The changing state of the LPGA

By Randall MellDecember 14, 2010, 2:11 am

LPGA Tour _newAree Song, Jessica Kordaand Shasta Averyhardt were among the big winners emerging from LPGAQ-School’s finish Sunday in Daytona Beach.

Song, the former teen phenom who has struggled with injuries and burnout, will chase her dream anew.

Korda, the daughter of former Australian Opentennis champ Petr Korda, made it through as a 17-year-old amateur and immediately turned pro.

Averyhardt became just the fourth African-American to earn LPGA membership, the first since LaRee Sugg in 2001.

So what exactly did they win with tour membership? What opportunities await in 2011 for LPGA Q-School graduates?

The tour could feature more tournaments next year than it did in 2010, but there’s the possibility that even with more events there will be fewer opportunities for Q-School grads and rank-and-file members. That’s because while there will be more foreign and limited-field events next year, there’s likely to be fewer American and full-field events.

The tour’s new growth plate is in foreign limited-field events.

While there may be some surprises when the 2011 LPGA schedule is released, here’s what we know:

• In 2008, there were 34 official money events, 24 of those in the United States.

• In 2010, there were 24 official money events, 14 in the United States.

• In 2011, there are 24 events we can pencil in on the schedule, only 12 of those in the United States. Again, there could be some surprise additions.

• In ’08 there were 25 full-field events (100 or more players), just 17 this year. There could be as few as 15 next year.

Next season, the LPGA is losing the CVS/pharmacy LPGA Challenge and the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic is taking a one-year hiatus. So that’s two less American events in ‘11. But, there are two new events being added in China and Taiwan.

“I think it’s the age we’re in,” two-time LPGA winner Christina Kim said of shrinking full-field events. “We have to cater to the top players. I’m not saying that is something we should or shouldn’t do. It just seems to be the way we’re going with sponsors wanting small-field events. Right now, we just have to follow the money.”

While you hear Americans lobbying for more U.S. events, Kim put her finger on the issue that crosses borders.

“It doesn’t matter what language it’s being spoken in, what you hear is that players want more opportunities,” Kim said.

Kim believes more American opportunities will come, but it makes sense to build where you can now.

“The money’s in Asia now,” says four-time LPGA winner Candie Kung.

American Cristie Kerr, a two-time major champion, wants a larger American schedule with more full-field events, but she understands the supply-and-demand equation.

“The top players, we make an amazing living, and the players that squeak by, it's hard,” Kerr said. “It's a hard economic background, because the companies that do want to invest right now, they want limited-field events. They want the top 50. It’s hard because the top-50 to -70 players on our tour sell the sponsorships. Those are the players fans want to come out and see. But at the same time, our tour was founded on principles of 120 to 140 players every week.”

Moira Dunn finished 81st on the LPGA money list this season, just outside the top 80, the LPGA’s equivalent of fully-exempt status. She made $80,449 in 14 starts. In ’08, Gloria Park finished 81st on the money list. She made $132,336 in 24 starts.

“The top players sell the sponsorships, but we still need to have 15 to 16 full-field events, or maybe even more, because those players can't make a living,” Kerr said.

LPGA commissioner Mike Whan has been selling his tour’s global growth as a positive since he stepped into his office this year. While he says it’s important to have a good American foundation, he believes the tour’s international nature should be applauded.

“The difference between playing in Franceand New Jersey was significant 30 years ago,” Whan said earlier this year. “It's not today.”

That’s something that’s debated, even within the tour’s player ranks, who want the most exposure they can get. Whan says his ultimate goal is to rebuild a schedule of 30 or so events. He wants to fashion a schedule where American players who want to build a schedule at home have enough events to do that, and where international players who want to focus more overseas can build the brunt of their schedule there.

Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam met with Whan and the commissioner’s advisory council at the LPGA Tour Championship nearly two weeks ago. The American vs. international issues confronting the tour was a topic.

“The Tour has changed,” Sorenstam said. “Ten years ago, a lot of companies were 75 percent domestic, 25 percent international. Here we are, 10 years later, and companies are the opposite. They are 75 percent international, 25 percent domestic. The LPGA is not any different, as we all know.

It's becoming a global tour.

“So how do we adapt to that? How do we embrace that? How do we make the most out of that? I don't really think anybody has the answer. But Mike is working very hard to obviously create opportunities for the professionals. That's going to include all of these international tournaments.”

