'All-in' Arizona State takes national title

By Ryan LavnerMay 25, 2017, 2:28 am

SUGAR GROVE, Ill. – Tucked in the back of Missy Farr-Kaye’s yardage book, right behind the collage of her team, is a laminated card with the Arizona State logo and the team motto. 

All-in Until May 24.

That was today, when the finals of the NCAA Women’s Championship were held at Rich Harvest Farms.

Outside of Tempe, perhaps, there was little reason to believe the Sun Devils could extend their season this long, but all spring they believed it and they talked about it and they even acted like it. A month ago, after a blowout victory at their home tournament, they gathered in a teammate’s apartment and stroked 3-foot putts into a cardboard hole. With each make, they pumped their fist and pretended that they’d won the national title, even using faux announcer voices.

“And so we had it in our minds,” senior Monica Vaughn said, “that we had won the national championship five times.”

Make that six, after Arizona State cruised to a 3-1-1 victory over Northwestern to capture their NCAA-best eighth national title.

These were no late-night shenanigans. The Sun Devils sang Queen’s “We are the Champions” as they took a cart ride back to the clubhouse. They bounced around in a group circle and chanted their fight song. They threw on gray championship T-shirts and hugged their parents and, yes, snapped a few selfies on Snapchat.

“It’s incredible to me how many people say, ‘It’s unbelievable! I can’t believe it!’” Vaughn said. “But I can believe it. I can totally believe it. I’ve believed it since Day 1. We have worked so far for this and dreamed about this and worked for this every single day. And look us now – national champions.”

Two days ago, after Vaughn won the rain-shortened individual title, Farr-Kaye told the team that they were not done celebrating. That there was still more to accomplish. That they were All-In Until May 24th, remember, not the 22nd.

It’s a mantra that began in January, during the first team meeting with new assistant coach Michelle Estill. Farr-Kaye asked her players to write in their notebooks who they wanted to be. Resilient, mentally tough, positive, committed, fearless – they’re among the 30 phrases that now appear on the locker-room door.

“We didn’t ever lose sight of that,” Vaughn said.

NCAA Division I National Championships: Articles and videos

The Sun Devils pulled closer to that goal when they dismantled Florida during the morning quarterfinals on Tuesday, but their magical run appeared over when play was suspended that night because of darkness.

The outlook was grim: Stanford was one point from advancing, and Vaughn had made the curious decision not to warm up after a two-hour weather delay, which caused her to surrender a 2-up lead with six holes to play. One down in the 18th fairway, she decided that she wanted to return on Wednesday morning.

This time, she didn’t make the same mistake.

Vaughn warmed up with only 3-woods and hybrids, then headed to the short-game area for 30-yard pitches (the distance she would have on 18, a shot she nearly holed) and uphill 15-footers (which she would have on the first extra hole). She won both holes to stun Stanford and win the match, then watched as teammate Linnea Strom’s par on the 19th hole was enough to push the team into the finals.

“We’ve been saying all year that this is our chance right now,” Vaughn said. “This is one of the greatest teams to ever come through ASU, and I truly believe that.”

A bold statement, of course, since the Sun Devils are the most decorated program in women’s college golf history.

No one knows that better than Farr-Kaye, who was a part of the school’s first national title, in 1990.

Ever since, it seems, she has overcome adversity. Her older sister, Heather, one of the most well-known players on the LPGA, died after a four-year battle with breast cancer. She was only 28. Four years later, Missy, a mother of three boys, had her own cancer scare, and then beat it, only for the disease to return in 2008. The Sun Devils won the NCAA title the following year.

Her backstory is now both inspirational and instructive to her team.

On more than one occasion, she has told her players: “There are things to cry about in this world, because I can share with you a few things, but golf is never something to cry about. There are days of joy and sadness, but it’s golf. You have to keep your perspective.

“Part of my purpose is to help teach them so they can say, ‘I can fight this head-on, because Coach showed me I can pick myself up and hang in there and handle different things.’”

Born and raised in Phoenix, Missy grew up about 10 minutes from campus and still lives close by. Her three boys, who range from age 13 to 23, have attended Sun Devils football and basketball games since they were babies. “They’ve been brainwashed properly,” she said.

Farr-Kaye spent 13 years as an ASU assistant coach, content to teach in the shadows, until she finally earned the promotion (and her dream job) when Melissa Luellen left in ’15. The honeymoon didn’t last long, as the Sun Devils failed to qualify for nationals each of the past two years – unthinkable for such a glittering program.

“I took it really hard,” she said. “I didn’t sleep for three weeks.”

But Arizona State returned to prominence this season behind first-team All-Americans Vaughn and Strom, as well as standout freshman Olivia Mehaffey. They captured four team titles and rolled into NCAAs after a dominant performance at regionals.

“I knew the team was ready,” Liti said.

In match play, Farr-Kaye asked each of her players to write down both where they wanted to play in the lineup and where they didn’t. She wanted them comfortable, and she didn’t change that order during any of the three matches.

The Sun Devils looked at ease as they jumped all over local favorite Northwestern in the championship match. All week the Wildcats, competing only 60 miles from campus, enjoyed an advantage with the home crowds and conditions. The temperature never rose above 70 degrees, and most of the time it hovered in the mid-50s, accompanied by either a steady breeze or sideways rain. All of the Midwest nastiness seemed to work in their favor … at least until they ran into the hottest team in the country.

“I think we needed another 10 mph more wind to have a go at ASU,” said Northwestern coach Emily Fletcher.

