Youngster Hopes LPGA Will Waive Age Limit
Hoping to capitalize on the influx of talented young golfers, Carmen Bandea sent a letter to the LPGA on Tuesday asking for a waiver of its 18-year-old requirement to become a member of the women's tour.
Bandea wants to enter LPGA qualifying school this fall, which would give her a chance to earn her tour card for 2006. She has never played in an LPGA event, and failed in her attempts to qualify for both the men's U.S. Open and the U.S. Women's Open this year.
Still, Bandea believes she is ready to become a professional, at least on a limited basis.
'Hopefully they will let me in,' she said from her home in suburban Atlanta. 'There's no reason not to. If I can shoot the score, why not let me go play some tournaments?'
Bandea, who just turned 15 on Monday, could play in a maximum of six LPGA events a year using sponsor exemptions -- the route Wie has chosen. That doesn't appeal to Bandea.
'Exemptions are like cheating,' she said. 'It's like they're giving you something on a silver platter and saying, 'Here, take it.''
Bandea said she's not interested in a full-fledged pro career. At most, she only wants to play 10 LPGA events a year.
Outgoing LPGA commissioner Ty Votaw can waive the age requirement if a teenager shows she can be competitive, has a strong support system and demonstrates the maturity to be a professional. Aree Song, for instance, was allowed to join the tour at 17.
'Normally, we wouldn't publicize requests of this nature,' Votaw said from Colorado, where he's attending this week's U.S. Women's Open. 'All I can is that we have received the letter, and we are in the process of reviewing.'
Bandea is also a promising tennis player, with her sights on being a two-sport star.
Tennis is more lenient about teen players, though it limits the number of events they can enter between 14 and 17. Bandea plans to become a tennis pro in the fall.
'I've already been doing them both for a long time,' she said. 'It may be unique to everyone else, but to me it seems normal.'
Not lacking for confidence, Bandea already can envision head-to-head showdowns with two teen prodigies: tennis star Maria Sharapova and Wie on the golf course.
'I don't pay attention to anyone but myself,' Bandea said, 'but I assume there would be a rivalry with (Wie) and with Sharapova in tennis.'
Wie has not asked for a waiver of the age limit. Song is the only player allowed to turn pro before her 18th birthday, a decision that was justified when she took medalist honors at Q-school and finished as runner-up at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
'She graduated high school, so she had the same level of education that others had,' Votaw said, explaining his decision.
'She made the cut in 11 of 14 LPGA events she had played since she was 13, and all six majors. Her 18th birthday would have been in early April the following year, so we had only six LPGA events prior to her turning 18. Given all those things, she deserved a waiver.'
In her letter to Votaw, Bandea wrote, 'The main reason that I want to qualify is because I believe I'm as good as anybody on the LPGA Tour and it would be an awesome experience to play in your tournaments. These girls rock -- and I want to rock, too!'
While Annika Sorenstam is the dominant force on the women's tour, an exciting group of teenagers is coming through the ranks. The 15-year-old Wie has contended in several majors, including a runner-up finish to Sorenstam at the LPGA Championship two weekends ago. Eighteen-year-old Paula Creamer became the second-youngest winner in tour history last month.
Bandea was on the course Tuesday, attempting to qualify for a spot in the men's U.S. Public Links championship.
'I want to play in some LPGA tournaments,' Bandea said. 'It would be fun to see if I can qualify. The worst I can do is lose.'
Bandea is home-schooled by her mother, Becky, who holds a masters degree in education. The teenager plans to take some college courses next year through online programs and by attending classes.
There are numerous examples of young athletes burning themselves out by taking on too much, too soon. Bandea isn't worried about tumbling down that path, insisting that she approaches sports with the proper perspective.
'It's a game,' she said. 'You don't burn out playing Monopoly.'
The 5-foot-8 Bandea admittedly needs a lot of work on her putting, but her 280-yard drives compare favorably with male competitors.
'When I'm on the putting green with guys, it feels kind of weird. That's not my greatest thing,' she said. 'But when I'm on the driving range, I'm fine, because I can drive it past them.'
If the LPGA rejects her request for Q-school, Bandea simply will turn her attention toward male competition. She already feels more comfortable playing from the men's tees.
'Carmen is going to be really competitive in men's golf,' Becky Bandea said. 'If they won't let her play women's golf, she'll just play where she's allowed to play.'
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Battling mono, Kaufman tied for lead at CME
NAPLES, Fla. – Kim Kaufman’s bout with mononucleosis might leave fellow tour pros wanting to catch the fever, too.
A couple months after Anna Nordqvist battled her way into contention at the Women’s British Open playing with mono, and then thrived at the Solheim Cup with it, Kaufman is following suit.
In her first start since being diagnosed, Kaufman posted an 8-under-par 64 Saturday to move into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. It was the low round of the day. She’s bidding to win her first LPGA title.
“I’ve been resting at home for two weeks,” Kaufman said. “Didn’t do anything.”
Well, she did slip on a flight of stairs while recuperating, hurting her left wrist. She had it wrapped Saturday but said that’s mostly precautionary. It didn’t bother her during the round.
“I’m the only person who can take two weeks off and get injured,” Kaufman joked.
Kaufman, 26, left the Asian swing after playing the Sime Darby Malaysia, returning to her home in South Dakota, to see her doctor there. She is from Clark. She was told bed rest was the best thing for her, but she felt good enough to make the trip to Florida for the season-ending event.
“We had some really cold days,” Kaufman said. “We had some snow. I was done with it. I was coming down here.”
How does she feel?
“I feel great,” she said. “I’m a little bit shaky, which isn’t great out there, but it’s great to be here doing something. I was going a little bit stir crazy [at home], just kind of fighting through it.”
Kaufman made eight birdies in her bogey-free round.
