Bienvenue! My name is Jamie and I like golf. I grew up playing tennis in eastern Massachusetts, but fell in love with the game after watching Se Ri Pak defeat Jenny Chausiriporn at the 1998 U.S. Womens Open. I studied Hospitality & Tourism Management (with a focus on Event, Tourism, and Convention Management) at the Isenberg School of Management, University of Massachusetts Amherst. Tennis is my first love, but golf is a very close second. I believe style should equal substance, and the latter is nothing without the former.

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"you can't make harmony, when everyone is singing the same note."


Category Nines Revisited

With 9 being such a magic number right now (mainly talking about the blockbuster District 9), and M.J. Hur’s magical win this week at the Safeway, I thought it would be a great time to revisit a post I did back in January questioning, Whether any of the Cateogry 9ers (a.k.a. DFT graduates) would have a season like Violeta Retamoza’s 2008 season. Let’s run down these 5 players, along with a couple others that I featured in January by their current rank on the money list.

M.J. Hur
4th on DFT Money List
32nd 2009 LPGA Money List: $330,511
Best Finish: 1st - Safeway Classic
2009 Rookie

M.J.’s win this past week at the Safeway Classic was nothing short of shocking. M.J. broke 70 all three days, after only breaking 70 twice previously this season. As referenced through the ESPN telecast M.J. is one of the best putters on tour, averaging 28.72 putts per round (7th on tour) and 1.78 putts per green in regulation (T19 on tour). Aside from sand saves (.500, T14) she has struggled nearly everywhere else. Averaging just over 250 yards per drive, she has one of the least accurate drivers .569 (144th!) and this likely leads to her horrendus GIR average of .596 (125th!). Clear this was the week she was able to drive it straight, allowing her to get some more GIR and take advantage of that amazing putter of hers. If she can continue striking the ball well, M.J. could easily cement herself into the top 30 and perhaps even higher!

Vicky Hurst
1st on 2008 DFT Money List
55th on 2009 LPGA Money List: $161,920
Best Finish - T5 Corning Classic
2009 Rookie

Vicky’s prom picture always makes me laugh. Anyway, Hurst before this week was the clear DFT leader, and seemingly showed a continued strength over the ladies she dominated a year ago. Hurst has had two top 10s this year, and has had a solid, if not uneventful season. For the average rookie, she’s right on the money, but with Hurst’s illustrious amateur career, and her dominance on the DFT last season I think the majroity of us have felt underwhelmed by her performances this year. Hurst is in the top 40 in nearly every major category, and is one of the strongest drivers on tour averaging 268.9 yards off the tee, good for 3rd in Driving Distance. Her accuracy though is one of the worst, only finding the fairway 62% of the time which puts her 131st on tour. As we saw with Hur this week, if she can one great driving week, she could be hoisting a trophy by the time 2009 is done.

Jin Young Pak
5th on 2008 DFT Money List
87th on 2009 LPGA Money List: $76,538
Best Finish: T9 McDonald’s LPGA Championship
Rookie in 2007

Jin Young Pak will need to raise her level if she hopes to continue having high priority for the 2010 season, but for the player playing her first full year on tour, she’s at least above the Top 90 line at the moment. This is mostly due to her solid T9 performance at the McDonald’s LPGA Championship far and away her best finish thus far. It’s the only time she’s been able to break the top 30 this season. She is ranked outside the top 70 in all of her stats aside from GIR (.661, 59th), and Driving Average (251.4 T64), so she’ll need to imrpove everywhere to make more cuts, and earn more money. She has nearly practically set herself up to have decent status for next year, but she’ll definitley look to securing her place in the top 90.

Mindy Kim
2nd on 2008 DFT Money List
96th on 2009 LPGA Money List: $64,766
Best Finish: T10 Wegmans
2009 Rookie

Mindy, who has struggled with some injury problems in 2009 has only made three cuts this season. However, when she’s made the cut she has finished in the top 30 both. Mindy is teetering on the edge, and is close but not quite at the top 90 line. She wasn’t able to break 80 in the first round at the Safeway and will have to regroup for this week in Canada. Aside from having one of the best sand save percentages in 2009 (.571, 3) she has struggled nearly everywhere in 2009. Mindy’s transition to the big show hasn’t been as smooth as I had predicted, but when she’s on, she’s good, and hopefully she can get on a roll before the end of the season.

