Who won the first-ever Donald Ross Memorial Invitational boys individual title?

Monday, April 30, 2012

LPGA Symetra Tour: Esther Choe wins again; Ginger Howard grabs second

Esther Choe tees off the first hole in the final round at the LPGA Symetra Tour's inaugural Sara Bay Classic. Jason Dill/jdill@bradenton.com

 Bradenton's Ginger Howard tied for second place a week after a disappointing finish in the LPGA Symetra Tour's inaugural Sara Bay Classic in southern Manatee County.

Howard fired a final-round 69 for a 213 total at the Riviera Nayarit Classic in Mexico to grab a $10,038 check.

She finished six shots behind Scottsdale, Ariz., resident Esther Choe, who captured her second consecutive title.

After scores were extremely high at Sara Bay Country Club the previous week - Choe won with a 1-over par total here - there were several rounds under par on the par-73 El Tigre Golf and Country Club layout.

Choe was chief among those players as she cracked par in each of the three rounds, going as low as 67 in the first round.

That might shake up her schedule plans, since Choe was uncertain what her future schedule would pan out following her first Symetra Tour title at Sara Bay due to full-time status on the Ladies European Tour.

Choe rose up the "Volvik Race for the Card," where the top 10 players at the end of the season earn an LPGA Tour card.

Choe, though, has travel and playing arrangements through June on the LET.

Howard also moved up on the money list with her performance. She's currently in seventh place.

Also performing well from the area was Bradenton's Jaclyn Sweeney, who snagged a top 10 finish with a 216 total.

It's Sweeney's second straight top 10.

Brief break: And we're back

The absence of blog posts the past few days is due to a little break that I took to attend a friend's wedding in New York this past weekend.

So posting will get back to a more regular frequency now that the weekend is over.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Prep golf: Lakewood Ranch's Hunter Sagar to Canisius

Hunter Sagar celebrates with his Lakewood Ranch High teammates after winning the team state title with a 103-0 season. Jason Dill/jdill@bradenton.com

Lakewood Ranch High senior Hunter Sagar, who also trains at the Missing Link Golf Academy, is heading to Division-I Canisius College in Buffalo, N.Y. next fall.

Sagar was a member of the undefeated state champion Mustangs after starting his prep career at Cardinal Mooney, and capped an incredible fall campaign with winning the City of Bradenton’s Men’s Amateur title in a sudden-death playoff.

Sagar was also the medalist at last year’s prestigious Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, and takes his golfing talents to the MAAC program in the fall.

Local: Summer membership deal at Sara Bay

Sara Bay Country Club's seventh hole was taken last summer. Paul Videla/pvidela@bradenton.com

Sara Bay Country Club, the Donald Ross-designed course in southern Manatee County, played host to the LPGA Symetra Tour's inaugural Sara Bay Classic last week. The club is also offering a killer summer membership deal.

Here's the scoop:

The cost is $600 plus tax for a six-month membership, running May 1-Oct. 31. There is a minimum of $50 charged per month for food and beverage costs.

There are no greens fees, but a $23 cart fee or $11 (18 holes)/$6 (9 holes) walking fee each round.

Summer members are allowed guests at a $30 rate plus cart or walking fee. Monthly dues must be paid in advance. Summer members also have full access to all club facilities with charging privileges, must keep a current credit card on file and are not eligible for reciprocal play at other clubs.

Contact Sara Bay at 355-7658 for more information.

Monday, April 23, 2012

LPGA Tour: Paula Creamer

LPGA Tour star Paula Creamer, who is an IMG Academies alum here in Bradenton, was featured on lpga.com recently.

Creamer's 2012 season has seen swing changes and the loss of her paternal grandfather, writes Neal Reid on the website.

To read more about the latest on Creamer, click here.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Symetra Tour: Sara Bay Classic final round UPDATE

It's getting difficult here at the Sara Bay Classic. The inaugural LPGA Symetra Tour event's final round has featured blustery winds with on-and-off rain.

