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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Pellegrini had a memorable March

   Erica Pellegrini, the two-time Garnet Valley All-Delco, had quite a month of March playing golf at The Citadel, where she is a sophomore.
   Pellegrini capped the month Monday when she carded an 81 to finish in a tie for 37th at 163 in the Low Country Intercollegiate held at Moss Creek Golf Club in Hilton Head, N.C.
   Pellegrini’s finish helped the Bulldogs compile a 335 total in the second round and finish 15th in the team standings.
The Citadel’s Bree Baumgartner also had a top-50 finish as she had the Bulldogs’ best round on the second day with a 78 for a 166 total.
   Pellegrini opened the month by making some history when the Bulldogs teed it up at Hilton Head Invitational in Bluffton, S.C.
   Pellegrini fired a 4-over 76 to best the field in the one-day, three-team event March 4. In the process, Pellegrini became the first women’s golf individual champion in the history of the program at The Citadel. She led the Bulldogs to a second-place finish with a 342 total that was 16 shots back of Appalachian State. Tournament host Dayton was another 18 shots behind The Citadel at 360.
   Later that week, Pellegrini was named Southern Conference Golfer of the Week and once again it was a program first as she was the first player at The Citadel to earn SoCon weekly honors.
   In between the Hilton Head Invitational and the Low Country Intercollegiate, Pellegrini helped the Bulldogs finish 12th at the Spider Invitational, hosted by Richmond at the St. James Plantation’s Reserve Course in Southport, N.C. Pellegrini had rounds of 88, 84 and 91 for a 263 total that left her in a tie for 47th.
   Teammate Alanna-Jean Keith led the way for the Bulldogs with a 261 total that left her in a tie for 43rd.
Bernard battling at Bucknell
   Lauren Bernard, the Notre Dame product who claimed the Philadelphia Women’s Amateur championship last summer, is having a solid sophomore season at Bucknell.
   Bernard, a member at Aronimink Golf Club, had the Bison’s low round, a 75, to help them finish ninth in the UNCW Seahawk Classic Sunday at Wilmington, N.C.
   The Bison were led by Bridget Wilcox, who opened the event with a 71 and added a 76 and 78 for a 225 total that left her in a tie for 19th place.
   The second round was suspended, so Sunday included the completion of that round and the entire third round. Wilcox’s 71 led Bucknell to a 306 opening round, which it followed with 311 and 312 for a 929 total. East Carolina won the title with a tournament-record 866 total.
   You have to give the Bucknell program credit for hosting the Bison Challenge St. Patrick’s Day weekend — at Paiute in Las Vegas.
   Unfortunately the weather wasn’t completely cooperative and the 54-hole event had to be shortened to 36 holes. Bucknell finished fourth of five teams with a 634 total.
   Bernard had the Bison’s low round of the second day, a 76 in high winds. Kasha Scott (80-77) and Wilcox (79-78) led the way for Bucknell with 157 totals that left them in a tie for 11th. Bernard’s first-round 83 gave her a 159 total and a 16th-place finish.
   Bucknell traveled to Kiawah Island, S.C. in late February and earned their best finish ever in the Edwin Watts/Kiawah Island Classic, an event that features 33 teams.
   The Bison posted a 309 total in the final round to finish 13th. They were just two shots out of 11th place and finished second among their fellow Big South teams in the field.
   Bernard rallied after a rough opening round of 90 with an 80 and an 81 to finish in a tie for 158th at 251. The Bison were led by Minjoo Lee, who had rounds of 76, 73 and 77 to finish in a tie for 17th at 216. Scott had a final-round 73 and finished in a tie for 48th at 231.
   The Bison will compete in the Big South Tournament, which gets under way the day after Easter at The Patriot Club in Ninety-Six, S.C. Bernard finished second in the event a year ago, the highest finish ever for a Bucknell player.
Tiger back in the winner’s circle
   It seems reports of Tiger Woods’ demise as a player at the highest levels of the game were a bit premature.
Woods looked pretty tough in winning the Bay Hill Invitational, an event he has taken more than his share of checks from in his career. It was his first win on the PGA Tour since before the fire- hydrant thing and subsequent revelations about his extra-marital dalliances seemed to rob him of some focus.
   The Masters is just a week away now and with Tiger, Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson all playing at a high level, it will be one of the most highly-anticipated weeks at Augusta in some time.
   When Tiger teed it up there two years ago, it was something of a circus sideshow with guys hiring prop airplanes and dragging comical messages across the Augusta skyline. Still, Woods finished in a tie for fourth. Last year he was dealing with divorce, an ouchy knee and rebuilding his swing. Finished fourth again.
   Hmmm. This time, he’s a lot healthier — that walkoff at Doral notwithstanding — and he seems to have finally incorporated all his swing changes — for at least the third time in his career — into something he can trust again.
