PHOENIX – Caroline Inglis’ father would have loved the leaderboard Friday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.
With three birdies over the first five holes, Inglis shot up the board and never left it.
With a bogey-free 4-under-par 68 in the morning wave, Inglis finished just one stroke off the lead.
There are powerful memories in this city in the desert for the second-year LPGA member.
Her father, William, was her biggest fan before he died five years ago. She last saw him in Phoenix. That’s where he got off the plane feeling ill on a layover on his way home from Athens, Ga., where he watched Caroline play as a freshman for the University of Oregon in the NCAA Championship. He was battling leukemia, and he died in Phoenix from complications of the illness, never making it back to their home in Eugene.
“My dad was like my best friend, and he got me into the game,” Inglis said. “If he could see me now, he would be, 'Wow, you’re an LPGA pro?’ I hope he knows somehow, and that he’s watching.”
Inglis earned conditional status through LPGA Q-School two years ago, but she made the Symetra Tour her home last year, finishing 19th on the Volvik Race for the Card money list. She earned full LPGA membership in a return to Q-School, tying for 10th.
Inglis is playing the Founders Cup for the first time. It is a special event for her. She won the Marilynn Smith scholarship at Oregon. Smith is one of the 13 LPGA founders honored in this event. She’s one of three still alive. Inglis got to meet Smith for the first time on Wednesday.
“That was really special,” Inglis said. “I just gave her a big hug and said, `Thank you so much for everything you’ve done for not only me but women’s golf.”
Inglis worked through a lot of challenges to earn her way to the LPGA. She injured her right shoulder in ’16, and she learned last May that she tore the labrum. She passed on surgery, and the possible eight-month layoff that might have caused. She played through the pain last year to earn her LPGA card.
“They're small tears, not big,” Inglis said. “And I have a cyst in there.”
Her mother, Laurie, is a physical therapist. So was her father. Rehab and a Platelet Rich Plasma treatment at the end of last year helped her recover.
“I was going to have surgery right after Q-School, but then I decided not to, because it was feeling a lot better,” Inglis said.
Playing golf makes Inglis feel better.
“Whenever I’m on the golf course, I feel closer to my father,” she said. “He was a golf fanatic. He loved the game. He helps me keep a good perspective, that it’s just a game. I feel like he is always with me.”