Am Tour: Family matters at National Championship at Innisbrook Resort & Club

By Brandon TuckerSeptember 15, 2016, 2:29 pm

PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- As families all over the country know well, few better bonding activities are better than a round of golf. While many of us have casual games with loved ones of varying and sometimes vastly different skill level and interest, each year, Am Tour Nationals brings serious families out to compete together.  

We've told the story of Kody Conover and his father Clifford Conover, a three-time national champion, in several ways over the years. Well, they're back once more for another crack at Nationals, and in the past year, Cody, now 21, has improved his golf game enough to jump a flight to Hogan this year. And if you think he's just in the middle of the pack, you're wrong: After two days, he finds himself T-27 out of 149 golfers and eleven shots off the leaders Troy Slate and Todd Nelson.

It's fairly common for sons and daughters to compete in the first week of Am Tour Nationals and then stick around for the second week for their parents to compete in Senior Nationals. That's the case with one of the youngest competitors in the field this week, Ben Soicher, 14, from Mill Valley, Calif., whose father Barry Soicher will compete next week.

Meanwhile, 2014 Hogan flight national champion Jeff Blackwood was set to compete, but was forced to have back surgery three weeks ago and withdraw. Instead, he's here supporting his son Daegan Blackwood as well as his brother Brack Blackwood, both of whom are competing in the 150-person Hogan flight. Rick Burton, who won the 2015 Snead flight at PGA West, has returned to nationals with his son John Burton, who is competing in the Sarazen flight. 

One father-son tandem is not only competing this week but are competing in the Hogan flight: Matt Love and his son Ryan, from Greenbrier, Tenn.

Matt, 45, learned the game from his family growing up, but didn't start playing seriously until about ten years ago, which was about the same time Ryan began to play as well. The two have played a lot together, and Ryan has since found golf to be his favorite sport, eschewing baseball in order to play more.

Ryan, 17, is one of the handful of teenagers competing against a field of predominantly middle-aged men. He's used his big drives to help offset any experience shortcomings. Ryan says he also likes the change of pace of competing in all-ages tournaments on Am Tour compared to junior events.

"Sometimes you learn from playing with older people," said Ryan. "They're a lot more light-hearted, and joking about kids my age."

Ryan hopes to play in as many events as he can throughout his senior year of high school, which doesn't have its own golf team, and see if any strong results can earn the attention of any colleges. Halfway thru Nationals, the Loves find themselves pretty close to one another on the Hogan leaderboard, with Ryan (T-10) holding a six-shot advantage over his father.

The whole Love family has made the trip down to Florida this week for Nationals for sunshine and to visit relatives in the area. But Matt has relished the fact that golf has been able to allow he and Ryan to spend so much time together. It certainly helps the competitive nature that the two players are so close in ability they don't have to give each other shots when playing against one another.

"It's definitely given us a go-to activity," said Matt. "That, regardless of what's going on or how bad the day is, you can say 'hey let's go play' and make a good day out of it."

Lightning strikes twice in the same place

There were two hole-in-ones in round two on Wednesday, a feat that isn't particularly unusual at Am Tour Nationals. The rarity was the fact they happened on the same hole on the North Course at Innisbrook in the Palmer flight. First, Eric Newsome, from Land O' Lakes, Fla. aced the 120-yard shot on the 7th. Not much later, Jean Piwinskii, from Puerto Rico, aced the very same hole.

Newsome used the ace to card a second-round 78 and find himself T-15, while Piwinskii shot 80 and is currently T-61.

Getty Images

Ko part of 5-way tie for Mediheal lead

By Associated PressApril 27, 2018, 3:20 am

DALY CITY, Calif. - Lydia Ko was back on top at Lake Merced.

Ko shot a 4-under 68 on a chilly Thursday morning at the LPGA Mediheal Championship for a share of the first-round lead. Jessica Korda, Caroline Hedwall, In-Kyung Kim and Su Oh joined Ko atop the leaderboard in the LPGA's return to Lake Merced after a year away.

''This is a golf course where you need to drive the ball well and putt well,'' said Ko, the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic winner at the course in 2014 and 2015.

Ko eagled the par-5 fifth and had four birdies and a bogey. The New Zealander has 14 LPGA wins, the last in July 2016.

''It's nice to come back to a place where you feel super-welcomed,'' Ko said. ''It just brings back a lot of great memories. ... My family and friends are here this week, so I'm hoping that I'm going to continue the solid play.''

She turned 21 on Tuesday.

''I don't think I feel a huge difference, but I know turning 21 is a huge thing in the U.S.,'' Ko said, ''So, I'm legal and I can do some fun things now.''

Korda, playing alongside Kim a group ahead of Ko, also eagled the fifth and had four birdies and a bogey. Korda won in Thailand in February in her return from reconstructive jaw surgery.


Full-field scores from the LPGA Mediheal Championship


''The score says one thing and my hands say another,'' Korda said. ''It was really cold out there today, so it was good that I stuck to kind of my process. ... Actually, this is still some of the nicer conditions that we've played in compared to the past. I'll take the cold as long as there's no rain.''

Hedwall and Kim each had five birdies and a bogey.

''I just love the city. It's really nice,'' said Hedwall, from Sweden. ''It's sort of a European-style city with all the shopping going on downtown and stuff. I love it here. I even like this weather, suits me really well, too.''

Oh had a bogey-free round. The Australian was the only one of the five players tied for the lead to play in the afternoon.

''It was cold and pretty windy out there and, because it's got a lot of elevation, it kind of swirls in the middle like in the low areas, so it was tough,'' Oh said. ''I hit the ball really solid today. Then the ones I missed, I made really good up-and-downs.''

Lexi Thompson, Sei Young Kim, Charley Hull and Celine Herbin shot 69.

