C. Woods' road to LPGA begins on Symetra Tour

By Randall MellFebruary 20, 2014, 3:39 pm

Cheyenne Woods is giving the Symetra Tour’s season opener a bonus billing.

It’s also now Cheyenne’s homecoming.

After a big breakthrough winning the Australian Ladies Masters two weeks ago, Woods comes home to tee it up in Friday’s start of the Visit Mesa Gateway Classic, the launch of the Symetra Tour’s new season. The developmental tour is known as “The Road to the LPGA,” and that’s exactly where Woods hopes her commitment to the Symetra Tour leads.

Woods, 23, couldn’t ask for a better place to start the journey. She grew up in Phoenix, just down the road from Mesa’s Longbow Golf Club, home to this week’s event. She has her own apartment in Phoenix. Her mother, Susan, picked her up at the Phoenix airport Monday afternoon after a 22-hour, two-legged flight back from Australia. Friends were waiting for Cheyenne when she got to her apartment.

“It was so exciting,” Woods told GolfChannel.com. “Everyone was so excited, and it was nice to see that.”

The only time Woods got emotional in her media interviews immediately after her win Down Under was when she thanked her family back home. She choked up.

“Growing up, my family was so supportive,” Woods said in a telephone conversation Wednesday with GolfChannel.com. “They were my No. 1 fans. My mom was everything, in terms of taking me to golf lessons, supporting me at junior events. She made sacrifices to get me where I am today. I got emotional because my family wasn’t able to travel with me to Australia, and they didn’t get to enjoy that moment with me after all the hard work we’ve all put into my game.”

Photo gallery: Cheyenne Woods through the years

Woods is niece to Tiger Woods. Her father, Earl Jr., is Tiger’s half-brother, born into Earl Woods Sr.’s first marriage. Cheyenne’s parents divorced when she was young. Both Susan and Earl Jr. will be following Cheyenne at Longbow this week. So will lots of other family and friends. Cheyenne has two older half-brothers.

“My family doesn’t get a lot of chances to see me compete,” Woods said. “They don’t travel a lot. Some haven’t seen me play since high school. Some have never seen me compete. For them to be able to come out this week, it will be special.”

While Woods’ victory at the Australian Ladies Masters earned her a two-year exemption on the Ladies European Tour, it did not gain her any status to play the LPGA, and that’s the destination Woods is working toward. That’s why she’s making the commitment to the Symetra Tour. She plans to play some more LET events this year, too, but it won’t be her primary focus.

“I’m going to focus on the Symetra Tour,” Woods said. “As of today, my plans haven’t changed. I think long-term, that’s the best decision for me. I’m able to play their entire season, with a chance to earn my LPGA tour card with a top-10 finish on the money list. I also have European Tour status, and I’ll play there when I can, but for now my plan is grinding out here on the Symetra Tour.”

Woods is also planning to play the Volvik Championship next week at Industry Hills Golf Club’s Eisenhower Course outside Los Angeles. It will mark Woods’ fifth consecutive tournament. That’s a long haul given three of those events were international.

“I took a day to rest when I got home,” Woods said.

Woods credits her breakthrough Down Under to the work she did on her short game with her long-time coach, Mike Labauve.

“In the offseason, we didn’t really focus on much other than wedges and short game,” Woods said. “That’s something that I think really made the difference for me.”

Woods failed in her first two attempts to get through LPGA Q-School in 2012 and ’13, but she went overseas and earned a spot on the LET, playing it as a rookie last year. With the Symetra Tour expanding opportunities this year, Woods could get up to 20 starts on that tour. The Symetra Tour schedule was boosted from 15 events a year ago.

While the Aussie Ladies Masters triumph might not have gained Woods an LPGA tour card, it did enhance her attractiveness as a draw for LPGA tournament directors with sponsor exemptions to fill. Woods played the LPGA co-sanctioned Women’s Australian Open on a sponsor’s exemption last week, tying for 23rd, her best finish in seven LPGA starts as a pro.

Woods is represented by Mark Steinberg, also Tiger’s agent at Excel Sports Management. His team is helping her sort through opportunities, including a likely flood of sponsor invites.

“We’ve received a tremendous amount of interest in Cheyenne,” said Andrew Kipper, Woods’ day-to-day manager at Excel Sports Management. “We’re evaluating the best path.”

As an LPGA non-member, Woods is allowed to accept six sponsor exemptions this year. Her win Down Under also gets her into the Women’s British Open and the Evian Championship through LET eligibility criteria. Those starts won’t count against the five sponsor invites Woods has left this year. Also, she plans to try to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open. If she does, that also won’t count against her limit of sponsor invites. That’s nine potential LPGA starts in 2014.

Basically, there are four ways Woods can earn LPGA membership, but only one way she can earn status to play that tour as a member this season:

• By winning an LPGA event this year, Woods would gain a two-year exemption as a tour member. She could accept immediate membership, or defer membership until the start of next year.

• By accumulating non-member winnings that are the equivalent of top-40 money on the final LPGA money list, Woods could claim LPGA membership for 2015. Non-member money winnings only count in events with a cut.

• By finishing among the top 10 on the season-ending Symetra Tour money list, Woods would earn LPGA membership for 2015.

• By advancing through LPGA Q-School’s final stage at season’s end, Woods would earn membership for 2015.

