LAAC win changed Chaplet's year, outlook, life

By Nick MentaJanuary 11, 2017, 10:15 pm

PANAMA CITY, Panama – One year ago at Casa de Campo, Paul Chaplet was honest. He was honest when he said he didn’t expect to win the Latin America Amateur Championship.

He didn't expect to talk to Adam Scott at the Masters, because he didn’t expect to be at the Masters.

He also didn’t expect that he would temporarily leave school, or that a new one would come calling.

And yet here Chaplet is, one year later, both grateful for the opportunities he earned last year and careful not to dwell on them. 

Chaplet returns to the LAAC as the defending champion, but there’s no arrogance, and there’s certainly no expectation. As humble as a 17-year-old could be, Chaplet balked at the suggestion he’s any kind of “favorite” this week at Panama Golf Club.

I don’t feel extra pressure,” he said following his final practice session before Thursday’s opening round. “I feel like there are expectations that come with the title of being defending champion, but that’s in the past. I can’t do anything about it.”

Last April, two weeks after playing his first Masters, Chaplet admitted that it was hard to return to playing junior events as normal, and that it was even harder to manage expectations for his own play.

But as the year wore on, he began to understand and take seriously the lessons he learned from his week at Augusta National.

Wednesday in Panama, Chaplet mentioned Scott – his favorite player – Davis Love III, Rickie Fowler and Marc Leishman as among those took time to mentor him that week at the Masters. And all of them, according to Chaplet, offered him some version of the following:

“You can’t decide to play well,” he said. “Some weeks you play well; some weeks you don’t. The best you can do is prepare to play well. That’s the most repetitive comment I heard through the week, and so, I took that to heart.”

To some degree, he had to.

After winning the LAAC, Chaplet was suddenly qualified for the Masters and exempted into the Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur Championship, Final Qualifying for The Open and sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open. And so Chaplet and his family decided he should take the remainder of the year off from school to focus on the prestigious events in front of him. 

“We talked about it right after the Latin American,” he said. “We’re like, ‘OK, so all these opportunities came up, what are we going to do?’ … We decided to give me a chance.”

Unfortunately, as the second-youngest player in Masters history at 16 years old and as the first Costa Rican to make it to Augusta, Chaplet missed the cut following rounds of 83-82. He then missed out on qualifying for the U.S. Open and The Open and missed the cuts at the Amateur Championship and U.S. Amateur.

And while that may sound discouraging, Chaplet is pretty level-headed for a 17-year-old. And the more he played, the more that Masters-week advice made sense.

“I’ve seen the ups and down of golf,” he said. “I didn’t make the cut at the Masters, and it hurts a little bit, but it’s all part of a learning process. And that’s what I learned over the course of 2016, that you can have great ups and you can really low downs. You’ve just got to know how to fight, I guess. … And now I’m more prepared in 2017 than I was in 2016 to deal with those situations.”

Pretty soon, he’ll be dealing with them at Arizona State. Chaplet committed to the Sun Devils last fall after originally fielding offers from Arizona, San Diego State, Minnesota and Sam Houston State. In the end, he was swayed by the warm weather, the young, competitive roster and the coaching staff – led by Matt Thurmond and Van Williams.

Perhaps most importantly, Chaplet realizes that had he graduated high school in 2016, rather than 2017, he wouldn’t have been headed for Tempe.

“I might not have gone to as good of a school,” he said. “I might have had less opportunities.

“Had I not won the [LAAC], I probably would have gone back to [high school]. I would have played less tournaments. I would have had to try to qualify for the U.S. Am, and the U.S. Open sectionals, and all of that. It would have just been more … I wouldn’t have learned as much as I did.

Instead, Chaplet bounced from Augusta, Ga., to Graniteville, S.C., to Jacksonville, Fla., to Buckinghamshire, England, to Bloomfield Hills, Mich., to Porthcawl, Wales, learning the ups and downs of golf and believing he’s much better off for it.

The scores weren’t nearly as important as the lessons learned.

“We had a fun year,” he concluded. “A lot of learning, a lot of travel, a lot of experience.”

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Lewis says she's expecting first child in November

By Randall MellApril 27, 2018, 2:18 am

Stacy Lewis is pregnant.

The 12-time LPGA winner confirmed after Thursday’s first round of the Mediheal Championship that she and her husband, University of Houston women’s golf coach Gerrod Chadwell, are expecting their first child on Nov. 3.

