Golf

GOLF: ROOKIE RECARI WINS CVS PHARMACY LPGA CHALLENGE

GOLF: ROOKIE RECARI WINS CVS PHARMACY LPGA CHALLENGE

The Prudential Rock Solid Performer of the week is Beatriz Recari after she won the CVS/pharmacy LPGA Challenge to become a Rolex First-Time Winner.

LPGA photo

BEATRIZ RECARI WINS FIRST EVER LPGA TOURNAMENT

1)  Beatriz Recari, -14, Rolex Rankings No. 172
2)   Gwladys Nocera, -13, Rolex Rankings No. 111
3)   Michele Redman, -12, Rolex Rankings No. 101
4)   Cristie Kerr, -11, Rolex Rankings No. 2

Spanish rookie Beatriz Recari became a Rolex First-Time Winner Sunday when she shot a final-round, 2-under 70 to finish 14-under and win the CVS/pharmacy LPGA Challenge at Blackhawk Country Club in Danville, Calif. by one shot over Gwladys Nocera. Nocera (70) of France, also a rookie on the LPGA, came to the 18th hole three shots down, but after she birdied and Recari bogeyed the 17th hole, the lead was one. Recari, needing par, avoided the water guarding the front of the green and two-putted for the win. Recari (68-66-70-70=274, -14) became the first rookie to win on the LPGA this year.

“I saw that,” Recari said, when asked whether she knew she needed to par 18 to win. “I just had to put myself in position where I could have easy two putts, and I did, so I’m very, very proud.”

Nice move, Rook: With the win, Recari moves from fifth to third in the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year race. With her solo second-place finish, Nocera moves to second. Nocera can still catch leader Azahara Munoz; Recari cannot.

¡Viva España! Recari is the first Spaniard to win on the LPGA since Marta Figueros-Dotti at the 1994 Cup Noodles Hawaiian Ladies Open.

No Bull: Recari was born and raised in Pamplona, Spain, better known throughout the world as the city where they host the “running of the bulls.” Has she ever tried it? “Absolutely not,” she said without hesitation. “Absolutely not. You know, everyone asks me that, but I always say I’ve seen it enough times to realize that it’s more dangerous than what people think. I watched it many times behind the fence, but that’s about it.”

Life in the fast lane: Today, Recari drew on a once-in-a-lifetime experience she had earlier this month when she rode in an IndyCar two-seater with motorsports legend Mario Andretti. Recari took a 200 mph ride with Andretti around Homestead – Miami Speedway prior to the IZOD IndCary Series’ last race of the 2010 season. “I felt like that was a great experience coming before this tournament because I believe I had so much adrenaline and then I just felt so calm when I was standing on the putt,” she said. “That was a crazy experience. I was very, very lucky or honored to have such an experience.”

Hooked: Recari got into golf via her dad Jose Luis, and as an 11-year-old beginner, her head pro offered her a spot in the Spanish Championships, which she accepted. Even though she shot “hundreds,” she said, “I had this feeling,” she recalled her post-round thoughts. “I took my dad to the car, I was like I said, ‘Dad, I really want to do this serious.’ I said, ‘Would you support me? Would you help me?’ He said, ‘Yeah, of course.’ I live in the north and the winters are cold, so he said, ‘If the Sundays are cold and it’s minus whatever, we’re still practicing.’ I said, ‘I get it.’ And since then it’s been a very interesting journey.”

Papa Garcia: Although she’s only met countryman Sergio Garcia a few times, Recari said his dad Victor has been an integral part of getting her into the victory circle on the LPGA. “I actually call him Papa Garcia,” she said. “They’re a great family, and my second year on Tour I didn’t have any sponsor or club sponsor or nothing, so I had to pay for everything. And Victor, his dad, he helped me a lot. He supported me with balls, gloves. And he really looked after me very well, so I have only positive comments towards them.”

Poised: Of the trio atop the leaderboard at the beginning of the day, only Redman stayed within striking distance of Recari. Although Redman couldn’t get any birdies to fall down the stretch, she finished 12-under, two back of Recari, who impressed her. “I think she did a really good job,” said Redman, a two-time winner and 18-year veteran. “It was tough out there today. She played it smart, and she got some good breaks and she hit a lot of really good putts.”

Rolex Race for No. 1 remains close: When tomorrow’s Rolex Rankings are released, the top-three are expected to remain the same with Japan’s Ai Miyazato at No. 1, Cristie Kerr at No. 2 and Jiyai Shin – who finishes second on the JLPGA this week – at No. 3. Kerr, the only one of the top three in this week’s event, finished tied for fifth at 11-under. She need to finish at least T3 (with one other player) to retake the top spot. “You play golf at the level that I play, you want to reach the pinnacle of your sport,” she said, when asked how much the No. 1 spot means to her. “But I’m going to play golf for a long time, so whether I get it back for the third time this week or not, I have a lot of golf for the rest of the year.”

Making the Most of It: Libby Smith, who Monday qualified this week, finished 6-under to finish tied for 15th.

Of note: The round of the day belonged to Sarah Kemp – six birdies, an eagle and two bogeys for a 6-under 66 that moved her from T36 to T10… Paula Creamer, a native of nearby Pleasanton, shot a 2-under 70 to finish 4-under overall and T25… Juli Inkster, a two-time champion here (1999 and 2000) shot a 1-under 71 to finish 1-under overall and T40. Inkster, a Bay Area native and resident, was also a four-time All-American at San Jose State… Defending champion Sophie Gustafson shot a 1-over 73 to finish 2-under overall and T33.

BEATRIZ RECARI, Rolex Rankings No. 172

THE MODERATOR: So Beatriz, congratulations. Just tell us how you’re feeling right now.
BEATRIZ RECARI: Well, I’m kind of like realizing that I won. I still cannot believe it. I think it’ll take me kind of a couple days to assimilate that. I’m flying tonight to Malaysia, so I’ll probably have a couple hours to actually think what happened this week. No, I’m thrilled. I did a very good job. I had three weeks off. I worked very hard, and that paid off. I played very well last week. And I got a great feeling when I came in, a good vibe, and I’m just very, very happy and proud of myself of that result and the kind of competition that I showed out there.