It's played havoc for the field, which saw Clearwater's Jenny Gleason's putt on the ninth hole's green roll off.

The lead group is getting close to making the turn.

Esther Choe and Jacqui Concolino, who entered Sunday as co-leaders, share the lead. They are currently 2-over par on their rounds making them even-par for the 54-hole tournament.

They are through seven holes and are three shots clear of three players that are tied for third place.

Symetra Tour: Sara Bay Classic final round underway

Fans look on as the final group tees off at Sara Bay Country Club in Sunday's final round of the Sara Bay Classic. Jason Dill/jdill@bradenton.com

The LPGA Symetra Tour's Sara Bay Classic's final round is underway as the leaders just teed off. Torrential rain delayed the second round for nearly two hours on Saturday, and the round was not completed due to darkness just before 8 p.m.

Therefore, players returned to the course early this morning to finish off the second round.

The low 70 scores and ties made the cut and players were repaired.

Melissa Eaton-Jackson and her 1-over par total got her into the final pairing off the first hole with co-leaders Esther Choe and Jacqui Concolino.

Both Choe and Concolino, the first-round leader, posted 2-under par totals through the first two rounds.

All three players completed their second rounds before play was halted Saturday night.

Here's how the locals fared against the cut line, where 80 players advanced to Sunday's final round:

Bradenton residents Rachel Connor (5-over par), Jaclyn Sweeney (7-over) and Natalie Sheary (10-over) made the cut.

Ginger Howard, an IMG alum, had to finish her second round Sunday morning and narrowly missed the cut, posting a 12-over par 156 total.

Players at 11-over or lower earned a payday in the $100,000-pursed tournament.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Symetra Tour: Sara Bay Classic resumes play after long rain delay

 The LPGA Symetra Tour's Sara Bay Classic has resumed. The tournament was delayed for nearly two hours after a rain delay. Some afternoon groups did not begin play when the event was halted for lightning in the area.

Therefore, the field is not expected to complete the second round today.

Following second round action, the field will be trimmed to the low 70 and ties. The $100,000-pursed tournament is in its inaugural year at Sara Bay Country Club in southern Manatee County.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Symetra Tour: Sara Bay Classic early results UPDATE

Kristin Ingram's
score from earlier was misreported. There was a scoring error in the updates that originally listed Ingram as shooting an 8-under par 28 on her front nine at the LPGA Symetra Tour's Sara Bay Classic.

However, she posted an even-par 36.

To avoid a future incorrect scoring update, check back here later tonight for first-round highlights after the completion of play.

Symetra Tour: Sara Bay Classic early results

Jacqui Concolino is the leader in the clubhouse at the LPGA Symetra Tour's Sara Bay Classic.

Concolino, who is from Orlando, fired a 2-under par 70 on the Donald Ross-designed course.

She started off the back nine, and closed her round with a birdie on the par-5 ninth hole.

Currently, Kristin Ingram is the leader on the course. She's 5-under par through her first six holes.

Ingram started her round on the back nine.

Rachel Connor, who lives in Bradenton, is performing the best of the local players. She's sitting 2-under par through the first two holes.

Continue to check back here for more news from the Sara Bay Classic.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Symetra Tour: Sara Bay Classic and the Big Break

This week's 144-player field at the Sara Bay Classic features professional golfers from all over.

But if there was one underlying trend, it's the amount of players that have also been on The Golf Channel's long-running Big Break series.

The reality golf show is entering its 17th edition with the Big Break Atlantis, which was filmed in January in the Bahamas and features nothing but female professional golfers.

In fact, four players on the show are in this week's field.

They include Anya Alvarez, Marcela Leon, Gloriana Soto and Selanee Henderson.

Several other players were on past Big Break shows.

They include Mallory Blackwelder (Big Break Ireland), Annie Brophy (Big Break Ireland), Sara Brown (Big Break Sandlas Resorts and Big Break Dominican Republic), Carling Coffing (Big Break Sandals Resorts champion), Blair O'Neal (Big Break Prince Edward Island and champion of Big Break Dominican Republic), Nina Rodriguez (Big Break Ireland), Briana Vega (Big Break VI: Trump National champion and Big Break Reunion), Nicole Smith (Big Break Ireland) and Lili Alvarez (Big Break Sandals Resorts runner-up).

