On the eve of nationals, Big Break gals share wisdom with Am Tour competitors

By Mike BaileySeptember 10, 2012, 2:27 am

Stephanie Sparks and Charlie Rymer with Big Break's Shannon Fish, Alison Micheletti entertain the crowd on the eve of the Golf Channel Am Tour National Championships. 

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- On the eve of the Golf Channel Amateur Tour National Championship's open division, the competitors got a little bit of advice from a few players who recently learned a thing or two about playing under pressure.

At a dinner welcoming a record 636 players to the 2012 event, four of the dozen women of this year's Big Break Atlantis were special guests and shared their experiences, hopes and dreams with the packed ballroom at the Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa, which is the host hotel and headquarters for the event.

Christina Stockton was particularly candid about her nerves, which nearly got the best of her at times. She ultimately battled them successfully on Big Break Atlantis, making it all the way to the ninth episode before being eliminated.

'You can be nervous and hit good golf shots,' said Stockton, from Rocklin, Calif. 'You just have to accept your nerves and deal with it.'

Sunday night, the women appeared anything but nervous. Besides Stockton, Big Break Atlantis was also represented on Sunday night by Shannon Fish of Spring, Texas, Allison Micheletti of St. Louis, and Selanee Henderson of Apple Valley, Calif. All were poised, articulate and seemed at ease being interviewed by hosts Charlie Rymer and Stephanie Sparks of the Golf Channel, no doubt helped by experiences on Big Break.

Sparks, a former professional player herself, has hosted Big Break for 14 seasons, while Rymer can also list hosting the Golf Channel's popular reality show on his resume. Also on stage Sunday night was Big Break director Paul Schlegel, who shared with the audience how the producers came up with the show, which just finished its 18th season.

'It was basically survival golf,' he said. 'But in the end, it's about making somebody's dream come true.'

Fish, a former all-American at the University of Texas, said getting eliminated in the second week of the show was one of the most difficult things she's ever dealt with, but 'I'm getting on with it,' she said. This week, she successfully made it through the first stage of LPGA Qualifying School.

At the conclusion of the dinner, Rymer had a suggestion for the competitors when they play the Dye Valley Course at the TPC Sawgrass, one of four courses used in the rotation this week.

'I hear the rough is a little up on the Valley Course because they've got a Web.com Tour event (Wynn-Dixie Jacksonville Open) in the next few weeks,' he said. 'I've got a little advice for you. Just chip it out to the fairway. There's nothing wrong with that.'

All kinds of players this week

Including the senior division of the Golf Channel Am Tour National Championships, which just concluded, there are 1,136 competitors playing. They range from ages 16-79 and come from all walks and all parts of the continent.

Headlining the open division are two former major league baseball pitchers -- former St. Louis Cardinals and Oakland Athletics pitcher Mark Mulder and four-time World Series championship pitcher Orlando :El Duque' Hernandez.

'I'm looking forward to playing in my second Golf Channel Am Tour National Championships against so many good players from around the country and testing myself at TPC Sawgrass, one of the best courses that the pros play on Tour,' said Mulder, who shared the first-round lead at the American Century Championship at Lake Tahoe in July en route to a seventh-place finish. 'Trying to put together four good rounds is difficult at any time, much less when you are trying to control your nerves against these good players.'

There are also 23 past champions, who are returning for the national championships, including 10 defending champions. Also included in the roster of past champions are three golfers from the 2010 National Championships that also was contested at TPC Sawgrass: Don Miller (North Bay, Ontario, Canada, Senior Palmer Flight), Randy Adcock (Vidor, Texas, Senior Jones Flight) and Michael Poole (West Chester, Ohio, Snead Flight).

The PLAYERS Stadium Course and neighboring Dye’s Valley Course at TPC Sawgrass, along with Ponte Vedra Inn and Club’s Lagoon and Ocean Courses are serving as host courses.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

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The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.

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''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.

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Defending champ Gana co-leads Latin America Amateur

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 11:20 pm

Toto Gana moved into early position to try to win a return trip to the Masters Saturday by grabbing a share of the first-round lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship.

The defending champ posted a 3-under-par 68 at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Chile, equaling the rounds of Argentina’s Mark Montenegro and Colombia’s Pablo Torres.

They are one shot ahead of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz and Mario Carmona, Argentina’s Horacio Carbonetti and Jaime Lopez Rivarola and the Dominican Republic’s Rhadames Pena.

It’s a bunched leaderboard, with 19 players within three shots of each at the top of the board in the 72-hole event.

“I think I have my game under control,” said Gana, 20, a freshman at Lynn University. “I hit the ball very well, and I also putted very well. So, I am confident about tomorrow.”

The LAAC’s champion will get more than a Masters invitation. He also will be exempt into the The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event he is eligible to play this year. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.