Jailed Caddie Getting Second Chance

By Associated PressAugust 16, 2006, 4:00 pm
2006 PGA ChampionshipMEDINAH, Ill ' The sun was shining, the morning sky was clear and Mark Calcavecchia and his caddie had the back nine at Medinah Country Club all to themselves the day before the PGA Championship.
 
Imprisoned for almost 11 years, dreams of days like this were what kept Eric Larson going. Now free, hes savoring every moment of his fresh start.
 
Its been everything I imagined and then some, Larson said Wednesday. Theres a lot of other people in life that dont get second chances. ... Or have diseases or have a freak accident or what have you. Im healthy. I have the support of all of my friends and family.
 
And Im very fortunate to be in this position.
 
Larson was living what seemed like an ideal life back in 1995.
 
After caddying for Ken Green, hed hooked up with Calcavecchia, winner of the 1989 British Open and one of the top players on the PGA TOUR. When Calcavecchia shot a 66 to win the BellSouth Classic in 1995, Larson was on the bag.
 
But life is never quite what it seems, and Larsons was no different. A few years earlier, he had started sending cocaine to friends back in the Midwest. He was never a user and wasnt what youd call a big-time dealer.
 
Not even a small-time dealer, really.
 
I knew some people that wanted it. I knew someone that sold it. I was the middleman, Larson said. I did it for monetary reasons only.
 
Still, it was wrong. When his supplier turned him in, Larson found himself facing federal drug charges. He eventually pleaded guilty, and began serving his sentence on Aug. 9, 1995.
 
Because of strict federal mandatory minimums, Larson spent 10 years in prison before being released to a halfway house on Dec. 21, 2005. He left there two months ago, on June 16.
 
It was kind of a bad deal the way it unfolded, Calcavecchia said. He made a mistake. Give him three or four years and let him get on with his life. They wanted to give him 20. They gave him 131/2 and he got out in 11. Twelve years of his life have been taken away.
 
Larson refuses to make excuses, though. He got himself into trouble, no one else.
 
I made a mistake. I did wrong, he says, his voice leaving no room for question. Ive always had to accept what I got because theres nothing else you can do. It is what it is.
 
Just as he takes responsibility for everything that happened, Larson made sure certain things would be different when his second chance arrived. He earned a bachelors degree in business management while he was in prison, and took vocational and horticulture courses. He even grew vegetables that fellow inmates ate.
 
Tomatoes, onions, peppers'you name it. Squash, he said. They all came out pretty good.
 
And always, he focused on his dream of caddying again.
 
Not many people could have made the best out of that situation, said Mike Hicks, who caddied for Payne Stewart when he won the 1999 U.S. Open. He got a raw deal. He knows he got a raw deal. And he wasnt bitter about it.
 
Its amazing that he spent that much time in jail, and he never lost sight of the fact that one day hed get out, and hed be back out here caddying again, added Hicks, who now caddies for Jonathan Byrd. And here he is.
 
Larson is quick to give credit to his friends. Calcavecchia, Green and Hicks were among the golfers and caddies who visited him in prison. Others kept in touch through cards and letters.
 
Calcavecchia also made him a promise: When Larson got out, thered be a job waiting for him.
 
He needed something to look forward to and I always told him, when the time came Id hire him up, hopefully play good and make him some money and get him back on his feet, Calcavecchia said.
 
True to his word, Calcavecchia had Larson as his caddie at The Honda Classic, the Western Open, the U.S. Bank Championship and now, the PGA Championship. Calcavecchia plans to play seven more events this year, and Larson will be at his side for all of them.
 
Larson also caddied for Green at the B.C. Open.
 
Though it had been 11 years, Larson and Calcavecchia quickly settled into their old rhythm. They looked like a couple of old friends out for a round Wednesday, and their laughter on the 18th green broke the early morning silence.
 
Its been great, Calcavecchia said. When he got out, he was so refreshed and ready to go and anxious. You look forward to something for 11 years, hes very excited.
 
