With the countdown to the 2013 U.S. Open teeing off at Merion Golf Club’s famed East Course at 116 days on this President’s Day, a quick look around the wide, wide world of golf.
The PGA Tour provided a little excitement with John Merrick, who starred collegiately at UCLA, winning a playoff at one of the Bruins’ practice haunts, Riviera Country Club to take the Northern Trust Open (the L.A. Open has a much better ring to it) Sunday.
But the big story in golf over the weekend was occurring half-a-world away as the LPGA kicked off its season with the Women’s Australia Open.
There, Lydia Ko, the 15-year-old New Zealander who is a native South Korean, fired an opening round of 10-under 63 and held a share of the lead as late as the end of the third round. The teen sensation was very much in the hunt for for her fourth professional win and second in as many weeks, for which she has earned absolutely nothing since she is still an amateur.
Ko faltered in the final round Sunday, carding a 3-over 76 to finish third behind the very accomplished Jiyai Shin and Yani Tseng, the No.-1 player in the world who closed with a 66 to take second.
It was not lost on many golf observers that one-time teen sensation Michelle Wie, still only 23, missed the cut at the Royal Canberra Golf Club while Ko was turning heads with her solid play and poise way beyond her years.
When she won the LPGA stop in Canada last summer on the heels of her U.S. Amateur triumph, Ko insisted she wants to go to college in the United States and play college golf on a scholarship.
Wie quite famously went to college, graduating from Stanford following the spring semester last year, long after she had turned pro. Wie seems to have lost her edge on her golf game, although getting a college degree and having the college experience may pay long-term dividends that might not be obvious at the moment.
It will be interesting to see if Ko can resist the urge to turn pro as the zeroes on the amount of money she is not making start to add up. In the meantime, the young lady can really play.
Slow start for Kan, Purdue
Aurora Kan, a sophomore at Purdue who was the 2010 PIAA champion as a senior at Chichester, got the second half of her season off to a bit of a slow start as the Boilermakers played host to a typically strong field at the Lady Puerto Rico Classic in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico last week.
Coming off a solid fall campaign, Purdue entered the event ranked No. 9 in the nation, but settled for a seventh-place finish in the field of 10.
Kan had rounds of 77, 81 and 78 over the 6,191-yard, par-72 River Course at the Rio Mar Beach Resort for a 236 total that left her in a tie for 64th in the individual standings. The Boilermakers had rounds of 303, 300 and 301 for a 904 total.
Reigning NCAA champion Alabama showed it will once again be a force to be reckoned with as the Tide rolled to a 13-shot victory with rounds of 293, 290, and 288 for an 871 total. The Tide was led by Stephanie Meadow, who finished second with a 2-under 214 total.
Runnerup Arkansas (291-296-297—884) was led by individual champion Emily Tubert, who followed up a pair of 1-under 70s with a final-round 73 for a 3-under 213 total.
Purdue was led by Paula Reto, a senior from Cape Town, South Africa. Reto had a pair of 2-under 70s after an opening-round 75 to finish fourth at 2-over 215.
Classmate and reigning Big Ten Player of the Year Laura Gonzalez-Escallon of Belgium finished In a tie for 38th at 230 (75-79-76).
Also counting for Purdue were senior Kishi Sinha, who finished in a tie for tie for 45th at 232 (77-78-77), and freshman Margaux Vanmol, another Belgian who finished in a tie for 50th at 233 (76-73-84), and Kan. Competing as an individual, freshman Brooke Beegle, from Fishers, Ind., matched Sinha’s 232 total.
Pellegrini takes off for spring
The spring portion of The Citadel’s women’s golf team’s schedule got under way this weekend, but junior Erica Pellegrini, the two-time PIAA medalist at Garnet Valley, was not in the lineup at The Club of Savannah Harbor.
But she’s missing the spring part of the schedule for all the right reasons. One of Pellegrini’s academic pursuits at The Citadel is Spanish language and she’ll be getting a crash course as she travels to Europe to enhance her academic interests.
Citadel head coach Lori Hatcher Bonacci, while admitting she’ll miss her top player, said on The Citadel website that Pellegrini is expected back in the fall for her senior season.
Pellegrini became the only player in program history to capture a tournament title when she won the Hilton Head Invitational last March. Her average of 77.44 last fall featured seven rounds in the 70s, including a sparkling 71 at the South Carolina State Bulldog Invitational.