LPGA Singing Youthful Song
Song is so young that she had to get special permission from commissioner Ty Votaw to attend the LPGAs qualifying tournament last year. She easily got her card and set about the rigors of tournament play this season as a rookie. Had not Wie come along, Song would be the one who has gotten the rave reviews for her play as a teen-ager. As it is, the youngster has already finished in a tie for fifth in her first tournament and one stroke away from a playoff in a major a couple of weeks ago ' and she looks surprisingly similar to a young Nancy Lopez. She finished in a tie for 20th last weekend in The Takefuji Classic.
Song was formerly known as Wonglueket - her mothers name - before changing last year to Song - her fathers name, which is much easier to pronounce. She has a twin sister, Naree, who also turned pro recently and is already on the Futures Tour. But Aree did the Michelle thing long before the world had heard of Wie. Four years ago she played in an LPGA major ' the Kraft Nabisco ' at the age of 13, finishing tie for 10th while playing in the final group.
There is no way, you might imagine, that a 17-year-old has anything in common with the women who play the LPGA. But you would be wrong.
You would be surprised, I get along with all the ladies, Aree said. They have been really nice and it has been great. I played in 15 events as an amateur, so I know everyone out here pretty well.
Her play at the Kraft Nabisco will be discussed for a long time. Song was on the green on No. 18 needing to hole a 30-footer to have a chance to beat Grace Park. Astoundingly, she made the putt for eagle! Unfortunately for Aree, Park, playing in the same group, coolly sank a 6-foot putt for birdie and the win.
Aree - she's got a tremendous amount of talent, said Park. She's already had a successful career, and she just has much more to come.
Since she was a child ' and some people would say she still is ' she planned on being a professional golfer. Aree was an excellent student ' she graduated early ' and actually carried a 4.0 average in her studies at the David Leadbetter Junior Academy in Bradenton. After originally announcing she was taking a scholarship to the University of Florida, she changed her mind after a sparkling summer and petitioned Votaw to turn pro. And she couldnt be happier.
I did it so I could retire early, she joked. Aree has gotten much more comfortable with the media, and thats a good thing because she has repeatedly been asked to come into the interview room this year.
I think it's fun, she said of the media inquisition, as well as being in the spotlight on the course. I enjoy playing in front of people, just because I know it's a good sign that I'm doing well and people are noticing what I'm doing. No, I think everything else is a bonus, really.
She knows there are certain things she has given up by turning pro. There will be no college life. There will be no late-night pizza parties, no adjustment to the career life while she remains in limbo from age 18 to 22, no sororities or clubs.
But, she says, this is what she always wanted, from the time she first picked up a golf club.
There are always sacrifices, Aree said, and when you chose to be a professional golfer, it going to be different than when you choose to play in college.
But I wouldnt trade it for anything in the world. This is my dream.
Her dream began before she can remember, almost to the day that she first went to the two-story driving range with her sister, brother and father in Thailand. She and Naree got a bucket of balls and sat up next to her brother, Chan, who now plays at Georgia Tech.
He said, What are you doing. Aree remembers. We hit it so bad and hit it all over the place. So he told us to go up the next level and hit because he didnt want to hit next to us. So, we tried to hit him a couple of times.
She is officially a rookie, but Aree and sister Naree have been around the tournament scene a long time. From the Open when she was 13, to numerous professional tournaments along the way as an amateur, to finally turning professional herself, Aree doesnt feel like a rookie.
I've played in I want to say around maybe 17 or 18 events. So, you know, that almost accounts to one season, she said.
So I'm pretty comfortable out here now, getting to know a lot of the players, the staff. I mean, the comfort level has definitely grown.
Hall of Famer Donna Caponi, now a Golf Channel analyst, marvels at what the youngster has already accomplished. We talked about her being rookie of the year, said Caponi. But her idea is, she wants to win golf tournaments.
Grace Park, who is all of 25 now, shakes her head when she contemplates the life that Aree has chosen. Shes obviously having a great start to her professional career, says Park. All I can say is, she must be tougher and wiser than I was. I was 20, 21 when I came out.
But if there is any different life than the one shes chosen, Aree doesnt see how it could possibly be any better. Shes playing golf, and now theres actually a reason to play tournaments.
It's just nice to know that you can actually get paid, she laughed.
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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.”