Symetra Tour: Viewing the Sara Bay Classic

Golfers play the 7th hole last summer at Sara Bay Country Club, which features the trademark Donald Ross-designed crowned greens. Paul Videla/pvidela@bradenton.com

The West Florida Golf Tour gave local professional golfers the chance to play tournament golf in preparation for PGA Tour Q-School a couple years ago.

But this week's marquee golfing moment is the arrival of professional women's golf back in town.

The LPGA Tour used to run an annual event at Bent Tree Country Club in Sarasota, before leaving the area.

The Champions Tour held a tournament at TPC Prestancia, also in Sarasota, before a lack of sponsorship meant the former event was gone.

Now, historic Sara Bay Country Club is the venue for this week's LPGA Symetra Tour event that begins on Friday.

But how should you watch the event?

In case you missed it, a primer on spectating can be found here.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Symetra Tour: Sara Bay Classic first round pairings

The LPGA Symetra Tour released first-round pairings for the inaugural Sara Bay Classic today.

The tournament is scheduled to begin on Friday. Here's a look at where some local players start the 54-hole, three-day tournament.

Former IMG Academies standout Jaclyn Sweeney tees off at 1:50 p.m. on No. 1, while another IMG alum, Ginger Howard, goes off the 10th hole at 8:50 a.m.

Bradenton resident Rachel Connor is at 1:30 p.m. off No. 1. Natalie Sheary, a former star at Wake Forest and IMG alum, starts at 8:30 a.m. off the first hole.

Natalia Perez, the amateur that earned a spot through the IMG Junior Golf Tour's qualifier, tees off the first hole at 1:40 p.m.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Local Golf: City Leagues starting this week

River Run Golf Links
, a city-owned golf course, has two leagues starting this week.

Each league is over 22 weeks, with the City Summer Golf League beginning on Wednesday, April 18th.

It will run every Wednesday with a 5:30 p.m. shotgun start. The format is an individual stroke play with low gross, net and putts divisions.

The registration fee is $40 per player, limited to the first 80 players. It includes $27.50 going into a weekly prize pool and $12.50 goes to an end of the year banquet.

There is also a weekly fee of $10.50 for each player that includes a green fee and cart for nine holes.

Both prices include sales tax.

The same registration and weekly fees apply to River Run's Couples Twilight Golf League.

That league is conducted every Friday, starting on April 20th and is also a 5:30 p.m. shotgun start.

It's limited to the first 40 couples that sign up.

Out of the registration fee, $22 goes to the weekly prize pool and $18 goes to the awards party at the end of the season.

The format for the couples league, however, is a team scramble.

For more information, contact River Run at 708-8459.

LPGA Tour: Jodi Ewart featured on LPGA.com

Manatee County resident Jodi Ewart practices at Palm-Aire Country Club prior to her 2012 LPGA Tour season. Grant Jefferies/gjefferies@bradenton.com

Manatee County resident and LPGA Tour golfer Jodi Ewart was listed onLPGA.com's "My Favorite Things" feature recently.

So what are Ewart's favorite things?

The New Mexico alum and English native lists the Lobos, Leeds United Football Club, Titleist MB's, diamond earrings, New York City, ice cream, In-N-Out Burger, Facebook, iPhone, hair straightener and author James Patterson on the website.

To check out the list, click here.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Bradenton City Series: Two-Man Combo First Round Results

James Doughtery
and Alex Jones fired a first-round 64 at River Run Golf Links on Saturday to take a one-shot lead over the team of Phil Walters and Tim Judy as the final round of the City Two-Man Combo Championship concludes Sunday.

Walters won the tournament last year with Aaron Bishop after the pair shot 63-64 over the two days.

The tournament uses a scramble, better ball, shamble and alternate shot format in nine hole segments over the 36-hole event.

