The majors are over, now what? — Ashleigh Buhai is calm under pressure — Must-click women’s golf links
The IX: Golf Thursday with Addie Parker, August 11, 2022
Happy Thursday, golf fans! I don’t know about y’all, but my head is still reeling after Sunday’s four-hole playoff at Muirfield. Ashleigh Buhai, in her 221st start on the LPGA, claimed her first victory. We had high expectations for last week’s Women’s Open, and the drama that unfolded certainly didn’t disappoint.
After watching the catastrophic triple bogey Buhai made on the 15th hole, I immediately wanted to know what was going through her and her caddy’s minds. My wish was granted with this amazingly detailed play-by-play from Ashleigh’s husband David (who is absolutely hilarious by the way). It wasn’t a picture perfect victory, but it’s one we will be looking back on for a long time.
Ashleigh Buhai showed the world that she is human. Golf is a grind and it will break you from the inside out. In Gee Chun could’ve been crowned champion, but the resiliency Buhai showed is exactly why she is now a major winner. Her caddy, Tanya Paterson, also gave the quote of the week, “show them why you’re No. 1 in bunkers this year.” And she did exactly that.
So, now what? The majors are done. We have five winners, from five different countries, and no one really predicted any of them to be in contention at the start of the season.
I was so sure that the Jin Young Ko vs. Nelly Korda duel was going to dominate this season like it did last year, but both have been relatively quiet. Ko won her first start in the 2022 season, and has three top-five finishes since. Nelly obviously had her health issues that sidelined her for a couple of months, but she made noise at the Meijer LPGA Classic (tied for second) and the Evian Championship, where she finished inside the top-10.
But some of our favorite moments this season has come from newbies like Jennifer Kupcho, Sophia Schubert, Leona Maguire, and Ayaka Furue. Not to mention, players like Lydia Ko, Brooke Henderson, Lexi Thompson, In Gee Chun, and Minjee Lee have been reminding us that they have the winning recipes, too.
The majors have given us so many great moments to reflect on. Record breaking prize money, iconic venues, one last dance at Mission Hills, and plenty of playoff hole. But the season isn’t over — there are still 11 events left on the schedule and a whole lot of CME points up for grabs!
Minjee Lee is leading the tour in CME Globe points, along with Brooke Henderson and Jennifer Kupcho. Lee is also this year’s 2022 Rolex ANNIKA Major Award (RAMA) winner. Along with her victory at the U.S. Women’s Open, Lee also earned a tie for second at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, 12th at The Chevron Championship and a tie for 43rd at the Evian Championship. She closed out her major season with a tie for fourth at the Women’s Open, her fifth top-10 result in nine appearances at the championship.
Although the season seems to be flying by, we still have Q-School for both the LPGA and LET to look forward to, and the return of college golf. Stage I of Q-School kicks off next Thursday at Mission Hills!
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This week in women’s golf
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Theb LPGA, LET, and DP World Tours are in Northern Ireland, where Leona Maguire headlines players to watch at ISPS Handa World Invitational, where men and women will compete for an equal purse.
Danielle Kang’s return will be at the CP Women’s Open in two weeks.
Thailand’s Pajaree Anannarukarn earned her maiden LPGA Tour title at the ISPS Handa World Invitational presented by Aviv Clinics in 2021. After defeating Emma Talley with a par on the second playoff hole, the Thai star made it to the winner’s circle and became a member of the LET.
Epson Tour News
It’s a family affair! Meet August and Auston Kim, two sisters competing on the Epson Tour.
Big time moves are being made right before Stage I of Q-School!!! Polly Mack has made large jumps in two different rankings. The rookie played the French Lick Charity Classic, heading into the week with a lot on the line. Mack was then No. 124 on the Official Money list, just 2 spots away from having to play in the LPGA Qualifying Tournament Stage I.
See the full money list/rank here.
MIC’D UP: A cool mother-daughter moment at the U.S. Women’s Am for Rachel Kuehn of Wake Forest and her mom Brenda.
13-year-old, Alice Ziyi Zhao shoots six-under-par 67 at Chambers Bay and shares medalist honors at U.S. Women’s Amateur.
Five at The IX: AIG Women’s Open Champion, Ashleigh Buhai
Q. I think we need to know what you were talking from 15 green to 16 tee.
ASHLEIGH BUHAI: Not too much to be honest. I was just like, okay, it is what it is. Get back in it. You know, yeah, I mean, it’s probably the worst swing I made all week. Was a little quick on the top. But if I had half a lie in that bunker, a plug off the drive, I could have got it out the other way in the fairway. Obviously compounded the mistake.
