Planet Golf — 13 February 2016 by Candace Oehler
LPGA Founders Cup Lands in Style

February 12, 2016  – PHOENIX, AZ

by Candace Oehler

The 6th annual LPGA JTBC Founders Cup (March 15-20, 2016) Media Day was really entertaining, especially for the junior golfers who got to take the morning off school to hang with their idols and, in some cases, even hit balls and putt with them.

The day got off to a high-flying start when, in the middle of LPGA Communications Director Kraig Kann’s welcome, two helicopters circled overhead and (watch) subsequently landed on the range area at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Wildfire Golf Club. Making a grand exit from one were LPGA pros Sadena Parks, Cheyenne Woods, and Lizette Salas from one; with celebrity guests Russ Ortiz (retired MLB pitcher) and Nick Lowery (retired NLF kicker) exiting the other. Waiting for them on the ground were Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee and Morning Drive reporter Bailey Mosier.

It was an appropriately big moment, symbolic of the enormous growth of the LPGA.

Kann briefly detailed the impressive by-the-numbers success the LPGA has achieved from 2011-2016.

  • Number of tournaments: 2011 – 25 events | 2016 – 34 events
  • Total purse: 2011 – $42 million | 2016 – $65 million
  • Event purses of $2 million or more: 2011 – 8 | 2016 – 15
  • Televised hours: 2011 – 211 | 2016 – 410+
  • Network television weekend coverage: 2011 – 2 days | 2016 – 6 days
  • Players from more than 30 countries are represented on the Tour, and tournaments are hosted in 15 different countries. It’s no wonder that the LPGA is now seen in 170 countries

The morning activities included a driving and putting competition between the pros, with Sadena edging Lizette and no winner declared on the putting green. There was also an impressive Cheyenne Woods field goal with Nick Lowery holding.  And as the Tour continues to shatter records, the ladies were there to shatter glass, ala Golf Channel’s Big Break style.  Sadena, the UW grad with Big Break experience behind her, failed in her attempts. Meanwhile, however, both members of Team Pink (Lizette and partner Russ Ortiz) were successful, as was Bailey, a junior golfer partnered with Cheyenne Woods.

NOTES & QUOTES

Sadena Parks

The UW graduate and former Big Break Florida competitor is the first African American to earn her Tour card through the Symetra Tour and just the fifth African American to play on the LPGA Tour. The Spanaway native was also the first African American golfer at the UW, where she had three top-10 finishes and twice shot career-low rounds of 66. Her 2015 season was unlike that of any other rookie, with her appearance in ESPN’s Body issue.

Known for her competitiveness, she told the juniors to just enjoy the game and have fun. “Stay present, enjoy it and work hard.”

She also did her best to teach them some of (watch) her wacky signature warmup moves.

Cheyenne Woods, who returned to Q school in 2015 to improve her status:

“Q School is one of the most stressful weeks you’ll ever go through.   Going back this year wasn’t my ideal situation, but I wanted to make the most of it and play well. And fortunately going into the last day I had the chance to earn my card back. I had to buckle down the last 9-12 holes and get it done. Fortunately I did and I’m looking forward to the year.”

Woods won the 2014 Volvik RACV Ladies Masters on the European Tour, is a two-time Arizona high school state champion, two-time All-American at Wake Forest, and 2011 ACC Individual Champion. She became the 6th African American golfer on the LPGA (following Sadena Parks) and acknowledged the steep learning curve on Tour.

“It’s like you’re always learning, no matter how long you’re out here. Every year’s different. Every year is an evolution of my game and getting comfortable with my situation and learning how to win and how to play well.”

Lizette Salas, Girls Golf Ambassador, 1-time winner, and 2-time Solheim Cup member

“Being a Girls Golf Ambassador gives you a sense of joy that you’re going something right out here. It definitely gives LPGA tour players a perspective on the next generation. They look up to us and it really gives our job a different meaning.”

On the 2015 Solheim Cup, where her singles victory over Azahara Muñoz was a key in the astonishing US comeback: “It was definitely the biggest thing I’ve ever been a part of. And to get my first full point when it was desperately needed, and in front of the entire world watching, looking back at the footage the shots I pulled out, it’s just amazing that 12 girls with different stories, all had the same goal and had the biggest comeback in history. I’m ready for my trip to the White House!”

Nick Lowery (Nick Lowery Youth Foundation @ nicklowery.org)

The former kicker’s advise to the girls was simple.

“You have to manage your stake; be aware that you are in charge of your little office. It’s the same thing for me, 3 yards by 4 yard as a kicker between you and the ball, it’s slightly smaller for you all over the ball. In the end you take care of that and don’t worry about anything else.”

About the Tournament

The 6th annual JTBC Founders Cup will be played March 15-20, 2016 at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Wildfire Golf Club.   The event has a $1.5 million purse up for grabs. The JTBC Founders Cup was created to honor the 13 women who started the LPGA in 1950. Today the Founders Cup has a strong charitable component that speaks to its roots, helping the LPGA-USGA Girls Golf Program to the tune of over $3 million raised. The money helps bring the program to new markets and expand the scope in existing markets.

More information available at: lpgafounderscup.com

 

 

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About Author

Candace Oehler’s deep dive into sports media began several decades ago when she won a trip from Seattle to Mariners spring training in Arizona. Noting that non-English-speaking Latino ball players received little, if any, media coverage, she fluently/en español became a pioneer in Spanish sports media, and eventually became known affectionately throughout the Latino MLB community as “La Veterana.” Candace has written for team publications and MLB.com; hosted her own radio show on several Spanish-language stations; served as producer/reporter/engineer for the Mariners’ inaugural season of Spanish radio broadcasts; and has been a reporter for MLB Network Radio the past 10 years. She was invited to Venezuela by future Hall-of-Fame shortstop Omar Vizquel to cover rebuilding efforts and accomplishments of his charitable foundation following the devastating 1999 mudslides; worked in Puerto Rico for former Major Leaguers Joey Cora and Carlos Baerga managing fundraising events; and was the only female in the raucous locker room when the hometown favorite Licey Tigers won the 2004 Caribbean World Series in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Candace was introduced to the game of golf in 1992 by members of Seattle’s historic Fir State Golf Club, who had approached her to manage their (then) little fundraising tournament hosted by a shy, gangly 15-year old Tiger Woods. Candace co-managed the annual event for nearly 20 years, working with hosts that included Ken Griffey, Sr., Birdie Griffey, Mike Cameron, Nate McMillan, Warren Moon, and Dale Ellis. She became secretary of the club and the Fir State Junior Golf Foundation, and got totally, completely hooked on golf, learning to play on a set of Redbirds given to her by the club (apparently they considered her mother’s Patty Bergs a bit antiquated). She has since traded up to another set of Redbirds and a much more user-friendly golf environment in Arizona. And, once a prolonged stint on the DL is over, she can’t wait to get back on the course and continue lowering her current 21-handicap to ….?

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