THE MODERATOR: So what’s more nerve?wracking? Going 200 miles per hour with Mario Andretti or keeping a lead on the back nine?
BEATRIZ RECARI: You know, I felt like that was a great experience coming before this tournament because I believe I had so much adrenaline and then I just felt so calm when I was standing on the putt. That was a crazy experience. I was very, very lucky or honored to have such an experience. But no, you know, that was fun for me. This is my job, and you know, I still have to keep it fun and focus and just ?? yeah, just focus on what I have to do and just stay calm and be aggressive.

THE MODERATOR: Did you know what you had to do on 18? Did you know Gladys birdied before you?
BEATRIZ RECARI: I saw that. So I knew that, again, the pin was on the left. I’m just going to draw it. I had a drawing line as well, and I just had to put myself in position where I could have easy two putts, and I did, so I’m very, very proud.

Q. Yesterday you talked about when you won your first tournament last year in Europe, you know, you blew the five?shot lead and you had the spectacular shot to win, that you learned a lot about managing your game and focusing under pressure. What was it like out there today? How well do you think you did?
BEATRIZ RECARI: Well, I think I did very well. I stood very strong ?? I started very strong on the first, the second, and almost eagled the third, had a tap?in for birdie. Birdied ?? or bogeyed the fifth, birdied the sixth again. So I was feeling very strong, and I was all the time getting the lead, if it was only by one shot. And then I was always up there, so that gave me confidence. And then it started raining, and I just, okay, just the course is playing longer, different. So just have to position the ball, put myself into a neutral situation and stable situation, and I did. And that’s why I’m saying I’m very proud of how I handled myself out there. I did not allow the nerves or think any further than what I had to do right in front of me, and that’s why all the hard work and mental work is paying off, or has paid off.

Q. You talked the other day about some of the great Spanish players in the past, Seve and Olazabal and Sergio. Are there any female players? Seems like Spain’s had a lot of great men’s players, but not that many on the women’s side.
BEATRIZ RECARI: Yeah. As I was growing up, well, in Europe Laura Davies is very famous, of course. And then Annika Sorenstam had a fantastic stretch, and then as I got a little bit older or into my 16, 17, 18 years, then Lorena came up. So of course, you know, I always knew that I wanted to be serious and be a pro, so when I turned 18, this was my goal was to be here. But I knew during those four years I played in Europe it was a matter of getting my game ready to be here and be competitive. And last year when I got my ?? made a victory, I said okay, I’m ready to go out there. I think I have improved and I believe I can make it. And then I had to start from Q?School, and I had big expectations coming in at the beginning of the season. I was hoping or expecting myself to keep my card. I said, okay. I didn’t know what to expect really. I didn’t know what I was going to face because of course I was going to play with the best players in the world, and that was a big step for me. I would have never expected this, but I hope ?? but I think, you know, when you do things right and when you focus on what you have to do, this just happens. You cannot force it. So I’m still not believing that I won, but I apparently did. So I’m very happy.

Q. You talked about it raining out there. What went through your mind when it did start raining, pretty good? Wasn’t it bad weather when you won in Finland last year?
BEATRIZ RECARI: It was cold, yes. I mean it gets ?? it was late August, so by the time, you know, it gets very cold out there. But you know, I just said I did not allow myself to get affected by the scores, the leaderboard or weather conditions, you know. No matter what, if it’s sunny, if it’s raining, it’s the same for everyone, so you just have to focus on put yourself into a birdie situation or par situation and whatever and you have to do it no matter what. If it’s raining, if it’s hailing, it doesn’t matter. You have to do it.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about how old you were when you first started playing golf, what got you into the game and maybe elaborate a little on what you said the other day about Seve?
BEATRIZ RECARI: Yeah. Well, I’m from Pamplona, which is very well known for the Running of the Bulls. So I started when I was 11 because my dad took it up and started playing. He came from the soccer world. He was a soccer coach, so he was used to doing a lot of sports and exercise, but then he started his own business, and you know, it is a difference when you’re exercising all day long and then all of a sudden you’re sitting down in a chair all day long. So that impacted his body. And he said, okay, I have to start again doing some exercise, and he didn’t want to jog or do some tennis, so he started playing golf. And he took me for the first time, and I caddied for him. And I liked it so much that one month later then they offered me to go ?? or the head pro told me if I wanted to go to the Spanish Championships. So I asked my dad if he was able to take me because it was all the way south, so it was a big drive. He said yes. Then after the last day I remember ?? I mean I shot 100, but I remember that, you know, I had this feeling, I took my dad to the car, I was like I said, dad, I really want to do this serious. I said, would you support me? Would you help me? He said, yeah, of course. You know, because I live in the north and the winters are cold. So he said, if the Sundays are cold and it’s minus whatever, we’re still practicing. I said, I get it. And since then it’s been a very interesting journey.

Q. You were 11 at that time?
BEATRIZ RECARI: Yeah.

Q. Why did you like it? What captured you?
BEATRIZ RECARI: I don’t know. It was a strange feeling. It was kind of my first touch into competitive sports, and I really liked it. I’ve always been a person that whatever I do, I wanted to do it very well, whether it was my studies or anything. And it just captured me. And I had these feelings, like I shot 100. I don’t know if I finished whatever, last position, but I said, I want to be good and I want to be the ones that are winning.

Q. Have you had a chance to meet Seve or Jose or Sergio?
BEATRIZ RECARI: No. No. Well, Sergio, yes. I’m very good friends with his dad, and I actually call him Papa Garcia. No. They’re a great family, and my second year on Tour I didn’t have any sponsor or club sponsor or nothing, so I had to pay for everything. And Victor, his dad, he helped me a lot. He gave me gloves. He supported me with balls, gloves. And he really looked after me very well, so I have only positive comments towards them. And Sergio, I haven’t met him that many times because obviously he travels a lot, and he’s very busy, but he’s very nice as well, and Olazabal, I didn’t meet him, but my first coach was the same as his coach when he was an amateur because I live just one hour away from where he lives.

