Ghims form special father-son team at U.S. Am

By Ryan LavnerAugust 18, 2017, 2:22 am

LOS ANGELES – Doug Ghim was firmly in control of his Round of 16 match Thursday when he sailed his drive into the right rough on Riviera’s 13th hole.

Sizing up his options, he determined that he needed to hook his 200-yard second shot up and around a row of trees. It was his only chance of holding a green that slopes severely from back to front and right to left.

Ghim’s father and caddie, Jeff, handed him a 5-iron.

“Too much,” Doug said.

Hooking a 5-iron, he explained, would de-loft the club too much and send his ball screaming over the green. Instead, he asked for a 7-iron, and he ripped the shot through the trees and onto the back edge of the green.

Watching in awe, Jeff Ghim approached his son, cupped his face in his hands and laughed.

“Holy moly,” Jeff said later. “Amazing!”

This is likely Doug Ghim’s final U.S. Amateur appearance before he turns pro next summer, and the 21-year-old is cherishing every moment alongside the man who has played a multitude of roles in his life.

After growing up in South Korea, Jeff didn’t pick up a club until he was about 30. Instantly he was hooked, and it took him only six months to become a single-digit handicap. Jeff harbored ambitions of playing professionally until he woke up one morning and couldn’t move. Doctors later determined that he needed a laminectomy, his first of three back surgeries. These days, he only plays sparingly.

With his pro dreams dashed, Jeff focused on teaching the game to others. His most promising student became his only son, Doug.

Three months after he first started hitting balls, and only after promising to quit baseball so he didn’t mix two wildly different swings, Doug, then 6, won his first tournament – in the 10-12 age division.

“Maybe this boy was meant to play golf,” Jeff said.

But the family fell on hard times, and Doug’s parents couldn’t afford to buy him a junior membership or enter him in any tournaments near their home in Arlington Heights, Ill., about 40 minutes northwest of Chicago.

So they improvised. Jeff built his son a hitting bay in the backyard. For years, all Doug knew were the afternoon sessions beating balls into a tennis net three feet away.

“In hindsight, it was probably the best thing for me,” Doug said. “I’d beg my dad to let me play tournaments, but there was no pressure of winning. I practiced because I loved it, and it was all about my growth. That was an advantage for me. That’s why I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder to get better.”

A few years later, the Ghims took full advantage of The Arboretum Club’s twilight rates. Most afternoons, Doug would change into golf clothes before his final class of the day, and his dad would be waiting outside with the rest of the parents, his passenger-side door already open.

They’d speed to the course and play 18 as quick as they could, making pit stops only to hit pitch shots around the 17th green or fish Pro V1s out of the pond.

The AJGA offers an ACE Grant program to families in need of financial assistance, and Doug took full advantage of those extra playing opportunities, rising to No. 5 in the high school class of 2014 when he committed to play at Texas.

But arriving in Austin, and competing against players who grew up in the TrackMan era, was an eye-opening experience.

“I didn’t grow up with a range. I had so much to learn,” Doug said. “That’s why I’ve seen the improvement that I have over the past couple of years, learning how to effectively practice and what works for me.”

Indeed, Ghim has become one of the most consistent college players over the past three years, and last season he earned Big 12 Player of the Year honors. The Longhorns senior is currently ranked No. 7 in the world.

Ghim has enjoyed plenty of success in USGA events, too. He reached the semifinals of the 2013 U.S. Junior. He lost in the finals of the 2014 U.S. Amateur Public Links (with a Masters berth on the line), when he blocked his tee shot out of bounds on the final hole and eventually lost in a playoff. And now he has reached the quarterfinals of the U.S. Amateur at Riviera.

His dad is the only swing coach Doug has ever had, and one of the only caddies he has used in these amateur tournaments.

Doesn’t that dynamic ever get awkward?

“No,” Jeff said, “he’s a really good boy.”

Well, there were a few incidents …

Jeff said there was one six-month period when father and son butted heads.

