CHALLENGING THE DIAMONDBACKS
The JTBC Founders Cup got off to an exciting start with four members of the Arizona Diamondbacks - Tyler Clippard, Evan Marshall, Zack Godley and Braden Shipley - taking on three LPGA players - Grace Na, Rachel Rohanna and Gerina Piller - in a skills challenge on Tuesday morning at Wildfire Golf Club.
“Being out here with these pros is really cool,” said Shipley. “What these girls do is very impressive.”
The LPGA pros analyzed the D-Backs’ swings and then competed against them in a glass breaking skills challenge.
“I think they might have showed us up today,” Na joked. “I really enjoyed it. It was really fun.”
HANNAH O’SULLIVAN’S UNIQUE SPRING BREAK
Hannah O’Sullivan’s friends in her senior class at Hamilton High School in Chandler, Ariz., are utilizing their spring break to go on trips or take a break from school. Not O’Sullivan. The reigning U.S. Women’s Amateur champion is competing against the world’s best in her backyard at this week’s JTBC Founders Cup.
The last time O’Sullivan played a professional event this close to her hometown was when she became the youngest winner in Epson Tour history by winning the Gateway Classic in nearby Mesa as a 16-year-old.
“I mean it can be a little overwhelming sometimes. But hopefully – so I played my first U.S. Open when I was 14. So you’re just kind of star struck,” O’Sullivan said. “But now, I still look up to these people so much and I know I’m learning and I’m going to continue to learn so much from this week. But it’s a little more comfortable, I guess.”
O’Sullivan particularly looks up to Stacy Lewis and got to play with her last weekend in Houston during a Curtis Cup practice session. O’Sullivan is set to start at Southern Cal in the fall with a major in business and said that despite her incredible success at her age, she’s not reconsidering her plans for college and her thoughts on the matter were reaffirmed this weekend by Lewis.
“I talked to her a lot about this actually. She obviously graduated before she turned pro,” O’Sullivan said of Lewis, “and she’s one of my biggest role models, and she said, really, you gain a lot of maturity and independence. So I’m definitely looking forward to that route.”
O’Sullivan’s a straight-A student and although she believes the Epson Tour and U.S. Amateur wins have shown her she can compete out on the LPGA, she knows professional golf will still be there when the time is right.
“Academics has always been very, very important to me,” O’Sullivan said. “I’m a straight-A student. So I think I value that a lot and going forward, I want to be educated, and also, you never know what’s going to happen. I think getting a degree is very important, and I know I can gain a lot of maturity and independence through that experience that will be very valuable to me.”
Although O’Sullivan’s clearly a high achiever, both on the golf course and in the classroom, she doesn’t have expectations of securing her second professional win in her hometown this week. Instead, her only expectation is to simply enjoy what’s surely an unconventional spring break from her classmates.
“I never try and have any expectations,” O’Sullivan said. “I just go out there, I mean, they always say, no expectations, but I’m ready for anything. I’m just happy to be here and I’m going to have fun. I know I will learn a lot.”
HA NA JANG LOOKING FOR WIN NUMBER THREE
Ha Na Jang set a target of two wins in 2016. Five events into the LPGA season she’s already accomplished that goal with wins in two of her last four tournaments. Those victories have propelled her to fifth in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, which more importantly has moved her onto the South Korean team for the UL International Crown and Olympics if the teams were decided today.
“So this season, my target is like two wins, but right now, two wins very fast,” Jang said. “I don’t want to think about score and another win. I’m just playing every week, so it’s very fun.”
Jang surely wants to maintain her spot in representing her country in international competition this summer, but her more immediate goal this week is far simpler.
“I try to really enjoy playing,” Jang said. “Just not really too much thinking. I just be patient every day.”