Struggle for equality binds Whitworth, Powell

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2014, 5:24 pm

PHOENIX – They will step off the pages of the history books again this week at the JTBC Founders Cup.

Pioneers who built the LPGA are here beaming proudly over what their work has wrought.

Nobody will relish that more than Kathy Whitworth and Renee Powell.

They are this year’s tournament honorees.

The stories they have to tell reach beyond wins and losses and stretch to even greater triumphs of the spirit.

Whitworth, 74, and Powell, 67, share a common experience that speaks to the uncommon nature of the women who persevered through all the obstacles this tour faced.

Back in the late ‘60s, when Whitworth was well on her way to stardom as one of the game’s dominant forces, she joined with Powell, a fledgling pro, to beat back an opponent neither could stomach. Whitworth and Powell squared off together against racism back when the struggle for civil rights was still raging.

They won an important match against that foe in a hotel lobby in Idaho, a struggle whose memory comes back to Powell knowing she will see Whitworth again this week.

Powell joined the LPGA in 1967, becoming just the second black woman to play the tour. She followed Althea Gibson, the former tennis star who turned her interests to golf. While trying to check into a hotel for that week’s tournament in Idaho, Powell was told that her reservation couldn’t be found. She was told she would have to seek housing elsewhere. Of the 30 to 40 pros checking in, Powell’s was the only reservation that was misplaced.

Whitworth stepped forward to help the hotel management find it, Powell says.

“Either we all stay, or we all walk,” Whitworth told them.

Powell got her room. She remembers it as an example of what she relished most about the tour back then. She remembers how the struggle to build the LPGA bonded fierce competitors in ways that transcended sport.

“We really were like one, big family,” Powell said. “We traveled together, roomed together, had breakfast and dinner together, played practice rounds together. We were close. I remember Kathy Whitworth’s mom telling me when I joined the tour that if I ever had a problem, I should go to Kathy. I think she knew what the climate was going to be like for me.”

The climate, at times, was hellish, but Powell said it never came from within the tour. The hateful racial sentiments she endured penetrated the locker room more than once, but it never came from a fellow player.

“We used to get our mail in the locker room, and I would get threats on my life in letters,” Powell said.

Powell said they were frightening words, warnings not to show up to play a particular tournament. She got phone calls, too.

“Nothing like that had ever happened to me before,” Powell said. “When I first started getting threats, I was like, wow, people have pretty good access to us on a course. They walk down fairways with us.  They know where I’m going to be, and those things really do play on your mind.”

Whitworth isn’t sure who was actually Powell’s great advocate that day in the hotel lobby in Idaho. As she remembers it, they were a united front.

“We were all pretty much that way,” Whitworth said. “We all stood by Renee. It was just the right thing to do.”

Powell grew up in East Canton, Ohio. Her father, Bill Powell, was the first black man to design, build and own a golf course. He started Clearview Golf Club, a facility that is on the National Registry of Historic Places. Bill died five years ago, but his family continues to run the facility. Renee is the head professional there today.

Renee’s father passed the game on to her. When she joined the tour after captaining the women’s golf team at Ohio State, she didn’t know what she was getting into. To this day, only four black women have ever played the LPGA as members. There are no fully exempt black members of the LPGA this season, but Cheyenne Woods will be playing the Founders Cup this week on a sponsor exemption.

“I can’t imagine going through the things Renee went through back then,” Whitworth said.

Traveling to LPGA events in the south was always particularly challenging for Powell.

“They were still lynching people there,” Powell said.

She remembers the feeling driving through Alabama, Mississippi and other regions where civil rights struggles were violent.

“We had to do some interesting things traveling through the south,” said Sandra Post, a fellow LPGA pro. “We used to hide Renee in the back seat of the car when we stopped to get gas.”

Post, a Canadian, first met Powell at the U.S. Girls’ Junior. Powell was the first black player to compete in that championship. They played a practice round and struck up a lifelong friendship. They roomed together on the road for three years. Mary Lou Crocker was another close friend to Powell who joined their traveling caravan of cars.

In restaurants, when they first started traveling together, Post would think it odd when she and Powell couldn’t get service. Post said she was naive, growing up in Ontario, almost oblivious as a young person to the racial strife simmering in the United States. She would leave a restaurant in those early days wondering why they got such lousy service.

“I think it’s because you’re Canadian,” Powell once cracked to her friend.

Post was the first Canadian to play the LPGA. She won eight LPGA titles, including a major, the ’68 LPGA Championship. Powell played for 14 seasons but never won.

