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.
By July 2008 no one expected anything from an unknown player from mainland China (the first exempt player from China following in the footsteps of Li Ying Le). In her first 15 events on the LPGA tour Feng Shanshan had only managed to make 4 cuts, with T39 being her shining result in a season full of disappointment. Then seemingly out of nowhere she exploded.
It was certainly a tale of two seasons, after her 4th place finish at the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic set off a chain reaction within her. She snagged a second straight top 5 finish the following week (T4, State Farm) and three other top 10s for the season, out of nowhere finishing 2008 as the 38th ranked money earner on the year.
So much was expected of Shanshan after her strong play at the end of 2008, and watching her unable to break the top 20 in 2009 has been more then puzzling. Perhaps it’s the pressure of being the only Chinese woman on the LPGA tour, and being one of the few faces breaking ground internationally in a sport that has a good chance in becoming an Olympic sport.
At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Chinese National Team performance was incredible. It is no secret the Chinese Federation puts a lot money and time into their young athletes, leading to a life of all sport and no play. We’ve seen the stories from Chinese gymnasts, divers, swimmers, plucked away from obscurity, taken away from their families, all to chase a dream that only so few will have a chance to pursue.
Now that golf will likely be an Olympic sport, it’ll be interesting to see just how the most populous country in the world tries to gain footing in a sport that they have almost no history in. Will we see an influx of Chinese players on the LPGA tour, much like the South Koreans? Will they stay on their budding national tour? Will they need Shanshan to break through a la Se Ri Pak, or will this migration of players happen because of this Olympic addition?
In the tennis world the Chinese National Team holds a firm hold on their players, choosing their sponsor, where they play, and who they play with. It wasn’t until players like Li Na & Zheng Jie broke through into the top of the women’s game that they finally released these players and allowed them hire private coaching, pick their tournaments, pursue their own contracts. These players still have to repay a portion of their earnings back to the federation, but their portion of prize money has only increased as they have gotten more successful. Here, at about the 2:45 mark, in Li Na’s post-match interview after her quarterfinal loss to Kim Clijsters she talks about who here favorite player was growing up: Andre Agassi.
Why was he her favorite player, his freedom. His freedom to wear what he wanted, say what he wanted, and go where he wanted, something that Li Na was not afforded until just recently.
Feng Shanshan is independent, she is playing her own way, where she wants, as China had no had a major focus on this sport in previous years. With this Olympic addition, it’ll be interesting if we’ll see if new players from China will be like Feng, or Zhang Na (on the JLPGA) continue to play as they wish, or will it be more organized, and planned through the larger federation, or will the majority of the Chinese talent be playing only on the Chinese National Tour? Will a player like Feng or Zhang be considered for an Olympic team if they are not part of a bigger Chinese federation (assuming one is governing the Chinese golf team like in other sport)? The growth of golf China will certainly be an interesting one to watch in the years to come.
Sophie Gustafson continued to lead by one at the CVS/pharmacy LPGA Challenge after shooting a second round 69 to be the sole player in double digits under par at -10, holding a bare one shot lead over Maria Hjorth, Lorena Ochoa, and Shanshan Feng.
Sophie struggled with her putter on Friday, but played well enough to keep going in the right direction. She must not miss her opportunities this weekend if she hopes to win her first title in six years.
Hoping to stop her quest for victory include Maria Hjorth, last time a winner in 2007. Hjorth and Gustafson were Solheim Cup teammates this year, and both have lost in playoffs recently; Hjorth last year to Yani Tseng at the McDonald’s LPGA Championship, and Gustafson earlier this season to Ai Miyazato at the Evian Masters. Maria had a pretty exciting day Friday, with one eagle, 7 birdies, and 3 bogeys in her round of 66.
Lorena’s victory drought has been much talked about, and it’ll be interesting to see how she fares on this weekend of play. Last week at the Samsung Lorena found herself in this exact position, tied for second & one stroke off the lead, and only managed 72-71 notching a T4, but not finding herself in contention at any point on the weekend. We’ll see if she can find the inner tenacity that we expect from the #1 ranked lady in the world.
Awaking from her season long coma, and one of my surprise picks for the top 12, China’s Shanshan Feng showed some of the game that piqued our interest last season with a 5-under 67 which also had her tied for second. Shanshan has only used 49 putts this week so far, which is an amazing number for any player, and especially true for a player who is currently ranked T97 in putting at 1.85 putts per round. Compare that with the current leader Sophie Gustafson, who has used 63 putts in her first two rounds. Shanshan could use a good week as she has only notched one top 20 finish this season, and it was a T20 on the dot at the Michelob ULTRA Open.
The foursome that are tied for 5th are just as dangerous. Angela Stanford finished her round with four birdies after being +2 after 6 holes for her 70. Suzann Pettersen had four birdies of her own on the back nine to finish at 4-under for the day, and -8 overall. Joo Mi Kim had a 68 on Friday, which was only her 6th round in the 60s all season (her 5th coming in the first round). After bogeying holes 3 & 4, Joo Mi had six birdies coming home.
The last player in this group also had the round of the day, Sun Young Yoo shot a 29 on the par 35 back nine (her first 9 holes of the day), and shot an 8-under 64 jumping up from T64 to T5. She could’ve tied the course record (or broken it) if it were not for a three putt bogey on the par 5 9th, her last hole of the day. Yoo is continuing where she left off, her last result being a T2 losing in a playoff to Jiyai Shin a couple weeks ago.
A duo of young Americans Vicky Hurst & Paula Creamer round out the top 10, at -6. There are a lot of other surprising names near the top of the leaderboard this week, all looking to cement their priority for 2010. Reilley Rankin, Mikaela Parmlid, Amy Yang and Monday qualifier Sophia Sheridan are all T11 (with Natalie Gulbis & Yani Tseng). Minea Blomqvist, Haeji Kang, Kris Tamulis, and Anna Grzberian are also in the top 20, one stroke worse at -4, T17.
Na Ri Kim seemed to be on her way to solidify her opening round 67 when she player the back nine (her first nine) in 2 under with two birdies and no bogeys. Coming back to the front the wheels fell off, and she went bogey-triple on holes 4-5, and doubles the 8th for a disappointing 76, that dropped her all the way back to T39.
The rising heat reeked havoc on #1 on the money list Jiyai Shin. Shin had been feeling ill all week, and withdrew midway through the second round. She carried an umbrella with her on Friday to stay cool, but after bogeying holes 2 & 5 she decided that she did not have enough to finish.