Wenchong making a name for himself outside China

By Associated PressAugust 15, 2010, 5:43 am

2010 PGA Championship

SHEBOYGAN, Wis.– Golf is not the problem. It’s played the same way in any language. The barriers that players like Liang Wenchong find maddening are a lot less exotic, like finding a dependable place in most towns to get a meal.

A few hours after shooting a course-record 64 Saturday and vaulting within three strokes of the lead at the PGA Championship, Liang and a few friends were already making plans for the 80-mile round trip from their Milwaukee hotel to a suburban Chinese restaurant called Peking House for a modest celebration.

“We learned about the restaurant from reading a story about Yi Jianlian, who used to play for the Milwaukee Bucks,” Liang said through an interpreter. “We’ve been there several times already. It’s very good.

“But yesterday, we finished so late the only place was open was McDonald’s. Either way,” he added, grinning. “is fine.”

Calling Liang adaptable doesn’t tell the half of it. He didn’t start playing golf until age 15, when the first course in China was built in his hometown of Zhongshan and local officials began looking for kids to fill up a golf school.

“I came to it by accident. I had no idea what it could lead to,” Liang said.

But he improved steadily thanks to a regimen of eight-hour workdays and practice sessions, then came under the tutelage of China’s first world-class player, Zhang Lian-wei. By 21, Liang was good enough to turn pro. Since then, he’s taken on a coach, Australian Kel Llewellyn, and won seven times on the China Tour, once in Europe and played in the Masters, British Open and nearly a dozen times on the PGA Tour.

In his only previous shot at the PGA, in 2007 at steamy Southern Hills, Liang failed to make the cut. In three starts this season, his best finish was a tie for 30th at the Memorial two months ago. Needless to say, he didn’t see this coming.

Liang struggled just to make the cut here, but when he locked that up late Friday, he felt like he was playing with house money. Then he started on the easier back nine Saturday, surprised at how well he was driving the ball.

“So that started building the confidence,” he added.

Soon, he was rolling it even better. Liang hit 10 of 14 fairways and 14 of 18 greens, but his ball-striking was merely solid and his chipping a little better than that. The real key to his scintillating round was on the greens, where he needed only 23 putts. Yet he wasn’t sure even that was his best putting performance. He shot 60 to win an Asian tour event in 2008.

“Both rounds are very, very special to me. But this is special, besides the score, because this is a major. Also, it will make people realize there actually are professional golfers in China,” he said.

A win on Sunday might sound far-fetched, but a lot of people thought the same thing before Korea’s Y.E. Yang took down Tiger Woods at last year’s PGA and became the first Asian golfer to win a major. Liang hasn’t had to face down Woods, but in 2001 “I actually was in very close contact with Tiger,” he said, explaining a moment later that Woods was playing an exhibition in China and he was along as the caddie for his mentor Zhang.

But don’t take that to mean the 32-year-old is awed by the stage, or the other players with whom he’s sharing Whistling Straits. Under Llewellyn’s guidance, Liang rebuilt every part of his swing over the last three years.

“So now I’m more relaxed and very comfortable,” he said. “The other thing is I know to remain calm, not let the major pressure get to me.”

His caddie, Ibrahim Gaus, figures if that pressure was going to get to Liang, it would have happened Saturday as he closed in on the course record.

“He knew,” Gaus said. “He knows exactly what to do with the ball. It was no problem for him.”

Liang was a bit more sanguine about his chances Sunday, but he already knows enough about dealing with the media that he vowed to “take it one shot at a time.”

“I was nervous yesterday on 18, when I was worried about just making the cut. Since then,” he smiled, “I have no negative thoughts.”

The one thing Liang has thought long and hard about is what a major win might mean for golf back in China.

“I think people there would be very surprised and very happy, because there have not been many opportunities for Chinese golfers in the majors,’ he said.

But much like Yao Ming and Yi moving to the NBA raised basketball’s profile back home, Liang is certain a win come Sunday would make him something of a pioneer. And so, when someone asked whether he knew Yi, Liang smiled devilishly and replied, “Maybe the question will be asked whether Yi Jianlian knows me.”

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Elway to play in U.S. Senior Open qualifier

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 23, 2018, 10:25 pm

Tony Romo is not the only ex-QB teeing it up against the pros.

Denver Broncos general manager and Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway will try to qualify for the U.S. Senior Open next week, according to the Denver Post.

And why not? The qualifier and the senior major will be held in Colorado Springs at the Broadmoor. Elway is scheduled to tee off May 28 at 12:10 p.m. ET. The top two finishers will earn a spot in the U.S. Senior Open, June 27 to July 1.

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Jutanugarn sisters: Different styles, similar results

By Associated PressMay 23, 2018, 10:20 pm

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn play golf and live life differently.

The sisters from Thailand do have the same goal in the LPGA, hoping their shot-to-shot focus leads to titles.

The Jutanugarns are two of six women with a shot at the Volvik Championship to become the circuit's first two-time winner this year. The first round begins Thursday at Travis Pointe Country Club, a course six winners are skipping to prepare elsewhere for next week's U.S. Women's Open at Shoal Creek in Alabama.

''Everybody has a chance to win every weekend,'' Moriya said. ''That's how hard it is on tour right now.''

Ariya competes with a grip-it-and-rip-it approach, usually hammering a 3-wood off the tee.

Moriya takes a more calculated approach, analyzing each shot patiently.

That's perhaps fitting because she's 16 months older than her sister.

