Planet Golf — 17 March 2016 by Candace Oehler
JTBC Founders Cup Preview

Candace Oehler

Phoenix, AZ – March 16, 2016 – LPGA tournaments are always great fun and the JTBC Founders Cup at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Wildfire Golf Course is one of the best. From the dramatic Media Day helicopter arrival of four LPGA stars, to Diamondbacks pitchers competing against the pros in a Big Break glass shattering contest, this event is full of surprises.

It’s also notable for the very public way it honors the history of the LPGA and the 13 women who formed what has turned into a massive global tour. As the PGA pays homage to Arnold Palmer this week at Bay Hill, here in the desert tribute is being paid to those pioneers of ladies golf.  Founders Row offers a unique LPGA history lesson, while the game’s future is represented throughout with LPGA-Girls Golf program activities.

In a fresh take on the Pro-Am scramble, each foursome on Wednesday played with not one, but two LPGA pros, one on the first nine, and another on the second. It was definitely a treat for the amateurs, and certainly less time-consuming for the pros.  Forty-six groups, 104 amateurs, and 92 pros made for a long, but entertaining day.

Lydia Ko, 10-time winner and World #1 in the Rolex rankings, played with a group that included former Major League pitcher Chan Ho Park, the first South Korean-born player to make it to the Majors.

“It was really cool to play alongside a legendary player like him He seemed like he really loved golf, so that was really cool to see.”

On state of her game

It can always get better, but we’re trying to progressively get better every day. I feel this is a course where I’ve played well the last couple of years, so I feel god coming into it this week. Hopefully by tomorrow, a lot of things will be more polished.

How her swing has evolved since working with David Leadbetter

I think that the biggest difference is probably the club face at the top. Even since day one, we’ve said let’s keep it with rhythm, and just try to make things so it would be a little more efficient and simple for me.  I used to play with a really closed clubface, now I’m playing with a much more square clubface.  People have been thinking that we’ve been doing a lot of swing changes, but there’s only a few things we’ve been working on,  and we’re just trying to polish it.

We’re not working on a whole new technique, or a whole new swing or a whole new way to come down; we’re still working on the same thing but using different drills to approach it.

The more time I spend on Tour, the more times something will go out of place; if it’s more simple and efficient then I won’t need to compensate to bring it to square.

Why her putts per round have decreased

I’m trying to work to get better on all parts of my game. Unless I hit 14 fairways every round and unless I make every single putt I need to make when I’m on the green, then there is no perfect swing.  I’m always trying to get progressively better with it.  At the end of the day, a four-footer may seem short, but it means a lot.  So I’m working on that.

How having fun helps her on the course

That’s the most important thing for me. In the middle of last year, I kind of lost having fun for a month or so, and I don’t know why that kind of came on me.  But after one round with Jessica Korda, with her bubbly character and personality, I started having fun again and realized how important that is to me. You think it would be so easy to say, “hey, just go have fun,” but obviously at the end of the day it means so much to you that brings pressure and stress.  But having fun is I think very important but at the same time, trying to work hard and get better.

But if you don’t have fun, I feel it’s not worth it, spending all those hours and all that time out there to try and get better.

On going to the Masters this year (where she will be honored by the GWAA as their Female Player of the Year):

Last year, I really wanted to go to the Masters but I decided to go home and chill out. I’m just really excited; I’ve heard so many great things about it.  Anna Nordqvist said it almost feels like you’re walking into a postcard, it’s so perfect.  I haven’t had that many opportunities to go out and watch PGA Tour players in person and that’s one thing I’m really excited about.  I’m just excited to see the whole vibe of things.  There’s a reason why the Masters is the Masters, and you kind of want to experience it  yourself.

And I’m really looking forward to getting the opportunity to meet Jordan Speith; I’ve heard so many great things about him. And I’m looking forward to taking a photo with him.

Tournament play begins tomorrow.  Marquee groups to watch include Karrie Webb/Juli Inkster/Azahara Munoz; Lydia Ko/Paula Creamer/Jessica Korda; Cristie Kerr/Inbee Park/Suzann Pettersen; and Michelle Wie/Cheyenne Woods/Megan Khang.  Defending champion Hyo Joo Kim tees off at 7:40 am (Pacific) on the 10th.

Note:  Longest name in the tournament – Pannarat Thanapolboonyaras from Thailand (at just 18, the youngest player in the 2016 rookie class).







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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; 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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