Youth Being Served on Duramed Futures Tour
It all started when South Korean Song-Hee Kim joined the Duramed FUTURES Tour this year as the first player to take advantage of the Tour's new minimum age requirement of 17. Then the needle moved again when In-Bee Park of Las Vegas, also 17, joined the Tour three weeks ago -- the same week that Kim won her first professional title.
Angela Park of Torrance, Calif., became the third 17-year-old player this season to make her pro debut. She did it last week in Frisco, Texas, following her long-time junior and amateur archrival In-Bee Park to a new level of professional competition. The two have played against each other in American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) tournaments since they were 14, and for Angela, In-Bee has always been the player who pushed her to improve.
'We're friends and In-Bee has helped me become a better player,' said Angela Park, who was born in Brazil to Korean parents and moved to California when she was eight years old. 'But this all started back when my dad cut out a news story about In-Bee and put it on the refrigerator. I knew I'd have to beat her someday.'
That hasn't always been easy, and it didn't happen last week at the Power of a Dream FUTURES Golf Classic in Frisco. In her second tournament as a pro, In-Bee tied for 10th at 212 (-1) on the strength of a three-under-par score of 68 in the final round. Song-Hee and Angela both shot one-over-par final-round scores of 72 to tie for 13th at even-par 213.
But Angela did manage to edge out In-Bee when the two played their final tournament as amateurs on a sponsor's exemption at the LPGA's Kraft Nabisco Championship last month. In-Bee tied for 62nd, while Angela tied for 15th.
'Even at the Kraft Nabisco, I did exactly what I always do and my routine was the same,' said Angela, who lost in the 2005 semifinals of the U.S. Women's Amateur Championship to eventual champion, Morgan Pressel. 'I was really nervous when I had to go to the press room and my hands were sweaty, but it felt special that they were interested in me and how I played.'
Truthfully, many who have followed the successful amateur career of Angela Park are interested in how this new chapter unfolds in her golf career. The senior at Torrance High School, who carries a 3.5 grade point average and is completing an independent study on the road for her high school diploma, was a fixture on the junior circuit. In November 2005, her high school golf team won the California state high school championship and Park finished second individually. Even after the summer tournament season, she won the Robert Trent Jones Junior Championship in Alabama by 10 shots, the Polo Junior Classic match-play tournament in Sea Island, Ga., the Dixie Amateur in Florida, and the Junior Orange Bowl in Miami. She made the cut on a sponsor exemption last month at the LPGA's Safeway International at Superstition Mountain, Ariz., and her performance at the Nabisco served as the curtain call on an extraordinary amateur career.
'I don't regret anything and I played my heart out in every tournament,' said Park. 'I prepared myself well and set my goal to finish in the top 20 at the Kraft Nabisco. I was a little surprised that I pulled it off.'
But Park has been pulling off sparkling finishes for a long time.
'When I first saw her, she was 11 years old and competing with 14-year-olds,' said Duramed FUTURES Tour member Stella Lee, 22, of Seoul, Korea, who tied for 10th in Frisco last week. 'Angela was more mature than other kids her age. But for players like her, age is just a number. When I see young people doing well, I think it's a motivation for everybody to practice harder.'
Second-year Tour member Christine Boucher of Quebec, Canada, said she didn't have the courage to turn pro as a teenager. 'It takes a lot of guts to come out here and play well and to achieve what you want to do,' she said. 'Angela is really consistent and she doesn't miss any greens, no matter which club she has in her hands. It's pretty amazing.'
Even her coach, Don Brown, director of instruction at Harbor Practice Center in Wilmington, Calif., marvels when the teen beats him and his buddies most of the time.
'I took her to Riviera Country Club and she played from the white tees and shot a 71,' said Brown, who has worked with Angela for five years. 'And in a recent match against me, she was nine-under after 14 holes and shot a 63. She can really stripe her irons. I've been impressed with her for years.'
