For Korean women, Olympic pressure is stifling

By Randall MellApril 21, 2016, 11:15 pm

DALY CITY, Calif. – So Yeon Ryu knows what Olympic fever can do.

It seems as if every golf fan in her native South Korea is stricken with it.

She knows the brilliant 9-under-par 63 she shot Thursday to take the early lead at the Swinging Skirts Classic will lead folks back home to begin calculating what a victory Sunday could do for Ryu’s hopes of making the Korean Olympic team, and she dreads the feverish projections.

It’s like the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro have become the be all and end all of Korean golf.

“That just makes me crazy,” Ryu said.

Two months ago, Ryu was No. 8 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, which put her fourth in the Korean Olympic rankings, which gave her a grip on Korea’s final qualifying spot into the games, but the Korean rankings move from week to week like a maddening game of musical chairs.

Somebody’s always squeezing in and somebody’s always getting squeezed out.

How tight is the competition to make the Korean Olympic team? Ten of the top 20 players in the world rankings are Koreans. The teams won’t be finalized until July 11.

Ryu has watched a young, new cast of Koreans surge in the Olympic rankings, bumping her down to No. 11, which makes her sixth in the Korean rankings, two spots outside the qualifying standard. Inbee Park, Sei Young Kim, In Gee Chun, Ha Na Jang and Amy Yang rank ahead of Ryu.

Ryu is so weary of the Olympic obsession, she quit looking at the rankings.

“I just keep thinking about negative things when I think about the Olympics, so I really try not to think about it,” Ryu said.

Ryu is trying to keep her focus on what she can control, posting scores. First off Thursday on the back nine, Ryu posted a record score. Her 63 was a Swinging Skirts tournament course record at Lake Merced Golf Club, bettering the 65 Brooke Henderson shot in the second round last year. Thursday’s fast start left Ryu two shots ahead of Japan’s Haru Nomura and four ahead of China’s Xi Yu Lin and the Netherlands’ Christel Boeljon.

With Lake Merced’s firm fairways and greens, and its thick rough, players were expecting tough scoring conditions.

“I saw So Yeon’s score, and she was 7 under through 10,” said Rolex world No. 1 Lydia Ko, who opened with a 68 in her bid to win this event for the third consecutive year. “I said, `Wow, that course is easy, whatever course she’s playing.

“She’s really a consistent player. Obviously, everything was going right today. For her to shoot a score like that, that’s really impressive.”

After opening with a par, Ryu birdied seven of the next eight holes to turn in 29. She ended up hitting 11 of 14 fairways and all but one green in regulation.

Ryu, 25, burst onto the American scene in 2011, when she won the U.S. Women’s Open as a Korean LPGA Tour player. She’s seeking her fourth LPGA title, her first since winning the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August of 2014. She did win twice last year, once on the KLPGA Tour and once on the Ladies European Tour.

In a bid to improve her game this off season, Ryu hired a new coach, Cameron McCormick, Jordan Spieth’s coach. McCormick helped her overhaul her swing.

Yes, Ryu hopes her revamped swing can get her to the Olympics, but she won’t buy into the idea this season’s success rides solely on making the Olympics.

“The biggest thing is Korean media,” Ryu said. “If someone is going to make the Olympics, they're a great player. Then if somebody cannot make it, they're a really bad player.”

Na Yeon Choi, the 2012 U.S. Women’s Open champion, knows what Ryu is feeling.

Choi opened with a 68 Thursday but wouldn’t allow herself to think about what a big week would mean to her Olympic hopes. Choi is 20th in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, which makes her the 10th-highest ranked Korean in the world.

“Honestly, I don’t think about it at all anymore,” Choi said. “I remember when I got to No. 2 in the world and was trying to get to No. 1, I remember I had so much stress. When I start worrying about results, it doesn’t help.”

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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.