Other parts of life have taken a bit more adjustment. The few people who had cell phones back in 1995 were carrying cumbersome models that looked more like a suitcase. The balls Larson fished out of his golf bag were Bridgestone Rextars'which arent even made anymore. The Internet was still a vague, space-age concept.
 
He had no idea how to work a computer, Calcavecchia said. I instant messaged him one day ... and he didnt know what happened. He called me up. Howd you know I was on the computer? He freaked out.
 
In a lot of ways, Calcavecchia added, he had to start over.
 
But starting over isnt always a bad thing. With every course he walks, Larsons dark days fade a little more.
 
Ill never forget them, no. But its time to look forward. Fortunately, I have a great life ahead of me, he said. And it could always be worse. Im just very fortunate to have done as much time as Ive done and still have the support I have.
 
Theres no such thing as bad days, he added. Every day is a good day.
 
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    Lincicome grouped with two rookies in Barbasol

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 17, 2018, 9:54 pm

    Brittany Lincicome will tee it up with a pair of rookies when she makes her first start in a PGA Tour event Thursday at the Barbasol Championship at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky.

    Lincicome, an eight-time LPGA winner, is scheduled to go off the 10th tee at 9:59 a.m. ET in the first round with Sam Ryder, 28, and Conrad Shindler, 29. They’re off the first tee Friday at 2:59 p.m. ET

    Lincicome will become just the sixth woman to play in a PGA Tour event, joining Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Michelle Wie.

    “The first three or four holes, I’ll be a nervous wreck, for sure,” Linicome said.

     

     

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    Lincicome thrilled by reception from male pros

    By Randall MellJuly 17, 2018, 8:31 pm

    Brittany Lincicome wondered how PGA Tour pros would greet her when she arrived to play the Barbasol Championship this week.

    She wondered if there would be resentment.

    She also wondered how fans at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky., would receive her, and if a social media mob would take up pitchforks.

    “I can’t stop smiling,” Lincicome said Tuesday after her first practice round upon arriving. “Everyone has been coming up to me and wishing me luck. That means a lot.”

    PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, husband of LPGA pro Gerina Piller, welcomed her immediately.

    Other pros sought her out on the practice putting green.

    She said she was also welcomed joining pros at a table in player dining.

    Fans have been stopping her for autographs.

    “It has been an awesome reception,” said Dewald Gouws, her husband, a former long-drive competitor. “I think it’s put her much more at ease, seeing the reception she is getting. There’s a lot of mutual respect.”

    Lincicome, 32, wasn’t sure if she would be playing a practice round alone Tuesday morning, but when she made her way to the first tee, Domenico Geminiani was there, just about to go off.

    He waved Lincicome over.

    “He said, `Hey, Brittany, do you want to join me?’” Gouws said. “Come to find out, Dom’s a pretty cool guy.”

    Geminiani made it into the field as a Monday qualifier.

    “The two of us were both trying to figure things out together,” Lincicome said.

    Keene Trace will play to 7,328 yards on the scorecard. That’s more than 800 yards longer than Highland Meadows, where Lincicome finished second at the LPGA’s Marathon Classic last weekend. Keene Trace was playing even longer than its listed yardage Tuesday, with recent rains softening it.

    Nicknamed “Bam Bam,” Lincicome is one of the longest hitters in the women’s game. Her 269.5 yard average drive is 10th in the LPGA ranks. It would likely be dead last on the PGA Tour, where Brian Stuard (278.2) is the last player on the stats list at No. 201.

    “I think if I keep it in the fairway, I’ll be all right,” Lincicome said.

    Lincicome is an eight-time LPGA winner, with two major championships among those titles. She is just the sixth woman to compete in a PGA Tour event, the first in a decade, since Michelle Wie played the Reno-Tahoe Open, the last of her eight starts against the men.

    Lincicome will join Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Wie in the elite ranks.

    Zaharias, by the way, is the only woman to make a 36-hole cut in PGA Tour history, making it at the 1945 L.A. Open before missing a 54-hole cut on the weekend.

    What are Lincicome’s expectations?

    She would love to make the cut, but . . .

