A Spartan Life

By Mercer BaggsFebruary 22, 2011, 7:57 pm

Editor's note: GolfChannel.com will be following four mini-tour players – Tim Hegarty, Zack Sucher, Benoit Beisser and Jack Newman – over the course of 2011 in our new feature, 'The Minors.' Check in each week for the players' progress, updates, photos and more.

ORLANDO, Fla. – The range balls are all Top-Flites with the red double stripes, worn out like a two-term president. The smell of sunscreen permeates the air and everyone seems dressed for the part – micro-fiber, sweat-soaking shirt; slightly too-tight slacks; and the requisite I’m-so-stylish belt.

Cars in the parking lot are littered with golf clubs and shoes. One guy opens the trunk of his SUV and pulls out a pair of soft spikes – from one of eight wooden, shoe housing compartments.

Some of the faces are familiar. David Gossett is on the range, beating away at those beat-up balls. Some of the names are recognizable, too. Sam Saunders, grandson of Arnold Palmer, is three players down, doing much the same – with an Arnold Palmer Iced Tea next to his bag.

The scene takes place at Rio Pinar Golf and Country Club on the east side of Orlando. The Black course is playing host to the week’s NGA Hooters Tour Winter Series event.

Walking off the par-4 ninth, his final hole of the first round, is Jack Newman. While you can tell by sight that several players practicing their swings and their putting have already reached the pinnacle of their professional success, Newman looks different.

He looks like he belongs – on the Nationwide Tour, on the PGA Tour, anywhere playing golf at a high level.

For one, he’s a handsome, strong kid, standing nearly 6’4”. For another, he’s dressed in more classic attire – his appearance isn’t forced, there is no white belt.

Then there is his attitude. Five under through 17 holes, Newman caught a flier out of the rough on No. 9 and made double bogey.

“That's golf,” he said afterwards. It’s not a care-free response. You can tell he’s unhappy. But he’s not in a sulking mood either. It’s off to Chipotle for lunch.

Newman’s story is nothing unusual. He grew up the youngest of five kids (three brothers and one sister) and used to tag along with his siblings when they’d go out to practice at a public course in Des Moines, Iowa.

He was 5 years old then, hitting a sawed off 5-wood and trying to stay out of everyone’s way. He’s 23 now, a former collegiate star, the 2008 U.S. Amateur Public Links champion and a 2009 Masters Tournament participant.

Well, his story’s not the usual, either.

In Newman’s senior year at Hoover High in Des Moines, he was named the 4A Iowa State Golfer of the Year and won the high school state championship. Not bad for a guy whose first love was basketball.

“I was a tall, slow kid who could only shoot the 3,” he said of his court prowess. “It proved a little too much for me.”

Still, Jack inherited athletic genes from his father, Bob, who played baseball for Illinois State. He even gave swimming a try during his senior year of high school just to get bigger and stronger – and because he had the ability to do so at a competitive level.

It took him a little while to warm up to the idea of trading away other sports to focus solely on golf, but his ultimate dedication paid off.

In 2005, then Michigan State University golf coach Mark Hankins took one look at his video and resume and told him to come on over to East Lansing.

“From the moment I got there, I fell in love with the campus. I also liked the guys on the team and that was it,” Newman said.

In four years, Newman won three tournaments, was voted Second Team All-Big Ten three times and was a three-time member of the Academic All-Big Ten team.

During his junior year, he defeated John Chin, 5 and 3, at Murphy Creek Golf Course in Aura, Colo., to capture the 2008 U.S. Publinx title. With the victory came an invitation to Augusta National.

Newman missed the cut in the 73rd Masters Tournament, but nearly won the Par 3 Contest, finishing tied second behind Tim Clark. He also birdied four of his final five holes in the opening round for an even-par 72.

Unfortunately, the wind picked up in Round 2 and took Newman's score with it – a 4-over 76.

He didn't leave his first major empty-handed, however. John Deere Classic tournament director Clair Peterson offered Newman a sponsor's exemption into the July event held in his native Iowa. Newman accepted and recorded three sub-par rounds on his way to a tie for 39th – and no money, since he was still an amateur.

Now a professional, Newman has a well thought-out plan to make it full time on the PGA Tour.

“I’m playing primarily on the Pro Series (on the Hooters Tour) and will try and Monday qualify on the Nationwide Tour,” he explained. “I just hope to get hot at the right times. If I can get hot, Monday qualify for a few Nationwide Tour events, top 25 and keep rolling.”

Finishing in the top 25 of a Nationwide Tour event gets a player into the following tournament.

Newman is currently living outside Orlando and will stay there while the Hooters Tour contests events in Florida and Georgia to start its main schedule. He’ll then move to Ohio and live with his former Michigan State assistant coach – and current Miami, Ohio head golf coach – Casey Lubahn. Incidentally, Lubahn and his wife, Rachel, were a team on “Big Break X: Michigan.”

Newman just wrapped up play on the Hooters Tour’s Winter Series, where he made seven of 11 cuts and claimed $10,734, good enough for 22nd on the money list out of 181 participants.

This past week, he tied for 19th in the tour's Members Only Shootout, carding modest rounds of 68-71-71. He was pleased with his first round, but described the other two days as 'so-so.'

As Newman knows well, so-so won't get you where you want to be in professional golf. Case in point: the Shootout. Jesse Hutchins won the event with an 11-under 61 in the final round and a 23-under total over three days.

Hutchins has played in well over 100 Hooters Tour events. This was his first win.

'The depth of talent is great (in all ranks of professional golf), especially on the Hooters Tour. I don't know if people really understand how low the guys can go out here,' Newman said. 'You have to be prepared for stuff like that to happen and be ready to go low yourself.'

In an effort to do just that, Newman recently teamed up with Mike Bender, the 2009 PGA of America Golf Professional of the Year and swing coach for fellow Iowan Zach Johnson.

'We're just getting started, but I think we're headed in the right direction,' Newman said. 'I'm trying to tighten up my swing, get it more rounded. It's a matter of being able to get more consistent.'

Monday afternoon in Orlando, Newman spent time at Orange County National practicing alongside fellow Spartan Matt Harmon.

Harmon, who was a senior when Newman joined the MSU golf team, has won four times on the Hooters Tour over the last four years and has earned nearly $250,000 on the circuit. Yet, like Newman and countless others, he's still an unsettled golf soul searching for one good shot at the big leagues.

'There are thousands of players out there trying to make it (on the PGA Tour),' Newman said. 'You can't get frustrated. You have to be patient. Keep working and keep practicing, and eventually your time will come. You have to believe your time will come.'

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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.”

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.”