Ideally, players would like Whan to take advantage of the opportunities that are overseas today and then rebuild the American schedule when more robust economic times return. Still, there’s pressure. The LPGA Tour Championship still needs a title sponsor. The tour isn't on live TV as much as players would like. Young Q-School grads are limited in starts and money they need to make a living.

Whan understands, but he says he’s seeking to rebuild something with strong legs, and that takes time. He took over a tour hit hard by the economy and title sponsor backlash from his predecessor’s hard-line tactics.

“I get to nourish this thing four, five, six years,” Whan said. “My job is not to have a great couple of years. My job is to build this thing so it gets stronger and stronger.

“I’ve said to my staff, don’t rush events. Let’s bring in events that are thought out, so we can be in business with [title sponsors] as long as we’ve been in business with State Farm, Wegmans and Nabisco, because that’s what the LPGA deserves, that’s the legacy we need to leave.”

When it comes down to it, players want opportunities to play and make money. It’s any commissioner’s bottom line. It’s what Sunday’s Q-School grads need to survive.

Follow Randall Mell on Twitter @RandallMell

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Rosaforte Report: What makes Wise so good, while so young

By Tim RosaforteMay 23, 2018, 2:39 pm

Is Aaron Wise the real deal?

It may be too early to answer that question – or even make that proclamation; after all, the baby-faced 21-year-old had zero top-10s in his first 15 starts as a PGA Tour rookie. Now, one month after a missed the cut in the Valero Texas Open, Wise is being associated with phrases like “phenom” and “It kid,” thanks to a strong showing at Quail Hollow and a victory at Trinity Forest.

But that’s how it works in this transient time of golf, where there’s always room to join the party and become one of the guys hanging out with Rickie Fowler. You watch: Next we will see Wise playing practice rounds with Tiger Woods, next to Bryson DeChambeau. It would be the wise thing to do.

We really won’t know about Wise until he’s played some majors and established himself beyond this two-tournament stretch. Had he not turned pro, he would have been a college senior leading Oregon into the NCAA finals.

But what we do know, based on the opinions of those closest to him, is that Wise has the “instinctual” and “emotionally strong” qualities of a great one – the “real deal” qualities, so to speak.

From “knowing how to win” (college coach Casey Martin), to “being a natural in picking the right shot” (swing instructor Jeff Smith) to “the way he embraced mental training, very much like Tiger.” (sports psychologist Jay Brunza), Wise ranks high in all the nuances required of greatness.

Asked if he was surprised with Wise’s second-place finish at the Wells Fargo Championship and win at the AT&T Byron Nelson, Smith said without hesitation, “Not at all. The tough part as a coach was tempering expectations. I have to keep reminding him over and over and over, you’re only 21 years old.”

This week’s Fort Worth Invitational will provide further opportunity to gauge where Wise ranks in the spectrum of potential greatness. One of the elements that surfaced in his last two starts: While not physically imposing, the kid’s athleticism is a noticeable byproduct of the tennis he played during middle school and early high school growing up in Lake Elsinore, Calif. Wise was good enough to be “pretty highly ranked,” and was torn between a golf coach that wanted him to quit tennis, and a tennis coach that wanted him to quit golf.

Golf won out, but what we have seen recently is Wise’s hand-eye athleticism at work, the ability of knowing what shot to hit and how to hit the off-speed and stroke-saving shots that are necessary under the gun. “He’s like a natural in the feel side of the game,” says Smith.

In the mental game, there are even some intuitive comparisons to Woods drawn by Brunza, who started working with Tiger when he was 13. The best example, thus far, of those qualities was the fifth shot Wise holed for bogey to close out his third round at Wells Fargo. After whiffing his third shot and blading his fourth, it was the most meaningful shot in Wise’s short time in the big leagues.

It was what Brunza would so aptly describe as “managing the nervous arousal level within.” Instead of being rattled, Wise chipped in for bogey. He would call it “huge,” and “awesome,” and made the promise that it would carry him into the final round – which it did.

Wise closed with a 68 that Sunday and lost by two strokes to Jason Day, never appearing to be nervous or out of place. After a week off for not qualifying for The Players, that relaxed confidence carried over to Dallas, to the point where closing out a PGA Tour win for the first time felt like it did at the NCAAs, Canada and the Tour.

