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CARLY FROST
Editor
Ladies Golf Today

Carly's blog - news and views on the world of ladies' golf
April 03, 2014


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KRAFT NABISCO CHAMPIONSHIP - PREVIEW SPECIAL

Women's top players all set to tee off in the first Major of the year

I can't believe it's that time of year already, when the world's top female players will be put under the spotlight in the first Major of the year. The Kraft Nabisco Championship is always one of my favourites to watch because it really is a fantastic test of golf and brings the best players to the fore. It's also always played in a great fun spirit and we enjoy watching the champion take that comedy jump into Poppy's Pond after they've been crowned the champion. Of course this early in the season it often throws in the odd unexpected name or two to the top of the leaderboard that adds to the excitement. I'll be watching the scores with interest to see if our ever-growing list of home-grown English professionals are among those challenging for the title. I have a sneaky suspicion that now that Charley Hull has made her professional victory breakthrough there will be no stopping her and she'll be one of the names challenging for the title by the weekend. If you like a bet, she'd be a great each-way contender. I've selected a few others for you below...

Lydia Ko
The New Zealander is the world's hottest teenage golfer at the moment. She won Tour events as an amateur so you bet she can beat the best in the world at the Kraft this weekend. She has a no fear attitude and flair for the game that means that nothing will stop her taking that title once she is rolling those birdies in!

Stacey Lewis
Last year's Women's British Open Champion and the current World No. 3 will be chasing her third Major title this year. She won the Kraft Nabisco Championship back in 2011 and then confirmed her rightful place as one of the world's best female players by grabbing her second Major crown when she conquered the links at St. Andrews last year. The American has recorded top-10 finishes in 16 of her past 17 events on Tour.

Inbee Park
The World Number One is definitely a Major connoisseur winning three of them last year! However as defending champion the pressure will be on the South Korean this week and especially so as she'll be chasing another record - the one held by Annika Sorenstam as the first player to win back-to-back Kraft Nabisco Championships. Annika's were won in 2001 and 2002. Park has gotten off to a hot start in 2014 with four-straight top-10 finishes, including a tie for sixth last week at the Kia Classic.

Azahara Munoz
The Spaniard was one of the starring players on the European Solheim Cup team last summer in Colorado and is a steely competitor. She has recently taken on the LPGA Tour and has made a fantastic start to her season out in the states. A Major would be the next step in her career, and an each way bet at great odds, well worth considering.

Karrie Webb

The Australian is another past champion who has been having an impressive season so far. The 2000 and 2006 winner will enter this week's first major riding high after victories at the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open and JTBC Founders Cup. Webb has played in the Kraft Nabisco 19 times and has finished in the top-20 all but three times including 11 top-10s.

In other Kraft Nabisco news...

Why is Suzann missing?

One of the main names that is missing from the above list is Norwegian superstar Suzann Pettersen who has sadly had to pull out of the championship with back problems.

The World Number 2 has an aggravated disc in her back that is causing her pain that has not eased up so she is unable to compete. She said:
"It's unfortunate that I can't compete this week. I dearly love this event and would do anything to play. At this point I just need to be smart and not make a bad situation worse."

We wish Suzann a speedy recovery back to full fitness.

Amateurs get a unique look at the spot of a legendary shot

One of the most memorable shots in Kraft Nabisco Championship history was Karrie Webb's hole-out on 18 in the 2006 event

While playing a practice round with Webb, Minjee Lee and Su-Hyon Oh, a pair of amateurs competing in their first major, were shown the spot by Webb herself.

"It was cute yesterday because I played the back nine with Minjee Lee and Su Oh, and they were both my scholarship winners. It was their first major they played in and they asked me where I played the shot from," Webb said. "Mikey looked in his yardage book, he said, Right where your mum is standing, to Minjee. I was standing pretty much on the spot. "

An interview with Stacey Lewis...

Q.  You've had a remarkable run over the last couple years.  Of the things that you remember most, what stands out?  What are you most proud of among your accomplishments?
STACY: 
Probably the consistency.  I pride myself on that.  I pride myself on not playing my best golf but still finishing inside the top 10, giving myself chances to win.  Like last week, I didn't feel like I played my best golf, but I still had a chance going into Sunday.  That's what I'm really proud of.            
I definitely would have liked some more wins, especially in the last six months or so, but I feel like I'm moving in the right direction.
           
Q. 
16 of your last 17 events, top 10s.  That's pretty consistent.
STACY:
  That's not bad.  Karrie had to let me know I didn't get a record, so she was pretty happy about that!

