Category Archives: Featured

SANDRA GAL CELEBRATES FIRST FOURTH OF JULY AS AMERICAN CITIZEN

As Americans prepare for a return-to-normal celebration this Independence Day, it is good to reflect on those who, like many of our ancestors, came to America as immigrants, unsure about their futures but resolute in their quest for freedom and a better life. This past spring, the United States welcomed one new citizen that almost every fan of women’s golf will recognize. On Thursday, May 20, Sandra Gal raised her right hand and swore the oath of citizenship to become an American.

“For me, it was a natural, evolutionary process,” Gal told LPGA.com. “I played in college here [at the University of Florida] and when you come over from Europe, you get a visa. Then you can apply for a green card, which I did. After you’ve had your green card for five years, you are allowed to apply for citizenship. I did that a couple of years ago.

“It has been a bit of a slow process. But now, here I am.”

A native of Germany, Gal has been one of the most popular members of the LPGA Tour since becoming a member in 2008. A winner at the 2011 Kia Classic, she also represented Europe on the 2015 Solheim Cup team in her homeland.

“It has been 16 years that I’ve been here [in the United States] and it has felt like a second home for some time,” Gal said. “And now, to be able to call it my home officially is great.

“The green card [given to legal foreign residents] is pretty restrictive in terms of how much time you can spend in the U.S. and how much you can spend abroad, which was difficult to manage given Tour life and how much we travel. Being a citizen is definitely easier for me in terms of deciding where I want to live and how much time I want to spend here.

“I think in the beginning, America was the only country where I could get an education and continue to play golf at the same time,” Gal said. “I wasn’t sure, at the time, if I wanted to turn pro, so it made sense [to come here]. I only spent two weeks here prior to going to college [in Florida]. It was a dream, obviously. You start writing to coaches and applying to colleges early in high school. So, before I set foot here, it all seemed exciting and far away.”

Like most first-time visitors, there was a transition period.

“The first year was difficult for me,” Gal said. “But I found friends and I have obviously made my career here. I love the freedom and that I was able to pursue so many different things apart from golf. Meditation retreats, being a part of nature, staying with different families during tournaments, it all just opened my eyes to a lot of different things. I love Europe and I love the States. Every country has its benefits, its pros and cons, and I am very grateful that I can choose. There are a lot of people who don’t have that choice or that freedom.”

Those are among the things that many native-born citizens take for granted, along with the history and government questions those earning their status as Americans must answer.

“The test was not that difficult for me,” Gal said. “You have a set of 100 questions. And you have to get six out of 10 correct. I think now the pool is 200 questions. But a lot of it is stuff I learned in college in my history classes.”

The most difficult aspect of the process for Gal was getting to the swearing-in ceremony. The day before she was to become a U.S. citizen, she was on the course at Kingsmill Resort, waving to Anne van Dam as the latter played in the pro-am.

“I had planned my trip to Kingsmill to do some sponsor obligations,” Gal said. “So, I arrived on Sunday night [before the event] and then first thing on Monday morning, I received an email telling me to be at the immigration office in Tampa at 7:30 on Thursday to take my oath.

“I had driven with my boyfriend to Virginia and I had plans to shoot a few things until Wednesday afternoon. So, we drove up to Washington on Wednesday night and I caught a direct flight to Tampa. And then after taking the oath, I flew back up and we drove home.”

It was a whirlwind experience but one that she wouldn’t trade for anything. As difficult as the logistics might have been, they presented Gal with an opportunity she will never forget.

“On the day I took my citizenship oath, after I flew back up [to Reagan National airport in Washington], I got to walk around the [outside of the] White House,” she said. “That was really cool.”

CELINE HERBIN GOES AROUND THE WORLD TO END UP IN TEXAS

Look up “globetrotter” in the dictionary and you might find a picture of Celine Herbin. The native of Avranches, France, now makes her home on the eastern coast of Spain. She opened her season with Symetra Tour events in Arizona, California and Utah, with the LPGA Tour stop in Hawaii sandwiched in there. She followed a Ladies European Tour event in South Africa with the LPGA Tour event in Virginia and the U.S. Women’s Open in California. From there, she headed over to Sweden for the LET’s joint event with the European Tour before heading back to the States for last week’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in Georgia.

