Hend Carries Canadian Success onto PGA Tour
Two years after putting the finishing touches on his first Canadian Tour championship at the 2002 Victoria Open, the long-hitting Australian took his first dip into the PGA pond and at times had a hard time keeping his head above water. Playing on new tracks and against a new level of competition, Hend found the learning curve tough to negotiate in the latter stages of the season.
All things considered, he wouldnt change the experience for the world.
Its been a lot of fun, says Hend. Last year was tough learning the ropes at times. You play a lot of golf courses that youve never seen before, so you have to get used to that. It was the same thing when I first went to Canada'there were a lot of courses I had never played, and I really had a hard time that first season.
Yes, indeed, that first season on the Canadian Tour could easily be described as mediocre at best. In that summer of 2000 north of the border, Hend would make the cut in just three of nine cuts.
Fast-forward to his rookie season on the PGA Tour. Following a slow start out of the blocks, Hend found his groove at the 2004 BellSouth Classic, staying in contention all week long before eventually finishing in third spot, two strokes behind champion Zach Johnson. If the result at the BellSouth, which landed him a $306,000 payday, was a sign of things to come, someone forgot to tell Scott Hend.
The 31-year-old hit a roadblock for the rest of the year, playing on the weekend in just three of his final twelve events. When the curtain dropped on the 2004 PGA Tour season, Hend had earned a healthy $536,000. Not a bad salary by anyones standards, but in the world of professional golf, it represented a 136th-place showing on the money list.
I struggled for about the last 11 tournaments of the year. I made a few rookie mistakes, but you have to make them in order to learn. My confidence was sky-high after the BellSouth, but I just couldnt string anything together after that. But it was a learning experience.
So it was back to Q-School last December as Hend went looking to improve his PGA Tour status for 2005. He did just that and is heading into this campaign with a newfound outlook, not to mention a lighter work schedule. Hend figures he will see action in 30-plus tournaments over the next 10 months and is focused on pacing himself , something he was not able to do a year ago.
Last year, I practiced extremely hard the first half of the season, and I dont think I was as fit as I should have been, admits Hend, who went through a seven-week stretch without a day off in April and May. Im taking a different approach this season. You have to be both mentally and physically prepared. It comes down to quality, not quantity, and you cant burn yourself out. There are only a few guys that can play all year long without a real break, but they are few and far between. They found the key to it somehow.
Drawing up his travel itinerary is one thing, but there is one change that will be a little tougher to deal with this coming season. You see, there are very few people on this planet, at least in the professional golf ranks, that can hit a golf ball as far as Scott Hend. For the long hitters, it is often described that they are playing a different golf course, and Hend hits em as long as anyone. In fact, some players must be wondering if they put something in the water in Canada. Last season, Hend was second to 2002 Canadian Tour money leader Hank Kuehne in driving distance on the PGA Tour with an average launch of 312 yards.
Control, on the other hand, was a problem. Hend ranked 189th in driving accuracy on tour meaning, for lack of a better term, he snatched bogey from the jaws of birdie on more than one occasion.
When you hit a ball as far as Hend, course management is a term in your vocabulary that is rarely used. This time around, it is different.
In the Buick Invitational, his lone event thus far in 2005, Hend averaged 310 yards on eight drives, still tops in PGA ranking, but with one notable exception. That week Hend hit 56 of 72 greens in regulation, a 77.8 clip that is eighth-best at this early stage of the season. A year ago, Hend was 157th in greens hit.
Its funny, last year I seemed to be hitting driver so much, and the next thing you know youre walking away with bogey, he admits. Now I am using a different mindset. I want to hit my 14 to 16 greens a round. Of course, the power game matches up well on some courses, but you have to pick your spots.
And how hard will it be to keep the driver in the bag some days?
As you get a little older, you have to mellow out a bit, laughs Hend. Mind you, for some of us, it takes longer than others.
Hend will be the first to tell you that some things simply cant be taught. The experience of playing on the Canadian Tour, he says, is one of them. In Vancouver back in 2001, he was involved in a tour-record, six-man playoff at the Telus Vancouver Open, which was eventually won by two-time champion Steve Scott. Less than a year later, Hend carried a lead into the final round of the Myrtle Beach Barefoot Championship before Canadian Derek Gillespie came from behind for his first tour win.
Months later, Hend would shake the proverbial monkey off his back at long last with a two-shot triumph on Vancouver Island.
Once you know you can win, everything seems to fall into place he reasons. You get in a different frame of mind. I learned so much playing up there in Canada. The travel, the extended schedule, the world-class players you match up with every week. I see a lot of the guys out here (on the PGA Tour) that I played the Canadian Tour with. The past U.S. amateur champions, the top Canadian golfers, PGA Tour veterans, players from all over the worldwe had them all. With that competition, you learned what it took to compete week in and week out.
Hend will always hold a special spot in his heart for Canada and, in particular Victoria, for more reasons than one would think. Just four days prior to his victory at The Uplands Golf Club, Hend would marry Leanne, his longtime sweetheart, in front of the B.C. legislative buildings. Their first days as a newlywed couple were spent at the Uplands and, with his new bride caddying for him that weekend, Hend delivered a memorable wedding gift with his first championship. It was a honeymoon Hend will never forget.
'I was talking to Leanne about that, how great it would be to get to Victoria and play there again, says Hend. I dont think my schedule will allow it this season, but obviously the city means a lot to us. Victoria, Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg'I could go on and on'we loved playing everywhere in Canada. But obviously Victoria in 2002 was a pretty special week.
Should Scott Hend have his way, there will be a few more special weeks in the near future.
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.”