“Puberty,” he said with a smile.

And Doug said he was playing in a junior tournament once when he went for a par 5 in two, found the water, and looked over to see his dad kicking the base of a tree in frustration. Later, when he saw his dad limping, Doug smiled and said, “What’s wrong?”

“Ah,” Jeff said, shaking it off, “I must have stepped on something wrong.”

Oh, and there was that time they accidentally swapped wedges. Jeff receives all of Doug’s hand-me-downs, and somehow an old 60-degree wedge – the shaft was about 15 grams lighter – found its way back into Doug’s bag before the start of the Trans-Miss Amateur. Doug spent the first round avoiding 100-yard shots and shot 7 over.

“It’s fun to have him on the ride,” he said. “He knows me better than anyone. I know him. We have a lot of chemistry, so there’s no awkwardness.

“But the disadvantage is that it’s family. We both want it so bad, and he arguably wants it more than I do. But we ride this rollercoaster together. When it gets going in the wrong direction, sometimes it’s tough, as you can imagine. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

This week at the U.S. Amateur, Jeff has expertly played the role of dutiful caddie. He judges the wind. He reads every putt. And he celebrates enthusiastically, bumping fists and hollering, “Let’s go!” and “Yes!” and “That’s what I’m talking about!” after his son makes birdie.

When Doug closed out his Round of 16 opponent, Joey Vrzich, 3 and 2, Jeff held his boy tight and planted a kiss on his cheek.

“After I started in golf, that was my dream,” Jeff said. “And now he does that for me. He does my dream. When I walk with him in the fairway, I’m most happy.”

Jeff turns 58 on Sunday, and Doug still hasn’t found him a gift.

Then it hit him.

“It’s tall and shiny and has lots of names on it,” he said.

Yes, for this father-son team, the Havemeyer Trophy would make the perfect present.

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Korda happy to finally be free of jaw pain

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 2:43 am

PHOENIX – Jessica Korda isn’t as surprised as everyone else that she is playing so well, so quickly, upon her return from a complex and painful offseason surgery.

She is inspired finally getting to play without recurring headaches.

“I’d been in pain for three years,” she said after posting a 4-under-par 68 Friday to move two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

Korda had her upper jaw broken in three places and her low jaw broken in two places in December in a procedure that fixed the alignment of her jaw.

Korda, 25, said the headaches caused by her overbite even affected her personality.

“Affects your moods,” Korda said. “I think I was pretty snappy back then as well.”

She was pretty pleased Friday to give herself a weekend chance at her sixth LPGA title, her second in her last three starts. She won the Honda LPGA Thailand three weeks ago in her first start after returning from surgery.

“I'm much happier now,” Korda said. “Much calmer.”

Even if she still can’t eat the things she would really like to eat. She’s still recuperating. She said the lower part of her face remains numb, and it’s painful to chew crunchy things.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“Chips are totally out of question,” Korda said.

She can eat most things she likes, but she has to cut them into tiny pieces. She can’t wait to be able to eat a steak.

“They broke my palate, so I can't feel anything, even heat,” Korda said. “So that's a bit difficult, because I can't feel any heat on my lip or palate. I don't know how hot things are going in until they hit my throat.”

Korda has 27 screws in her skull holding the realignment together. She needed her family to feed her, bathe her and dress her while she recovered. The procedure changed the way she looks.

While Korda’s ordeal and all that went into her recovery has helped fans relate to her, she said it’s the desire to move on that motivates her.

“Because I was so drugged up, I don't remember a lot of it,” Korda said. “I try to forget a lot of it. I don't think of it like I went through a lot. I just think of it as I'm pain-free. So, yeah, people are like, `Oh, you're so brave, you overcame this and that.’ For me, I'm just going forward.”

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Finally adapted to short putter, Martin near lead

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:54 am

PHOENIX – Mo Martin loved her long putter.

In fact, she named her “Mona.”

For 10 years, Martin didn’t putt with anything else. She grew up with long putters, from the time she started playing when she was 5.