“The Symetra events, I took them as warming up of the season waiting to get into the LPGA events, and I was quite confident then after playing well,” said Herbin. “The U.S. Open result obviously helped a lot. I finish tied for 14th there, so it helped me a lot to have a good result.”

Herbin brought that successful streak into Texas, opening with back-to-back 68s for the best start in her four previous VOA Classic appearances. She tied for 68th in 2019 when the tournament was shortened to 36 holes due to extensive storms and missed the cut three other times. More rain plagued the course this week, with Old American receiving 1.66” of rain overnight and into Friday morning.

“(The course) was obviously a bit longer. I mean, yesterday was already a bit soft, but definitely I play in the afternoon yesterday so the ball was flying a lot,” said Herbin. “Definitely today was looking longer.”

The Frenchwoman used today’s rain delay to watch her adopted countrywoman Garbiñe Muguruza fall in the first round of Wimbledon. She was in for a nice treat after her round, having watched the first part of Spain’s exciting shootout win over Switzerland in UEFA Euro 2020.

“It is quite tough to stay focus when you wake up at 5 a.m. and you play at almost 2 p.m.,” she said with a shrug and laugh. “But I’m lucky because I like tennis a lot so I watched Wimbledon, and after there was Euro Cup game, Switzerland against Spain, so that kind of helped me to deal with the wait and enjoy the morning.”

Dustin Johnson looks to right the ship entering Travelers Championship

CROMWELL, Conn. – Were you to combine them, the developments in Dustin Johnson’s world the last few days would seemingly ignite a need for reaction.

But then you’d be reminded to consider the subject we’re talking about. Johnson appears incapable of angst or anxiety, the consummate picture of cool and collected.

So big deal that the reigning FedExCup champion turned 37 on Tuesday or fell from No. 1 in the world on Sunday. Even this business transaction, becoming part-owner of a National Lacrosse League expansion franchise, was met with a casual shrug.

“I don’t know a whole lot about (the game),” he said.

Understood. You’re a Low Country kid, so what’s this partnership with Wayne Gretzky, Steve Nash, and Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai in a new Las Vegas team all about?

“It’ll be fun and kind of a cool thing to be part of.”

He was similarly nonchalant about tacking on another year. He celebrated by spending Tuesday morning with his boys in Florida, traveling to the Travelers Championship, going to the gym, then having dinner with his finance, Paulina Gretzky, his brother, Austin, and a few other friends.

“Nothing crazy.”

As for falling out of the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking, now No. 2 behind U.S. Open winner Jon Rahm, Johnson said it’s easily understood. “My play has not been good enough to hold (that spot),” he said.

But you’d be foolhardy to study Johnson’s stoic demeanor and judge him as aloof. Quite the contrary, he has a firm grip on the landscape, totally studies his game, and continually makes enhancements without ever touching the panic button.

This thing about falling from No. 1? Johnson’s history demonstrates how remarkably resilient he is. In the five previous times he lost his No. 1 rank, it didn’t take him much time to return to the top spot. Once it took just one week, another time it took him two weeks, then there were gaps of just four weeks and 19 weeks.

So, Johnson is totally at peace with Rahm leap-frogging him. “A good week this week, I think I could get right back there.”

He is correct, because if he were to win, Johnson would earn his seventh stint at No. 1. And winning at TPC River Highlands is something fresh on his mind. Last year during the pandemic, there might not have been fans at the Travelers, but Johnson put on a sizzling show in just his fourth visit.

Tied for 79th after opening with a 1-under 69, Johnson followed with 64, but was still six behind the leader, Phil Mickelson. “But if you can get it going here, you can shoot low scores,” said Johnson, whose weekend of 61-67 provided a one-stroke triumph over Kevin Streelman.

It was career win No. 21, which was followed by two more, then he reached No. 24 when Johnson climbed the top of the mountain at the 2020 Masters in November. Since then, there have been just two pedestrian top 10s in 11 tournaments and an acknowledgement that “since January, I haven’t played as well as I would have liked.”

But, remember, he is the ultimate Alfred E. Neuman of PGA TOUR members – “What, me worry?”  So, if Johnson suggests his game “is starting to come around at the right time,” history shows you might want to believe him.