To see the full scores, click here.

For Sunday's final round pairings, click here.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Florida State Senior Amateur: One Manatee County golfer makes cut

The 51st Florida State Senior Amateur concluded at Lake Wales Country Club on Thursday, and only one Manatee County player finished all three rounds.

Bradenton's Bob Wentzell was the lone county golfer to make the 36-hole cut, before he finished the 54-hole tournament with a 231 total.

Apopka's A.J. Kroeger went wire-to-wire, finishing with a 213 total for a one shot victory.

Bradenton's Jim Stone, who had the lowest area score following the first round, withdrew in Wednesday's second round action.

The next FSGA state tournament is the Mid-Amateur Stroke Play May 4-6 at Bonita Bay Club East in Naples.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Florida State Senior Amateur: Jim Stone five back after first round

Bradenton's Jim Stone is the leading Manatee County player after the first round of the Florida State Senior Amateur Championship.

However, Stone has work to do following his first round 74 at Lake Wales Country Club on Tuesday at the 51st annual event.

Stone is five shots behind first-round leader A.J. Kroeger, of Apopka, who shot 69.

The tournament continues on Wednesday.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Masters Week: Parting shots

How about that Masters?

What a thrilling conclusion, even if a long putt or chip wasn't made to clinch the green jacket.

So here's some final thoughts on the Masters:

  • There's no longer a question about who the best American men's golfer is. Sorry Tiger fans, right now it's Bubba Time. The lefty Bubba Watson put four solid holes together on the back nine, before hitting THE shot of the tournament on the second sudden death playoff hole. He uses a pink driver, but mashes it farther than most players on the PGA Tour. He doesn't use a coach, is a devoted family man and pulls off miraculous shots after hitting it wayward. Yeah, Watson is the top player in America right now. He reminds you a little of Phil Mickelson (also in the hunt on Sunday) and a little of Tiger Woods with his bombing style. But Bubba isn't a combination of anyone. He's unique and that's what makes him so darn appealing to golf fans.
  • Watson's victory jumped him 12 places to No. 4 in the Official World Golf Rankings, his highest ranking ever.
  • He became the 14th different winner of the past 14 major championships, and it was the eighth straight time that the champion claimed his first major title. The dominance era ushered in by Tiger Woods has given way to the parity era. And golf isn't in trouble because of it. Sure, fans like watching one player outclass everyone and chase down records. However, everybody likes the players bunched closer together, since it provides for more exciting action down the stretch on Sundays rather than the routs (see Rory McIlroy 2011 U.S. Open and Woods' 2000 U.S. Open).
  • Augusta National needs to check into 2012 and just admit a female member. I mean, if you're going to allow women on the grounds during the Masters then you should allow women as members. Private clubs all over the country, especially on the Suncoast, have lessened its exclusivity stance due to the hard-hitting economy over the past few years. So, it's time for Augusta to do the same.

Another Masters has come and gone.

But don't worry, here's that shot yours truly referenced earlier from Bubba Watson:

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Masters Week: Moving Day for Sean O'Hair

The third round in professional golf tournaments is called "Moving Day." It's where players make a move to position themselves for contention of the title in the final round.

Former IMG Academies standout Sean O'Hair did just that, until two late bogeys at the Masters could him a shot at the coveted green jacket on Sunday.

O'Hair bogeyed Nos. 17 and 18 to fall back to 2-under par for the tournament through 54 holes. His third round 71 currently leaves him inside the top 20, but also seven shots behind Peter Hanson in Saturday's action at Augusta National Golf Club.

Had O'Hair not dropped shots on his final two holes today, he would be in the mix, just a few shots behind Hanson, who fired a third round 65.

Should Hanson claim the title, he'll make history as the first Swedish player to win a men's major golf championship.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Suncoast Ladies Series: Rachel Connor and Ginger Howard tie for third at Harmony Preserve

Bradenton residents Rachel Connor and Ginger Howard tied for third place in the Suncoast Ladies Series event that wrapped up today at the Harmony Preserve in the Orlando area.