Q. Seve is sort of a larger?than?life figure in Spain.
BEATRIZ RECARI: Sure.

Q. I’m just curious how much of an inspiration he was as you were taking up the game and your thoughts now given what he’s going through.
BEATRIZ RECARI: Well, when I studied from the beginning, I didn’t know anything, and you know, I could only hear fantastic things about Seve, and then you get to see them and all these stories are how ?? because he’s from the north, too. They’re only two hours away from where I live. I got to play on his course, and actually he designed nine holes, and I played there and it’s brutal. It’s brutal. I mean all blind shots from the tee box all the time.

Q. Where is that?
BEATRIZ RECARI: In Pedrena. In Santander actually. His golf course. But he was an inspiration for everyone. I mean he’s a legend in Spain, and it’s very sad what’s happening to him right now, and I hope that he comes back to where he was health wise.

Q. Can you clarify when you were talking about that Spanish Championship, you went there to watch or to play?
BEATRIZ RECARI: No, no. I played there.

Q. You played.
BEATRIZ RECARI: Yeah, yeah. I shot 100.

Q. 100. Okay.
BEATRIZ RECARI: Yeah. I shot like 64 in nine holes, so yeah.

Q. You were just taking up the game?
BEATRIZ RECARI: Yeah. I had only been playing for a month, and I mean everyone in the club had a 5?wood, 7?iron. I didn’t know. It was the Spanish Championship.

Q. Where do you think this win can take you? I mean where does this sort of send you? Obviously this is something you’ve thought about a long time and wanted to achieve. How does it maybe affect your confidence or your game going forward?
BEATRIZ RECARI: Oh, it affects a lot my confidence because obviously it was the right thing to come back to basics, although, you know, I still have to improve my game. But it’s obvious that it’s working, so I just have to trust myself more and let it happen. And I just did it, and I’m speaking here right now, but I don’t know where it’s going to take me. I mean I just ?? you know, I can imagine the future, but that’s only in my mind. I just want focus day by day, and the rest my agent can handle. I don’t know. I have to focus on my game and that’s it.

Q. I think your best finish this year was ninth in a Match Play event.
BEATRIZ RECARI: Yes.

Q. When you came on Tour this year, did you think it would be great to get a victory or were you even thinking about winning when you came out here this year?
BEATRIZ RECARI: No. No. I mean as I said, for being a rookie, I didn’t know what to expect. I was just going tournament by tournament, and it was hard in the beginning. It was very, very hard. And I just ?? my expectations for the year was to keep my card and, you know, play the majors, you know, finish in the top 80 and play the majors of the limited fields next year. You know, you always imagine where you want to be in your golf and you imagine yourself winning, but you don’t know what’s going to happen. You have to focus day by day and just let it go.

Q. What’s your dad’s name?
BEATRIZ RECARI: J?O?S?E L?U?I?S.

Q. Same last name?
BEATRIZ RECARI: Yes.

Q. And did you say he started his own business and that’s when you got into golf?
BEATRIZ RECARI: No. He started his own business. My parents are tax accountants, and then my father or my parents on the side they have a restaurant. Garcia (indiscernible). I give them some publicity. You know, you stop and you start, and you know, it takes years. It was a few years after that he stopped coaching.

Q. Have you ever thought about participating in the Running of the Bulls?
BEATRIZ RECARI: Absolutely not. Absolutely not. You know, everyone asks me that, but I always say I’ve seen it enough times to realize that it’s more dangerous than what people think, and absolutely not. I watched it many times behind the fence, but that’s about it.

Q. You grew up ?? not in the same city, but is it right by your house?
BEATRIZ RECARI: No. No. That’s in the old city. I live kind of not in the outskirts, but not in the old city. Downtown.

Q. You never even considered it? Do you have friends or family that have done it?
BEATRIZ RECARI: Yeah. A male friend of mine. But he was so proud because he actually got hit by a bull, and he carries the picture everywhere. He is as proud as anyone can be. But no, all my girl friends, no, we stay away, and it’s just kind of a male thing, stupid thing.

Q. Not too many women do that anyway; right?
BEATRIZ RECARI: No. Every year you see more women doing it, but I saw once I think it was two years ago that a lady fell because, you know, the ground in the old city is all bricks; it’s uneven bricks. And a 600?kilo animal is running behind you with two horns and hundreds of people running behind you. So she fell on the ground and like broke all her teeth. No. I’m definitely not up for that.

Q. You’re smarter than that.
BEATRIZ RECARI: Yeah. I play golf.

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THREE WAY TIE AT CVS CHALLENGE

Ilhee Lee, -12, Rolex Rankings No. 229

Michele Redman, -12, Rolex Rankings No. 101

Beatriz Recari, -12, Rolex Rankings No. 172

Cristie Kerr, -9, Rolex Rankings No. 2

Ilhee Lee, Beatriz Recari and Michele Redman share a one-shot lead at 12-under 204 through 54 holes of the CVS/pharmacy LPGA Challenge at Blackhawk Country Club in Danville, Calif. Wendy Ward (69) and Gwladys Nocera (71) are one shot back.

Age is only a number: Lee and Recari are rookies, and Redman is an 18-year veteran. Lee is 21, Recari 23, which adds up to 44. Redman is 45. With the trio of leaders all playing together Sunday, experience could play in Redman’s favor, but she doesn’t think so. “I don’t know,” she said. “I played with Ilhee Lee today. And I think she won in Japanlast year, so I’m not really looking at it like that. I’m just kind of trying to take care of myself this week, and it’s nice to kind of get back into the groove again a little bit. That’s how I’m looking at it.”

The eagle has landed: Michelle Redman’s improbable 18th-hole eagle propelled her into a tie for the lead after 54 holes at the CVS/pharmacy LPGA Challenge. The 45-year-old hit a grip-down 8-iron from 126 yards in the left rough. “After I hit it, I knew I hit it pretty good,” she said. “I mean I don’t know, I just kind of knew I hit a pretty good shot. It was exactly what I visualized and what I felt, and I mean fortunately it went in the cup.”

