Where the Girls Are

By David Marr IiiJuly 30, 2002, 4:00 pm
I've been to about 40 USGA Championships, mainly U.S. Opens, some Women's Opens, a few Senior Opens and a couple of U.S. Amateurs. I don't think I've ever had an experience quite like this past week in New Jersey.
I covered an event with little media attention, no big names and an open admission to the public. All I got to see was a group of young girls playing golf with smiles, excitement, talent and grace. They played the game as it should be played. Don't get me wrong, the competition was fierce and there were some great shots each day. But it was the personalities that I will remember most about the 54th U.S. Girls Junior Championship.
I began the week attempting to interview players just off the course after victories in early-round matches. I got more smiles than syllables for most of the answers as these shy young golfers clearly preferred grinding out pars and birdies to grinding out sound bites. What did I expect from a 16-year-old with a TV camera in her face and a stranger older than her father asking random questions? Still, the mood was upbeat and the camaraderie between the girls was evident, when the cameras weren't rolling.
Adolescence was in full bloom as well. Parents hugged on their kids while the youngsters pulled away or wiped kisses from their faces. You can't be uncool at a national championship. Caddies desperately tried to get the attention of some of the older competitors (the 17-year-olds) while host families kept a watchful eye. It was the innocent trappings of youth which we all lose inevitably as we age. To see it at a USGA event was refreshing and reminded me of my early days playing the game.
The medallist was a 14-year-old Korean girl named In-Bee Park who drove the par-4 second hole repeatedly during the week. She was a bit of a mystery. Her coach/interpreter often spent two minutes or more answering questions after only a few words spoken by In-Bee. Either that's one condensed language or there was a little extrapolation going on.
At one point in my interview she spoke in English talking about her favorite golfer, Annika Sorenstam. Her voice was as small as her driver was large and she then continued to speak to me in English. A sweet, shy girl who seemed to be coming out of her shell, struggling for words that she could make her own. And isn't that what growing up is all about, anyway?
At one point I was interviewing another young competitor and her remarkable demeanor amazed me. I hadn't recognized her from a feature on Golf Central, but was familiar with her story. Mallory Code's bright beaming smile, pleasant tone of voice and enthusiastic responses belied her medical struggles. She's an asthmatic and a diabetic who receives insulin shots dispensed automatically from a unit she wears on her belt.
She seemed to have a mature inner strength combined with all the wonders of a growing young woman. Her game was mature as well, Mallory making it all the way to the quarterfinals, and she handled defeat graciously. Mallory also has cystic fibrosis, whose insidious symptoms are far more cumbersome than an insulin pack and whose prognosis is ominous to say the least. She is one of those youngsters you pull for in life. I'll be pulling extra hard for Mallory.
If Mallory's most significant struggles lie ahead, Jenny Tangtiphaiboontana's are hopefully behind her. Back in November she was riding in a car with her parents. The car flipped on the freeway and both of her parents were killed. Jenny escaped with minor injuries, but the psychological and emotional scars are unimaginable to me.
She's a smiling young California girl who carries four more letters in here name than clubs in her bag. Her only sibling is her brother Tommy, who accompanied her every step of the way with words of encouragement at every turn. In his eyes you could see hope, anxiety and love for his little sister. An accomplished player himself, Tommy was asked who could beat whom. His careful response - 'The way she's playing this week, I couldn't beat her.'
Jenny's caddie was a local favorite named Brian Fitzpatrick. All week long four of Brian's friends wore caddie bibs, each with a homemade letter on the front and the back, in masking tape. When arranged properly they spelled out 'Fitz'. When they turned around it spelled out 'Boon'. Watching these boys adopt Jenny and embrace her after her loss in the final match was a sight I can't describe and whose recollection makes me proud to be affiliated with this sport.
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LPGA's new Q-Series to offer deferrals for amateurs

By Randall MellMarch 21, 2018, 4:36 pm

The LPGA’s new Q-Series, which takes the place of the final stage of Q-School beginning this year, will come with a revolutionary new twist for amateurs.

For the first time, the LPGA will offer deferrals that will allow amateurs to win tour membership in December but delay turning pro until the following June or July, tour commissioner Mike Whan told GolfChannel.com.

It’s a notable change, because the deferral will allow a collegiate player to earn tour membership at the end of this year but retain amateur status to finish out her collegiate spring season next year, before joining the tour.

“We haven’t done that in the past, because we didn’t want an onslaught, where every player in college is trying to join the tour,” Whan said.

The way it worked in the past, a collegian could advance through the final stage of Q-School, but if that player earned the right to a tour card and wanted to take up membership, she had to declare after the final round that she was turning pro. It meant the player would leave her college team in the middle of the school year. It was a particularly difficult decision for players who earned conditional LPGA status, and it played havoc with the makeup of some college teams.

Whan said the revamped Q-Series format won’t create the collegiate stampede that deferrals might have in the past.

“It will take a unique talent to show up at the first stage of Q-School and say, ‘I’ll see you at Q-Series,’” Whan said. “There won’t be a lot of amateurs who make it there.”

Under the new qualifying format, there will continue to be a first and second stage of Q-School, but it will be much harder to advance to the final stage, now known Q-Series.

Under the old format, about 80 players advanced from the second stage to the Q-School finals. Under the new format, only 20 to 30 players from the second stage will advance to the Q-Series, and only a portion of those are likely to be collegians.

