Sydnee Michaels and daughter Isla Sydnee Michaels

Mother's Day (every day): Michaels on motherhood, tour life

By Randall MellMay 13, 2018, 12:30 pm

Sydnee Michaels is spending her first Mother’s Day with her 6-month-old daughter in Virginia, getting ready for a crazy week that will include both a U.S. Women’s Open qualifier and the Kingsmill Championship.

It’s fitting their first together will be on the road.

This life as both a mother and an LPGA pro is a daunting journey unlike any Michaels has ever faced, but she says it’s a balancing act she is determined to make work.

She is proud to be out front in this new baby boom hitting the women’s tour.

“There are so many women today who are working moms,” Michaels said. “But in women’s golf, I think there’s a little bit of a stigma that comes with it, with having a baby and continuing to play the tour.

“There are a lot of fathers out playing on the PGA Tour, and it’s no big deal. On our side, it’s ‘Should you keep playing? It’s going to be so hard.’ I wasn’t going to let that thinking stop me from having a baby and continuing to pursue my dreams.”

Michaels says she grew up with a stay-at-home mom, and she understands the fulfillment felt by mothers who make that choice.

“I loved having my mother home with me,” Michaels said. “For some women, that is their dream. I commend that. I think it’s the hardest job in the world. That doesn’t mean what I am doing is wrong or bad. Everyone is different.”


Sydnee, daughter Isla, and stepson Greyson


Michaels, 29, returned to the LPGA in March after giving birth to Isla in November. Michaels is a UCLA graduate and a two-time Symetra Tour winner looking for her first LPGA title. In five full seasons on the tour, she has five top-10 finishes, with a career-best T-4 at the Yokohama Tire Classic in 2015. She has never finished outside the top 100 on the money list in any full season on tour. She played just two events while on maternity leave last year, time away that was complicated by a painful back injury in the first half of last season.

Tour life is more complicated for moms, full of unique challenges that PGA Tour fathers don’t face, like dealing with changes the body goes through having a baby.

Like putting the clubs away for several months while on maternity leave.

And then there’s breastfeeding.

Michaels started this year breastfeeding, but she weaned Isla off after four months, as Michaels was playing her first event back at the Founders Cup.

Trying to squeeze a five-hour round of golf in between feedings wasn’t practical.

“It was painful,” Michaels said.

Lorena Ochoa retired at 28, while still the Rolex world No. 1, to start a family. Annika Sorenstam left the tour while still a force, to start her family.

Being an LPGA mom is more career-altering than being a PGA Tour dad. Catriona Matthew is the only player to win a major after becoming a mother over the last 15 years. Nancy Lopez and Juli Inkster are the only others in the last five or so decades.

“It doesn’t mean it can’t happen again,” Michaels said. “I think anything is possible. That’s still one of my goals, to win a major. I take inspiration from Catriona Matthew, Juli Inkster, Laura Diaz and Karine Icher, who have had solid careers after having children. There is no rule that says after you have a baby, you’re done.”

How is Michaels spending Mother’s Day?

She is playing a practice round at Hermitage Country Club in Manakin-Sabot, Va., to get ready for Monday’s U.S. Women’s Open qualifier there. She will celebrate Mother’s Day before and after the golf. Her husband, Glenn Muncrief, a tour rep for TaylorMade, is there with her, early in the week, but he is flying out on Tuesday morning.

“The real challenge starts in Virginia, and with the East Coast events and Canada, where Sydnee and Isla are going to be without me a lot,” Glenn said.


Sydnee and stepson Greyson


Sydnee is also mom to her 10-year-old stepson, Greyson. They are close, and he has been going on tour trips with her now and then, since he was 7, but it will be different traveling with a baby. It will be a major production when mom and daughter are flying alone.

Just getting in and out of airports will take a yeoman’s effort.

“Syd’s going to have Isla, her golf bag, a stroller, a car seat, a pack-and-play and a couple suitcases,” Glenn said. “I couldn’t do that by myself. She’s going to need help at the airport, and I feel for her.

“But there’s a lot to be said about who Sydnee is as an individual. She’s determined to defy all the odds.”

Sydnee got a lot of help from Glenn, and from her mother, JoAnne, in the five events she played on the West Coast swing. They drove from their Murrieta, Calif., home to all but the Mediheal Championship in San Francisco, where they flew with Isla for the first time.

Michaels says fellow tour pros have offered to help with travel, too. She says once she is on a tournament site, the LPGA’s traveling daycare center gives her peace of mind.

“The daycare center is incredible,” Michaels said. “It’s hard to leave Isla to go play, just like it’s hard for any mom to leave their baby to go to their job. I think about Isla all day, but I’m working to help provide our family with a future.”

Michaels believes this is a journey both mom and daughter will find fulfilling.

“I know she will look back someday and think how cool it was to travel with her mom on tour,” Michaels said.

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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)

Getty Images

Women's NCAA finals: Arizona vs. Alabama

By Jay CoffinMay 22, 2018, 11:49 pm

STILLWATER, Okla. – It’s the SEC vs. the Pac 12 for the women’s NCAA Championship; Alabama vs. Arizona, to be more specific.

Both the Crimson Tide and Wildcats cruised in their respective semifinal matches Tuesday at Karsten Creek. Alabama easily beat USC, 3-1-1; Arizona defeated match-play juggernaut Stanford, 4-1.

Alabama’s top three players, Lauren Stephenson, Kristen Gillman and Cheyenne Knight were unstoppable forces in both matches on the marathon day. Stacked in the top three positions in the semifinals all three won their matches on the 17th hole, making the last two matches inconsequential.


NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Scoring and TV times

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Full coverage


Arizona, the eighth seed, won as decisively as second-seeded Alabama, but needed a miracle to be in this position in the first place.

Junior Bianca Pagdanganan drained a 30-footer for eagle on the last hole of stroke play on Monday to get the Wildcats into a playoff against Baylor, which they won on the second hole. Then on Tuesday, presumably running on fumes, they downed top-seeded UCLA in the morning, then crushed Pac-12 foe Stanford in the afternoon.

Pagdanganan, Gigi Stoll and Hayley Moore each won both matches for Arizona on the hot, draining day.

“I don’t want to let them down so I do my best to rise to the occasion,” Pagdanganan said.

Said Arizona coach Laura Ianello: “How many players, when you tell them under pressure that you need them, can really handle it,” Ianello said about Pagdanganan. “This kid can.”

Getty Images

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

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 22, 2018, 11:30 pm

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.

Scoring:

TV Times (all times ET):

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