NASSAU, The Bahamas -- As Lizette Salas approached the 18th green in her Solheim Cup singles match against Suzann Pettersen last August at Colorado GC, her parents, Ramon and Martha, struggled with their emotions as they watched with other family members of the U.S. team.
"You can't imagine what a big deal this is for us, two Mexican immigrants, to see our daughter play for the United States," Martha said. "We are so proud of how well she represents us, our new country and our homeland."
Salas, 24, started her third year on the LPGA this week at the PureSilk Bahamas LPGA Classic, where her second-round 67 in windy weather on The Ocean Club Paradise Island left her at seven under par going to the weekend.
Related: LPGA stats and scores
Her great score amid the breezy conditions came despite playing far less than 100 percent.
"I woke up in tears," she said. "I had flu symptoms, a high fever. I wasn't sure I was going to be able to play. But I'd rather be on the course than in bed crying, feeling sorry for myself."
Her solid round was thanks to a hot putter that included a momentum saving 20-footer for par on No. 16, the hardest hole on the course, and an up-and-down for par from a bunker on No. 17.
"The wind helped me stay cool," said Salas, who finished feeling better but still slightly feverish. "I like using my imagination on the golf course, so playing in the wind challenges me in a way that I like."
Salas' career in golf has been all about challenges, each and every one of which she has conquered. She moved from No. 51 on the 2012 money list to No. 15 last year. Her best finish in a major was sixth in the 2013 Ricoh Women's British Open on the Old Course at St. Andrews.
What she isn't doing is moving away from her humble roots, where challenge came in daily doses.
Ramon Salas has been a mechanic at Azuza Greens public golf course in Azuza, near Los Angeles, for more than 30 years, and at one point bartered extra work to get golf lessons for his three children. Now, every Tuesday that she is home, Lizette teaches youngsters at Azuza Greens.
"I felt like a weird flower out on the golf course," Lizette says on her website about when she first started playing tournament golf.
"At first, it was really intimidating because I was the only Latina," she says. "My parents helped me through that. I'm from a city that is predominately Hispanic. I want to be a positive role model for the girls in my community and change the stereotypes placed on Hispanics."
And that she is doing. Lizette used golf to earn a scholarship to Southern California, where she became the school's only four-time All-American in any sport, male or female. She also became the first person in her immediate family to graduate college, earning a degree in sociology in 2011.
Now, the 5-foot-4 fireplug who loves Latin dancing is emerging as one of the better players in women's golf, and certainly one of the most-compelling stories.
"I was feeling it and I was rolling it out there today," Salas said with a sly smile after her Friday round that seemed to say, "I just gave you a money quote, be sure to use it."
Lizette comes from outside the golf cookie cutter in just about every way. In that way, she is reminiscent of Lee Trevino and Nancy Lopez, two Hall of Famers also with Mexican roots. Whether or not Salas achieves that greatness, she has already been a great role model for her community.
NASSAU, The Bahamas -- As her pro-am group trudged up the 18th fairway after a difficult day battling 40 mph wind, Lydia Ko walked over to the scoreboard well right of the green and apologized to the three men working there.
"Sorry," she said. "We weren't trying, really."
That she took the time to talk to the men as well as generously used the word "we" when it was three of her amateur playing partners who peppered the scoreboard with wayward shots was a perfect example of a maturity that belies Ko's 16 years.
And that maturity, as well as the fact she has won five professional tournaments, two on the LPGA, were among the reasons commissioner Mike Whan gave Lydia an exemption to the minimum-age rule of 18 and extended her an LPGA card for this season.
Related: Leadbetter to tread cautiously with Ko
Ko gave further proof of her maturity, ability and resiliency Thursday when she posted a five-under-par 68 in the first round of the PureSilk Bahamas LPGA Classic, the opening tournament of the season and her first as an LPGA member. At day's end, the score gave her a share of the first-round lead with Meena Lee.
"I got off to a shaky start, leaving myself a four-footer for par on No. 1 [which she made], but that birdie on 2 got me going," Ko said. "I was shocked that I was not more nervous. But my Mom told me yesterday just to have fun. So I just tried to keep positive and hit the while ball."
Clearly she had not been damaged by the play of her amateurs partners a day earlier, of whom I was one. One of the standards to which Whan holds players is their ability to represent the tour in social situations, like pro-ams and the various parties during tournament week, as well as their skill level.
At both the Tuesday night reception in the elegant Royal Tower Hotel and Wednesday at the pro-am on The Ocean Club Paradise Island, Lydia was charming, smart, funny, respectful, inquisitive and completely engaged. There is no doubt Whan made the right call.