You think he’ll be a factor? Yeah, me too.
   Almost forgot, 443 days until the 2013 U.S. Open tees off at Merion Golf Club’s East Course. Wonder if Tiger will still be stuck on 14 major championship victories when that day dawns?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Villanova's Kania claims first collegiate title

   It’s 449 days until the first round of the 2013 U.S. Open tees off at Merion Golf Club’s East Course and the 2012 college golf scene is starting to heat up …
   Michael Kania, the two-time Haverford School All-Delco and two-time Inter-Ac League champion, chose the historic backdrop of Pinehurst, N.C. to record his first collegiate title.
   A junior at Villanova, Kania carded a final-round of 2-over 73 at the 6,819-yard, par-71 Pinehurst No. 6 layout to claim the individual crown at the Pinehurst Intercollegiate earlier this month.
   Kania, a member at Overbrook G.C. and a runnerup at the 2010 Philadelphia Amateur, had a three-shot over Old Dominion’s Garth McGee entering the final round. His lead was never less than two shots in the final round.
   Kania started on the 10th hole and had six pars, two bogeys and a birdie to make the turn at 1-over. He had three birdies on the front side to build his advantage. He was 6-under on the par-5s for the 54-hole event.
   "I want to thank my teammates and coaches," Kania said on Villanova’s website. "It was a real honor to win, but mostly I was proud of the team for getting to fifth place. I hope we can contiue to play well going into Big Easts and finish out the season strong."
   Senior Brian Colbert actually bettered Kania’s final round with a 1-under 70 that that moved him to a tie for 14th. Junior Steve Skurla matched Kania’s final-round 73 as Villanova moved up from seventh to get fifth in the team standings. After struggling home with a 302 total in the first round, the Wildcats put up solid back-to-back 290s for a plus-30 882 total.
   Junior Derek Jones finished in a tie for 44th with rounds of 79, 75 and 74 for a 228 total and Skurla was another two shots back in a tie for 50th at 17-over 230 and junior Jimmy Johnston finished in a tie for 52nd at 18-over 231.
   Old Dominion won the team championship with an 871 total. The Wildcats finished just two shots back of fourth-place finisher Virginia Tech.
   Villanova hosts the Wildcat Invitational at White Manor Country Club April 2 and 3.
Kan, Calamaro keep firing
   Aurora Kan, the three-time Daily Times Player of the Year and 2010 PIAA champion at Chichester, finished in a tie for 61st to help Purdue finish third in the Insperity Lady Jaguar Intercollegiate last weekend at Augusta, Ga.
   The Boilermakers were led by individual winner Paula Reto, who fired a brilliant final-round 64 to break the school record and cruise to a 10-shot victory. Reto’s 54-hole total of 9-under 207 (75-68-64) is also a Purdue record.
   Laura Gonzalez-Escallon, who had set the single-round school record with a 65 less than a month earlier, finished in a tie for fifth with a 219 total. Kishi Sinha finished in a tie for eighth at 221.
   Kan, a freshman, had rounds of 82, 77 and 81 for a 240 total.
   She is competing for her spot in the starting lineup with two freshmen who joined the program for the spring semester after finishing high school early.
   Vicky Scherer competed as an individual and her 228 total left her in a tie for 22nd. Kendall Dusenberry, the other recent high school graduate, rounded out the team scoring for Purdue in a tie for 68th with a 245 total.
   Meanwhile, Jackie Calamaro, the 2009 PIAA champion and 2009-10 Daily Times Player of the Year at Radnor, competed as an individual for the University of Illinois in the Illini’s trip to the BYU Entrada Classic.
   Calamaro, a Rolling Green Golf Club member, had rounds of 83, 81 and 86 over the Entrada at Snow Canyon Country Club course for a 34-over 250 total.
   That left the redshirt freshman in 51st place and a shot back of the Illini’s final team scorer, junior Crystal Smith, who tied for 49th at 249.
   Illinois’ final-round 305 was the best of the tournament and enabled the Illini to finish fourth with a 921 total. They were led by Hailley Koschmann who fired a final-round 71 to get a share of second place at 3-over 219. Sophomore Ember Schuldt closed with a 75 to finish in a tie for 13th at 14-over 230.
The end of Q-School and other changes
   The PGA Tour policy board this week approved a couple of very significant changes that will end the Q-School — an event that had a special appeal to the more masochistic golf fans among us — and start the Tour calendar each year in October of the previous year.
   Confused? I thought so.
   The details on the calendar are still being ironed out, but the 2014 FedEx Cup race is going to start in October of 2013. Once the 2013 FedEx Cup wraps up, the events of what has come to be known as the Fall Series will count toward the 2014 FedEx Cup standings.
   How much they will count is still being figured out. And the people at Frys.com, which has sponsored an increasingly popular Fall Series event, have apparently made it clear that they want their event to be considered a marquee stop — FedEx points and all — or they might pull out their sponsorship money and go home.