Q.  When during the year do you start thinking about Mission Hills and the golf course?  What do you do to start getting ready?
STACY: 
Probably in December, as soon as the year is over.  I work all off-season to get ready for the majors and to be peaking at the right time, to get ready for this week. Really over the last couple months, all my work has gone into this week, having everything sharp.  My coach has been out three weeks in a row, but I've wanted that because I wanted to make sure when I get to this week I'm just ready to play, and we're getting to that point.

Q.  Any specific parts of your game you start working on?
STACY:
  A major obviously tests a little bit of everything.  Early in the season I wasn't hitting the ball the way I wanted to.  I didn't have the height on my shots I normally have.  That's something you need on this golf course.  We kind of worked on the swing, getting some height back in my shots again.
The putting really has been my Achilles' heel so far this year.  It's been really streaky.  I'll have some rounds where I'll make some putts, but I'll have rounds where I've had a lot of putts.
That's what we've been working on the last few days.  I feel like I'm really getting a lot more comfortable with it.
 
Q. Karrie Webb was talking about the way the tour is going right now.  She specifically brought up the Americans and their play, feeling like that is a big positive for the tour.  From your perspective, how important is it for the Americans collectively?  How much do you all talk about it?
STACY: 
Contrary to belief, we don't talk about it a lot.  But I think the Americans playing well, it's huge for this tour.  We're an American-based tour.  I mean, it's no lie that the ratings go up, more media coverage.  Things happen when the American players are playing well.
It's great to see Lexi going into her own.  I played with her on Sunday last week.  She's having fun out there again.  She's playing some really good golf. Paula finally getting a win again.  Cristie is settling into life with her baby.  It's a great time for American golf. I've been saying it and we're finally having the proof.
           
Q. Is getting back to number one something that drives you right now or something that could be a distraction if you think about it too much?
STACY: 
It's really not a distraction because, number one, while I really want to get back, as you kind of saw last year, a lot of it's out of my control.  I played some really good golf last year.  I won a major.  Inbee goes out and wins three.  There's not a whole lot I can do there except win a few more.
I'm going to try to control what I can control, and that's winning golf tournaments, and let the rest take care of itself.

Q.  When you look back on this tournament when you won, what did that do for your confidence?  How did that change everything for you mentally?
STACY: 
One, it's hard to believe how long it's been since we were there.  It really opened my eyes that I could be one of the best players in the world.
At the time I was still kind of struggling for that first win.  It just opened the door for more wins, more confidence that I could do it really.
I don't know.  That final round, I was so motivated just because everybody was giving it to Yani that Saturday night.  Everybody said she was going to run away with it.  I was so motivated that day, there was no way I was going to lose.

Q.  A year ago at this time, nobody would have had any idea Inbee would win three major championships.  Talk about how your viewpoint and the players' viewpoint of her has evolved.
STACY:
  I think it's gotten to the point where you're never surprised when you see her name up there.  It was like last week, you didn't see her name all week, all of a sudden she finishes up there in the top 10.  It's just every week she's there. She's making putts.  It's not like when Yani was number one.  She was reaching par 5s in two, driving it far, being showy with it a little bit.  There's nothing flashy about Inbee's game, but she gets it done.  It doesn't matter what it looks like, it just matters what that score looks like on the scorecard.
           
Q.   A little deeper on a perspective from you about being No. 1, the toll it takes mentally, the learning curve you went through at the end of last year and the start to this year.  Seems like you have a much fresher outlook on everything.  Maybe it's not translating into numbers of victories, but you seem quite different.
STACY: 
Yeah, I don't know what it is.  I think I was so focused on getting back to number one last year that I kind of lost sight of enjoying it and having fun.  Really I'm at a position where I can make an impact, make this tour better, make a lot of other people better around me. I think I've tried to embrace that a little bit more and have more fun with it.  Phoenix was probably the most fun I've had on the golf course in a long time.  Hanging out with the kids that were out there, all the founders walking around.  I don't know.  I'm trying to enjoy it a little bit more and have more fun, realize I'm in a position where I can make an impact, and make it a good one.

Q.  It's not like 39 is old, but ever since you've been out here Karrie Webb has been one of the elite players.  Do players appreciate and marvel at longevity?  Is longevity something that impresses other players?
STACY:  You have longevity, but playing good golf for a long time, which is what Karrie has done.  A lot of us as players, I don't see her as old.  Everybody is writing her as being so old.  She's younger than Phil, a lot of those guys on tour.  She has a few good more years in her. The way she's playing right now, the sky's the limit.  But playing that well, how hard she works, she's been doing this a long time.  She works just as hard as some of the girls that are 18 years old in their first year on tour, she's probably working harder than them. It's great to have her around, to have her perspective, to be around her, to talk to her.  She's great for this tour.  She's always coming up with ideas and ways to make women's golf better.  That's what we need around.

