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Seniors See a Boom in Women's Golf

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It was, for Martha Lang of Mandeville, La., a nice round of morning golf on the North Course at Colonial Country Club.

She made four birdies, including holing out from the sand on No. 16, and finished with a 73, best in her group of champions that led off the Women's Southern Golf Association's Senior Amateur.

"It was nice; we've got a great golf course and great weather," Lang said. "So far, no complaints."

A full field of 112 players is entered, which means some of the nation's best women's amateurs are in Memphis this week. They may be old enough to play in the senior division now, but players like Lang and her partners - Anna Schultz of Rockwall, Texas; Taffy Brewer of Boyton Beach, Fla.; and Carolyn Creekmore of Dallas - have managed to stay competitive with the best young amateurs in the country.

Creekmore, for example, made the cut at the womens' U.S. Amateur, U.S. Mid-Amateur and U.S. Senior Amateur.

Nowadays, however, the best young girls golfers are not becoming ladies amateurs.

They are becoming ladies professionals, with Michelle Wie's much- anticipated and followed debut over the weekend the latest example of a trend the golfers at Colonial expect to accelerate.

"I can assure you the future is in good hands," said Creekmore, who shot 74 on Tuesday. "The only thing that's a shame is they are all gonna turn pro."

Wie, just turned 16 and from Hawaii, is the most publicized young player, but Creekmore and her cohorts know many other young players are as strong as Wie on the golf course.

Morgan Pressel, a high school senior in Florida, won the U.S. Women's Amateur this year and finished tied for second at the U.S. Women's Open (and might have won if not for Birdie Kim's miraculous birdie from the bunker on 18). Brittany Lang won the NCAA Championship last year as a freshman at Duke and tied with Pressel for second at the Open. Ai Miyazato is a 20-year-old Japanese star who won several pro tournaments as a teenager and is going through the LPGA qualifying process this fall.

Paula Creamer graduated from high school this spring and is now No. 2 on the LPGA Tour money list.

The veteran amateurs at Colonial were mixed in their opinions on whether the young golfers should stay amateurs and go to college, but they were unanimous in their excitement over the future of women's golf.

"The thing is, they have never had a bad swing," said Creekmore. "The first swing they take is a good swing."

Added Lang: "They play in so much competition, they are ready."

They also see the next generation of women's golfers having two advantages over their male counterparts. Their path to the big leagues is less difficult, and they have more charisma.

"They are fiery and play with emotion, unlike the boys," said Schultz, a mother of three boys herself.

This is what Arnold Palmer had to say about Wie, according to her Wikipedia entry: "She's probably going to influence the golfing scene as much as Tiger, or more. She's going to attract people that even Tiger didn't attract, young people, both boys and girls, and families."

Schultz agrees with those who say college should be the first option for emerging stars, and Creekmore echoed the viewpoint of many by disagreeing with the path Wie chose to take, mostly bypassing amateur golf to play as an amateur in professional events.

Brewer, however, has been arguing with her counterparts that turning pro is the obvious choice.

"When they are as good as they are, why not?" Brewer said. "Golf is so fickle, it can turn on you in a New York minute."

- Zack McMillin: 529-2564

(C) 2005 The Commercial Appeal Memphis, TN. via ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved

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