Outgoing Votaw Receives Patty Berg Award
At a roast attended by nearly 300 colleagues, family and friends, the outgoing LPGA commissioner was surprised with the presentation of the Patty Berg Award in recognition of his many contributions to women's golf.
The award, instituted in 1979 by the LPGA Board of Directors, is named in honor of LPGA Founder Patty Berg. Votaw, who officially ended his seven-year commissionership last week at The Solheim Cup, has dedicated nearly a third of his life to advancing the LPGA.
'The entire evening was an unforgettable experience,' said Votaw. 'But to be surprised with the Patty Berg Award at the end of the night was icing on the cake, the honor of a lifetime. One of the most rewarding aspects of my time as commissioner has been getting to know and appreciate the founders and all they have done for the LPGA, golf and women's sports. To receive an award from one of those founders, the great Patty Berg, leaves me humbled and deeply grateful. I couldn't have asked for a better farewell.'
At the roast, LPGA Tour and World Golf Halls of Fame member Judy Rankin, who received the Patty Berg Award in 1999, spoke on behalf of Berg. Votaw then went into the audience to receive the award from Berg, 87.
Other Patty Berg Award recipients in attendance Saturday night included David Foster (1986); Judy Dickinson (1992); Charles S. Mechem Jr. (1994); Judy Bell (1997); Louise Suggs (2000); and Pat Bradley (2001).
From the time he joined the LPGA in 1991 as general counsel, Votaw has played a key role in strengthening the LPGA's position as the leading women's sports organization in the world and has guided the organization through one of the most successful periods in its history. Through his leadership, he has provided the LPGA with a strong foundation for future growth and prosperity, significantly raised the LPGA's profile and image and created a healthier more robust fan-base for the organization.
Votaw's strategic vision and Fans First plan have made the following achievements for the LPGA possible:
* Highest total purse ($45.1 million) and highest average purse ($1.4 million);
* Highest number of $1 million (30) and $2 million events (4);
* Every domestic full-field event at least $1 million;
* Highest contribution to player retirement plan in LPGA history;
* Higher attendance and viewership;
* Through establishment of the one-in-four policy for players, field strength averaged 7 of the top 10, 15 of the top 20 and 23 of the top 30 players the past two years;
* Finalized five-year partnerships with two major TV partners (The Golf Channel and ESPN);
* Finalized the highest TV rights fee in LPGA history with SBS and solidified partnership for the next five years;
* Sports Business Journal Sponsorship Report Card in 1999 and 2003 - LPGA ranked No. 1 sports property in several categories (and significant improvements in categories from 1999-2003);
* Establishment of the first-ever World Congress of Women's Golf and forthcoming world rankings for women's golf;
* Staging of the first-ever LPGA Player Summit in 2002 and the establishment of the LPGA's Fans First business plan/Five Points of Celebrity;
* Unveiling of The LPGA Playoffs at The ADT, the first-ever playoff system in golf.
Votaw announced his resignation in January and has been instrumental in the transition of leadership to Carolyn Bivens, who officially takes the role of commissioner today. Votaw was named LPGA commissioner in March 1999, and his seven-year tenure was the second-longest in LPGA history.
The Patty Berg Award is given to an individual who, like Berg, exemplifies diplomacy, sportsmanship, goodwill and contributions to the game of golf. Past recipients of the award are: Marilynn Smith (1979); Betsy Rawls (1980); Ray Volpe (1984); Dinah Shore (1985); David Foster (1986); Kathy Whitworth (1987); John D. Laupheimer (1988); Patty Berg (1990); Karsten Solheim (1991); Judy Dickinson (1992); Kerry Graham (1993); Charles S. Mechem Jr. (1994); Suzanne Jackson (1996); Judy Bell (1997); Judy Rankin (1999); Louise Suggs (2000); Pat Bradley (2001); Patty Sheehan (2002); and Annika Sorenstam (2003).
Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore
Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.
Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.
There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.
Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.
The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.
Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again
Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.
Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.
It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.
Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.
While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.
McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call
Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.
Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.
The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.
McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.
McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.
Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title
The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.
Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.
Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.
Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.
Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.