Damron Dazzling Up North

By Marty HenwoodJuly 25, 2003, 4:00 pm
VICTORIA, British Columbia -- American Patrick Damron finds himself in unfamiliar territory as he carries the lead into Saturdays third round of the Canadian Tours Victoria Open.
 
The Canadian Tour rookie, who carried a two-shot lead into the second round, didnt bend under the pressure Friday, posting a 3-under 67. His 36-hole total of 10-under 130 is two shots clear of Steve Schneiter of Utah. Former PGA Tour champion Richard Zokol of White Rock, B.C., drained a 30-foot birdie putt on the final hole to come in at 7-under 133.
 
A total of 66 players made the cut with a two-day total of 2'over 142 or better.
 
Damron, the younger brother of PGA winner Robert, has made three of five cuts in his rookie campaign and has not finished higher than 13th. Robert Damron played on the Canadian Tour back in 1996, and the experience was something he was able to pass on to his younger brother, advising him to kick off his professional career north of the border. The suggestion was echoed by longtime Tour member Kevin Baker, one of Damrons closest friends.
 
I play with Kevin almost every day, and both he and Robert told me to come up here, it was the best place to get the experience and improve your game, said the 24-year-old. Ive met a lot of the guys out here before, and you know you are going to have to play well to win.
 
Schneiter played on the Canadian Tour from 1992 through 1994 before plying his trade on what is now known as the Nationwide Tour for the next four seasons. With no place to play this year, he was urged by good friend and Canadian Tour player Brad Sutterfield to request a sponsors exemption into this event. He has attended PGA Tour Qualifying School for 16 consecutive seasons but has never been able to play full-time on golfs biggest stage.
 
With Saturdays always referred to as moving day in the world of golf, Schneiter wouldnt bite when asked if he would rather be the hunter or the hunted heading into round three.
 
Its always fun to come from a little bit behind and sneak up on someone, but you cant think like that. Ill take what I can get. Im just going to stay in the present and worry about my own game.
 
As he sails off into unchartered waters Saturday, Damron admits he is looking forward to the challenge of playing with Zokol, a seasoned pro who happens to be a friend of his brother. While he isnt sure how he will react playing in the final group, he seems to like the feeling a whole lot better than the alternative.
 
Well I like the idea of being chased, since usually its me doing the chasing, added Damron. I just want to go out there and keep doing what Ive been doing. Who am I to say? Ive never been in this position before. Id like to try it from here and see what happens.
 
Harris, with four second place finishes in the past year, once again finds himself sniffing around the top of the leaderboard. A thunderous roar echoed throughout Royal Colwood Friday when Harris, wearing a microphone for a Golf Channel broadcast, aced the 175-yard, par-3 13th, his fourth hole of the day. Despite hitting a couple of speed bumps later in the round, including a double-bogey six on number three, Harris feels confident heading into Saturday.
 
I took my lumps where I did, now I just have to get ready for the weekend, he said. Theres just two good rounds left and I can walk away with the trophy Sunday.
 
Schneiter had a rollercoaster round himself, carding five birdies with a pair of bogeys. His day was typified on the par-5 15th beginning with an errant tree shot that sailed left and landed a foot from the base of a tree. Kneeling down, Schneiter then backhanded a chip onto the fairway before cranking a 3-iron left once again. He then pulled off his shot of the day, chipping his fourth stroke over a bunker, with the ball bouncing off the bank of a hill and rolling to within five feet of the cup to save par.
 
That was certainly an up and down round, said Schneiter. It was pretty adventurous, but I just hung in there. That 15th hole was a grind, and I was lucky to get out with par.
 
If things dont work out this weekend, Schneiter will head over to the mainland and try to qualify for next weeks Greater Vancouver Classic on Monday. With a win here, he will be exempted through the end of the 2005 season. He can board the ferry to Vancouver Sunday night $28,000 richer, and knowing he doesnt have to get up early for the qualifier.
 
Yeah, well thats the plan, he said with a smile Friday. Just dont tell anyone.
 

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  • Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

    Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

    Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

    "He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

    The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

    Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

    "I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

    Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

    "From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

    "And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

    "There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."

    Move over Lydia, a new Ko is coming to LPGA

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 5:11 pm

    Another gifted young South Korean will be joining the LPGA ranks next year.

    Jin Young Ko, the Korean LPGA Tour star, informed the American-based LPGA on Sunday night that she will be taking up membership next year. Ko earned the right by winning the LPGA’s KEB Hana Bank Championship as a nonmember in South Korea in October.

    Ko, 22, no relation to Lydia Ko, first burst on to the international spotlight with her run into contention at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry two years ago. She led there through 54 holes, with Inbee Park overtaking her in the final round to win.

    With 10 KLPGA Tour titles, three in each of the last two seasons, Ko has risen to No. 19 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.

    Ko told GolfChannel.com Sunday afternoon that she was struggling over the decision, with a Monday deadline looming.

