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Piller leads excited, curious LPGA friends into motherhood

By Randall MellJanuary 11, 2018, 10:20 pm

Gerina Piller’s new “bump” got a lot of attention from a group of major champions who huddled around her Monday during the Morgan & Friends Fight Cancer event in Boca Raton, Fla.

Morgan Pressel, Brittany Lincicome and Paula Creamer were more than excited for Piller, who is 23 weeks pregnant. They were also curious.

“I told Gerina, `Write down everything I’ll need to know,’” Pressel said. “I told her to take notes.”

Pressel wasn’t kidding. She yearns to be a mom someday soon.

“It’s definitely something my husband and I are talking about a lot,” Pressel said. “It’s something we will pursue, hopefully soon.”

It seems like yesterday Piller and Pressel’s generation of American women were hitting the tour in force. Piller is 32 now, and Pressel will be 30 this spring. Creamer is 31 and Lincicome 32.

They became friends as juniors and while growing up on tour. They’re all married now, and they’re reaching that age together when thoughts of starting a family are becoming more important to them.



“I think once one of us gets it started, there’s going to be a ripple effect, with many kids coming at the same time,” Lincicome said when they all got together at Pressel’s charity event last year. “We’ve gone through junior golf together, professional golf together, weddings together, and one day I can see our kids together.”

There was a time not so long ago when the LPGA was filled with working moms, when the tour’s Smuckers-sponsored traveling daycare center bustled with children. It has shrunk considerably, so much so that Karine Icher’s two children are sometimes the only ones there during a tournament week.

The tour is so much younger now than it’s ever been. When Creamer turned 30 in 2016, the average age of an LPGA winner was just 22.3 years old. It helps explain why the traveling daycare center isn’t bustling anymore, but that might be changing in the not so distant future, if Piller really has started something.

“I feel like there’s going to be an influx,” Pressel said. “I know a quite a few ladies on tour would like to start families in the next few years, and hopefully we’ll all have children in daycare together. That would be fun.”

Piller will get to show off her “bump” Friday at the Diamond Resorts Invitational at Four Seasons Resort Orlando. It will be the first and only tournament start this year. She and husband Martin Piller, a PGA Tour pro, are expecting a boy on May 3.

While Piller plans to take the rest of the year off, her fans shouldn’t worry. She is determined to return to the LPGA next year with her status intact, thanks to the tour’s maternity policy.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to be a mom,” Piller said. “But with Martin’s schedule and our lifestyle, it’s been hard to plan, but we’re blessed and excited for this time now in our lives.”

Piller, Pressel, Creamer and Lincicome don’t have to look far though to see evidence that there’s life on tour after motherhood. Juli Inkster won 18 times, four of them major championships, after giving birth to the first of her two daughters. Catriona Matthew won the Ricoh Women’s British Open when she was 39, 11 weeks after giving birth to her second daughter. Cristie Kerr, who became a mother 4 years ago with the help of a surrogate after she was diagnosed with endometrial deficiency, won after turning 40 last year.

Piller is especially close to Inkster.

“Juli is a huge role model for me, not just on the golf course, but off the course,” Piller said. “She has always stressed to me how family comes first, and how golf is always going to be there. She loves her girls and wouldn’t trade being a mom for the world. That’s very encouraging.”



Amanda Blumenherst, the 2008 U.S. Women’s Amateur champ, actually got this baby deal going among her generation of American LPGA pros. She left the tour four years ago and now has a 3-year-old son and 1-year-old daughter.

While Blumenherst entertained thoughts of returning to golf, she says her work as a Golf Channel analyst has satisfied her desire to remain involved in the game.

“I did think I was just hitting a pause button, as opposed to a retirement button,” Blumenherst said. “I thought we would start a family and then re-evaluate after having a few kiddos, but it really was a difficult decision to try to come back.

“I would have loved an LPGA win, or a hand full of them, or to make the Solheim Cup team. So that was a challenge, having goals I hadn’t met yet, but at the same time I knew having a family was very important to me.”

Blumenherst said she has gained a special admiration for women who continued to compete as moms.

“I had so much respect for Juli Inkster, Nancy Lopez and Danah Bordner before I had children, and now I have hero worship for them,” Blumenherst said. “I don’t know how they did it.

“Being a parent is a full-time job, and to see them balance both so well, it’s a super human feat. I don’t know if I could do it . . . It’s hard to be away from your children, to leave them for long chunks in a day or even to fly away to Asia and Europe and not take them with you. I admire the moms who do it.”