MIN LEE NOT BOTHERED BY RUNNER-UP FINISH

She only surrendered one bogey in the final round of the LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship, but Min Lee was far from disappointed in her 3-under par 69 performance on Sunday at Lake Merced Golf Club. The result is good for her first top-10 in her 93rd start of her LPGA Tour career.

“After she hit that shot [on No. 5], she left it short and very close to the hole [for eagle], and I knew she was going to make it because that was her day,” said Lee, who concluded the tournament at -12 overall. “The only thing I thought today was just play my game because I can’t control how she plays. She played really good and I’m happy for her. I’m practicing being in the position and trying to fight for it. Hopefully one day will come true.

“It’s not a tough pill to swallow. It’s definitely good to me and her because she has great experience, and me too. This is not really bothering me because it’s a good week. What else should I say, right? I think I played good today and obviously she played much better on the front. I’m not going to punish myself. It was a great week.”

MATILDA CASTREN FIRST FINNISH WINNER IN LPGA TOUR HISTORY

DALY CITY, Calif. (AP) — Matilda Castren became the first Finnish winner in LPGA Tour history Sunday in the LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship, pulling away on the front-nine at foggy Lake Merced and holding off Min Lee by two strokes.

“It’s a huge honor to be a winner as a rookie, and especially first one from Finland,” Castren said. “That’s a really big honor.”

Two strokes behind Lee entering the final day of the tour’s two-week run on the San Francisco Peninsula, Castren birdied the first three holes, eagled the par-5 fifth and birdied the par-5 ninth for a front-nine 30. She followed with eight straight pars and holed a 3-foot birdie putt on the par-5 18th for a 7-under 65.

“It’s been a dream of mine to win since I was a little girl, and to see it happen and just to win, it’s such an amazing feeling.” Castren said. “There is nothing that compares to it. One of my thoughts was, `Well, I don’t have to go to Q-School this fall.'”

The 26-year-old former Florida State won in her 15th career LPGA Tour start. She finished at 14-under 274 after tying for 30th last week in the U.S. Women’s Open at nearby Olympic Club.

“I was definitely nervous, so my mindset was just going in thinking one shot at a time, one hole at a time, and see what happens, and just trying to enjoy the day because it was my first time in the final group,” Castren said. “I thought it was great for experience no matter what happened. It just turned out I had a great day on the course and got the trophy.”

Lee finished with a 69. She cut Castren’s lead to one with a birdie on the par-5 15th, but dropped a stroke with a two-putt bogey on the par-3 17th.

“I think I’m playing good today,” Lee said. “Obviously, she played much better on the front, so I’m not going to punish myself because it was a great week.”

Lee missed a chance to became the first player to follow a Symetra Tour victory with an LPGA Tour win in her next start. The 26-year-old player from Taiwan won the Mission Inn Resort and Club Championship two weeks ago in Florida on the developmental tour.

“Winning a tournament you have to practice, and this is a great practice,” Lee said. “Maybe after couple times I will be there.”

Hannah Green (66) and So Yeon Ryu (67) tied for third at 8 under.

Lexi Thompson shot a 74 to tie for 34th at 1 over. A week ago at Olympic, she blew a five-stroke lead in the final round, playing the last seven holes in 5 over to finish a stroke out of a playoff that Yuka Saso won. Saso and Women’s Open playoff loser Nasa Hataoka skipped the event at Lake Merced.

Michelle Wie West closed with a 71 to tie for 40th at even par after missing the weekend cuts in her first four events of the year.

The First Look: Palmetto Championship at Congaree

The Palmetto Championship at Congaree is a one-time replacement for the RBC Canadian Open, as lingering concerns tied to the U.S.-Canada border and ongoing COVID-19 challenges made it too difficult to host Canada’s national open for the second year in a row.

This is the third PGA TOUR event contested in South Carolina this season (RBC Heritage and PGA Championship) while the Korn Ferry Tour’s BMW Charity Pro-Am presented by SYNNEX Corporation will be hosted in South Carolina the same week as the Palmetto Championship.

