Wife Mom and 33-Year-Old Rookie

By Associated PressApril 12, 2004, 4:00 pm
Ladies Professional Golf AssociationLOS ANGELES, Calif. -- Pack the kids and the clubs into the motor home, jump into the seat beside the husband, and hit the road to play some well-manicured golf course at still another resort spot.
Family vacation?
Juli Hilton laughs and shakes her head at the suggestion. Hilton insists that being on tour is mostly hard work, especially for a 33-year-old wife, mom and LPGA rookie.
'It's fun to be with the family, but it's definitely not a vacation,' she said during the tour's recent tournament in Los Angeles. 'We did take a day off, a vacation day, last week.'
Hilton didn't begin playing golf until she was 18. Most players come on the tour in their early 20s. Some are even younger like 17-year-old Aree Song, who was the runner-up at the Kraft Nabisco Championship last month.
'It's funny being 33 years old and a mother of two and still being called a rookie, but it's what I've worked so hard to do,' Hilton, whose daughter Mackenzie is 5 and son Trevor is 3, wrote in her online diary. 'But a rookie's a rookie, and the players have really been helping me out, showing me the ropes. It's a lot of fun,' she said.
Hilton is a latecomer to the tour in part because she was a latecomer to the game.
'I played sports like basketball and tennis all through high school. I didn't know anybody who played golf,' said Hilton, whose Saratoga, Calif., high school didn't have a girls' golf team. When I got to college, I didn't pursue any of those sports and I got a little bored.
'My dad had always wanted me to play golf. So the summer after my freshman year, I took it up seriously and started taking lessons.'
>As a sophomore at Southern California, she was a sort of walk-on with the women's team. She eventually transferred to the University of San Francisco and made the team there.
'I finally broke 80 the summer after my sophomore year. My scores came down pretty quickly,' Hilton recalled.
It still took her a long time to make it to the LPGA Tour. She turned pro in 1995, played a couple of years on the Futures Tour, and earned an exempt status for this year's LPGA Tour by finishing in a tie for 17th in the final qualifying tournament of 2003. It was the fourth time she had tried to qualify.
'It's been a long road here to the LPGA and it's a journey I'm looking forward to making,' she wrote in her rookie diary.
The journey has been a bit rocky so far. Hilton didn't make the cut in any of the three tournaments she has played, although she came with two shots of making it in each of her first two events, in Tucson and Phoenix. Her scoring average of 75.17 ranks 122nd on the tour.
She will try again in the Las Vegas tournament that begins Wednesday.
'I don't really focus on making cuts,' Hilton said. 'It may not be making a cut, it might be a win.'
Husband Shaun Hilton, her caddie and No. 1 fan, is proud of his wife's determination.
'Some days, some weeks some months, it's tough, there are strains. But ultimately, she seems extremely happy. She's really been trying hard for the last three, four years, since we had our second child and she joined the Futures Tour,' he said.
'She's more and more dedicated and every year, she has advanced. To see that in my wife makes it really easy for me to back and support her.'
She has other support, as well, including a sponsor to help meet expenses, and the use of the LPGA's daycare to mind the kids while she and her husband are on the golf course.
Hilton said she will have to reevaluate her career if she struggles on the tour, but she is determined to make a go of it.
'I still believe I can be successful out here,' she said. 'It will be hard to stop if I still believe I can do it. If I think I've gotten to the top of my game and it's still not good enough, then I wouldn't play any more.'
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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.

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Farmers inks 7-year extension through 2026

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:04 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance has signed a seven-year extension to serve as the title sponsor for the PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines, it was announced Tuesday. The deal will run through 2026.

“Farmers Insurance has been incredibly supportive of the tournament and the Century Club’s charitable initiatives since first committing to become the title sponsor in 2010,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

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“We are extremely grateful for the strong support of Farmers and its active role as title sponsor, and we are excited by the commitment Farmers has made to continue sponsorship of the Farmers Insurance Open for an additional seven years.

In partnership with Farmers, the Century Club – the tournament’s host organization – has contributed more than $20 million to deserving organizations benefiting at-risk youth since 2010. 

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Woods impresses DeChambeau, Day on Tuesday

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 11:27 pm

SAN DIEGO – Bryson DeChambeau played with Tiger Woods for the first time Tuesday morning, and the biggest surprise was that he wasn’t overcome by nerves.

“That’s what I was concerned about,” DeChambeau said. “Am I just gonna be slapping it around off the tee? But I was able to play pretty well.”

So was Woods.

DeChambeau said that Woods looked “fantastic” as he prepares to make his first PGA Tour start in a year.

“His game looks solid. His body doesn’t hurt. He’s just like, yeah, I’m playing golf again,” DeChambeau said. “And he’s having fun, too, which is a good thing.”

Woods arrived at Torrey Pines before 7 a.m. local time Tuesday, when the temperature hadn’t yet crept above 50 degrees. He warmed up and played the back nine of Torrey Pines’ South Course with DeChambeau and Jason Day.

