Gerry Dulac's Golf Notebook: Next cup of tees & ponytails

Captain Semple Thompson still fields a formidable squad for Curtis Cup

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Annie O'neill/Post-Gazette
Sewickley resident Carol Semple Thompson, right, will lead a U.S. squad, which unfortunately doesn't include LPGA teenagers Paula Creamer, Morgan Pressel and Michelle Wie, in the Curtis Cup.
Click photo for larger image.

Birdies & Bogeys: 7/26/06

This week's Lipouts: 7/26/06

Next on the tee: 7/26/06


Carol Semple Thompson figures there is no sense focusing on the team she might have been able to captain. Paula Creamer. Morgan Pressel. Even Michelle Wie.

Or how about Brittany Lincicome, who turned professional when she was 19 in 2004 and won the LPGA Tour's HSBC match-play championship two weeks ago?

Those teenagers -- the stars and future stars of the LPGA Tour -- already have surrendered their amateur status to turn professional, leaving Thompson, a Sewickley resident and a seven-time United States Golf Association champion, to captain the U.S. Curtis Cup team this week with players who are not as well-known.

"It is a nice thought," Thompson said, "but there are some really great players on our team. Two of them tied for low amateur in the U.S. Open."

The reference was to Jane Park of UCLA and Amanda Blumeherst of Duke, who tied for 10th in the U.S. Women's Open earlier this month. They are leading players for the U.S. team that will be captained by Thompson against Great Britain and Ireland when the Curtis Cup begins Saturday at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Bandon, Ore.

For Thompson, getting to captain the team for whom she participated a record 12 times is thrill enough. Plus, she is more concerned with her own game than wondering about the other talented teenagers she could have used in the Curtis Cup, where the U.S. team holds a commanding 24-6-3 edge.

"I'm more relaxed, actually, than I thought I would be, probably because my golf game is totally abominable," said Thompson, 57, who won the U.S. Senior Women's Amateur four consecutive years, beginning in 1999. "We had a great practice two weeks ago at Bandon -- we played five rounds in three days -- so the kids know the golf course. The only regret is we had no wind and I think we'll probably have some wind [for the event]."

Thompson refers to her players as kids -- she also calls them "the ponytails" -- because, to her, that's what they are. But it wasn't that long ago she played on the Curtis Cup team and, in a script that couldn't have played out any better, even clinched a victory for the U.S. team.

That happened in 2002 at Fox Chapel Golf Club -- almost her back yard -- when she holed a 27-foot putt at the final hole to retain the cup for the American team. In 12 years, Thompson owned a match-play record of 18-15-4, including 9-8-1 in singles, usually competing against players much younger.

"It's pretty much what I've expected," Thompson said. "I've gotten to know a lot of the players. We had a great time with our practices, had a lot of laughs. There's a lot of enthusiasm. It made me feel energetic being around them."

Told that she's not that far removed from being a Curtis Cup player, Thompson said, "I'm not, but my golf game is."

Trivia

Jack Nicklaus finished second a record seven times at the British Open and four times at the U.S. Open. Four other players had four runner-up finishes at the U.S. Open. Who is the most recent? Answer at end.

Close again

Chris DiMarco did it again, getting into contention on the final day and nearly winning another major championship. After a couple of missed opportunities at the Masters in which he lost in back-to-back years to Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, DiMarco pushed Woods almost to the end at the British Open before finishing second to the world's No. 1 player.

The performance likely will cement DiMarco's position on the U.S. Ryder Cup team because he jumped from No. 21 to No. 6 on the American points list after the British Open. What's more, he has moved from 26th to No. 13 in the Official World Rankings, based on his performance at Royal Liverpool.

Nonetheless, despite his performance in major championships, the fact remains DiMarco has won just three times in 12 years on the PGA Tour, hardly the stuff of golfing superstars. Players such as Tim Herron, Bob Estes and Carlos Franco have won more times than DiMarco on the PGA Tour.

DiMarco is a gutsy player with desire the size of his native New York. But, at some point, he needs to win to shake what will become a burgeoning tag as a poor finisher.

Urgent calls, pictures

Woods and even Sergio Garcia, who was paired with the world's No. 1 player, had to back off their shots numerous times in the final round of the British Open because of camera clicks. But the sounds were being generated by gallery members, not accredited photographers, and the sounds were not from cameras but cell phones.

The use of cameras is banned at the British Open, but British laws make it difficult to confiscate them at the gate. While the cell phones became a nuisance, at least one was used for the right reason -- to call paramedics when an elderly man in the gallery had a heart attack.

The man died, even though paramedics assisted him within two minutes of the call being made.

"You have to consider that people like to have mobiles with them for matters of urgency," said David Hill of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club.

To some, that means getting a picture of Woods.

Big paydays

It has been quite a three-week stretch for the Tri-State PGA section.

First it was the $150,000 Falling Rock Classic, a 54-hole event with a $30,000 first prize. Then it was the $125,000 Frank B. Fuhrer Invitational that ends today with a $25,000 first prize. On Monday, the two-day, 36-hole Sewickley Invitational, which had a $5,000 first prize in its inaugural year in 2005, commences.

Nice time for a player to get hot.

"We don't get to play for that kind of money in our section," said Rob Moss of Elyria, Ohio, who played on a sponsors exemption at the Falling Rock Classic and is a member of the Northern Ohio section of the PGA. Moss has won $30,000 in two years at Falling Rock after finishing fourth and second. "It's unbelievable they can find sponsors like that."

Dissa and data

Woods is the only player in history to defend three major titles -- PGA (1999, 2000), Masters (2001, 2002) and British Open (2005, 2006).

Americans have won 10 of the past 12 British Open titles.

Augie Russo of Dormont, who will turn 88 tomorrow, shot 35-42--77 a week ago at Beaver Creek Meadows in Lisbon, Ohio, easily shooting his age for the 12th year in a row.

Trivia answer

Phil Mickelson finished second to Geoff Ogilivy at the U.S. Open a month ago, the fourth time he has been a runner-up since 1999.


Gerry Dulac can be reached at gdulac@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1466.


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