Q.  Your thoughts on Lydia Ko, how she's started her pro career, what sort of threat will she be this week?
STACY: 
I think Lydia is a threat any week.  She's so solid.  She doesn't realize how good she is.  That's the one thing that I'd like to see in her, a little bit more confidence and belief that she can win, belief that she is one of the best players out here because she is.  She's a threat any week.  She's such a good putter.  Very consistent with her irons.  She seems to be getting a little bit more comfortable the week in, week out kind of grind on tour. I think she's going to get more comfortable as the year goes on.  But any week Lydia's a threat.

An interview with Lydia Ko...

Q. Lydia you are already the number four ranked player in the world in women's golf. When you see that in front of your name, number four in the world, that's really remarkable.  What do you think about that?
LYDIA KO:
  It's pretty ridiculous.  I don't really consider myself world number four.  I've obviously played well to get there.  But, yeah, no, I've just taken it week by week.  I guess I've just come to that point. There's still a lot of things I got to learn, but I'm enjoying being out here.
           
Q. Name one thing that you still have to learn that you feel like is really going to help you.
LYDIA KO:
  I think the mental aspect of the game.  I try and enjoy it the most I can.  But it's really hard I guess week by week.  Taking everything in, sometimes you got to make those bogeys or you're going to have those bad rounds, but just kind of getting over it, ready to start the next one.
           
Q. You have top 10s in three of your first six events as a professional.  Impressive.  What is the thing you're striving for the most?  Is it consistency?  Trophies?  Where are you with that?
LYDIA KO:
  I think it's consistency, playing good every week.  I guess that's like a dream.  But playing consistently well.  Sometimes, like I said, there are going to be those bad days, but there's going to be those good days to mend it all up. It would be nice to have those kind of trophies, but for now it's more consistent playing.

Q.  You played here last year.  What did you learn about this golf course last year that you think will help you this year?
LYDIA KO:
  You know, a lot of the courses like this year, I wouldn't have played before.  To me it's an advantage just knowing that I played here before.  The course is really great.  I think the hardest aspect will be the wind, definitely, when it gets up. I'm going to enjoy it out here.  I know how fast the greens can get and how thick the rough can get.

Q.  With a few months under your belt now, what has been the biggest transition and the biggest surprise going from amateur to professional?  Is it a different mindset entering a major championship as a professional as opposed to an amateur?
LYDIA KO:
  You know, comparing professional and amateur stuff, I thought it would be a huge difference.  At the end of the day I notice I'm just doing the same thing, hitting that white ball, getting it into the hole in the least shots as possible.  Yeah, no, I think I overcomplicated stuff that it is going to be different.  I don't think it is a lot. Yeah, no, without thinking about it, I was thinking, It's a major, I need to play well.  I think that was my downfall last year.  I kind of took it more relaxing at Evian.  I played much better.  I'm going to try to think that this week.

Q.  Was the plan always to break away from your coach Guy when you turned pro?  What was the process by which you decided to change coaches?
LYDIA KO:
  I didn't really know what was going to happen.  My petition will be accepted, there were a lot of things that happened between then. Yeah, we knew, like, if I was going to play here full-time, it was going to be hard to see him, especially him being based in New Zealand.  That's why we were looking for some options.  Those options needed to match up with the path I was going to go on. Yeah, it's working well with me with Sean and David right now.  I'm enjoying a little bit.
           
Q. A business question.  You have the logos on the shirt, the hat.  Turning professional brings a whole lot of different things than just playing golf.  How much day-to-day are you involved in the business of Lydia Ko the golfer or do you just focus on teeing off and hitting fairways?
LYDIA KO:
  I try and concentrate on my game.  If they send me clothes with logos, I'll wear them.  I'm wearing what I need to be wearing.  Those business aspects, that's what my parents does and IMG does.  It's kind of really good that I don't need that to think about.  It's hard enough just being able to get that ball in the hole.

Q.  David Leadbetter told me yesterday you look like you're walking on air.  I know you worked with a sports psychologist for a long time.  How did you get your mindset to get so even-keeled?
LYDIA KO:
  People say I look like I'm walking on air, that I'm having fun all the time, I'm smiling.  Things are really different inside in the head.  Sometimes it is hard to play, especially with the expectations and stuff.  I kind of put self-pressure in there, which is not ideal. I try and calm myself down, especially making lots of birdies in a row, that's great.  You can also get overexcited and I guess that's where the adrenaline comes in.  It could be a good thing and a bad thing at the same time.

Q.  What sort of result would you term a success in this tournament?
LYDIA KO:
  I don't know.  I don't really have like a specific number or placing.  Especially coming off the final round last week, I just want to have a really good start.  I've been struggling with that good start the last couple weeks. Starting off well I think will really help the whole week like it happened in Phoenix.

