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A Generational Talent

As you regular readers know, I am a huge fan of the LPGA and try to promote it whenever I have a chance. I find the golf more in line with my game, as opposed to the PGA tour. I don't hit my drives 340 yards or us a nine iron from 195 yards like the men do. Of course there also is the fact that the ladies are much easier on the eyes then the men are, but that is secondary.

Their skill level is very high, although many of them struggle inside of 100 yards which should be their strength. Like all golfers the better putters are the frequent winners and we can all putt so we can relate. We may not make many, but we can do it.

Nancy Lopez was the reason for my interest in ladies golf. When she left the University of Tulsa after her sophomore year and joined the LPGA she set the golfing world on fire. She won nine tournaments in her first season including five in a row. She totaled 51 wins in her storied career and she always had a smile on her face, win or lose, when she met with the media or the fans. Today's golfers, on all tours, could take some lessons from her.

I enjoyed the Jan Stephenson and Beth Daniel era's also. The golf was good and the tour had many women winning in those years as nobody really dominated. There were plenty of ladies to cheer for and this is the time that I attended my first LPGA event when they were in Chicago back in 1974 for the U.S. Women's Open at LaGrange CC where Sandra Haynie defeated Beth Stone and the great Carol Mann.

There was a dry spell for the tour until Annika Sorenstam burst onto the scene. I've told my story of my meeting Annika at the U.S. Women's Amateur at the 1992 event held at Kemper Lakes where she lost in a heartbreaker to Vickie Goetze. Annika remains my favorite golfer of all time. She has 97 wins worldwide including 10 majors. She is the greatest woman's golfer of all time. When she retired Lorena Ochoa took over the mantle for a few years until she retired from golf to be a full time mom.

Stacy Lewis took over from Lorena and dominated golf for years until injuries slowed her down. She is another of my all-time favorites. I loved her steely determination and refusal to be beaten by anyone. She will be this years Solheim Cup captain for the US and hopefully she can bring that grit to the rest of her team.

For the past several seasons the tour has had a string of pack leaders take over number one and then lose it shortly thereafter. The US has been led by Lexi Thompson and the Korda sisters, Jessica and Nellie. Nobody has really dominated like Annika, or even Stacy. The closest, maybe has been Lydia Ko who seemingly won everything her rookie year.

We now might just have the next generational player to come along since Annika in Rose Zhang. She has won everything there is to win as an amateur including back to back NCAA titles, something nobody has ever done before. After leading Stanford to their title last week she announced she was turning pro and was immediately given a sponsors exemption to this weeks tournament.

Her hope was to make the cut. I mean, considering this is her first tournament as a pro who would expect anything beyond that? Well, she promptly went out and beat 80+ professionals in her first event to win in a playoff and not only do something that hasn't been done on the LPGA tour in 71 years, win in their first professional event, but she also secured her tour card and immediately qualifies as a possible captain's pick for the Solheim Cup later this year.

Oh, yeah. She did all this with the whole world heaping unbelievable expectations on her and she did it with a smile on her face and a pleasant relationship with the media who was relentless in wanting to speak to her each day.

It is too early to start the Nancy Lopez/Annika Sorenstam comparisons, but watching her for these past four days, and seeing her in her amateur career, she looks like she might be it for golf. Whatever you think about ladies golf, when she is teeing it up you need to watch her because she is going to be something. I don't know if she will be Tiger/Annika big, but she is gong to give them a run to be sure.

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