In a new series, Golf Digest Woman profiles some of the most interesting women working in the diverse, often male-dominated world of golf. This week's subject is 42-year-old Kelly Tilghman, Golf Channel host and anchor, and the first female lead analyst for the PGA Tour.
Q: Congrats on your new temp job as host of MSNBC's Olympic coverage. How did this departure from golf come about?
A: I got the call back in late December, right after Christmas. Molly Solomon, who's the coordinating producer for the Olympics, reached out to me and said she wanted me to work the Olympics for them. [Editor's note: Solomon is tapped to move to Golf Channel as Executive Producer after the London Games.] I'll never forget, the last thing she said to me before we hung up was, "Kelly, welcome to the Olympic family." And it just moved me. I was touched, because I've always wanted to do this. My job is basically Olympic host for MSNBC. We'll be carrying 20 of the 26 sports -- some 150-odd hours of the 200-something hours available. It's thrilling. There's a day host and a night host, and I'm the day host. It's a solo gig, and basically what I do is kind of a junior version of what you see from Bob Costas on NBC.
Q: So are you just crazy right now reading up on sports that you've barely even heard of?
A: Uh-huh [laughs]. I'm learning a lot.
Q: What are some of the things you've studied that you never in a million years thought you'd need in your job?
A: The history of England, the history of the UK, the history of Great Britain, the line of succession to the throne, the ancient Olympics versus the modern Olympics, the political repercussions of the Olympics -- you name it. I'm focusing a lot on the history of the Olympics in London. This will be their third time hosting, the only city that can boast that in the modern era. And then I'm focusing a lot on some of the premiere athletes, because we will be telling everyone's story. I'm learning the rules of all these different sports and trying to get to know the athletes from all these different countries. It's pretty cool.
Q: Since NBC and Golf Channel are part of the same family now, will you be doing more of this after the Olympics are over?
A: There's no doubt that I'll be returning to my usual gig at Golf Channel. That was always understood; I never thought this was a break from my current path. I just look at this as a lovely perk, a great reward for some hard work over the years. I think it's very cool that Golf Channel paved the path for the Olympics. I am so impressed with this company. I've always believed that we operated under a glass ceiling. And every time we think we've hit the ceiling, we shatter it and go to a new level. All this is a representation of what Golf Channel has achieved. We're getting noticed now. And the fact that one of us has been able to break away to participate in the Olympics really just speaks volumes to the respect that the company has garnered over the years.
Q: Come now, it says a little bit about your own abilities as well, doesn't it?
A: Oh, I'm thrilled. And I honestly do believe more of our people will be doing this, it's just that the Olympics happens during our endless summer of golf and we can't give up that many people. So maybe my other colleagues are going to get opportunities in upcoming Olympics, whether it's summer or winter. I just feel very privileged to be able to do this.
The wide-bodied, lightweight-titanium Serene driver has an ultra-thin crown, which allows for excess weight to be placed in strategic areas inside the head to optimize forgiveness and launch. The driver is 45 inches long and available in three lofts (10.5, 12 and 14 degrees). An external weight pad has been placed low and back in each of the three stainless-steel fairway woods; combined with the shallow clubhead design, it helps you get the ball up in the air with less effort. The fairway-wood lofts are slow-swing-speed friendly to add additional launch (the 3-wood is 18 degrees, the 5-wood 22 degrees and the 7-wood 26 degrees).
The Serene hybrid-iron set allows you to mix and match hybrids and irons to suit your needs; you can have as many as three hybrids (4, 5 and 6) or just opt for two, or one, or none -- the price is the same per club. That's right, you can buy these clubs in a piece-meal fashion, which is the best possible way to build a set. Get a fitting and fill in the gaps as you need to -- don't buy a "standard" configuration right off the rack. The Serene irons have wide soles and deep centers of gravity to help you get through the turf and launch the ball high, and the much-improved hybrids have a new, low-profile design that makes them easier to launch. (My one beef with the old Faith set was its deep-faced hybrids, which didn't perform well for most women since we don't typically hit down on the ball as much as men do.)
As of August 1, you can learn more about the Serene clubs (including the four putter models that will carry the name) at ping.com. Street price for the driver is $279. The fairway woods are $199 each, and the hybrids and irons $106 each.
Stone's accomplishment is indeed remarkable, but it also gives me pause. The girl has a professional website that lists her very active tournament schedule, a Twitter account (@LatannaStone) and a "fan community." I first heard of her five years ago, when I was an editor at Golf For Women magazine and received an e-mail with a link to a television news segment featuring the then-kindergartner:
According to a 2011 profile in Golfweek, Stone is home schooled and practices golf five days a week. Her father, who was once Stone's coach (she is now coached by noted instructor Brian Mogg) acts as caddie and her mother as videographer. There's a well-oiled machine in place to take this girl into the stratosphere. She has already won over 100 tournaments and seems destined for greatness.