Mehaffey, a former Curtis Cupper, improved to 3-0 this week with a tone-setting 4-and-3 victory in the opening match. The Sun Devils poured it on from there, with Liti scoring a 5-and-4 victory and Vaughn overcoming a back-nine deficit to take Northwestern’s best player, Hannah Kim, to the 18th hole.

Back on 15, Strom, who asked to be in the anchor match, who wanted the pressure and the spotlight, earned the clinching point with a 5-foot birdie.

Spread out over Rich Harvest Farms, it took a few minutes before all five team members finally celebrated as a group.

They put their right hands together, they looked each other in the eye, and they shouted a line they had rehearsed for the past five months.

“One, two, three … all-in!”

Ogilvy urges distance rollback of ball

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 8:49 pm

Add Geoff Ogilvy to the chorus of voices calling for a distance rollback of the golf ball.

In an interview before the start of the Emirates Australian Open, Ogilvy said a "time-out" is needed for governing bodies to deal with the issue.

"It's complete nonsense," he said, according to an Australian website. "In my career, it’s gone from 300 yards was a massive hit to you’re a shorter hitter on tour now, legitimately short. It’s changed the way we play great golf courses and that is the crime. It isn’t that the ball goes 400, that’s neither here nor there. It’s the fact the ball going 400 doesn’t makes Augusta work properly, it functions completely wrong.’’

Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

Ogilvy used an example from American baseball to help get his point across to an Australian audience.

“Major League Baseball in America, they use wooden bats, and everywhere else in baseball they use aluminium bats,’’ he said. “And when the major leaguers use aluminium bats they don’t even have to touch it and it completely destroys their stadiums. It’s just comedy.

“That’s kind of what’s happened to us at least with the drivers of these big hitters; We’ve completely outgrown the stadiums. So do you rebuild every stadium in the world? That’s expensive. Or make the ball go shorter? It seems relatively simple from that perspective.’’

Ogilvy, an Australian who won the 2006 U.S. Open, said he believes there will be a rollback, but admitted it would be a "challenge" for manufacturers to produce a ball that flies shorter for pros but does not lose distance when struck by recreational players.

The golf world celebrates Thanksgiving

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 6:01 pm

Here's a look, through social media, at how the golf world celebrates Thanksgiving.

Lexi Thompson:

Baking time!!

A post shared by Lexi Thompson (@lexi) on

David Feherty:

Jack Nicklaus:

GC Tiger Tracker:

Steve Stricker:

Golf Channel:

Frank Nobilo:

Ian Poulter:

Tyrone Van Aswegen:

Happy Thanksgiving: Biggest turkeys of 2017

By Grill Room TeamNovember 23, 2017, 3:00 pm

Thanksgiving brings us golf's biggest turkeys of the year. Donald Trump, Grayson Murray and a certain (now-former) tournament director headline the list. Click here or on the image below to check out all the turkeys.

Tributes pour in for legendary caddie Sheridan

By Randall MellNovember 23, 2017, 2:54 pm

Tributes are pouring in as golf celebrates the life of Greg Sheridan after receiving news of his passing.

Sheridan, a long-time LPGA caddie who worked for some of the game’s all-time greats, including Kathy Whitworth and Beth Daniel, died Wednesday in Indian Rocks Beach, Fla., at 63. He was diagnosed in July 2016 with brain and lung cancer.

Sheridan worked the last dozen years or so with Natalie Gulbis, who expressed her grief in an Instagram post on Wednesday:

“Greg…I miss you so much already and it hasn’t even been a day. 15+ seasons traveling the world you carried me & my bag through the highs and lows of golf and life. You were so much more than my teammate on the course…Thank you.”

Sheridan was on Whitworth’s bag for the last of her LPGA-record 88 titles.

“When I first came on tour, I would try to find out how many times Greg won,” Gulbis told Golfweek. “It’s a crazy number, like 50.”

Matthew Galloway, a caddie and friend to Sheridan, summed up Sheridan’s impressive reach after caddying with him one year at the LPGA Founders Cup, where the game’s pioneers are honored.

“Best Greg story,” Galloway tweeted on Thanksgiving morning, “coming up 18 at PHX all the founders were in their chairs. Greg goes, `Yep, caddied for her, her and her.’ Legend.”

In a first-person column for Golf Magazine last year, Gulbis focused on Sheridan while writing about the special bond between players and caddies. She wrote that she won the “looper lottery” when she first hired Sheridan in ’04.

“Greg and I have traveled the world, and today he is like family,” Gulbis wrote. “Sometimes, he’s a psychologist. Last year, my mom got sick and it was a distraction, but he was great. When I used to have boyfriend issues and breakup issues, he was my confidant. In a world where caddies sometimes spill secrets, Greg has kept a respectful silence, and I can’t thank him enough for that. He’s an extension of me.”

Four months after Gulbis wrote the column, Sheridan was diagnosed with cancer.

“The LPGA family is saddened to hear of the loss of long-time tour caddie, Greg Sheridan,” the LPGA tweeted. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and players he walked with down the fairways. #RIP.”

Dean Herden was among the legion of caddies saddened by the news.

“Greg was a great guy who I respected a lot and taught me some great things over the years,” Herden texted to GolfChannel.com.

Here are some of heartfelt messages that are rolling across Twitter:

Retired LPGA great Annika Sorenstam:

LPGA commissioner Mike Whan in a retweet of Gulbis:

Golf Channel reporter and former tour player Jerry Foltz:

Christina Kim:

LPGA caddie Shaun Clews:

LPGA caddie Jonny Scott:

LPGA caddie Kevin Casas:

LPGA pro Jennie Lee: