Plenty of thrills for little-known FedEx Cup long shot

By Doug FergusonAugust 30, 2011, 6:20 pm

NORTON, Mass. – For a guy who grew up in the South, the happiest times for William McGirt are coming to Boston.

This is where McGirt and his wife, Sarah, decided to spend their honeymoon seven years ago when he was just starting out a career in golf that was going nowhere quickly.

“Just seemed like a cool place that we always wanted to see,” he said.

More surprising is what brings him to New England this week.

One putt made McGirt the last man to get into the playoffs. One putt at The Barclays allowed him to advance, still the ultimate long shot for the $10 million FedEx Cup prize.

Not many knew McGirt before last week. Odds are, not many will remember him at the end of the month when the FedEx Cup reaches the Tour Championship.

But he is more than just the fresh face of these playoffs. Considering his journey - not just the last two weeks but the last seven years - McGirt is a reminder that even the most successful players should realize how good they have it.

“If you can’t enjoy this job, you’re in it for the wrong reasons,” McGirt said.

This is from a 32-year-old PGA Tour rookie who played more mini-tours than he cares to remember; who still thinks it’s a privilege - not a right - to get a courtesy car; and who thought more than once about quitting, promising himself “one more year” until he finally reached the last stage of Q-school two years ago.

He has traveled so much in the minor leagues that he once saw his wife for only eight days during a four-month stretch.

“If something happens and we never get back out here, I wouldn’t kick myself for stuff I could have done,” McGirt said. “I would know we gave it our best, and we had a blast while we were doing it.”

There have been plenty of thrills the last two weeks.

McGirt had missed the cut in 13 of the 25 tournaments he had played, but he had done just well enough in the others that he was on the cusp of getting the 125th and final spot in the playoffs. His car already was packed in Greensboro, N.C. McGirt either was going west toward Knoxville, Tenn., for a Nationwide Tour event, or north toward New Jersey for the $8 million playoff opener at The Barclays.

Long after McGirt had finished his final round, it came down to this: On the 18th hole, Justin Leonard just missed the fairway and wound up missing a 12-foot par putt, a sequence that moved McGirt to No. 125 and sent him to the richest event he had ever played.

Six days later came another close call, only this time it was in his hands.

Hurricane Irene not only cut short The Barclays to 54 holes, it also forced the tournament to remove all electronic scoreboards from Plainfield. Only the top 100 advance to the second playoff event outside Boston. McGirt was not aware that he was projected at No. 101 as he stood in the 17th fairway of the final round.

He was playing with Padraig Harrington, whose wife, Caroline, was walking with Sarah McGirt.

“Caroline told her that she had to tell me where I stood,” McGirt said. “Sarah didn’t know if it would put more pressure on me, but Caroline told her to do it.”

That’s when McGirt’s wife used her fingers to indicate his projected position - one, zero, one - and he understood. With his best swing of the day, he hit a 7-iron to 6 feet for birdie. That put him in a tie for 24th, and he moved to No. 96.

Instead of driving toward home to North Carolina, they headed for Boston.

It was enough time to think about the long road to this point. The couple met at Wofford College in North Carolina. Sarah used to walk by his dorm room every day and see him watching TV, wondering if he ever went to class.

“I took all my classes early and was done at 11:30 a.m. so I could go to the golf course in the afternoon. She didn’t wake up until 11:30,” McGirt said with a laugh.

He said his wife worked for Reebok, overseeing the move to a new distribution center in South Carolina. There were a few tough years, when he was barely making enough to break even and she was putting in long hours as the distribution center was being built. They didn’t see much of each other.

“That’s one reason I almost hung it up,” he said. “She was working 50 or 60 hours a week, and when they started building the center, 70 or 80 hours. She busted her butt for seven years. For two of those years, she was paying all the bills.”

McGirt got to the final stage of Q-school in 2009, which put him on the Nationwide Tour. He tied for third in his first event in Bogota, Colombia, to keep status for the year, and then made it all the way through Q-school last December to earn his card.

Sarah left her job the week before they headed to Hawaii for the Sony Open to start his rookie season.

“We’ve spent more time together this year than we did the first four years we were married,” McGirt said. “It’s the most fun we’ve ever had.”