''This course is very challenging, especially when the wind picks up,'' the third-ranked Thompson said. ''It's chilly, so it's a little longer of a course. Some of the par 5s are reachable, so you try to take advantage of that, but pars were good and just take the birdie chances as you can get them.''

Moriya Jutanugarn, the winner Sunday in Los Angeles for her first LPGA title, had a 71 playing with former Stanford student Michelle Wie and ANA Inspiration winner Pernilla Lindberg. Wie had a 74, and Lindberg shot 79. Ariya Jutanugarn matched her sister with a 71, playing in the group with Ko.

Top-ranked Inbee Park matched playing partner Brooke Henderson with a 72. The third member of the afternoon group, second-ranked Shanshan Feng, shot 73.

Juli Inkster shot 72. The 57-year-old Hall of Famer grew up in Santz Cruz, starred at San Jose State and lives in Los Altos. She won the last of her 31 LPGA titles in 2006.

Stacy Lewis had a 74 after announcing that she is pregnant with a due date of Nov. 3. She plans to play through the Marathon Classic in July and return for a full season next year.

Getty Images

Glover, Reavie share Zurich lead with Chinese pair

By Associated PressApril 27, 2018, 3:04 am

AVONDALE, La. - Chez Reavie had quite a few good moments at TPC Louisiana on Thursday. So did teammate Lucas Glover.

In best-ball format, the most important thing was those moments came on different holes.

Reavie and Glover teamed to shoot a 12-under 60 for a share of the Zurich Classic lead with China's Zhang Xinjun and Dou Zecheng.

''Chez started well and I picked it up in the middle of the back nine,'' Glover said. ''He closed it off and then we both played really well on the front. Just kind of ham and egged it, I guess, as they would say.''

Reavie and Glover each had six birdies in the best-ball format, pushing through soggy weather early in the round before conditions cleared at TPC Louisiana. Six teams are two shots back in a tie for third after shooting 62.

''We were just rolling,'' Reavie said. ''I think we're comfortable. We like to laugh and have a good time when we're playing golf, and it definitely helps.''

Zhang and Dou birdied four of their final five holes. Dou made a 31-foot putt on No. 9 to cap the impressive rally and jump into the lead with Reavie and Glover.


Full-field scores from the Zurich Classic of New Orleans

Zurich Classic of New Orleans: Articles, photos and videos


Tony Finau-Daniel Summerhays, Chris Paisley-Tommy Fleetwood, J.J. Henry-Tom Hoge, Michael Kim-Andrew Putnam, Kevin Kisner-Scott Brown and Troy Merritt-Brendon de Jonge shot 62. Jason Day and Ryan Ruffels shot 64.

It's the first time since last year's Tour Championship that the reigning champs of all four majors have been in the same field. None of them were among the leaders after the first round.

Masters champion Patrick Reed and Patrick Cantlay had a 65, and British Open winner Jordan Spieth and Ryan Palmer were at 66.

''I didn't feel like there was really any rust,'' Reed said. ''I felt like I hit the ball all right today. I felt I hit some good quality putts. A couple of them went in, a couple of them didn't.''

This is the second year that two-player teams have competed at the Zurich Classic. The unusual tournament features best-ball play in the first and third rounds and alternate shot in the second and final rounds.

U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka and Marc Turnesa shot a 67. PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas and Bud Cauley shot a 70.

There are 80 teams in the tournament and the top 35, along with ties, will make the cut after Friday's second round.

Getty Images

Lewis says she's expecting first child in November

By Randall MellApril 27, 2018, 2:18 am

Stacy Lewis is pregnant.

The 12-time LPGA winner confirmed after Thursday’s first round of the Mediheal Championship that she and her husband, University of Houston women’s golf coach Gerrod Chadwell, are expecting their first child on Nov. 3.

Lewis learned she was pregnant after returning home to Houston in late February following her withdrawal from the HSBC Women’s World Championship with a strained oblique muscle.

“We're obviously really excited,” Lewis said. “It wasn't nice I was hurt, but it was nice that I was home when I found out with [Gerrod]. We're just really excited to start a family.”

Lewis is the third big-name LPGA player preparing this year to become a mother for the first time. Suzann Pettersen announced last month that she’s pregnant, due in the fall. Gerina Piller is due any day.


Full-field scores from the LPGA Mediheal Championship


Piller’s husband, PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, withdrew from the Zurich Classic on Thursday to be with her. Piller and Lewis have been U.S. Solheim Cup partners the last two times the event has been played.

“It's going to be fun raising kids together,” Lewis said. “Hopefully, they're best friends and they hang out. But just excited about the next few months and what it's going to bring.”

Lewis, a former Rolex world No. 1 and two-time major championship winner, plans to play through the middle of July, with the Marathon Classic her last event of the year. She will be looking to return for the start of the 2019 season. The LPGA’s maternity leave policy allows her to come back next year with her status intact.

“This year, the golf might not be great, but I've got better things coming in my life than a golf score.” Lewis said. “I plan on coming back and traveling on the road with the baby, and we'll figure it out as we go.”

Getty Images

Coach scores in NFL Draft and on golf course

By Grill Room TeamApril 27, 2018, 1:47 am

To say that Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio had a good day Thursday would be an understatement. Not only did his team snag one of the top defensive players in the NFL Draft - Georgia outside linebacker Roquan Smith, who the Bears took with the eighth pick of the first round - but earlier in the day Fangio, 59, made a hole-in-one, sinking a 9-iron shot from 125 yards at The Club at Strawberry Creek in Kenosha, Wis.

Perhaps the ace isn't so surprising, though. In late May 2017, Fangio made another hole-in-one, according to a tweet from the Bears. The only information supplied on that one was the distance - 116 yards.