    
An interview with Karrie Webb...

Q. You're a two-time winner this year, one of the best ever to play the game, what are your thoughts about playing in this major? 
KARRIE WEBB:
  It's great to be here.  I'm always excited.  I'm always excited in the lead-up to this event and then obviously getting here.  I've always played well here, obviously won a couple of times. I love this event.  I love the history and the tradition.  I love that I'm a champion of this event, being a part of that history.
           
Q. Seven-time major champion.  Obviously in this game you go through ebbs and flows, great play, then sometimes maybe your confidence isn't the best.  Obviously it's pretty good right now.  Do you feel like you've got many more majors in you?
KARRIE WEBB:
  I hope so.  I feel like my game is as good as it's ever been as far as having the ability to win majors.  Obviously starting the year off as well as I have, it gives me that little bit of confidence going into this week that if I get things going, hopefully down the stretch on Sunday I'll have a shot to win it again.
           
Q. Your wins are impressive, but coming back to win after disappointments is more impressive.
KARRIE WEBB:
  I didn't get off to a good start.  I disqualified myself at the Australian Masters which I love, had lots of family there, so very disappointing.  Really made me feel a bit under-done going into the Australian Open.  That was just a lovely surprise, I guess.  To start the year having a long off-season, you don't know what shape your game is in until you start adding them up. To have a chance on Sunday and to play as well as I did on Sunday at the Australian Open was very special to win at home.  It kick-started a great year. Obviously Singapore, I had a three-shot lead with seven to go, didn't get the job done there, which hasn't happened too many times in my career.  That one stung quite a bit. Then to come back and win in Phoenix helps get over that, which was nice.

Q.  You mentioned you've always played well here.  Is that a matter of the golf course, a matter of coming in here maybe more focused than at other times?  Why is it that you've won it twice and contended numerous times?
KARRIE WEBB: 
I like the golf course.  I think it sets up well for me.  I don't hit it overly long anymore compared to what some of the young girls are doing now, but I feel like I shape the ball well off the tee and generally keep the ball in the fairway, just go from there.  Hit some good iron shots out there. I think this is the 19th time I've played this tournament, so I've had plenty of putts from all different angles on the course.  I feel very comfortable on the greens, as well.
           
Q. Eleven top 10s in those appearances. Both times you won here you had teenagers on your heels.  Seems like the teenagers come and go, but you outlast them.  How do you explain that?
KARRIE WEBB:
  I don't really have any answers to that.  Some of these teenagers are still out here.  They're not teenagers anymore thankfully. That's the beauty of golf, I guess, is that you can play at the highest level for a very long time, if you have the desire to do that.  That's why I try.  Any of the young girls coming out of Australia, I try to tell them there's no need to rush because you can be playing the best golf of your career in your 30s and 40s.  That's been proven out here before. I'm glad that I'm still prepared to put in the hard work and I'm glad that work is paying off.

Q.  When you said you feel your game is as good as it's ever been as far as being able to win majors, can you tell us the fine points of that?
KARRIE WEBB:
  I think I just understand myself a lot more.  I understand each and every day what part of my game is there and what's not.  If it's all there, I'm pretty happy about that. But I just manage myself pretty well.  Early in my career I was very good mentally, but I didn't know how exactly I was approaching that.  I think I've learnt that side of the game a lot in the last 10 years.  I feel like I'm as in good a place mentally on the golf course as I ever have been probably because I understand what it takes out there, what it takes for me to play well.

Q.  You've spoken in the past about you had so much success right away you exceeded your expectations.  This is an Inbee Park question, because she faces that challenge, too.  What is the challenge in following up on that?
KARRIE WEBB: 
I think for Inbee, I mean, she's still got plenty to achieve.  She's still got a long career ahead of her. It's probably hard to set goals for this year saying, What is achieving my goals, when last year I became number one in the world and won three majors.  You don't keep raising your expectations higher than that because that's just a career year.  To think you're going to top that is setting your sights pretty high. She's just got to sit down and look at, you know, what she wants to achieve as a player, what else motivates her.  I'd be shocked to hear if she's not motivated at all by anything else out there. Just continuing to be in contention and win golf tournaments every week for me is motivation enough.  You just have to set different goals that are setting the bar high, but it's a bar that you can jump over.

