Ai Opener

By Mercer BaggsDecember 4, 2005, 5:00 pm
The atmosphere was surreal. Cameras clicked at rapid-fire pace. Video rolled from all angles to capture every moving image. And when she emerged, they engulfed her like ants on an intruder.
 
It felt like Paris Hilton leaving a Manhattan night club at 4:00 a.m. But this was closer to 4:00 in the afternoon. And this was no attention hungry hussy.
 
Ai Miyazato
Ai Miyazato is the center of Japanese sports media attention.
This was Ai Miyazato exiting the scorers tent after winning the LPGA Tour Qualifying Tournament.
 
Doesnt seem like that big of a deal ' even considering that she won by a record 12 strokes.
 
But at 52 ' a generously listed 52 ' Miyazato is among the biggest sports stars in all of Japan.
 
According to one Japanese media member, she is second only to New York Yankees leftfielder Hideki Matsui in terms of popularity in her home country.
 
Her popularity, according to this reporter, is such that she is the star of nine different television commercials back home, where she is the winner of 11 Japan LPGA Tour events over the last two seasons.
 
Think about that. Nine different television commercials. Thats about double the exposure of Tiger Woods here in the States.
 
Woods got a chance to examine her skills last month as he played a practice round with her prior to his repeat victory at the Dunlop Phoenix Open in Miyazaki, Japan.
 
Ai has got a lot of talent, he was quoted as saying. Her game is very sound and she is only 20 years old, so it will be exciting to watch her develop.
 
To further show her star power, when she won a tournament last year, the TV ratings were three times higher than that of Woods winning the Dunlop Phoenix.
 
LPGA Tour commissioner Carolyn Bivens doesnt expect that kind of enthusiasm for womens golf to get lost in translation upon Miyazatos arrival.
 
In Asia, as we all know, womens golf often times will have higher ratings than the mens golf. I think were going to see some of that over here, she said.
 
Its easy to see why Miyazato is so celebrated. She is young, cute and talented ' the great trinity of marketability in women athletics.
 
She appeared Sunday to be easygoing and carefree, plenty of smiles and laughs; of course, she did have a 12-stroke lead to start the final round.
 
She ultimately shot even-par 72 at LPGA International to finish the 90-hole endeavor at 17-under 343.
 
Im very relieved about the tournament, but I didnt play too well today so Im a little disappointed, Miyazato said through a translator.
 
I was trying to go for 20 under, but I was overcome by pressure. So I need to work on that.
 
She won a five-round tournament by 12 strokes and she still sees room for improvement. Sounds like the makings of a champion.
 
Miyazato will soon call the U.S. her home away from home, as this 20-year-old is reportedly looking for a place in the Southern California area. She will need an American base now that she is an official member of the American tour.
 
Though she will have tournament obligations next year in Japan, she will play primarily on the LPGA Tour.
 
Ai Miyazato
Miyazato reacts after winning Q-school by a record 12 strokes.
And she will have plenty of support, as Team Ai consists of among others, a manager, a trainer, a translator and an English-speaking caddie.
 
Shell also have plenty of attention, as one Japanese media member speculated there would be at least 10 different reporters ' some of who will be PGA Tour converts ' covering her at each and every stop.
 
Not covering the tournament. Not covering Annika Sorenstam. Just covering Ai Miyazato.
 
A year ago, according to a tour media official, there were only about 10-12 reporters covering the finals of Q-school. They didnt even bother to issue credentials, the turnout was so minimal.
 
This year, though, there were roughly 100 credentials issued to media outlets around the world ' more than 60 of which went to those from Japan.
 
While most of the field played Sundays final round in near anonymity, with only their playing competitors and forest creatures baring witness, crowds three-to-six people deep followed Miyazato.
 
On the 12th hole, by count, there were 17 still cameras and six video cameras to capture her tee shot ' as well as a child on her fathers shoulders holding a poster-board encouraging Miyazato in Japanese: 'Ai-Chan, go for it!'.
 
In the same year as when Japanese legend Ayako Okamoto was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame, Miyazato earned her card on the LPGA Tour. And thus symbolically, the generational torch was passed.
 
Miyazato, who helped Japan win the inaugural Women's World Cup in January, wont be the only Japanese rookie on tour next season. Teenager Shinobu Moromizato also advanced through the final stage.
 
Riko Higashio was a rookie last year, finishing 96th on the money list. But Higashio didnt have nearly the scrutiny that will face Miyazato.
 
This will, however, be nothing new for the diminutive starlet. Shes well accustomed to being the center of attention ' and delivering under the pressure.
 
Having all but aced her latest exam, Miyazato will next test her talents at the Okinawa Open, where she will become the first Japanese female to compete in a mens event in Japan.
 
Her brother, Kiyoshi, just happens to be the defending champion. Hes one of two Miyazato brothers competing on the Japan Golf Tour.
 
I want to make the cut, the native of Okinawa said with a big smile.
 
That would certainly seem doable.
 
As for her goals for next season, she just doesnt want to have to defend this title.
 
I want to keep my card, she said.
 
That certainly doesnt seem like a problem either. Miyazato played in six LPGA events this past season and had a pair of top-10s and a tie for 11th in the Weetabix Womens British Open.
 
Those six results alone netted her over $100,000, and would have been enough to secure her card for 2006 had she been a tour member this past year.
 
Sunday, Miyazato officially became a member of the LPGA Tour.
 
After signing her scorecard and doing her interviews ' with the Japanese press and the American press ' and posing for pictures and signing autographs, she took a triumphant stroll from the 18th green to the parking lot.
 
She was followed step-for-step, every step of the way.
 
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Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.


Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.


Masters victory


Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative


Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ


Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket


Man of the people


Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief


Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together


Ace at 17th at Sawgrass


Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018


Departure from TaylorMade


Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade


Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'


Victory at Valderrama


Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm
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Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf

By Grill Room TeamDecember 11, 2017, 9:47 pm

Well, this is a one new one.

According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:

“No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”

Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.

“If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.

The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.

“I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”

The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.

Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.

Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.