India's Lahiri is one in 1.25 billion

By Rex HoggardMay 5, 2016, 9:53 pm

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – He grew up a batsman/wicket-keeper, which for those who aren’t cricket savvy is akin to a hard-hitting catcher in baseball. He embraced yoga years ago and practices Vipassana meditation three to four times a week.

If that doesn’t sound like the blueprint for a modern PGA Tour professional, consider Anirban Lahiri the exception to nearly every cherished rule of grooming a singularly focused and driven athlete.

For Lahiri, who is one shot off the lead at the Wells Fargo Championship after a flawless 6-under 66, the sum of his unique parts begins in India where he grew playing cricket, like a large portion of the country’s 1.25 billion citizens.

At age 8, his father, an officer in the army, introduced him to golf, which wasn’t exactly an easy or effortless endeavor.

“I would probably say Palm Springs [Calif.] and Florida, by themselves, have more tournament courses than all of India put together,” he said. “Just to give you perspective, it's not that big.”

Yet while golf may be a small fish in India’s large cricket-dominated pond, Lahiri is a big deal back home.

Last year he posted the best finish by an Indian in a major when he tied for fifth place at the PGA Championship, and became the first from his country to play in the Presidents Cup.

Where some see a 28-year-old global journeyman, back home in Bangalore he’s a bona fide trailblazer after grinding his way through the Tour finals series to earn his Tour card for this season.

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Everything about Lahiri is different from the Tour’s rank and file – he's soft-spoken, modest and, above all else, thankful for this and every opportunity he’s been given.

Even his Tour status is more complicated than those he’s competing against. As a member of the 2015 Tour graduating class he struggles to get into many of the regular events, but his position in the World Golf Ranking (55th) has given him spots in all three of this season’s World Golf Championships and the Masters.

He considers himself a rookie despite 15 international victories, and although he’s gotten off to a slow start in his Tour career (he has just one top-25 finish in 12 events this season), Lahiri feels like he’s making progress in his transition to the United States.

He recently set up a home base in the U.S. with his wife, Ipsa, moving into a new house the week after the Masters at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

“It was something that was needed. It’s not easy hauling 250 pounds around every week in luggage,” said Lahiri, who played tournaments in 2015 in the United Arab Emirates, China, Malaysia, Korea, France and, of course, India.

Learning the game in such a relatively undeveloped golf nation would be considered a liability for most aspiring professionals, but Lahiri wears it like a badge of honor.

“It's not just India, there's a lot of countries which are not huge on golf, but obviously there's going to be a few of us who love the sport enough and want to work hard enough and dream big enough to want to come here and play here and try to win events,” he said. “I think I'm just one of those guys. We are a minority but there's a few of us.”

That kind of clarity of thought could only come through meditation, right?

Players often talk about playing for their countries, particularly this year with the approaching Olympic Games, but Lahiri knows every week he tees it up he’s playing for 1.25 billion back home in India. It’s a perspective that brings into sharp focus the ongoing narrative the last few weeks as one player after another his withdrawn from Olympic consideration.

Lahiri, who is a lock to represent India in this year’s Games, had a slightly different take when asked his thoughts on this year’s Games.

“It would be huge,” Lahiri said. “How many people watch the Olympics in India? I would say eight or nine out of 10 people. How many people watch the Masters or the Open Championship? Probably one out of 100.

“Just in terms of eyeballs, just in terms of popularity, in terms of just making people aware of the sport or having the government take a stronger initiative to promote the sport, it would be massive. I think the Olympics is a huge stage for India in terms of golf.”

Lahiri began practicing Vipassana meditation when he was 17 at the urging of his parents. He said it helps him to keep things in perspective.

“I wish I could do it every day. That’s the goal - it’s the same as working out. You want to work out every day but you can’t. With meditation it really keeps me quite stable and calm,” he said.

Loosely translated, Vipassana meditation means to see things as they really are. In the case of Lahiri that’s an uncommonly calm and committed aspiring Tour professional.

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Lincicome grouped with two rookies in Barbasol

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 17, 2018, 9:54 pm

Brittany Lincicome will tee it up with a pair of rookies when she makes her first start in a PGA Tour event Thursday at the Barbasol Championship at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky.

Lincicome, an eight-time LPGA winner, is scheduled to go off the 10th tee at 9:59 a.m. ET in the first round with Sam Ryder, 28, and Conrad Shindler, 29. They’re off the first tee Friday at 2:59 p.m. ET

Lincicome will become just the sixth woman to play in a PGA Tour event, joining Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Michelle Wie.

“The first three or four holes, I’ll be a nervous wreck, for sure,” Linicome said.



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Lincicome thrilled by reception from male pros

By Randall MellJuly 17, 2018, 8:31 pm

Brittany Lincicome wondered how PGA Tour pros would greet her when she arrived to play the Barbasol Championship this week.

She wondered if there would be resentment.

She also wondered how fans at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky., would receive her, and if a social media mob would take up pitchforks.

“I can’t stop smiling,” Lincicome said Tuesday after her first practice round upon arriving. “Everyone has been coming up to me and wishing me luck. That means a lot.”

PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, husband of LPGA pro Gerina Piller, welcomed her immediately.

Other pros sought her out on the practice putting green.

She said she was also welcomed joining pros at a table in player dining.

Fans have been stopping her for autographs.

“It has been an awesome reception,” said Dewald Gouws, her husband, a former long-drive competitor. “I think it’s put her much more at ease, seeing the reception she is getting. There’s a lot of mutual respect.”

