodland had after picking Faxon’s brain before his win in this year’s Waste Management Phoenix Open.

    Sunday night, after leading the field in strokes gained-putting, McIlroy was more elaborative, explaining how Faxon “freed up my head more than my stroke,” confessing that he was complicating things a bit and was getting less athletic.

    “You look at so many guys out there, so many different ways to get the ball in the hole,” he said. “The objective is to get the ball in the hole and that’s it. I think I lost sight of that a little bit.”

    All of this occurred after a conversation I had Sunday morning with swing instructor Pete Cowen, who praised Kenyon for the work he had done with his player, Henrik Stenson. Cowen attributed Henrik’s third-round lead at Bay Hill to the diligent work he put in with Kenyon over the last two months.

    “It’s confidence,” Cowen said. “(Stenson) needs a good result for confidence and then he’s off. If he putts well, he has a chance of winning every time he plays.”

    Cowen made the point that on the PGA Tour, a player needs 100-110 putts per week – or an average of 25-27 putts per round – to have a chance of winning. Those include what Cowen calls the “momentum putts,” that are especially vital in breaking hearts at this week’s WGC-Dell Match Play.

    Stenson, who is not playing this week in Austin, Texas, saw a lot of positives but admitted there wasn’t much he could do against McIlroy shooting 64 on Sunday in the final round on a tricky golf course.

    “It's starting to come along in the right direction for sure,” Stenson said. “I hit a lot of good shots out there this week, even though maybe the confidence is not as high as some of the shots were, so we'll keep on working on that and it's a good time of the year to start playing well.”

    Nobody knows that better than McIlroy, who is hoping to stay hot going for his third WGC and, eventually, the career Grand Slam at Augusta.

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    Golf's Olympic format, qualifying process remain the same

    By Rex HoggardMarch 19, 2018, 6:25 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – Potential Olympic golfers for the 2020 Games in Tokyo were informed on Monday that the qualification process for both the men’s and women’s competitions will remain unchanged.

    According to a memo sent to PGA Tour players, the qualification process begins on July 1, 2018, and will end on June 22, 2020, for the men, with the top 59 players from the Olympic Golf Rankings, which is drawn from the Official World Golf Ranking, earning a spot in Tokyo (the host country is assured a spot in the 60-player field). The women’s qualification process begins on July 8, 2018, and ends on June 29, 2020.

    The format, 72-holes of individual stroke play, for the ’20 Games will also remain unchanged.

    The ’20 Olympics will be held July 24 through Aug. 9, and the men’s competition will be played the week before the women’s event at Kasumigaseki Country Club.

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    Webb granted U.S. Women's Open special exemption

    By Will GrayMarch 19, 2018, 6:22 pm

    Karrie Webb's streak of consecutive appearances at the U.S. Women's Open will continue this summer.

    The USGA announced Monday that the 43-year-old Aussie has been granted a special exemption into this year's event, held May 31-June 3 at Shoal Creek in Alabama. Webb, a winner in both 2000 and 2001, has qualified for the event on merit every year since 2011 when her 10-year exemption for her second victory ended.

    "As a past champion, I'm very grateful and excited to accept the USGA's special exemption into this year's U.S. Women's Open," Webb said in a release. "I have always loved competing in the U.S. Women's Open and being tested on some of the best courses in the country."

    Webb has played in the tournament every year since 1996, the longest such active streak, meaning that this summer will mark her 23rd consecutive appearance. She has made the U.S. Women's Open cut each of the last 10 years, never finishing outside the top 50 in that span.

    Webb's exemption is the first handed out by the USGA since 2016, when Se Ri Pak received an invite to play at CordeValle. Prior to that the two most recent special exemptions went to Juli Inkster (2013) and Laura Davies (2009). The highest finish by a woman playing on a special exemption came in 1994, when Amy Alcott finished sixth.