    “Just going to roll with it and see what happens,” she said. “This is once in a lifetime, probably a one-and-done opportunity. I’m just going to enjoy it.”

    Lincicome grew up playing for the boys’ golf team at Seminole High on the west coast of Florida. She won a couple city championships.

    “I always thought it would be cool to compete against the guys on the PGA Tour,” Lincicome said. “I tend to play more with the guys than women at home. I never would have gone out and told my agent, `Let’s go try to play in a PGA Tour event,’ but when Tom Murray called with this opportunity, I was really blown away and excited by it. I never in a million years thought I would have this opportunity.”

    Tom Murray, the president of Perio, the parent company of Barbasol and Pure Silk, invited Lincicome to accept one of the tournament’s sponsor exemptions. Lincicome represents Pure Silk.

    Lincicome said her desire to play a PGA Tour event is all about satisfying her curiosity, wanting to know how she would stack up at this level. She also wants to see if the experience can help take her to the next level in the women’s game.

    As a girl growing up, she played Little League with the boys, instead of softball with the girls. She said playing the boys in golf at Seminole High helped her get where she is today.

    “The guys were better, and it pushed me to want to be better,” Lincicome said. “I think playing with the guys [on the PGA Tour], I will learn something to take to LPGA events, and it will help my game, for sure.”

    Lincicome has been pleased that her fellow LPGA pros are so supportive. LPGA winner Kris Tamulis is flying into Kentucky as moral support. Other LPGA pros may also be coming in to support her.

    The warm fan reception Lincicome is already getting at Keene Trace matters, too.

    “She’s already picked up some new fans this week, and hopefully she will pick up some more,” Gouws said. “I don’t think she’s putting too much expectation on herself. I think she really does just want to have fun.”

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    Stunner: Inbee Park steps aside for Int. Crown

    By Randall MellJuly 17, 2018, 4:00 pm

    There was a big surprise this week when the LPGA announced the finalized lineups for the UL International Crown.

    Rolex world No. 1 Inbee Park won’t be teeing it up for the host South Koreans Oct. 4-7 in Incheon.

    She has withdrawn, saying she wanted another Korean to be able to experience the thrill of representing her country.

    It’s a stunner given the importance the LPGA has placed on taking the UL International Crown to South Korea and its golf-crazy allegiance to the women’s game in the Crown’s first staging outside the United States.

    Two-time major champion In Gee Chun will replace Park.

    "It was my pleasure and honor to participate in the first UL International Crown in 2014 and at the 2016 Olympics, and I cannot describe in one word how amazing the atmosphere was to compete as a representative of my country,” Park said. “There are so many gifted and talented players in Korea, and I thought it would be great if one of the other players was given the chance to experience the 2018 UL International Crown.”

    Chun, another immensely popular player in South Korea, was the third alternate, so to speak, with the world rankings used to field teams. Hye Jin Choi and Jin Young Ko were higher ranked than Chun but passed because of commitments made to competing in a Korean LPGA major that week. The other South Koreans who previously qualified are So Yeon Ryu, Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim.

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    Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'

    By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2018, 3:35 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following his victory two weeks ago at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na said his second triumph on the PGA Tour was the most rewarding of his career.

    Although he declined to go into details as to why the victory was so gratifying at The Greenbrier, as he completed his practice round on Tuesday at the Open Championship, Na shed some light on how difficult the last few years have been.

    “I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, 'I can’t take the club back,'” Na said on Tuesday at Carnoustie. “People talked about it, 'He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.' I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”


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    Na, who made headlines for his struggles to begin his backswing when he found himself in the lead at the 2012 Players Championship, said he asked other players who had gone through similar bouts with the game’s most dreaded ailment how they were able to get through it.

    “It took time,” he said. “I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy.”

    The payoff, however, has steadily arrived this season. Na said he’d been confident with his game this season following a runner-up showing at the Genesis Open and a fourth-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational, and he felt he was close to a breakthrough. But being able to finish a tournament like he did at The Greenbrier, where he won by five strokes, was particularly rewarding.

    “All good now,” he smiled. “I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”