Unless she burns out before high school.
Call me a cynic, but the age of some of the competitors popping up in national events is becoming ridiculously low. The LPGA tour is already lousy with overzealous parents watching their young daughters' every move, and there are enough cautionary tales (Michelle Wie and Ty Tryon the most famous) of parents pushing children to superstardom before puberty with disastrous results to make me wonder, shouldn't there be an age limit for these events like there is on the professional tours? (The LPGA Tour has an age limit of 18 to join, which they've set aside for people as young as a 16-year-old Lexi Thompson on a case-by-case basis.) I don't care how much the parents and coaches insist that it's the child who's driving the bus; a 10-year-old doesn't know what she's missing by spending all her time practicing and competing. If there's nothing stopping these girls from going for the big leagues in elementary school, there's also nothing stopping their parents from pushing them too hard. The media attention the young prodigies receive when they compete against grown-ups in a national event becomes a dangerous carrot for everyone around them. (Case in point, after the Stone news broke Tuesday, I received a message from the parent of another nationally ranked child that said, "we thought it was prob too soon for USGA - guess not!!! Next Year :)")
I think it's time for the USGA to revisit its own regulations. Let the kids compete against each other in junior events big and small, but make them wait until they're at least 14 to qualify for the U.S. Amateur. The price of a lost childhood is too high to pay.
Q: You're a 2-handicap golfer, a mechanical engineer and a girl -- three things that don't usually go together. Does it stop people in their tracks when they see you do your job?
A: [Laughs] I guess it's surprising, even though I choose not to think of myself as a novelty but as a part of the team. But yes, I think you have people's attention because there aren't as many women in this industry that can speak with a technical competency about golf clubs and performance, and really also speak from the player's perspective. That's a really powerful package, whether you're a man or a woman.
Q: Before we launch into how you ended up where you are, tell us exactly what a director of metalwood engineering does for a living.
A: We have a strong team of development engineers and designers, and I work with each of them to support and direct their efforts on things like setting specifications, looking at competitive products and analyzing their performance capabilities, looking at new materials and methods of manufacturing, and looking at how we can improve our overall product performance. I also work very closely with our vendors over in Asia as well as locally to execute and manage the projects, and I work as a liaison to our leadership and tour department. I provide technical presentations for their knowledge base, so that they can adequately explain the product performance to our players and our leadership team. And I support our sales and marketing with the same type of information.
To beat the heat, I say stick to cool basics and keep your look simple with just a hit of color. The easiest way to do that is with a breezy skort. I've noticed them in all colors with fun contrast trims this season. Top them off with your favorite moisture-wicking polo shirt in white, and no one will know how little time you spent looking like a million easy-breezy-bucks!
Golftini Khaki Pleated Skort With Hot Pink Trim; $120, Visit website
Puma Women's Pleated Tech Golf Skort; $53, Visit website
Nike Dri-Fit Convertible Women's Golf Skort; $57, Visit website
Fairway & Greene Iselin Golf Skort; $84, Visit website
Tommy Hilfiger Golf Abigail Poly Skort With Faux Belt; $80, Visit website
Fila Women's Pierluigi Skort; $60, Visit website
What's the secret sauce behind this rocket launcher? (Really, couldn't they just have named it that?) A pull-face construction (similar to what you see in metalwoods) allows TaylorMade to make the RBZ Max's unsupported face very thin and responsive from top to bottom and front to back. Tungsten weights in the sole (mainly in the heel and toe) help lower the center of gravity to get the ball airborne easily, as well as mitigate the penalties on off-center hits. It's actually a hollow clubhead with a very wide sole, yet it looks sleek and compact. The harsh-vibration problem, common in pull-face designs, was solved by placing a viscoelastic material called Hybrar inside the head, behind the upper part of the face.
The company says the RBZ Max set is designed for higher handicappers, but we've found that it works well for women of most abilities, down to the single-digit players (really slow swingers are better off with irons that have even wider soles and higher lofts). As with all club purchases, we strongly recommend you go through a thorough demo and fitting process before buying anything, no matter your ability. To find out the steps to take and the questions to ask your retailer, check out our step-by-step guide to buying new clubs.
(Photo by Getty Images)
World No. 1 Yani Tseng has parted ways with her caddie, Australian Jason Hamilton, after 16 wins together, Beth Ann Baldry of Golfweek reports. Tseng, who has dominated the LPGA Tour for the last two years and holds a substantial lead over No. 2 Na Yeon Choi in the Rolex World Ranking, has been mired in a slump since finishing out of the top 10 in a tournament for the first time all year at the Shoprite LPGA Classic in early June. She finished T12 there, then managed only a T59 at the Wegman's LPGA Championship, a missed cut at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship and a T50 at last week's U.S. Women's Open.
