Youngster Hopes LPGA Will Waive Age Limit

By Associated PressJune 21, 2005, 4:00 pm
LPGA logo for LeaderboardsATLANTA, Ga. -- A 15-year-old girl wants to play on the LPGA Tour. And, no, it's not Michelle Wie.

Hoping to capitalize on the influx of talented young golfers, Carmen Bandea sent a letter to the LPGA on Tuesday asking for a waiver of its 18-year-old requirement to become a member of the women's tour.

Bandea wants to enter LPGA qualifying school this fall, which would give her a chance to earn her tour card for 2006. She has never played in an LPGA event, and failed in her attempts to qualify for both the men's U.S. Open and the U.S. Women's Open this year.
 
Still, Bandea believes she is ready to become a professional, at least on a limited basis.
 
'Hopefully they will let me in,' she said from her home in suburban Atlanta. 'There's no reason not to. If I can shoot the score, why not let me go play some tournaments?'
 
Bandea, who just turned 15 on Monday, could play in a maximum of six LPGA events a year using sponsor exemptions -- the route Wie has chosen. That doesn't appeal to Bandea.
 
'Exemptions are like cheating,' she said. 'It's like they're giving you something on a silver platter and saying, 'Here, take it.''
 
Bandea said she's not interested in a full-fledged pro career. At most, she only wants to play 10 LPGA events a year.
 
Outgoing LPGA commissioner Ty Votaw can waive the age requirement if a teenager shows she can be competitive, has a strong support system and demonstrates the maturity to be a professional. Aree Song, for instance, was allowed to join the tour at 17.
 
'Normally, we wouldn't publicize requests of this nature,' Votaw said from Colorado, where he's attending this week's U.S. Women's Open. 'All I can is that we have received the letter, and we are in the process of reviewing.'
 
Bandea is also a promising tennis player, with her sights on being a two-sport star.

Tennis is more lenient about teen players, though it limits the number of events they can enter between 14 and 17. Bandea plans to become a tennis pro in the fall.
 
'I've already been doing them both for a long time,' she said. 'It may be unique to everyone else, but to me it seems normal.'
 
Not lacking for confidence, Bandea already can envision head-to-head showdowns with two teen prodigies: tennis star Maria Sharapova and Wie on the golf course.
 
'I don't pay attention to anyone but myself,' Bandea said, 'but I assume there would be a rivalry with (Wie) and with Sharapova in tennis.'

Wie has not asked for a waiver of the age limit. Song is the only player allowed to turn pro before her 18th birthday, a decision that was justified when she took medalist honors at Q-school and finished as runner-up at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
 
'She graduated high school, so she had the same level of education that others had,' Votaw said, explaining his decision.
 
'She made the cut in 11 of 14 LPGA events she had played since she was 13, and all six majors. Her 18th birthday would have been in early April the following year, so we had only six LPGA events prior to her turning 18. Given all those things, she deserved a waiver.'
 
In her letter to Votaw, Bandea wrote, 'The main reason that I want to qualify is because I believe I'm as good as anybody on the LPGA Tour and it would be an awesome experience to play in your tournaments. These girls rock -- and I want to rock, too!'

While Annika Sorenstam is the dominant force on the women's tour, an exciting group of teenagers is coming through the ranks. The 15-year-old Wie has contended in several majors, including a runner-up finish to Sorenstam at the LPGA Championship two weekends ago. Eighteen-year-old Paula Creamer became the second-youngest winner in tour history last month.
 
Bandea was on the course Tuesday, attempting to qualify for a spot in the men's U.S. Public Links championship.
 
'I want to play in some LPGA tournaments,' Bandea said. 'It would be fun to see if I can qualify. The worst I can do is lose.'

Bandea is home-schooled by her mother, Becky, who holds a masters degree in education. The teenager plans to take some college courses next year through online programs and by attending classes.
 
There are numerous examples of young athletes burning themselves out by taking on too much, too soon. Bandea isn't worried about tumbling down that path, insisting that she approaches sports with the proper perspective.
 
'It's a game,' she said. 'You don't burn out playing Monopoly.'

The 5-foot-8 Bandea admittedly needs a lot of work on her putting, but her 280-yard drives compare favorably with male competitors.

'When I'm on the putting green with guys, it feels kind of weird. That's not my greatest thing,' she said. 'But when I'm on the driving range, I'm fine, because I can drive it past them.'

If the LPGA rejects her request for Q-school, Bandea simply will turn her attention toward male competition. She already feels more comfortable playing from the men's tees.

'Carmen is going to be really competitive in men's golf,' Becky Bandea said. 'If they won't let her play women's golf, she'll just play where she's allowed to play.'
 
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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Caddies drop lawsuit; Tour increases healthcare stipend

By Rex HoggardOctober 18, 2018, 3:33 pm

After nearly four years of litigation, a group of PGA Tour caddies have dropped their lawsuit against the circuit.

The lawsuit, which was filed in California in early 2015, centered on the bibs caddies wear during tournaments and ongoing attempts by the caddies to improve their healthcare and retirement options.

The caddies lost their class-action lawsuit in U.S. District Court and an appeal this year.

Separately, the Association of Professional Tour Caddies, which was not involved in the lawsuit but represents the caddies to the Tour, began negotiating with the circuit last year.

“I told the guys, if we really want a healthy working relationship with the Tour, we need to fix this and open the lines of communication,” said Scott Sajtinac, the president of the APTC.

In January 2017, Jay Monahan took over as commissioner of the Tour and began working with the APTC to find a solution to the healthcare issue. Sajtinac said the Tour has agreed to increase the stipend it gives caddies for healthcare beginning next year.

