As Brent Kelley and Geoff Shackelford have been picking up on Randall Mell's reporting that Amanda Blumenherst and Sophie Gustafson are stepping away from competitive golf, it looks like it's official that the LPGA will have to do without 2 of its most respected and popular players. At the same time, neither has been playing good golf for some time now. Except for a pair of T5s early in 2012 and a T13 at the ShopRite, Blumenherst's performances the last year and a half have been nothing to write home about, leading to her falling to #9 in my latest ranking of the Class of 2010. Gustafson, a 5-time winner on the LPGA, has dropped off the map the last calendar year, falling to #12 in my last ranking of 3-to-6-time winners on tour.
Looking at my last update of the LPGA's top rivalries, I wonder how long it will be before Cristie Kerr and Se Ri Pak are the only golfers from their "generation" to be competing on the LPGA. Blumenherst is the 3rd player from her rookie class to definitively step away from competitive golf, following Whitney Wade and Jane Chin (who are now coaching). Unfortunately, their departures are a normal fact of life on the LPGA. Players reach their mid-20s and reassess their prospects; players reach their late 30s and reassess their priorities. For every big-name player who makes headlines when she steps away from the spotlight (Annika, Lorena, Grace Park, Mi Hyun Kim), a handful of lesser-known players decide their golf is never going to swing the spotlight toward them.
So as we mourn Gustafson's and Blumenherst's decisions and wish them well in their future endeavors, let's extend the same courtesy to all the unsung players who have tried to make a living and make history on the links.
[Update 1 (9/2/13, 1:41 am): Whoops, turns out Gustafson will be playing full-time on the LET next season and isn't ruling out a return to the LPGA; neither is Blumenherst, but with her husband in the majors and a baby in the works, we're talking about an extended time away from the LPGA, as well.]