Wherever Woods path leads, she starts with terrific momentum from her LET victory.

“It was a huge accomplishment for me,” Woods said. “I just gained so much confidence in my game and my ability.”

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Five-time Open champ Thomson passes at 88

By Associated PressJune 20, 2018, 1:35 am

MELBOURNE, Australia – Five-time Open Championship winner Peter Thomson has died, his family said Wednesday. He was 88.

Thomson had been suffering from Parkinson's disease for more than four years and died at his Melbourne home surrounded by family members on Wednesday morning.

Born on Aug, 23, 1929, Thomson was two months short of his 89th birthday.

The first Australian to win The Open Championship, Thomson went on to secure the title five times between 1954 and 1965, a record equaled only by Tom Watson.

On the American senior circuit he won nine times in 1985.

Thomson also served as president of the Australian PGA for 32 years, designing and building courses in Australia and around the world, helping establish the Asian Tour and working behind the scenes for the Odyssey House drug rehabilitation organization where he was chairman for five years.

He also wrote for newspapers and magazines for more than 60 years and was patron of the Australian Golf Writers Association.

In 1979 he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his service to golf and in 2001 became an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for his contributions as a player and administrator and for community service.

Thomson is survived by his wife Mary, son Andrew and daughters Deirdre Baker, Pan Prendergast and Fiona Stanway, their spouses, 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements were to be announced over the next few days.

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Gaston leaves USC to become head coach at Texas A&M

By Ryan LavnerJune 19, 2018, 11:00 pm

In a major shakeup in the women’s college golf world, USC coach Andrea Gaston has accepted an offer to become the new head coach at Texas A&M.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Gaston, who informed her players of her decision Monday night, has been one of the most successful coaches over the past two decades, leading the Trojans to three NCAA titles and producing five NCAA individual champions during her 22-year reign. They have finished in the top 5 at nationals in an NCAA-record 13 consecutive seasons.

This year was arguably Gaston’s most impressive coaching job. She returned last fall after undergoing treatment for uterine cancer, but a promising season was seemingly derailed after losing two stars to the pro ranks at the halfway point. Instead, she guided a team with four freshmen and a sophomore to the third seed in stroke play and a NCAA semifinals appearance. Of the four years that match play has been used in the women’s game, USC has advanced to the semifinals three times.  

Texas A&M could use a coach with Gaston’s track record.

Last month the Aggies fired coach Trelle McCombs after 11 seasons following a third consecutive NCAA regional exit. A&M had won conference titles as recently as 2010 (Big 10) and 2015 (SEC), but this year the team finished 13th at SECs.

The head-coaching job at Southern Cal is one of the most sought-after in the country and will have no shortage of outside interest. If the Trojans look to promote internally, men’s assistant Justin Silverstein spent four years under Gaston and helped the team win the 2013 NCAA title.  

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Spieth 'blacked out' after Travelers holeout

By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 9:44 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – It was perhaps the most-replayed shot (and celebration) of the year.

Jordan Spieth’s bunker holeout to win the Travelers Championship last year in a playoff over Daniel Berger nearly broke the Internet, as fans relived that raucous chest bump between Spieth and caddie Michael Greller after Spieth threw his wedge and Greller threw his rake.

Back in Connecticut to defend his title, Spieth admitted that he has watched replays of the scene dozens of times – even if, in the heat of the moment, he wasn’t exactly choreographing every move.

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“Just that celebration in general, I blacked out,” Spieth said. “It drops and you just react. For me, I’ve had a few instances where I’ve been able to celebrate or react on a 72nd, 73rd hole, 74th hole, whatever it may be, and it just shows how much it means to us.”

Spieth and Greller’s celebration was so memorable that tournament officials later shipped the rake to Greller as a keepsake. It’s a memory that still draws a smile from the defending champ, whose split-second decision to go for a chest bump over another form of celebration provided an appropriate cap to a high-energy sequence of events.

“There’s been a lot of pretty bad celebrations on the PGA Tour. There’s been a lot of missed high-fives,” Spieth said. “I’ve been part of plenty of them. Pretty hard to miss when I’m going into Michael for a chest bump.”

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Pregnant Lewis playing final events before break

By Randall MellJune 19, 2018, 9:27 pm

Stacy Lewis will be looking to make the most of her last three starts of 2018 in her annual return to her collegiate roots this week.

Lewis, due to give birth to her first child on Nov. 3, will tee it up in Friday’s start to the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Arkansas. She won the NCAA individual women’s national title in 2007 while playing at the University of Arkansas. She is planning to play the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship next week and then the Marathon Classic two weeks after that before taking the rest of the year off to get ready for her baby’s arrival.

Lewis, 33, said she is beginning to feel the effects of being with child.

“Things have definitely gotten harder, I would say, over the last week or so, the heat of the summer and all that,” Lewis said Tuesday. “I'm actually excited. I'm looking forward to the break and being able to decorate the baby's room and do all that kind of stuff and to be a mom - just super excited.”

Lewis says she is managing her energy levels, but she is eager to compete.

“Taking a few more naps and resting a little bit more,” she said. “Other than that, the game's been pretty good.”

Lewis won the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship in 2014, and she was credited with an unofficial title in ’07, while still a senior at Arkansas. That event was reduced to 18 holes because of multiple rain delays. Lewis is a popular alumni still actively involved with the university.