Q.  The motivations that drive you now, that make you work and grind, how have they evolved or changed from 15 or 20 years ago when you first got here?
KARRIE WEBB:
  Yeah, I think they've definitely changed.  15 years ago I can honestly tell you I woke up every morning before I went to practice or play a golf tournament and it was, What do I need to do to be the best in the world?  That was something that I constantly pushed myself to achieve. Probably didn't enjoy the challenge I set myself as much as I should have.  But now I think I still challenge myself, I still push myself, but I cut myself some slack so I can enjoy life a little bit and enjoy the spoils of good golf.  I realize that it doesn't happen all the time.  It was happening all the time for me 10, 15 years ago.  I think I really did take it for granted. Now my off time away from the course, I think I allow myself to pat myself on the back if I played well and enjoy that.

Q.  You've talked about how much you love this event, the traditions.  With this being Kraft's last year, what would you like to see happen to this event and do you think it needs to stay here?
KARRIE WEBB:
  It definitely needs to stay here.  There's too much history and too much tradition here.  If the LPGA lacks anything, in any other events, it's that.  I definitely think we need to stay here at Mission Hills. My opinion, I have voiced it a few times in the last year or so, is that I think Dinah Shore's name should come back onto the event just to keep that identity.  Whoever comes onboard as a sponsor, you know, it shouldn't just be the sponsor's name because I don't think the tournament will have -- Kraft and Nabisco have been a part of this event for so many years, even when we took Dinah's name off the event, people knew what event it was because they'd been a part of it for so long. A new sponsor coming in, I just feel like to keep the identity of this event, when people tune in to watch, they're going to know, That's the Dinah Shore, the LPGA's first major of the year.  That's what I'd really like to see for 2015 and beyond.

Q.  Given your history here, as well as you've played to start the year, if somebody tells you you're the favorite this week, do you pay much attention to that?
KARRIE WEBB:
  No, I don't pay much attention to that.  There's just so many great players playing well, they've won, they're on the cusp of playing really well, I don't really take much notice of that. It doesn't matter who the favorite is, you still got to get the ball in the hole, and hopefully you're doing it the best on Sunday afternoon.

An interview with... Paula Creamer

Q. You have not had a missed cut in a major in your entire career.  What does that say about you?  That is really impressive.
PAULA CREAMER:
  I guess I've been pretty lucky in that sense.
           
Q. I know Solheim Cups and competition for teams get you fired up.  What is it about a major specifically?  You're competitive.  What else?
PAULA CREAMER:
  The best golf courses are the ones we play.  Great crowds, biggest venues.  Most of the time you play really difficult courses.  Those are the kind of golf courses that I grew up on and that I really love. I love being able to hit every kind of shot in your golf bag and using all 14 clubs.  Most of the majors, they have that.  They have that ability to go to the golf course, every day is kind of different, weather, tee boxes, pin placement.  It can be more aggressive.  I like that kind of golf.
           
Q. If somebody said 22-under is going to win this week or plus-2 might win this week, you relish the plus-2 and the challenge?
PAULA CREAMER:
  I love that.  I think half the battle of golf is also grinding it out and making those pars, eliminating those big mistakes that you can make.  When they hang a carrot in your face, when they move a tee box up, make it a drivable par 4, you have to think a lot, I love that.  That's a whole other part of golf that you have to be good at as well as hitting the shot and making the putt.

Q.  This would seem to be a golf course and a tournament you would thrive in.  It's the one major you haven't had a top 10 in.  Is it too much pushing on yourself or something about the course that doesn't fit your game?
PAULA CREAMER:
  You know, this golf course actually, if you look at it, it really does fit my game really well.  You have to be able to put the ball in the right spots of the greens, give yourself good looks at putts, hit it to the right side of the fairway.  Especially when the rough is up. I believe it will be my 10th time playing here.  I missed one as a professional, but I played one as an amateur.  I feel like maybe I put too much pressure on myself with it being the first major of the year, making my expectations a little bit high, putting the bar a little bit too high. Last year was I think my best finish.  Unfortunately my grandmother passed away that Sunday, Easter Sunday.  My mind was on different things.  I was not really here in a sense.  I just went out and played some golf.  I kind of learned from that that maybe I'm taking these practice rounds and things a little bit too seriously when I come out here instead of just playing golf.

Q. Winning changes the perspective on the tough times you go through.  Now that you have that monkey off your back, have you thought about what was the reason it wasn't falling into place for you?  Was it irons, putting, Lady Luck in a way?
PAULA CREAMER:
  Obviously after I won, it was very close to when I had surgery.  All my doctors, physio, everybody, said, It will take you a good year to overcome and get your left arm back.  I didn't believe them.  Being a stubborn athlete, I thought, Okay, I'll be fine. It really did take a long time.  Changing my golf swing around, I've been working with my coach David since I was 16.  It was a time to really break down my golf swing now that I had my strength back, being able to do things with my golf swing that I've never been able to do before.  For me, that's what I had to do.  I had to go backwards to go forwards.