McGirt has earned about $400,000 this year. And if he isn’t among the top 70 who advance to the third playoff event outside Chicago, he will have to play all of the Fall Series and try to keep his card for next year.

That can wait.

On Tuesday morning, he had new grips put on his clubs, then headed out for a pro-am at the TPC Boston. His amateur partner was former Boston Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk.

“I’m going to hit my first tee shot and then go like this,” McGirt said, skipping and waving his arms to the right, just as Fisk did when he hit the game-winning home run in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series.

Life has never been better.

Getty Images

Hataoka leads Minjee Lee by one at LPGA Volvik

By Associated PressMay 26, 2018, 12:54 am

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - After losing in a playoff last weekend, Nasa Hataoka is making another bid for her first LPGA Tour victory.

Hataoka shot a 4-under 68 on Friday, and the Japanese teenager led by one stroke over Minjee Lee after the second round of the Volvik Championship. Hataoka, who is coming off the first two top-10 finishes of her LPGA career, made seven birdies at Travis Pointe Country Club. She began her round on No. 10, and her best stretch came toward the end, when she birdied Nos. 4, 5 and 6.

''I'm really comfortable playing the LPGA,'' the 19-year-old Hataoka said through a translator. ''I've really got confidence now.''

Hataoka made the cut nine times in 17 starts as a rookie in 2017, and she has made significant strides of late. She tied for seventh at last month's MEDIHEAL Championship and nearly won a week ago at the Kingsmill Championship in Virginia.

Hataoka finished the second round in Michigan at 9 under. Lee (69) was also solid Friday. Gaby Lopez (68), Jodi Ewart Shadoff (70) and Lindy Duncan (70) were a stroke behind Lee in a tie for third.

Hataoka did not make a single bogey in last week's three-round tournament, and she didn't have any in the first round in Michigan. She finally made a few Friday, but that didn't stop her from taking sole possession of the lead.

''I kind of feel like not really perfect, but I just kind of try to (be) aggressive,'' she said.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

Lee, who lost by one stroke on this course last year, is in contention again.

''I guess the fairways are pretty generous and I think the greens are a little bit on the trickier side to read,'' Lee said. ''As long as your iron shots are pretty solid, I think you're going to be in good position around this golf course.''

Lee birdied the first two holes, and the only blemish on her scorecard Friday came on the par-5 14th. After missing the fairway to the right, she hit an aggressive shot out of the rough that went straight toward a water hazard well in front of the green. She settled for a bogey after taking a drop.

''I thought the ball was sitting OK in the rough, but it must have been a bit funny, or underneath it,'' she said. ''I made a mistake. I thought it was good enough to hit 3-wood there.''

Lee lost last year in Michigan to Shanshan Feng, but Feng will have some ground to make up in her attempt to repeat. She shot 69 on Friday but is still eight strokes behind the leader.

Ariya Jutanugarn was 6 under after a second consecutive 69.

Lopez made only six pars in the second round, tied for the fewest of the day, but her eight birdies and four bogeys put her near the top of the leaderboard.

''It was a little bit of an up and down,'' she said. ''There's so many opportunities out here to make birdie, that the most important thing to do is just to be patient, to be in the moment and not to get ahead of yourself. I think I came back from a couple mistakes that I did.''

In contrast to Lopez, Brittany Lincicome parred all 18 holes Friday and made the cut at 1 under. Paula Creamer (71) triple bogeyed the par-4 13th. She followed that with an eagle on the very next hole but missed the cut by a stroke.

Getty Images

Childhood rivals share Sr. PGA lead

By Associated PressMay 26, 2018, 12:00 am

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - Kevin Sutherland and Scott McCarron have been rivals since their junior golf days around Sacramento, California. The two old friends were back at it Friday at the top of the Senior PGA Championship leaderboard.

''It's honestly, nothing new for us,'' said Sutherland who played in the third-to-last group and birdied his last two holes for a 5-under 66 to match McCarron at 8 under.

McCarron had a 68 in the morning wave to emerge from a championship record group of six tied for the first-round lead.

Sutherland was last year's Charles Schwab Cup winner with his only senior win coming in the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship, while McCarron has six PGA Tour Champions wins, including a major at the 2017 Senior Players Championship.

''We are both (Northern California) guys, played in high school, junior golf, on tour and it seems like a lot on the Champions Tour,'' Sutherland said. ''We were in the last group on Sundays a lot last year. Scott played so well and had an incredible year, and I had a great year, too.''

