Notes: No finish line in sight yet for Pettersen
The best advice Suzann Pettersen ever received came from a chance encounter with the legendary Kathy Whitworth, seated at a nearby table eating dinner during the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
“She stood up, she looked me in the eye and gave me a nice handshake – and she's got the biggest hands I've ever kind of felt; my hand felt so small – and she said, ‘Don't ever let the passion get in your way,’ ” Pettersen said. “It's so true. She doesn’t even know me, but that's probably what she could see from the outside.”
Pettersen, now in Malaysia after a three-week break for the start of her Asian swing, concedes it’s hard for her to be relaxed on the golf course, but she’s trying. That effort helped result in back-to-back victories, at the Safeway Classic and Evian Championship.
The fiery Norwegian is on a high after helping spearhead an historic European victory at the Solheim Cup. From there she went home to Norway to host the second annual Suzann Pro Challenge. The event raised nearly $200,000 for the Right to Play organization, of which she is a global ambassador.
Pettersen hopes more children in her country can enjoy summer adventures such as midnight golf in the northern parts of Norway, where it doesn't get dark.
“It's just 24/7 daylight,” Pettersen said. “It's quite unique, and it kind of brings back a lot of the reasons why I started. You go out with friends, you have fun, you enjoy yourself, just being out and about.”
While Asia seems a long way from home, something about that part of the world brings out the best in Pettersen. Of her 13 LPGA titles, four have come in Asia (two in Korea, and one in Taiwan and Thailand). She also won the Mission Hills World Ladies Championship in China on the Ladies European Tour in March.
After Malaysia, Pettersen will defend her titles in both Korea and Taiwan.
“I usually have a strong fall,” said Pettersen, who opened with a 4-under 67 at Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club. “This year the kind of strong performance came a little earlier than it usually does, so hopefully I can keep it going.”
Pettersen is second on the LPGA money list ($1,721,342), behind Inbee Park, and second in LPGA scoring (69.7), behind Stacy Lewis. She ranks first in greens in regulation.
Now in her 11th year on the LPGA, Pettersen is seventh on the career money list, with more than $11 million.
When asked how long she plans to compete, the 32-year-old said she can see clearly only through the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, golf's return to the games after more than a century.
“I'm not really seeing that finishing line clear yet, but I ain't going to play past 40, that's for sure,” Pettersen said. “I mean, I would like to have a family. When that happens, golf is out.”
For now though, the focus is on growing her trophy collection.
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LOCAL HERO: Shanshan Feng discovered in Malaysia that her new nickname on tour is “Eagle.” The Chinese star eagled the 72nd hole Sunday to win the inaugural Reignwood LPGA Classic in Beijing, hitting the flagstick with a 3-wood.
Feng was surprised to see herself on China’s main channel, CCTV.
“I think Sunday night I was on there for 14 seconds,” she said. “I'm like . . . I'm pretty sure that's the first time like news about golf is on there.”
Whether or not it’s the first (Tianlang Guan at the Masters surely made the cut), it’s certainly a rarity.
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ONE AND DONE: LPGA commissioner Mike Whan was asked in Malaysia about bringing more tournaments to Asia in the coming years and had this to say: “We probably have one more available week in the fall to complete a full Asian swing in the fall. But I think to expand significantly more than that, we’d have to take away from some of the other markets that we’re going.”
There’s an off-week Oct. 28-Nov. 3, between tournaments in Taiwan and Japan. The fall Asian swing consists of five events.
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SEMI SURPRISE: Margaret Shirley ended Meghan Stasi’s run at a fifth U.S. Women’s Mid-Am title on Wednesday. Shirley, 27, a former Auburn player from Roswell, Ga., was 2 down with two to play in the semifinals and rallied to win the match on the 19th hole. Stasi’s U.S. Women’s Mid-Am match-play record is a stunning 34-4.
Stasi had Champions Tour player Morris Hatalsky on the bag in Asheville, N.C. Hatalsky, a former PGA Tour player, is a longtime member of host club Biltmore Forest.
Shirley fell to former Missouri player Julia Potter in the championship match in 19 holes.