“It took a year and a half, but it turned out to be a good result,” Sajtinac said. “Our goal is to close that window for the guys because healthcare is such a massive chunk of our income.”

The Tour did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the agreement or the end to the lawsuit.

Caddies have received a stipend from the Tour for healthcare for some time, and although Sajtinac wouldn’t give the exact increase, he said it was over 300 percent. Along with the APTC’s ability to now negotiate healthcare plans as a group, the new stipend should dramatically reduce healthcare costs for caddies.

“It’s been really good,” said Sajtinac, who did add that there are currently no talks with the Tour to created a retirement program for caddies. “Everybody is really excited about this.”

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PGA Tour Latinoamérica moving season finale to Doral

By Nick MentaOctober 18, 2018, 2:36 pm

PGA Tour Latinoamérica announced Wednesday that it will play its season finale, the Latinoamérica Tour Championship-Shell Championship, at Trump National Doral from Nov. 29-Dec. 2.

The limited-field event will feature the top 60 players on the circuit's money list competing on Doral's Golden Palm Course.

“We are very happy that we will continue playing the Latinoamérica Tour Championship-Shell Championship in South Florida, and Doral is a tremendous community that we know will open its arms to our players and this tournament,” PGA Tour Latinoamérica president Jack Warfield said in a statement.

The PGA Tour ended its more than 50-year relationship with Doral and the resort's Blue Monster course back in 2016, when Cadillac's title sponsorship of the World Golf Championship lapsed as then-candidate Donald Trump was mounting his bid for the presidency.

“We continue to stand by our earlier statement, and the statement of other golf organizations, that Mr. Trump's comments are inconsistent with our strong commitment to an inclusive and welcoming environment in the game of golf,” then-PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said in December 2015, referring to Trump's campaign rhetoric concerning Mexicans and Muslims.

The event was moved to Mexico City in 2017 and renamed the WGC-Mexico Championship.

The Latinoamérica Tour Championship was staged the last two years at Melreese Country Club in Miami, where David Beckham is currently attempting to build a stadium for his Major League Soccer expansion club, Inter Miami.

PGA Tour Latinoamérica's release states that the move to Doral "keeps the event in this part of the Sunshine State and allows the tournament to maintain its ties to The First Tee of Miami as a charitable recipient and sponsor." Melreese, the city's only public golf course, is home to the First Tee of Miami, which naturally opposes Beckham's efforts to close the facility and repurpose the land.

A November referendum will ask voters to decide if the city should negotiate a no-bid lease with Beckham's ownership group, which seeks to create a $1 billion dollar complex comprising of the proposed stadium, youth soccer fields, a park, commercial and retail space, and a hotel.

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Im wins Web.com Player and Rookie of the Year awards

By Nick MentaOctober 18, 2018, 1:22 pm

Sungjae Im on Thursday was named the Web.com Tour's 2018 Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year.

Im won twice on the Web.com this year, taking the season opener in January, The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic, and the season finale in August, the WinCo Foods Portland Open, to become the first player in history lead the circuit's money list wire-to-wire.

Im is the first Korean-born player to win the Web's POY award and, at 20 years old, its youngest recipient.

In a player vote, Im bested Anders Albertson, Sam Burns, Kramer Hickok and Martin Trainer, 2018's only other two-time winner, for POY honors, and Burns, Hickock, Trainer and Cameron Champ for ROY honors.

“My first year on the Web.com Tour was an incredibly happy time for me,” Im said, “and it’s pretty surreal that I was able to win the first and last tournament of the season. I honestly thought I would spend about two to three years on the Web.com Tour before making it to the PGA Tour, so I’m happy to have achieved my goal so soon. I’m grateful to have earned the Player of the Year honors and I hope to finish the remainder of the PGA Tour season on a good note.”

In his first PGA Tour start, Im tied for fourth at the Safeway Open, earning $241,280, a little less than half of the $534,326 he amassed in 25 starts as the Web's regular-season money winner.

Playing this week's CJ Cup in his native South Korea, Im opened with a 1-over 73 Thursday.

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Former DJ advisor found guilty in embezzlement case

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 18, 2018, 12:38 pm

A federal jury has found Nathan Hardwick, a former advisor to Dustin Johnson, guilty of embezzling $26 million in funds from his now-bankrupt real estate closing firm, Morris Hardwick Schneider.

Per Golf.com, citing Law.com, a 12-person jury convicted Hardwick of "one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, 21 counts of wire fraud and one count of making false statements to federally insured banks."

As for where exactly the money went, The Sun News of Myrtle Beach, once again citing Law.com, has the details:

"The alleged spending included $18.47 million on gambling, private jet travel and women from 2011 through August 2014. The prosecution submitted two binders of documentation as evidence that Hardwick spent $4.39 million on “female social companions,” including one testifying witness who claimed to have met him through SugarDaddy.com."

"Other alleged expenditures described in testimony include more than $7 million at casinos, more than $3 million with a bookie, $680,000 for a luxury condo at The St. Regis Atlanta, $273,000 on a diamond ring, $186,000 on a deposit for a party on a private island, and $635,000 on a trip to the 2014 British Open for golfing buddies that included a customized jet and round at St. Andrews."

Johnson in 2014 sued Morris Hardwick Schneider over a $3 million loan he believed to be an investment. Instead, Johnson argued, the money was going to make up for shortages created by Hardwick's embezzlement. Johnson later amended his suit to argue that Hardwick, who previously served on the board of the Dustin Johnson Foundation, was being used as a "pawn" by the firm's other partners. 

That suit was settled in 2016 for $2 million.