She’s had a good couple of days in Belleair, Fla. Angela Stanford hadn’t seen Pelican Golf Club before the inaugural Pelican Women’s Championship presented by DEX Imaging and Konica Minolta. Like many players, Stanford was surprised by the width of the fairways and the undulations of the greens. The major champion, who has been pulling double duty this year as a full-time player and assistant U.S. Solheim Cup captain, adapted quickly and enters the weekend at 2-under par and within striking distance of her first win since the Evian Championship in 2018.
But beyond her good play, there is an added reason for Stanford’s upbeat disposition. The Fort Worth, Texas, native got a surprise on Wednesday when she met her playing partners in the tournament pro-am.
Three local junior girls, Rebecca Davis, Sammy Paradise and Olivia Hasselbach teamed up with Stanford and Stephanie Meadow for the day.
“They’re high school kids who all work with Justin Sheehan, who is Brittany Altomare’s coach,” Stanford said. “So, that was their connection to the club. But regardless of how they got here, they were just so much fun. I told my caddie as we walked off the first tee, ‘They’re like sponges. You have to be positive.’”
The girls were also good players. “I wasn’t as good (at golf) as these girls when I was 16,” Stanford said. “And the questions they ask and the things that they already know, it just blows me away. They are so far ahead of where I was when I was 16.”
The girls shared their junior golf experiences. But most of all, they listened.
“I was impressed,” Stanford said. “It seemed like every hole they had a question. A lot of kids are shy, or they don’t know what to ask. But all three of them were fully engaged. I asked if they wanted to play college golf and they were like, ‘Yeah, we really want to play college golf.’ It was great. Any time one of them asked a question, all three of them were locked in.
“They were just good kids. They listened. They were respectful. Whoever is teaching these kids is doing a great job. It was a lot of fun. They loved being there. It was refreshing. They were just so happy.”
At this stage in her career, Stanford has a broader perspective on the game. She is not only watching her fellow LPGA Tour players in anticipation of the Solheim Cup next September in Toledo, Ohio, but Stanford also loves the direction golf is taking at the grass-roots level.
“Kids in general these days just know more than we knew,” she said. “My first interaction with any LPGA player was my first tournament as an LPGA member. I really think (LPGA commissioner) Mike Whan has worked so hard to grow the game of golf among young girls and this is a product of that. Our tour being worldwide and being better and better, this is what comes from that. It’s really so cool to watch.”
Golf Channel’s weekend coverage of the Pelican Championship begins at 4:00 p.m. EDT.