Nirapathpongporn Wins Futures Tour Event
But NP3, as she is often called for expediency, earned her first professional title today at the $70,000 Jalapeno Futures Golf Classic. And she did it by firing a four-under-par 68 in the final round at Palm View Golf Course, holding off Becky Lucidi of Poway, Calif., who finished second with a closing round of six-under 66. For 54 holes, Nirapathpongporn toured Palm View at 12-under-par 204, edging Lucidi at 205 (-11).
And while many have wondered why the player with the most decorated golf resume on the Futures Golf Tour has taken so long to win her first pro title, the former NCAA champion and U.S. Women's Amateur champion has a simple explanation.
'I don't like to skip a step in anything,' said the native of Bangkok, Thailand. 'As frustrated as I might have seemed last year, I wasn't quite ready to be there yet. Everybody was like, 'You've won on every level, so why haven't you won?' But maybe I wasn't ready. I think I needed all of that time to get ready for the next level.'
Nirapathpongporn came into the week with more than a golf tournament on her mind. Earlier this month, she went home to compete in the Thailand Ladies Open outside of Bangkok. The local favorite finished tied for seventh and enjoyed a week in which her likeness was splashed on posters throughout the city.
'She's kind of like a rock star over there,' said fellow Futures Tour member Libby Smith of Essex Junction, Vt., who also played in the Thailand Ladies Open. 'Her face was everywhere.'
But two days later, the golf pro found herself at home with her family, gripping the cruel reality of leukemia. Her father, Dr. Apichart Nirapathpongporn, a retired surgeon, succumbed to the disease on April 5. Stunned, the young pro spent the next week with her family about as far from golf as she could get.
Word slowly spread among her Futures Tour peers that the popular player's father was gone and many were surprised to see Nirapathpongporn arrive in Texas three weeks later. On Wednesday, as tough as she is, the wave of pain swept over her. Her voice quivered and she had tears in her eyes as she tried to wear the necessary game face and yet deal with an aching desire to be with her family so far away.
'We were trying to balance between letting her heal, letting her grieve and trying to play tournament golf,' said caddie Chris McCalmont, who celebrated the same birthday as his player last Thursday. 'On Wednesday, she cried for an hour, and then she said she was ready to play. For her to win today says a lot about how strong she is.'
Nirapathpongporn must have drawn deep from something bigger than sheer human will when she carded a first-round 66 on Friday to charge into second behind frontrunner Nicole Castrale of Palm Desert, Calif., who set the pace on the par-72, 6,381-yard course with an opening 65. By Saturday, NP3 had moved to the top of the leaderboard at eight-under 136 with a 70 in the second round.
'I don't know how I did it,' Nirapathpongporn said. 'I wasn't sure how I was going to be able to focus. On Friday, I felt like I could burst at any time. So whenever I had a thought about my dad, I wouldn't let myself think it. I felt it would do no one any good. I knew this was going to be a different kind of preparation this week, but I said, 'I'm going to play.''
And that, she did.
The heady four-time All-American from Duke University started today's final round with a two-shot lead and gradually put three shots between herself, Castrale and Lucidi. Nirapathpongporn was the center of a University of Southern California sandwich against the former Trojan college roommates, but she didn't get rattled even when Lucidi, herself a former U.S. Women's Amateur champion (2002), rammed in consecutive 12-foot birdies on holes six and seven.
A distant chaser, Sun Young Yoo of Seoul, Korea, fired a career-low final-round score of 65 to charge into third place at 207 (-9). The 18-year-old rookie hit 16 greens and rolled in 28 putts to move within three shots of Nirapathpongporn.
But while putts wouldnt fall for Castrale, the afternoon had largely turned into a nose-to-nose competition between Lucidi and Nirapathpongporn.
Lucidi never backed down, cranking her drive on the par-5, 488-yard 10th hole, cutting a 3-wood to 12 feet, then holing another 12-footer for an eagle-3 to catch the leader. But the Thai player calmly pitched to 1 feet on the 10th hole and carded a birdie to stay one shot ahead. With six holes to play, she birdied Nos. 13 and 16, stumbling only on the par-three 17th hole when she pushed her 4-iron tee shot pin-high right and didn't get up and down for par.
'I tried to swing too easy,' said Nirapathpongporn of the shot that trimmed her lead to only one stroke with one hole to play. 'I told myself, 'Don't worry. Do your thing and you'll be just fine.''
With the chance of a possible playoff looming, Lucidi again striped her drive on the final hole and knocked her pitching wedge approach to 18 feet. But the dimpled Californian, playing in her first Futures Tour event, left her putt short, which also left the door open for Nirapathpongporn to finish off that long-awaited first professional win.
'There were quite a few people following us and it was loud and awesome out there,' said Lucidi. 'Unfortunately, on that last hole, I forgot to hit my putt.'