Q.  You've been coming here for a long time.  With this being Kraft's last year, what would you like to see happen with this tournament in 2015 and beyond?
PAULA CREAMER:
  I mean, this is the 42nd or something year.  I hope we're here another 42 years.  There's not much more to say than just tradition.  There's so much that goes on with this tournament, through the players.  Every woman known to man has walked down that cart path in front of that water.  It's nostalgia.  Hopefully we'll be sitting here saying that in 35 more years, for sure.

Q.  A lot of golfers when they leave juniors and turn pro, they end up with different coaches.  How have you kept the same coach?  What are the challenges?  Can you see why so many golfers go with somebody else?
PAULA CREAMER:
  Yeah, I have been so lucky.  I found a good one.  He's like my dad.  I spend so much time with him.  He knows me better than a lot of people, even my family. I think the biggest thing is he knows how to play golf.  He's been on the European Tour.  He's won.  He knows what it's like to have droughts.  He knows what it's like to win, have confidence over a 6-footer, 10-footer, what it feels like to 3-putt on the last hole. He is a feel player, never has been very technical.  I think the fact that he has watched me grow up and he's watched me since I was 16 just mature into a woman, I think that has helped so much. Our relationship, I trust him with my life.  When he says, We have to do this, I believe it.  I believed in him.  It's the same with my whole team.  Been with my caddie 10 years.  My manager has changed three times in 10 years.  I'm big into loyalty and relationships.  You have to have that if you want to be a number one player or athlete in the world.

Countdown to the next Solheim Cup captain is revealed

If you are curious to know who the next European Solheim Cup captain will be then you don't have to wait much longer.

The announcement will be made at an official press conference at the 2015 Solheim Cup host venue, Golf Club St. Leon Rot, Germany next week.

There has been some speculation as to whether former World Number One Annika Sorenstam might bring herself out of retirement to take on the role. Annika was vice captain to Liselotte Neumann when the Europeans destroyed the Americans in the match play extravaganza for the first time ever on US soil last summer in Colorado and her presence no doubt helped to inspire the team.

I think she would make an amazing caption, so watch this space. I look forward to revealing the new captain to you after it is announced on April 11th.

AMATEUR NEWS

England squad named for French U21 championship

England Golf is sending a squad of six players to the French Lady Junior Championship at St Cloud, near Paris, from April 17-21.

They are: Gabriella Cowley, Annabel Dimmock, Alex Peters, Sophie Keech, Sammy Fuller and Sophie Lamb.

This U21 championship is one of the most prestigious in Europe and always attracts a strong field of leading players, whose places in the tournament are determined by their position in the World Amateur Golf Ranking.

The full field will play two rounds of stroke play qualifying before the leading 32 players go forward to the match play stages of the Esmond Trophy. The next best 16 players aged under 18 will contest the Cartier Trophy which was won last year by England's Bronte Law.
The players:

Gabriella Cowley, 18 (Hanbury Manor, Hertfordshire), was runner-up in this year's Portuguese amateur championship. She won the England Golf girls' order of merit for 2013, a year when her achievements included qualifying for the Women's British Open, winning the Critchley Salver and helping England to retain their crown at the Girls' Home Internationals.
Annabel Dimmock, 17, (Wentworth, Surrey) won the 2014 Jones-Doherty Cup during a successful trip to the USA for the Orange Blossom Tour, where she was also runner-up in the South Atlantic women's amateur. She has followed up by becoming runner-up in the Spanish women's amateur, taking fifth individual place in the European Nations Cup and, with Steven Brown, winning the Sunningdale Foursomes.

Alex Peters, 20, (Notts Ladies', Nottinghamshire) won the 2013 England Golf women's order of merit, sponsored by Lorrin Golf. During the year she was runner-up in the English amateur and Welsh stroke play championships and, like Gabriella Cowley, represented GB&I in the Vagliano Trophy against the Continent of Europe. She reached the quarter finals of this year's Spanish amateur.

Sophie Keech, 17, (Parkstone, Dorset) won the 2013 English girls' championship, to add to her English schools' and South West girls' titles. She was a member of England's winning team at the Girls' Home Internationals. This year she received England Golf's Silver Tee award for the way she combines her golf and her studies.

Sammy Fuller, 14, (Roehampton, Surrey) was in England's winning team at the Girls' Home Internationals and represented GB&I in the Junior Vagliano Trophy. She had top-ten finishes in the 2013 women's Welsh Open, Irish Open and English Close Championships, she won the Bridget Jackson Bowl and was third on the Lorrin Golf England girls' Order of Merit.

