by Jeff Skinner
The LPGA Tour starts this week and the players can’t wait to get the season underway even if it means going half way round the world to Thailand. The women start a very critical season for The LPGA at the Honda PTT LPGA Thailand. It’s the first week of a very eastern two tournament swing through Thailand and Singapore. As far as the players are concerned it’s about time. With fewer tournaments on the schedule this year the players will be taking advantage of every playing opportunity.
With the economic issues facing the tour this season marks a decisive time for the Tour. The good news is that the tour is well stocked with skilled players and interesting personalities. 2009 was a banner year for rookies on The LPGA and those players are well positioned to carry the tour to the next step.
Last season we saw rookies win seven tournaments and Rookie of the Year Ji Yai Shin battled Lorena Ochoa for Player of the Year. Shin won three times, Anna Nordqvist won twice, including a major, and MJ Hur had a win as did the tour ratings machine, Michelle Wie. Two great rookie stories on the tour, Vicky Hurst and Stacy Lewis had fine first seasons and this leaves the LPGA in good position to attract more fans and viewers.
New commissioner, Michael Whan may have his work cut out for him but with these young players he has a good product to sell. Vicky Hurst could be one of the mainstays of the LPGA for the next twenty five years. She’s good, she’s young and she’s easily identifiable with her trademark Kangol hat. She tore up the Duramed Futures in 2008 with five wins, set the season earnings record and won Rookie of the Year.
Last year she finished 44th on the LPGA money list and had three top ten finishes. To think that she’s a “veteran” on the tour at nineteen years old (she’ll be twenty in June) is amazing. Regardless of her age, she plays like an old pro and was kind enough to answer a few questions via an e-mail from Thailand.
Links Life Golf: Vicky how would you characterize your first year on tour? Was it what you thought it would be?
Vicky Hurst: My first year on tour was a huge learning experience. My first year on the LPGA tour was incredible. I learned so much and met so many new and interesting people. Life on the road is tough but I love traveling and I’m so excited to get started this year.
LLG: What is the best thing about being on tour?
VH: I love that I get to travel and play amazing golf courses around the world.
LLG: What do you spend your time with on tour?
VH: When I’m not playing golf and practicing, I love to get to know the history and the culture of the local area. I’m in Pattaya now for the Honda PTT LPGA Thailand. I have watched traditional dances, ridden the Asian elephant, and eaten exotic fruits like dragon fruit and the pomelo.
VH: For some reason, I continually find myself dragged on stage at Pro-Am parties to dance in front of the guests. In Williamsburg, VA, I danced with the live band and in Japan, I danced the Flamenco for the audience after a quick 30-second lesson. I was extremely embarrassed at both times because the truth is back then, I could not dance. But I’ve had some practice since then!
LLG: You finished 44th on the LPGA Tour money list last year. Have you set any goals for the tour this year?
VH: I set two different types of goals in the beginning of the year, result goals and process goals. My result goals are the kinds of goals that I cannot control such as, finishing top-ten on the money list, win a tournament, be the number one in birdies, and have the lowest putting average for greens in regulation. These goals I set at the beginning of the year and not think about again until the end of the season. More importantly, I set process goals which are to have efficient practice rounds and stay focused on the task at hand.
LLG: Have you made any changes in your game during the off season?
VH: I have been working hard on all aspects of my game but I am most excited to use my new putter. This year I will be playing with my new Odyssey White Ice Two-Ball Blade putter, and I’m putting great!
LLG: How did you relax during the off season?
VH: I relaxed by taking Zumba* and yoga classes and rock climbing with my sister, Kelly.
LLG: Your mom caddied for you sometimes last year. Are you going to try that again?
VH: My mom and I made a great team last year. I know that she is always there for me if I need her but I’ve been working on finding a permanent caddy for me on tour.
LLG: The LPGA had a tough 2009. How do you feel about the future of the LPGA Tour?
VH: I am looking forward to seeing what the new commissioner, Michael Whan, has to offer the tour. I think 2010 is going to be a great year!
LLG: Pick one: Four tour wins this year or one major win this year?
VH: Four tour wins including a major!
*For those of us not in the know, Zumba is an dance/exercise class.
Thanks to Ann Laney at The Wasserman Media Group LLC.