Amateur Kim Edges Mackenzie at FUTURES Tour Qualifer
'Today, I knew I was behind by about three strokes, so I wanted to finish strong,' said Kim, 18, an amateur from Seoul, Korea who spent most of last year at International Junior Golf Academy in Hilton Head Island, S.C.
So Kim stayed patient and birdied three of the last four holes to win the eighth annual Duramed FUTURES Tour Qualifying Tournament at Cleveland Heights Golf Course. Kim's final-round score of 68 allowed her to finish at 281 (-7), edging Paige Mackenzie of Yakima, Wash., by one stroke. Mackenzie also posted a four-under-par final round score of 68 to finish at 282 (-6), but bogeyed two of the last three holes.
'I was disappointed with how I finished,' said Mackenzie, 23, who finished solo second this week and who capped off her amateur career by anchoring the winning U.S. Curtis Cup team earlier this summer. 'I had two bad yardages that I mishandled at a bad time today. It's just disappointing to end on that note when I was in a good position.'
Playing in the final group with Kim, Mackenzie did take charge on the back nine with a string of birdies on holes 11 through 15. The former University of Washington All-American stuck her approach shots to one foot on the 13th and 14th, then drained a 25-foot downhill birdie putt on the 15th.
'Paige birdied five in a row and it made me focus,' said Kim, who won the 2005 U.S. Girls' Junior Championship and advanced into the round of 16 in this year's U.S. Women's Amateur. 'I knew I wasn't finished yet. I didn't give up.'
While Mackenzie was trying to close out the tournament, Kim was trying to focus on what she needed to do to fight back. That opportunity came when Mackenzie gassed a 'soft 9-iron' over the 16th green and didn't get up and down for par. On the par-three 17th, she missed a 10-foot birdie chance, and then on the final hole, her 48-degree wedge out of the rough landed short of the green and again, she didn't save par.
'My wedges are generally my strength, but I was disappointed down the stretch,' said Mackenzie, who hit 14 greens in regulation and used only 28 putts. 'There were a lot of birdies in this group. When [Kim] birdied 17 and 18, I knew we were close.'
Kim's performance on her closing holes was indeed timely. She rolled in a four-foot birdie on the 15th, hit her 6-iron to set up a birdie putt on the 156-yard, par-three 17th, and then drained an eight-footer for birdie on the 18th hole for the win.
'I knew I had to make that putt on 18,' said Kim, a 2003 and 2004 member of the Korean National Team and a friend of Song-Hee Kim (no relation), who won last year's Duramed FUTURES Tour Qualifying Tournament and later finished as 2006 Player of the Year.
'I know Song-Hee from Korea and I hear about her everywhere,' added Kim, who will graduate from high school in February 2007 and who, like Mackenzie, also has advanced into the final LPGA Q-School later this month, where she plans to turn pro.
Another amateur, Ji-Young Oh of Seoul, Korea, carded a 69 in the final round to tie for third with professional Marcela Leon (70) at 284 (-4). The product of the David Leadbetter Academy in Bradenton, Fla., posted a three-birdie, bogey-free final round.
'I am very happy,' said Oh, 18, also a member of the Korean National Team. 'My putting wasn't very good, but I hit my irons well.'
Having recently finished her fourth season as a professional on the Duramed FUTURES Tour, Leon was perhaps the happiest finisher all day with her share of third. The native of Monterrey, Mexico has spent the last two years struggling with a foot injury and confidence in her game. With a final round that included five birdies, two bogeys and a par save from 18 feet on the ninth hole, Leon called this week's event a turning point.
'I'm happy to finally see the results and hopefully this will continue next year,' said Leon, 25, who played her junior golf with LPGA Tour star Lorena Ochoa. 'I have always expected to be in the top five and now it's a good goal to go for next season.'
Former Auburn University All-American Maru Martinez of Maracaibo, Venezuela, carded a two-under-par final-round score of 70 today to move into a tie for sixth with Hanna Kang (69) of Seoul, Korea, at even-par 288 -- two shots behind fifth-place finisher Na-On Min (71) of Seoul, at 286 (-2). The 2006 Southeastern Conference (SEC) Player of the Year and five-time collegiate winner, posted three birdies and one bogey today, but could get no closer to the leaders. Now playing as a professional, Martinez struggled on the Bermuda grass greens in Thursday's third round, carding six three-putts on a day she said was 'like somebody else putting.'
'I felt good today, but I just couldn't go any lower,' said Martinez, 22, who also will play in the LPGA's Final Qualifying this month. 'I played solid and I had a chance [to win] all week. It may take some time to figure it all out, but that's why I'm here.'
Players competing in the annual 72-hole event to gain or retain playing status for the Tour's 2007 season rotated to three courses this week. The event attracted 269 contestants from 23 nations and 39 U.S. states and was held simultaneously at Cleveland Heights Golf Course, Huntington Hills Golf & Country Club and Schalamar Creek Golf Club in Lakeland. Following the player cut after 54 holes to 90 players and ties, the field returned to Cleveland Heights for today's final round.
And while the tournament's winner was more than happy to share the details of her day that included 14 greens and 12 fairways in regulation, as well as 29 putts for the round, Kim admitted there was one little concern that still warranted her attention.
'Well, my [travel] visa expired today and I'm flying back to Korea tomorrow for a week,' she said. 'But I had to play the final round.'
And Kim certainly did, finishing strong. Just as she planned.
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.”