LPGA making debut in Tseng's Taiwanese homeland

By Randall MellOctober 18, 2011, 12:06 am

Who plays with more joy today than Yani Tseng?

You can see it in her face even amid cut-throat competition.

The maddening game frustrates her at times, as it does all players, but nobody shows you how much they love playing it more. Nobody smiles more between shots. Whether she’s sharing a good-natured wisecrack with a fellow competitor, or good-humored bantering with her caddie, Tseng looks happier to be No. 1 than any man or woman since world rankings were conceived.

She carries the burden of being the best so effortlessly.

“Yani’s a very outgoing personality,” says Gary Gilchrist, her coach. “She’s a very happy person. She’s happy off the golf course, and I think it helps her on the course. She enjoys her life.”

It’s just another fact to appreciate in this star’s rocket-like ascent in the game.

The joy sets her apart, because if Tseng betrayed any bitterness, if she showed some exasperation with her lot in sport’s larger picture, you could understand. Though she’s won more majors (5) by age 22 than any man or woman in the history of the game, though she’s been No. 1 in the Rolex rankings for 36 consecutive weeks, though she has won nine times around the world this season and won four of the last eight major championships, she doesn’t get the full measure of attention she deserves.

Tseng doesn’t grace the cover of many magazines, doesn’t lead many TV sports highlight shows, isn’t the featured center piece on many big-time daily newspaper sports sections. She isn’t fully appreciated for the force she’s become.

But that’s what make this week so marvelous for the folks who love Tseng most.

With Taiwan hosting an LPGA event for the first time, Tseng returns to her homeland a triumphant hero.

All the adulation Tseng has been deprived, it comes flooding her way at the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship.

“People in Taiwan love Yani,” says Ernie Huang, Tseng’s mentor, friend and quasi-agent. “She’s very popular. She’s like a rock star there.”

The joy Tseng plays with, it’s Taiwan’s joy this week. They’re reveling in the fact that their homeland has nurtured the world’s best.

Tseng will literally tower over the republic Tuesday when she’s featured in a news conference scheduled on the top floor of the Taipei 101 skyscraper in downtown Taipei. It was the tallest building in the world until Khalifa Tower opened in Dubai last year.

Even when she’s sleeping at the Sunrise Golf & Country Club’s resort, Tseng will feel the pampering of her people. She’s the guest of honor in a special 264 square-meter suite renovated specially for her at a cost of $2 million New Taiwan dollars ($65,380 U.S. dollars).

“I’m always happy about going home, but this is going to be very, very special,” Tseng told GolfChannel.com. “We’ve been working for two years to bring an LPGA event to Taiwan. Golf isn’t as popular as it is in Japan or Korea, but we’re seeing more interest in the game now. I’m just hoping it is going to be a great memory for all the LPGA players.”

Tseng, who has a home in Orlando, Fla., grew up in Taiwan 30 minutes away from the Sunrise Golf & Country Club. Though she learned to play at the driving range her father owned, she trained at Sunrise as a teenager.

Her parents, father Mao Hsin and mother Yu-Yun Yang, will be following her this week. She has an older brother and younger sister and lots of other family and friends back home waiting to celebrate her return.

“And my grandmother will finally get to see me play in an LPGA tournament,” Tseng said. “She’s 92 years old, and I believe she will be there to see me play. She’s only been able to watch me on TV, so it’s going to be very special.”

Taiwan’s where Tseng was groomed to be a world champion, but Huang will tell you she had to leave her beloved homeland to learn what it would take to be the world’s best. Huang, a retired research scientist from Taiwan who moved to San Diego almost 40 years ago, met Tseng when she was 12. Huang loved the game and sponsored Taiwan youth looking to come to the United States to compete at the highest levels.

At 13, Tseng made one of those trips to the United States with Huang and won the Callaway Junior World Championship. That summer, Huang took Tseng and other juniors to see the U.S. Women’s Open when Juli Inkster outdueled Annika Sorenstam at Prairie Dunes in Kansas.

“Yani said she thought she was ready to compete against these girls,” Huang said.

The following summer, Huang brought Tseng back to give her a chance in the U.S. Women’s Amateur. As a 14-year-old, Tseng lost in the second round against an older and more seasoned Paula Creamer in a match that went to the final hole at Philadelphia Country Club.

When Tseng left Huang late that summer to return to Taiwan, she made him a special thank you card. Scrawled around her words were two drawings she painstakingly fashioned, a drawing of the U.S. Women’s Amateur trophy and the U.S. Women’s Open trophy.

“She said she was going to win those trophies, and she also said, `I am the world No. 1,’” Huang said. “I still have that card.”

The following summer, Huang watched Tseng at 15 score her biggest triumph to that date, defeating Michelle Wie in the final to win the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship.

Huang marvels at how Tseng’s claimed and embraced the success she craved as a teenager. He’ll be in Taiwan this week eager to see the country’s affection poured out on Tseng.