These are the challenges awaiting Piller, who knows she has a special group of friends who will want to see her notes when they follow her into motherhood someday soon.

“I look at what Catriona and Juli did, and I have hope I can come back just as good or even better,” Piller said. “If that’s not the case, I’ll have a pretty good reason why it wasn’t. Martin and I feel blessed and excited about what’s ahead.”

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

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 22, 2018, 11:28 am

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 have advanced to the match-play portion of the championship. Quarterfinals and semifinals will be contested on 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 action, beginning at 4 p.m. ET.

Scoring:

TV Times (all times ET):

Tuesday
11AM-conclusion: Match-play quarterfinals (Click here to watch live)
4-8PM: Match-play semifinals

Wednesday
4-8PM: Match-play finals

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Arizona grabs last spot with eagle putt, playoff win

By Ryan LavnerMay 22, 2018, 3:18 am

STILLWATER, Okla. – With her team freefalling in the standings, Arizona coach Laura Ianello was down to her last stroke.

The Wildcats began the final round of the NCAA Championship in third place, but they were 19 over par for the day, and outside the top-8 cut line, with only one player left on the course.

Bianca Pagdaganan had transferred from Gonzaga to compete for NCAA titles, and on the 17th hole Ianello told her that she needed to play “the best two holes of your life” to keep the dream alive.

She made par on 17, then hit a 185-yard 6-iron out of a divot to 30 feet. Not knowing where she stood on the final green, Pagdaganan felt an eerie calm over the ball. Sure enough, she buried the eagle putt, setting off a raucous celebration and sending the Wildcats into a play-five, count-four team playoff with Baylor at 33 over par.

Their match-play spot wasn’t yet secure, but Ianello still broke down in tears.


NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Team scoring

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Individual scoring


“Bianca is such an inspiration for all of us,” she said. “She’s the kind of kid that you want to root for, to have good things happen to.”

Arizona prevailed on the second playoff hole. As the 8 seed, the Wildcats will play top-seeded UCLA in the quarterfinals Tuesday at Karsten Creek.

Though the finish had plenty of drama, no teams played their way into the coveted top 8 on the final day of stroke-play qualifying.

Baylor came closest. The Bears barely advanced past regionals after a mysterious stomach virus affected several players and coaches. They competed in the final round with just four healthy players.

On Monday, Gurleen Kaur put Baylor in position to advance, shooting 68, but the Bears lost by three strokes on the second extra hole.

Arkansas finished one shot shy of the team playoff. The second-ranked Razorbacks, who entered NCAAs as one of the pre-tournament favorites, having won seven times, including their first SEC title, couldn’t overcome a 308-300 start and finished 10th. Player of the Year favorite Maria Fassi finished her week at 19 over par and counted only two rounds toward the team total.

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Kupcho gets redemption with NCAA title

By Ryan LavnerMay 22, 2018, 2:54 am

STILLWATER, Okla. – Driving from Chicago to Denver the night of the 2017 NCAA Women’s Championship, Mike Kupcho was worried about what the next two days might bring.

A few hours earlier, he’d watched his 20-year-old daughter, Jennifer, take a two-shot lead into the 71st hole at Rich Harvest Farms. With just 127 yards left for her approach, she hit her pitching wedge the one place she couldn’t afford to miss – short, in the pond – and then compounded the error with a three-putt. The triple bogey dropped her one shot behind Arizona State’s Monica Vaughn.

Kupcho conducted a series of teary interviews afterward, but she had no time to dwell on the heartbreaking finish. She hopped on a plane back home and competed in a 36-hole U.S. Open qualifier two days later.

“We were worried about how she’d react – I didn’t know what to expect,” Mike said. “I would have been a wreck.”

But Jennifer fired a 66 in the opening round, then a 72 in the afternoon to earn medalist honors.


NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Team scoring

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Individual scoring


“Well,” Mike said, “I guess she’s over it.”

Kupcho made it official Monday at Karsten Creek, claiming the NCAA title that should have been hers last May.

The Wake Forest junior won by two shots – the same margin she blew a year ago – for her fourth victory of the season, vaulting her into contention for the Annika Award.

“It’s just exciting to get here after everything I’ve been through,” she said.

Entering the final round in a share of the lead, Kupcho birdied the first but played Nos. 5-7 in 4 over par. It seemed like another collapse was brewing.