Both players posted 3-under par 213 totals to earn a $687.50 for the finish.

Misun Cho won the tournament in a sudden-death playoff over Sandra Changkija.

They each shot 5-under par totals.

Other Bradenton players failed to crack the top 11 spots, which was the final positions to cash a check.

Natalie Sheary (5-over par 221), Victoria Tanco (13-over par 229) and Alexandra Gibson (16-over par 232).

Masters Week: Barack Obama weighs in on male-only Augusta National rule

Masters Week is every golf fan's Super Bowl. It's the first major and officially ushers in spring time.

But the Masters is also linked with the same venue that hosts the magical tournament each year: Augusta National.

And Augusta National is a male-only exclusive private club.

Augusta National has handed out a membership to the past four CEO's of IBM, a title sponsor to the Masters.

IBM's CEO happens to be a woman now.

And since it's 2012, Augusta National should budge off the male only stance and finally admit a woman, if not many others, into their exclusive hallowed halls.

It isn't just yours truly that feels this way. The President of the United States has even weighed in.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said Barack Obama believes women should be admitted as members of Augusta National.

This isn't the first time that male-only club has received national spotlight for its rules.

Martha Burk attempted to get Augusta National to add a female member 10 years ago via a protest during the Masters.

Locally, Gator Creek Golf Club in east Sarasota County is a male-only private club.

To read the full story about Obama's stance, check out the Bradenton Herald here.

Masters Week: Tracking Sean O'Hair

Sean O'Hair (left) tosses a golf ball to Tiger Woods (right) in Wednesday's practice round at The Masters. Photo courtesy of McClatchy-Tribune News Services.

Former IMG standout Sean O'Hair is 1-over par in his first round of the 2012 Masters at famed Augusta National through 15 holes.

O'Hair currently trails Henrik Stenson, who is 5-under par through 17 holes, by six shots.

O'Hair has hit 9 of 15 greens in regulation and 7 of 12 fairways. He's tied for 46th.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Masters Week: Herald's Golf Challenge

Golf fans rejoice: there's a new Bradenton Herald contest that begins this week with the Masters.

Visit The Herald's Golf Challenge and follow the link for rules.

Yours truly will be picking.

First prize is a $50 gas card, and with gas prices soaring over $4 a gallon, it's quite the incentive to play.

I won't divulge any secrets to choosing, but note that no first-time player has won the Masters since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979. Augusta National is a course that takes time to learn, and the experience factor makes veterans a more likely choice to finish atop the leaderboard than newcomers.

Check your stats on Sunday night, and see if you claim the top prize!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Masters Week: Pairings set, features local player

IMG Academies alum Sean O'Hair used to stroll the fairways at River Run Golf Links in the City of Bradenton Men's Amateur Championship.

Now the four-time PGA Tour winner is entered in this week's Masters at Augusta National.

This year's tradition-rich event marks the sixth time O'Hair will play the venerable golf course.

He's made the cut in three of his previous five times in the first major of the season.

O'Hair's best Masters finish came in 2009 when he tied for 10th after three rounds in the 60s.

He opens Thursday's first round at 10:57 a.m. with Scott Verplank and Spain's Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano.

Monday, April 2, 2012

LPGA Tour: Jodi Ewart moves forward in world rankings...again

Manatee County resident Jodi Ewart rose in the women's world golf rankings for a third consecutive week.

Ewart's strong opening round at the Kraft Nabisco Championship led to another consistent result, and therefore, enabled her to vault up the Rolex Rankings once more.

The rankings released on Monday show Ewart is now up to No. 212 in the world, an improvement of 36 spots from last week.

She tied for 26th with a 1-under par total after starting the tournament with a 69 on Thursday.

Meanwhile, IMG Academies alum Paula Creamer fell two spots after the LPGA Tour's first major of 2012 concluded on Sunday.

She is ranked No. 10 in the world.

Bradenton native Jessica Korda fell five spots to No. 87 after a bogey on her final hole on Friday led to a missed cut.