The IX: Golf Thursday with Carly Grenfell, July 30, 2020
The LPGA is back — Interview with Mackenzie Mack — Must-click links in women's golf
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The LPGA is Back
I don’t know if you’ve heard, but THE LPGA IS BACK! For real this time. We are less than 24 hours away from the first tee shot at the LPGA Drive On Championship at Inverness Golf Club. This is surely going to be an amazing (and hard) first test back after the 160+ day hiatus from competition. While the PGA Tour is starting to find their footing in this Coronavirus reality, and most players have shaken the rust off, the LPGA is just getting started.
Evolving COVID-19 Protocols
First things first: it only makes sense to talk about Christina Kim’s travel outfit. Although COVID-19 procedures and processes are bound to evolve as time goes on, mistakes are made, things have to be tweaked and refined, Kim isn’t letting any virus stand in her way. Plain and simple.
There’s plenty we know about the testing and quarantine rules already.
Players must take an at-home test a week before traveling to events.
Only positive tests are immediately pulled from the field, negative tests can carry on.
Once arriving on-site, players have to do another test.
All tests are being transported by truck from Ohio to New Jersey.
Because results obviously aren’t immediately available this week, players aren’t allowed indoors at the golf course until they get them back.
They get a wristband for ‘pending results,’ a lanyard for a negative test and daily wristbands for passing the temperature checks.
The testing this week is the saliva test, but to my knowledge, the nasal swabs will be used at some events. Hopefully the swab test also means quicker results! From the looks of it, these procedures will vary based on location and event. So far, just one LPGA players has tested positive and has withdrawn from the Drive On Championship—Gaby Lopez. In her statement on Twitter, she has minor symptoms and has already begun her self-isolation.
I really hope she is just one of a few (or the only one at all) to test positive this week. And along with that, let’s hope there are minimal false-negative situations where you test positive one day and negative the next. This certainly complicates protocols, as we saw from the PGA Tour with Cameron Champ. They had to update their policy stating that any player who tests positive but is asymptomatic, can return to action if he has two negative tests within a 24-hour period. Most recently, the PGA Tour will also stop singling out players or have COVID-only playing groups.
If there’s one good thing about the PGA starting back up before the LPGA, it’s that they can learn from these early mistakes and not make the same ones.
Final Standings at Inverness
Inverness, the home of the 2021 Solheim Cup, is going to be a really tough track. It plays like a major championship course and I predict the scores won’t be crazy low. It’s one of those courses you could shoot 80 every round. You could be playing some of your best golf and only shoot 2-under par. The cut line could easily be around +4 or +5.
I am most excited for this first event simply because we’ve had so much time off from watching, but also because I am curious to see how players bounce back from this extensive break from live competition. As I talked about a couple weeks ago, it could go several ways. There will surely be some rust to shake off, but a lot of players could be feeling fresher than they ever have. Some players might be playing without pressure since their 2021 LPGA card is secured, others might be anxious.
Because of all these different factors in the equation today, we will learn so much from the final standings at Inverness. Who is fresh? Who is confident? Who looks really far away from their best golf? Who is free? Who is shaky? I absolutely love that there really isn’t even an expectation for the top players in the world to win the LPGA Drive On Championship because it’s the first event “back.”
Whatever you do, pay attention to that leaderboard this weekend. I’m calling it now: the ones who finish in the Top 10 this week are ones we see in contention most weeks for the rest of the season, if they stay healthy.
World No. 1 Rankings
The question on a lot of LPGA fans’ minds is whether or not Jin Young Ko will continue her reign as World No. 1. There is no debate that she is World No. 1-worthy after after securing four wins, two of which were major championships, and 12 top-ten finishes last season. She also broke Tiger Woods’ record for most consecutive holes without a bogey—I may have brought that up a time or two here! I hope you all realize that 114 holes without a bogey is literally 114 holes of golf without making a mistake. That is perfect golf, which is absolutely bonkers.
Although Ko proved herself, it’s definitely up for grabs, and Nelly Korda (currently World No. 2) is one player in particular who could secure that spot. According to Golf.com, Korda has a chance to become the third American to reach No. 1 in the world since 2006, joining Cristie Kerr and Stacy Lewis. She has three career victories, but also 25 Top 10 finishes over the last three years. She’s consistently a force and contender week to week on the LPGA.
Outside of how good Nelly is, there’s another reason that World No. 1 could change in 2020. A handful of top players from South Korea are opting out of the first events on the calendar rather than coming early to the U.S. Jin Young Ko is one of several who is not in the field for Inverness. There’s also some talk that Ko won’t be playing in the first major of the year, the AIG Women’s British Open, because of concerns over traveling. Sitting out events would give others more room to shine and jump up in the Rolex World Rankings.
The state of our world today—between George Floyd and a global pandemic—has sparked a lot of meaningful conversation and change. For golf especially, it’s resurrected our brutal past on race and sex, forced us to look ourselves in the eye and commit to change. I’m excited for what the golf industry can do to make our sport a more welcoming one, in particular to diverse and underrepresented communities.