“To not only compete, but to play as well as I did, with all that pressure, gave me confidence having been in that situation (with Day at Quail Hollow),” Wise said on “Morning Drive.”

Wise was accompanied at Trinity Forest by his mother, who engaged in what Wise characterized as a joking conversation Sunday morning of just how much money Aaron would make with a win. It was a reminder of the short time span was between winning on Tour, at 21, and not being able the handle costs of playing on the AJGA circuit. Showing poise and patience with the last tee time, Wise did the smart thing and went back to sleep.

Wise didn’t come on radar until he won the 2016 NCAA Men’s DI individual title and helped lead the Ducks to the team title.

Playing mostly what Oregon coach Martin calls local events in Southern Cal hurt his exposure, but not his potential. “He came on really fast,” Martin remembers. “He was a very good junior player but wasn’t the greatest and he didn’t come from a ton of money so he didn’t play AJGA [much] and wasn’t recruited like other kids.”

Instead of pursing pre-law at Oregon, Wise went to the tour’s development schools and won the Syncrude Oil Country Championship on PGA Tour Canada and the Air Capital Classic.

Before Quail Howllow, there was nothing to indicate this sort of transcendent greatness. Statistically, none of numbers (except for being ninth in birdies) jump off the stat sheet. He’s 32nd in driving distance and 53rd in greens hit in regulation. But there are no strokes saved categories for the instinctual qualities he displayed on the two Sundays when he’s had a chance to win. “He’s a really cool customer that doesn’t get rattled,” says Martin. “He doesn’t overreact, good or bad.”

Lately, it’s been all good.

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NCAA DI Women's Champ.: Scoring, TV times

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 23, 2018, 11:00 am

The NCAA Division I Women's Golf Championship is underway at Kartsen Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.

After three days of stroke play, eight teams advanced to the match-play portion of the championship. Quarterfinals and semifinals were contested Tuesday, with the finals being held on Wednesday. Golf Channel is airing the action live.

Wake Forest junior Jennifer Kupcho won the individual title. Click here for live finals action, beginning at 4 p.m. ET.


TV Times (all times ET):

4-8PM: Match-play finals (Click here to watch live)

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Alabama faces 'buzzsaw' Arizona for NCAA title

By Ryan LavnerMay 23, 2018, 2:00 am

STILLWATER, Okla. – There was no way Laura Ianello could sleep Monday night, not after that dramatic ending at the NCAA Women’s Championship. So at 12:15 a.m., the Arizona coach held court in the laundry room at the Holiday Inn, washing uniforms and munching on mozzarella sticks and fried chicken strips from Sonic, her heart still racing.

Ianello got only three hours of sleep, and who could blame her?

The Wildcats had plummeted down the team standings during the final round of stroke-play qualifying, and were 19 over par for the day, when junior transfer Bianca Pagdanganan arrived on the 17th hole.

“Play the best two holes of your life,” Ianello told her, and so Pagdanganan did, making a solid par on 17 and then ripping a 6-iron from 185 yards out of a divot to 30 feet. There was a massive leaderboard positioned to the right of the par-5 18th green, but Pagdanganan never peeked. The only way for Arizona to force a play-five, count-four playoff with Baylor and reach match play was to sink the putt, and when it dropped, the Wildcats lost their minds, shrieking and jumping over the ropes and hugging anyone in sight.

Watching the action atop the hill, Alabama coach Mic Potter shook his head.

“I was really glad we didn’t win the tiebreaker for the No. 1 seed,” he said, “because they’re a buzzsaw with a lot of momentum.”

Given new life, Arizona dispatched Baylor by three strokes in the playoff, then turned its attention to top-seeded UCLA in the quarterfinals on Tuesday morning.

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Scoring and TV times

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Full coverage

Facing two first-team All-Americans, the Wildcats beat them, too, continuing the curse of the medalist. In the afternoon, worried that the adrenaline would wear off, Ianello watched her squad make quick work of Stanford, 4-1.

“They’ve got a lot of great momentum, a lot of great team energy,” Stanford coach Anne Walker said. “They thought they were going home, and now they’ve got a chip on their shoulder. They’re playing with an edge.”

After a marathon doubleheader Tuesday at Karsten Creek, Arizona now has a date with Alabama in the final match of this NCAA Championship.

