Sarah Burnham – One Step at a Time

LPGA Rookie Burnham Qualifies for KTMG by $3.00

Any time that one of us writes about a player’s chances of success, we are bound by pure speculation. We don’t know anything about the future, near or distant, but it’s apparently fun to muse about it, especially when we have all the stats at our beck and call. Will Tiger Woods win another major, or in a more optimistic vein, “when” will he win another? To discuss such a question, we have a warehouse of previous information. However, to  sit down and speculate on how Sarah Burnham will do in her career, we have less to go on.

That’s quite all right. For me, it is actually more fun to consider a person in Burnham’s position. Covering an established star over the decades leaves us little wiggle room, and with a new up-and-comer, absolutely anything can happen or not happen. The variables are enormous, and the imagination that suspects golf might be onto something good in Burnham can run wild with “ifs.”

For that sort of speculation, it is worth remembering that not all world champions attained that position fresh out of the gate, or even demonstrated the likelihood of it in earlier years. We don’t see a lot of toddler’s appear on Johnny Carson years before the truth will be known. Sarah Burnham has something very important going for her. She is taking it on one level at a time, and always has.


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Burnham is an LPGA rookie. She started playing around the age of nine, and didn’t make a final career decision until a ways into college. However, while that decision was pending, she began to make all the right marks, such as a state championship as a junior in high school. She is a Minnesotan, and there’s a lot of good golf being played up there. The decision to attend Michigan State University was apparently a good one, and she won honors as an All-American three times, not to mention Big Ten Golfer of the Year on two occasions.

All right, that’s good, but that’s junior and collegiate golf. It’s just not the same as tangling with seasoned pros,  some of whom are making successful livings competing every week.  In competing with them, one plays  against a mind set that is absolutely certain that they are in the right game. They have moved on to making statements, and asking fewer questions. It’s not as if Burnham hasn’t met them, or played against them. She nailed down a spot in the U.S. Women’s Open as top amateur. That’s a great way to learn the ropes for people who are a few years further down the road. In 2017, she fired a 63 in collegiate competition, a record low score for the Michigan State program. For Burnham, that is another box checked off. Yes, she can play that kind of golf.

In 2018, she won the Connecticut Women’s Open. Granted, it’s not an LPGA major, but it’s a win, and an important building block in becoming a winner. What she desperately wanted to do was to play in this week’s KPMG LPGA Championship. Her effort took a turn last week when she made the cut at the Meier Classic, the first made cut on tour. Two-putting from 70 feet, she took home a check large enough to qualify her for this week’s major by…get this…three dollars. I love stories like that.

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The KPMG turned out to be a hometown affair at Hazeltine, just a stone’s throw from the old stomping grounds. Up to 100 people appeared around the first tee. Going away and returning for a hometown performance is a scary deal in some aspects, but Sarah Burnham seized the opportunity, and took one extra step beyond what was expected in her major debut. She made the cut again, on the big stage. By her comments, we can tell that she has gained the confidence to hang with the pros, maybe sooner than later.

It’s a good time to say again  that champions don’t always come out of prodigy central. Many build their mentality, their game, and their career incrementally, proceeding to eventual titles. It looks as if that is the case with Sarah Burnham, whose game will do nothing but self-refine through the coming years. Today’s 70 will become tomorrow’s 65 in time. The newcomer will give way to the wise competitor.

Yes, it is all speculation, but I believe that the news is good for Sarah Burnham. At the very least, her story is a  lot of fun  to write – all those possibilities.

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