Wish Come True

By Mercer BaggsFebruary 2, 2008, 5:00 pm
Editor's note: If you have a story of inspiration, or how golf and life have intertwined, e-mail Mercer Baggs at mbaggs@golfchannelclub.com
 
She took barely a second to ponder the question.
 
August, she answered. It hasn't been this hot since then.
 
Molly Esordi is a native of Grosse Ile, Mich., where temperatures peaked at 25 degrees on Thursday. Fortunately for Molly and her family, they weren't home, but in Orlando, Fla., where the mercury pushed over 80.
 
Gray slush and white ice was replaced by reddened skin from a bright yellow sun. And there was the 14-year-old high school freshman, her family ' dad, Thomas; mom, Leslie; sisters Sarah, 12, and Margaret, 10; and little brother Nicholas, 5 ' having the time of their lives.
 
Annika Sorenstam and Molly Esordi
Molly Esordi gets Annika Sorenstam's set of expert eyes on her swing.
This will be a day we, as a family, will long, long remember, said Leslie. And it will be a day Molly will never forget.
 
Molly and family were in Orlando as part of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. In late 2006, Molly discovered a lump underneath her arm. It was quickly diagnosed as Hodgkins lymphoma and on Dec. 8, 2006 she was admitted to the hospital.
 
A couple of days into her treatment, a social worker came by to tell Molly she was able to make a wish. Molly responded quicker than she did when asked about the heat.
 
I knew right away (what I wanted), she said. There was nothing else I wanted to do.
 
Molly wanted to play golf with Annika Sorenstam.
 
Sorenstam has been associated with the Make-A-Wish Foundation for a year, which made the likelihood of an encounter all-the-more possible. All Sorenstam had to do was say yes.
 
There wasnt a bit of hesitation, said Mike McGee, Sorenstams fianc. She believes in everything the foundation stands for.
 
Im all about dreams, added Annika.
 
The process went smoothly and quickly. Molly was able to meet her idol Thursday at the Ginn Reunion Resort, which houses the ANNIKA Academy. Annika took Molly and her family on a guided tour of the facilities. They then had a little lunch, hit a few practice balls, and made their way out to the course for a round of golf together.
 
Along the way, Molly was presented with some matching Annika attire as well as a new set of Callaway clubs.
 
This is so cool, Molly said of the experience. Its unreal.
 
Molly is a shy girl, at least in front of tape recorders and cameras ' and there were a handful of media out at Reunion this day. She didnt have too much to say about her condition other than, It was hard.
 
Her parents, however, were a little more descriptive concerning the situation, if not still confused.
 
As a parent, still to this day, Leslie and I dont understand it completely, Thomas said. We just focused on Molly and the positive attitude she had.
 
The toughest part for us, her family, was we couldnt help her as much as we wanted. It was her battle.
 
And she was very positive, said Leslie. She was confident she was going to beat it.
 
Starting Day 1,' Thomas continued. 'she made up her mind that it was not going to change her life or ours.'
 
When asked how the disease had affected her life, Molly replied, It really hasnt.
 
Hodgkins lymphoma, according to the National Cancer Society, is characterized by the spread of the disease from one lymph node group to another. It usually affects young people age 15-35, or adults over the age of 55. It is also more prevalent in males than in females.
 
Being a 14-year-old girl, Molly was not in any of the target groups. But the disease found her anyway. Hodgkins, though, is the most curable form of cancer, usually through chemotherapy.
 
Mollys cancer is now in remission. If it stays that way for five years, she will be considered cured, Leslie said.
 
The most common misnomer about the Make-A-Wish Foundation is that it grants wishes to only terminally-ill patients. That is not the case. It does so for those facing life-threatening medical conditions.
 
We want to be able to give kids hope, a reason to keep fighting, said Mike Pressendo, the Director of Brand Communications for Make-A-Wish. This can be the light at the end of the tunnel.
 
The wish can be whatever their hearts desire. We want this to be the best time of their life.
 
Mollys heart desired to play golf with the greatest female player of all-time. Golf, as it turned out, was instrumental in her recovery process.
 
It helped take her mind off everything that was going on, Leslie said.
 
Molly learned the game at the Grosse Ile Golf & Country Club, where her family has a membership and both of her parents play.
 
She started at the very beginning of the junior program, said Dad.
 
This past fall, Molly competed on her high school team as a freshman. She says her low round is 102, which might seem easy to dismiss, but consider that shes 14, successfully battled cancer, lives in a northern state where the sport is shut down months at a time, and that career best came on a cold, wet and windy final day of the State Championship, and its far more impressive.
 
Apparently, Molly performs her best when the stakes are the highest ' in golf and in life.
 
Annika Sorenstam and Molly Esordi
Annika gives Molly a high-five after whopper of a drive. (Photo courtesy: Susan Pankau, Golfotos)
The stakes werent high Thursday, but the nerves were running rampant as she stepped on the Reunion range to hit balls next to a 69-time LPGA winner.
 
After a few indifferent iron shots, Molly grabbed her new Callaway driver. With Annika pausing to watch, she smoked one as straight and true as if it were struck by Annika herself.
 
That one even caught her mom by surprise. Wow! she exclaimed. Annika walked over and gave her a high-five.
 
Molly may live to be 100, but there wont be anything quite like those 10 seconds for the rest of her life.
 
One day Molly hopes to play on the LPGA, though Dad says, Lets focus on college first.
 
Her more immediate goals are: Id really like it if I could win the Miss Golf title when I get to be a senior. Maybe win the State title, too.
 
You certainly cant count out anyone whos already defeated an opponent like cancer.
 
As Molly and Annika headed out to play a round, a small gaggle of reporters and tag-alongs accompanied them. That lasted for two holes before everyone else peeled off and left the two of them alone, with only Mollys mom following from afar.
 
Come Saturday, the whole family is using a one-day Park Hopper pass to bounce around from one theme park to another. Just as the disease affects not only the individual but the entire family, this trip was for everyone as well.
 
We've all been excited about this for a long time, Leslie said.
 
This experience was one of family fun. It was a reward for all of them who had shared in this battle. But most of all, it was a wish made true for a young lady who had beaten back a life-threatening illness.
 
Were not going to think about that today, Annika said when asked about Mollys cancer. This is a day about golf.
 
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    Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

    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.

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    Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

    By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

    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.

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    McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

    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.”


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    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.  

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    Height of irony: Phil putts in front of 'rules' sign

    By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 1:36 pm

    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?’”