Thursday, July 3, 2008

NW Arkansas Championship Pairings

There are two ways of checking out the pairings for the NW Arkansas Championship's first round Friday, the latter of which includes where the players are from. Although it lists nations, states, home towns, and current residences in something of a jumble, it still allows you to see at a glance just how geographically dispersed are the roots of women's golf.

In the 1st-tee early-morning prime-time quadrant, for instance, there are 6 players from the United States (3 from/in the SW, 2 from FL, and 1 from the mid-Atlantic), 3 from South Korea, 2 from Japan, and 1 each from Australia, Canada, Italy, and Paraguay:

Start Time: 8:32 AM
Morgan Pressel
Inbee Park
Paula Creamer

Start Time: 8:43 AM
Ai Miyazato
Seon Hwa Lee
Natalie Gulbis

Start Time: 8:54 AM
Julieta Granada
Diana D'Alessio
Hee-Won Han

Start Time: 9:05 AM
Pat Hurst
Giulia Sergas
Lorie Kane

Start Time: 9:16 AM
Momoko Ueda
Brittany Lincicome
Rachel Hetherington

Yup, the U.S. Women's Open champion had better get used to a lot more attention than usual, playing with the 2 biggest media draws in the tournament for at least 2/3 of it. Same goes for the Ginn Tribute champion, who's the most accomplished but least recognizable of her threesome in this country. Hurst, by the way, has pulled to within almost a half million dollars in career winnings of Kane; both are within sight of Dottie Pepper, the only other woman in the $6M range right now on the career money list (although Sherri Steinhauer and Jeong Jang are closing in fast and Hetherington, Han, and Creamer from this quadrant are within sight of it).

While the media's Big 4 are concentrated in 2 pairings, the top contenders this week are dispersed all over the course. Perhaps the largest number of them can be found in the 10th-tee early-afternoon prime-time quadrant:

Start Time: 12:10 PM
Jimin Kang
Kristy McPherson
Angela Park

Start Time: 12:21 PM
Sun Young Yoo
Karine Icher
Catriona Matthew

Start Time: 12:32 PM
Katherine Hull
Meg Mallon
Song-Hee Kim

Start Time: 12:43 PM
Minea Blomqvist
Jee Young Lee
Karen Stupples

Start Time: 12:54 PM
Cristie Kerr
Stacy Prammanasudh
Helen Alfredsson

I'm particularly interested in seeing how Super Sophs Park and McPherson and Junior Mints Lee and Blomqvist do playing together, as well as Americans Kerr and Prammanasudh and Europeans Matthew and Icher.

But my top pairing of the day (which is saying a lot when Ai-chan and Seon Hwa are playing together!) comes from the late-morning 10th-tee prime-time quadrant:

Start Time: 8:32 AM
Sung Ah Yim
Lindsey Wright
Candie Kung

Start Time: 8:43 AM
Christina Kim
Eun-Hee Ji
Na Yeon Choi

Start Time: 8:54 AM
Young Kim
Becky Morgan
Irene Cho

Start Time: 9:05 AM
Wendy Ward
Brandie Burton
Grace Park

Start Time: 9:16 AM
Hee Young Park
Jane Park
Jin Joo Hong

Nope. it's not the penultimate one, with its veteranly charisma and Grace, nor is it the all Asia-Pacific one at the start or the Korean diaspora one at the end (which puts a rookie with 2 Super Sophs). It's the Kim-Ji-Choi pairing, which could very well produce the tournament winner.

Of course, those going off in the 1st-tee early-afternoon prime-time quadrant would have something to say about that:

Start Time: 12:10 PM
Jill McGill
In-Kyung Kim
Laura Davies

Start Time: 12:21 PM
Jeong Jang
Christa Johnson
Nicole Castrale

Start Time: 12:32 PM
Sandra Gal
Ji Young Oh
Russy Gulyanamitta

Start Time: 12:43 PM
Mi Hyun Kim
Meena Lee
Brittany Lang

Start Time: 12:54 PM
Louise Friberg
Meaghan Francella
Carin Koch

Castrale has been racking up top 10s lately, Lang is having her best season since her rookie year, Oh is having her best season ever, Lee and Koch seem to be on the comeback trail this season, In-Kyung Kim and Laura Davies have put together some very good rounds recently, and of course Mi Hyun Kim and Jang are threats to win every tournament they enter.

Outside the prime-time quadrants, home crowd favorite Stacy Lewis is getting the 1st-off-the-1st spot usually reserved for Anna Rawson or Michelle Wie, but is likely to do a lot better from it than they usually do, particularly given that she's playing with Moira Dunn from near my home town. Her teammate at the U of AK (and caddie last year here) Lucy Nunn gets the last-off-the-10th spot, although the tournament organizers missed the chance to put NYer Danielle Downey with her (she's going off an hour earlier from that side) for complete symmetry.

Hopefully the players will produce a lot of fireworks for the 4th!


spyder said...

just how geographically dispersed are the roots of women's golf.

or it could also evidence how totally crappy US women's golf has been treated as a sport. This sort of diversity does not exist on the PGA tour, and i would submit that this is due to the incredible financial rewards that are present along the developmental path for US men. There has been a marked increase in foreign players in the PGA (most from English speaking countries--something about the origins of golf i suppose), but still no where like the LPGA.

This could also be rules based, but when nearly half the LPGA tour are non-US citizens women's golf in the US is slacking.

The Constructivist said...

Could it be evidence that Thomas Friedman is right (at least in the very limited case of women's golf)? We've had Title IX for a generation and more--and plenty of great college golfers coming out of women's golf programs--but just as many international as U.S. players seem able to make the transition to the big leagues from college golf. The NCAA just doesn't compare to the JLPGA and especially the KLPGA in terms of preparing players for elite competition, however. It seems the AJGA or whatever it's called is doing at least as good a job!

I do think you're right that small purses on the Futures Tour have a lot to do with it. Vicky Hurst has won 3x and has made just over $50K, while I think I just read a Nationwide Tour event just had a $1M purse for the 1st time. Perhaps what American decry as small change international players see as a good start, with a great chance for more on the LPGA.

Personally, I'd like to see more Americans try to compete on the JLPGA and KLPGA right out of college. Perhaps Michelle Wie will be a trendsetter here, if only in search of appearance fees.

I think the British Empire had something to do with the internationalization of the PGA Tour, I'm sorry to say. I think the U.S.'s de facto Asian-ally Marshall Plan probably has the most to do with the golf boom in Korea and Japan. But of course it's taken on a life of its own in both cases.