Under the new format, a maximum of 108 players will meet at the Q-Series finals, where a minimum of 45 tour cards will be awarded after 144 holes of competition, played over two weeks on two different courses. The field will include players who finished 101st to 150th and ties on the final LPGA money list, and players who finished 11th to 30th and ties on the final Symetra Tour money list. The field will also include up to 10 players from among the top 75 of the Rolex Women’s World Rankings and the top five players on the Golfweek Women’s Collegiate Rankings.

“We feel if you make it to the Q-Series finals as a college player, you are probably among the best of the best, and we ought to give you the opportunity to finish the college year,” Whan said.

University of Washington coach Mary Lou Mulflur said she would prefer amateurs not be allowed to compete at Q-School, but she called this a workable compromise.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” Mulflur said. “It’s better than the way it’s been in the past. That was hard, because it broke up teams.”

Mulflur said she disliked the tough position the former policy put college players in at the final stage of Q-School, where they had to decide at event’s end whether to turn pro and accept tour membership.

“I can’t imagine being a kid in that position, and I’ve had a couple kids in that position,” Mulflur said. “It’s hard on everybody, the player, the family and the coaches. You hear about coaches standing there begging a kid not to turn pro, and that’s just not the way it should be, for the coach or the player.”

Mulflur agreed with Whan that the new Q-Series format should limit the number of collegians who have a chance to win tour cards.

“I believe it’s a good compromise, and it will be interesting to see how it plays out going forward,” Mulflur said. “Kudos to the commissioner for giving kids this option.”

Whan said collegians who take deferrals will be counseled.

“We will sit down with them and their families and explain the risks,” Whan said. “If you take a deferral and start playing on July 15, you might find yourself back in Q-Series again later that year, because you may not have enough time.”

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Tour still focused on security after death of suspected Austin bomber

By Rex HoggardMarch 21, 2018, 4:07 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Although the suspect in the wave of Austin-area bombings was killed early Wednesday, the PGA Tour plans to continue heightened security measures at this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club.

According to various news outlets, Mark Anthony Conditt has been identified as the bombings suspect, and he was killed by an explosion inside his car in Round Rock, Texas, which is 19 miles north of Austin Country Club.

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“We do not comment on the specifics of our security measures, but we are continuing to work in close collaboration with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in Austin to ensure the safety of our players and fans at this week’s tournament,” the Tour said in a statement. “Regardless of the recent developments, our heightened security procedures will remain in place through the remainder of the week.”

Authorities believe Conditt is responsible for the five explosions that killed two people and injured five others in Austin or south-central Texas since March 2.

Play began Wednesday at the Match Play.

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Monahan addresses alcohol, fan behavior at events

By Rex HoggardMarch 21, 2018, 3:53 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Fan behavior has become a hot-button topic on the PGA Tour in recent weeks, with Rory McIlroy suggesting on Saturday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational the circuit should “limit alcohol sales on the course.”

The Tour’s policy is to stop selling alcohol an hour before the end of play, which is normally around 5 p.m., and on Wednesday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play commissioner Jay Monahan said it’s something the Tour is monitoring.

“When you have people who aren’t behaving properly and they’ve had too much alcohol, then I agree [with McIlroy],” Monahan said. “In those incidences those people who are making it uncomfortable for a player alcohol sales should be cut off.”

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Fan behavior became an issue with some players when Tiger Woods returned to competition at last month’s Genesis Open. During the final round of the Honda Classic Justin Thomas had a fan removed when he yelled for Thomas’ tee shot at the par-4 16th hole to “get in the bunker.”

Monahan declined to address Thomas’ situation at PGA National specifically, but he did seem to suggest that as interest grows and the Tour continues to attract more mainstream sports crowds, vocal fans will continue to be the norm.

“I believe that there was more that went into it that preceded and in a situation like that we’re hopeful our players will reach out to our security staff and they can handle that,” Monahan said. “[But] yelling, ‘get in the bunker,’ that’s part of what our players have to accept. In any sport, you go to an away game, in any other sport, and people aren’t rooting for you. Sometimes out here you’re going to have fans that aren’t rooting for you, but they can’t interfere with what you’re trying to do competitively.”

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Senden playing first event since son's brain tumor

By Will GrayMarch 21, 2018, 3:03 pm

John Senden is back inside the ropes for the first time in nearly a year at this week's Chitimacha Louisiana Open on the Web.com Tour.

Senden took a leave of absence from professional golf in April, when his teenage son, Jacob, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He didn't touch a club for nearly four months as Jacob endured six rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, a gauntlet that stretched from April until mid-November.

But Senden told PGATour.com that his son's tumor has shrunk from the size of a thumbnail to the size of a pinky nail, and after a promising MRI in January he decided to plan his comeback.

"I haven't really played in 12 months, but in that time Jacob has really, really hung tough," Senden said. "His whole body was getting slammed with all these treatments, and he was so strong in his whole attitude and his whole body. Just really getting through the whole thing. He was tough."

Senden was granted a family crisis exemption by the Tour, and he'll have 13 starts to earn 310 FedExCup points to retain his playing privileges for the 2018-19 season. He is allowed five Web.com "rehabilitation" starts as part of the exemption, but will reportedly only make one this week before returning to the PGA Tour at the RBC Heritage, followed by starts in San Antonio, Charlotte and Dallas.

Senden, 46, has won twice on Tour, most recently the 2014 Valspar Championship.