PGA Tour-LPGA Alliance inspired by Olympics

By Randall MellAugust 16, 2016, 11:15 pm

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Jessica Korda says the medal ceremonies are making her cry.

Justin Thomas says he was intrigued by the Opening Ceremony.

Golf’s return to the Olympics is making an impression on more than just the players who qualified to play in Rio de Janeiro. Korda and Thomas say they have been riveted to their televisions watching the Games and are even more motivated now to try to make the American teams headed to the Olympics in Tokyo in four years.

“I’ve been watching every single minute that I possibly can,” Korda, 23, said Monday from the studios of WPTV in West Palm Beach, where she and Thomas were doing long-distance media day interviews beamed over to Malaysia, where each will be defending titles this fall in back-to-back events on the same golf course in Kuala Lumpur. “I loved watching Michael Phelps win his five gold medals, and the men’s golf was so much fun to watch. One of my favorite lines from the Olympics was Matt Kuchar saying he has never been so happy finishing third [to win a bronze medal].

“I’ve watched the gymnastics, too. I had tears in my eyes every single time someone went up to the podium. I love the Olympics.”

Thomas, 23, said he also has been watching.

“I didn’t quite get to the tears stage like Jessica did, but it’s been a lot of fun,” Thomas said. “The Opening Ceremony really did it for me.

“I obviously wanted to play, and I want to play in future Olympics. Any time you get to represent your country, no matter what it is, it’s an honor. But to do it on the highest stage, like the Olympics, would be something very, very special to both of us. We’re excited to hopefully win ourselves some medals in the future.”

Olympic golf coverage: Articles, photos and videos

The men’s and women’s Olympic competitions are being played on the same golf course in Rio, in back-to-back weeks, with the women’s event beginning Wednesday. The men and women will do that again in Malaysia, with the PGA Tour’s CIMB Classic scheduled to be played Oct. 20-23 at Kualua Lumpur Golf & Country Club. The women will play the LPGA’s Sime Darby event there the week after.

Korda and Thomas were doing the joint media-day event as part of the new PGA Tour-LPGA Alliance, a formal cooperative effort to promote the game and their tours together.

For both Korda and Thomas, it seems like a natural alliance.

They have been friends since they met each other as 15-year-olds playing American Junior Golf Association events. On that circuit, the boys and girls compete in separate competitions but on the same venues during the same weeks. They were part of a traveling tour of juniors and parents.

Thomas also got to know Lexi Thompson and her brother, Curtis, as juniors, as he did Alison Lee, Emma Talley and Ginger Howard.

“We’ve been friends for a long time, and we follow each other,” Thomas said.

After Korda won the Sime Darby in Malaysia last year, she got a congratulatory text from Thomas.

“I’m pretty sure the first thing she texted back was, `Now I want you to win there,’” Thomas said.

Two weeks later, Thomas won his first PGA Tour title there.

“Growing up playing AJGA events, we were on a lot of the same ranges together, practice greens together, playing the same venues, and it was a lot of fun,” Korda said. “So this alliance, I think it’s going to be fun for those of us who grew up playing together, to continue to do things together in our real jobs.”

The alliance involves joint marketing, with the PGA Tour and LPGA helping promote each other. The joint media day was a step in developing the relationship.

In a completely unofficial and unplanned way, the joint marketing actually started earlier this year, with some high profile PGA Tour and LPGA players “marketing” vacation time in similar fashion.

Back in April, Thomas joined Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Smylie Kaufman on an epic Bahamas vacation they called #SB2K16, where they shared their good times in amusing fashion on Snapchat. Last week, Korda joined Michelle Wie, Alison Lee and Austin Ernst on a “Babecation” on Lake Keowee in South Carolina. The women also sent out a series of photos documenting their trip.

Korda acknowledged they were inspired by Thomas, Spieth, Fowler and Kaufman.

“We definitely had so much fun watching their vacation (through social media),” Korda said. “But their vacation was way different. They played some golf, and we wanted nothing to do with golf. We just wanted to be on the lake and decompress from everything. And I don’t think we documented it as well as they did.”

The PGA Tour and LPGA are in the midst of planning a joint event as part of this new alliance. Ideas are still being hashed out. Korda and Thomas aren’t sure how that will play out, but they know this: In four years, they would love to compete together in the Olympics.

“We didn’t really know what to expect with golf in the Olympics, how it would really work,” Thomas said. “We didn’t know if it would be something great, or just OK, but I think it was everything we hoped and more. I can’t say enough good things about golf’s return to the Olympics.” 

