First Steps of Future Champions
But Kim Adams, like PGA Tour first-time winner Todd Hamilton, who won the Honda Classic on the same Sunday, isnt exactly a household name. She hasnt moved up to the first-name category, like Annika, Nancy, Tiger, Jack and Arnold. And shes not getting rich, either. With a $9,100 winners check for her 11-under-par score of 205, she earned about one percent of Hamiltons $900,000 for his inaugural PGA Tour win. She played 54 holes; he played 72. She earned almost $10,000; he earned nearly one million bucks for a weeks work.
But whos counting? And what does it really mean for Kim Adams to be a member of the Futures Tour, the official developmental tour of the LPGA? Isnt laboring in obscurity and traveling the highways in a Volkswagen part of the process? Isnt eating a regular menu of humble pie and logging ridiculous hours on the practice green as necessary as coming to the first tee with a game face? For developing pros, absolutely.
The New Brunswick native is one of 316 members on this years Futures Tour and she is one of the numerous international players here in the United States who graduated from U.S. collegiate golf to the minor leagues. Twenty-nine nations are represented on this years tour and all have come here with the same goal: theyre here for the opportunity to improve their skills in the game and to advance to the next level.
Players range in age, with the youngest being Thai teen Naree Song at 17 (her twin sister, Aree, plays on the LPGA Tour) to mid-to-late 40s with some players returning to competitive golf after their children are grown. They all hope to finish in the top five on the money list to earn one of the five automatic exempt LPGA Tour cards awarded at the end of the season. Those cards are carrots, looming larger than dollars for these developing players, and they are the motivator for every hour they log along the nearly 9,000 highway miles linking this years tournament stops.
While theyre not yet coddled by corporations and dont fly on private jets from tournament to tournament, these young players are getting rich on experience and opportunity. They are here to grow up, to develop their golf games and learn their way around a big country. Some of them will learn to speak English. All of them will learn that pro-ams might just become one of the most important days of the week for their future with Corporate America. And all of them will learn how to live out of a suitcase to pursue the goal of playing professional tournament golf.
Great careers and personal legacies start somewhere. On the Futures Tour, it might start in Wichita or Morgantown, W.Va., but even Karrie Webb, Laura Davies, Dottie Pepper, Grace Park, Beth Bauer and Lorena Ochoa traveled these same highways to get to the highest heights on the LPGA Tour. They werent the first and they wont be the last.
Its hard not to be put off by local media who come to Futures Tour tournaments and ask which members of the LPGA Tour are in the field. Usually a good half-dozen or more non-exempt LPGA Tour members are in every field, looking for a place to play and the chance to improve their full LPGA Tour status while competing alongside the future stars on their way up. But while those LPGA players might be more recognizable, they arent shoo-ins to win. These tour veterans are now playing against young pros who have everything to gain and nothing to lose. They are facing hungry beginning pros who dont have an archive of negative thoughts that get in the way of success. They are facing young spirits that are hungry to move past the learning stage en route to the proving ground. And there is usually a waiting list of 50 or more players, just itching for the chance to play.
Sure, womens golf needs the Annikas to continue advancing the female side of the sport on the medias radar. But it also needs the developmental tour ' a place where future champions learn to win. Without the minors, there would be no major league. Thats true in baseball and thats certainly true in golf. And while the glamour still resides on the wealthiest pro tours, theres something very pure, very fundamental about professional golf in its infancy and young champions just learning to take their first winning steps.
Editors Note: Lisa D. Mickey is the director of communications for the Futures Golf Tour and a longtime member of the national golf media. For more information, about the Futures Tour, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit futurestour.com.
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.”