Nirapathpongporn's walk to the 18th green today must have seemed like a dream to the Thai player, who arrived at the David Leadbetter Golf Academy as a 15-year old. She came to America to follow a dream and the timing coincided with a downturn in Thailand's economy that put a pinch even on the budgets of two parents who were physicians.
'It was difficult then and I put a lot of pressure on myself because I wanted to do well for my parents,' she recalled. 'But I worked my way through it. That's me. I struggled with English, with golf, with everything, but it was more rewarding at the end.'
And at the end of today's inaugural Jalapeno Futures Golf Classic, Nirapathpongporn stood over her putt. In the distance, she heard a marshal say, 'Stand please' to the excited gallery inching forward. She told herself she'd better get used to marshals, crowds and noise. And she told herself to stay with her shot, to 'finish the day.'
Perhaps more importantly, Nirapathpongporn finished the week -- a grueling test of emotions that started a day before her 23rd birthday and ended with a new tradition of the champion taking a chomp out of one of the jalapeno peppers stuffed inside her crystal trophy. NP3 gamely took the chomp. NP3 was the champ, moving from 27th to second on the season's money list and putting her into position to move on to another dream on the LPGA Tour.
'I'm coming along just the way I planned,' she said after the awards ceremony. 'Of course, life is not so linear. It comes with a lot of challenges, but I think it's a blessing in disguise.'
Golf Channel to Deliver Worldwide Coverage of the 2018 PGA Merchandise Show, "The Major of Golf Business," Tueday-Friday, Jan. 23-26
Morning Drive, Golf Central to Give Viewers Insider Access to the PGA Show with Nearly 20 Hours of Live Coverage; Golf Channel’s School of Golf Instruction Program to Originate From On-Site
Golf Channel’s Portfolio of Lifestyle Brands – GolfNow, Golf Channel Academy, Revolution Golf and World Long Drive On-Site at the PGA Show Contributing to the Network’s Comprehensive Coverage
ORLANDO, Fla. (Jan. 18, 2018) – Golf Channel announced plans for its comprehensive coverage of the 2018 PGA Merchandise Show – the largest golf convention and business gathering in the world – with nearly 20 hours of news and instruction coverage Tuesday, Jan. 23 – Friday, Jan. 26. Golf Channel’s coverage will span across the four days, beginning Tuesday with the “PGA Show Demo Day” from the Orange County National Golf Center & Lodge driving range in Winter Garden, Fla., and continuing Wednesday-Friday at the PGA Merchandise Show from the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando.
With an insider look at the PGA Merchandise Show – a golf industry event that is not open to the public – Golf Channel’s coverage via Morning Drive and Golf Central will be delivered to a worldwide audience in more than 36 countries. Coverage will provide viewers live interviews with industry leaders, professional golfers from the world’s major tours, PGA of America members and a comprehensive overview of the latest products and trends for 2018 from some of the nearly 1,100 golf brands exhibiting on-site.
PGA Merchandise Show Week Programming Schedule: Jan. 23-26 (All Times Eastern)
7-11 a.m. (Live)
5-6 p.m. (Live)
School of Golf
7-11:30 a.m. (Live)
5-6 p.m. (Live)
8:30-11:30 a.m. (Live)
7-8 p.m. (Live)
8:30-11:30 a.m. (Live)
7-8 p.m. (Live)
Golf Channel’s expansive coverage of the PGA Merchandise Show will utilize several on-air personalities from the network’s news division, beginning with Charlie Rymer and Lauren Thompson offering coverage of the PGA Show Outdoor Demo Day on Tuesday. In addition to Rymer and Thompson, Wednesday-Friday coverage from the PGA Show Floor will include Matt Adams, Cara Banks, Lisa Cornwell, Matt Ginella, Damon Hack, Bailey Mosier and Gary Williams.
DIGITAL & STREAMING COVERAGE
Golf Channel’s PGA Merchandise Show on-air coverage will be available to stream via Golf Channel Digital Tuesday-Friday. Comprehensive online editorial coverage also will be available throughout the week, with contributions from writers Jay Coffin and Will Gray. Golf Channel’s social media platforms will keep viewers engaged in the conversation about what’s generating buzz at the #PGASHOW throughout the week via the network’s social media channels – @GolfChannel and @GCMorningDrive on Twitter, @GolfChannel and @GCMorningDrive on Instagram and GolfChannel and GCMorningDrive on Facebook. Golf Channel social media host Alexandra O’Laughlin will host Golf Channel’s digital and social media coverage throughout the week.
PGA SHOW DEMO DAY COVERAGE
Golf Channel’s coverage of “Demo Day” will begin Tuesday, Jan. 23 at 7 a.m. ET with Morning Drive airing live and on-site to highlight the latest in golf equipment from the expansive driving range at Orange County National. Rymer and Thompson will host Morning Drive on-site, featuring interviews and product demonstrations.
