College no longer a common path to LPGA stardom

By Randall MellApril 21, 2016, 2:51 am

DALY CITY, Calif. – Juli Inkster can’t help marveling looking down the practice range at the Swinging Skirts Classic this week.

The LPGA has never looked so young.

The average age of the nine winners this year is 20 years old.

“That’s unbelievable,” Inkster says.

The last three LPGA events have been won by teenagers, and the average age of the top 10 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings is 23 years old.

“Amazing,” Inkster says.

Inkster, 55, a hall of famer, marvels at how 17- and 18-year-olds know more about how to play the game than she did in her early 20s.

“Absolutely,” Inkster said. “You see so much discipline, such disciplined games. And the patience they have, the course management, and the swings. It’s a different game, a different era. We grew up with no coaches, no video. We just went out and played. I have to say, when I came out on tour, you could shoot 74 or 75 and still win. Now, you can’t do that. You have to put four good rounds together to win.”

Over the last five years, the LPGA has watched players 15, 16 and 17 years old win titles. In 2011, Lexi Thompson became the youngest winner of an LPGA event at 16. A year later, Lydia Ko topped her, winning at 15 and then winning again a year later at 16. Brooke Henderson won at 17 last year.

Inkster sees teenagers joining the tour who are more experienced playing under pressure against elite competition than ever before. These youngsters hit the LPGA having learned lessons most players in the past didn’t learn until they were hardened veterans.



“You look at Lydia Ko, Minjee Lee, In Gee Chun, they’ve played really competitive golf since they were 13 and 14 years old, high-end competition as juniors, in world tournaments,” Inkster said. “They’ve traveled all around the world, developing their games, getting ready for this opportunity. I didn’t play out of state until I was 18.”

Inkster has watched juniors become like closet pros. They travel like pros. They work with coaches and trainers like pros. They meet with sports psychologists and nutritionists like pros. They do everything pros do, except they play for trophies instead of money.

Here’s something else that has changed dramatically since Inkster joined the tour. The game’s best players aren’t the product of the best college programs anymore. The best players are turning pro at 17 and 18 now, some before leaving high school, especially internationally.

“When I came out here, we all went to college,” Inkster said.

None of the nine winners this year played collegiately. In fact, over the last 44 LPGA events staged, Anna Nordqvist and Kris Tamulis are the only winners who played collegiately.

Stacy Lewis is the only player among the top 15 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings who played in college.

The winners of the last seven major championships did not play collegiately. Since 2010, there have been 28 major championships staged. Lewis and Mo Martin are the only winners of majors in that run who played college golf. If you’re wondering, Inbee Park left UNLV two days after enrolling.

Megan Khang, 18, considered going to Wake Forest, but she told the school she wanted to take a year off and try making it through LPGA Q-School. Khang made it through in her first try in December and is off to an excellent start to her pro career. She tied for 11th in her LPGA debut at the Pure Silk Bahamas, tied for fourth at the JTBC Founders Cup and tied for seventh last week at the Lotte Championship.

“I was definitely thinking about going to college,” Khang said. “I played with Brooke Henderson growing up, and watching her win definitely inspired me. Knowing Lydia is only a few months older than I am, and that she’s already No. 1 in the world, that definitely inspired me, too. I felt like if I went to college, I’d be falling behind. I actually feel like I’m a little behind everyone right now, but I’m trying to speed up the process the best I can.”

Mic Potter, the head coach of the University of Alabama women’s golf team, says he isn’t surprised so many young LPGA players are succeeding so early because of the advanced coaching, training and elite tournament experience available. He also says he doesn’t pretend college is for the uniquely talented teens mature enough to succeed right away.

“When we recruit, if someone is good enough to play professionally and make a really comfortable living and win, we tell them that,” Potter said. “Unless you’re genuinely interested in a specific area of study, and you want to get a degree, developmentally, you are better off playing professionally. But if you’re not, our main recruiting point is that you can come and train, for virtually nothing, and when you do come out, you can be ready to play the tour. We also tell prospects that when they are ready to play professionally, to make money, we will be the first ones to tell them they should turn pro.”

Potter, though, worries about young players who aren’t ready but think they are.

“The downside is these young girls aren’t getting the social, college experience that might be good for them,” Potter said. “And it’s a double-edged sword. If you turn pro, and you don’t develop at the rate you thought you were going to develop, there really is nothing for you to fall back on.”

