by Jeff Skinner
The LPGA Tour finally starts its domestic season this week when the ladies tee off tomorrow at the KIA Classic in Carlsbad, California. The LPGA was last seen a month ago in Singapore and all the LPGA players are chomping at the bit to get the 2010 season restarted. This will be the first tournament of the season for many players as many didn’t qualify for the first two events of the season or opted not to travel to Asia to compete.
Most of the top players in the world will be teeing it up at The La Costa Resort and Spa with the notable exception being Paula Creamer who is recovering from a thumb injury. The ladies will all be doing their best to try and turn this tour back into the LPGA Tour and not the Ai Miyazato Tour. Miyazato has opened the season with back to back wins in both tour events and the field will be trying to derail her unbelievable start.
2010 brings another class of quality rookies to the tour. The 2009 rookie class proved to be one of the best ever in LPGA history and claimed seven tour victories. Jiyai Shin had three wins, Anna Nordqvist had two, including a major, and Michelle Wie broke through with her first win as did M.J. Hur. Popular rookies Vicki Hurst, Mika Miyazato and Stacy Lewis rounded out a rookie class whose accomplishments make it a difficult act to follow. Amanda Blumenherst brings the most impressive resume to the LPGA this season. She was the 2008 Women’s Champion and three time NCAA Player of the Year.
The 2010 rookie class may not have the pedigree of the 2009 class, but it certainly doesn’t lack for talented and interesting players. One of those talented and appealing players is Jean Reynolds.
Reynolds snuck into the national spotlight last year when she played superb golf at the US Women’s Open. She was one of only three players under par after the second round and threatened to challenge for the championship. Her putter failed her during the third round and she admittedly learned a lesson the hard way during the fourth round, “Don’t go at pins on Sundays.” The USGA appreciates that, they like teaching lessons that way.
In a phone conversation with Reynolds we spoke about her game, her life and her priorities. While professional golf is important in her life, she has taken the road less travelled to the tour. She was one of the rare, gifted amateur golfers that didn’t rush to turn professional and even put down her clubs while playing for the University of Georgia. Many young golfers let their golf define their lives but Reynolds made a conscious effort to be more than just a golfer at college. She chose to be a normal college student first and a golfer second and she doesn’t regret that decision one bit.
Like many players she was introduced to the game by her father, brothers and her grandfather. She started playing around age six and stuck with it. Reynolds had a very good junior and amateur career claiming five Georgia State Golf Association Championships and was a member of the winning USGA State Championship Team from Georgia in 2005 She played well on the Duramed Futures Tour, finished second on the money list and earned her shot on The LPGA.
After being recruited by many SEC schools she choose to attend the University of Georgia on a partial scholarship, not because of the money or the golf, but because she already has plenty of friends in Athens. It’s that kind of attitude that made Reynolds the atypical college golfer.
I asked her to tell me a little bit about herself and in a sweet, gentle, southern drawl she offered honest, open and thoughtful answers.
Jean Reynolds: “I grew up in Newnan, Georgia, small town, both sets of grandparents lived here, two brothers is what started me in golf, my dad’s a big golfer. I kind of tagged along with him.
(I had a) pretty successful junior & amateur career, Georgia recruited me to play college golf there. I went there and red shirted my freshman. I kind of got burned out, just with all the practice regimen and I was enjoying college and being a normal college student at the university and decided to walk away from it. Then I picked it back up I believe my junior year. I studied abroad my sophomore year in Innsbruck, Austria. So I probably took a good year and a half off of competitive golf and then (I played one Georgia State Tournament before I left for Innsbruck). You know, my junior year, the competitive juices started flowing again and I played in the USGA State Team Championship. The captain was Pat Clark who is a dear friend of mine and we ended up winning that and that just got the competitive juices flowing again. I decided to try both Q-Schools, ended up finishing 5th at the Futures Tour and gave that a run. My first year, I think that was ’07, I had just kind of a mediocre year, more than anything I just had a terrible attitude. At the end of the year I just sat down and reevaluated what I needed to work on because the golf game was there, even after the time off I had taken. So my coach, Charlie King, he’s out of Reynolds Plantation down here in Georgia, he helped me tremendously with the mental thought of it just figuring what I really wanted out of this lifestyle and career and you know once we cleared all of the garbage out between the ears it was just, kind of go out and play golf and have fun again. That was the biggest thing for me for this past year and the success I had I think is due to just going back to your junior days and just playing golf and have fun.
LLG: So you actually went to college on a scholarship, prepared to play?
JR: I mean it wasn’t a full scholarship or anything like that, but you know I already had tons of friends at Athens and that was just kind of where I always wanted to go. My two brothers went to Ole Miss and I had a lot of Southeastern Conference schools looking at me but Georgia was two hours from home. That was just kind of the best option
LLG: It sounds like you enjoyed your college life.
JR: I did, I loved it. I met some wonderful people there, some of my best friends. I’ve got a very tight knit group of friends and I think that’s very important to keep a balance in your life.
LLG: What was the craziest thing you and your sorority sisters did in school?
