LPGA Leaders Juggle Crises

By Randall MellJuly 24, 2009, 4:00 pm
LPGA Tour _newMichelle Ellis sees the answer to the LPGAs problems in her father.
 
She always sees answers to lifes challenges in her father and still sees them even as a particularly malicious form of cancer ravages his body.
 
She sees answers in his persevering spirit as his maddening six-year fight with Chondrosarcoma reaches its most harrowing stage.
 
Radiation and chemotherapy cant even touch this cancer, Ellis said. Right now, the cancers getting the best of him, but he keeps fighting. Hes really fought this thing to the end. He doesnt quit on things, and thats the way he brought me up. I think thats why I can get a little frustrated on people who quit on things.
 
Ellis is the LPGA president, one of seven voting player directors on the associations governing board. She is leading the membership through one of the most challenging periods in its 59-year history. Over the last three weeks, she has done the difficult work of severing the tours ties with Carolyn Bivens, a commissioner she considered a mentor, and helping steer the search for the tours next leader. She has done all of this while working from her parents Australian home helping her mother and sister take care of her ailing father.
 
She can testify to the wondrous power of modern-day telecommunication systems.
 
Ellis isnt alone in the business of juggling personal and professional crises.
 
Sherri Steinhauer, the LPGAs vice president, is doing the same difficult work for the tour from her parents home in Madison, Wis.
 
The week LPGA players delivered a letter asking for Bivens resignation is the same week doctors told Steinhauers mother that she has breast cancer. Steinhauer helped manage the tours crisis while sleeping nights aside her mothers hospital bed.
 
The LPGAs focus is all about leadership right now.
 
Why didnt Bivens leadership work? Who is going to step up and rescue the tour? What kind of new business model is required to save the association?
 
They are daunting questions that can leave the most devoted LPGA supporters uncertain about the tours future.
 
The great hope in this difficult episode is the story that hasnt been told yet. Its in the determination and resolve Ellis and Steinhauer have shown behind the scenes. Its in the sacrifices the duo has made serving a varied constituency that can be almost impossible to please.
 
There have been stressful times for the both of us, Ellis said. There have been times when weve just been emotionally drained, times when it seemed like it was just all too much, but you dont show that in the board room.
 
Ellis and Steinhauer have shown it to each other. Theyve barked their frustrations at each other, and theyve cried when nobody but the other has seen or heard.
 
When Sherri found out about her mother, I knew what she was feeling, Ellis said. Its overwhelming. I would call to check on her, and she would call to check on me. Weve become really good friends, and I think weve complemented each other well.
 
When Ellis succeeded Hilary Lunke as tour president this year, she had no idea how critical her term would prove to be. She had no idea how taxing it would be on her ability as a player, either.
 
Michelle has put her heart and soul in this, said Steinhauer, an eight-time LPGA winner on medical leave this season. She hasnt made a cut this year. Her family has its own issues. Its amazing, absolutely amazing, what shes done and how much she cares about the LPGA.
 
A two-time Australian Amateur champion from the small community of Casino in New South Wales, Ellis, 33, is enduring her worst season on tour. She has yet to make a cut in 11 starts. The struggles cant be blamed on injury. She says the presidents role has become more important to her than her game.
 
'In this economy, with whats happening to tournaments, we have a lot of players who are scared about the future, Ellis said. The presidents job involves being a little bit of a mother hen. Ive spent a lot of time this year reassuring players, calming them down. I end up talking to a lot of players when Im out on tour, and it takes a lot out of you, but I do love being on this side of it. I never thought I would, but I do.
 
Tending to family health issues has also shifted her priorities. Her father, Bob, 61, was an account manager for Blackwoods Industrial, an industrial products supplier. He also serves as president of Casinos Return Servicemens Club, a sort of Australian VFW. A victim of an aggressive form of bone cancer, Ellis father lost his left leg three years ago to amputation. Part of his lungs has been removed, and he no longer has the use of his left arm. The cancer also is now eating into his hips.
 
Ive always relied on my father, calling him for advice, getting his opinion about what he would do about things, Ellis said.
 
Steinhauer, 46, also helps her in that role now. Ellis has great respect for the veterans wisdom.
 
I can be a little hot-headed, Ellis said. Sherris a calming influence. She has really helped me put in place how to get through things.
 
Steinhauers family issues are consuming as well. Her mother, Nancie, was forced back into the hospital after breast cancer surgery because of complications.
 
Steinhauer has her own health issues. She is out this season while recuperating from a pair of surgeries to repair bone spurs, labral and tendon tears and chronic pain in both hips. She spent five weeks this winter on crutches after the first surgery and was back on them again in the spring after the second surgery. Shes engaged in the hard work of rehabilitation still unsure whether shell ever be an elite player again.
 
