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Newsletter January 2012

 As we approach the end of the first week of the New Year, US national women’s amateur tournaments are well under way in the Orange Blossom circuit in Florida. The results of the first tournament showed once again that golf is an international sport currently dominated by exceptionally talented teen-agers.

The Orange Blossom tour comprises four weekly Florida tournaments in January that bring low handicap female amateurs from all over the world who seek world-class competition and an opportunity to gain Curtis Cup points. In the early years the Orange Blossom tournaments were favorite tour stops for the women professionals (before the LPGA was founded in 1950).

The first of the series is being played in Sebring, Florida. The Harder Hall Women’s Invitational (www.harderhallwomens.com) is played at Harder Hall Country Club for the 57th year, and is a 72-hole gross tournament. When I played in it I was always surprised that some of the entrants were barely teen-agers and by how far they had come from South America, Asia and Europe to gain tournament experience. The championship division played at 6,151 yards is limited to the lowest 100 entrants and the higher handicap division played at 5119 yards is limited to the lowest 44.

Charley Hull, the 15-year-old sensation from England scored a pair of 69s in the closing two rounds (282) to win today by 2 strokes over 16-year-old Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand (284), and 3 strokes over her 15-year-old sister Moriya (285). In 4th place was 17-year-old Perrine Delacour from France who shot a closing round 69 to finish 7 strokes back (289).  

The 72-hole SALLY (www.thesally.com) tournament, formerly called the South Atlantic Amateur, begins next week on January 11th with two rounds of qualifying for placement in flights. One of the oldest amateur tournaments, it began in 1926 and is played at Oceanside CC, which is just north of Daytona Beach.

Only female amateur players with handicaps of 8 or less can apply. Of the 91 entered this year, only 16 have handicap indexes over 5 and 25 have a plus-handicap. This means that in a net tournament they would add their handicap to their score instead of subtracting it. Plus-handicap golfers consistently shoot scores around par or lower. FYI Tiger’s handicap was estimated at +7 on his home course.

The Oceanside golf course is what it says. It is across the street from the Atlantic Ocean which has caused frigid temperatures and winds some years and balmy southern weather in others. My memories include barbeque pits placed on the par-3 tees to warm your hands, wearing multiple layers of clothing and rain gear making it difficult to swing, and winds so strong it wasn’t necessary to throw up blades of grass to determine the wind velocity.

At the conclusion of the SALLY, the Orange Blossom circuit moves south to a warmer climate in Ft. Lauderdale for the 79th Ione D. Jones/Doherty Women’s Amateur Championship. “The Doherty” is a match play tournament played at Coral Ridge CC (www.coralridgecc.com), the home to innovative golf course architect Robert Trent Jones Sr. who designed the course in 1954. The tournament is now named for his wife Ione. The Doherty field is limited to 48 players in the championship flight and 48 in the senior flight. An 18-hole qualifier to determine the players will be held on Monday, January 17th.

Charley Hull, newly crowned 2012 Harder Hall champion and a plus-three handicap, ranked 33 in the world won the Doherty last year.

The last stop on the Orange Blossom circuit changes format once again with the 65th Women’s International Four-Ball tournament, January 22-25th. It is held a little further south in Hollywood, Fl at Orangebrook Golf & CC (www.orangebrook.com). It is the longest running women’s amateur event held at one location in the US. This is a match play tournament, but this time with partners. A four ball match is when two players play their better ball against the better ball of  the opposing team. For my explanation of how to play the different kinds of match formats go to http://bit.ly/wEpi8J.

If you are in Florida in the month of January you can watch amateur women’s golf at its finest for free at any of these tournaments. You will be amazed at the 250 plus drives and how they execute precise shots in their short games. This is a good way to get up close and learn from the best without having to fight the crowds. 


© Copyright PMI 2012. All Rights Reserved.

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