JR: Oh goodness! (I can almost hear her blush as she laughs) There were probably a lot of them I don’t need to tell. We lived in a six girl room in the sorority house which is kind of fun. We all had bunk beds and I mean we were like little mice packed in there but we just had a good time. We really did. I mean everyone there has got a different personality, everyone’s got a different story and for me it was just nice to get away from the golf. You know everyone associated me with golf, you know she’s a golfer, but there no one cared. They didn’t understand golf and it was just a nice break.
LLG: So you didn’t want your life defined by golf? You wanted to explore everything else in college?
JR: Yeah, I mean I think your identity should be, obviously what you’re passionate about, but I mean there are other things that I think people want to be recognized for.
LLG: When you stopped playing, did you think you were going to play professional golf after you graduated?
JR: You know, deep down, I knew I was not quitting. Of course I had a lot of people questioning me…you know “she burned out, she quit.” As far as I knew I was going to go back to play competitive golf. I didn’t know if that was to continue playing amateur tournaments or if I was going to turn pro. But it was kind of later in the year, probably (end of )06, early 07 that I did some research and I was like why not, let’s try it, do it for a couple years and see how it works out.
LLG: So now you’re a full time player on the LPGA Tour, how’s that feel?
JR: Pretty awesome! It’s kind of a dream come true. Once you get there it’s not easy and you’ve got to keep bustin it and keep your focus at hand. But for me I’m just enjoying the opportunity. I think it’s going to be a fun year and you know I’m not going to put any expectations or pressure on myself. I’m just going out there and play golf and have fun.
LLG: Do you have any specific goals for the season?
JR: Obviously, to secure my card for next year, that would be a huge bonus. Anytime you can avoid Q-School that is saving a huge headache. So, to secure my card and I would just like to play well, and in order for me to do that I have to have fun. So I’m just going to take it as it comes. (I’ll be very disappointed if I couldn’t finish in the top 90).
LLG: Are there any events you are looking especially forward to on the tour this year?
JR: Absolutely, my first one in San Diego (The Kia Classic). It’s been quite awhile since I’d teed it up. But you know it was the same way last year. I’m kind of superstitious so I’m starting the routine I did going into my first tournament last year and that obviously worked out pretty kind of good.
LLG: What routine is that?
JR: I’ve been working out tremendously. But I didn’t play competitive tournaments going into my first event. I went down to Orlando… and got a lot of good practice in and played a lot of golf down there. And I just got ready and felt good about my game going into that first tournament. I’m kind of sticking with that routine.
LLG: Who, other than your parents, did you admire growing up, as far as a golfer?
JR: I’ve always been a big Fred Couples and a Davis Love III fan. I just love their attitude. I like the way they handle themselves on the golf course.
LLG: What do you think is going to be the most difficult adjustment you’ll have to make to the LPGA Tour?
JR: Probably just getting into the routine of things, kind of figuring out, travel and things. I learned a lot through the Futures Tour with the travel. Of course this will be a step up. But once you step in there and get your feet wet and observe what’s going on, I think you just kind of take it hand in hand. I mean there are obviously some things you want to stay away from, but from there it’s a learning experience. I’m a fast learner. So hopefully I can make adjustments in time to not have to worry about it during tournament week.
LLG: What are you looking forward to most on the tour?
JR: Getting to play golf with some of the different girls out there and learning a lot from their games. Obviously, they are extremely talented or else they wouldn’t be where they are right now. Just watching them, especially the short game, I’ll be observing a lot of that. It should be interesting as far as practice rounds.
LLG: Have you set your schedule for the season?
JR: Yea, I’m playing…I have committed to everything. In order for me to play in the Kraft this year I’ll have to finish top ten In San Diego (Kia Classic). After that I’m signed up to play everything and then of course the US Open, I’ll have to qualify for that…and then the British Open. But everything, full field I’ll play. (She’s hoping to qualify for the Evian Masters also).
LLG: Do you have a full time caddy?
JR: I do. His name is Paulie Maggiore. He’s from Pittsburgh. I met him on the Futures Tour he was caddying for a good friend of mine all last year and he caddied for me at the Open this past year. More than anything he is just good at keeping me relaxed and keeps me smiling. For me that’s the most important thing on the golf course.
LLG: Sounds like you already have a good relationship with him?
JR: We’re good friends and like I said he just keeps me relaxed and that’s when I play my best golf.
LLG: Do you have some friends on the tour now that you played with on the Futures Tour?
JR: I’ve got Samantha Richdale, I played a lot with her and Mina Harigae and there are a few out there but I’m looking forward to meeting many more.
LLG: Do you have a favorite club, or a go to club?
JR: Oh gosh, I’m a fairly consistent driver of the golf ball. I mean I can get it out there pretty good for my size. I can rely on driving the ball.
After talking to Ms. Reynolds I was left with the impression that while she is passionate about her golf game, she’ll not let it define her life. She knows what she wants and right now that’s to perform well on tour. She said her key to playing well is being relaxed and happy. That philosophy should serve her well not only on tour, but in her life as well.