First Steps of Future Champions

By Lisa D. MickeyMarch 22, 2004, 5:00 pm
Futures TourThe Futures Golf Tour kicked off its 2004 season and a first-time winner emerged to take her first steps toward the LPGA. Kimberly Adams of Canada won the Lakeland Futures Golf Classic, the first of 18 tournaments in this years schedule. She won in front of a gallery of wintering fellow Canadians and she beat her closest competition from Korea and Chile by four shots.
 
But Kim Adams, like PGA Tour first-time winner Todd Hamilton, who won the Honda Classic on the same Sunday, isnt exactly a household name. She hasnt moved up to the first-name category, like Annika, Nancy, Tiger, Jack and Arnold. And shes not getting rich, either. With a $9,100 winners check for her 11-under-par score of 205, she earned about one percent of Hamiltons $900,000 for his inaugural PGA Tour win. She played 54 holes; he played 72. She earned almost $10,000; he earned nearly one million bucks for a weeks work.
 
But whos counting? And what does it really mean for Kim Adams to be a member of the Futures Tour, the official developmental tour of the LPGA? Isnt laboring in obscurity and traveling the highways in a Volkswagen part of the process? Isnt eating a regular menu of humble pie and logging ridiculous hours on the practice green as necessary as coming to the first tee with a game face? For developing pros, absolutely.
 
The New Brunswick native is one of 316 members on this years Futures Tour and she is one of the numerous international players here in the United States who graduated from U.S. collegiate golf to the minor leagues. Twenty-nine nations are represented on this years tour and all have come here with the same goal: theyre here for the opportunity to improve their skills in the game and to advance to the next level.
 
Players range in age, with the youngest being Thai teen Naree Song at 17 (her twin sister, Aree, plays on the LPGA Tour) to mid-to-late 40s with some players returning to competitive golf after their children are grown. They all hope to finish in the top five on the money list to earn one of the five automatic exempt LPGA Tour cards awarded at the end of the season. Those cards are carrots, looming larger than dollars for these developing players, and they are the motivator for every hour they log along the nearly 9,000 highway miles linking this years tournament stops.
 
While theyre not yet coddled by corporations and dont fly on private jets from tournament to tournament, these young players are getting rich on experience and opportunity. They are here to grow up, to develop their golf games and learn their way around a big country. Some of them will learn to speak English. All of them will learn that pro-ams might just become one of the most important days of the week for their future with Corporate America. And all of them will learn how to live out of a suitcase to pursue the goal of playing professional tournament golf.
 
Great careers and personal legacies start somewhere. On the Futures Tour, it might start in Wichita or Morgantown, W.Va., but even Karrie Webb, Laura Davies, Dottie Pepper, Grace Park, Beth Bauer and Lorena Ochoa traveled these same highways to get to the highest heights on the LPGA Tour. They werent the first and they wont be the last.
 
Its hard not to be put off by local media who come to Futures Tour tournaments and ask which members of the LPGA Tour are in the field. Usually a good half-dozen or more non-exempt LPGA Tour members are in every field, looking for a place to play and the chance to improve their full LPGA Tour status while competing alongside the future stars on their way up. But while those LPGA players might be more recognizable, they arent shoo-ins to win. These tour veterans are now playing against young pros who have everything to gain and nothing to lose. They are facing hungry beginning pros who dont have an archive of negative thoughts that get in the way of success. They are facing young spirits that are hungry to move past the learning stage en route to the proving ground. And there is usually a waiting list of 50 or more players, just itching for the chance to play.
 
Sure, womens golf needs the Annikas to continue advancing the female side of the sport on the medias radar. But it also needs the developmental tour ' a place where future champions learn to win. Without the minors, there would be no major league. Thats true in baseball and thats certainly true in golf. And while the glamour still resides on the wealthiest pro tours, theres something very pure, very fundamental about professional golf in its infancy and young champions just learning to take their first winning steps.
 
Editors Note: Lisa D. Mickey is the director of communications for the Futures Golf Tour and a longtime member of the national golf media. For more information, about the Futures Tour, contact lisa@futurestour.com or visit futurestour.com.
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Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.


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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x