Sophie Lamb, 16, (Clitheroe, Lancashire) was leading points scorer in England's winning team at the Girls' Home Internationals, won the girls' championship at the 2013 Fairhaven Trophies and represented GB&I in the junior Vagliano Trophy. She also helped England beat Spain in the annual U16 international.

Crown Golf gives you a great excuse to get junior girls into golf

Crown Golf, the UK's largest golf group, has dropped membership fees for
golfers aged 13 and under with immediate effect at all 25 of its clubs.
The new policy grants a free Junior Membership to under-14s who have at least one parent, grandparent or guardian who is a 7-Day or 5-Day member at the golf club.

The offer - named Juniors Go Free - also extends to members who have joined Crown Golf's new Freedom Play flexible membership, which is available at 18 of the group's properties.

Hundreds of existing junior members will receive an instant benefit, their
fees being reduced to nil when they renew their membership this year.
"We are serious about playing our part in safeguarding the future of the
sport" said Crown Golf Chief Executive Officer Stephen Lewis, "and Juniors
Go Free is the strongest possible statement we can make.

"Juniors Go Free means that many existing members will now enrol their
children at the club for the first time" he continued. "Far more families
will get fully involved at a Crown Golf club in 2014: we're sending a clear
message out, that golf is not just for the parents.

"It is also key that our new Freedom Play members can access this scheme. We believe that flexible membership should mirror full membership as closely possible, as regards its fringe benefits."

Mill Green and Chesfield Downs, two of the group's clubs in Hertfordshire,
both have over thirty under-14s who will immediately benefit from free
membership. "This is fantastic news for dozens of families at our golf club"
said Shaun Bakker, Mill Green GC's General Manager. "We already have a
strong junior section, and this will take junior golf at Mill Green to
another level in 2014."

At Chesfield Downs, which like Mill Green has a 9-hole par 3 course on which youngsters can hone their game, General Manager Tim Hudson is equally positive. "We and St Mellion already have the largest under-14 junior memberships in the Crown Golf group, but we expect Juniors Go Free to trigger an instant influx of new junior members in 2014.

"This makes the club attractive to families who want to be welcomed rather than discouraged, which is a common complaint about British golf clubs from non-golfers."

Crown Golf members can each enrol up to two children or grandchildren aged 13 or under, in the scheme. Juniors who join under the scheme must play with an adult, when they play on the club's full-length golf course.
Earlier this year St Mellion International Resort, the group's flagship
property, introduced a Junior Golf Scholarship for 25 young golfers aged
between 12 and 18. Each junior on a St Mellion Junior Golf Scholarship
receives free golf and coaching at the club, with scholarships being
re-assessed on an annual basis.

"We will also be introducing further family-friendly initiatives in 2014"
said Stephen Lewis, "as this year we want to encourage family membership as much as possible, across the group."

NEW GEAR

Give your clubs a push!

If you are looking to boost your fitness and push your clubs around the course rather than damage your back by carrying a bag then there are a couple of new push trolleys from leading brand Big Max that might interest you.

The first new model is the IQ+. Standing at just 61 cm high, 45 cm wide and 38cm deep when folded, the IQ+ is ultra-compact and will fit in virtually any car boot along with a full golf bag. After deploying the 'one shake' unfolding mechanism, the IQ+ benefits from robust construction ideal for any size or weight bag, a hand brake, a closed organiser panel that will keep scorecards and valuables dry, a large storage net and two quick fix adaptors for umbrella or GPS holders. It's available in Black/Lime, Black/Red, White/Lime and White/Red and priced at £199.99

The second new trolley from Big Max is the Ti1000 AutoFold. With a compact design and stable construction that accommodates even the largest Tour bag, this trolley glides along the fairways. When it comes to packing away, one simple hand movement collapses the Ti1000 AutoFold with even the front wheel tucking in under the body of the trolley as part of the movement. Big Max's Auto-Fix mechanism then clicks in and the collapsed trolley is ready to pack away.

With several colour options and quick fix accessory ports the Ti1000 AutoFold is ready to personalise and is a perfect addition for golfers where ease of use is top priority. Priced: £149.99

Both Big Max trolleys come with a 5 year warrantee, Visit www.bigmaxgolf.com for more information.

TRAVEL

World Hickory Open Returns To Carnoustie Country

This October, the World Hickory Open 2014, an international golf competition celebrating golf's hickory heritage, will ensure the east of Scotland remains in the global media spotlight after the Ryder Cup.

This is the third year Carnoustie Country has hosted the World Hickory Open, with this year's tournament being played on 7/8 October across the world-famous links course at Panmure, on the outskirts of Carnoustie, Angus. "The World Hickory Open 2013, which was at Montrose, was an outstanding success," said Lionel Freedman, co-founder and Director of the World Hickory Open, who explained that competitors in this tournament use hickory golf clubs almost identical to those favoured by golfers a century or more ago.