New-look Wie eyes CME Group Tour Championship title
NAPLES, Fla. – Michelle Wie is sporting a new look that even has fellow players doing double takes.
Bored during her six-week recovery from an emergency appendectomy late this summer, Wie decided to cut and die her hair.
She went for golden locks, and a shorter style.
“I kind of went crazy after being in bed that long,” Wie said. “I just told my mom to grab the kitchen scissors and just cut all my hair off.”
Wie will get to sport her new look on a big stage Sunday after playing herself into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. With a 6-under-par 66, she is in contention to win her fifth LPGA title, her first since winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago.
Wie, 28, fought her way back this year after two of the most disappointing years of her career. Her rebound, however, was derailed in late August, when she withdrew from the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open to undergo an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.
Before the surgery, Wie enjoyed getting back into contention regularly, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.
Fellow tour pros were surprised when she came back with the new look.
“Definitely, walk by people and they didn’t recognize me,” Wie said.
Wie is looking to continue to build on her resurgence.
“I gained a lot of confidence this year,” she said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun, and that's when I play my best.”
You Oughta Know: LPGA's Sunday scenarios
NAPLES, Fla. – The CME Group Tour Championship is loaded with pressure-packed subplots Sunday at Tiburon Golf Club.
Here’s what You Oughta Know about the prizes at stake:
Race to the CME Globe
Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park are 1-2 in CME Globe points. They are best positioned Sunday to take home the $1 million jackpot in the season-long competition.
Thompson and Park are tied for fifth in the tournament, one shot off the lead. If either of them wins, she will take home the jackpot.
The way it’s unfolding Thompson is a good bet to take home the jackpot by merely finishing ahead of Park, unless they both stumble badly on Sunday.
Ariya Jutanugarn is also one shot off the lead. She must win to take home the jackpot, but she would also need Thompson to finish ninth or worse and Park to finish eighth or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points to make a bold Sunday charge.
Stacy Lewis is one shot off the lead with a longshot chance at the jackpot. She must win the tournament while Thompson finishes 26th or worse, Park finishes 12th or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points makes a bold Sunday charge.
So Yeon Ryu and Shanshan Feng are among others who still have a shot at the $1 million prize, but they have fallen back in the pack and need bold Sunday charges to take home the jackpot.
Rolex Player of the Year
The Rolex Player of the Year Award remains a four-player race.
Ryu (162), Feng (159), Park (157) and Thompson (147) all have a chance to win the award.
Park and Thompson are best positioned to make Sunday moves to overtake Ryu.
Park needs to finish sixth or better to win the award outright; Thompson needs to win the tournament to win the award.
It’s simple math.
The top 10 in the tournament will be awarded points.
1st - 30 points
2nd – 12 points
3rd – 9 points
4th – 7 points
5th – 6 points
6th – 5 points
7rd – 4 points
8th – 3 points
9th – 2 points
10th – 1 point
Thompson took a 69.147 scoring average to Naples. Park needs to finish nine shots ahead of Thompson to have a shot at the trophy.
Park leads the tour in money winnings with $2,262,472. Ryu is the only player who can pass her Sunday, and Ryu must win the tournament to do so. Ryu is tied for 32nd, five shots off the lead. If Ryu wins the tournament, she also needs Park to finish worse than solo second.
Rolex world No. 1 ranking
World No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Park and No. 3 Ryu are separated by just three hundredths of a point.
Because they are so close, the scenarios for overtaking Feng are head spinning.
At No. 4, Thompson is a full average ranking point behind Feng, but she could become the sixth different player this season to move to No. 1. Thompson, however, has to win Sunday to have a chance to do so, and then it will depend on what Feng, Park and Ryu do. Again, the scenarios are complex.
Cook leads RSM Classic by three at Sea Island
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to increase his lead to three strokes in the RSM Classic.
Cook, a shot ahead after a second-round 62, had five birdies and a bogey - his first of the week - to reach 18-under 194 with a round left at Sea Island Golf Club's Seaside Course.
''Putting is key right now,'' Cook said. ''Been able to make a lot of clutch putts for the pars to save no bogeys. Hitting the ball pretty much where we're looking and giving ourselves good opportunities on every hole.''
Former University of Georgia player Chris Kirk was second after a 64.
''I'm really comfortable here,'' Kirk said. ''I love Sea Island. I lived here for 6 1/2 years, so I played the golf course a lot, SEC Championships and come down here for the RSM Classic. My family and I, we come down here a few other times a year as well.''
Brian Gay was another stroke back at 14 under after a 69.
''I love the course,'' Gay said. ''We keep getting different wind directions so it's keeping us on our toes. Supposed to be another completely different wind direction tomorrow, so we're getting a new course every day.''
J.J. Spaun had a 62 to get to 13 under.
''I just kind of played stress-free golf out there and kept the golf ball in front of me,'' Spaun said. ''I had a lot of looks and scrambled pretty well, even though it was only a handful of times, but pretty overall pleased with how I played today.''
Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. The 26-year-old former Arkansas player earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour.
''I think with an extra year on the Web this past year, I really grew mentally and with my game, just kind of more confidence,'' Cook said. ''I was able to put myself in contention on the Web.com more this year than I have in the past. I think I've just, you know, learned from experiences on the Web to help me grow out here.''
He planned to keep it simple Saturday night.
''I've got my parents here and my in-laws are both here as well as my wife,'' Cook said. ''Go home and just have a good home-cooked meal and just kind of enjoy the time and embrace the moment.''
Kirk won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2015 at Colonial.
''It's nice to be back in contention again,'' Kirk said. ''It's been a little while for me. But I felt great out there today, I felt really comfortable, and so hopefully it will be the same way tomorrow and I'll keep my foot on the pedal and stay aggressive, try to make some birdies.''