Of course, with good grades and good golf skills, Park received scholarship offers from such schools as the University of Southern California and UCLA the minute coaches were allowed by NCAA guidelines to contact her. Park weighed the decision to play college golf against turning professional. Her father asked what was the goal in her life and Park made her choice.
'That decision came to me very easily because I knew what I wanted,' she said. 'I think I made the right decision. I can go to college whenever I want.'
Brown wanted his young student to give college golf a try, but she had already made up her mind.
'I think when she saw Paula Creamer and Julieta Granada do well on the LPGA Tour, it made her think she could do it, too,' said Brown. 'She had played with those two a lot.'
It also mattered that her old friend In-Bee had also decided to bypass college and move right to the pros. The two talked about their respective decisions to turn professional while they were at the Kraft Nabisco Championship. They even talked about meeting each other in the final pairing on Sunday at the major championship.
'She's going to be good as a pro, just like she was in the juniors,' said In-Bee of her friend. 'Angela is a really solid, very consistent player. She's the same age as I am and we're going to see each other a lot. It will be really fun.'
And for golf fans, it will be fun to watch this budding rivalry that is destined to take on a new dimension during the 2006 Duramed FUTURES Tour season. It will be Park vs. Park, teen youth vs. Tour experience, and fearlessness times three. With a clean canvas before them to create anything they like during this rookie season, the potential is unlimited for what these young pros can accomplish.
'I think it can only be a good thing for both In-Bee and Angela, especially as long as they both can keep improving,' said Brown.
How does Angela Park feel about the attention she has received by turning professional and how will that pressure affect her and the game she has loved since age nine?
'I block out pressure and I'm not going to get caught up satisfying other people's needs,' she said. 'I know golf will change now that I'm a pro, but every time I watch pros play golf on TV, I think they take it way too seriously. You can't think about how much that four-footer is worth and you can't chase the money. You have to let the money chase you. And you have to manipulate the pressure and make it your own.'
Park admires top-ranked Annika Sorenstam for the way she has set goals in her career and hopes to emulate the Swedish star's methods.
'If you have no goal, there's no journey,' Park said. 'And when you do have a goal, you're not just going with the flow. If I didn't think I could win, I'd still be at home going to school and watching TV.'
Park will graduate on time this year with her traveling classroom assignments, but she will miss her class's graduation on June 21, as she plays Tour events in Ohio and Illinois. She was given permission by her father that she could fly back home for her graduation, but Park declined.
'That was my decision because my life is about golf right now and I know there will be some sacrifices,' she said. 'I was brought up to do the best I can at everything I do and I think it would be better for me to be prepared for the tournaments I enter.'
That's not exactly the answer most 17-year-olds would have when it comes to the milestone of marching at graduation and turning the mortarboard tassel with their peers. But then again, neither is Park's reason for loving golf.
'I love the frustration of golf,' she said. 'It's almost like life. You can't always be happy or satisfied and it's a constant challenge. If it were easy, everyone would be good at it. Playing good, playing bad -- that's the fun of it all.'
And watching the professional career unfold for this teen talent will be even more enjoyable for anyone who believes that records are made to be broken.
What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm
Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:
Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red
Ball: TaylorMade TP5x
Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff
Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.
While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.
Watching Andrew Landry and Jon Rahm in playoff. Walking off tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me ? Talking at all. ?— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.
0 words— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The issue is I don’t want to make you a bit relaxed or comfortable. High pressure, good.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you watch the end of the NFL games yesterday ? Enough said.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
I didn’t say you couldn’t be friends and competitive. But in a playoff, 1 tiny mistake and you lose, and that devastated me. Friends before and after, competitors during play.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you win ? It’s all about surviving the competition to test yourself.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.
Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over
The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.
As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.
Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.
And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.
And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.
McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.
The Ryder Cup topped his list.
Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.
When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.
“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”
McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.
Or similar assertions from TV analysts.
“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”
European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.
And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.
The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.
Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.
And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.
Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.
The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.
The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.
More bulletin board material, too.
Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.
Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions
Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.
The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.
It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.
The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.
“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”
Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.