“I told her she’s going to have to face some adversity at some point,” said Wake Forest assistant Ryan Potter, who walked alongside her Monday. “There was a lot of golf to play, especially on a course like this.”

A birdie on 11 sent her on her way. She added a birdie on the drivable 12th, dropped another one on the par-5 14th and then canned a 60-footer for birdie on 16.

And so there she was again, two shots clear with two holes to go, when she stepped to the tee on the 17th. She piped a drive down the center, then flushed her approach directly over the flag, leading to a stress-free par. On 18, with water all the way down the left side, she nuked her second shot into the middle of the green for a two-putt birdie.

If there were any lingering questions about whether Kupcho could close, she answered them emphatically Monday. She carded five back-nine birdies for a two-shot victory over Stanford’s Andrea Lee (66) and Arizona’s Bianca Pagdaganan (72).

“Redemption,” Potter said. “She knew she could do it. It was just a matter of holding the trophy.”

After last year’s devastating finish, Potter tacked a photo on his closet wall of a victorious Arizona State team posing with the NCAA trophy. Each day was a reminder of how close they’d come.

“That sticks with you,” he said.

There were areas of Kupcho's game to shore up – namely chipping and bunker play – and she worked tirelessly to turn them into strengths. She built momentum throughout the season, culminating with a dominant regional performance in which she tied a school record by shooting 15 under, holed the winning putt to send her teammates to the NCAA Championship and became just the second player in history to win a regional in consecutive years.

“She’s interesting,” Potter said, “because the bigger the tournament, the bigger the stage, the better she plays.”

Indeed, Kupcho became the first player in a decade to finish in the top 6 in three consecutive NCAAs.

Here at Karsten Creek, she tied a women’s course record with a 7-under 65 in the opening round. And even though she backed up on Day 2, she played the last two rounds in 3 under to claim the title.

The one she kicked away a year ago.

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Kupcho wins NCAA title; final eight teams set

By Jay CoffinMay 22, 2018, 1:55 am

STILLWATER, Okla. – On one of the more nerve-racking days of the college golf season two important honors were up for grabs at Karsten Creek – the individual title, and the top eight teams attempting to qualify for match play.

Here’s the lowdown of what happened Monday at the women’s NCAA Championship:

Individual leaderboard (total scores): Jennifer Kupcho, Wake Forest (-8); Andrea Lee, Stanford (-6); Bianca Pagdanganan, Arizona (-6); Cheyenne Knight, Alabama (-5); Morgane Metraux, Florida State (-4); Jaclyn Lee, Ohio State (-3).

Team leaderboard: UCLA (+9), Alabama (+9), USC (+16), Northwestern (+21), Stanford (+28), Duke (+30), Kent State (+32), Arizona (+33).

What it means: Let’s start with the individual race. Wake Forest junior Jennifer Kupcho was absolutely devastated a year ago when she made triple bogey on the 17th hole of the final round and lost the individual title by a shot. She was bound not to let that happen again and this year she made five birdies on the last eight holes to shoot 71 and win by two shots. Kupcho is the first player with three consecutive top-six finishes at the NCAA Championship since Duke’s Amanda Blumenherst (2007-09).

The team race took an unexpected turn at the end of the day when Arizona junior Bianca Pangdaganan made eagle on the last hole to vault the Wildcats into an eighth-place tie, meaning they would enter a playoff with Baylor for the final spot in the match play portion of the championship.

The Wildcats got a reprieve because they played terribly for most of the day and dropped from third place to 10th at one point. In the playoff, Arizona ultimately defeated Baylor in an anticlimactic finish.

Best of the rest: Stanford played horribly the first round. So bad that it almost seemed like the Cardinal shot itself out of the championship. But they played steady over the next three days and ended with the fifth seed. This is the fourth year in a row that Stanford has advanced to match play.

Round of the day: USC shot a 5-under total on Monday, the best round of the day by six shots. They landed as the third seed and will play Duke in the quarterfinals.

Stanford sophomore Andrea Lee shot a 7-under 65, the best score of the day by three shots. Lee made seven birdies and no bogeys and vaulted up the leaderboard 11 spots to end in a tie for sixth place.

Biggest disappointment: Arkansas, the second-ranked team in the country, missed qualifying for match play by one shot. The Razorbacks shot a 20-over 308 in Round 1 and played only slightly better with a 300 in the second round. Consecutive 1-over-par 289 scores were a good try, but results in a huge miss for a team expected to contend for the team title.

Here are Tuesday morning's quarterfinal matchups: