Hull, 18, in no hurry to get LPGA card

By Randall MellDecember 4, 2014, 10:43 pm

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Rising young English star Charley Hull isn’t going to take the beaten path anywhere.

Her father, Dave, a retired plasterer, says that’s a family trait, traceable back to her maternal grandmother, a Polish resistance fighter who took a long, arduous journey making a new home in England.

Charley’s grandmother, Irena Pernak, was just 13 when the Russians invaded Poland, but that didn’t stop the Russians from sending her to a labor camp in Siberia after they captured her.

“Charley’s grandmother escaped from that camp,” Dave said Thursday behind the 13th green at LPGA International’s Jones Course as he watched Charley play the second round of LPGA Q-School. “She ended up in Persia, where she went to work for the Red Cross. Charley’s got a lot of her grandmother’s spirit. She’s going to do things her own way.”

And that brings us to Q-School, where Hull didn’t arrive this week feeling all the nerves that players typically bring to this 90-hole pressure cooker.

“I hate Q-School,” Hull said after posting a 3-under-par 69 Thursday to get herself back in the mix for a tour card after opening with a 75. She’s tied for 39th with three rounds to go.

Hull, 18, isn’t living and dying with every shot this week. In fact, she won’t be crushed if she doesn’t finish among the top 20 who earn full status to play the LPGA next season, or among the top 45 who earn conditional status.

“If I don’t get my card, I won’t be overly disappointed,” Hull said.

That’s because Hull doesn’t put a lot of validity in Q-School. She doesn’t like the concept as a true measure of whether a player is ready to play a tour. She knows from experience. After turning pro at 16, she failed to advance through the Ladies European Tour’s Q-School, but then she took the tour by storm anyway last year.

She got her first start at the Lalla Meryem Cup on a sponsor’s invite and finished second. That got her into the South African Women’s Open for her next start, where she finished second again. She would go on to finish second in her first five starts to earn full status on the LET Tour based on her non-member earnings.

“That’s why I don’t feel a lot of pressure this week,” Hull said.

Hull knows she’s ready for the LPGA. She showed it this year playing as a non-member. She won $213,005 in nine LPGA starts. She tied for seventh at the Kraft Nabisco and tied for third at the Airbus LPGA Classic.

If Hull must return to the LET full time next year, she will be content doing so, knowing she could get as many as 11 LPGA starts as a non-member. She could make it into all five LPGA major championships, plus play in up to six other events on sponsor exemptions.

Even if she wins an LPGA tour card this week, Hulls says she probably won’t play a full LPGA schedule next year. She still loves being at home in England, and she is intent on not missing out on her life with her friends there.

“I’m only 18 once,” Hull said. “You can never get your childhood back.”

Hull grew up in Kettering, England, where she still lives with her parents, Dave and Basinka. She is the youngest of their three daughters.

“Charley loves being with her friends, playing golf with them when she’s home, she really does,” Dave says.

Hull is no golfing machine. Under that bundle of blonde locks, and behind that bright smile, there’s a teenager with interests beyond making birdies.

“I have so many years to play in the future, there is no rush,” Hull said.

And yet Hull is racing to feats quicker than any woman in LET history. At 17, she became the youngest Solheim Cup player in history last year, helping the Europeans upset the Americans while capturing the fancy of American audiences when she upset U.S. star Paula Creamer in singles and then asked Creamer for an autograph.

Hull was the LET’s Rookie of the Year last season, and now she’s aiming to become the youngest Order of Merit winner in tour history. She will fly to the LET’s season-ending event at the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters next week in a bid to win the Order of Merit.

Hull’s independent spirit is something her father has encouraged, even nurtured. Dave didn’t take up golf until he was 45, and he doesn’t coach his daughter. In fact, he tries to stay as far in the background as he can. You won’t see him hovering behind greens or tee boxes this week. He’s typically a hundred yards away, watching from a distance.

“I wasn’t planning on coming to the course today, but Charley said she wanted to see me out here,” Dave said. “I believe if your child’s interested in golf, you get them lessons, and you support them any way you can, but you don’t get in their way. She likes learning things on her own. She believes it’s her game and nobody else’s.”

That’s why Dave didn’t hire a full-time caddie for Charley for her first 16 months as a pro. They hired local caddies, instead. She learned to do her own yardage books, pull her own clubs and read greens herself.

“I like to learn the hard way,” Hull said. “When people tell me things, I don’t listen.”

Before the Kraft Nabisco Championship earlier this year, the Hulls finally hired a full-time caddie, Gary Wildman, another Englishman who is just making his start in the profession.

“We’re learning together,” Hull said.

It promises to be golf’s version of alternative education.

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McCoy earns medalist honors at Q-School

By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 am

One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Tour Q-School.

McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.

It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.

McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).

Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).

Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.

Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

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Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.



Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."

Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout

Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.