Tamulis shook her head surveying all the youth around her Wednesday on the practice green at Lake Merced Golf Club. Every single winner on tour this year turned pro while still a teenager.

“I’m 35, and I feel old,” said Tamulis, a Florida State graduate. “I feel like I’m getting older and everyone else is getting younger. They come on tour, and they’re so fit and so strong. You have to do so much to keep up with them.

“I feel like I’m leaps and bounds from where I was as a player 10 years ago, but I see girls coming out on tour now who are already where I’m at.”

It wasn’t that long ago that the game’s dominant stars at least played collegiately. Lorena Ochoa played two years at Arizona. So did Annika Sorenstam.

As a two-time major champion, a two-time Rolex Player of the Year, Stacy Lewis is the exception to the rule now as a graduate of the University of Arkansas. She loved the college game. She still does, so much so that she’s a volunteer assistant at her alma mater.

“The LPGA getting younger, it has a huge effect on the college game,” Lewis said. “If affects how coaches recruit, who they recruit.”



Lewis took note that the college ranks lost yet another top recruit this week with reigning U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Hannah O’Sullivan announcing she is forgoing a scholarship offer from USC. O’Sullivan, 17, plans to play LPGA Q-School in the fall as an amateur. She became the youngest winner of a Symetra Tour event as a 16-year-old last year.

While Lewis understands the dilemma parents of gifted junior golfers face, she also appreciated the message Se Ri Pak delivered when Pak announced her retirement at 38 last month. Pak said she cherished what golf gave her, but she also regretted what she deprived herself of by being so devoted to it. She said the game left her feeling incomplete as a person.

“Life not all about winning, losing, practicing and then winning, losing, practicing,” Pak said. “It’s balance, feeling right balance. It’s practicing life. I’m still developing myself, and I’m so far behind.”

So Yeon Ryu is a rare phenomenon in Korean golf, where most Korean LPGA players turn pro as teenagers. Ryu won the U.S. Women’s Open in 2011 while attending Yonsei University. She wasn’t studying as a correspondent student, either. She was attending classes while playing the Korean LPGA Tour.

“Se Ri always told me, `Golf can’t be your whole life,’” Ryu said. “She said it’s part of your life, but you can’t let it be your whole life. I think it’s an important message to all Korean golfers, because not many have a good balance. For too many, it’s all about golf, always thinking about golf. We’re only going to play golf for about 20 years. When we leave, we need to know what’s outside golf for us.”

Lewis, 31, hates seeing young players miss out on the college experience.

“It’s disappointing to me,” Lewis said. “I think they’re missing out on a really cool time in their life. They’re missing out on kind of still being a kid and having fun, from being 17 and 18 and going to college, living on their own and learning how to do that. All of a sudden, they’re out here on tour. This is their job, they’re professionals. They don’t get to be the kids they are.

“Will these girls be done at 30? Will they be retiring at 28? Who knows? Only time will tell, but the thing is, there aren’t going to be many Lydia Kos coming along. Parents see Lydia, and they think, `My kid can do that,’ but what Lydia is doing, nobody’s ever going to do that again, I don’t think.”

Tamulis wouldn’t trade her years at Florida State.

“College is the best time of your life,” Tamulis said. “I never hear anyone say they hated their college years. I think girls are missing the boat, but then I wasn’t as good as some of these girls coming out on tour now. I didn’t have the opportunity they have.”

Like Lewis, Inkster wonders if young phenoms will have the same passion for the game after 10 years on tour. But Inkster doesn’t wonder whether the future is going to keep delivering young talent the way it is today.

“They’re all coming now, and they’re just going to get better and better,” Inkster said.

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How to watch The Open on TV and online

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 16, 2018, 9:00 am

You want to watch the 147th Open? Here’s how you can do it.

Golf Channel and NBC Sports will be televising 182 hours of overall programming from the men's third major of the year at Carnoustie

In addition to the traditional coverage, the two networks will showcase three live alternate feeds: marquee groups, featured holes (our new 3-hole channel) and spotlight action. You can also watch replays of full-day coverage, Thursday-Sunday, in the Golf Channel app, NBC Sports apps, and on GolfChannel.com.  