    “It’s a difficult decision to leave home,” Ko said after the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, when she was still undecided. “The travelling far away, on my own, the loneliness, that’s what is difficult.”

    Ko will be the favorite to win the LPGA’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award next year. South Koreans have won that award the last three years. Sung Hyun Park won it this year, In Gee Chun last year and Sei Young Kim in 2015. South Korean-born players have won the last four, with New Zealand’s Lydia Ko winning it in 2014. Ko was born in South Korea and moved to New Zealand when she was 6.

    Ko released this statement through the LPGA on Wednesday: 

    "It has been my dream since I was young to play on the LPGA Tour and I look forward to testing myself against the best players on a worldwide stage. I know it is going to be tough but making a first win as an LPGA member and winning the Rolex Rookie of the Year award would be two of the biggest goals I would like to achieve next year."

    Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:22 pm

    Gerina Piller, the American Olympian golfer and three-time Solheim Cup veteran, is pregnant and will not be rejoining the LPGA when the 2018 season opens, the New York Times reported following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

    Piller, 32, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is due with the couple’s first child in May, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz reported.

    Piller declined an interview request when GolfChannel.com sought comment going into the CME Group Tour Championship.

    Piller told the New York Times she has no timetable for her return but that she isn’t done with competitive golf.

    “I’m not just giving everything up,” Piller said.

    As parity reigns, LPGA searching for a superstar

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:00 pm

    Apologies to the LPGA’s golden eras, but women’s golf has never been deeper.

    With the game going global, with the unrelenting wave of Asian talent continuing to slam the tour’s shores, with Thailand and China promising to add to what South Korea is delivering, it’s more difficult than ever to win.

    That’s a beautiful and perplexing thing for the women’s game.

    That’s because it is more difficult than ever to dominate.

    And that’s a magic word in golf.

    There is no more powerful elixir in the sport.

    Domination gets you on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on ESPN SportsCenter, maybe even on NBC Nightly News if the “D” in domination is dynamic enough.

    The women’s best chance of moving their sport to another stratosphere is riding the back of a superstar.

    Or maybe a pair of superstar rivals.


    Photos: 2017 LPGA winners gallery


    A constellation of stars may be great for the devoted regular supporters of the women’s game, but it will take a charismatic superstar to make casual fans care.

    The LPGA needs a Serena Williams.

    Or the reincarnation of Babe Zaharias.

    For those of us who regularly follow the LPGA, this constellation of stars makes for compelling stories, a variety of scripting to feature.

    The reality, however, is that it takes one colossal story told over and over again to burst out of a sports niche.

    The late, great CBS sports director Frank Chirkinian knew what he had sitting in a TV production truck the first time he saw one of his cameras bring a certain young star into focus at the Masters.

    It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” Chirkinian once told me over lunch at a golf course he owned in South Florida.  “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’

    “The thing about golf, more than any other sport, it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where people will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

    And they go gaga when it’s one star so radiant that he or she dominates attention.

    “It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading, or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”

    The LPGA is in a healthy place again, with a big upside globally, with so much emerging talent sharing the spotlight.

    Take Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

    The back nine started with Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie making the turn tied for the lead. There is no more powerful pairing to sell in the women’s game today, but there would be no duel. It would have been too far off script as the final chapter to this season.

    Parity was the story this year.

    Sunday in Naples started with 18 players within two shots of the lead.

    Entering that back nine, almost a dozen players were in the mix, including Ariya Jutanugarn.

    The day ended with Jutanugarn beating Thompson with a dramatic birdie-birdie finish after Thompson stunned viewers missing a 2-foot putt for par at the last.

    The day encapsulated the expanding LPGA universe.

    “I’ve never seen such crazy, brilliant golf from these ladies,” said Gary Gilchrist, who coaches Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng. “It was unbelievable out there. It was just like birdie after birdie after birdie, and the scoreboard went up and down. And that’s why it’s so hard to be No. 1 on this tour. There’s not one person who can peak. It’s all of them at a phenomenal level of golf.”

    If Thompson had made that last 2-footer and gone on to win the CME, she would have become the sixth different world No. 1 this year. Before this year, there had never been more than three different No. 1s in a single LPGA season.

    Parity was the theme from the year’s start.

    There were 15 different winners to open the season, something that hadn’t happened in 26 years. There were five different major championship winners.

    This year’s Rolex Player of the Year Award was presented Sunday to So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park. It’s the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

    Thompson won twice this year, with six second-place finishes, with three of those playoff losses, one of them in a major championship. She was close to putting together a spectacular year. She was close to dominating and maybe becoming the tour’s one true rock star.

    Ultimately, Thompson showed us how hard that is to do now.

    She’s in a constellation we’re all watching, to see if maybe one star breaks out, somebody able to take the game into living rooms it has never been, to a level of popularity it’s never been.

    The game won’t get there with another golden era. It will get there with a golden player.