HARTFORD, CT – It’s the 15th anniversary of Suzy Whaley making her historic start in the Greater Hartford Open, now Travelers Championship.
Whaley became the first female to qualify for a PGA Tour since Babe Zaharias in the 1945 Los Angeles Open by winning the 2002 Connecticut Section PGA Championship. A year later, Whaley teed it up at her home course, TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, to challenge herself and to encourage her two daughters and other young girls everywhere that anything is possible.
Whaley’s GHO appearance came two months after Annika Sorenstam played in the Colonial Invitational on a sponsor exemption. Sorenstam admitted competing on the PGA Tour was something that she had dreamed about, especially with Tiger Woods being one of her closest friends, but she was convinced it was the right thing to do thanks to Whaley.
Now, Brittany Lincicome will join Sorenstam and Michelle Wie as the only females to receive a sponsor exemption to a PGA Tour event. Lincicome, sixth on the LPGA Tour in driving distance and winner of eight tournaments, will play in the Barbasol Championship on July 19-22 in Nicholasville, Ky., that is opposite the British Open at Carnoustie Golf Club in Scotland.
“I love competing with the guys,” said Linciome, who lives in Seminole, Fla. “I feel like I step up my game when I play with them. I play a little harder, try a little harder when I play against them. I always thought it would be cool to try.”
Tom Murray, president and CEO of Perio, which owns the Barbasol and Pure Silk brands, reached out to Lincicome a few weeks ago.
“I was kind of torn,” she said. “Obviously I can already hear people saying you are trying to compare yourself to the men. That’s not what it is.”
Lincicome, 32, said she’s already feeling more nervous about it than she would a major championship and is uncertain what kind of reception she’ll get.
Hopefully she’ll be enthusiastically accepted, as Whaley was in Cromwell 15 years ago. The following is an excellent story by Randell Mell of Golf World Magazine.
Bittany “Bam Bam” Lincicome gets it.
The LPGA’s two-time major championship winner knows she will be more a marketing tool than a traditional sponsor exemption, but she’s hoping to have some fun at the PGA Tour’s Barbasol Championship next month while helping out a company that has been so good to her.
Perio gets it, too. That’s the parent company of Barbasol and Pure Silk.
It’s a pretty good bet Lincicome will bring more media attention to the Barbasol Championship than any other player in the field that week.
It gives the title sponsor investing a big chunk of money in the PGA Tour a better chance of getting noticed while playing opposite The Open at Carnoustie.
That makes Lincicome a more valuable asset than any other player in the Barbasol field.
Yes, it could be really good for Lincicome, too.
Or it could be bad.
She is already bracing for some backlash.
“I can already hear people saying, ‘You are trying to compare yourself to the men.’ That’s not what it is about,” Lincicome said Friday at the U.S. Women’s Open.
She said it’s about having some fun while helping the title sponsor add to the entertainment value of the event.
“I’m already nervous,” she said. “I feel like every time I walk by one of those guys, they are going to look at me like, ‘Why the heck are you here? What are you doing here?’ Hopefully, they are really nice.”
The guys who get it will be.
Shame on the guys who don’t.
The players who can step back and see beyond their small bailiwick and their own self-interest will see a highly entertaining female player who is looking beyond her own self-interest.
Lincicome didn’t seek this out.
Perio CEO Tom Murray invited her to play. Lincicome represents Pure Silk. She accepted. Murray knows her well and sees the upside in what she offers. She’s a big talent to whom fans quickly warm.
“He came to me, literally, a couple weeks ago,” Lincicome said. “He was like, ‘What do you think?’”
Yes, again, this could be really good for Lincicome, but she isn’t approaching the offer of a sponsor exemption the way players who will complain about her taking their spot in the field would. She isn’t looking at it solely in terms of what Barbasol can do for her. And she isn’t looking at it as if Barbasol owes her something.
The bottom line is that this is called a “sponsor exemption” for a reason. It’s Perio’s call to make. The company earned the right signing a big check to gain title sponsorship.
There’s a lot on the line for Lincicome. She is representing the LPGA, and how she fares and carries herself could help expand the mixed-event opportunities the PGA Tour and LPGA are studying.
“Hopefully, a lot of people come out and follow and cheer for me, because I’ll need a little extra support that week,” Lincicome said.
Here’s hoping the same.
TWO NUTMEGGERS QUALIFY FOR U.S. OPEN
Cameron Wilson of Rowayton and amateur Theo Humphrey of Greenwich were among the five players to advance to the 118th U.S. Open in sectional qualifying at Canoe Brook Country Club in Summit, N.J. The national championship is June 14-17 at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y.
Wilson shot 7-under-par 135 for 36 holes to share medalist honors with Calum Hill of Silver City, N.M. It will the third U.S. Open for Wilson, the 2014 NCAA champion. The sectional was only the third competitive round of the year for Wilson, who has no status on any professional tour. The last time he was at Shinnecock was the 2004 U.S. Open when he assisted the U.S. Golf Association.
Humphrey, a 2017 U.S. Amateur semifinalist who just completed his eligibility at Vanderbilt, garnered the final spot in a playoff with Mark Hoffman. Humphrey parred the first hole after Hoffman bogeyed his final hole to fall into the playoff.
“Honestly, I’m pretty relieved,” Humphrey said. “I had to wait around an hour and a half to see what my fate was going to be and luckily I had a chance to play some more golf and made a solid par. … It’s really the worst when it’s out of your control. When you are just sitting and hoping other people play poorly, that’s never a fun game.”