“There will be some pressure on Yani because all eyes will be upon her,” Huang said. “Everyone’s going to want a piece of her, and it’s going to be a challenge getting her rest, but she’s matured so much, I think she can certainly deal with this.”

Gilchrist believes Tseng understands the big picture the week presents.

“Yani’s priority this week should be to enjoy herself, enjoy playing in front of her home crowd and not be thinking that she has to play well,” Gilchrist said. “If she doesn’t win, she’ll still be No. 1 in the world. She needs to embrace that. She’s going to be very, very distracted the entire week, but these distractions should be a plus. She needs to enjoy the moment, embrace the crowds. Because in Taiwan, they’re going to love her whether she wins or not. She has nothing to prove.”

Tseng is bound to find the joy in that.

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Arizona caps an improbable journey with a title

By Ryan LavnerMay 24, 2018, 3:49 am

STILLWATER, Okla. – Five hours before the final match at the NCAA Women’s Championship, Arizona coach Laura Ianello sat cross-legged on a couch in the Holiday Inn lobby and broke down four times in a half-hour interview.

It’s been that kind of exhausting season.

From poor play to stunning midseason defections to a stroke-play collapse, Ianello has felt uneasy for months. She has felt like she was losing control. Felt like her carefully crafted roster was coming apart.

So to even have a chance to win a NCAA title?

“I know what this team has gone through,” she said, beginning to tear up, “and you don’t get these opportunities all the time. So I want it for them. This could be so life-changing for so many of them.”

A moment that seemed impossible six months ago became reality Wednesday at Karsten Creek.

Arizona continued its magical run through the match-play bracket and knocked off top-ranked Alabama to capture its third NCAA title, with junior Haley Moore – who first rose to fame by making the cut at an LPGA major as a 16-year-old – rolling in a 4-footer to earn the clinching point in extra holes.

All throughout nationals Arizona was fueled by momentum and adrenaline, but this was no Cinderella squad. The Wildcats were ranked ninth in the country. They won twice this spring. They had four medalists. They were one of the longest-hitting teams in the country.

But even before a miracle end to NCAA stroke play, Arizona needed some help just to get here.

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Team scoring

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Individual scoring

On Christmas Day, one of the team’s best players, Krystal Quihuis, texted Ianello that she was turning pro. It may have been a gift to her parents, for their years of sacrifice, but it was a lump of coal in Ianello’s stocking.

“I was absolutely heartbroken,” she said. “It was devastating.”

Even more bad news arrived a few weeks later, when junior Gigi Stoll told Ianello that she was unhappy, homesick and wanted to return to Portland, Ore. Just like that, a promising season had gone off the rails.

Ianello offered her a full release, but Stoll looked around, found no other suitors and decided to remain with the team – as long as she signed a contract of expected behavior.

“It was the most exhausting two months of my life,” Ianello said. “We care so much about these freakin’ girls, and we’re like, Come on, this is just a small, little picture of your life, so you don’t realize what you’re possibly giving up. It’s so hard to see that sometimes.”

Stoll eventually bought in, but the rest of the team was blindsided by Quihuis’ decision.

“We became even more motivated to prove we were a great team,” said junior Bianca Pagdanganan.

It also helped that Yu-Sang Hou joined the squad in January. The morale immediately improved, not least because the players now could poke fun at Hou; on her fourth day on campus she nearly burned down the dorm when she forgot to add water to her mac-and-cheese.

Early on Ianello and assistant Derek Radley organized a team retreat at a hotel in Tucson. There the players created Oprah-inspired vision boards and completed exercises blindfolded and delivered 60-second speeches to break down barriers. At the end of the session, they created T-shirts that they donned all spring. They splashed “The Great Eight” on the front, put the state of Arizona and each player’s country of origin on the sleeves, and on the back printed their names and a slogan: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

“I can’t think of anything else that better embodies this team,” Radley said.

This spring, they rallied together and finished no worse than fourth in a tournament. Through three rounds of stroke play here at the NCAA Championship, they used their distance advantage and sat third in the standings. Then they shot 17 over par in the final round, tumbling outside the top-8 cut line.

They were down to their final chance on the 72nd hole, needing an eagle to tie, as Pagdanganan lined up her 30-footer. She dramatically drained the putt, then gathered her teammates on the range.

“This means we were meant to be in the top 8,” she said. Less than an hour later, they beat Baylor in the team playoff to earn the last match-play berth.

Ianello was so amped up from the frenetic finish that she slept only three hours on Monday night, but they continued to roll and knocked off top-seeded UCLA in the quarterfinals, beating a pair of Player of the Year contenders, Lilia Vu and Patty Tavatanakit, in the process. In the afternoon semifinals, they jumped all over Stanford and won easily.

It was a cute story, the last team into the match-play field reaching the final match, but a stiffer challenge awaited the Wildcats Wednesday.

Alabama was the top-ranked team in the country. The Tide were a whopping 110 under par for the season, boasting three first-team All-Americans who were so dominant in their first two matches that they trailed for only two of the 99 holes they played.