“He looks impressive; it was good to see,” Day told PGATour.com afterward. “You take (Farmers) last year and the Dubai tournament out, and he hasn’t really played in two years. I think the biggest thing is to not get too far ahead, or think he’s going to come back and win straight away.

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“The other time he came back, I don’t think he was ready and he probably came back too soon. This time he definitely looks ready. I think his swing is really nice, he’s hitting the driver a long way and he looks like he’s got some speed, which is great.”

Woods said that his caddie, Joe LaCava, spent four days with him in South Florida last week and that he’s ready to go.

“Before the Hero I was basically given the OK probably about three or four weeks prior to the tournament, and I thought I did pretty good in that prep time,” Woods told ESPN.com, referring to his tie for ninth in the 18-man event.

“Now I’ve had a little more time to get ready for this event. I’ve played a lot more golf, and overall I feel like I’ve made some nice changes. I feel good.”

Woods is first off Torrey Pines’ North Course in Wednesday’s pro-am, scheduled for 6:40 a.m. local time. 

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With blinders on, Rahm within reach of No. 1 at Torrey

By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 10:10 pm

SAN DIEGO – The drive over to Torrey Pines from Palm Springs, Calif., takes about two and a half hours, which was plenty of time for Jon Rahm’s new and ever-evolving reality to sink in.

The Spaniard arrived in Southern California for a week full of firsts. The Farmers Insurance Open will mark the first time he’s defended a title on the PGA Tour following his dramatic breakthrough victory last year, and it will also be his first tournament as the game’s second-best player, at least according to the Official World Golf Ranking.

Rahm’s victory last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his second on Tour and fourth worldwide tilt over the last 12 months, propelled the 23-year-old to No. 2 in the world, just behind Dustin Johnson. His overtime triumph also moved him to within four rounds of unseating DJ atop the global pecking order.

It’s impressive for a player who at this point last year was embarking on his first full season as a professional, but then Rahm has a fool-proof plan to keep from getting mired in the accolades of his accomplishments.

“It's kind of hard to process it, to be honest, because I live my day-to-day life with my girlfriend and my team around me and they don't change their behavior based on what I do, right?” he said on Tuesday at Torrey Pines. “They'll never change what they think of me. So I really don't know the magnitude of what I do until I go outside of my comfort zone.”

Head down and happy has worked perfectly for Rahm, who has finished outside the top 10 in just three of his last 10 starts and began 2018 with a runner-up showing at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and last week’s victory.

According to the world ranking math, Rahm is 1.35 average ranking points behind Johnson and can overtake DJ atop the pack with a victory this week at the Farmers Insurance Open; but to hear his take on his ascension one would imagine a much wider margin.

“I've said many times, beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task,” Rahm said. “We all know what happened last time he was close to a lead in a tournament on the PGA Tour.”

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Rahm certainly remembers. It was just three weeks ago in Maui when he birdied three of his first six holes, played the weekend at Kapalua in 11 under and still finished eight strokes behind Johnson.

And last year at the WGC-Mexico Championship when Rahm closed his week with rounds of 67-68 only to finish two strokes off Johnson’s winning pace, or a few weeks later at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play when he took Johnson the distance in the championship match only to drop a 1-up decision to the game’s undisputed heavyweight.

As far as Rahm has come in an incredibly short time - at this point last year he ranked 137th in the world - it is interesting that it’s been Johnson who has had an answer at every turn.

He knows there’s still so much room for improvement, both physically and mentally, and no one would ever say Rahm is wanting for confidence, but after so many high-profile run-ins with Johnson, his cautious optimism is perfectly understandable.

“I'll try to focus more on what's going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win,” he reasoned when asked about the prospect of unseating Johnson, who isn’t playing this week. “I'll try my best, that's for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

If Rahm’s take seems a tad cliché given the circumstances, consider that his aversion to looking beyond the blinders is baked into the competitive cake. For all of his physical advantages, of which there are many, it’s his keen ability to produce something special on command that may be even more impressive.

Last year at Torrey Pines was a quintessential example of this, when he began the final round three strokes off the lead only to close his day with a back-nine 30 that included a pair of eagles.

“I have the confidence that I can win here, whereas last year I knew I could but I still had to do it,” he said. “I hope I don't have to shoot 30 on the back nine to win again.”

Some will point to Rahm’s 60-footer for eagle at the 72nd hole last year as a turning point in his young career, it was even named the best putt on Tour by one publication despite the fact he won by three strokes. But Rahm will tell you that walk-off wasn’t even the best shot he hit during the final round.

Instead, he explained that the best shot of the week, the best shot of the year, came on the 13th hole when he launched a 4-iron from a bunker to 18 feet for eagle, a putt that he also made.

“If I don't put that ball on the green, which is actually a lot harder than making that putt, the back nine charge would have never happened and this year might have never happened, so that shot is the one that made everything possible,” he explained.

Rahm’s ability to embrace and execute during those moments is what makes him special and why he’s suddenly found himself as the most likely contender to Johnson’s throne even if he chooses not to spend much time thinking about it.