I havent hit a golf shot since August of 2008, said Steinhauer, a three-time Womens British Open champ who will miss next weeks event.
 
Scheduled to begin hitting shots sometime this month, Steinhauer has poured herself into serving the tour and her family.
 
Its a pivotal time for the tour, Steinhauer said. Were elected to the board, and theres a lot of pressure and responsibility. We take the responsibilities extremely seriously.
 
Ellis hasnt teed it up since the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic three weeks ago. She walked off the course in the first round there and directly to a dinner that would drastically alter the future of the tour. She joined fellow player directors Juli Inkster and Helen Alfredsson in listening to the complaints of high-profile tour pros, complaints that would lead to Ellis overseeing the draft of a letter asking for Bivens resignation.
 
It was a trying test of leadership for Ellis because of her respect for Bivens.
 
It was tough, because Carolyn was a wonderful mentor to me, Ellis said. I spoke to her a lot, and we were a wonderful team and I miss her.
 
But Ellis ultimately understood her role as the memberships leader.
 
You do whats in the best interests of the tour, Ellis said.
 
Those are the sacrifices Ellis and Steinhauer are making in all of this even as they make them for their own families.
 
In that respect, they embody the spirit of the tours founding members, women who endured through every obstacle life presented them.
 
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    Hataoka leads Minjee Lee by one at LPGA Volvik

    By Associated PressMay 26, 2018, 12:54 am

    ANN ARBOR, Mich. - After losing in a playoff last weekend, Nasa Hataoka is making another bid for her first LPGA Tour victory.

    Hataoka shot a 4-under 68 on Friday, and the Japanese teenager led by one stroke over Minjee Lee after the second round of the Volvik Championship. Hataoka, who is coming off the first two top-10 finishes of her LPGA career, made seven birdies at Travis Pointe Country Club. She began her round on No. 10, and her best stretch came toward the end, when she birdied Nos. 4, 5 and 6.

    ''I'm really comfortable playing the LPGA,'' the 19-year-old Hataoka said through a translator. ''I've really got confidence now.''

    Hataoka made the cut nine times in 17 starts as a rookie in 2017, and she has made significant strides of late. She tied for seventh at last month's MEDIHEAL Championship and nearly won a week ago at the Kingsmill Championship in Virginia.

    Hataoka finished the second round in Michigan at 9 under. Lee (69) was also solid Friday. Gaby Lopez (68), Jodi Ewart Shadoff (70) and Lindy Duncan (70) were a stroke behind Lee in a tie for third.

    Hataoka did not make a single bogey in last week's three-round tournament, and she didn't have any in the first round in Michigan. She finally made a few Friday, but that didn't stop her from taking sole possession of the lead.

    ''I kind of feel like not really perfect, but I just kind of try to (be) aggressive,'' she said.


    Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship


    Lee, who lost by one stroke on this course last year, is in contention again.

    ''I guess the fairways are pretty generous and I think the greens are a little bit on the trickier side to read,'' Lee said. ''As long as your iron shots are pretty solid, I think you're going to be in good position around this golf course.''

    Lee birdied the first two holes, and the only blemish on her scorecard Friday came on the par-5 14th. After missing the fairway to the right, she hit an aggressive shot out of the rough that went straight toward a water hazard well in front of the green. She settled for a bogey after taking a drop.

    ''I thought the ball was sitting OK in the rough, but it must have been a bit funny, or underneath it,'' she said. ''I made a mistake. I thought it was good enough to hit 3-wood there.''

    Lee lost last year in Michigan to Shanshan Feng, but Feng will have some ground to make up in her attempt to repeat. She shot 69 on Friday but is still eight strokes behind the leader.

    Ariya Jutanugarn was 6 under after a second consecutive 69.

    Lopez made only six pars in the second round, tied for the fewest of the day, but her eight birdies and four bogeys put her near the top of the leaderboard.

    ''It was a little bit of an up and down,'' she said. ''There's so many opportunities out here to make birdie, that the most important thing to do is just to be patient, to be in the moment and not to get ahead of yourself. I think I came back from a couple mistakes that I did.''

    In contrast to Lopez, Brittany Lincicome parred all 18 holes Friday and made the cut at 1 under. Paula Creamer (71) triple bogeyed the par-4 13th. She followed that with an eagle on the very next hole but missed the cut by a stroke.

    Getty Images

    Childhood rivals share Sr. PGA lead

    By Associated PressMay 26, 2018, 12:00 am

    BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - Kevin Sutherland and Scott McCarron have been rivals since their junior golf days around Sacramento, California. The two old friends were back at it Friday at the top of the Senior PGA Championship leaderboard.

    ''It's honestly, nothing new for us,'' said Sutherland who played in the third-to-last group and birdied his last two holes for a 5-under 66 to match McCarron at 8 under.

