Youth a Major Part of This Major Championship

By Associated PressJune 26, 2007, 4:00 pm
2007 U.S. WomenSOUTHERN PINES, N.C. -- Michelle Wie had reason to feel old, and it had nothing to do with sore wrists and high scores.
 
On her way to Pine Needles for the U.S. Women's Open, she drove past Legacy Golf Links, where the 17-year-old from Hawaii played her first tournament on the mainland at the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links.
 
She was 10.
 
It was the first time she could remember not being able to see the ocean. The first time she went to the practice range and the golf balls were not yellow with a black stripe. She remembers crying after every shot, something she laughs about now.
 
How long ago does that seem?
 
'I kept thinking it was like four years ago,' Wie said Tuesday. 'But that would only make me 14. It was actually seven years ago. It kind of makes me feel a little bit old now.'
 
In an area steeped in Southern hospitality where no one is in a hurry, time sure flies.
 
Just ask Morgan Pressel.
 
She returned to Pine Needles as the youngest major champion in LPGA Tour history. Six years ago, she showed up as a 13-year-old in braces, the youngest qualifier in U.S. Women's Open history. One of her biggest thrills was meeting Karrie Webb and Lorie Kane, and having girls only a few years younger asking for her autograph.
 
'I remember I practiced my autograph in the car,' Pressel said. 'I had all these different variations of it. Which one am I going to use? And it's totally changed since then.'
 
Then she smiled at the memory.
 
'Yeah, it's cute,' she added.
 
But it's no longer a novelty.
 
Pressel isn't even in the record books anymore.
 
She was replaced this year by Alexis Thompson, who is not among the 24 teenagers at Pine Needles because she's only 12. She shot rounds of 71-72 to become the youngest qualifier in tournament history.
 
Webb never would have seen this coming.
 
She thought she did well to win the Women's British Open (before it counted as a major) at age 20, and earn her LPGA Tour card in her first attempt that year despite playing with a broken bone in her hand.
 
Webb won the U.S. Women's Open the last time it was held at Pine Needles in 2001, and while she'll never forget that feeling of hoisting the biggest prize in her sport, she also remembers all the attention early in the week on Pressel.
 
'I tried to think of myself as a 13-year-old and how far away I was from ever thinking about competing in the U.S. Open,' Webb said. 'It was one of those things where you thought that's a one-off. You're not going to see a 13-year-old play the U.S. Open very often.'
 
To quote one of those teens, 'Oh, yeah?'
 
Two years later, Webb teed it up with two 13-year-olds at the U.S. Women's Open -- Wie and Sydney Burlison. Pressel returned that year as a grizzled veteran at age 15. Paula Creamer made her major championship debut at age 16.
 
Since then, the numbers have been rising.
 
There were five teenagers in the field at Pine Needles in 2001, then 14 at Pumpkin Ridge in 2003 and 25 teens last year at Newport.
 
'I think definitely in this country, there's a premium on picking one sport so that you get a free education,' Webb said.
 
That would mean a college scholarship, but why bother with college?
 
Creamer won her first LPGA Tour event a week before her she went through high school commencement. Pressel turned down a scholarship to Duke because she wanted to be a pro and saw no point in waiting.
 
For Thompson, golf runs in the family.
 
She was 5 when she first started to play in Coral Gables, Fla., inspired by her brothers. One of them, Nicholas, is on the Nationwide Tour and played in the Walker Cup. Another brother, 17-year-old Curtis, qualified for the U.S. Junior Amateur.
 
She is home-schooled and will be in the seventh grade next year. Her favorite TV shows are 'Hannah Montana' and anything on the Disney Channel. In her spare time at Pine Needles, she goes to the pet store to cuddle the cats.
 
Does she belong at the toughest test in women's golf?
 
Absolutely.
 
Pressel only had to go through an 18-hole qualifier to get in six years ago. The USGA brought equity to women's golf a short time later, so Thompson not only had to make it through an 18-hole local qualifier, but 36 holes of sectional qualifying.
 
Asked about her expectations this week, Thompson said she would try to post something around 74 or 75, which might be asking a lot on a course where she has to hit fairway metals into the green on at least six of the holes.
 
'Hopefully, I make the cut,' she said. 'If I don't, it's all right.'
 
The only downside for Thompson or any other teenager at the U.S. Women's Open is to take themselves too seriously. She earned her spot in the field through 54 holes of qualifying, and no one expects much more.
 
'Just go out and have fun,' Pressel said. 'It's a great experience. It was a great experience for me. I'm sure if we come back here in another six years or so, she'll hopefully have the same experience, to look back and say, 'Wow!' She might not realize it until then, or another five years down the road to just say, 'Wow, I actually played in this championship when I was 12.' It's pretty cool.'
 
By then, 12 might be considered old.
 
Related Links:
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    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."

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    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

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    Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together


    Ace at 17th at Sawgrass


    Growing family

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

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    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

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    Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

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