Keep paying attention to and supporting what LPGA players and industry workers are doing to grow golf and introduce golf to people of diverse backgrounds. The Race Fore Unity Ride, which benefitted LPGA*USGA Girls Golf and PGA WORKS, was one of those initiatives that made an impact. But LPGA players are stopping there, so please be on the lookout for other conversations/initiatives in the future.
We just saw today that the LPGA Foundation announced its first five Renee Powell grants, which are LPGA*USGA Girls Golf programs actively operating in Ohio—Renee Powell’s home state. According to LPGA.com, these sites were selected based on their geographic location, current LPGA*USGA Girls Golf membership demographics, and longstanding commitment to engaging Black girls in their program. This is the kind of funding and programming golf needs.
As I talked about with Mackenzie Mack, a PGA and LPGA Teaching/Coaching Professional, in the interview section below, there are a handful of things we can do to evolve the game. But it certainly starts with making it accessible and welcoming to everyone, having open and honest conversations, and investing into diverse initiatives when you have the platform and resources to do so.
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This Week in Women’s Golf
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Kelly Tilghman (who previously spent 20+ years at Golf Channel) is joining the CBS Broadcast Team for the PGA Championship. (via Golfweek)
LPGA players are excited to return, despite a new COVID-19 normal. (via Golf Channel)
Here are seven things you should know about the LPGA’s return to golf! (Via Golf Digest)
Five player storylines to follow as the LPGA makes it return. (via Golf.com)
The current COVID-19 environment is forcing players to make tough decisions—like sitting out of a major championship. (via Golf Channel)
This should give you a good laugh. Christina Kim traveled to Ohio in a literal hazmat suit. (via Golf.com)
Even with a three month break, the LPGA Drive On spirit will still be on full display. (via LPGA.com)
What is there to know about the LPGA Drive On Championship? This article lays it all out for you. (via Toledo Blade)
The LPGA Foundation announced the first five recipients of the Renee Powell Grant. This grant will serve young girls in black communities. (via LPGA.com)
Thanks to the Rose Ladies Series lifeline, Gemma Dryburgh can take the LPGA by storm. (via The Telegraph)
Brooke Henderson, like many others, taking a cautious approach to the LPGA restart. (via TSN)
Gaby Lopez is the first player to test positive for Coronavirus. (via Golf Channel)
Here are some pre-tournament notes to get up to speed on the LPGA Drive On Championship, which tees of on Friday. (via LPGA.com)
Five Duke Blue Devils are in the field in Toledo. (via Duke Athletics)
International travel makes for a more complicated season. The LPGA’s top South Koreans can attest to that. (via Golf Channel)
Tweet of the Week
Five at The IX: Mackenzie Mack
Mackenzie Mack, PGA, LPGA, will be featured in an upcoming campaign at the PGA Championship that will draw on the experiences of Black PGA Members in golf—and how we need to do better to make all people feel welcome. Mack has an impressive resume (just Google her) and was also the first Black woman to compete for the Indiana State Women’s golf team. I included a few parts of our chat that I hope you find as insightful as I did.
I. When did you play in the PGA WORKS Collegiate Championship and how was that experience? I actually never had heard of the event. My coach at Indiana State told me he was taking me to this tournament because he thought it would be beneficial to me as a minority golfer. I was like, okay! That really made me think highly of him to put me in something where I would feel comfortable and would help me as an individual. It was just me and him, he caddied for me. It’s something I think all minority college golfers should go to. We go to a lot of schools where we are the only black people, so now you get to be an atmosphere where you’re not the only one. PGA WORKS does a good job with career services and helping you with that, too. It’s not just the golf, it’s the networking aspect too.
II. At what point did you decide you wanted to become a PGA Member? It was actually at the PGA WORKS Collegiate Championship. It was never really on my radar, I was never really trying to teach. I wanted to play or do something else. Shari Pla, who is another LPGA, PGA African American woman, saw me and told me I should do it. I said I would look into it. They showed me the pathway, what the benefits were, and I was able to complete my playing ability test so I had already met part of the criteria.
III. Can you give us some more insight into the PGA Championship campaign? The PGA called and said we’d love for you to be a part of this and shed some light on what’s been going on in the world and how it relates to golf; how racial injustice and racial discrimination bleed into golf. They asked about my experiences along with a handful of other black PGA Professionals just to see what it is like for us in our golf journey.
IV. How do we get people in golf to understand that just being racist isn’t enough? My first reaction is just that they don’t understand. And I can’t be mad at someone who doesn’t understand because I’ve never walked in their shoes, and they’ve never walked in mine. I just try to give as many examples as I can and point it out as we go along. That’s why it’s so big right now because George Floyd unfortunately was an example that everybody saw. The more examples we have and show people that things need to change, the more they’ll be ready to see it. It’s hard for people to want to change something that they’ve never seen. You can’t make changes to something you’re not aware of.
V. Do you feel like in golf specifically you have to point these things a lot? Unfortunately you can’t point these things out all the time. It’s the subtleties. I think in golf it’s subtle; it isn’t blatant disrespect. When I go to a country club with other PGA Members, I’m the only one that has to show proof that I’m a PGA Member. It’s addressing things as you go to make people aware. It’s a bias you may or may not have, but if I don’t say something, you won’t understand.