U.S. Solheim victory a credit to Inkster

By Randall MellAugust 21, 2017, 1:17 am

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa – Who needs a task force?

When you have Juli Inkster available as captain, it’s a waste of time.

There was no need to bring the best and brightest minds in women’s golf together to analyze what went wrong with the American Solheim Cup effort after an 18-10 record loss in Colorado four years ago, Europe’s first victory on American soil.

There were complaints back then about the direction the American women’s game was heading after back-to-back losses in Ireland and Colorado. There were complaints about how the Solheim Cup was no longer a celebration of everything that’s right about the American women’s game, but, instead, it was a shining example of what’s wrong with it.

Dottie Pepper, once the face of American Solheim Cup brilliance, criticized key U.S. players for treating the biennial international team event with an attitude of “inconvenience and entitlement.” As an assistant captain in Colorado, she said she saw firsthand how certain players failed to see the special honor and privilege integral to the event and seemed to care more about their makeup artists and hair stylists than they ought.

“The U.S. pattern of becoming a star without the commensurate results breeds entitlement and competitive softness,” Golf Digest added in an indictment of some American stars. “American golfers are getting outplayed by golfers who have placed substance over style, and simply want it more.”

These complaints are being dredged up here merely to show how far American women have come under Inkster the last four years.

Thankfully, it’s old news today.


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Inkster is the new U.S. Solheim Cup team construct.

She is the master architect of these last two triumphs, the historic come-from-behind victory in Germany two years ago and the impressive rout in Iowa Sunday.

Inkster did what no task force could do. She remade the American team in her image again.

The United States defeated the Europeans 16½ to 11½ at Des Moines Golf and Country Club with a tried and true Inkster formula, a formula no task force could devise. They worked hard, played hard, loved hard and laughed as much as they could along the way.

“Juli said something that really hit home for me,” Cristie Kerr said. “She said it in Germany and she said it here. You play for the person in front of you, you play for the person behind you. It’s not about your individual records. It's for the team. It's amazing how hard you can pull for each other when you have that mentality.”

It isn’t that other captains haven’t said as much.

It’s how Inkster gets her teams to buy into it.

She gave them hard hats with American flags stamped on them as gifts when they arrived in Iowa. She basically built on the blue-collar work-ethic theme she started in Germany, when she gave them all red-, white-and-blue lunch pails.

They bought into so much, they abandoned their stiletto heels and wore old school Chuck Taylor Converse basketball shoes to the opening ceremony again this last week, because those are the shoes Inkster loves.

These players have watched Inkster live her credo as a fierce competitor who won 31 LPGA titles, seven major championships and basically raised two daughters on tour, daughters who are now about the average age of the players on this team.

Inkster treated this team like daughters.

Before each match, she stood on the first tee, awaiting every player’s introduction. She stood there with her arms stretched wide, and she wrapped them in big hugs when they arrived, and then she whispered special messages into the ears of each and every one of them.

“It's very sincere, what she says,” Gerina Piller said. “When she speaks, you listen. There's not one word that she's ever told me that I do not let sink in.

“For her to be there on the tee, to have the belief in you, to tell you, `You got this, I believe in you, you're a great player,’ I’m sure every girl up here would agree that she is a freaking rock star. Whether it’s as a captain, whether it's as a friend, whether it's as a player . . . That’s huge for all of us. We look up to her so much, and we cherish every moment we have with her, all the words she gives us, whether it's a kick in the butt or just a hug.”

Inkster took some pressure off her players, too. She has been here as a player. She knows that players think they must bring something extra to the Solheim Cup, and how that makes them press.

So, Inkster told her players, just like she did in Germany, that they should prepare the same way they do every week out on the LPGA. And they ought to play the same way, too.

Mostly, Inkster said she tried to make this more fun than Solheim Cup weeks usually are. She put them in four-player pods, with players she believed they would enjoy bonding with.

“I just felt the last couple times I played in the Solheim Cup, I wasn't having any fun,” Inkster said. “It was a chore.

“I just felt like everybody was going in different directions. Even though we were a team, were we a team? I don't know. I just felt like when I was younger, it was so much better, so much easier. Everybody bonded, hung out. I just felt like we were losing that.”

Inkster set the lighter tone on that first tee. She took possession of it all week, owned it between matches, waiting there for her teams to get her hug. She sang the songs wafting from the speakers. She danced to Justin Bieber, Bruno Mars and Miley Cyrus.

“It’s my job to bring fun back to the Solheim Cup,” Inkster said. “Whether we win or lose, you know what? It doesn't matter. It's the memories you create. It's the bonding you create. It's the atmosphere you create.

“And our job as captains was to create an atmosphere where they feel loved and they feel welcomed. And whether they get a point or not a point, they're a huge part of this team. And it's been an amazing ride.”

Piller relished what Inkster made happen.