And the Wildcats better rest up.

Alabama looks unstoppable.

“They’re rolling off a lot of momentum right now,” Ianello said. “We know Alabama is a good team. But they’re super excited and pumped. It’s not the high of making it [Monday]; now they’ve got a chance to win. They know they have to bring it.”

Even fully rested, Arizona will be a significant underdog against top-ranked Alabama.

After failing to reach match play each of the past two years, despite being the top overall seed, the Tide wouldn’t be stopped from steamrolling their competition this time.

They roughed up Kent State, 4-1, in the quarterfinals, then frontloaded their lineup with three first-team All-Americans – Lauren Stephenson, Kristen Gillman and Cheyenne Knight – in their semifinal tilt against Southern Cal.

Potter said that he was just trying to play the matchups, but the move sent a clear signal.

“It gets pretty tedious when you never miss fairways and hole a lot of putts and your opponent knows that you’re not going to spray it,” Potter said. “That’s tough to match up against.”

They breezed to the first three points, draining any drama out of the semifinals. Of the 99 holes that Bama’s Big 3 played Tuesday, they trailed after only two.

“We’re always consistent,” Stephenson said, “and that’s exactly what you need in match play. Someone has to go really low to beat us.”

That Arizona even has that chance to dethrone the Tide seemed inconceivable a few months ago.

The Wildcats had a miserable fall and were ranked 39th at the halfway point of the season. On Christmas Day, one of the team’s best players, Krystal Quihuis, sent a text to Ianello that she was turning pro. Once she relayed the news, the team felt abandoned, but it also had a newfound motivation.

“They wanted to prove that they’re a great team, even without her,” Ianello said.

It also was a case of addition by subtraction: Out went the individual-minded Quihuis and in came Yu-Sang Ho, an incoming freshman whom Ianello described as a “bright, shining light.”

Because incorporating a top-tier junior at the midway point can be intimidating, Ianello organized a lively team retreat at the Hilton El Conquistador in Tucson, where they made vision boards and played games blindfolded.

They laughed that weekend and all throughout the spring – or at least until Pagnanganan made that last-ditch eagle putt Monday. Then tears streamed down Ianello’s face.

Folding uniforms after midnight, she regaled Alabama assistant coach Susan Rosenstiel with stories from their emotional day on the cut line, not even considering that they might face each other two days later for a national title. She was too delirious to ponder that.

“I feel like a new mother with a newborn baby,” Ianello said. “But we’re going off of adrenaline. This team has all the momentum they need to get it done.”

Yes, somehow, the last team into the match-play field might soon be the last team standing.

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Pairings, tee times set for championship match

By Jay CoffinMay 23, 2018, 1:02 am

STILLWATER, Okla. – Alabama coach Mic Potter has three first-team All-Americans on this team. It’s little surprise that all three are going out first in the Crimson Tide’s championship match against Arizona Wednesday at Karsten Creek.

Potter tinkered with his lineup in both the quarterfinal victory over Kent State and the semifinal win over USC. But with the NCAA title on the line, this one was a no brainer.

“We don’t want to sacrifice anything,” Potter said. “We just want to give ourselves a chance to win every match.”

Arizona kept its lineup the same all day Tuesday in defeating Pac-12 foes UCLA and Stanford in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively. That meant junior Bianca Pagdanganan, the Wildcats grittiest player this week, was in the last match of the day. She won twice.

Now, with all the marbles riding on the championship match, Arizona coach Laura Ianello moved Pagdanganan up to the third spot to assure that her match is key to the final outcome.

Junior Haley Moore, Arizona’s best player all year, is in the fifth spot and will face Alabama senior Lakareber Abe.

“Win or lose tomorrow, this has been a helluva ride,” Ianello said.

Alabama (2) vs. Arizona (8)

3:25PM ET: Lauren Stephenson (AL) vs. Yu-Sang Hou (AZ)

3:35PM ET: Kristen Gillman (AL) vs. Gigi Stoll (AZ)

3:45PM ET: Cheyenne Knight (AL) vs. Bianca Pagdanganan (AZ)

3:55PM ET: Angelica Moresco (AL) vs. Sandra Nordaas (AZ)

4:05PM ET: Lakareber Abe (AL) vs. Haley Moore (AZ)