Related: Think Young, Play Hard -- Lydia Ko
Ko, a Korean by birth who grew up in New Zealand, appears ready to set up base in Orlando, in part so she can have easy access to her new swing coach, Sean Hogan, at the David Leadbetter Academy. She is also trying out Scott Lubin as her caddie, who has on his resume a six-year stint with Jack Nicklaus.
Lydia's decision to drop the only coach she has had, Guy Wilson, for the Leadbetter connection raised eyebrows in her homeland. "I was so surprised," she said. "I didn't even know it would make a story, but it was like big news in New Zealand, especially within where I was. Everyone was, oh, blah blah blah, and I was really surprised."
But like those errant shots off the scoreboard, Ko has put the controversy behind her and moved on. "I talked to a couple other players, and they supported me," Ko said. "I had to do what was the best for me and my situation, and a lot of other people gave me support in that, as well."
It's early, to be sure, but after the first round of the first tournament of the LPGA season, and in her first start as a tour member, Ko appears to be doing all the right things. And not a lot of 16-year-olds can say that. She sure seems like the early favorite for Rookie of the Year, and don't be surprised if she contends for Player of the Year as well.
By Ron Sirak
In the depths of the Great Recession, when the LPGA schedule dipped to 23 events, veteran tour pro Janice Moodie memorably noted: "I now have a part-time job." And she was correct.
Now, not only has commissioner Mike Whan gotten the schedule back to 32 tournaments for 2014, he's adding the Race to the CME Globe, a year-long points race formally announced Jan. 7 that will bring a $1 million bonus to the top player after the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.
The top 72 players on the Race to the CME Globe points list will qualify for November's Tour Championship plus anyone who has won an LPGA event in 2014. Only LPGA members, however, are eligible for the $1 million bonus, a significant sum considering the leading money winner in 2013, Inbee Park, earned $2.5 million.
The Race bonus will be unofficial money. Anyone who makes a cut in a full-field event gets points; 500 for the winner of a regular tournament, 625 for a major victory. The top 40 in limited-field events get points as do the top 20 at the Lorena Ochoa tournament, which at 36 entrants is the smallest field of the year. Majors are worth 25 percent more points overall.
The top three players in the points race will control their own destiny at the Tour Championship -- win it and you get the $1 million bonus. Only the top nine entering the event at the Tiburon GC in Naples, Fla., will have a chance to win the $1 million. Bonuses will also be paid to the second-place ($150,000) and third-place finishers ($100,000) on the points list.
It's possible, according to Whan, that the $1 million first prize could be decided in a sudden-death playoff after the Tour Championship has concluded. "We wanted to make our season-ending event even more fun and more dramatic," Whan said. "The points will be reset but not to zero. There is no doubt season leaders will have a significant advantage, but they won't have it locked up."
The Wounded Warrior Project, which assists injured service members and their families, is expected to receive up to $250,000 from the season race, with CME Group donating $1,000 for each eagle during the season and $5,000 for each eagle at the Tour Championship. The points race starts with the season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Jan. 23-26.
[Photo: Getty Images]
Confessions of the caddie who called in a penalty on Stacy Lewis, and almost cost her the No. 1 world ranking
Photo by Getty Images.
That day, my caddie (for this piece, we'll call him Ralphie) said he'd been out on the golf course in Florida, played a little poker when he came in, and was drinking a few beers with a friend while they watched the LPGA Founders Cup event on TV.
Not only is Lydia Ko the first amateur to win two LPGA events, we're pretty sure she's the first golfer to announce her decision to turn pro via YouTube:
In the video, a little on-course banter with New Zealand rugby player Israel Dagg leads to Ko, 16, deciding to turn pro.
There's still no word on whether or not the LPGA has accepted her petition for membership, but it sounds like she's planning to play for a paycheck in November at the CME Group Titleholders tournament in Naples.
By Alex Myers
"Let's just say it involved a rock and the flagstick..." That's how Stacy Lewis described on Twitter the shot by Shanshan Feng that led to an unlikely winning eagle at the Reignwood LPGA Classic. We couldn't have said it any better.
Check out what turned out to be arguably the best and luckiest shot of 2013:
It appears Feng thought her ball was heading into a hazard, but after receiving two fortunate bounces, she converted the short eagle putt to the delight of the Beijing fans, ending in remarkable fashion the first-ever LPGA event in China. Unfortunately for Lewis, it wasn't such a fairy-tale ending.
Aside from being nipped by a shot thanks to Feng's good fortune, her post-round comments describing the way the tournament ended didn't go over well with many who thought she sounded like a sore loser. Lewis also complained about the Chinese fans rooting against her and bothering her by snapping photographs.
The end result? A frustrated Lewis deleted her Twitter account, which leads to an entirely different discussion. Fortunately for golf fans, though, a clip of the improbable shot still exists. Sorry, Stacy, but it's worth watching.