India's Ashok eager to prove Olympics were no fluke

By Randall MellAugust 24, 2016, 12:50 am

India’s Aditi Ashok is in California this week trying to turn her Olympic momentum into an LPGA tour card.

Hardly waiting to catch her breath after stirring hearts with her dreamy start in Rio last week, Ashok flew to Rancho Mirage the day after the Olympics ended to begin her next big adventure. She will tee it up Thursday at Mission Hills in the first stage of LPGA Q-School.

“It’s my goal to play on the LPGA tour,” Ashok told in a telephone interview. “To be able to play here this week, where the ANA Inspiration is played, it’s so much fun. I played the Dinah Shore Course. I want to play it again next year, when the major is here, and so I’m really working hard to do that.

“But I’m going to try not to think about that during a round, but to think about one shot at a time. That should get me through.”

The last week has been a whirlwind for Ashok, the upstart 18-year-old from Bangalore, India, who got the world’s attention grabbing a share of the second-round lead in the Olympics. She said she was surprised to see Bollywood actors from India and big-name cricket personalities tweeting about her during the Games. She was inspired hearing how proud her fellow countrymen were of her making worldwide news.

“It was a huge experience for me,” Ashok said. “A lot of people from India were excited, and a lot were following me and supporting me. I think that was the whole idea of golf in the Olympics, to get more people interested in golf.

“I haven’t been home yet, but the Indian Golf Union told me juniors have already been inspired to take up golf. I hope that’s true.

“I’m sure if I had played better on the weekend, I would have made my country even more proud than they are now, but I’m sure I’ll have more chances.”

Ashok ended up tying for 41st, but that’s not what India will remember about her appearance in the first Olympic women’s golf competition in 116 years. They’ll remember Ashok grabbing a share of the second-round lead with Ariya Jutanugarn. They’ll remember the enormous pride she generated in a nation where golf struggles for attention.

“That was fun,” Ashok said. “I’ve never led a tournament with such big names in it.”

Ashok was the youngest player in the Olympic women’s field. At 17 last fall, she became the youngest player to win the Ladies European Tour Q-School. Because she didn’t finish high school until April, she made a late start as an LET rookie season this year. If all goes as she hopes, Ashok will remain a rookie next year, but this time with the LPGA.

“I’m going to be playing in some big events, and the Olympic experience gives me confidence I’m ready for them,” Ashok said.

The Olympic experience came with so many fringe benefits. Ashok got to talk to her idol, Annika Sorenstam, again. Ashok first met the Hall of Famer at Sorenstam’s junior event. Ashok also received a special request from Gary Player after a round. She was escorted to the International Golf Federation lounge to meet him.

“It was amazing,” Ashok said. “He shared some of his views of my game and how he thinks I can get better. He said I should work on becoming more solid from 100 yards and in. I think I’m good in that area, but the things he told me made sense. He talked about how it’s the one area that’s really going to help my scoring, on good days and bad days.”

Ashok said another special moment came with her father, Gudlamani, as her caddie. She said he turned to her during a delay in the first round and said something that warmed her heart.

“My father thanked me for making him a part of it all as my caddie,” Ashok said. “I said, `What are you talking about?’ He said being part of the Olympics meant so much to him. He was trying to tell me what a big deal sharing the experience with me was to him. I felt lucky to have him with me, and to see how happy he was all week.”

Gudlamani will caddie for his daughter again this week. There’s a field of 360 players at first stage Q-School. Ashok must finish among the top 60 and ties after four rounds to advance to second stage. The final stage will be at LPGA International in Daytona Beach in December.

Ashok knows her whirlwind journey won’t end when the first stage of Q-School ends. She has been told there is a long list of interview requests for her from the Indian media when she gets home. Ashok doesn’t have an agent. Her mother, Mash, manages her business affairs, but Aditi has been told that some sponsorship opportunities have already surfaced.

“Nothing’s finalized yet,” she said.

Still, the last week hasn’t all been dreamy. When Ashok arrived in California from Brazil, her golf clubs didn’t make it with her. She had to play Monday’s practice rounds with borrowed clubs. She was relieved when her clubs arrived Tuesday and she was able to practice with them.

“I think I proved in the Olympics I was good enough to compete,” Ashok said. “It’s something I look forward to doing more often.”

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Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

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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

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Green jacket tour

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Man of the people

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Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

Growing family

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

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Departure from TaylorMade

Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

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Victory at Valderrama

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm