Arizona will be well-represented at the LPGA Bank of Hope Founders Cup at Wildfire Golf Club in Phoenix. Video: azcentral sports
There are four golfers in particular who are great ambassadors for Arizona
If you ever want inspiration to take on a new challenge, spend a little time with some of the women on the LPGA Tour.
There’s Cristie Kerr, winner of two major championships and a former No. 1-ranked women’s golfer. This offseason, her idea of relaxing wasn’t just puttering around her Napa Valley Kerr Wine Cellars, but to sit “for my Level 1 introductory Court of Master Sommeliers’ exam,” she said recently at an event to promote this week’s LPGA Bank of Hope Founders Cup tournament. She passed.
Next we have Ryann O’Toole, and although she’s still looking for her first LPGA victory, it won’t be for lack of physical preparedness. The tour doesn’t rank golfers by their fitness, but “managing her body,” as she called it, puts her second to none in that regard. “I’m very active, I love to work out, I’m very competitive in that sense,” she said.
OK, how about Cheyenne Woods? She’s worked hard to create an identity separate from her famous golfing uncle, but she clearly has Tiger’s focus and drive. “One goal I would say for the season for me is to qualify for all five majors,” she said. Ambitious, since she’s only ever played in two of them in the same year so far.
Even a youngster who isn’t on the tour yet might make your head spin. Hannah O’Sullivan, who is all of 18, got a sponsor’s exemption into the Founders Cup. Why? Well, she was the youngest tournament winner in the history of the women’s Symetra developmental tour, won the 2015 U.S. Women’s Amateur and last year was the No. 1 female in the World Amateur Golf Rankings.
But don’t look for her on tour just yet – she is enrolling at Duke this fall. “I really realized that I want the full college experience I wasn’t willing to give that up,” she said. Goodbye, q-school; hello, ACC.
Here’s something else about all four of these talented athletes – they are our neighbors in Arizona. Kerr is a Scottsdale snowbird; dyed-in-the-wool Californian O’Toole recently relocated to Arizona and is “not looking to move anytime soon;” Woods is Phoenix native and a graduate of Xavier Prep; and O’Sullivan is a Chandler Hamilton High product.
From natives to transplants, all four are great ambassadors for Arizona. Even O’Toole, who needed a little convincing at first.
“When I first moved here I’m thinking, how quickly can I move back?” she said. “I’m from the West Coast, I’m from California, I’m used to the beach and there’s no beach anywhere close to here.
“But since I’ve been here, for eight months now, I absolutely love it. The mountain ranges, being able to go hiking, running trails, the golf courses, the beautiful sunsets, the nightlife. There is a lot of culture here. … There’s a lot to discover. I love the people here and I’m not looking to move anytime soon.”
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Kerr acknowledged that the great golf courses in the state is the “integral part of why I live here,” but far from the only one. She pointed out that the Valley, with Phoenix at the core, is a big city but it can feel like a small town, “so it’s very unique in that respect.”
For Woods, there’s nothing like playing one of the Valley’s many desert courses.
“I love playing desert golf, particularly here in Phoenix mainly because of the views,” she said. “I love having the mountains in the background, and the desert has a unique beauty to it that I didn’t really appreciate until I left here.”
O’Toole, who tried living in Florida, was a quick convert.
“I’m amazed that there’s not more pro golfers that live here,” she said. “It actually shocks me that they choose Florida over this.”
Bank of Hope Founders Cup
Where: Wildfire Golf Club, JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort and Spa. Par 72, 6,601 yards.
Address: 5350 Marriott Drive, Phoenix, 85054
TV: Golf Channel (Thursday, 3-6 p.m.; Friday, 3-5 p.m.; Saturday, 4-6 p.m.; Sunday, 4-6 p.m.)
Purse: $1,500,000. Winner receives $225,000.
Wednesday: Official pro-am, 7 a.m.
Thursday: Founders Cup first round, 7 a.m.; Girls Golf Booth, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.; LPGA Lesson Zone, practice range, 10 a.m.- 2 p.m.; Founders/Pioneers, 18th green “Founders Perch,” 3-5 p.m.
Friday: Founders Cup second round, 7 a.m.; Girls Golf Booth, 8 a.m.-4 p.m.; LPGA Lesson Zone, practice range, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.; Founders autograph session, merchandise tent, 10:30 a.m.-noon. Founders/Pioneers, 18th
green “Founders Perch,” 3-5 p.m.
Saturday: Founders Cup third round, 7:35 a.m.; Girls Golf Booth, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.; LPGA Lesson Zone, practice range, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.; Founders autograph session, merchandise tent, 10:30 a.m.-noon.; Junior Golf Day, on
course, 3-4:30 p.m.; Founders/Pioneers, 18th green “Founders Perch,” 4-6 p.m.; Hall of Fame golf, holes 10-18, 4 p.m. (after final pro group)
Sunday: Founders Cup final round, 7:35 a.m.; Girls Golf Booth, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.; LPGA Lesson Zone, driving range, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.; Founders autograph session, merchandise tent, 10:30 a.m.-noon.; Founders/Pioneers, 18thgreen “Founders Perch,” 4-6 p.m.
Past champions: 2011, Karrie Webb (-12); 2012, Yani Tseng (-18); 2013, Stacy Lewis (-23); 2014, Karrie Webb (-19); 2015, Hyo Joo Kim (-21); 2016, Sie Young Kim (-27).
Go to golf.azcentral.com to see the official list of 144 golfers entered in the field for this week’s event.
This week on tour
Champions Tour: Tucson Conquistadores Classic
Friday-Sunday: Omni Tucson National (Catalina Course).
TV: Golf Channel: Friday, 6:30 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 1:30 p.m.
Outlook: Steve Stricker, who turned 50 on Feb. 23, is making his debut … Tucson National previous hosted a PGA Tour event that ended when the Match Play Championship moved to the area from 2007 through 2014.
PGA Tour: Arnold Palmer Invitational
Thursday-Sunday: Bay Hill Lodge & Resort, Orlando, Fla.
TV: Thursday-Friday, 11 a.m. (Golf Channel); Saturday-Sunday, 9:30 a.m. (Golf Channel), 11:30 a.m. (Channel 12).
Outlook: This is the first tournament at Bay Hill since Arnold Palmer died in September. … The field includes four of the top six players in the world. Missing are Dustin Johnson, who hasn’t played since 2011, and Jordan Spieth, who has never played.