“Juli is all about team play,” Piller said. “It’s like Cristie said, you play for the girl in front of you and behind you. I think that has really resonated with us the last two times that we've played in the Solheim Cup.

“I really think our American team is getting what it takes to play for another girl. It's really hard to play for someone else, when all your life you've played for yourself, when it's an individual sport. For a captain to come out here and try to get 12 girls on the same page, it's pretty difficult.”

But Inkster made it look easy.

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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: 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 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:

Cut and not so dry: Shinnecock back with a new look

By Bradley S. KleinMay 21, 2018, 9:22 pm

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. - The last time the USGA was here at Shinnecock Hills, it nearly had a train wreck on its hands. The last day of the 2004 U.S. Open was so dry and the turf so firm that play was stopped in the morning just to get some water on the greens.

The lessons learned from that debacle are now on display three weeks before Shinnecock gets another U.S. Open. And this time, the USGA is prepared with all sorts of high-tech devices – firmness meters, moisture monitors, drone technology to measure turf temperatures - to make sure the playing surfaces remain healthy.

Players, meanwhile, will face a golf course that is 548 yards longer than a dozen years ago, topping out now at 7,445 yards for the par-70 layout. Ten new tees have assured that the course will keep up with technology and distance. They’ll also require players to contend with the bunkering and fairway contours that designer William Flynn built when he renovated Shinnecock Hills in 1930.

And those greens will not only have more consistent turf cover, they’ll also be a lot larger – like 30 percent bigger. What were mere circles averaging 5,500 square feet are now about 7,200 square feet. That will mean more hole locations, more variety to the setup, and more rollouts into surrounding low-mow areas. Slight misses that ended up in nearby rough will now be down in hollows many more yards away.



The course now has an open, windswept look to it – what longtime green chairman Charles Stevenson calls “a maritime grassland.” You don’t get to be green chairman of a prominent club for 37 years without learning how to deal with politics, and he’s been a master while implementing a long-term plan to bring the course back to its original scale and angles. In some cases that required moving tees back to recapture the threat posed by cross-bunkers and steep falloffs. Two of the bigger extensions come on the layout’s two par-5s, which got longer by an average of 60 yards. The downwind, downhill par-4 14th hole got stretched 73 yards and now plays 519.

“We want players to hit driver,” says USGA executive director Mike Davis.

The also want to place an emphasis upon strategy and position, which is why, after the club had expanded its fairways the last few years, the USGA decided last September to bring them back in somewhat.

The decision followed analysis of the driving statistics from the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills, where wide fairways proved very hospitable to play. Players who made the cut averaged hitting 77 percent of fairways and driving it 308 yards off the tee. There was little fear of the rough there. “We didn’t get the wind and the dry conditions we anticipated,” says Davis.

Moving ahead to Shinnecock Hills, he and the setup staff wanted to balance the need for architectural variety with a traditional emphasis upon accuracy. So they narrowed the fairways at Shinnecock Hills last September by seven acres. They are still much wider than in the U.S. Opens played here in 1986, 1995 and 2004, when the average width of the landing areas was 26.6 yards. “Now they are 41.6 yards across on average,” said Davis. So they are much wider than in previous U.S. Opens and make better use of the existing contours and bring lateral bunkers into play.

This time around, with more consistent, healthier turf cover and greens that have plenty of nutrients and moisture, the USGA should be able to avoid the disastrous drying out of the putting surfaces that threatened that final day in 2004. The players will also face a golf course that is more consistent than ever with its intended width, design, variety and challenge. That should make for a more interesting golf course and, by turn, more interesting viewing.

Driven: Oklahoma State Cowboys Documentary Series Continues Tonight at 8 p.m. ET on Golf Channel

By Golf Channel Public RelationsMay 21, 2018, 8:27 pm

Monday’s third installment in the four-part series focuses on the Big 12 Championships and NCAA Regional Championships

Reigning NCAA National Champion Oklahoma Sooners and Top-Ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys Prepare for Showdown Friday at the 2018 NCAA Men’s Golf National Championships

ORLANDO, Fla., May 21, 2018 – Tonight’s third episode of the critically-acclaimed documentary series Driven: Oklahoma State Cowboys (8 p.m. ET) wraps up the conclusion of the 2017-18 regular season and turns to post-season play for the top-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys and reigning NCAA National Champions Oklahoma Sooners.

Drivenwill take viewers behind the scenes with the conclusion of regular season play; the Big 12 Conference Championship, where Oklahoma captured their first conference championship since 2006; and the NCAA Regional Championships, where Oklahoma State and Oklahoma – both No. 1 seeds in their respective regionals – were both victorious and punched tickets to the NCAA Men’s Golf National Championships.

The episode also will set up the showdown starting Friday at the NCAA Men’s Golf National Championships, where Oklahoma State will attempt to dethrone Oklahoma as national champions, all taking place at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla., Oklahoma State’s home course. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State will be paired together for the first two rounds of individual stroke play Friday and Saturday.