Lincicome, 32, wasn’t sure if she would be playing a practice round alone Tuesday morning, but when she made her way to the first tee, Domenico Geminiani was there, just about to go off.

He waved Lincicome over.

“He said, `Hey, Brittany, do you want to join me?’” Gouws said. “Come to find out, Dom’s a pretty cool guy.”

Geminiani made it into the field as a Monday qualifier.

“The two of us were both trying to figure things out together,” Lincicome said.

Keene Trace will play to 7,328 yards on the scorecard. That’s more than 800 yards longer than Highland Meadows, where Lincicome finished second at the LPGA’s Marathon Classic last weekend. Keene Trace was playing even longer than its listed yardage Tuesday, with recent rains softening it.

Nicknamed “Bam Bam,” Lincicome is one of the longest hitters in the women’s game. Her 269.5 yard average drive is 10th in the LPGA ranks. It would likely be dead last on the PGA Tour, where Brian Stuard (278.2) is the last player on the stats list at No. 201.

“I think if I keep it in the fairway, I’ll be all right,” Lincicome said.

Lincicome is an eight-time LPGA winner, with two major championships among those titles. She is just the sixth woman to compete in a PGA Tour event, the first in a decade, since Michelle Wie played the Reno-Tahoe Open, the last of her eight starts against the men.

Lincicome will join Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Wie in the elite ranks.

Zaharias, by the way, is the only woman to make a 36-hole cut in PGA Tour history, making it at the 1945 L.A. Open before missing a 54-hole cut on the weekend.

What are Lincicome’s expectations?

She would love to make the cut, but . . .

“Just going to roll with it and see what happens,” she said. “This is once in a lifetime, probably a one-and-done opportunity. I’m just going to enjoy it.”

Lincicome grew up playing for the boys’ golf team at Seminole High on the west coast of Florida. She won a couple city championships.

“I always thought it would be cool to compete against the guys on the PGA Tour,” Lincicome said. “I tend to play more with the guys than women at home. I never would have gone out and told my agent, `Let’s go try to play in a PGA Tour event,’ but when Tom Murray called with this opportunity, I was really blown away and excited by it. I never in a million years thought I would have this opportunity.”

Tom Murray, the president of Perio, the parent company of Barbasol and Pure Silk, invited Lincicome to accept one of the tournament’s sponsor exemptions. Lincicome represents Pure Silk.

Lincicome said her desire to play a PGA Tour event is all about satisfying her curiosity, wanting to know how she would stack up at this level. She also wants to see if the experience can help take her to the next level in the women’s game.

As a girl growing up, she played Little League with the boys, instead of softball with the girls. She said playing the boys in golf at Seminole High helped her get where she is today.

“The guys were better, and it pushed me to want to be better,” Lincicome said. “I think playing with the guys [on the PGA Tour], I will learn something to take to LPGA events, and it will help my game, for sure.”

Lincicome has been pleased that her fellow LPGA pros are so supportive. LPGA winner Kris Tamulis is flying into Kentucky as moral support. Other LPGA pros may also be coming in to support her.

The warm fan reception Lincicome is already getting at Keene Trace matters, too.

“She’s already picked up some new fans this week, and hopefully she will pick up some more,” Gouws said. “I don’t think she’s putting too much expectation on herself. I think she really does just want to have fun.”

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Stunner: Inbee Park steps aside for Int. Crown

By Randall MellJuly 17, 2018, 4:00 pm

There was a big surprise this week when the LPGA announced the finalized lineups for the UL International Crown.

Rolex world No. 1 Inbee Park won’t be teeing it up for the host South Koreans Oct. 4-7 in Incheon.

She has withdrawn, saying she wanted another Korean to be able to experience the thrill of representing her country.

It’s a stunner given the importance the LPGA has placed on taking the UL International Crown to South Korea and its golf-crazy allegiance to the women’s game in the Crown’s first staging outside the United States.

Two-time major champion In Gee Chun will replace Park.

"It was my pleasure and honor to participate in the first UL International Crown in 2014 and at the 2016 Olympics, and I cannot describe in one word how amazing the atmosphere was to compete as a representative of my country,” Park said. “There are so many gifted and talented players in Korea, and I thought it would be great if one of the other players was given the chance to experience the 2018 UL International Crown.”

Chun, another immensely popular player in South Korea, was the third alternate, so to speak, with the world rankings used to field teams. Hye Jin Choi and Jin Young Ko were higher ranked than Chun but passed because of commitments made to competing in a Korean LPGA major that week. The other South Koreans who previously qualified are So Yeon Ryu, Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim.

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Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'

By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2018, 3:35 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following his victory two weeks ago at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na said his second triumph on the PGA Tour was the most rewarding of his career.

Although he declined to go into details as to why the victory was so gratifying at The Greenbrier, as he completed his practice round on Tuesday at the Open Championship, Na shed some light on how difficult the last few years have been.

“I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, 'I can’t take the club back,'” Na said on Tuesday at Carnoustie. “People talked about it, 'He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.' I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”

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Na, who made headlines for his struggles to begin his backswing when he found himself in the lead at the 2012 Players Championship, said he asked other players who had gone through similar bouts with the game’s most dreaded ailment how they were able to get through it.

“It took time,” he said. “I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy.”

The payoff, however, has steadily arrived this season. Na said he’d been confident with his game this season following a runner-up showing at the Genesis Open and a fourth-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational, and he felt he was close to a breakthrough. But being able to finish a tournament like he did at The Greenbrier, where he won by five strokes, was particularly rewarding.

“All good now,” he smiled. “I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”