Comeback Kid: This week is validation for Redman, who actually considered retiring earlier this year. She even turned to Nancy Lopez for advice. “It just took me a couple months to kind of get back on track to see where I wanted to go and how much I wanted to play out here,” she said. “I think once I figured that out, I think that really helped me.”

I belong: Although she’s in a different stage of her career, Ilhee Lee also recently questioned whether she would continue playing. A rookie this year, she’s missed seven cuts and hasn’t broken 70 all year, until this week. “I started to wonder, can I really make it out here, can I really survive on this Tour with so much traveling, and being away from home was very difficult,” she said. “But I challenged myself three tournaments ago, let’s give it all I got and see what I can do. I think what I have today is enough to compete against the best in the world.”

French connection: Wendy Ward will be the odd-woman-out tomorrow when she tees it up with Frenchwomen Gwladys Nocera and Karine Icher. The duo is two of the three French players (Patricia Meunier-Lebouc) on the 2010 LPGA Tour.

Back-to-back jacks? Katherine Hull is lurking just three shots off the pace with 18 holes remaining at the CVS/pharmacy LPGA Challenge. The winner of last week’s Navistar LPGA Classic Presented by Monaco RV, Hullcan become the second back-to-back winner of the season with a strong finish tomorrow. Rolex Rankings No. 1 Ai Miyazato began the 2010 season with consecutive victories at the Honda PTT LPGA Thailand and the HSBC Women’s Champions.

Making the Most of It: Libby Smith, who Monday qualified this week, shot a 66 today to get to 8-under, currently T9. Sponsor exemption Carling Coffing, who recently won the Big Break Sandals Resorts, fired a 2-under 70 to finish T28.

Lurking: Cristie Kerr, currently second in the Rolex Rankings with a chance to move up to No. 1 this week, followed her 68 Friday with a 6-under 66 Saturday to get to 9-under, which is good enough for a tie for seventh. Kerr’s surge the last two days came after a slow start – a 1-over 73. “I think I put a little too much pressure on myself on Thursday and just didn’t play my own game,” she said. “When I’m playing my own game it’s good enough, I think. So I’m just going to go out there and try and enjoy it tomorrow and have some fun and try and get as many putts at birdie as I can and we’ll see what happens.”

Of note: Paula Creamer, a native of nearby Pleasanton, shot an Even-par 72 to sit at 2-under overall and in a tie for 36th… Juli Inkster, a two-time champion here (1999 and 2000) shot a 1-under 71 to get back to Even overall (T54).Inkster, a Bay Area native and resident, was also a four-time All-American at San Jose State… Defending championSophie Gustafson shot a 3-under 69 to jump up to a tie for 28th.

ILHEE LEE, Rolex Rankings No. 229

THE MODERATOR:  Ilhee, welcome.  Great round today.  Just tell us a little bit about it.

ILHEE LEE (through interpreter):  It was pretty good overall, all day.  It was pretty good over all day.

Q.  You said that this course kind of resembles courses in Korea.  Could you ?? you said it’s hilly.  Are there any other things that were similar, or have you played anything like that on Tour this year?

ILHEE LEE (through interpreter):  Yeah, we played another course in Mexico that was quite similar to what I’ve been playing in Korea.  The course that had Tres Marias championship, but you know, when you come to Blackhawk, just the feel of it is much closer to what I’m used to back home.  And the course itself, the one at the Tres Marias was pretty close to the ones I play in Korea, but just the feel, it feels a lot more like home.

Q.  Could I ask you about the eagle on 11?  Could you explain what you did there on that hole?

ILHEE LEE (through interpreter):  The tee shot and the second shot, you know, believe it or not, happened exactly the way I envisioned it in my head.  And then you know, when I hit the second shot, I just wanted to get it close, and it was a downhill putt.  So I told myself to just get it close to the hole, and it just rolled in.

Q.  You hadn’t shot better than 70 all year on Tour this year.  You missed seven cuts earlier in the year.  Now you’ve broken 70, three straight rounds in the 60s.  Is it just something as simple as this course reminds you of Korea, or is there something that’s changed in your game?

ILHEE LEE (through interpreter):  I made the first cut on the Tour this year in the first event, but after that I think I missed almost every cut until the stretch of four tournaments, including this one.  I told myself, I started to wonder, can I really make it out here, can I really survive on this Tour with so much traveling, and you know, being away from home was very difficult.  But I challenged myself three tournaments ago, let’s give it all I got and see what I can do and let’s change my mindset and see what I can do.   So this is my fourth event and fourth event in which I have made a cut.  So I told myself, this is the last time.  I mean I’m going to give it all and challenge myself in how far I can go, and I think that mindset has certainly changed certain aspects of my game.

Q.  Now do you feel like you can compete on this Tour on a regular basis?

ILHEE LEE (through interpreter):  To answer your question, yes.  I think what I have today is enough to compete against the best in the world, and I feel very good, and yeah, I think I can do it.

Q.  What do you feel are the strengths of your game?  Obviously you can get to the par?5s in two, so you have some distance, but what do you feel are the other strengths of your game on the course that help you compete out here?

ILHEE LEE (through interpreter):  I’m a golfer.  I think I’m a golfer, and I never really try to find what my strengths are or my weaknesses are in that matter.  I just go out there and play.  I know a lot of players have identified their strengths and weaknesses.  I guess for that I’m a little different, but I never look for my strengths, and I also never look for my weaknesses.  I know what I can do and I go out and perform and that’s what I do.  Well, some people may point out certain parts of my game are my strengths, but I never think of it that way.

Q.  What do you expect out of tomorrow heading into the final group?  Four people tied right there.  How do you expect tomorrow to go?