Driven’s fourth and final episode will air on NBC on Saturday, June 16 at 5 p.m. ET, recapping all of the action at the NCAA Golf National Championships and the two programs’ 2017-18 golf seasons.

Golf Channel is airing back-to-back weeks of live tournament coverage of the NCAA Women’s and Men’s Golf Championships. Golf Channel’s coverage begins today (4-8 p.m. ET) to crown the individual national champion and track the teams attempting to qualify for the eight-team match play championship. Golf Channel’s coverage on Tuesday and Wednesday, May 22-23 will include all three rounds of team match play, ultimately crowning a team national champion. Next week (May 28-30), the same programming schedule will take place for the NCAA Men’s Golf National Championships.

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Mann's impact on LPGA felt on and off course

By Randall MellMay 21, 2018, 8:00 pm

Just a few short hours after winning the U.S. Women’s Open in 1965, Carol Mann was surprised at the turn of emotion within her.

She called her friend and mentor, Marlene Hagge, and asked if they could meet for a glass of wine at the Atlantic City hotel where players were staying.

Hagge was one of the LPGA’s 13 founders.

“I’ll never forget Carol saying, `I don’t mean to sound funny, because winning the U.S. Women’s Open was wonderful, but is that all there is?’” Hagge told GolfChannel.com Monday after hearing news of Mann’s death.

It was one of the many defining moments in Mann’s rich life, because it revealed her relentless search for meaning, within the game, and beyond it.

Mann, an LPGA and World Golf Hall of Famer, died at her home in Woodlands, Texas. She was 77.

“Carol was a very good friend, and a really sincere and good person,” Hagge said. “She was intelligent and insightful, the kind of person who always wanted to know the `why’ of things. She wasn’t content to be told this is the way something is. She had to know why.”

Mann’s search for meaning in the sport took her outside the ropes. She was a towering presence, at 6 feet 3, but her stature was more than physical. She won 38 LPGA titles, two of them major championships, but her mark on the game extended to her leadership skills.

From 1973 to ’76, Mann was president of the LPGA, leading the tour in challenging times.

“Carol was a significant player in the growth of the LPGA,” LPGA Hall of Famer Judy Rankin said. “She was involved when some big changes came to the tour. She was a talented woman beyond her golf.”

Mann oversaw the hiring of the tour’s first commissioner, Ray Volpe, a former NFL marketing executive. Their moves helped steer the tour out of the financial problems that threatened it.

“Carol was willing to do something nobody else wanted to do and nobody else had the brains to do,” Hagge said. “She loved the LPGA, and she wanted to make it a better place.”

At the cost of her own career.

Juggling the tour presidency with a playing career wasn’t easy.

“My golf seemed so secondary while I was president in 1975,” Mann once told author Liz Kahn for the book, “The LPGA: The Unauthorized Version.”

That was a pivotal year in tour history, with the LPGA struggling with an ongoing lawsuit, a legal battle Jane Blalock won when the courts ruled the tour violated antitrust laws by suspending her. With the tour appealing its legal defeats, a protracted battle threatened to cripple LPGA finances.

It was also the year Mann led the hiring of Volpe.

“I could barely get to the course in time to tee off,” Mann told Kahn. “There was so much other activity. I burned myself out a bit.”

Still, Mann somehow managed to win four times in ’75, but she wouldn’t again in the years that followed.

“I had launched a ship, and then I had to let it go, which was not easy,” she said of leaving her tour president’s role. “I was depressed thinking that no one on tour would say thank you to me for what I had done. Some would, others never would, and 10 years later players wouldn’t give a damn.”

Mann’s reign as a player and a leader aren’t fully appreciated today.

“A lot of players in the ‘60s haven’t been fully appreciated,” Rankin said.

Mann won 10 LPGA titles in 1968, the same year Kathy Whitworth won 10. Mann won the Vare Trophy for low scoring average that year. She won eight times in ’69 and was the tour’s leading money winner.

“Those were the toughest times to win,” Hagge said. “You had Kathy Whitworth and Mickey Wright, who is the best player I ever saw, and I saw them all. You had so many great players you had to beat in that era.”

Mann’s good humor came out when she was asked about her height.

“I’m 5-foot-15,” she liked to say.

After retiring from the tour at 40, Mann stayed active in golf, working as a TV analyst for NBC, ABC and ESPN. She found meaning in her Christian faith, and she was active supporting female athletes. She was president of the Women’s Sports Foundation for five years. She wrote a guest column for the Houston Post. She devoted herself to the World Golf Hall of Fame, taught at Woodlands Country Club and became the first woman to own and operate a course design and management firm.

“I’ve walked on the moon,” Mann once said. “I enjoy being a person, and getting old and dying are fine. I never think how people will remember Carol Mann. The mark I made is an intimate satisfaction.”