Golf part of healing process for Smith

By Associated PressJune 4, 2010, 5:14 am

DUBLIN, Ohio – Almost a year after tragedy struck his family, American Chris Smith found solace returning to his second home.

Smith, granted an exemption to play in the Memorial Tournament, struggled to a 78 in the opening round Thursday. But that wasn’t the point.

“It’s great to be back here. I love playing here and I probably try too hard when I come,” the Ohio State grad said of his homecoming to suburban Columbus. “I haven’t played very much and I struggled. I struggled bad today. Hopefully tomorrow will be better. Hopefully a lot better.”

That – hopefully tomorrow will be better – has been the Smith family mantra since last June 21. That was the day Chris’ wife, Beth, was killed in a fiery head-on collision on I-69 near Angola, Ind. Daughter Abigail, now 17, and son Cameron, now 13, were burned and badly injured. Chris was playing in an outing in Chicago.


Chris Smith swings golf club
Smith tries to find normalcy after tragedy struck his family. (Getty Images)
Chris won the Buick Classic at Westchester in 2002 and has won five times on the Nationwide Tour. But his profession took a back seat to nursing his kids back to health.


Wounds – those visible and the ones that aren’t – take time to heal. But time passes and life goes on.

“It’s been almost a year and we’ve done a lot of living in the last year,” Smith said. “When people would ask how the kids are doing, I’d say, ‘They’re doing as good as can be expected.’ But they’re really doing better than that. They’re amazing. They’re doing great. Physically they’re healed up well and emotionally doing well.”

Chris has only played in four tournaments this year, making one cut at the Byron Nelson. He didn’t play the second half of last year.

Part of the healing process for him is returning to the game.

“It’s great to be out here and to see friends and to feel like I’m doing what I should be doing,” he said. “Today was not a lot of fun, but I do have a perspective on things and I’ll come out tomorrow and smile and have fun and hopefully I have a good round tomorrow.”

Smith has many, many friends on tour. They have welcomed him back with kind words, good-natured kidding and consolation.

He played at Muirfield Village with Justin Rose, who could only shake his head at what Smith has gone through and how he has handled it.

“He’s a complete gentleman. A brave man,” said Rose, tied for the lead. “And he holds himself as a true professional out on the golf course and I wish him the best.”

Players play for championships, fame and money. The past year has taught Smith to seek something else right now.

“You realize real quick what’s important and you realize real quick that golf isn’t the only thing,” he said softly. “I know I’ve spent the last 20 years thinking that golf was it. I love golf, I love playing golf and I will be good again, I know I will. It’s just a process and I’m going through the process. I’m enjoying the ride and even shooting 78 today, it at least lets me know where I’m at.”

There will still undoubtedly be difficult days ahead, but Smith doesn’t have to search to have his faith in a brighter future validated.

“I get up every day and look at two miracles that are staring at me across the breakfast table,” he said. “Things are going well.”

SINGH RELIEVED: Fiji’s Vijay Singh thought he was out of luck when he asked the U.S. Golf Association for an exemption to the U.S. Open, only to be turned down. Having fallen out of the top 50 in the world at the deadline, he was debating not showing up for the qualifier.

Then came the good news Tuesday when the USGA changed its mind.

“I think they went back and rethought it, and it was unanimous,” Singh said Thursday after opening with a 71. “It was a relief. I was hoping for an invite. I think I need to go out there and start playing the way I know how, just to play good. It’s going to be a good time.”

Singh is among four players to shoot 63 at the U.S. Open, doing it in the second round at Olympia Fields in 2003. The closest he came to winning was in 1999 at Pinehurst No. 2, when he tied for third, two shots behind.

His exemption created a buzz at the Memorial, primarily because it was awarded so late. Tom Watson received a special exemption, the first from the USGA in five years, more than a month ago.

“I think it’s great,” Ernie Els said. “He’s been such a great player for a long time.”

USGA executive director David Fay said Thursday that the committee leaned on Nick Price as a precedent. Exemptions typically go to former U.S. Open champions, yet Price received one in 2005 because of his three majors.

“We knew by the time of Augusta that Nick probably wasn’t going to make it in,” Fay said. “Vijay was right on the edge (of the top 50) and then fell out at the last minute.”

Singh said he has been slowed this year by injuries, although Fay didn’t sound as though that were a big issue.

