Major Losses Overshadowing Victories

As I watched the television coverage from the Masters I noticed that when analysts recalled the 2016 Masters, they did not speak of Danny Willett’s win, they focused on Jordan Spieth’s meltdown. Spieth had a five shot lead when he came to the back nine then disaster — bogeys on 10 and 11 followed by a quadruple-bogey (seven) on hole 12. Willett shot a bogey free 67 but that doesn’t matter because most golfers remember Spieth losing the Masters. Plus, it doesn’t help that Willett has played horribly since winning.

The ANA Inspiration is another example. Can you name the winner of the 2017 ANA? I bet if you are a golf fan you vividly remember that Lexi Thompson was assessed a four-stroke penalty due to a Rules infraction that occurred during Saturday’s third round which was “phoned-in” by a fan watching the broadcast. Thompson played through tear-filled eyes to give herself a chance in a playoff against So Yeon Ryu and Ryu won.

As with the Masters, much of the golf coverage leading up to the 2018 ANA championship focused on what happened to Lexi Thompson in 2017 thus taking away from the normal focus on the previous winner.

I cannot remember who won the  2012 Kraft Nabisco (now called the ANA Inspiration) but I remember the image of I.K. Kim missing a one-foot putt for the win. I had to look up the winner – I.K. Kim lost to Sun Young Yoo. Or should I say Sun Young Yoo won the 2012 Kraft Nabisco in a playoff.

I would guess most golf fans cannot tell you who won the 2017 U.S. Women’s Open but they will remember Anna Nordqvist was assessed a two-stroke penalty because a television viewer “phoned-in” that her club had grazed the sand in the bunker. This did impact the championship outcome with Brittany Lang coming out on top.

A true golf fan will know the name Jean Van de Velde. Van de Velde is famous for his meltdown at the 1999 British Open. Every year the video of Van de Velde’s meltdown is shown sometime during the week of the British Open. I had to look up the winner, it was Paul Laurie.

Even Jordan Spieth’s 2015 U.S. Open win at Chambers Bay will always have an asterisk noting Dustin Johnson’s 3-putt on the 18th hole causing him to lose the championship. Most golf fans were not shocked that Spieth won but how he won was shocking. Of course, redemption came when DJ won the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont.

The bottom line is “a win is a win” (as the saying goes) but it must be frustrating for a winner who’s victory will always be overshadowed by the story of the person that lost.

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Lydia Ko wins USGA Women’s Amateur: second-youngest winner at age 15

2012 USGA Women’s Amateur Overview

There is no surprise that Lydia Ko won the USGA Women’s Amateur because she is the #1 ranked amateur in the world rankings (WAGR).  It is amazing that she has held the number one spot for over 40 weeks (and was 14 when she attained the rank).  She is another young prodigy poised for golf greatness.

The USGA Women’s Amateur is a four-day event.  The first two days are stroke play and the top 64 players advance to the weekend match play rounds.  Lydia Ko played Janye Marie Green, an 18-year-old American, for the title.   Janye Marie Green was ranked 14th in the world and moved up to the 7th ranked player after coming in second at the USGA Women’s Amateur.

Janye Marie Green did challenge Lydia Ko in the finals but Ko went 3 up to win the title.  The turning point in the final was late in the second round of the final day; specifically on the 24th and 25th holes.  Green hit a tree on the 24th hole ending up in a horrible position. Green tried twice to hit the ball back into the fairway.  She could not advance the ball and had to concede the hole.  On the next hole, Green hit a beautiful shot onto the green and looked like she might win the hole because Ko was still off the green. It was amazing to watch Ko chip in and make a birdie to go 3 up.  Green never got back in the match.

Age and the USGA Women’s Amateur:

If you read my previous post, “They just keep getting younger: 10-year-old Latanna Stone makes history,” then you know I believe there should be an age limit to compete in the Women’s Amateur.  So while watching the USGA Women’s Amateur, I tweeted the following:

Tweet about youngest and oldest players in USGA Womens AmateurAs you can see from the tweet, 10-year-old Latanna Stone missed the cut; but so did the oldest player Brenda Picardo (who was age 56).  Honestly, I was really hoping the oldest player would make the cut.

So once again, I want to highlight the power of social media because the USGA listened to the “twitter conversation” and answered my question.  The USGA first marked my tweet as a “favorite” (which gave me a hint that they might reply later).  The next day, the USGA did tweet age related information.  Here is the first tweet (after my tweet) from the USGA:

First Tweet of USGA explaining ages of remaining players

After I tweeted my age question, the USGA sent a tweet with age ranges

Now, the USGA did not re-tweet my question (which would have been nice) but they did provide the information.  The USGA continued to tweet age information.  It is interesting to see that the average age kept dropping with each round of golf.