Lewis learned she was pregnant after returning home to Houston in late February following her withdrawal from the HSBC Women’s World Championship with a strained oblique muscle.

“We're obviously really excited,” Lewis said. “It wasn't nice I was hurt, but it was nice that I was home when I found out with [Gerrod]. We're just really excited to start a family.”

Lewis is the third big-name LPGA player preparing this year to become a mother for the first time. Suzann Pettersen announced last month that she’s pregnant, due in the fall. Gerina Piller is due any day.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Mediheal Championship

Piller’s husband, PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, withdrew from the Zurich Classic on Thursday to be with her. Piller and Lewis have been U.S. Solheim Cup partners the last two times the event has been played.

“It's going to be fun raising kids together,” Lewis said. “Hopefully, they're best friends and they hang out. But just excited about the next few months and what it's going to bring.”

Lewis, a former Rolex world No. 1 and two-time major championship winner, plans to play through the middle of July, with the Marathon Classic her last event of the year. She will be looking to return for the start of the 2019 season. The LPGA’s maternity leave policy allows her to come back next year with her status intact.

“This year, the golf might not be great, but I've got better things coming in my life than a golf score.” Lewis said. “I plan on coming back and traveling on the road with the baby, and we'll figure it out as we go.”

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Coach scores in NFL Draft and on golf course

By Grill Room TeamApril 27, 2018, 1:47 am

To say that Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio had a good day Thursday would be an understatement. Not only did his team snag one of the top defensive players in the NFL Draft - Georgia outside linebacker Roquan Smith, who the Bears took with the eighth pick of the first round - but earlier in the day Fangio, 59, made a hole-in-one, sinking a 9-iron shot from 125 yards at The Club at Strawberry Creek in Kenosha, Wis.

Perhaps the ace isn't so surprising, though. In late May 2017, Fangio made another hole-in-one, according to a tweet from the Bears. The only information supplied on that one was the distance - 116 yards.

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Gooch chooses 'life over a good lie' with gators nearby

By Ryan LavnerApril 26, 2018, 11:31 pm

AVONDALE, La. – A fairway bunker wasn’t Talor Gooch’s only hazard on the 18th hole at TPC Louisiana.

Gooch’s ball came to rest Thursday within a few feet of three gators, leading to a lengthy delay as he sorted out his options.

Chesson Hadley used a rake to nudge two of the gators on the tail, sending them back into the pond surrounding the green. But the third gator wouldn’t budge.

“It woke him up from a nap,” Gooch said, “and he was hissing away and wasn’t happy.”

The other two gators remained in the water, their eyes fixed on the group.

Full-field scores from the Zurich Classic of New Orleans

Zurich Classic of New Orleans: Articles, photos and videos

“I’m sure we would have been fine, but any little movement by them and no chance I would have made solid contact,” he said.

A rules official granted Gooch free relief, away from the gator, but he still had to drop in the bunker. The ball plugged.

“I chose life over a good lie in that situation,” he said.

He splashed out short of the green, nearly holed out his pitch shot and made par to cap off an eventful 6-under 66 with partner Andrew Landry.

“It was my first gator par,” he said. “I’ll take it.”

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Koepka's game 'where it should be' even after injury

By Ryan LavnerApril 26, 2018, 11:18 pm

AVONDALE, La. – Brooks Koepka didn’t look rusty Thursday while making six birdies in the first round of the Zurich Classic.

Making his first start in four months because of a torn ligament in his left wrist, Koepka and partner Marc Turnesa shot a 5-under 67 in fourballs at TPC Louisiana.

“It felt good,” Koepka said afterward. “It was just nice to be out here. I played pretty solid.”

Full-field scores from the Zurich Classic of New Orleans

Zurich Classic of New Orleans: Articles, photos and videos

The reigning U.S. Open champion felt soreness in his wrist the week after he won the Dunlop Phoenix in the fall. He finished last at the Hero World Challenge in December and then the following month at the Tournament of Champions before shutting it down.

He only began practicing last week and decided to commit to the Zurich Classic after three solid days at Medalist. He decided to partner with one of his friends in South Florida, Marc Turnesa, a former PGA Tour winner who now works in real estate.

Koepka hasn’t lost any distance because of the injury – he nearly drove the green on the 355-yard 16th hole. He’s planning to play the next two weeks, at the Wells Fargo Championship and The Players.

“I feel like I’m playing good enough to be right where I should be in April,” he said. “I feel good, man. There’s nothing really wrong with my game right now.”