While Martin won the Ricoh Women’s British Open in 2014, about nine months after giving up Mona for a short putter, she said it’s taken until today to feel totally comfortable with one.

And that has her excited about this year.

Well, that and having a healthy back again.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“I've had a feeling that this year was going to be a good one,” Martin said. “My game is in a special place.”

Martin was beaming after a 6-under-par 66 Friday moved her two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

“Just a beautiful day,” Martin said. “I was able to play my game, make my putts.”

Martin hit all 14 fairways in the second round, hit 15 greens in regulation and took just 27 putts. After struggling with nagging back pain last year, she’s pain free again.

She’s happy to “just to get back to a place now where my ball striking is where it has been the last few years.”

Martin, by the way, says Mona remains preserved in a special place, “a shrine” in her home.

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Clanton rides hole-out eagle to lead at Founders

By Associated PressMarch 17, 2018, 1:47 am

PHOENIX - Cydney Clanton holed out from the fairway for eagle on the par-4 13th and closed with a birdie Friday to take the second-round lead in the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

Clanton shot a 5-under 67, playing the back nine at Desert Ridge in 5-under 31 to reach 9-under 135.

Clanton's wedge on the 13th flew into the cup on the first bounce. She also birdied the par-5 11th and 15th and the par-4 18th. The 28-year-old former Auburn player is winless on the LPGA.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Ariya Jutanugarn, Marina Alex, Karine Icher and Mariajo Uribe were a stroke back on a calmer day after wind made scoring more difficult Thursday.

Jessica Korda and Mo Martin were 7 under, and Michelle Wie topped the group at 6 under.

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Ko's struggles continue with Founders MC

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:26 am

PHOENIX – Lydia Ko loves the Bank of Hope Founders Cup and its celebration of the game’s pioneers, and that made missing the cut Friday sting a little more.

With a 1-over-par 73 following Thursday’s 74, Ko missed the cut by four shots.

After tying for 10th at the HSBC Women’s World Championship in her last start, Ko looked to be turning a corner in her quest to find her best form again, but she heads to next week’s Kia Classic with more work to do.

“I just have to stay patient,” Ko said. “I just have to keep my head high.”

It was just the fifth missed cut in Ko’s 120 career LPGA starts, but her fourth in her last 26 starts.

Ko’s ball striking has been erratic this year, but her putting has been carrying her. She said her putting let her down Friday.

“It seemed like I couldn’t hole a single putt,” she said. “When I missed greens, I just wasn’t getting up and down. When I got a birdie opportunity, I wasn’t able to hole it.”

Ko came to Phoenix ranked 112th in driving distance, 121st in driving accuracy and 83rd in greens in regulation. She was sixth in putting average.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Cristie Kerr saw the struggle playing two rounds with Ko.

“Her game’s not in good shape,” Kerr said. “She seemed a little lost.”

Ko, 20, made those sweeping changes last year, starting 2017 with a new coach (Gary Gilchrist), a new caddie (Peter Godfrey) and new equipment (PXG). She made more changes at this year’s start, with another new coach (Ted Oh) and new caddie (Jonnie Scott).

Ko doesn’t have to look further than Michelle Wie to see how a player’s game can totally turn around.

“It always takes time to get used to things,” Ko said. “By the end of last year, I was playing solid. I’m hoping it won’t take as much time this year.”

Ko had Oh fly to Asia to work with her in her two starts before the Founders Cup, with their work showing up in her play at the HSBC in Singapore. She said she would be talking to Oh again before heading to the Kia Classic next week and then the ANA Inspiration. She has won both of those events and will be looking to pull some good vibes from that.

“This is my favorite stretch of events,” she said. “And I love the Founders Cup, how it celebrates all the generations that have walked through women’s golf. And I love the West Coast swing. Hopefully, I’ll make more putts next week.”

Ko, whose run of 85 consecutive weeks at Rolex world No. 1 ended last summer, slipped to No. 12 this week.