Outgoing Votaw Receives Patty Berg Award
At a roast attended by nearly 300 colleagues, family and friends, the outgoing LPGA commissioner was surprised with the presentation of the Patty Berg Award in recognition of his many contributions to women's golf.
The award, instituted in 1979 by the LPGA Board of Directors, is named in honor of LPGA Founder Patty Berg. Votaw, who officially ended his seven-year commissionership last week at The Solheim Cup, has dedicated nearly a third of his life to advancing the LPGA.
'The entire evening was an unforgettable experience,' said Votaw. 'But to be surprised with the Patty Berg Award at the end of the night was icing on the cake, the honor of a lifetime. One of the most rewarding aspects of my time as commissioner has been getting to know and appreciate the founders and all they have done for the LPGA, golf and women's sports. To receive an award from one of those founders, the great Patty Berg, leaves me humbled and deeply grateful. I couldn't have asked for a better farewell.'
At the roast, LPGA Tour and World Golf Halls of Fame member Judy Rankin, who received the Patty Berg Award in 1999, spoke on behalf of Berg. Votaw then went into the audience to receive the award from Berg, 87.
Other Patty Berg Award recipients in attendance Saturday night included David Foster (1986); Judy Dickinson (1992); Charles S. Mechem Jr. (1994); Judy Bell (1997); Louise Suggs (2000); and Pat Bradley (2001).
From the time he joined the LPGA in 1991 as general counsel, Votaw has played a key role in strengthening the LPGA's position as the leading women's sports organization in the world and has guided the organization through one of the most successful periods in its history. Through his leadership, he has provided the LPGA with a strong foundation for future growth and prosperity, significantly raised the LPGA's profile and image and created a healthier more robust fan-base for the organization.
Votaw's strategic vision and Fans First plan have made the following achievements for the LPGA possible:
* Highest total purse ($45.1 million) and highest average purse ($1.4 million);
* Highest number of $1 million (30) and $2 million events (4);
* Every domestic full-field event at least $1 million;
* Highest contribution to player retirement plan in LPGA history;
* Higher attendance and viewership;
* Through establishment of the one-in-four policy for players, field strength averaged 7 of the top 10, 15 of the top 20 and 23 of the top 30 players the past two years;
* Finalized five-year partnerships with two major TV partners (The Golf Channel and ESPN);
* Finalized the highest TV rights fee in LPGA history with SBS and solidified partnership for the next five years;
* Sports Business Journal Sponsorship Report Card in 1999 and 2003 - LPGA ranked No. 1 sports property in several categories (and significant improvements in categories from 1999-2003);
* Establishment of the first-ever World Congress of Women's Golf and forthcoming world rankings for women's golf;
* Staging of the first-ever LPGA Player Summit in 2002 and the establishment of the LPGA's Fans First business plan/Five Points of Celebrity;
* Unveiling of The LPGA Playoffs at The ADT, the first-ever playoff system in golf.
Votaw announced his resignation in January and has been instrumental in the transition of leadership to Carolyn Bivens, who officially takes the role of commissioner today. Votaw was named LPGA commissioner in March 1999, and his seven-year tenure was the second-longest in LPGA history.
The Patty Berg Award is given to an individual who, like Berg, exemplifies diplomacy, sportsmanship, goodwill and contributions to the game of golf. Past recipients of the award are: Marilynn Smith (1979); Betsy Rawls (1980); Ray Volpe (1984); Dinah Shore (1985); David Foster (1986); Kathy Whitworth (1987); John D. Laupheimer (1988); Patty Berg (1990); Karsten Solheim (1991); Judy Dickinson (1992); Kerry Graham (1993); Charles S. Mechem Jr. (1994); Suzanne Jackson (1996); Judy Bell (1997); Judy Rankin (1999); Louise Suggs (2000); Pat Bradley (2001); Patty Sheehan (2002); and Annika Sorenstam (2003).
Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, GolfChannel.com writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:
The Monday morning headline will be …
REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.
RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.
MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.
JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.
Who or what will be the biggest surprise?
HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.
LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.
BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.
COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.
Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?
HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.
LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.
BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.
COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.
What will be the winning score?
HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.
LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.
BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.
COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.
Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty
Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.
Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.
This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):
While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:
Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.
McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.
Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.
“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”
McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.
“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”
He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.
Height of irony: Phil putts in front of 'rules' sign
A picture is worth 1,000 words and potentially two strokes for playing a moving ball under Rule 14-5 but not Rule 1-2.
Phil Mickelson has been having some fun during his Open prep at Carnoustie hitting flop shots over human beings, but the irony of this photo below is too obvious to go over anyone's head.
Mickelson also tried tapping down fescue two weeks ago at The Greenbrier, incurring another two-shot penalty.
And so we're left to wonder about what Phil asked himself back at Shinnecock Hills: "The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’”