ILHEE LEE (through interpreter):  Well, you know, like you, I’m certainly excited to see what I can do tomorrow.  It’s very exciting.  These three days here in Danville I’ve had so much fun.  I’ve done whatever I wanted to do and just went out and played golf, and I’m starting to think, wow, this is what it feels like to be a professional golfer and go out and perform.  So I mean I’m excited, and tomorrow I’m going to go out there and give it all I got.  But the most important thing is having fun, and I’m going to do whatever I feel like doing.  I’m going to have fun out there.

MICHELE REDMAN, Rolex Rankings No. 101

THE MODERATOR:  Pretty good way to finish the round, huh?

MICHELE REDMAN:  Yeah.  I’ll take it, definitely.  It was fun, too.

THE MODERATOR:  Just tell us a little bit about it.  I mean it got you into the lead.

MICHELE REDMAN:  Yeah.  You know, actually I was playing pretty good.  You know, I had a little hiccup there on 16, but I didn’t really hit any bad putts, so there was really not much I could do about it.  So I just tried to stay patient and it paid off for me on 18, so that makes it nice.

THE MODERATOR:  Just kind of your thoughts on the ball after you hit it.

MICHELE REDMAN:  Well, after I hit it, I knew I hit it pretty good.  I mean I don’t know, I just kind of knew I hit a pretty good shot.  It was exactly what I visualized and what I felt, and I mean fortunately it went in the cup.

THE MODERATOR:  So you’re tied for the lead with two rookies.  Do you think experience might kind of play to your advantage tomorrow?

MICHELE REDMAN:  Oh, I don’t know.  These ?? you know, Gwladys is really ?? because she’s a rookie out here, I mean she’s a great player.  And I played with Ilhee Lee today.  And I think she won in Japan last year, so I’m not really looking at it like that.  I’m just kind of trying to take care of myself this week, and it’s nice to kind of get back into the groove again a little bit.  That’s how I’m looking at it.

Q.  Can you talk a little bit about your year?  I don’t know if you’ve had a Top 10 this year.  Why has this course kind of brought out the best in your game do you think this week?  And how good does it feel to be in the position you’re in?

MICHELE REDMAN:  Well, it feels great to be in the position I’m in.  I’ve always liked the golf course, and for me this definitely has not been a good year for me up to the last probably couple weeks, but I kind of felt like the second round in Arkansas I was starting to turn it around a little bit.  Some of it for me was I didn’t know how much I wanted to play out here, and I think I maybe was a little burnt out.  I got some advice from Nancy Lopez.  I don’t know.  It just took me a couple months to kind of get back on track to see where I wanted to go and how much I wanted to play out here, and I think once I figured that out, I think that really helped me.  You know, I think it kind of took the pressure off.  You know, I kind of felt like I needed to play, but I have a daughter at home.  So it’s ?? you know, it kind of worked out pretty good having that time, and I had to go through it sooner or later, you know, so it just happened in the middle of the season, I guess.

Q.  Were you seriously considering retiring?

MICHELE REDMAN:  I thought about it, yeah.  I actually applied for the coaching job at the University of Minnesota, so I was pretty serious about it.  But everything works out the way it’s supposed to.  That’s how I’m looking at it right now.  I mean I knew I still wanted to compete.  I don’t want to play 20 to 25 weeks a year.  I know that.  It’s just too much for me to be gone.  And like I said, once I got through that and realized that I was okay with that and that things were going to be okay whatever I did, I think that really helped me out.

Q.  So you won’t be playing that Asian swing?

MICHELE REDMAN:  Uh?uh.  I’m not in any of them, for one thing.  But it actually took the pressure off of me.  You know, every year I’m like, okay, I’m going to go for one, and then two weeks before it’s like, I kind of don’t want to go that far.  So it’s okay.  I’m okay with not doing that.

Q.  After you took that time off, did you feel kind of reinvigorated at all?

MICHELE REDMAN:  A little bit, yeah.  I did.  I mean I think I needed to go through that because I’ve been thinking about not playing a lot the last couple years, and I think going through that actually helped me, you know.  And I just know I still want to play out here, just not full time every week.

Q.  So what happened with the coaching job at Minnesota?

MICHELE REDMAN:  I didn’t get it.

Q.  When did you apply and when did you find out?

MICHELE REDMAN:  I found out the Tuesday of Canada, and I applied probably four weeks before that.

Q.  What do you think the state of the Tour is right now when you have Recari up there, Ilhee, a lot of these younger players starting to make a push towards the leaderboard.  How good and how promising and encouraging is that for the Tour?

MICHELE REDMAN:  Oh, I think it’s great.  I mean the competition out here from when I first was a rookie out here, it’s incredible the difference.  Like when I was a rookie out here, 3 and 4?over was consistently making the cuts, and that rarely makes the cut now.  I mean the competition is so good.  The girls that are coming out now are so good.  I think it’s going to be great for the future, definitely.

Q.  Is it kind of a double?edged sword because there’s no main one runaway superstar, no Annika, no Lorena, but there is a lot of good young talent?  Is it kind of like a double?edged sword?

MICHELE REDMAN:  Yeah, but I think it’ll be good.  I think people want to see different players.  I think sometimes everybody thinks everybody wants to watch Tiger, comparing the men’s TOUR, but I think it’s good to have some different players because it gives us a little bit more exposure.  It makes people realize how many good players we do have out here.

Q.  It’s been 10 years since your last victory on the LPGA Tour.  What would it mean to win tomorrow?

MICHELE REDMAN:  It would be nice.  I actually almost won last year at the end of the year.  It would be nice, but you know, for me right now it’s just nice to be back playing the way I know how to play.  I mean I struggled so much this year a few weeks.  I think I missed like four cuts in a row.  My whole career I’ve never had that happen.  So for me right now I’m just enjoying it and kind of taking it as it comes.  Like I said, I think now the pressure is off of me a little bit and I’m just trying to relax and have fun out there.