FIELD NOTES: Reigning FedExCup champion and South Carolina native Dustin Johnson leads the field… The recently announced Ben Hogan Award winner, John Pak, is making his professional debut. Pak, who also won the Fred Haskins Award as the nation’s top men’s collegiate golfer this year, is the top-ranked played in the inaugural PGA TOUR University Class… Former No.1-ranked amateur in the world, Davis Thompson, is also making his first professional TOUR start. Thompson, a University of Georgia product, finished T23 as an amateur at The RSM Classic… Former PGA TOUR Player of the Year Brooks Koepka is making his first start since the PGA Championship where he was runner up… Fellow major winners Danny Willett, Jason Dufner, and Padraig Harrington (fresh off his T4 at the PGA Championship) are teeing it up… Also amongst the Sponsor Exemptions is Bluffton, South Carolina native Bryson Nimmer. The Clemson University product is playing his third TOUR event of the season and grew up less than an hour from Congaree.

FEDEXCUP: Winner receives 500 FedExCup points.

COURSECongaree Golf Club, par 71, 7,655 yards. The 2017 Tom Fazio design in South Carolina’s Lowcountry (about 30 minutes north of Savannah, Georgia) is built on a 3,200-acre property with holes routed between trees that are up to 300 years old. It was built with the sandbelt courses of Australia in mind and will challenge the TOUR’s best with its length (the par-5 4th, for example, measures 645 yards while there are two par-4’s on the front nine longer than 520 yards) and natural hazard areas.

STORYLINES: The RBC Canadian Open will return to the PGA TOUR’s schedule in 2022, hosted by Toronto’s St. George’s Golf and Country Club which last hosted the event in 2010. Oakdale Golf and Country Club will host in 2023, while Hamilton Golf and Country Club will host in 2024… Other high-profile names who are choosing to play in South Carolina prior to heading to Torrey Pines for the U.S. Open include world No.10 Tyrrell Hatton, fellow Englishman Tommy Fleetwood, and former PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year Sungjae Im.

72-HOLE RECORD: N/A (first-time event)

18-HOLE RECORD: N/A (first-time event)

LAST TIME: In the spot on the PGA Tour schedule normally occupied by the RBC Canadian Open, the Palmetto Championship is a one-off replacement event as COVID-19 challenges were too great to overcome for the second year in a row in Canada. Rory McIlroy captured the 2019 RBC Canadian Open by seven shots – even flirting with a 59 in the final round – but will not be in the field in South Carolina. The previous years’ Canadian Open winner, Dustin Johnson, will be teeing it up at the Palmetto Championship, however, along with 2016-17 champion Jhonattan Vegas.     


HOW TO FOLLOW

Television: Thursday-Friday, 3 p.m.-6 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday-Sunday, 1 p.m.-3 p.m. (Golf Channel), 3 p.m.-6 p.m. (CBS)

PGA TOUR LIVEThursday-Friday, 7 a.m.-6 p.m. (Featured Groups). Saturday-Sunday, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. (Featured Groups), 3 p.m.-6 p.m. (Featured Holes)

Radio: Thursday-Friday, 12 p.m.-6 p.m ET. Saturday-Sunday, 1 p.m.-6 p.m. ET. (PGA TOUR Radio on SiriusXM and PGATOUR.com/liveaudio).

TOURCast: Get shot-by-shot info in real time with shot tracks and video with TOURCast.

TOUR Pulse: Get the PGA TOUR app to utilize TOUR Pulse, which provides users the ability to experience a mix of content, such as video highlights, written hole summaries and stat graphics on every player after every hole they complete.

The First Look: the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide

A stout field led by the top five in the FedExCup standings will all head to Jack Nicklaus’ renovated Muirfield Village for the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide.

Jon Rahm, whose victory pushed the young Spaniard to the top of the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time, is back to defend. The Memorial was the first of two wins last season, marking Rahm’s first multi-win campaign on TOUR.

FIELD NOTES: Bryson DeChambeau, who leads the FedExCup standings and won the 2018 Memorial, will be teeing it up … Other past winners at Jack’s Place who will be in the field include Patrick Cantlay, Jason Dufner, William McGirt and, of course, Rahm. Overall there are six former Memorial winners in the field… Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy, a pair of past FedExCup and PLAYERS champions, head to Muirfield looking for their first titles at the Memorial … Tyler Strafaci and Joe Long earned spots in the field after winning last year’s U.S. Amateur and British Amateur, respectively. Pepperdine alum Sahith Theegala is in the field as last year’s Jack Nicklaus Award winner, given to the top player in college golf … Sponsor exemptions include Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington, who is coming off a fourth-place finish at the PGA Championship; fellow major champions Vijay Singh and Danny Willett; and Bo Hoag who, like Nicklaus himself, played golf at Ohio State and has a deep connection to the Golden Bear.