    McCarron had a 68 in the morning wave to emerge from a championship record group of six tied for the first-round lead.

    Sutherland was last year's Charles Schwab Cup winner with his only senior win coming in the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship, while McCarron has six PGA Tour Champions wins, including a major at the 2017 Senior Players Championship.

    ''We are both (Northern California) guys, played in high school, junior golf, on tour and it seems like a lot on the Champions Tour,'' Sutherland said. ''We were in the last group on Sundays a lot last year. Scott played so well and had an incredible year, and I had a great year, too.''

    Sutherland's lone PGA Tour victory came at McCarron's expense in 2002 at La Costa in the Accenture Match Play Championship, when he beat McCarron 1 up in the 36-hole final. As youngsters they played on opposing high school teams located about an hour apart and met often in state tournaments as well as on the California junior circuit.

    ''It's been happening for 30 years, wait 35 years now, I guess,'' Sutherland said. ''Playing together on a Saturday is a little different. We're both still trying to get in position to win.''

    Jerry Kelly shot a 65 to join Tim Petrovic (69), Chris Williams (68) and Joe Durant (67) at 7 under. Durant tied for second last week in the Regions Tradition, also a major championship.


    Full-field scores from the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship


    McCarron feels like he is just starting to warm to the task this year. He had to replace his clubs, including a favored putter damaged beyond repair in air transit two months ago.

    ''I've been putting with a back-up putter I had, but it just didn't feel quite right,'' he said. ''I changed last Sunday at the Regions Tradition and started putting better on Sunday. So I'm using this one again this week and seem to be putting pretty good with it.''

    McCarron said the Harbor Shores course played a little tougher in light winds in the second round. He made six birdies and three bogeys.

    ''I would just like to have a couple of those bogeys back,'' he said. ''But we're in a good position going into the weekend.''

    McCarron came to the press center after his round and walked in on a press conference where course-designer Jack and Barbara Nicklaus were being honored by sponsoring KitchenAid with the establishment of a local college scholarship program in their name.

    McCarron, who said he has idolized Nicklaus since his youth, played media and asked Nicklaus what he ate when he was near the lead going into the weekend of a major championship.

    Nicklaus said if you play well one day, eat the same thing the next day.

    ''But no hamburgers, or you will play like hamburger,'' he said.

    Stuart Smith, the Reno, Neveda, club pro who was tied for the lead after the first round, missed the 36-hole cut with a second-round 83.

    ''I'll take the 66, 83 and enjoy the 66 yesterday,'' he said. ''You put this one down to just plain old golf. It's a nasty game we play sometimes. Glad I have a day job.''

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    Wise, Simpson both miss cut at Colonial

    By Nick MentaMay 25, 2018, 11:34 pm

    The two most recent winners on the PGA Tour, Aaron Wise and Webb Simpson, missed the cut at the Fort Worth Invitational on Friday.

    Wise and Simpson both came up short of the 2-over total by a shot following rounds of 70-73.

    Wise was safely inside the number before playing his last four holes in 4 over par with two bogeys and a closing double following a trip into the water at the par-4 ninth.


    Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

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    Simpson, making his first start following his Players triumph, similarly struggled coming home, bogeying three of his final six holes.

    Other notables who won't be around for the weekend at Colonial include Xander Schauffele (+4), Jason Dufner (+5), Patrick Cantlay (+6), Smylie Kaufman (+13), and Sam Burns (+13).

    This is Kaufman's 11th consecutive MC and his 15th in his last 16 starts.

    Jason Seaman and Kristi Hubly Seaman

    Sr. PGA caddie learns of nephew's heroism in school shooting

    By Tim RosaforteMay 25, 2018, 10:33 pm

    Tracy Hubly caddied for her husband, club pro Chris Starkjohann, on Friday at the KitchenAid Senior PGA and learned after their round that her nephew was credited with helping stop the school shooting at Noblesville West Middle School in Indiana.

    Jason Seaman, a 29-year-old science instructor and seventh grade football coach at the school, took three bullets but survived as what his aunt called a hero.

    “You hear the stories about these shootings and I think about Parkland and the officer that was trained but didn’t go into the school,” Hubly said. “It’s really shocking to think it comes close to your family, but it does."

    It’s not unusual for Hubly to caddie for her husband, a teacher at Carlsbad Golf Center and coach of a PGA Junior League program in Southern California. Hubly, who works in the pro shop at Emerald Island Golf Course in Oceanside, Calif., was on the bag when he was low golf professional at the 2009 Senior PGA Championship held at Canterbury GC. 

    Starkjohann, 61, missed the cut at Harbor Shores with rounds of 76-79—155 and was heading to the Colorado State Open.

     “I didn’t hear about it until after my round was done,” Starkjohann said. “Everything happened after I got in.”