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HARRISON, N.Y. -- As frequently happens in golf, almost all of those who think the LPGA should reverse course and immediately grant 17-year-old Canadian Brooke Henderson an age-limit exemption don't understand the rules. That included Brooke's father, Bruce.
Mr. Henderson let his frustration be heard after his daughter shot a six-under-par 67 Thursday at Westchester C.C. to be one stroke off the lead after the first round of the KPMG Women's PGA Championship, saying she was running out of sponsor's exemptions (non-members are limited to six) after turning pro at the end of 2014 and should be made a member right now given her play in those events in 2015.
"We hope [LPGA commissioner] Mike Whan meets with the committee and that there is a democratic process," Bruce Henderson said. "Brooke is good for golf, she's good for revenue, she brings young people into the game."
Where Henderson's request falls short is that even if Whan granted her an age exemption, that only makes her eligible to be a member. She would still have to earn her card, and there are three ways to do that:
1) Win an LPGA event.
2) Finish in the top 40 on the final LPGA money list.
3) Go to LPGA Qualifying school at the end of the year and earn a card there.
If Whan had granted Henderson an age exemption when she applied last year, it would have only made her eligible to TRY to be a member at Q school. Remember, Michelle Wie, for all her early success, still had to earn her card at Q school.
Going into the KPMG, which Henderson got into with her penultimate sponsor's exemption, Henderson had earned $184,745. That would put her No. 33 on the money list if she was a member. She will likely use her last sponsor's exemption in the Canadian Pacific Women's Open in August.
Henderson will also play in the U.S. Women's Open, having qualified off her T-10 finish last year at Pinehurst as an amateur. Neither that, or the Ricoh Women's British Open would count as one of her sponsor's exemptions.
She can also play her way into LPGA events by Monday qualifying, as she did earlier this year in Texas.
While the rules for earning a tour card are pretty clear, one thing the LPGA may want to revisit is the fact that unlike members, non-LPGA members who finish in the top-10 in an event don't get an automatic spot into the next tournament. If that rule were different, Henderson would have qualified for Texas with her top-10 at Swinging Skirts.
Other than that, the process for membership seems to be sensible -- and fair.
"It" refers to how LPGA pros treat their winners and it might be what separates the women from the men in golf more than anything. The women shower their victors with praise. Literally.
Win an LPGA Tour event and there's a great chance you're going to walk off the 18th green soaking wet. Lose one, and there's still a good chance you'll be part of the spraying celebration.
"It's a small little-knit group out here. . . . Somebody's going to always be there for you and it's nice to see everyone come together and root for each other," Brittany Lincicome said. "Any chance I get, if it's a friend and I'm still there, you'll definitely see me out on the green."
"I think you've got to give to receive. That's always what I live by," Sandra Gal added. "We're always happy for our friends when they win and that shows the spirit of our tour."
LPGA Senior Director of Social Media Tina Barnes-Budd agreed.
"[LPGA Commissioner] Mike Whan's big mantra is 'Hugs, not handshakes.' He wants it to be very fun for the fans," she said. "They all seem to get into it."
Barnes-Budd wasn't sure when the tradition started, but remembered players doing it with beer at the Michelob Ultra Open at Kingsmill, which began in 2003. The oldest photo we could find of that was Cristie Kerr getting doused by Natalie Gulbis and her then boyfriend and now husband Erik Stevens in 2005.
And here's Se Ri Pak in 2004 at Kingsmill with a trophy full of beer.
And here's Pak with an empty trophy.
Wait, did she drink that whole thing?!
But back to the spraying, while no one could give an exact answer as to how it began, most agreed Christina Kim has long been one of the ring leaders of the practice. Here she is drenching Karrie Webb with bubbly at the 2006 Kraft Nabisco. Observe her good form. The precision. The power. Now that's talent.
Kim says she vaguely remembers seeing LPGA players spraying winners growing up, but couldn't pinpoint a specific event. In other words, she's not the Spraymother as many believe. But as a participant, Kim is somewhat of a purist, only doing it if champagne is involved -- and if the win has special significance.
"Every win is important, but I'm not going to shell out 100 bucks a week just to spray, like, 'Hey, Inbee [Park], this is your 49th win,'" Kim said. "We're going to pitch in for the good stuff. We're not going to spray water."
Others aren't as picky.
"Whatever's available," Gal said. "Obviously, you want it to be champagne. Sometimes it's beer, which is not very good. If everything fails, then water."
"I remember after my first win I did not get sprayed and I was so bummed," Brittany Lincicome said. "And then every time after that, I've been sprayed. I'd take anything. I love it. We even used shaving cream in the Bahamas."
Gal went as far to take the tradition to the guys last year when countryman Martin Kaymer won the U.S. Open at Pinehurst, where the U.S. Women's Open was contested the following week.
"It was just an impromptu thing," Gal said. "I never thought twice when I went on the green to spray Martin. And then I realized, 'Oh, the guys don't do it. Oops, sorry!' and I apologized to him, but I was just so excited."
Unfortunately, it hasn't caught on yet on the PGA Tour.
Inbee Park combined two traditions after winning the ANA Inspiration in 2013. Park made the winner's leap into Poppy's Pond, but because her father couldn't be at the tournament, she bottled up some of that water and dumped it on him when she saw him next. Hope she gave him fair warning.
Gal and others thought the Koreans on tour might have started the spray, and considering how much they've won in recent years, that's an easy conclusion to come draw. But Park doesn't think so.
"It was already there when I got on tour so I just thought that's how it's always been," Park said. "It's just a fun way to congratulate each other. When you get something like that, you try to wait for your friend and you do it for them as well. It builds good friendships."