   There will be a Q-School-type series as well, although getting there will be based on a player’s standing on either the Nationwide or PGA tours.
   When the 2013 FedEx regular season ends in August 2013, the top 75 finishers on the Nationwide Tour and players who finished No. 126 through 200 on the PGA Tour will be eligible to play in a three-tournament series. The top 50 finishers in the series will earn PGA Tour cards for the following season.
   There are still plans for a Q-School for the Nationwide Tour.
   There are all sort of stats being bandied about that prove that the Nationwide Tour graduates have a much higher degree of success on the PGA Tour than Q-School graduates do.
   But a feel-good story like 21-year-old John Huh, who went through all three stages of Q-School to reach the tour and then won the recent event in Mexico that was held opposite the WGC Match Play, will no longer be written.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Watching Rory, Tiger and Phil as Augusta looms

   The Masters is just around the corner and the countdown for the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion is at 452 days … which means it’s a good time for a quick look at some of the headlines on the PGA and LPGA tours.
   The No. 1 player in the world is the 22-year-old reigning U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy. McIlroy has certainly looked strong in reaching the final of the Match Play before falling to Hunter Mahan and winning at the Honda.
   McIlroy, of course, quite famously flamed out at Augusta a year ago after seeming to take command of the tournament after 54 holes. But instead of it being the beginning of the end, it seems in retrospect, that that was just the end of the beginning.
   McIlroy bounced back with a dominant win at the U.S. Open at Congressional and now has overtaken Luke Donald to rise to the top fo the world ranking.
   All of which will make McIlroy one of the favorites when the annual rite of spring known as The Masters tees off in a few short weeks.
   The Tiger Woods comeback watch reached a fever pitch when Woods fired a final-round 62 to put some pressure on McIlroy before ending up in a tie for second at the Honda.
   But then Tiger limped off the course during the final round of the World Golf Championship event at Doral Sunday with an achy Achillies’ tendon in his left leg. He assured his fans via Twitter Monday that it was just a mild strain.
   Before his painful exit at Doral, it made sense to include Tiger among the contenders at Augusta. Heck, the guy finished fourth the last two years and he wasn’t even playing that well. He knows the course, he knows how to handle the pressure. It will be interesting to see how he fares, although the injury gives him a built-in excuse should his game suddenly go off the rails.
   Anybody who was ready to write off Phil Mickelson had a change of heart after watching him run away with the victory at the AT&T National Pro-Am at Pebble Beach.
   It was played up as Mickelson taking down Tiger since the two were paired in the final round. In reality, Mickelson played a Pebble Beach course that was not particularly forgiving like he owned the place. It was as dominant a performance as you’ll see on a really tough course.
 Phil’s done it before at Augusta and if he brings the game he displayed at Pebble, he might add a fourth green jacket to his impressive resume.
Young guns at Innisbrook
  In his advance for this week’s Transitions Championship, Associated Press golf writer Doug Ferguson notes that 22-year-old Bud Cauley will be the oldest player in his opening-round threesome.
   Cauley, who was a member of the winning U.S. team in the Walker Cup Match at Merion in 2009, was able to bypass Q-school last summer when he won enough money in just a very few starts to qualify for the PGA Tour.
 Cauley will be joined in his group by 20-year Japanese rock star Ryo Ishikawa and 21-year-old Englishman Tom Lewis, the guy who shared the opening-round lead as an amateur at the British Open last summer before turning pro and winning on the European Tour in his third start as a pro.
  The Copperhead Course at Innisbrook, where the Big East has held its tournament the last few years, is no pushover and has drawn a strong field.
  Sean O’Hair, an adopted son of Delco golf fans, is in the field and owns a victory in this event.
Teen invasion on the LPGA Tour
  As the LPGA Tour finally arrives stateside with the Founders Cup this weekend, you might be unaware that a couple of teen-agers not named Lexi Thompson had some strong showings in Australia and Asia.
   Jessica Korda won the Women’s Australian Open by draining a dramatic 40-foot putt in a playoff. The daughter of one-time pro tennis player Petr Korda, the 19-year-old was a friend and rival of Thompson’s in junior golf and is very talented.
Korda also has the built-in advantage of having a father who knows the ins-and-outs of worldwide travel while competing at the highest level of a sport. She will be a formidable rival for Thompson in the pro ranks.
  Another 19-year-old, Jenny Shin, looked like she had the HSBC Women’s Champion event in Singapore won. She had a two-shot lead heading to the 72nd hole when a sudden downpour halted play. After the delay, Shin double-bogeyed the final hole and then lost to Angela Stanford in a playoff.
   Still, Shin, who won the 2006 U.S. Junior Girls title at age 13, showed that she too is a teen to contend with on the LPGA Tour in 2012.