“I understand about health,” he said. “But I’m of the school that if you’re healthy enough to be playing, I don’t want to hear about it.”

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Alabama faces 'buzzsaw' Arizona for NCAA title

By Ryan LavnerMay 23, 2018, 2:00 am

STILLWATER, Okla. – There was no way Laura Ianello could sleep Monday night, not after that dramatic ending at the NCAA Women’s Championship. So at 12:15 a.m., the Arizona coach held court in the laundry room at the Holiday Inn, washing uniforms and munching on mozzarella sticks and fried chicken strips from Sonic, her heart still racing.

Ianello got only three hours of sleep, and who could blame her?

The Wildcats had plummeted down the team standings during the final round of stroke-play qualifying, and were 19 over par for the day, when junior transfer Bianca Pagdanganan arrived on the 17th hole.

“Play the best two holes of your life,” Ianello told her, and so Pagdanganan did, making a solid par on 17 and then ripping a 6-iron from 185 yards out of a divot to 30 feet. There was a massive leaderboard positioned to the right of the par-5 18th green, but Pagdanganan never peeked. The only way for Arizona to force a play-five, count-four playoff with Baylor and reach match play was to sink the putt, and when it dropped, the Wildcats lost their minds, shrieking and jumping over the ropes and hugging anyone in sight.

Watching the action atop the hill, Alabama coach Mic Potter shook his head.

“I was really glad we didn’t win the tiebreaker for the No. 1 seed,” he said, “because they’re a buzzsaw with a lot of momentum.”

Given new life, Arizona dispatched Baylor by three strokes in the playoff, then turned its attention to top-seeded UCLA in the quarterfinals on Tuesday morning.

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Scoring and TV times

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Full coverage

Facing two first-team All-Americans, the Wildcats beat them, too, continuing the curse of the medalist. In the afternoon, worried that the adrenaline would wear off, Ianello watched her squad make quick work of Stanford, 4-1.

“They’ve got a lot of great momentum, a lot of great team energy,” Stanford coach Anne Walker said. “They thought they were going home, and now they’ve got a chip on their shoulder. They’re playing with an edge.”

After a marathon doubleheader Tuesday at Karsten Creek, Arizona now has a date with Alabama in the final match of this NCAA Championship.

And the Wildcats better rest up.

Alabama looks unstoppable.

“They’re rolling off a lot of momentum right now,” Ianello said. “We know Alabama is a good team. But they’re super excited and pumped. It’s not the high of making it [Monday]; now they’ve got a chance to win. They know they have to bring it.”

Even fully rested, Arizona will be a significant underdog against top-ranked Alabama.

After failing to reach match play each of the past two years, despite being the top overall seed, the Tide wouldn’t be stopped from steamrolling their competition this time.

They roughed up Kent State, 4-1, in the quarterfinals, then frontloaded their lineup with three first-team All-Americans – Lauren Stephenson, Kristen Gillman and Cheyenne Knight – in their semifinal tilt against Southern Cal.

Potter said that he was just trying to play the matchups, but the move sent a clear signal.

“It gets pretty tedious when you never miss fairways and hole a lot of putts and your opponent knows that you’re not going to spray it,” Potter said. “That’s tough to match up against.”

They breezed to the first three points, draining any drama out of the semifinals. Of the 99 holes that Bama’s Big 3 played Tuesday, they trailed after only two.

“We’re always consistent,” Stephenson said, “and that’s exactly what you need in match play. Someone has to go really low to beat us.”

That Arizona even has that chance to dethrone the Tide seemed inconceivable a few months ago.

The Wildcats had a miserable fall and were ranked 39th at the halfway point of the season. On Christmas Day, one of the team’s best players, Krystal Quihuis, sent a text to Ianello that she was turning pro. Once she relayed the news, the team felt abandoned, but it also had a newfound motivation.

“They wanted to prove that they’re a great team, even without her,” Ianello said.

It also was a case of addition by subtraction: Out went the individual-minded Quihuis and in came Yu-Sang Ho, an incoming freshman whom Ianello described as a “bright, shining light.”

Because incorporating a top-tier junior at the midway point can be intimidating, Ianello organized a lively team retreat at the Hilton El Conquistador in Tucson, where they made vision boards and played games blindfolded.