When asked for comment by Golf Digest Woman, Tseng's manager Erine Huang said, "Yani told Jason that she would like to have a break. She is looking for someone, preferably from the PGA Tour or Champion Tour to caddie for next tournament at Evian and see how it goes. She knows there are some great caddies on the LPGA but she doesn't like to recruit someone away from her fellow LPGA players."
"I wasn't surprised at all," Hamilon told Baldry of the firing, "things have been weird for four or five weeks." Hamilton will be moving over to the PGA Tour, where he has already picked up a new employer, Danny Lee from New Zealand.
Are you the parent (or grandparent, aunt, uncle, or friend) of a young woman who might be interested in picking up golf? Then now is the time to get her started.
Monday marks the launch of Play Golf America's Take Your Daughter to the Course Week (Play Golf America is an organization funded by the National Golf Course Owners Association, PGA of America, LPGA, EWGA and The First Tee), and several hundred golf courses across the country are participating. The program offers one free green fee for any young woman who'd like to try her hand at golf (along with a paying adult), and at least one free clinic. Many courses are also running additional promotions such as rules work shops, short-game clinics and pro shop discounts for girls.
To find a participating facility in your area, click here. The program ends on Sunday, July 15.
Sophie Gustafson played Rd. 4 in half the time it took her (and six fewer shots than she needed) to play Rd. 1 of the U.S. Women's Open. (Photo by Getty Images)
Sophie Gustafson clocked an over-six-hour round of 77 on Thursday afternoon, which included holdups that would have warranted a take-out pizza order like the one Lori Garbacz placed during the first round of the 1991 U.S. Women's Open at Colonial. On Saturday, when the heat wave was over and play should have sped up considering the field was cut to 65 players that went off one tee in twosomes, a fierce wind and tricky pin positions kept the pace snail-like, and Gustafson shot a field-worst 12-over 84. In last place after round three, she found herself teeing off first in Sunday's final round, as a single. She finished 18 holes in three hours and six minutes, putting a five-hole gap between herself the group behind her, and shot a one-under-par 71.
"It was awesome to play alone today," Gustafson said after her round. "My 84 yesterday was just a matter of poor ball striking, and with the wind we had, it was not a good combination. There was almost no wind today so it played a lot easier, and I hit the ball a lot better. Nice to be able to play at my own pace. The 'stop-start-wait-hurry' thing is no fun."
The Sunday flags at Blackwolf Run aren't exactly benign, but some tees have been moved up, and with a dead calm and comfortable temperatures finally combining to take weather out of play, scores are already much lower than they were on Saturday. Gustafson's three-hour round will go unmatched, but hopes are the leaders will make it around in less than five hours to keep NBC from having to go over their allotted ending time of 6 o'clock Eastern. The 8:20 a.m. group -- whose position was exactly in the middle of the Sunday starting field -- finished in four hours and 18 minutes, so there's hope play will be considerably faster even for the last groups. And if the pace keeps up, so does the possibility of scores in the 60s. Korea's Na Yeon Choi takes a six-shot lead into the final round and the largest deficit ever overcome in this event is five shots (by Annika Sorenstam at the Broadmoor in 1995), but there's a bevvy of talented players behind her looking to break that record. With Choi starting out with a nervous bogey, you never know.
"I don't know where they can even put some of these pins tomorrow, considering what they did today," said Paula Creamer after posting an early -- and rare -- one-under 71. "But you knew that was going to happen. The USGA doesn't like it when 10, 11 people are under par. They made it hard today. The wind made it even tougher, as did where they put some of the tee boxes for some of these pins. I never thought hole No. 6 would be a back tee box, but it is. I made a par and I felt like I made a birdie."
The tougher conditions, in addition to the already intimidating length of the Blackwolf Run layout, with flags teetering near the water's edge on many holes, resulted in rounds taking painfully long on Saturday. The final pairing of Wie and Pettersen made the turn in 3:06 after being forced to wait for up to three groups to tee off before them on some holes. Slow play has been a hot-button topic on the LPGA Tour this season, culminating in a much-disputed loss-of-hole penalty for Morgan Pressel in the semi-final of the Sybase Match Play Championship in May, but no penalties have been given out so far this week. As long as the sluggish pace is a result of the course setup, it's difficult to penalize the players.
Only one player seemed to have no problem with the grueling conditions on Saturday. The fifth-ranked Na Yeon Choi of Korea, who started the day at -1, four shots behind Pettersen, scored eight birdies on her way to a record-matching 65 while the rest of the field backed up considerably (Saturday's scoring average was just under 77 strokes; Wie and Pettersen both shot 78). Choi, who takes a six-shot lead over Amy Yang into Sunday's final round, called the round "fun," "a great time" and "very exciting."
Even if it took her five and a half hours to finish.