But what if a minor like Lydia Ko is involved?
"We probably should use water," Lincicome laughed.
Kim added, "At the CME, Octagon brought a case out. I said, 'That better be sparkling cider, because [Lydia Ko] can't drink yet.'"
"But we kept it neck down." And the photos seem to back that up. Again, Kim has mastered this art over the past decade.
Not that Ko, despite her initial surprised reaction, seemed to mind the champagne shower.
"It was definitely a special moment and I was so glad to share that moment with amazing girls," Ko said. We hope she shared that bottle too. . .
So how does one round up a spray crew at the end of a tournament?
"It's just 'Hey, champagne!' And we've got to go find some somewhere," Kim said.
Sounds like a plan. No glasses necessary.
One of the big headlines heading into this week was the fact that Tiger Woods was taking swing advice from his 6-year-son, Charlie, before the Memorial Tournament.
Maybe he was looking at the wrong family member.
There was a Woods in golf at the top of a leader board on Thursday -- and it wasn't Tiger. It was his niece, Cheyenne. The LPGA Tour rookie fired a career-best 63 in the first round of the LPGA Manulife Classic in Ontario, good enough for first place.
Just how good was her round? We'll let these five stats tell the story.
1. Cheyenne hit 14 of 14 fairways.
You can't do it any better. At all. You hit 100 percent of your fairways and you're doing so many things right. That was Cheyenne's round. And by the way, she hit 10 more fairways on Thursday than her uncle Tiger. He only hit four of 'em at Muirfield Village.
2. Cheyenne's driving distance on Thursday? 276 yards.
That's bombing it! Brittany Lincicome currently leads the LPGA Tour with a driving distance of 270 yards. Cheyenne is putting it six yards past Lincicome's average. She'd be keeping up with PGA Tour pros -- legitimately. BOOM!
3. Cheyenne was better than par on half her holes -- with eight birdies and an eagle.
Talk about how deep tour golf is. Cheyenne is currently ranked 262nd in the world. But she's still good enough to make eight birdies over 18 holes -- on a course set up for an LPGA Tour event. That's insane.
4. Cheyenne hit 16 of 18 greens in regulation.
That's gonna equate to low scores. But Cheyenne dropped putts -- only needing 26 of them on the round. Clinic!
5. This was only Cheyenne's second round of the year in the 60s -- and she obliterated her career-best round.
Not to say we didn't see this coming. But when a player only has only broken 70 once all year -- with a 67 in March -- you don't exactly expect a 63 in the cards. Maybe we'll credit this to the rapper Drake, who Cheyenne met on Tuesday in Drake's home country. Now Cheyenne is making headlines of her own.
Let's just say, Cheyenne Woods was going up on a Tuesday, to quote one of Drake's songs.
Woods is in Ontario this week for the LPGA Tour's Manulife Classic and she caught one of the most famous rappers alive, Drake, doing a show in his hometown. That's pretty good timing. We bet not many tour pros could say they've seen Drake doing a concert in Canada. But even more impressive? Tiger's niece got to go backstage with him before the show started.
Here's an Instagram that Drake posted last night:
It looks like Cheyenne hit up the concert with fellow tour pros Jaye Marie Green and Sadena Parks, both LPGA Tour rookies.
Maybe Cheyenne will get Drake to come out to the LPGA Tour event this week, who knows! Drizzy's known for his love of all sports -- it's about time he became a big golf fan.
No. 1 Lydia Ko announced in her AM press conf that she'll donate her winnings at this wk's event to Nepal Earthquake relief.— LPGA Media (@LPGAMedia) April 29, 2015
Nepal was devastated by Saturday's 7.8-magnitude earthquake and its aftershocks, which have left thousands dead and even more in need of aid. One of the country's only golf courses has been transformed into a refugee camp, but there's so much more help needed. Ko, who turned 18 on Friday, is playing in the North Texas Shootout this week after earning $300,000 for her victory at the Swinging Skirts Classic on Sunday.
Ko is not the first golfer to pledge his/her earnings to provide help for dealing with a natural disaster. In 2011, Ryo Ishikawa gave away his entire season's earnings -- plus an additional $1,200 for each birdie he made -- for earthquake and tsunami relief in Japan.
There have been plenty of generous other golfers, but Ko is the first to step up this week. Hopefully, some of the guys in the field at the WGC-Cadillac Match Play -- which has a whopping $9.25 million purse -- will follow her lead.
Such ignominy seems only appropriate given the way U.S. golfers have fared on tour the last three months. Since Mo Martin claimed the Ricoh Women's British Open with her tap-in eagle on the 72nd hole at Royal Birkdale in July, just one American has been victorious in the last 11 LPGA events—Austin Ernst at the Portland Classic in August.
Granted, the dry spell in and of itself isn't remarkable given the depth of talent internationally in the women's game. But it comes in stark contrast to how the 2014 season began. During the first 17 events of the year, Americans won 11 times, including nine of 11 tournaments from Kraft Nabisco to the British Open.
Now, it's not just winning but simply contending that has become difficult of late. Top-five and top-10 finishes have both declined in the last 11 tournaments, with Americans averaging only 1.18 top-fives each week (compared to 2.53 the first 17 starts) and 2.91 top-10s (down from 4.41).
Not all news is bad for fans of the red, white and blue. Wie now has two top-five finishes in two starts as she returns from a finger injury that sidelined her in late August and early September. Meanwhile, Lewis, a three-time winner in 2014, still leads the money list by more than $450,000 over second-place Park, and has a 1,071-point advantage in the LPGA's Race to CME Globe year-long competition. Lewis is also 30 points ahead in the Rolex Player of the Year standings, an award she claimed in 2012.