Sutherland's lone PGA Tour victory came at McCarron's expense in 2002 at La Costa in the Accenture Match Play Championship, when he beat McCarron 1 up in the 36-hole final. As youngsters they played on opposing high school teams located about an hour apart and met often in state tournaments as well as on the California junior circuit.

''It's been happening for 30 years, wait 35 years now, I guess,'' Sutherland said. ''Playing together on a Saturday is a little different. We're both still trying to get in position to win.''

Jerry Kelly shot a 65 to join Tim Petrovic (69), Chris Williams (68) and Joe Durant (67) at 7 under. Durant tied for second last week in the Regions Tradition, also a major championship.

Full-field scores from the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship

McCarron feels like he is just starting to warm to the task this year. He had to replace his clubs, including a favored putter damaged beyond repair in air transit two months ago.

''I've been putting with a back-up putter I had, but it just didn't feel quite right,'' he said. ''I changed last Sunday at the Regions Tradition and started putting better on Sunday. So I'm using this one again this week and seem to be putting pretty good with it.''

McCarron said the Harbor Shores course played a little tougher in light winds in the second round. He made six birdies and three bogeys.

''I would just like to have a couple of those bogeys back,'' he said. ''But we're in a good position going into the weekend.''

McCarron came to the press center after his round and walked in on a press conference where course-designer Jack and Barbara Nicklaus were being honored by sponsoring KitchenAid with the establishment of a local college scholarship program in their name.

McCarron, who said he has idolized Nicklaus since his youth, played media and asked Nicklaus what he ate when he was near the lead going into the weekend of a major championship.

Nicklaus said if you play well one day, eat the same thing the next day.

''But no hamburgers, or you will play like hamburger,'' he said.

Stuart Smith, the Reno, Neveda, club pro who was tied for the lead after the first round, missed the 36-hole cut with a second-round 83.

''I'll take the 66, 83 and enjoy the 66 yesterday,'' he said. ''You put this one down to just plain old golf. It's a nasty game we play sometimes. Glad I have a day job.''

Getty Images

Wise, Simpson both miss cut at Colonial

By Nick MentaMay 25, 2018, 11:34 pm

The two most recent winners on the PGA Tour, Aaron Wise and Webb Simpson, missed the cut at the Fort Worth Invitational on Friday.

Wise and Simpson both came up short of the 2-over total by a shot following rounds of 70-73.

Wise was safely inside the number before playing his last four holes in 4 over par with two bogeys and a closing double following a trip into the water at the par-4 ninth.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Simpson, making his first start following his Players triumph, similarly struggled coming home, bogeying three of his final six holes.

Other notables who won't be around for the weekend at Colonial include Xander Schauffele (+4), Jason Dufner (+5), Patrick Cantlay (+6), Smylie Kaufman (+13), and Sam Burns (+13).

This is Kaufman's 11th consecutive MC and his 15th in his last 16 starts.

Jason Seaman and Kristi Hubly Seaman

Sr. PGA caddie learns of nephew's heroism in school shooting

By Tim RosaforteMay 25, 2018, 10:33 pm

Tracy Hubly caddied for her husband, club pro Chris Starkjohann, on Friday at the KitchenAid Senior PGA and learned after their round that her nephew was credited with helping stop the school shooting at Noblesville West Middle School in Indiana.

Jason Seaman, a 29-year-old science instructor and seventh grade football coach at the school, took three bullets but survived as what his aunt called a hero.

“You hear the stories about these shootings and I think about Parkland and the officer that was trained but didn’t go into the school,” Hubly said. “It’s really shocking to think it comes close to your family, but it does."

It’s not unusual for Hubly to caddie for her husband, a teacher at Carlsbad Golf Center and coach of a PGA Junior League program in Southern California. Hubly, who works in the pro shop at Emerald Island Golf Course in Oceanside, Calif., was on the bag when he was low golf professional at the 2009 Senior PGA Championship held at Canterbury GC. 

Starkjohann, 61, missed the cut at Harbor Shores with rounds of 76-79—155 and was heading to the Colorado State Open.

 “I didn’t hear about it until after my round was done,” Starkjohann said. “Everything happened after I got in.”