TAVARES, Fla. – It’s unlike Brittany Lincicome to enter a tournament and not have her eyes set on a trophy. It’s also unusual for the three-time LPGA winner to exit an 18th green without a crowd of fans and autograph-seekers standing nearby. But then again, until the 2011 LPGA season kicks off in Thailand Feb. 17, anything is possible.
Lincicome became the first LPGA player to enter a Hooters Tour Winter Series event this week at Deer Island Golf Club. Looking simply for some tournament reps to break up a long winter hiatus from the LPGA, Lincicome threw her giant pink staff bag on a golf cart – probably one of the best perks of a starter-tour event – and played the first round under overcast skies and in relative obscurity. But for a few carts that caught her group at the turn, and a pickup truck parked off the 10th fairway that displayed a homemade sign in her favor, Lincicome’s round was a quiet one.
Playing on the 7,029-yard Deer Island layout – 500 yards longer than what she would encounter in an LPGA event – Lincicome shot a 2-over 74 that left her 10 strokes back. Her goal at the beginning of the week was to make the cut (top 38 players and ties), but after Tuesday’s round she admits it might need some adjusting.
“I should have just gone in today wanting to win and not even caring, just kind of be aggressive on every shot,” she said.
For the long-hitting Lincicome, length was not the problem Tuesday, but rather a few nerves at being in an unfamiliar setting as well as several close calls on the putting green. Lincicome hung back-to-back birdie putts on the lip coming in that could have gotten her to even par for the round.
“On my tour, I’m really aggressive, if I blow it by 4 or 5 feet, it’s not a big deal,” Lincicome said of her putting. “I can make it coming back. I think there was a little more nerves today.”
While the Hooters Tour may be unfamiliar, Lincicome isn’t a stranger to teeing it up in men’s events, as she has also played on the Moonlight Tour. Lincicome worried about how well she would be received. She need not worry, as Zack Sucher, who played for Alabama-Birmingham and turned professional a year and half ago, was singing her praises after standing up from the scorer’s table.
“I didn’t see that she was in the tournament. I noticed later they had something written up on the website; I didn’t notice that,” Sucher said of being paired with the LPGA star. “So I’m kind of going down the pairings sheet and I was like, ‘That can’t be right. Maybe there’s a guy with the same name.’ ”
Sucher shot 2-under 70 Tuesday, and spent much of the day bantering back and forth with Lincicome. Heard from Sucher after Lincicome bombed a drive even with him at the par-4 11th: “Hit it good?”
“For a girl,” she replied.
“She’s probably the first really good female golfer I’ve ever played with,” Sucher said after the round.
For her part, Lincicome made sure to take the emphasis off being female, making it clear that she was not out to prove herself in a men’s field, but just wanted some place to play to keep the rust off.
“I didn’t want them to think that I was pulling an Annika or a Michelle Wie and trying to compare myself with the guys,” she said. “Any interview that I’ve done, it’s like, it has nothing to do with that, it’s being able to stay competitive.”
It’s hard to say if other LPGA players will follow Lincicome’s lead during their long offseason, but thanks to Lincicome, it might become a little easier to find some winter competition. An official with the Moonlight Tour consulted Lincicome about creating a similarly organized tour for females – maybe even one that bears her name. With so many players living in Orlando, Lincicome thinks it would be well-received. She isn’t jumping to any decisions on that front, but it’s certainly something to think about.
“We definitely need somewhere to play,” she said.