I didn’t panic, which I thought was huge, and just tried to make a good swing on the next and just try to make good swings coming in to give myself a chance.
And then obviously ran my putt past on 18 a little bit but holed a great par to keep myself in the playoff.
Q. Obviously great South African success here in the past with Gary Player and Ernie Els. How does it feel to follow in their footsteps?
ASHLEIGH BUHAI: It’s a huge honour. To follow those two greats, two of my idols growing up, and for us to play here for the first time at Muirfield, making history, I’m very, very honoured and very, very proud to be South African right now.
Q. What advice had your husband given you before he went out?
ASHLEIGH BUHAI: Just do me, be me and stay in the moment.
He’s so supportive. He caddied for me for eight years and he’s been very successful himself. He now caddies for Jeongeun Lee6. I saw him for the first time when he got there for the back nine, and he obviously just told me to keep doing what I was doing and stay in the moment.
Q. I mean, you say you kept very calm but I don’t know whether he did?
ASHLEIGH BUHAI: No, I think he was way more nervous than I was. In this championship in 2019 at Woburn, he missed the cut and he was carrying a backpack around full of beers to keep himself calm.
It’s always harder for those watching. I think when you’re in the moment, you have the control, so you’re a lot calmer than they are.
Q. You just said earlier that you stayed very calm after 15. Is that indicative of your mood throughout the whole week and explains your success?
ASHLEIGH BUHAI: I think so. You know, it was very easy to panic and probably come home in an ambulance. But I was just like, I saw the leaderboard walking up 17 — no, on 16 I think, and was just like, okay, just hit it. Have a good swing. You can only control this shot. Hit this shot now at the time.
I hit a really good bunker shot on 17. Hit the putt where I wanted to. That’s all I could do, just a little bit of a misread.
To play 18 the way I did, but so many times over and to hit that tee shot, it’s a tough tee shot. So I was just very happy with how I managed the situation.
Q. Have you any idea where that came from? Is that something recent? Your experience with leads in the past has not ended in victory, so is there a lesson that you learned that was key?
ASHLEIGH BUHAI: Yeah, I mean, like I said, I started working with a sports psychologist, mental coach, someone called Duncan McCarthy in February this year, and if you told me in February this year that I would be sitting here, I would never have believed you with the mental state I was in to be honest.
I had been swinging good for a long time and could no keep myself in the moment. He’s given me the tools, we say, to stay in the moment, and all I can control, and stay away from outcome. We get so lost in what can happen, and sure, it’s easy to drift and you’re going to go there, but as long as you bring yourself back, it’s fine.
Q. Your drives down 18, the same shape each time, all perfect, really. Were you surprised that you did that and did you do it during the four rounds of the tournament as well?
ASHLEIGH BUHAI: Yeah, I hit that fairway every day. It favours me. I fade the ball, wind off the right. I call it my little bunch shot, put the ball back in my stance and I just hit it low. I hit that shot so well the whole week except for on 15. That was the only bad drive I really hit all week.
But yeah, I just try to, like I said, my thought this week was 40 per cent to the top because that kept my rhythm and then everything else falls into place. As long as I have soft hands and 40 per cent to the top, then I felt I was in control.
Q. All week you were very consistent and very steady. Did you make any club changes or throughout the week?
ASHLEIGH BUHAI: No, no club changes at all. I tried a lower bounce 60-degree, but it didn’t quite work. I tried it last week, and stuck with my setup that I have.
Q. Could you talk about just the journey of your career? You turned pro in ’08 — hello, friend, congratulations to you, too (husband David Buhai enters room). You had won professional events as an amateur but now 2022 and you’re finally getting this big LPGA and major win. Could you just talk about your journey and the patience?
ASHLEIGH BUHAI: It’s been a long journey. You know, like you said I turned pro when I was 18. I was kind of expected — there was a lot of things expected of me. I won straight off the bat on the Ladies European Tour. But this game has a way of giving you a hard time.
I’m just so proud of how I’ve stuck it out. I have said the last four or five years, I’ve finally started to find my feet on the LPGA and felt I could compete, and although I’m 33 now, I feel I’m playing the best golf of my career.
It’s been a long journey, but man, it’s all worth it right now.
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