Here’s the weekly TV schedule, with live stream links in parentheses. You can view all the action on the Golf Channel mobile, as well. Alternate coverage is noted in italics:

(All times Eastern; GC=Golf Channel; NBC=NBC Sports; GC.com=GolfChannel.com or check the GLE app)

Monday, July 16

GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Tuesday, July 17

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Wednesday, July 18

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Thursday, July 19

GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Friday, July 20

GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Saturday, July 21

GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Sunday, July 22

GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

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Davies wins by 10 on 'best ball-striking round'

By Associated PressJuly 16, 2018, 1:53 am

WHEATON, Ill. - Laura Davies immediately recognized the significance of having her name inscribed on the first U.S. Senior Women's Open trophy.

It might be a long time before anyone secures the title as emphatically as Davies did.

Davies went virtually unchallenged in Sunday's final round of the inaugural USGA championship for women 50 and older, claiming the title by 10 strokes over Juli Inkster.

''It's great seeing this (trophy) paraded down for the very first time and I get my name on it first, you know?'' Davies said. ''This championship will be played for many years and there will only be one first winner - obviously a proud moment for me to win that.''

The 54-year-old Davies shot a 5-under 68 to finish at 16-under 276 at Chicago Golf Club.

It was the English player's 85th career win, and she felt the pressure even though her lead was rarely in danger.

''I haven't won for eight years - my last win was India, 2010,'' Davies said. ''So that's the pressure you're playing under, when you're trying to do something for yourself, prove to yourself you can still win.

''So this ranks highly up there. And obviously it's a USGA event. It's hard comparing tournaments, but this is very high on my list of achievements.''

A 7-under 66 Saturday provided Davies with a five-shot lead over Inkster and what she said would be a sleepless night worrying about the pressure.


Full-field scores from the U.S. Senior Women’s Open


The World Golf Hall of Famer widened her advantage early Sunday when she birdied the par-5 second hole and Inkster made bogey. Davies said a par she salvaged at the 10th was another turning point.

''It wasn't the greatest hole I ever played, but I think that, to me, was when I really started to think I might have one hand on the trophy and just had to get the other one in there.''

Inkster shot an even-par 73. England's Trish Johnson also shot 73 to finish third, 12 shots back.

''I mean, she was absolutely spectacular this week,'' Johnson said about Davies. ''I've played against her for 35 years. Yesterday was the best I have ever seen her play in her entire career.

''She just said walking down 18 it was best ball-striking round she ever had. Considering she's won 85 tournaments, that's quite some feat.''

Danielle Ammaccapane was fourth and Yuko Saito finished fifth. Martha Leach was the top amateur, tying for 10th at 6-over 298.

Davies plans to play in the Women's British Open next month, and called this win a confidence-booster as she continues to compete against the younger generation. She finished tied for second at the LPGA's Bank of Hope Founders Cup earlier this year.

''You build up a little bit of momentum, and a golf course is a golf course,'' Davies said. ''Sometimes the field strength is a little bit different, but in your own mind if you've done something like this, 16 under for four rounds around a proper championship course, it can't do anything but fill you full of confidence.''

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Romo rallies to win American Century Championship

By Associated PressJuly 16, 2018, 12:42 am

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Nev. - Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo rallied from four points back to win his first American Century Championship at Lake Tahoe on Sunday.

Romo, who retired after the 2016 NFL season and is now an NFL analyst, had 27 points on the day to beat three-time defending champion Mark Mulder and San Jose Sharks captain Joe Pavelski, the the leader after the first two rounds.

''It's a special win,'' said Romo, who had finished second three times in seven previous trips to the annual celebrity golf tournament at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course. ''It feels like you're playing a tournament back home here. The day felt good for a lot of reasons.''

Romo tapped in for par, worth one point, on the 18th hole to finish with 71 points, three ahead of Mulder, the former major league pitcher. He then caught a flight to Berlin, Wis., where he was to compete in a 36-hole U.S. Amateur qualifying tournament on Monday.

The American Century Championship uses a modified Stableford scoring system which rewards points for eagles (six), birdies (three) and pars (one) and deducts points (two) for double bogeys or worse. Bogeys are worth zero points.

Pavelski had a 7-foot eagle putt on the par-5 18th that could have tied Romo, but it slid by. He finished with 66 points, tied for third with Ray Allen, who will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Sept. 7.


Full-field scores from the American Century Championship


''It feels like nothing went in for me today,'' Pavelski said. ''But I couldn't ask for more than to have that putt to tie on the last hole.''

Romo plays as an amateur, so his $125,000 first-place check from the $600,000 purse will go to local charities and the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, the primary charitable arm of title sponsor American Century Investments.

