Song Wins on Futures Tour

By Futures Tour MediaMay 29, 2004, 4:00 pm
Futures TourMERRILLVILE, Ind. -- As identical twins, they have always traveled parallel paths. But as golfers, Naree Song often has had to play in the shadow of her slightly older sister, Aree. Not any more.
Naree became the first of the Thai-Korean siblings to win a professional womens golf tournament in the United States at the $70,000 New Innsbrook Country Club Futures Golf Classic, which she won today by two shots. Song blistered the par-72, 6,067-yard course with a tournament record tying 6-under-par 66 in the final round for a 54-hole record of 8-under 208.
I called my dad and told him I won, but I dont think he believed me, said Song, 18, who made her big move on the Futures Golf Tour one week after accepting a sponsors exemption to play with her sister on the LPGA Tour at the Sybase Classic in New York.
Even in jest, thats the way it always has been for Naree.
Aree and Naree Song, formerly known by their mothers Thai name as Aree and Naree Wongluekiet, were long considered child prodigies from the David Leadbetter Academy in Bradenton, Fla. They won so many American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) events that they turned to womens amateur tournaments and LPGA sponsor exemptions long before either could drive a car. Naree won the Florida state high school golf championship as a sixth grader. Aree won the 1999 U.S. Girls Junior Championship.
It was like a perpetual match play of high achievements without the malice of sibling jealousy. Often, the two faced off and most often, Aree won. And every single time that Aree advanced and Naree was forced into the gallery, Naree had nothing but praise and high hopes for her best-friend sister.
I would imagine that its been pretty hard at times, said first-week Futures Tour pro Virada Nirapathpongporn of Bangkok, Thailand, who met the twins at the Leadbetter Academy. Naree is very capable, but shes probably had to stay very patient.
When Aree qualified for the LPGA Tour this year and Naree left the University of Florida after one semester, qualifying for the Futures Golf Tour last fall, the two split for the first time in 17 years ' each with her own goals and new travel schedule. Their new joint plan was for each to be successful on their respective tours and for Naree to earn one of the five LPGA Tour cards awarded to the Futures Tours top five money winners at the end of the season. If their plan works and with an LPGA Tour card in Narees hand, the twins would be together again in 2005 ' this time, on the LPGA Tour.
That would mean a lot to me, as well as to Aree, said Naree. We have a lot more fun together and shes lonely out there.
But nobody thought it would be Naree who would win first ' who would break the ice and show America the prodigies were finally grown up. True, Naree became the first to win a professional title when she won the 2001 Kosaido Thailand Ladies Open as an amateur. But winning stateside in a professional event among players focused on making it to the LPGA was different. Winning against 143 other players as a pro in a global tour was a brand new level.
Shes always followed Aree and shes the most underrated of the three children in their family, said Jeff King, a former instructor at the Leadbetter Academy who now caddies on the LPGA Tour for player Candie Kung. King worked for Song last week on the Futures Tour during his week off and tried to put the win in perspective for the player he has known since she was 11 years old.
This is huge, enormous for Naree, added King. The only thing she has ever needed was to feel comfortable. This win is going to help Naree feel that comfort level.
Song began Saturdays final round at Innsbrook Country Club five shots behind leader Allison Hanna of Portland, Ore. But the player who now calls Seoul, Korea home, chipped in for eagle from 60 feet on the par-5 fifth hole, and birdied two other par-5s ' the sixth and eighth holes to make the turn at 33. When Hanna bogeyed three straight on holes 9, 10 and 11, Song took advantage of the opening with birdies on four of her last seven holes.
Her approach landed two feet above the hole on the tricky 18th green and Song was unable to convert for the final birdie. But it didnt matter. The win was all but official as she waited for the final two groups to finish.
Hanna finished at 2-over 74 for third at 211, and Malinda Johnson of Eau Claire, Wis., squeaked by for second at 210, beating her former college rival for the first time in the first week of their professional careers. Yvonne Cox of Charleston, W.Va., eased in for fourth at 212, at the popular Midwest Tour stop presented by Horseshoe Casino.
Its exciting to play well and when you win, its a bonus, said Song, who will be joined on the Futures Tour in two weeks by her older brother Chan. He plays golf at Georgia Tech and will caddie for his sister for the remainder of the summer.
Song carefully examined the blown-glass winners trophy and smiled at her champions check for $9,800. But even though she joked that her sister will get over it for not being the first of the two to win professionally, she quickly added that her goal ' their plan ' for Naree to move on to the LPGA Tour has taken a big step forward.
Now, the top five is an attainable goal, said Song, who moves to third on the season money list after six events.
And now, the teen prodigy is a professional champion.
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    Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

    By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

    SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

    Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

    He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

    Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

    Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

    The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

    ''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

    Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

    He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

    Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

    Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

    ''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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    13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

    Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

    Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

    “An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

    Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

    Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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    McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

    It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

    Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

    Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    “I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

    Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

    “Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

    This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014. 

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    Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

    Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

    While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

    He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

    "A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

    Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

    "If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."