Ianello already seemed to be bracing for the result on the eve of the final match.

“Win or lose,” she said, “this has been a hell of a ride.”

But their wild ride continued Wednesday, as Hou won four holes in a row to start the back nine and defeat Alabama’s best player, Lauren Stephenson, who had the best single-season scoring average (69.5) in Division I history.

Then sophomore Sandra Nordaas – the main beneficiary after Quihuis left at the midway point of the season – held on for a 1-up victory over Angelica Moresco.

And so Arizona’s national-title hopes hinged on the success of its most mercurial player, Moore. In the anchor match against Lakareber Abe, Moore jumped out to a 2-up lead at the turn but lost the first three holes on the back nine.

By the time Radley sped back to help Moore, in the 12th fairway, she was frazzled.

“But seeing me,” Radley said, “I saw a sense of calm wash over her.”

Moore played solidly for the rest of the back nine and took a 1-up lead into the home hole. She didn’t flinch when Abe hit one of the shots of the entire championship – a smoked 3-wood to 12 feet to set up a two-putt birdie and force extras – and then gave herself 4 feet for the win on the first playoff hole. She sank the putt and within seconds was mobbed by her teammates.

In the giddy aftermath, Ianello could barely speak. She wandered around the green in a daze, looking for someone, anyone, to hug.

The most trying year of her career had somehow ended in a title.

“At some moments, it felt impossible,” she said. “But I underestimated these young women a little bit.”

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Pac-12 continues to dominate women's golf

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 24, 2018, 3:04 am

Arizona's national women's golf championship marked the fourth consecutive year in‌ which the women's Division I national title was won by a Pac-12 Conference team. All four championships were won by different schools (Stanford, 2015; Washington, 2016; Arizona State, 2017; Arizona, 2018). The Pac-12 is the only conference to win four straight golf championships (men or women) with four different schools.

Here are some other statistical notes from the just-concluded NCAA Div. I Women's Golf Championship:

• This is the second time that Arizona has won the national title the year after rival Arizona State won it. The last time was 1996.

• Arizona now has three women's golf national championships. The previous two came in 1996 and 2000.

• Arizona is only the sixth school to win three or more Div. I women's golf championships, joining Arizona State (8), Duke (6), San Jose State (3), UCLA (3) and USC (3).

• Arizona's Haley Moore, who earned the clinching point on the 19th hole of her match with Alabama's Lakareber Abe, was the only Arizona player to win all three of her matches this week.

• Alabama's Kristen Gillman and Cheyenne Knight also went 3-0. Gillman did not trail in any match.

• Since the match-play format was instituted in 2015, Arizona is the lowest seed (8) to claim the national title. The seeds claiming the national championship were Stanford (4) in 2015; Washington (4) in 2016; and Arizona State (3) in 2017.

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High school seniors win U.S. Amateur Four-Ball

By Associated PressMay 24, 2018, 1:44 am

TEQUESTA, Fla. - The 18-year-old Hammer, from Houston, is set to play at Texas next fall. Barber, from Stuart, Fla., also is 18. He's headed to LSU.

''Growing up watching U.S. Opens and U.S. Amateurs on TV, I just knew being a USGA champion is something that I desperately wanted,'' said Hammer, who qualified for a U.S. Open three years ago at 15. ''And to finally do it, it feels incredible. It feels as good, if not better, than I thought it would. And especially being able to do it with Garrett. It's really cool to share this moment.''

Hammer and Cole won the par-4 eighth with a birdie to take a 2-up lead. They took the par-4 10th with a par, won the par-5 13th with an eagle - Barber hit a 4-iron from 235 yards to 3 feet - and halved the next two holes to end the match.

''Cole didn't want me to hit 4-iron,'' Barber said. ''He didn't think I could get it there. I was like, 'I got it.' So I hit it hard, hit pretty much a perfect shot. It was a crazy shot.''

The 32-year-old Dull is from Winter Park, Fla., and the 42-year-old Brooke from Altamonte Springs, Fla.

''Cole Hammer is a special player,'' Brooke said. ''Obviously, he's going to Texas (and) I'm not saying he is Jordan Spieth, but there are certain things that he does.''

In the morning semifinals, Hammer and Barber beat Idaho high school teammates Carson Barry and Sam Tidd, 5 and 4, and Brooke and Dull topped former Seattle University teammates Kyle Cornett and Patrick Sato, 4 and 3.

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Watch: Pumped up Beef deadlifts 485 lbs.

By Grill Room TeamMay 24, 2018, 12:19 am

Andrew "Beef" Johnston has been playing some solid golf on the European Tour this season, and he is clearly pumped up for one of the biggest weeks of the year at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.

Judging from the video below, Beef will have no problems lifting the trophy on Sunday as he reportedly deadlifted 220 kg ... (Googles kilogram to pounds converter, enters numbers) ... that's 485 lbs!

@beefgolf with a new deadlift PB 220kg ! #youcantgowronggettingstrong

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