Getty Images

Five-time Open champ Thompson passes at 88

By Associated PressJune 20, 2018, 1:35 am

MELBOURNE, Australia - Golf Australia says the family of five-time Open Championship winner Peter Thomson has announced his death. He was 88.

Thomson had been suffering from Parkinson's disease for more than four years and died at his Melbourne home surrounded by family members on Wednesday morning.

Born on Aug, 23, 1929, Thomson was two months short of his 89th birthday.

The first Australian to win the British Open, Thomson went on to secure the title five times between 1954 and 1965, a record equaled only by American Tom Watson.

On the American senior circuit. he won nine times in 1985.

Getty Images

USC's Gaston leaves to become head coach at A&M

By Ryan LavnerJune 19, 2018, 11:00 pm

In a major shakeup in the women’s college golf world, USC coach Andrea Gaston has accepted an offer to become the new head coach at Texas A&M.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Gaston, who informed her players of her decision Monday night, has been one of the most successful coaches over the past two decades, leading the Trojans to three NCAA titles and producing five NCAA individual champions during her 22-year reign. They have finished in the top 5 at nationals in an NCAA-record 13 consecutive seasons.

This year was arguably Gaston’s most impressive coaching job. She returned last fall after undergoing treatment for uterine cancer, but a promising season was seemingly derailed after losing two stars to the pro ranks at the halfway point. Instead, she guided a team with four freshmen and a sophomore to the third seed in stroke play and a NCAA semifinals appearance. Of the four years that match play has been used in the women’s game, USC has advanced to the semifinals three times.  

Texas A&M could use a coach with Gaston’s track record.

Last month the Aggies fired coach Trelle McCombs after 11 seasons following a third consecutive NCAA regional exit. A&M had won conference titles as recently as 2010 (Big 10) and 2015 (SEC), but this year the team finished 13th at SECs.

The head-coaching job at Southern Cal is one of the most sought-after in the country and will have no shortage of outside interest. If the Trojans look to promote internally, men’s assistant Justin Silverstein spent four years under Gaston and helped the team win the 2013 NCAA title.  

Getty Images

Spieth 'blacked out' after Travelers holeout

By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 9:44 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – It was perhaps the most-replayed shot (and celebration) of the year.

Jordan Spieth’s bunker holeout to win the Travelers Championship last year in a playoff over Daniel Berger nearly broke the Internet, as fans relived that raucous chest bump between Spieth and caddie Michael Greller after Spieth threw his wedge and Greller threw his rake.

Back in Connecticut to defend his title, Spieth admitted that he has watched replays of the scene dozens of times – even if, in the heat of the moment, he wasn’t exactly choreographing every move.

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“Just that celebration in general, I blacked out,” Spieth said. “It drops and you just react. For me, I’ve had a few instances where I’ve been able to celebrate or react on a 72nd, 73rd hole, 74th hole, whatever it may be, and it just shows how much it means to us.”

Spieth and Greller’s celebration was so memorable that tournament officials later shipped the rake to Greller as a keepsake. It’s a memory that still draws a smile from the defending champ, whose split-second decision to go for a chest bump over another form of celebration provided an appropriate cap to a high-energy sequence of events.

“There’s been a lot of pretty bad celebrations on the PGA Tour. There’s been a lot of missed high-fives,” Spieth said. “I’ve been part of plenty of them. Pretty hard to miss when I’m going into Michael for a chest bump.”

Getty Images

Pregnant Lewis playing final events before break

By Randall MellJune 19, 2018, 9:27 pm

Stacy Lewis will be looking to make the most of her last three starts of 2018 in her annual return to her collegiate roots this week.

Lewis, due to give birth to her first child on Nov. 3, will tee it up in Friday’s start to the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Arkansas. She won the NCAA individual women’s national title in 2007 while playing at the University of Arkansas. She is planning to play the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship next week and then the Marathon Classic two weeks after that before taking the rest of the year off to get ready for her baby’s arrival.

Lewis, 33, said she is beginning to feel the effects of being with child.

“Things have definitely gotten harder, I would say, over the last week or so, the heat of the summer and all that,” Lewis said Tuesday. “I'm actually excited. I'm looking forward to the break and being able to decorate the baby's room and do all that kind of stuff and to be a mom - just super excited.”

Lewis says she is managing her energy levels, but she is eager to compete.

“Taking a few more naps and resting a little bit more,” she said. “Other than that, the game's been pretty good.”

Lewis won the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship in 2014, and she was credited with an unofficial title in ’07, while still a senior at Arkansas. That event was reduced to 18 holes because of multiple rain delays. Lewis is a popular alumni still actively involved with the university.