Note: To read a tweet stream (in chronological order) go from bottom to top — or 9 Aug to 11 Aug

USGA Tweets age information for Women’s Amateur

Although the tweets do not mention it, Jayvie Agojo is a 26-year-old mother with a young daughter.  Agojo’s amateur world golf ranking went from 155 to 108 after the tournament.

Paula Reto is a 22-year-old who did not even take up the golf until 2005.  Reto was a member of Purdue’s winning team at the 2010 NCAA Division I Women’s National Championship.  After the USGA Women’s Amateur tournament Reto moved from 27th to 22nd in the amateur world golf rankings WAGR.

Does being a great amateur translate to being a great professional golfer?

The final tweet acknowledges Kimberley Kim who won the Women’s amateur at the age of fourteen.  I was curious what happened to Kim because I do not recall seeing her play in the LPGA events I watch (or course, not all players are highlighted on television).

To my surprise Kim has not had a successful professional career. The LPGA has a minimum age requirement so Kim turned pro after the age of 18.  Her LPGA bio shows zero earnings as a professional during her rookie year in 2011.  She missed every cut and it appears did not qualify to return to the tour.  According to another online bio, Kim did so poorly that the website, soulsisters.com stated:

“At Qualifying School in the Fall, she played so terribly that she did not even gain Futures Tour membership, let alone LPGA membership (her first round was an 89!). Presumably she is not ready to give up on pro golf, but exactly what her immediate plans are is unknown.”

note: Kim is American and half-Korean so that is why the website soulsisters.com, a website that follows Korean players on the LPGA, lists her bio.

As for Lydia Ko, all things point to an amazing future.  Ko has already won a professional golf event as an amateur.  In January, she made history winning the women’s New South Wales Open (Ko is from New Zealand and was born in South Korean).  Ko seems well grounded, plans to remain an amateur, and then go to college.

They just keep getting younger: 10-year-old Latanna Stone makes history

In June, 14-year-old, Andy Zhang became the youngest player to qualify and play in the US Open.  This week another young golfer makes news.  Latanna Stone, age 10, qualified for the US Women’s Amateur.

When I heard about Andy Zhang I thought he was too young.  I was curious what a few of the golf experts I follow on twitter thought of his age.  I sent a tweet and got a reply from Stina Sternberg, Senior Editor, Golf Digest.  Below is the twitter conversation.

Twitter conversation with Stina SternbergI was a bit surprised by Stina Sternberg’s reply.  I still felt that 14 was too young.  My opinion is that 18 would be a reasonable age requirement.  After all, the USGA has “age limits” for other championships (e.g. junior and senior events).

When I saw the news this week that a 10-year-old made the US Women’s Amateur, I said out loud (to myself) — “ridiculous.”  I have no doubt the young girl is very talented but I just don’t agree with a 10-year-old competing in the event.

You might have caught that in the tweet above, Sternberg said “If you qualify, I don’t care if you are 10…”  So imagine my surprise when I saw this tweet from Sternberg…

Stina Sternberg wrote a great article about Latanna Stone.  Sternberg explains Stone’s background and highlights the fact this young girl is home schooled and has a  “professional website”.  Sternberg suggests it is time for the “USGA to revisit its own regulations.”  Sternberg goes on to state that the USGA should have them “wait until they’re at least 14 to qualify for the U.S. Amateur.”  I still think 14 is too young but I’m glad to see Sternberg does feel 10-years-old is too young.

I know it is common for kids today to spend a lot of time playing and practicing their chosen sport.  My friends with kids spend hours traveling around on weekends to take the kids to soccer, basketball, baseball, and hockey games.  But, these kids compete against other kids.  I support all the AJGA (American Junior Golf Association) competitions and the USGA’s junior competitions where young golfers compete against their peers.

So why the urgency to play in the other events?  Because the can? Only the young golfer (and the parents) know the real motivation.  I must admit I wonder if the parents worry about their child suffering from burnout or repetitive motion injuries (which could happen just when they should be peaking for a professional career.)

The bottom line is that until the age limits change these kids have a right to play in the events.  It’s impossible to deny the amazing talent they posses.  So, congratulations to these young golfers for making it to the highest level of amateur golf.  I just hope these young golfers get to be “kids” too!