In the history of golf, just five women have teed it up in a PGA Tour event. And this week, Brittany Lincicome is going to add her name to that storied list.
The native of St. Petersburg, Fla. garnered a sponsor exemption into the Barbasol Championship, an opposite-field event on the PGA Tour. It’s being played in Kentucky starting Thursday, and features many who didn’t earn a spot in The Open Championship.
But make no mistake, Lincicome – who is an eight-time LPGA Tour winner and one of the longest hitters in the game – will be playing against some of the best in the world, on a golf course that’s approximately 500 yards longer than Highland Meadows Golf Club, where she lost in a playoff just last week.
Despite her admitted nerves, Lincicome is taking the opportunity as an important one in her career, and hopefully one where she can have some fun too.
“I’m not trying to compare myself to the guys, I’m not trying to compare our games. I just want to go out and have a good time,” she said.
The announcement was made at the U.S. Women’s Open, and Lincicome said her peers have been nothing but supportive. She doesn’t play with male golfers very often – her husband, however, is a former long-drive champion – and said the only PGA Tour member she really knows well is Gerina Piller’s husband, Martin, who she is hoping to set up a practice round with.
She’s played the Diamond Resorts Invitational in the past as well alongside members of PGA TOUR Champions, and to bare witness to a different kind of golf she sees week-in and week out has been inspiring.
“Their games are so great… it pushes me to want to be better and make my game better,” she said. “I love it.”
Lincicome joins a special group of women who have played on the PGA Tour including Michelle Wie, Suzy Whaley, Annika Sorenstam, Shirley Spork, and Babe Zaharias, who made two cuts in the seven events she played in 1945.
Zaharias and Whaley were the only two who earned their spots by qualifying versus getting in with a sponsor exemption.
Whaley, who is a teaching professional and the incoming PGA of America president (she’ll be named later this fall, becoming the first woman to hold the position) said she had about nine months to prepare and think about her opportunity. Despite that, she said there was no way she could fully get ready for something that was 100 percent outside her comfort zone.
She skied her opening drive at the 2003 Greater Hartford Open (now the Travelers Championship), but she was happy it found the fairway. Although she three-putted the first green and made a double bogey, she said that was actually a blessing in disguise.
She steadied the ship and shot 75.
“It was one of those moments where I was like, ‘come on, you know how to play golf. Let’s just go play golf now.’ I got the nerves out and then could play,” she said. “It was my best competitive round of my career… (and) it was probably one of my most proud rounds of golf.”
Whaley said, looking back, the moment was prouder for her and her daughters (who were nine and six at the time) because it showed them that no matter how far out of their comfort zone they get, they can do anything they put their minds to.
“That was my goal. For my children… to show that their mom was brave,” she said. “Their mom wasn’t afraid of failure. She was willing to try something that was very foreign to most people. My daughters cherish that to this day.”
Sorenstam, a mother herself now, was on top of the golfing world when she earned a spot in the 2003 Bank of America Colonial (now the Fort Worth Invitational). She had notched 45 of her 72 total LPGA Tour victories by that point, including shooting a 59 two years prior. She said she didn’t have any expectations going into the week and tried to not get too caught up in the hype.
The week, she said, was very different.
“Everyone was watching and everyone seemed to have an opinion, whether it was good or bad,” she explained. “The hype and attention around that event was something I had never experienced before and never experienced it again. There was nearly a six-month build up, and it hadn’t been done in 58 years.
“I prepared as well as I could have and felt pretty good about my game.”
After Whaley and Sorenstam both played on the PGA TOUR in 2003, Michelle Wie went on an unprecedented run playing against the men, teeing it up in eight events starting in 2004 (she was originally scheduled to play a ninth, the 2007 John Deere Classic, but she withdrew the Tuesday of tournament week due to injury).
Wie said she “definitely” enjoyed playing against the men she did it, saying it was a “great experience.”
And Wie believes Lincicome has a great chance to compete this week.
“She hits it really far. She has the right mindset for it where she doesn’t let things bother her and get to her,” said Wie.
“In my opinion (Brittany) can be competitive out there,” echoed Whaley. “She hits it a long way, she’s very powerful, she’s amazing and she’s confident. She’s taking on a challenge that will, in my opinion, help her grow.”
Each of the last three women to play on the PGA TOUR believes strongly in Lincicome, and wouldn’t be surprised to see her play well.
Sorenstam: “I played some of the best golf of my career in the months and years following my Colonial experience. I hope she does to.”
Whaley: “I’m wishing her the very best. I think she wants to play great and I hope she does. I will be front and center cheering her on.”
Wie: “I think she’s going to have a blast.”
But most importantly, Lincicome herself knows it’s going to be a great week, no matter the outcome.
“It will be like playing in a U.S. Open or a major, but with the guys,” she said. “I just want to have fun.”