Familiar Faces and Newcomers on Top at the Meijer Classic
With all the furor over one of the strangest British Opens in history, it’s a nice change to go back to the furor of the LPGA, which is bit more of an organized type than what we saw last week. There’s no telling who will still be in the mix after the first round, but Thursday is interesting for observing who has come around after a brief absence. It’s fitting, since the Meijer Classic is a somewhat new event from the past three years, that some good people reintroduce themselves to LPGA fans. When I saw their names on the leaderboard, all crowding around five to seven under, I muttered a collective – “Where y’all been?”
The first name that caught my attention at this week’s Meijer was that of Pat Hurst. She’s been playing this game for a while at the top level, and has won more than once on the tour. Still, with a good game and seemingly impervious to nerves, she’s not retirement material. There is a page of headlines that reminded me of a few of her glory days – “Hurst and Lincicome Lead Field,” “Hurst Outdoes King with a 63,” “Hurst Takes Lead with Course Record,” “Hurst Wins by Four,” “Hurst Survives Triple Bogey,” “Hurst Handles the Wind and Build Leads to 6,” etc. Make no mistake, those headlines didn’t get printed all that long ago, and she can still do stuff like that. So welcome back to your rightful place – Where ya been?
I see that Lizette Salas has come back to the top few again. She’s had her breakthrough performance as a winner on tour as well, and is the Kingsmill champion. There never seemed to be much doubt that she would excel at this level, but there have been an awful lot of tournaments lately where Salas made good money, but didn’t contend. Of course, you can’t just go to the store and buy tour wins, and they will come, but I’ve looked around for Salas lately. From a 62 in a junior tournament to the Kingsmill, you’ve got to believe she’s still around.
It was good to see Dori Carter high on the ladder again. With her rookie year in 2011, she’s won 340,000 since, and 34,000 this year. Somehow, I expected her to emerge around the time she put in her two top 10 appearances. That “OK, here’s Dori” bell rang, and any day now…but it hasn’t happened yet. Carter is ranked at 245th and that’s just got to change, but when? Anyway, welcome back to the conversation – Where ya been?
Katherine Kirk, the Australian who used to play under the name of Katherine Hull, has won twice on the LPGA tour, and has reappeared after a lull. In her 30s, great years to be a pro golfer, unless you’re intimidated by almost grown children handling golf clubs. She’s won the Navistar and the Canadian, but watch out – those kids are at the Meijer, too.
Sprinkled in with these veterans and newcomers from the past five years is a group of real newcomers, some from the last year. Jaye Marie Green has come in with a minus 6, while Jane Rah trails that by a stroke. She is tied with Q Baek and Kris Tamulis. I assume that in a year or two, I’ll be asking them where they’ve been. It takes a little time to get your talent in full gear for tour play. There’s so much to sort out.
Meanwhile, the Meijer Classic continues its brief but growing history at the Blythefield Country Club in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the perfect part of the continent in which to put a tournament in late July. I’m looking forward to seeing if a few of these “Where ya beens” can stay around for a while this time.