FEDEXCUPWinner gets 550 FedExCup points.

COURSEMuirfield Village Golf Club, par 72, 7,543 yards. The House That Jack Built hosted two consecutive PGA TOUR events in 2020 prior to getting a renovation (Collin Morikawa beat Justin Thomas in a playoff to win the Workday Charity Open in the week preceding the Memorial). The renovation efforts started during the final round of last year’s Memorial Tournament. Turf was being lifted as the leaders were on the back nine. Changes included irrigation work, the addition of a PrecisionAire system, rebuilt fairway and greenside bunkers, reconstruction of the greens, over 140 trees added in various spots (for example, the fairway width on No.13 was reduced), plus resurfaced tee boxes. The course can also play up to 100 yards longer now.

STORYLINES: What will a renovated Muirfield Village look like? Last year, the course played the toughest it had in more than 40 years as the crew let the golf course get firm and fast before being torn up for the renovation. The renovations will challenge the players in a new way … Rahm is looking to become the first man to defend his title at the Memorial since Tiger Woods in 2001 (that was actually Woods’ third consecutive title) … Seven of the top-10 golfers in the world will be teeing it up at the Memorial… A limited number of spectators will be allowed to attend. The tournament is also taking the unprecedented step of offering COVID-19 vaccinations to on-site spectators June 4-6… With the Memorial Day weekend in the rear-view mirror, the FedExCup race is heating up. And with 550 FedExCup points available to the winner at the Memorial, it’s a fine opportunity for someone to make a big-time jump.

72-HOLE RECORD: 268, Tom Lehman (1994)

18-HOLE RECORD: 61, John Huston (2nd round, 1996)

LAST YEAR: Despite shooting 75 in the final round, Jon Rahm captured the 2020 Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide and in the process got to No. 1 in the world. Rahm had an eight-shot lead as he made the turn Sunday in 2020, but he came home in 5-over 41. The highlight for Rahm came on the par-3 16th as he flopped in a pitch for birdie and unleashed a big fist pump… until it was revealed the ball moved slightly when he placed his wedge behind it, and he was assessed a two-shot penalty. It was no matter, however, as he notched his fifth TOUR title. Rahm’s 9-under 279 was good for a three-shot victory over Ryan Palmer. It was the highest winning score at Memorial since Woods shot the same number in 2012. Rahm and Palmer paired to win the Zurich Classic of New Orleans a year earlier. Matthew Fitzpatrick finished 5 under and alone in third place; his 68 was the only sub-70 score in the final round. Matt Wallace and Muirfield Village member Jason Day rounded out the top five. Only nine players finished under par. Tiger Woods, in his first start back after the COVID-19 break, finished T40.      


HOW TO FOLLOW

Television: Thursday-Friday, 3 p.m.-7 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday, 12:30 p.m.-3 p.m. (Golf Channel), 3 p.m.-6 p.m. (CBS). Sunday, 12:30 p.m.-2:30 p.m. (Golf Channel), 2:30 p.m.-6 p.m. (CBS).

PGA TOUR LIVEThursday-Friday 7:15 a.m.-7 p.m. (Featured Groups). Saturday, 7:45 a.m.-3 p.m. (Featured Groups), 3 p.m.-6 p.m. (Featured Holes). Sunday, 7:45 a.m.-2:30 p.m. (Featured Groups), 2:30 p.m.-6 p.m. (Featured Holes).

Radio: Thursday-Friday, 12 p.m.-6:30 p.m ET. Saturday-Sunday, 1 p.m.-6 p.m. ET. (PGA TOUR Radio on SiriusXM and PGATOUR.com/liveaudio).

TOURCast: Get shot-by-shot info in real time with shot tracks and video with TOURCast.

TOUR Pulse: Get the PGA TOUR app to utilize TOUR Pulse, which provides users the ability to experience a mix of content, such as video highlights, written hole summaries and stat graphics on every player after every hole they complete.

Phil Mickelson’s bag: How it compares to past wins at Colonial

Following his improbable PGA Championship triumph, Phil Mickelson is right back in the thick of the action. Twice a champion at Colonial Country Club, Mickelson returns for the Charles Schwab Challenge.