''It's funny because when we think about something, it's always the different,'' she said. ''But we pretty much end up with the same idea.''

Off the course, they're also different.

The 22-year-old Ariya appears careful and guarded when having conversations with people she doesn't know well. The 23-year-old Moriya, meanwhile, enjoys engaging in interesting discussions with those who cross her path.

Their mother, Narumon, was with her daughters Wednesday and the three of them always stay together as a family. They don't cook during tournament weeks and opt to eat out, searching for good places like the sushi restaurant they've discovered near Travis Pointe.

Their father, Somboon, does not watch them play in person. They sisters say he has retired from owning a golf shop in Thailand.

''He doesn't travel anymore,'' Moriya Jutanugarn said.

Even if he is relegating to watching from the other side of the world, Somboon Jutanugarn must be proud of the way his daughters are playing.

Ariya became the first Thai winner in LPGA history in 2016, the same year she went on to win the inaugural Volvik Championship. She earned her eighth career victory last week in Virginia and is one of two players, along with Brooke Henderson, to have LPGA victories this year and the previous two years.

Moriya won for the first time in six years on the circuit last month in Los Angeles, joining Annika and Charlotta Sorenstam as the two pairs of sisters to have LPGA victories.

On the money list, Ariya is No. 1 and her sister is third.

In terms of playing regularly, no one is ahead of them.

Ariya is the only LPGA player to start and make the cut in all 12 events this year. Moriya Jutanugarn has also appeared in each tournament this year and failed to make the cut only once.

Instead of working in breaks to practice without competing or simply relax, they have entered every tournament so far and shrug their shoulders at the feat.

''It's not that bad, like 10 week in a row,'' Moriya said.

The LPGA is hosting an event about five miles from Michigan Stadium for a third straight year and hopes to keep coming back even though it doesn't have a title sponsor secured for 2019. LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan told reporters he's confident Ann Arbor will be a long-term home for the circuit.

''I can't tell you the specifics about how we're going to do that,'' Whan acknowledged.

LPGA and tournament officials are hosting some prospective sponsors this week, trying to persuade them to put their name on the tournament.

Volvik, which makes golf balls, is preparing to scale back its support of the tournament.

''We're coming back,'' said Don Shin, president of Volvik USA. ''We just don't know in what capacity.''

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Wise: 'No hard feelings' over Nelson missed kiss

By Will GrayMay 23, 2018, 10:18 pm

Aaron Wise left the AT&T Byron Nelson with his first PGA Tour trophy and a seven-figure paycheck. But lost in the shuffle of closing out his breakthrough victory in near-darkness was his failed attempt for a celebratory kiss with his girlfriend on the 18th green.

Wise appeared to go in for a peck after his family joined him on the putting surface, but instead he and his girlfriend simply laughed and hugged. After the moment gained a bit of online notoriety, Wise told reporters at the Fort Worth Invitational that the young couple simply laughed it off.

"Yeah, I have been giving her some s--- about that," Wise said. "A lot has been made about it. It's really nothing. Like I was saying, she was just so excited to surprise me. I was kind of ruining the surprise a little bit that she was shocked, and she didn't even see me going in for the kiss."

At age 21, Wise is now one of the youngest winners on Tour. He explained that while both his girlfriend and mother flew in to watch the final round at Trinity Forest Golf Club, where he shared the 54-hole lead and eventually won by three shots, he took some of the surprise out of their arrival in true millennial fashion - by looking up his girlfriend's location earlier in the day.

Still getting used to his newfound status on Tour, Wise downplayed any controversy surrounding the kiss that wasn't.

"No hard feelings at all," Wise said. "We love each other a ton and we're great. It was a funny moment that I think we'll always be able to look back at, but that's all it really was."

Mmm Visuals / Lancaster Country Club

Giving back: Chun creates education fund at site of Open win

By Randall MellMay 23, 2018, 8:04 pm

South Korea’s In Gee Chun is investing in American youth.

Chun broke through on the largest stage in women’s golf, winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago, and she’s making sure Lancaster, Pa., continues to share in what that brought her.

Chun is preparing for next week’s U.S. Women’s Open at Shoal Creek outside Birmingham, Ala., but she made a special stop this week. She returned to the site of her breakthrough in Pennsylvania on Tuesday and Wednesday, launching the In Gee Chun Lancaster Country Club Education Fund. She announced Tuesday that she’s donating $10,000 to seed the fund. She’s expected to raise more than $20,000 for the cause in a fundraising dinner at the club Wednesday evening. The fund will annually award scholarships to Lancaster youth applicants, including Lancaster Country Club caddies and children of club employees.

“I’m excited to be back here,” said Chun, who put on a junior clinic during her stay and also played an outing with club members. “Winning the U.S. Women’s Open here in Lancaster gave me the opportunity to play on the LPGA and make one of my dreams come true.”

Chun also supports a fund in her name at Korea University, where she graduated, a fund for various “social responsibility” projects and for the educational needs of the youth who create them.

“Education is very important to me,” Chun said. “I would like to help others reach their goals.”

Chun made donations to the Lancaster General Health Foundation in 2015 and ’16 and to Pennsylvania’s J. Wood Platt Caddie Scholarship Trust last year. Lancaster Country Club officials estimate she has now made donations in excess of $40,000 to the community.

“We are grateful In Gee’s made such a wonderful connection to our community and club,” said Rory Connaughton, a member of Lancaster Country Club’s board of governors. “She’s a special person.”