Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Augusta James-Golfer

                               Augusta James, with her Dad, Geoff

The official title of the golf tournament I attended last week is: “Chico's Patty Berg Memorial Tournament”. It is a combination tournament that includes golfers from the Symetra Tour, and others from the Legends Tour. The ladies from the Symetra Tour played a four day, 72 hole tournament whereas the Legends group played a 36 hole, Saturday and Sunday event.

The Legends Tour ladies played alongside the Symetra golfers, a really nice touch.

Patty Berg grew up in northern climes, but refined her game in the south, eventually settling in Fort Myers. She was a major player in the golf game. She was a founding member of the LPGA, and its first president. She won 63 professional tournaments, including 15 majors. A member of the Hall of Fame, she passed away in 2004.

The tournament was played at the Cypress Lake Country Club, less than five miles from my front door. The weather was perfect, except for some very stiff afternoon breezes which reached almost 40 miles per hour.

                            Alan, Jean, Augusta, and Geoff James

I walked much of the course during the first round with a delightful couple from north of Toronto. Alan and Jean James emigrated to Canada in 1974, and the Canadian golf world is grateful for that. Their son Geoff spends most of his summer looking after things at the Loyalist Golf Club in Bath; however, last week, he had more important things to do: he carried the bag for his daughter, Augusta.

Augusta was born on the first day of a certain golf tournament played in Georgia, in 1993. She attended North Carolina State on a golf scholarship. Her brother is currently enrolled at Charleston Southern Baptist, also a Division One school.

I spoke briefly with Augusta after her round. “It was really an 'up and down' day for me. When it's not your best day, but you end up at even par, it's not bad.”

The following day, she also ended up at par, qualifying for the final two days of the tournament. And that's when she turned it up a notch. She finished under par both rounds, ended up at -4, and tied for fourth. That moved her from eleventh place to sixth on the all-important money list. The top ten players at the end of the year graduate to the LPGA.

She is right behind another Canadian golfer, Jessica Wallace, from Langley, British Columbia. I met Jessica on the course. Stolling behind her threesome, I picked up a putter cover adorned with a Canadian flag. I ran it up to her caddy. Jessica thanked me, profusely. "Thank goodness," she remarked. "I bought that on ebay this week!'

                                                Jessica Wallace

I asked her if she planned to attend the Patty Berg next year. She replied, humbly, yet confidently, “Only if there is an opening on the LPGA Tour that week”. She knows the course well. In fact she won this tournament last year. She skipped a couple of Symetra events last year to play LPGA events. She finished out of the top ten by $ 800. She has other plans this year.

                                            At the scorer's tent

                           With Lorie Kane, Legends Tour Winner

Lorie Kane finished her Legends Tour round just ahead of Augusta. “I am really impressed with Augusta's game,” she told me, after holing out on the 18th green. “She has a lot of talent, and she is moving in the right direction. It is really exciting for me to see her progress!”

Golf can be a very humbling game, as we witnessed at the Masters with Jordan Spieth. During her round at this Legends Tour, Nancy Lopez watched her chip roll off the green, and down a slope, near a cart path. She chipped the ball back on the green, but only after a couple of chunks. She carded an 89 for the round. We are all human.

                    Nancy Lopez, offering encouragement to her ball.

                                   Pat Hurst, on the Legends Tour

Kane won the Legends Tour. She outlasted other golf luminaries including: Nancy Lopez, Liselotte Neumann, Helen Alfredsson, Pat Bradley, JoAnne Carner, Pat Hurst, Lisa Grimes, and Val Skinner.

A fine showing by two great Canadian golfers!!

James Hurst
April 19, 2016.

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