Smith secures winning point and more for U.S. Walker Cup team

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 8, 2013, 10:27 pm

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Seven holes early. That’s when Nathan Smith began to wonder what it would feel like to earn the clinching point for the U.S. Walker Cup team.

Hey, forgive the man’s mind for wandering.

After all, he was thinking about 2011. Smith was the lone mid-amateur on that stacked team at Royal Aberdeen, the squad with uber-prospects Spieth, Uihlein, Henley, English and Cantlay, the group that was stunned, 14-12.

He was thinking about his own disappointing career record in this event: 2-4-1, including 0-2-1 in singles.

And he was thinking about the way his foursomes match ended Saturday, when he left a putt short on 18 that cost the Americans a point.

So, after pouring in a 15-foot birdie putt on the eighth green to build a 2-up lead in his singles match against GB&I’s Nathan Kimsey on Sunday, well, yeah, Smith got a little misty.

“You just want it so much,” he said later. “It’s almost overwhelming.”

Unlike his teammates – many of whom are All-Americans with glitzy resumes, swing coaches and seven-digit futures – Smith is a financial adviser in Pittsburgh. He is married, 35 years old, getting older, finding it harder and harder to find the necessary time to practice and play, to duplicate the form that netted him four U.S. Mid-Am titles.



There was doubt that he would be able to even make this team. At least that’s what he told Jim Holtgrieve in 2011, and it left the U.S. captain unsettled, especially since Holtgrieve himself was 35 years old when he played in the Walker Cup.

So Holtgrieve began the process of lobbying the USGA to require that two mid-ams be named to the team. He hoped the rule would go into effect in 2015, but the bluecoats liked the idea so much, they instituted it for this year’s competition.

Did Smith think he would have made the team without the new rule?

“I didn’t think there was any way,” he admitted. “The college guys are too good now.”

Which is why Smith decided to take a backseat, even before this two-day event began. During a practice round at National Golf Links he told Holtgrieve, and then later his teammates, that he wanted to compete in only two sessions – Saturday foursomes and Sunday singles – despite playing some of the best golf of his life.

“That’ll let the other college guys loose,” he said, before adding, “I felt like it was the right thing to do.”

Said Justin Thomas, 20: “That’s a huge reason why he’s been so successful for us. It’s because there’s an age and maturity that a college kid doesn’t have.”

Smith’s absence opened the door for the other mid-am, Todd White, a 45-year-old high-school teacher in South Carolina, to prove that he was worthy of a spot on the team, too.

Though he dropped both foursomes matches with Cal’s Michael Weaver, White led for all but four holes of a 4-and-3 singles win over GB&I’s Rhys Pugh, a talented 19-year-old who went 3-0 in the 2011 Walker Cup, played in this year’s British Open and won the 2012 European Amateur.

Earlier Sunday, U.S. leadoff man Bobby Wyatt improved to 3-0-1 (and 9-0-3 in ’13, including the NCAA and Palmer Cup) with an opening victory, further cementing his standing as the Man of the Match, if only the event bestowed such an honor.

Right behind Wyatt was Thomas, playing in his final amateur event and dealing with an ailing back, who pummeled his opponent, 6 and 4, and left little doubt that the cup was heading back to the States.

And then it was Smith’s turn in the spotlight, finally.

All that the U.S. needed was a half point to reclaim the cup, and Smith’s par-4 on the 15th hole was good enough. His teammates spilled on the green to celebrate, the crowd chanted “U-S-A! U-S-A!”, and Smith smiled and tipped his cap. A hole later, he defeated Kimsey, 4 and 3, capping the feel-good story of a Walker Cup rout.

“This ranks right at the top of my list,” Smith said. “I’ve never wanted a point so much in my life.”

Apparently neither did the rest of the Americans, who won seven of the 10 singles matches Sunday – and earned 13 1/2 of the possible 18 in both weekend sessions – for a final score of 17-9. It was their most lopsided victory in 16 years, their fourth win in the past five matches, and undoubtedly the most satisfying moment of Smith’s career.

“It’s the best feeling in the world right now,” he said.

As the 10 matches got underway Sunday afternoon, Smith’s father, Larry, retreated to the National clubhouse, too anxious to watch. He didn’t return to the top of the hill until about an hour after Smith scored the clinching point, when the celebration was winding down.

Father and son finally reconnected in front of the famous windmill behind 17 tee, and they hugged for a few seconds. Then Smith stepped back, smiled, and put his father’s face in his hands.

“Can you believe it?” he asked, beaming. “This is almost too good.”

Getty Images

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.

 

 

Getty Images

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.”

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.”


Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


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.”