Mell: Howard, 17, in the mix at LPGA Q-School

By Randall MellNovember 30, 2011, 11:35 pm

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Ginger Howard is aiming to defy the odds.

At 17, she took another step Wednesday in a bid to make a giant leap to the LPGA ranks.

Howard opened the final stage of LPGA Qualifying School Wednesday with a 2-under-par 70 on LPGA International’s Champions Course, good for a tie for fifth place in the 90-hole event. She needs to finish among the top 40 and ties to earn tour membership.

Howard is defying the odds with more than her youth.

If Howard makes it through this week, she’ll become just the fifth African-American to earn LPGA tour membership.

“It would mean a lot to me, but it would mean a lot to be an African-American on tour who’s in contention every week,” Howard said.

Howard wants to be remembered as the first African-American to win an LPGA event.

“She wants to be the best, regardless of her race,” said Gianna Howard, Ginger’s mother.

It’s a giant ambition given Howard doesn’t have the typical resume you would expect from a young player making such a bold run in her first attempt at Q-School. Howard didn’t win a U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship as Lexi Thompson did. She didn’t win a U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship the way Michelle Wie did. She’s never even won an American Junior Golf Association event. She’s never qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open. She’s never played in an LPGA event before.

While Howard’s won dozens of trophies over her junior career, she has never won anything larger than she did winning the second stage of LPGA Q-School in September.

With her promising start Wednesday at LPGA International, Howard continues a stunning ascent in the professional women’s golf scene.

“She feels very confident,” Gianna said. “She has no doubts. She believes this is what she’s meant to be doing.”

A product of the IMG Leadbetter Academy in Bradenton, Fla., Howard turned pro this summer. She won five Sun Coast Series women’s mini-tour events. Though LPGA rules require members to be 18, Howard has secured a waiver from the commissioner that would allow her to compete as a 17-year-old at next year’s start. She will turn 18 on March 15.

“I turned professional because I just felt ready, felt confident and didn’t have any doubts, and I just went with that,” Howard said.

This is very much a family venture.

Gianna, who is rebounding strongly after undergoing thyroid cancer surgery two months ago, is on leave from her job as a nurse. Robert, Ginger’s father, took leave of his job in retail management to care for his wife. Robbi, Ginger’s 16-year-old sister, is also an accomplished junior golfer. She was on Ginger’s bag as caddie Wednesday with Gianna following them both in the gallery and Robert back in Bradenton taking care of the couple’s two young sons.

More than one publication has speculated on Ginger and Robbi becoming golf’s version of the Venus and Serena Williams.

That’s a long ways away for the Howard sisters, but Ginger’s determined to take the first step this week.


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.

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Wie takes shot at LPGA dress code in crop top

By Grill Room TeamDecember 10, 2017, 5:33 pm

The new LPGA dress code got mixed reviews when it was announced in July, and Michelle Wie is taking full advantage of her offseason with no restrictions.

The 28-year-old former U.S. Women's Open champion is keeping her game sharp while back in her home state of Hawaii, but couldn't help taking a shot at the rules while doing it, posting a photo to Instagram of her playing golf in a crop top with the caption, "Offseason = No dress code fine."

Offseason = No dress code fines #croptopdroptop

A post shared by Michelle Wie (@themichellewie) on

Wie isn't the first to voice her displeasure with the rules. Lexi Thompson posted a similar photo and caption to Instagram shortly after the policy was announced.