Blalock pleads her case with new WGHOF criteria

By Randall MellMarch 26, 2014, 1:45 pm

Sometimes Jane Blalock is introduced at functions and clinics as an LPGA Hall of Famer.

It’s awkward for her, because she isn’t.

“You just sort of let it go,” Blalock told GolfChannel.com.

It’s that name, Blalock. A lot of people hear that name and instantly associate it with women’s golf, with winning golf, with dominant golf. She did, after all, win 24 times in the '70s. She was Rookie of the Year, once made a staggering 299 cuts in a row and won the very first Dinah Shore, before it was designated as a major championship.

A lot of people just assume she’s an LPGA Hall of Famer.

Other people, those who followed the women’s game closely in the '70s, hear that name and think of something else. They think of the accusations that Blalock took liberties marking her ball on greens, claims that she improved her lies around spike marks in the '72 season. They think of the player petition that got her suspended that year. They think of her lawsuit, the temporary injunction that allowed her to keep playing and then the justice system’s ultimate ruling that the LPGA was in violation of antitrust. They think of the confusing, unresolved nature of the entire controversy and how it changed the women’s game. The tour hired its first commissioner in its wake.

Golf’s power brokers will likely be thinking a lot about Blalock again and evaluating what she really meant to the game.

At 68 now, Blalock will tell you that she wishes she were an LPGA Hall of Famer. She will tell you, not intending to be immodest, that she is proud of her career and believes it is worthy of the Hall of Fame.

With Sunday’s news that the World Golf Hall of Fame is creating new criteria for the induction of women, Blalock moves up in any line of players waiting to be enshrined there.

“It would be dishonest not to say it would be the ultimate honor,” says Blalock, now a successful business woman in Boston who runs her own sports management company, JBC Golf.

Does she deserve to be a Hall of Famer? It’s a question the World Golf Hall of Fame is sure to ask with new relevance.

“Yes,” Blalock said. “I’ve looked in the mirror and asked myself that question.

“Did I dominate for a period of time? Yes. Did I have a great impact on the game? Yes. I had great support, great galleries. I won a lot of tournaments. If I look at whether I’ve accomplished things that are significant, the answer’s yes.”

This is a place Blalock has been before, though.

To qualify for the LPGA Hall of Fame back when Blalock retired in 1985, a woman had to have won 30 tour titles with two of them being major championships, or 35 tour titles with one being a major, or 40 tour titles without a major.

Blalock retired with 27 tour titles – 29 if you count team events – none of them majors.

In 1999, the LPGA changed its Hall of Fame criteria to a points system that still stands today. A player needs 27 points to be inducted in the Hall of Fame but must also have won a major championship or Rolex Player of the Year Award or Vare Trophy. A player gets one point for a tour title, two points for a major championship, one point for Rolex Player of the Year and one point for the Vare Trophy.

Blalock had the 27 points required, but she didn’t have the major or POY Award or Vare Trophy.

Still, with that new points system, the LPGA also set up a Veterans Committee to examine the worthiness of important players like Blalock, who didn’t meet all the criteria.

The LPGA Hall of Fame’s Veteran's Committee inducted Judy Rankin and Donna Caponi.

Blalock isn’t sure if the committee will ever admit her.

“I have no idea,” she said. “Would that be a wonderful thing? Absolutely, but I can’t dwell on it, or worry about it, because I think it would distract me from the other good things I’m trying to do.”

Blalock’s relationship with the tour is healthy and active. She’s the CEO of the Legends Tour, the women’s version of the Champions Tour. She also runs the LPGA Golf Clinics for Women. Back when the Masters filed suit against the LPGA for starting the “Women’s Masters,” the LPGA asked Blalock to testify for the tour, and she did.

But all these years later, hard feelings toward her still linger, Blalock knows.

“I’m sure there are a few that would not support my going into the Hall of Fame,” Blalock said. “I’m sure there are those, the old guard, that still hold a grudge, for all the wrong reasons, from 40 years ago. There’s ignorance about what happened. I say that in people not knowing the truth. It’s a sad situation, but it’s reality.”

Blalock denies the accusations against her almost 42 years after they were made.

“I filed suit immediately because they were wrong,” she says. “It was a very unpleasant time. It was erroneous. It was like a kangaroo court. The stories about it got bigger and bigger. There was nothing ever to really back up the accusation.”

There’s no denying Blalock made a major impact on the game. It’s why so many people think she’s a Hall of Famer. The ultimate measure of her career, however, is arriving at a new doorstep, before a new panel that will evaluate whether she’s a Hall of Famer.

“I couldn’t have played any harder or any better,” Blalock said. “I look in the mirror and feel really good about my career and everything I gave to it and the difference I made in the game.”

The World Golf Hall of Fame will have to look for itself now.

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"


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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.