MIRABEL, QUE. - This isn’t your mother’s LPGA.
It’s more like your daughter’s.
At times on Wednesday the practice area here looked like a high school cafeteria. There was some singing on the practice green, a little dancing at the short game area and plenty of leggings, headphones and skorts to go around.
Sure, there have always been youngsters on the LPGA Tour, but they are standing out in the crowd more than ever. Not just because of the the way they look, but because they are winning ... a lot.
Leading the youth movement on tour is world No. 1 Yani Tseng who is racking up major championships at a pace never seen before on either tour. Her five major triumphs at age 22 surpass the totals that Jack, Tiger or Annika had at the same age.
What’s the secret?
“I think we’re just not afraid of anything,” Tseng said after playing in the pro-am for the 2010 Canadian Women’s Open at Hillsdale Golf and Coutry Club outside of Montreal. “The young players are very aggressive. They don’t care if there is water there. They just go for the pins.”
American Morgan Pressel knows a thing or two about bursting on to the scene at a young age. After qualifying for the Women’s U.S. Open at 12 years old and turning pro at 17, Pressel became the youngest winner of a women’s major when she won the 2001 Kraft Nabisco Championship at age 18. Now an LPGA veteran at 23, Pressel has had time to reflect on the impact young players are having on golf and, for that matter, all sports.
“Kids these days, first of all, their parents push them and really encourage them to work hard and play sports and take it seriously from a young age,” she said.
Pressel also says that kids specialize in one sport at a much younger age.
“When you play a bunch of different sports, when you get in college is when you realize you’re much better at one than the rest. If you start then, almost now you’ve started too late.”
Your early 20s used to be a time to hone your game and learn from the veterans at the top of the leaderboard. Those days are over. A few young players are already standing centre stage and we all know that kids like to bring their friends to the party.
“If one younger player is going to be a leader, then others will follow them because it’s like: ‘Oh, Rory can do it? I can do it, too,’ ” Tseng said.
LPGA Tour veteran Laura Davies, who has 80 professional wins, isn’t so sure things have changed.
“You’ve always got young girls coming through. You know, in my day I was a youngster and then there was another group and another group,” she said.
As for what Davies thinks of the funky clothing, the banter and fun and games taking place around her.
“You know, youngsters are youngsters. They’re always going to have fun. And if they don’t, they’re stupid.”
CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR, YANI
Yani Tseng gets no respect.
That’s not entirely accurate, but, while the golf world was busy drooling over Rory McIlroy’s first major victory at this summer’s U.S. Open, Tseng was busy adding two more majors to her trophy case.
Champion at four of the past eight majors, Tseng is winning at a record clip but still hasn’t become a household name in North America.
After gentle prodding from the media on Wednesday before the Thursday start of the 2010 Canadian Women’s Open at Hillsdale G&CC, Tseng bit on the subject.
“Yeah, I think about that sometimes, but just more people are watching the men’s tour,” she said. “Sometimes I do feel like: ‘Why don’t I get much attention, and I won five majors.’ ”
If she keeps up the pace she has set for herself Tseng might look back fondly at the days when she flew under the radar.
Tseng’s purchase of Annika Sorenstam’s Orlando house has been well-documented in golf circles but remains a topic of conversation.
“It’s perfect,” Tseng said of the house. “Every time I go back to the house, I see the trophy case and it tells me I need to win more tournaments.”
Does Tseng ever worry that Annika’s trophy case might not be big enough for her?
We'll see about that.
KANN NOW A LADIES MAN
Kraig Kann will be in your living room less frequently.
The familiar Golf Channel anchor is now the chief communications officer of the LPGA. Actually, Kann starts next week but he is getting a jumpstart on the new gig here at the 2010 Canadian Women’s Open.
Kann was an original member of the Golf Channel’s on-air team and worked at the network for 16 years.
“I firmly believe that the LPGA is the tour with the greatest potential and perhaps the sports league with the greatest potential,” Kann said.
On the men’s tour, golf fans often see only the top players once or twice a month. That’s not the case on the LPGA.
“The stars playing almost every week is a real benefit. Burnout can never be an issue,” he said. “They should be fresh and ready to do whatever it takes to build their brand and their image.”