They laughed that weekend and all throughout the spring – or at least until Pagnanganan made that last-ditch eagle putt Monday. Then tears streamed down Ianello’s face.

Folding uniforms after midnight, she regaled Alabama assistant coach Susan Rosenstiel with stories from their emotional day on the cut line, not even considering that they might face each other two days later for a national title. She was too delirious to ponder that.

“I feel like a new mother with a newborn baby,” Ianello said. “But we’re going off of adrenaline. This team has all the momentum they need to get it done.”

Yes, somehow, the last team into the match-play field might soon be the last team standing.

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Pairings, tee times set for championship match

By Jay CoffinMay 23, 2018, 1:02 am

STILLWATER, Okla. – Alabama coach Mic Potter has three first-team All-Americans on this team. It’s little surprise that all three are going out first in the Crimson Tide’s championship match against Arizona Wednesday at Karsten Creek.

Potter tinkered with his lineup in both the quarterfinal victory over Kent State and the semifinal win over USC. But with the NCAA title on the line, this one was a no brainer.

“We don’t want to sacrifice anything,” Potter said. “We just want to give ourselves a chance to win every match.”

Arizona kept its lineup the same all day Tuesday in defeating Pac-12 foes UCLA and Stanford in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively. That meant junior Bianca Pagdanganan, the Wildcats grittiest player this week, was in the last match of the day. She won twice.

Now, with all the marbles riding on the championship match, Arizona coach Laura Ianello moved Pagdanganan up to the third spot to assure that her match is key to the final outcome.

Junior Haley Moore, Arizona’s best player all year, is in the fifth spot and will face Alabama senior Lakareber Abe.

“Win or lose tomorrow, this has been a helluva ride,” Ianello said.

Alabama (2) vs. Arizona (8)

3:25PM ET: Lauren Stephenson (AL) vs. Yu-Sang Hou (AZ)

3:35PM ET: Kristen Gillman (AL) vs. Gigi Stoll (AZ)

3:45PM ET: Cheyenne Knight (AL) vs. Bianca Pagdanganan (AZ)

3:55PM ET: Angelica Moresco (AL) vs. Sandra Nordaas (AZ)

4:05PM ET: Lakareber Abe (AL) vs. Haley Moore (AZ)

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Women's NCAA finals: Arizona vs. Alabama

By Jay CoffinMay 22, 2018, 11:49 pm

STILLWATER, Okla. – It’s the SEC vs. the Pac 12 for the women’s NCAA Championship; Alabama vs. Arizona, to be more specific.

Both the Crimson Tide and Wildcats cruised in their respective semifinal matches Tuesday at Karsten Creek. Alabama easily beat USC, 3-1-1; Arizona defeated match-play juggernaut Stanford, 4-1.

Alabama’s top three players, Lauren Stephenson, Kristen Gillman and Cheyenne Knight were unstoppable forces in both matches on the marathon day. Stacked in the top three positions in the semifinals all three won their matches on the 17th hole, making the last two matches inconsequential.

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Scoring and TV times

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Full coverage

Arizona, the eighth seed, won as decisively as second-seeded Alabama, but needed a miracle to be in this position in the first place.

Junior Bianca Pagdanganan drained a 30-footer for eagle on the last hole of stroke play on Monday to get the Wildcats into a playoff against Baylor, which they won on the second hole. Then on Tuesday, presumably running on fumes, they downed top-seeded UCLA in the morning, then crushed Pac-12 foe Stanford in the afternoon.

Pagdanganan, Gigi Stoll and Hayley Moore each won both matches for Arizona on the hot, draining day.

“I don’t want to let them down so I do my best to rise to the occasion,” Pagdanganan said.

Said Arizona coach Laura Ianello: “How many players, when you tell them under pressure that you need them, can really handle it,” Ianello said about Pagdanganan. “This kid can.”

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NCAA DI Women's Champ.: Scoring, TV times

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 22, 2018, 11:30 pm

The NCAA Division I Women's Golf Championship is underway at Kartsen Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.

After three days of stroke play, eight teams advanced to the match-play portion of the championship. Quarterfinals and semifinals were contested Tuesday, with the finals being held on Wednesday. Golf Channel is airing the action live.

Wake Forest junior Jennifer Kupcho won the individual title. Click here for live finals action, beginning at 4 p.m. ET.


TV Times (all times ET):

4-8PM: Match-play finals (Click here to watch live)