PGA MERCHANDISE SHOW FLOOR COVERAGE
Coverage of the PGA Show will transition indoors to the Orange County Convention Center, Wednesday-Friday, Jan. 24-26 to give viewers an all-access tour of the PGA Show. Morning Drive and Golf Central will provide on-site reports throughout the week, with featured interviews and segments originating from the PGA Show Floor. Coverage from the Convention Center will originate from a large, multi-purpose space elevated above the PGA Show Floor, with three set configurations for interviews, along with a putting green and a golf simulator for product demonstrations. Golf Channel also will feature a “Fly Cam,” a unique camera technology made popular in televising football and other sports. Suspended above the PGA Show Floor, the Fly Cam will span more than 700 feet, giving viewers an aerial viewpoint of the vast floor and the exhibitors. New for 2018 will be a “Jib Cart,” a mobile cart with a camera jib affixed allowing high shots of the booths throughout the Show Floor.
SCHOOL OF GOLF KICKS OFF EIGHTH SEASON WITH ONE-HOUR SPECIAL FROM DEMO DAY
School of Golf, Golf Channel’s signature instruction program that airs on Tuesday nights, will kick off its eighth season with a one-hour special at Demo Day on Tuesday, Jan. 23, airing in primetime from 8-9 p.m. ET. Originating from the Cleveland Golf/Srixon/XXIO booth on the Orange County National driving range and hosted by Martin Hall and Blair O’Neal, the show will include special guests and interactions with a live audience.
GOLF CHANNEL’S PORTFOLIO OF LIFESTYLE BRANDS ON-SITE AT PGA SHOW
In addition to Golf Channel’s on-air and digital coverage, the network’s lifestyle brands – GolfNow, World Long Drive, Golf Channel Academy and Revolution Golf will showcase their services at the PGA Show with special clinics, product demonstrations and on-site activations.
GOLFNOW EXHIBITING AT BOOTH #2173
GolfNow, the industry’s leader in golf-related technology and services, will be exhibiting Wednesday-Friday from Booth #2173. In addition to showcasing advanced technologies that have created the largest tee-time marketplace in golf, GolfNow also will be educating course owners and operators about innovations and services designed to help them run their businesses more efficiently and successfully. GolfNow Business experts will be on hand at GolfNow’s 2,400-square-foot booth, offering its course partners technology demonstrations, as well as consultation on any of the GolfNow Services: Plus, a top-line focused consultative performance system for golf courses, including marketing, sales and automated pricing; Answers, a call center for golf courses, answering customer calls day and night; and Ride, a no-cost purchasing program that saves course operators from 6-35 percent on items they buy day-to-day, such as food, office supplies and agricultural products.
WORLD LONG DRIVE BRACKET CHALLENGE
Thursday at 2 p.m. ET, World Long Drive competitors will be at the PGA Show to compete in a World Long Drive Bracket Challenge. Hosted by Golf Channel’s social media host Alexandra O’Laughlin and airing live via Golf Channel’s Facebook Live, the competition will take place at Golf Channel’s simulator on the Show Floor featuring eight men and four women, including World No. 2 Ryan Reisbeck, No. 3 Maurice Allen, No. 5 Trent Scruggs and 2017 Volvik World Long Drive Women’s Champion Sandra Carlborg.
GOLF CHANNEL ACADEMY INSTRUCTION
Wednesday-Friday, Golf Channel Academy coaches will provide on-site instruction clinics at Golf Channel’s simulator set on the Show Floor. Wednesday’s clinics will feature driving, full swing, wedge play and putting clinics. Thursday’s clinic will include the full swing and Friday’s clinic will feature the short game, all streamed live via Golf Channel Academy’s Facebook page.
REVOLUTION GOLF TO SHOOT DIGITAL INSTRUCTION SEGMENTS ON-SITE AT PGA SHOW
Revolution Golf, the industry’s largest direct-to-consumer digital platform delivering high-quality video-based instruction, travel content and integrated e-commerce will have a significant presence at the PGA Show. Golf Channel’s newest digital acquisition, Revolution Golf will be shooting digital segments at Demo Day and throughout the PGA Show Floor, including segments with its team of instructors.
CareerBuilder purse payouts: Rahm wins $1.062 million
Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry on the fourth hole of sudden death to win the CareerBuilder Challenger. Here's a look at how the purse was paid out in La Quinta, Calif.:
|T20||Charles Howell III||-14||$57,754|
|T36||Tyrone Van Aswegen||-12||$27,189|
|T69||Billy Hurley III||-6||$11,623|
After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time
Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.
On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...
Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).
Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.
It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard
On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...
There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.
He sure looks like the real deal, though.
His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.
Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner
Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2
With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.
He picked up one more No. 2, too.
The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.
In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.
Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.
“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”
Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.
Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.
He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.