**********************************************************************************************************************
Rookies Nocera & Recari share lead

Gwladys Nocera, -10, Rolex Rankings No. 111
Beatriz Recari, -10, Rolex Rankings No. 172
Amy Hung, -9, Rolex Rankings No. 108
Stacy Lewis, -8, Rolex Rankings No. 39
Brittany Lincicome, -7, Rolex Rankings No. 19

Nocera has won 10 times on the European Tour but seeks a breathrough US crown

Two rookies, Gwladys Nocera and Beatriz Recari, fired 6-under 66s Friday to share the 36-hole lead at 10-under par at the CVS/pharmacy LPGA Challenge at Blackhawk Country Club in Danville, Calif. The duo leads by one over Amy Hung (68). Nocera, of France, is third in the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year race, and Recari, of Spain, is fifth.

A Veteran Rookie: Though technically a “rookie” on the LPGA, Gwladys Nocera, 35, is anything but – she played on the Ladies European Tour from 2003-2009, winning 10 times and even taking the Order of Merit in 2008 – something evident in the maturity of her post-round thoughts. “A couple of holes are pretty short and you can reach some par?5s and one or two par?4s,” she said when asked whether you need to go low to compete this week. “You have chances, so I think the key is to stay patient if you don’t make those birdies, and then try to catch the opportunities when they come.”

Players Play: As for her plans for this weekend now that she’s shot herself into contention? “I’m not going to set myself some goals that are too high for me or whatever,” she said. “I’m just going to play. Whatever comes up on Sunday, I’ll take it. I’m just going to give my best on every shot and we will see.”

Recari took a bogey at the sixth but began a stellar run with a birdie at nine

En Fuego! Beatriz Recari started her round 1-over through eight holes but caught fire on the ninth. She birdied there then went birdie-eagle-birdie over her next three to go 5-under in a four-hole stretch. She added two more birdies on the 14th and 16th to post a tournament-best 29 on the incoming nine. “I had a very good mojo from yesterday,” she said. “I was playing very well, I was hitting it close to the pin, but the putts weren’t dropping. I just said ‘OK, I just have to be calm, and there are plenty of holes out there.’ Sometimes they just pass by the lip, and sometimes they start dropping, and that’s what happened on the back nine.”

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times: It was a tale of two rounds for first-round leader Brittany Lincicome. On Thursday, she made 11 birdies to shoot a course-record 61, the lowest round on Tour this year and second-lowest in LPGA history (in relation to par). On Friday, she made five bogeys and a triple bogey to shoot a 5-over 76, 15 shots worse. She’s three back in a tie for eighth. “I just felt a little nervous for some reason,” Lincicome said. “I was very tentative. I flew the greens six times today. You can’t be above these pins. The greens are hard. I didn’t really know how to kind of follow up what I did yesterday. So just going to go out tomorrow, and obviously 61 is possible, and see if we can’t put some of those together on the weekend.”

Change is Good: Amy Hung, who’s one back at 9-under after Friday’s 4-under 68, credits some of her success in the first two rounds this week to a new man on her bag, Danny Huber, a “very good caddie,” she said. Since she switched two events ago, she’s had two top-20 finishes after posting just three in her first 13 events this season.

The Eagle Has Landed: Surely Huber helped her get a yardage and club on the par-4 13th Thursday, where she holed out for eagle. With a crosswind and 115 yards to the hole, she punched a 9-iron that bounced once and hopped in. “That was awesome,” she said. “I hit it solid. You know, just as soon as the ball took off from the face, it’s not under my control. I just try to think that way.”

Stacy’s Back: Stacy Lewis, who fired a 5-under 67 Friday to sit two back at 8-under overall, has fought through more than her fair share of adversity. Born with a severe case of scoliosis, Lewis spent seven and a half years in a back brace and even underwent major surgery in 2003 – surgeons inserted five screws and a titanium rod – to straighten out her spine. Seven years later, she has won a rain-shortened, unofficial event on the LPGA, won 12 times in college, including the 2007 NCAA Championship, become the first player in Curtis Cup history to go 5-0, and graduated head of her class in Q-School in 2008.

A Sweet Escape: Her golf game actually developed because of that back brace – the only time she got to take it off was when she played. “I had to wear it to school, to sleep in,” she said. “So it was like as soon as I got home from school I was like, ‘I’m going to practice,’ and I would rip it off and run out the door. That was my excuse to get out, so that’s kind of how golf came into the picture.”

An Inspiration: Lewis is obviously a success story, and she uses her experience to inspire others. “I get letters and e?mails, kids that come out to tournaments,” she said. “It’s really cool that I can inspire them to get through what they’re getting through. I mean, all these kids are like, You’re amazing. We have the same thing as you and you made me want to go ride a horse or go out for swimming or do something. It kind of hit me when I started getting all these letters, I was like, ‘Well, I’m kind of doing all this for another reason now.’”

Girl of Steel: As for the five screws and titanium rod? They’re still there. “Actually you can have surgery to get the rod and the screws removed, but it’s another six months of not being able to do anything and rehab,” she said. “It’s just not worth it. It doesn’t bother me or go off in airports or anything like that, so I just say leave it in.”

Louise Suggs Rookie of the Year race: While two of her classmates leading the tournament, Azahara Munoz, who has a commanding 345-point lead in the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year race, shot her second-straight 1-over 73 to miss the cut by one shot.

The Cut: Seventy-two players made the cut at 1-over 145.

Of note: Rolex Rankings No. 2 Cristie Kerr, who is the only member of the top five in the field this week and could take over No. 1 Monday, overcame a 73 Thursday with a 4-under 68 Friday that included two birdies and an eagle. Kerr became a Rolex First-Time Winner at this event in 2002… Paula Creamer, a native of nearby Pleasanton, shot a 3-under 69 to sit at 2-under overall… Katherine Hull, who won her second Tour event at last week’s Navistar LPGA Classic Presented by Monaco RV, followed a 68 yesterday with a 1-under 71 Friday to sit at 5-under total… Juli Inkster, a two-time champion here (1999 and 2000) shot a 2-under 70 that got her back to 1-over overall to make the cut on the number. Inkster, a Bay Area native and resident, was also a four-time All-American at San Jose State… Sponsor exemption and recent Big Break Sandals Resorts winner Carling Coffing followed her 2-under 70 Thursday with a 1-over 73 to finish at 1-under overall and easily make the cut in her first LPGA event… Defending champion Sophie Gustafson shot her second-straight Even-par 72… Playing in the second to last group, rookie Pernilla Lindberg finished birdie-birdie, including a 40-footer on 18, to make the cut on the number.