"The Carnoustie Country courses have a fabulous golfing history which complements hickory golf perfectly," continued Lionel. "The golfers who travel from across the globe to compete in the World Hickory Open really appreciate being able to play golf as the game was played in days gone by on such historic courses."

Cllr Mairi Evans, Angus Council's golf spokesperson said: "It's apt that we are welcoming so many of the world's top hickory golfers back to Carnoustie Country - a destination steeped in golfing heritage and history. After all, we have been home to the Open seven times since 1931 and can also boast the fifth oldest golf course in the world, Montrose Medal, which has celebrated its 450 th anniversary."

Lionel Freedman explained that, following the highly-favourable response to the informal tournament held immediately after the 2013 World Hickory Open between a team of American hickory golfers and a team of international hickory golfers, it had been decided to make this tournament a regular part of the hickory golf calendar. "As a result, we'll be holding the first World Hickory Grand Match, the International Hickory Cup, at Monifieth Medal on 9/10 October," continued Lionel. "The International Hickory Cup will follow a Ryder-Cup-style format, with two teams - Team USA and Team Rest Of The World - competing for a trophy donated by the Society of Hickory Golfers."

Scotland's David Kirkwood is the captain of Team Rest Of The World. "The Grand Match will be a wonderful international occasion - but with a very competitive element," said David. "Ideally, Team Rest Of The World will come out on top - just!"

David Brown, caption of Team USA, revealed that he's travelling to Carnoustie Country in May for a few practice rounds of hickory golf at Panmure and Monifieth. "I'm sure Captain David Kirkwood will assemble as fine a group of players and gentlemen as we hope to bring," said David Brown. "The competition in both the International Hickory Cup and the World Hickory Open will be fantastic - and the camaraderie will be even better, as that's the hidden secret of hickory golf!"

The World Hickory Open 2014 is for amateur and professional golfers and, although experience of hickory golf is helpful, it's not compulsory. Entries cost £240 per golfer, which includes the warm-up competition at Forfar Golf Club, two rounds on Panmure Medal, hire of hickory-shafted clubs and the gala prizegiving dinner, with an additional cost of £120 for the two-day International Hickory Cup at Monifieth Medal.

To find out more about the World Hickory Open 2014, or to download an entry form, visit www.worldhickoryopen.com . To find out more about the Carnoustie Country 30 golf courses within a 40-minute drive of Carnoustie Championship, including 'stay and play' packages, visit www.carnoustiecountry.com , 'like' the Carnoustie Country Facebook page or follow Carnoustie Country on Twitter.

Escape to somewhere a little hotter this Easter...

UK golf enthusiasts may find that the Easter holiday weeks offer less than ideal conditions for playing golf, so if you want to guarantee sunshine and escape the cold you should consider a short break to Madeira.

The Quinta Splendida Wellness & Botanical Garden has a special 'Madeira Greens' package. With Portugal named the World's Leading Golf Destination in the 2013 World Travel Awards, and temperatures still around 24C throughout the winter months, Madeira provides the perfect retreat location for both golfers and sun-lovers alike.

Quinta Splendida is a peaceful resort and spa, and is home to Europe's largest botanical gardens with over a thousand species of plants and flowers. The resort houses one of the island's largest spas, and offers a range of other local activities such as fishing, scuba-diving, cycling, whale-watching and hiking.

For golfers, the botanical gardens boasts a 5-hole putting green, with a small bunker for chipping practice before heading to the course. The Quinta Splendida concierge offers reduced green-fee rates and tee time reservations at a selection of local courses including Palheiro Golf and Santo da Serra Golf. Golf packages to Porto Santo Golf in the neighboring island of Porto Santo including cruise transportation are also available. The golf service at Quinta Splendida also includes golf club storage and complimentary cleaning of golf shoes.

MADEIRA GREENS Golf Package

(stays until 27th December 2014)
         7 Nights with Buffet Breakfast
         3 Green Fees at choice of Palheiro Golf or Santo da Serra Golf (18 holes)
         Complimentary transfers to/from Santo da Serra Golf
         1 Day Complimentary Spa Entrance
         1 x 4-course Gourmet Dinner at La Perla Restaurant

Prices:

Studio - Garden View: €1,294 (based on two people sharing)
Spa Suite - Ocean View: €1,721 (based on two people sharing)
Nightly rates at the Quinta Splendida Hotel Wellness & Botanical Gardens start from €115 per person (package price with Kuoni also available)
Special Prices for groups and Pro free of charge for min. 8 paying participants.
Visit www.quintasplendida.com for more information and reservations

 

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