The 50-year-old’s current setup has certainly changed from the artillery he chose early in his career.

Indeed, the equipment landscape itself is entirely different than it was when Mickelson won his first of now 45 PGA TOUR events (as an amateur) in 1991! Titanium drivers were only beginning to show up on TOUR in Lefty’s early years, and Mickelson’s longtime sponsor, Callaway, didn’t release the Great Big Bertha until 1995.

The history of modern golf equipment has literally played out in Mickelson’s bag as a professional.

The differences in Mickelson’s current setup compared to 2000, when he won the first of his two Charles Schwab Challenges, are immediately apparent. His Yonex Super A.D.X. driver was a fraction of the size of his 450 cc Callaway Epic Speed Triple Diamond. Mickelson has been leaning on a TaylorMade Original One Mini Driver as his second fairway wood this season – the total amount of technology in his two Yonex fairway woods of 2000, or even his Callaway FT-5 driver and FT Tour 3-wood of 2008, is the difference between the Ford Model T and the Ford GT.

Interestingly, Mickelson played Ping Eye 2 wedges throughout his early years and had a 60-degree Eye 2 in the bag for his 2000 win at Colonial. One look at his current PM Grind wedges, and it’s clear the Eye 2 shaping was the original inspiration for the design Mickelson and Callaway engineers continue to refine.

Also notable on the similarities front: the 8802-style heel-shafted blade putter Mickelson has preferred throughout most of his career was present in the bag for both victories and will be in Phil’s hands this week as well. In 2000, Mickelson gamed a custom Bettinardi blade. In 2008, it was the same Odyssey “Phil Mickelson” blade shape that he won with at last week’s PGA Championship.

Check out Mickelson’s WITBs for his 2000 and 2008 wins at Colonial and what he has in the bag this week.

2000

Driver: Yonex Super A.D.X. (8 degrees)
Shaft: Yonex PM Proto

3-wood: Yonex Super A.D.X. (13 degrees)
Shaft: Yonex PM Proto

Irons: Yonex Super A.D.X. Tour Forged (2-PW)
Shafts: Precision Rifle 7.0

Wedges: Yonex PM Forged (56), Ping Eye 2 (60)
Shafts: PM 7.0, Eye2 X100

Putter: Bettinardi PM Blade

Ball: Titleist Professional 100

2008

Driver: Callaway FT-5 Tour (8.5 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana White Board Proto 73 X

3-wood: Callaway FT Tour (13 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana White Board 73 X

Irons: Callaway X Forged (2-4), Callaway X Proto MB (5-PW)
Shafts: Project X Rifle 7.0 Satin

Wedges: Callaway X Forged (52, 56, 60)
Shafts: Project X Rifle 7.0 Satin

Putter: Callaway White Hot XG PM Blade

Ball: Callaway TOURix

2021

Driver: Callaway Epic Speed Triple Diamond (6 degrees @5.5 , green dot cog)
Shaft: Fujikura Ventus Black 6 X (47.9 inches)

2-wood: TaylorMade Original One Mini Driver (11.5 degrees)
Shaft: Fujikura Ventus Black 7 X

Irons: Callaway X Forged UT (16), Callaway X21 UT Proto (19 degrees @20.5, 25), Callaway Apex MB ‘21 (small groove) (6-PW)
Shafts: (16) MCA MMT 105 TX, KBS Tour V 125 S+

Wedges: Callaway PM Grind ’19 “Raw” (52-12@50, 55-12, 60-10)
Shafts: KBS Tour V 125 S+

Putter: Odyssey Milled Blade “Phil Mickelson”
Grip: SuperStroke Pistol GT Tour

Ball: Callaway Chrome Soft X (Triple Track)

Grips: Golf Pride MCC

JANE PARK RECORDS ‘PERFECT’ HOLE-IN-ONE DURING FIRST ROUND

The first round of the Pure Silk Championship presented by Visit Williamsburg at Kingsmill Resort had a hole-in-one from Jane Park, the first in her 15-year LPGA Tour career. The #LPGAMom found the bottom of the cup on the par-3 5th from 148 yards with an 8-iron.