GWLADYS NOCERA, Rolex Rankings No. 111

Q. Great round today. Sitting at 10?under par. Last I checked you were leading. Did you think after seeing what Brittany did yesterday to get to 11, what were your thoughts today? What did you think you had to do to run her down?
GWLADYS NOCERA: Well, I mean, I’m not looking at what everybody else is doing. I just concentrate on my game. Shooting 11?under I was wondering if she played the same course as I did. But, I mean, she played great. There’s nothing you can do about it. You know, I’ve been hitting the ball really well and I’ve been making putts this week. Comes together, so that’s nice.

Q. How is the course out there? Are the birdies plentiful? Is it there for the taking?
GWLADYS NOCERA: Yeah, I think a couple of holes are pretty short and you can reach some par?5s and one or two par?4s. So, you know you have chances, so I think the key is to stay patient if you don’t make those birdies, and then try to catch the opportunities when they come.

Q. What went well for you today?
GWLADYS NOCERA: I putted really well. I mean, I played well, but I putted really well. You know, I made a couple on like 6, 7, 8, 9 or something, and that helped me to stay concentrated and focused on my game. I’m playing good, so I mean, when you make putts it’s easier.

Q. Heading into the weekend, what’s your mindset?
GWLADYS NOCERA: Still the same. I’m not going to set myself some goals that are too high for me or whatever. I’m just going to play. Whatever comes up on Sunday, I’ll take it. I’m just going to give my best on every shot and we will see. Of course I would have liked to do really good, but I’m not the only one on the course. I have to stay focused on my own game.

************************************************************************************************************************

CVS Pharmacy LPGA Challenge First Round Results
courtesy LPGA

Brittany Lincicome, -11, Rolex Rankings No. 19
Wendy Ward, -7, Rolex Rankings No. 87
Michele Redman, -5, Rolex Rankings No. 101

There’s a new Lincecum in town. Or a Lincicome, rather. In the land of the NLCS-bound San Francisco Giants and their ace pitcher Tim Lincecum, Brittany Lincicome took center stage Thursday, firing a course-record 11-under 61 – her career low and the lowest round this year – to lead the CVS/pharmacy LPGA Challenge at Blackhawk Country Club in Danville, Calif. Her closest pursuer, Wendy Ward, is four shots back after a 7-under 65. Lincicome made five birdies to post 30 on her outgoing nine (the back), then made six over her last seven holes, including four in a row to close.

“I was making everything, 30?footers, 5?footers,” Lincicome said. “Even when it was my turn, I was kind of not reading it and kind of walking up and making ’em. It was just one of those days; everything was going my way and I couldn’t do anything wrong.”

Brittany Lincicome’s 11-under 61 By the Numbers:
Blackhawk Country Club course record (previously 64 by three players)
In relation to par, she tied the tournament record of 11-under (the previous 11-under (60) was shot on a par-71 by Anna-Acker Macosko at 2004 Longs Drugs Challenge at The Ridge Golf Course).
Lincicome’s career-low (previously 64 at the 2009 Sybase Classic Presented by ShopRite where she tied for sixth)
Low round of the 2010 LPGA season (previously 63 by several players)
Last time a player shot 11-under was the 2008 Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic Presented by Kroger, when Paula Creamer shot 11-under 60 on the par-71 (she won the event).
Last time a player shot 61 (10-under on par-71) was the 2009 Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic Presented by Kroger – Eunjung Yi (she won the event).
In relation to par, her -11 is tied for the second-lowest round in LPGA history behind Annika’s -13 (59).
After her final-round 65 last week at the Navistar LPGA Classic Presented by Monaco RV, Lincicome is 18-under over her last 36 holes.
She hasn’t made a bogey in her last 27 holes.
She hit 17 greens and had 24 putts Thursday.

Game On! Wendy Ward fired a 7-under 65 to finish the day second alone, four back of Lincicome. Playing in the afternoon, Ward gave herself a kick in the pants when she saw Lincicome’s number. “I thought, ‘Well, game on,’” she said. “Brittany is a good friend of mine, so it’s always fun to see a fellow friend up on the leaderboard and then try and chase ’em. That’s kind of what this is all about.”

Going Deep: At last week’s Navistar LPGA Classic Presented by Monaco RV, Lincicome made a Sunday charge to force eventual champ Katherine Hull’s hand. Hull parred 18, but if she hadn’t, Lincicome, who fired a final-round 65, was waiting greenside for a playoff. With that 65 and today’s 61, she’s 18-under over her last 36 holes. “That might win some tournaments,” she laughed.

“Val”idation: Lincicome got some increased motivation from inside the ropes Thursday. Not from a player, however, from a commentator. Val Skinner, a six-time LPGA winner who now works as an analyst with The Golf Channel, playfully egged on Lincicome over dinner last week in Alabama. “Today all I was thinking of was Val Skinner,” Lincicome laughed. “I had dinner with Val Skinner last week, and she said, ‘My low was 61.’ I’m like, ‘Oh, well, excuse me.’ So that’s all I was thinking today. I’m like, ‘All right, come on. We got to beat Val.’”

Juuuuust a Bit Outside: Earlier this year, Brittany Lincicome won a homerun derby at Hank Aaron Field in Mobile, Ala., home of the AA Mobile BayBears. Put on by sponsor Bell Micro, Lincicome showed some pretty impressive chops at the plate. Does she think she could hit Lincecum? “No,” she said, without hesitation. “I keep saying to my local Rays, because I’m a huge Rays fan and I know a couple of the guys. I’m like, ‘Will you please pitch to me this offseason?’ They’re like, ‘You’re not going to be able to hit it.’ I’m like, ‘I can at least try.’” For footage of the homerun derby, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8OGhWlIvdzY.