Chella Choi
17th on the 2008 DFT Money List
101st on the 2009 LPGA Money List: $57, 432
Best Finish: T33 Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic
2009 Rookie

Chella was one stroke away from upping her cuts in a row streak to 5 this week at the Safeway Classic, had it not been for a late birdie for Stacy Lewis, she’d be looking a pretty decent streak for herself. Unfortunately she’s been unable to break the top 30 barrier so far this year, and has pretty average stats. Her best being her driving acuracy of 72.9% (42nd) likely offset by the fact that she only averages 244 yards off the tee. Chella’s not a strong player, so she’ll need to be as accurate as possible, but she’s really only one top 30 finish away from jumping into the top 90, so if she can just buckle down and be more accurate she could make a bit of a leap, as it’s fairly bunched up down here.

Sarah Jane Smith (Kenyon)
3rd on the 2008 DFT Money List
131st on 2009 LPGA Money List: $18,520
Best Finish: T39 SBS Open
Rookie in 2006

Sarah Jane’s wedding bliss hasn’t translated to bliss on the golf course and for a player who was a rookie four seasons ago she has not been able to use her experience for any solid results on the golf course. She made the cut in her first two events of the seasons, but has only made one other cut since. Sarah Jane ranks very low in almost every major stat, with her only bright spot is her 250.5 yard driving average. Sarah Jane will need to improve every aspect of her game if she wants to avoid Q-school this year.

Jeehae Lee
78th on 2008 DFT Money List
151st on 2009 LPGA Money List: $3,989
Best Finish: T57 J Golf Phoneix LPGA International
2009 Rookie

Jeehae was one of the most surprising players who received high priority status at 2009 Q-School, and hasn’t been able to translate the same success on the tour this season. It’s may not be a big surprise, as Jeehae struggled on the DFT last year. Lee has already done something that Violeta took all season last year to do, which was make a cut, in her third event of the season. In the beginning of the year Lee’s M.O. was to have two similiar mediocre rounds. As of late she’s had one decent to okay round, and one round in the 80s. She hasn’t been able to get two solid rounds back to back yet, and if she’s able to have one strong finish it might give her the confidence to catapult herself into the top 90. She has one of the most interesting, if not inspiring stories of all the players on the tour, and really hope she can pull off something big by year’s end. She came out of nowhere at Q-School, maybe she can pull the same thing off here.

So thre you have it, those are the six players that I was curious about at the start of the seasons. M.J. Hur’s win was a huge surprise, and I am equally shocked by how poorly Sarah Jane Smith has done so far in 2009. I am a big fan of both Mindy Kim and Jeehae Lee and hope that they can turn it around before season’s end.

Regardless of all that, they have all shown flashes of good play, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see any of these ladies retain a high priority for 2010. Hopefully the rough starts to a lot of their seasons won’t hold them back as they look to finish strong in 2009.

Will any of the 2009 Category 9ers be a Violeta Retamoza?

I’ve made no attempts to hide my odd fascination for Violeta Retamoza’s 2008 season. Violeta earned her card by finishing in the top 5 of the 2007 Futures Tour Money list, and had exempt status for the 2008 LPGA season. She performed badly, one of the worst seasons by an exempt player in recent memory. She missed all, but one cut, and in the one cut she did make, at the Longs Drugs, she finished last, 7 strokes behind her nearest competitors, and 34 strokes worse then the winner, In-Kyung Kim.

I thought it might be interesting to see how Violeta’s 2007 stats compared to the top players from 2008, to see if any of them are likely to befall a tough 2009 campaign a la Violeta.

In 2007, Violeta Retamoza won once, finished in the top 10 six times, made 16 out of 17 cuts, and had a scoring average of 72.76.

Vicky Hurst………..13…..4…….9….13…70.28
Mindy Kim………….17…..3……11….17…71.12
Sarah-Jane Kenyon…..10…..1…….6….10…70.97
M.J. Hur…………..17…..1…….8….16…72.16
Jin Young Pak………17…..0…….8….17…71.56

All of these ladies have better stats then Violeta, although M.J. has eerily similiar stats. Both finished 4th on the money list, made 16 out of 17 cuts, and had one win. M.J. did have two more top 10s and a scoring average 1/2 a stroke better though.

IMO, none of these ladies are the likely candidates to befall Violeta’s state. Some other FT alums from 2008 may be a better bet… such as

Chella Choi………..17…..0…….4….16…72.47
Jeehae Lee…………16…..0…….0…..8…74.98

Note that despite Chella Choi’s 17th place finish on the DFT money list, she still had a better stroke average then Violeta.

The best bet out of all the players Category 11 or above to likely have a Retamoza type season (or a Riko Higashio type season if you go back another year) is Jeehae Lee. Jeehae broke 70 more time during the final qualifying school tournament (twice) then she did in her 16 events on the DFT in 2008 (she fired a 69 once).

It’ll be interesting to see just how well the Yale grad will fare next year.