“I actually hit the perfect shot. People by the green said it rolled in just like a putt,” said Park, who shot a 3-over par 74 on the River Course in the first round. “I hit exactly where I wanted to, and once I saw it hit the green, I kind of turned away and started walking back towards my bag. Then I heard an eruption of applause up by the green. There were a few volunteers, and my cousin is here watching. One of my playing partners said, ‘You holed out.’ I got chills. Started jumping up and down. High fived everyone.”

For the ace, CME Group will donate $20,000 to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which is leading the way the world understands, treats and defeats childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases. The 2021 season now has five aces for a total of $100,000 in donations to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

 

“Did you say $20,000?” Park said in questioning amazement. “Wow, well it is an absolute honor to help the cause and obviously, having a baby girl myself, I sympathize with all those parents suffering with sick children. I’m just so happy that I can be part of that. It’s really awesome.”

BE WARY OF THE WEARY GOLFER: WEI-LING HSU FIRES OPENING 66 ON ALMOST NO SLEEP

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. | The rock band Bon Jovi used to belt the lyrics “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” in the early 90s. Of course, Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora also slept past noon during their touring days. And almost never did the band play on four hours of sleep a night for the better part of a week.

Wei-Ling Hsu, the 26-year-old Taiwanese player in her sixth season on the LPGA Tour, doesn’t know much about big-haired stadium rock. But she can certainly relate to some of the words Jon wrote. “Sometimes I sleep / Sometimes it’s not for days.”

“I’ve only slept I will say 20 hours in the last five days,” Hsu said after going out in the morning at Kingsmill Resort and firing a bogey-free, 5-under par 66. “Since I didn’t get much sleep, I didn’t really expect much this week. Just try to sleep and relax and play golf.” Then she laughed, shook her head and said, “I mean, I’m so tired.”

Hsu is not an insomniac. Far from it. She loves a good nap as much as the next person. But like many travelers, sleeping on airplanes is a problem for her. So, the 8,500-mile trip from Chonburi and the Honda LPGA Thailand to Williamsburg and the Pure Silk Championship was always going to be tough. However, Hsu had even more stress in the middle. Last Thursday, she played a 36-hole qualifier in Arizona for the U.S. Women’s Open.

“I actually flew into L.A., picked up my mom and then drove all the way from L.A. to Phoenix,” she said. “I got in on Wednesday, no, no, no, on Tuesday, and then had a practice round on Wednesday.”

 

We’ve all been there. Days run together. Eyes feel as dry as rice paper. Every step is an effort. “I didn’t really play a practice round,” Hsu said of her prep for the qualifier. “I was just too tired. I couldn’t even swing. So, I just got a cart and drove around. Didn’t even chip and putt. I just looked at the course. I’d never been there, but I was so tired I didn’t want to leave that golf cart. I was just like, ‘I can’t do it.’ And I needed to play 36 holes the next day, so I told myself that it was okay just to drive around.”

 

Turns out it was 37 holes. Hsu was in a playoff for the final alternate spot. She made a birdie putt on the first extra hole to earn the alternate spot and will be waiting anxiously in San Francisco in a couple of weeks to see if she is in the field at Olympic Club.

 

But the travel odyssey wasn’t over. “I had a redeye flight that night, which was like 11:05 pm or something from Phoenix to Charlotte,” she said. “So, by the time I got home I was like, ‘Oh, my God,’ because I’d only slept two hours.”

 

A couple of days on the east coast where she tried to catch up and she was back in the car to Kingsmill.

 

“I think I just need to recognize that you need breaks and you have to tell yourself, ‘Hey, you are tired,’ and not be like, ‘Oh, I’ve still got a tournament going on, I need to practice, hit like a thousand balls on the range.’ I feel like if I can sleep well, I can hit more quality shots and have a clear mind, recognizing that (sleep) is helping my body relax and recover.”

 

Low expectations might have played a role in Hsu’s great opening around. “I just didn’t really set any goals,” she said. “I had a good experience in Thailand and Singapore because when we go overseas, it’s really hot and high humidity, so after 18 holes you are always hot and sweating. You can’t really do anything on the driving range or putting green (because of the heat), so I tried to take a break and relax more after my rounds. It felt pretty good. I think I’ve learned from that experience and I’m carrying it forward to this week.

 

So, what is her game plan for the rest of the week in Virginia?

 

“Sleep,” she said with a smile and shoulders that sagged in relief, proving once again that the old adage holds true: Be wary of the weary. For they are capable of surprising things.