Free Baseball! As one might have concluded, there’s no relation between Lincecum and Lincicome, despite identical pronunciations. “I wish we were related,” Lincicome said. “That would be awesome. Free baseball for the rest of my life.”

How Low Will They Go? With favorable conditions and pristine greens, Ward said she expects a lot of red Friday and through the weekend. “I think the scores will stay low,” she said. “For as many as were on the board when we made the turn at 3?, 4?, 5?under par, I think you’re going to see low scores. I don’t know if (Lincicome’s) going to repeat 11?under. She’s capable of it.”

Low rookie: Beatriz Recari and Gwladys Nocera shot 4-under 68s to share low rookie honors Thursday. Azahara Munoz, who has a commanding 345-point lead in the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year race, shot a 1-over 73. Nocera is third, Recari fifth.

************************************************************************************************************************
Catch the highlights of the final round of the 2009 CVS/pharmacy LPGA Challenge where Sophie Gustafson outlasted Lorena Ochoa.

*******************************************************************************************************************

Defending Champion: Sophie Gustafson (photo courtesy of lpga.com)

CVS Pharmacy LPGA Challenge
Blackhawk Country Club
Danville, Calif.

Cristie Kerr, Rolex Rankings No. 2, 2010 LPGA Championship Presented by Wegmans winner
Paula Creamer, Rolex Rankings No. 10, 2010 U.S. Women’s Open winner and Pleasanton native

Sweden‘s Sophie Gustafson looks to defend her title when the 15th annual CVS/pharmacy LPGA Challenge tees off at Blackhawk Country Club in Danville, Calif. Thursday. Last season, Gustafson outlasted then-Rolex Rankings No. 1 Lorena Ochoa by four shots for her fifth career victory and first in more than six years on the LPGA. She returns to Danville this season in search of her first victory of 2010.

Rolex Rankings No. 2 Cristie Kerr headlines the field at the 2010 CVS/pharmacy LPGA Challenge. Kerr, who became a Rolex First-Time Winner here in 2002, makes her appearance in Danville following a near-win at last week’s Navistar LPGA Classic Presented by Monaco RV where she led by three shots entering the final round and tied for third. She is expected to content for the Rolex Rankings No. 1 spot this week. Scenarios will be available later in the week. Kerr also has an opportunity to take the lead in the Rolex Player of the Year race. “It’s been crazy and it’s been fun,” Kerr said about the trio of players passing around the No. 1 torch all year. “It’s been kind of like a rollercoaster ride. I’ve been very close to regaining number one the last couple weeks. And I got a couple more weeks to do it.”

But regardless of who finishes the year at No. 1, Kerr said the journey is good for the Tour. “I think it’s amazing,” she said. “The more we can get the word out that the LPGA is exciting and there is something to watch, there is an American up there in the mix to be number one in the world, I think that we’ll get a lot more fans, a lot more people interested. It’s a good time for us.”

Pleasanton native and Rolex Rankings No. 10 Paula Creamer is looking for her second win of the 2010 season following her triumph at the U.S. Women’s Open. Creamer tied for 16th at last week’s Navistar LPGA Classic

Presented by Monaco RV and has not finished worse than a tie for 19th in four appearances at the CVS/pharmacy

LPGA Challenge. Creamer grew up playing golf at Castlewood Country Club in Pleasanton, just 13 miles from

Blackhawk Country Club.

Although Creamer’s never finished below 19th here, she’s also never won, something she’d like to remedy this week. She said she’s in a better position now, at least mentally, than ever before. “I’ve been more relaxed than I think I’ve ever been coming home,” she said. “I think in previous years I put so much expectations on playing well, and just trying to go out there and be so perfect. I kind of have realized I just go at it like any other event and work my way up that leaderboard, and see what happens on Sunday.”

Creamer made her television host debut Tuesday when she appeared on The Price is Right, rolling in a putt and also presenting a prize in the Showcase Showdown that featured a golf lesson with her. “It was a lot of fun,” she said. “I was very nervous. You’re only going to get one shot, to say all your lines; it was a live audience and everything. I don’t know how I did it. I’d rather be putting a five?footer than doing this right now. But it was a great experience. Drew was really nice. We had a winner, so it was nice.”

In addition to playing a golf tournament this week, Creamer is delivering a rather special memento to the club she grew up playing, Castlewood Country Club in nearby Pleasanton. On Friday, she’ll present them the U.S. Women’s Open trophy to keep for a month. “It’s going to be really neat,” she said. “I know everybody there watched me grow up, and it’s kind of been an influence in my life. It’s as much mine as it is theirs, so it’s nice to be able to share that.” And if they don’t want to give it up after the month is over? “They better give me back my trophy or I’ll come back and get it,” she laughed.

Katherine Hull looks for back-to-back victories this week. The Aussie grabbed her second LPGA win last week

in Alabama and can become the second player this season (Ai Miyazato) to win back-to-back events on Tour.

Hull’s victory propelled her five spots in the LPGA Official Money List to 13th and two spots in the Rolex Rankings to

No. 20.

Azahara Munoz holds a 345-point lead over Amanda Blumenherst in the race for Louise Suggs Rolex

Rookie of the Year honors. While not mathematically the winner yet, Munoz can extend her lead with a good

finish this week. No rookie has won on the LPGA Tour in 2010.

Vare Trophy for low scoring average race heats up. Na Yeon Choi (aka NYC) took the lead in the Vare Trophy race last week with rounds of 68-64-70-69. Currently Rolex Rankings No. 6, Choi’s 69.89 scoring average tops

Cristie Kerr at 69.93. Former leader Suzann Pettersen is now third at 70.00.

Past champions in the field include Gustafson (2009), Kerr (2002) and Bay Area natives Christina Kim (2004) and Juli Inkster (1999, 2000).

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Denise J. Saul is the Founder/President of WSEN-Women's Sports & Entertainment Network.

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