“Who knows, without the challenges and distractions, what Renee could have done,” Post said. “I don’t think that was supposed to be her legacy anyway. Her purpose was being a great example. That's what she was. As an athlete and now a black businesswoman, her purpose is ongoing. She was always stepping up for people, and she's still doing that today.”

Powell heads to Phoenix this week remembering how her fellow pioneers consistently stepped up for her.

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Storms halt Barbasol before Lincicome tees off

By Associated PressJuly 20, 2018, 11:29 pm

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - Brittany Lincicome will have to wait until the weekend to resume her bid to make the cut in a PGA Tour event.

Overnight storms delayed the start of the second round Friday in the Barbasol Championship, and an afternoon thunderstorm suspended competition for good. The round will resume Saturday morning with much of the field still to play.

The second stoppage at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came 20 minutes before Lincicome's scheduled tee time.

Lincicome was near the bottom of the field after opening with a 6-over 78 on Thursday. The first LPGA player since Michelle Wie in 2008 to start a PGA Tour event, she needs a huge rebound to join Babe Zaharias (1945) as the only female players to make the cut.

Troy Merritt had the clubhouse lead at 15 under, following an opening 62 with a 67.

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Third-round tee times for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 9:05 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eighteen major champions made the cut at The Open and will be playing the weekend at Carnoustie, including 60-year-old ageless wonder Bernhard Langer, and both major champs so far this year, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka.

Twenty-four-year-old Gavin Green will be first off solo Saturday at 4:15 a.m. ET. Reed and Rhys Enoch will follow along 10 minutes later.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, both at even par for the tournament, six shots behind leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, are in consecutive groups. Mickelson is playing with Austin Cook at 8:05 a.m. and Woods is with South Africa’s Shaun Norris at 8:15 a.m.

Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, both three shots off the lead, are also in consecutive groups. Fowler is at 10 a.m. with Thorbjorn Olesen and Spieth is 10 minutes later with Kevin Chappell. Rory McIlroy, looking to win his first major since the 2014 PGA Championship, is at 10:40 a.m. with Xander Schauffele. McIlroy is two shots behind.

Johnson and Kisner are last off at 11 a.m.

4:15AM ET: Gavin Green

4:25AM ET: Rhys Enoch, Patrick Reed

4:35AM ET: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Justin Rose

4:45AM ET: Yusaku Miyazato, Tyrrell Hatton

4:55AM ET: Ross Fisher, Keegan Bradley

5:05AM ET: Ryan Fox, Jason Dufner

5:15AM ET: Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson

5:25AM ET: Tom Lewis, Sam Locke (a)

5:35AM ET: Paul Casey, Chris Wood

5:45AM ET: Bernhard Langer, Rafa Cabrera Bello

6:00AM ET: Paul Dunne, Brett Rumford

6:10AM ET: Masahiro Kawamura, Shubhankar Sharma

6:20AM ET: Cameron Smith, Brendan Steele

6:30AM ET: Marc Leishman, Lee Westwood

6:40AM ET: Byeong Hun An, Kevin Na

6:50AM ET: Julian Suri, Adam Hadwin

7:00AM ET: Gary Woodland, Si-Woo Kim

7:10AM ET: Yuta Ikeda, Satoshi Kodaira

7:20AM ET: Marcus Kinhult, Thomas Pieters

7:30AM ET: Beau Hossler, Haotong Li

7:45AM ET: Cameron Davis, Sean Crocker

7:55AM ET: Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink

8:05AM ET: Phil Mickeslon, Austin Cook

8:15AM ET: Tiger Woods, Shaun Norris

8:25AM ET: Lucas Herbert, Michael Kim

8:35AM ET: Jason Day, Francesco Molinari

8:45AM ET: Sung Kang, Webb Simpson

8:55AM ET: Patrick Cantlay, Eddie Pepperell

9:05AM ET: Matthew Southgate, Brooks Koepka

9:15AM ET: Kyle Stanley, Adam Scott

9:30AM ET: Charley Hoffman, Alex Noren

9:40AM ET: Ryan Moore, Brandon Stone

9:50AM ET: Luke List, Danny Willett

10:00AM ET: Thorbjorn Olesen, Rickie Fowler

10:10AM ET: Jordan Spieth, Kevin Chappell

10:20AM ET: Zander Lombard, Tony Finau

10:30AM ET: Matt Kuchar, Erik Van Rooyen

10:40AM ET: Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele

10:50AM ET: Pat Perez, Tommy Fleetwood

11:00AM ET: Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson

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Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

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Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”