Falling Under Crenshaws Spell
Crenshaw won the Fred Haskins award as the outstanding collegiate golfer three years in a row, from 1971-73. He won the NCAA Championship each of those years as well, sharing it in 1972 with his University of Texas teammate, Tom Kite.
Runner-up in the '72 U.S. Amateur, Crenshaw won the PGA Tour qualifying tournament by a record 12 strokes. His PGA Tour debut was 80 miles down Ineterstate 35 from his hometown. By Sunday he had won the Texas Open (then known as the San Antonio-Texas Open) by two shots over Orville Moody. Texas golf fans had their new Nelson, their new Hogan.
While Crenshaw possessed the pedigree, swing and hometown, which would endear him to Texas golf fans, he also had the looks, charisma and intensity to capture the hearts of those outside of the Lone Star State as well. Like great players before and after him, Crenshaw's admirers would forgive transgressions, applaud his heroics, and practically swoon in his presence.
My sister was the first person I knew to fall under the Crenshaw spell. When we would visit my father on the road, Liz always wanted to know if Ben would be playing. She had just entered her teens and had only showed interest in Bobby Sherman and David Cassidy, so I couldn't quite figure out her preoccupation.
When we would see Ben at tournaments, I began to notice that the spell had spread throughout my family, along the X chromosome. The men weren't immune, just not as badly afflicted.
The symptoms appeared in my sister first, spreading quickly to my stepmother and grandmother - far-off look in the eyes, increased giggling, loss of rational coherent thought process and a fluttering of the eyelids. To a 12-year-old boy, it was just plain gross.
My dad had a mild case also. Painful side effects included the euphoria of an impossible birdie putt, followed immediately by the heartbreak of an inexcusable double. No one could lay a roller coaster round on you like Ben. My father could be very critical of players when he wasn't broadcasting, but any Crenshaw mistake was met simply with an 'awww, Bin.'
My father loved Ben like a son. He was so happy to have Ben on the Ryder Cup team he captained in 1981, and would have been overjoyed with the job Ben did in 1999. I remember going to Augusta in 1995 and following him. It was a magical week in a magical place. I was in the grandstand on 13 Sunday when he lined up a critical birdie putt. I knew the cauldron of emotion that swirled inside of him. I knew Harvey Penick was looking after his pupil and friend. I wanted to remind Ben to take dead aim. I didn't have to. He made the putt, and when I met up with my father after the BBC telecast, dad's eyes were red, his voice spent.
My dad died two years later and never got to see the Miracle at Brookline. He never got to hear that Ben Crenshaw would become the U.S. Ryder Cup captain. But he would have liked what he saw. I was in the pressroom the night Ben told the world about his 'feeling.' I came out of the interview area positive that the U.S. would be victorious. I bet my BBC friends a dollar that the Americans would win.
Then some older, wiser golf writers calmed me down, saying Ben had lost his mind and was talking gibberish. I realized that I had fallen under the spell.
The next day I interviewed Julie Crenshaw for the local NBC station and provided my commentary throughout the day. When it was all over, I ran to the 18th green, joining the celebration. I'd seen many things during my days in the game but the delirium at that moment was indescribable.
I looked for my friend, Tom Lehman, to congratulate him and I looked for Ben, but I couldn't find either. I floated up the walkway towards the locker room and was stopped by a guard. I turned around and Ben was right behind me. Our eyes met and he threw me in a bear hug and shouted, 'This is for your father. I've been thinking of him all week long.' We stood there hugging and crying in a champagne shower until he dragged me into the locker room.
I stayed longer than I should have before sprinting back to the set for our wrap-up show. I tried to put the day into perspective, but really couldn't. I still haven't been able to. A few weeks later, a dryer, more composed Ben Crenshaw wrote a note to my grandmother and told her the same things he had told me on the locker room patio at the Country Club. He said all the things a mother would like to hear about her son. She kept that note on her bedside table until she passed away a few months later.
Ben Crenshaw burst on the golf scene burdened by the impossibly high expectations of his fans. In the end he wound up exceeding mine.
Lincicome grouped with two rookies in Barbasol
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.
Lincicome thrilled by reception from male pros
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.”
Stunner: Inbee Park steps aside for Int. Crown
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.
Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'
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.”
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.”