Rounding out the top five were Trent Dilfer, a Super Bowl-winning quarterback with the Baltimore Ravens in 2001, and former tennis player Mardy Fish. Each had 62 points.

Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry, who fell out of contention with a mediocre round Saturday, jumped into Lake Tahoe amidst much fanfare after losing a bet to his father, Dell. The elder Curry jumped into the lake last year, so he negotiated a 20-point handicap and won by two points.

Other notable players in the 92-player field included John Smoltz, the MLB hall of Fame pitcher who two weeks ago competed in the U.S. Senior Open and finished 10th here with 53 points; Steph Curry, who finished tied for 11th with retired Marine and wounded war hero Andrew Bachelder (50); actor Jack Wagner (16th, 47 points); Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (tied for 18th, 44 points); actor Ray Romano (tied for 71st, minus-26 points); comedian Larry the Cable Guy (tied for 77th, minus-33 points); and former NBA great Charles Barkley, who finished alone in last with minus-93 points.

The tournament drew 57,097 fans for the week, setting an attendance record for the fourth straight year.

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Singh tops Maggert in playoff for first senior major

By Associated PressJuly 16, 2018, 12:10 am

HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. - Vijay Singh hit a perfect approach to set up the winning playoff birdie. His celebration as the ball rolled into the cup was nowhere near as spectacular.

Singh closed the door on Jeff Maggert on the second playoff hole to win the Constellation Senior Players Championship on Sunday, giving an understated fist pump as his birdie putt dropped from about 2 feet. It was the first major title on the PGA Tour Champions for the 55-year-old Fijian, a past winner of the Masters and two PGA Championships.

''It's a little different,'' Singh said. ''It's a senior major, you know, so it's - any time you win a tournament no matter what it is, you feel accomplishment, and that's what I feel. I feel like I played well, and it's a win. A win is a win.''

Singh (67) and Maggert (68) finished at 20-under 268 at Exmoor Country Club. Brandt Jobe (66) was two strokes behind, while Jerry Kelly (64) and defending champion Scott McCarron (71) finished at 17 under.

Maggert began the day tied with McCarron and Bart Bryant for the lead. Singh was one shot back, but a crowd at the top of the leaderboard thinned out, turning it into a two-man race.

''I wasn't really watching the scoreboard or Vijay,'' Maggert said. ''Like I said, I thought I needed to shoot 5-, 6-, 7-under today to really kind of ice it. So I was really focused in on making seven or eight birdies today. ... You know, I thought some other scores would come into play there toward the end, but the last two or three groups looked like they were struggling, other than me and Vijay.''

Singh and Maggert posted identical scores through the first 15 holes. But Maggert bogeyed 16, and then missed chances to win in regulation and on the first playoff hole.

His 15-footer on the 72nd hole rolled wide, forcing the playoff, and a downhill 12-footer on the same green went just past the edge.

''We played toe-to-toe all day,'' Maggert said. ''He hit a nice shot on 18, and I had a chance to make a few putts throughout the day, but they just didn't go in.''


Full-field scores from the Constellation Energy Senior Players


Singh made just one bogey this week, and that came in the third round. He had five birdies Sunday and made some neat par saves to get into the playoff.

His tee shot on 17 landed near the trees to the right of the fairway, and his approach on 18 wound up in a bunker. But Singh blasted to within a few feet to match Maggert's par and send a senior major to a playoff for the first time since the 2015 Regions Tradition.

Singh played sporadically on the over-50 tour during his first few years of eligibility but is playing more often against men his age these days.

''To win the first major on this tour, I'm really excited about that,'' Singh said. ''Winning my first tournament at the beginning of the year was big, and now I've won this one, so I look forward to winning a lot more now. I always say, the first one, you get the first one out of the way, you can win a lot more after that.''

McCarron was trying to join Arnold Palmer and Bernhard Langer as the only back-to-back winners of this major. He came back from a six-shot deficit to win at Caves Valley near Baltimore last year and got off to a good start on Sunday.

He birdied the first two holes to reach 18 under. But bogeys on the par-4 seventh and ninth holes knocked him off the lead. His tee shot on No. 7 rolled into a hole at the base of a tree and forced him to take an unplayable lie.

Bryant (72) and Kenny Perry (68) finished in a pack at 16 under. Illinois golf coach Mike Small (71) finished one shot behind them, while three-time champion Bernhard Langer closed with a 74 to finish at 12 under after starting the day two strokes back.