The future of golf is getting younger by the minute.
On the same day that 19-year-old Sergio Garcia got the cheers and 23-year-old Tiger Woods earned his second major championship, NCAA champion Grace Park breezed her way onto the LPGA Tour by completing an amazing summer on the Futures Tour.
Park, a 20-year-old South Korean who was raised in Phoenix, won for the fifth time last week with a record 16-under 200 in the Betty Puskar Classic to finish atop the money list with $43,742. The top three from the Futures Tour are exempt for 2000.
"It has been my goal to be on the LPGA Tour every since I was a junior golfer," said Park, who played 20 of 25 rounds under par. "I feel I have gotten there now."
Park is a former U.S. amateur champion who has Tiger-like length that enables her to overpower courses. In a round of 64 last week, she made eagles on two par-5s -- one approach was to 3 feet, and another was a fairway metal that kissed off the pin for a tap-in.
And like Woods, some expect her to take the LPGA Tour by storm.
She tied for sixth in the Samsung World Championship last year. In her last event as an amateur, she tied for eighth in the U.S. Women's Open.
Having already played the Dinah Shore and the Standard Register Ping in Arizona this spring, Park has only two sponsor's exemptions left this year.
She will make her pro debut on the LPGA Tour on Sept. 4 in the State Farm Rail Classic, followed by the Safeco Classic two weeks after that. Park also will team with Jim Carter, who also played at Arizona State, in the JCPenney Mixed Team Classic.
Unlike Woods and Kelli Kuehne, Park decided not to sign with a management agency or go after endorsement deals until after her tour card was secure. That process may accelerate now, although family adviser Kerry Graham says she is in no hurry.
"She doesn't want the pressure of feeling like she has been paid a lot before she earns it," Graham said. "But if some opportunity presents itself, she will consider them. She's staying focused on the fact she wants to be a great golfer. All the other amenities will come."
Marilyn Lovander and Audra Burks finished second and third on the money list and also are exempt for 2000.
[bf]MONEY AND SCHEDULES:[nf] The top two players in the world appear to be right on schedule when it comes to playing the PGA Tour.
One concern over the three World Golf Championship events worth $5 million and big increase in purses was that players would make more money and spend less time playing. That doesn't appear to be the case.
Tiger Woods already has played 16 times through the PGA Championship, the same amount as 1998. He is expected to play as many as six more tournaments this year -- not including the Ryder Cup -- which actually would give him two more than last year.
David Duval has played 17 tournament, also the same number compared to this time a year ago.
The only change is the money. Both are over $3 million, while no one else has more than $2 million. With three $5 million events left, it's conceivable that one of them could top $5 million by the end of the year -- almost as much as Jack Nicklaus made in his career.
[bf]RYDER RIVAL:[nf] The ideal match for Sunday's singles in the Ryder Cup would be Sergio Garcia against Tiger Woods, but perhaps a more fitting match would involve Tom Lehman.
After all, it was Lehman who invited the 16-year-old Garcia onto the 18th green at Royal Lytham and St. Annes after the 1996 British Open, handed him the claret jug and said, "You're going to hold this someday."
"You just can't help but love him," Lehman said. "He's been saying for the last three months, 'I want to play you in the Ryder Cup.' And I'll say back to him, 'Well, I've been pretty tough on Spaniards in the Ryder Cup, so you better watch out, buddy."'
Indeed, Lehman gunned down Seve Ballesteros at Oak Hill in 1995 and then whipped Ignacio Garrido at Valderrama two years later. Neither match got past the 15th hole.
[bf]FLOM FLEECED:[nf] The Women's British Open was the best tournament for Cindy Flom in more than four years -- and perhaps her most unusual.
Her clubs were stolen out of her rental car on Tuesday and Flom had to borrow a set of rentals from the Woburn Golf and Country Club for the first round. A replacement arrived that afternoon, but Flom decided to stick with the rentals.
She wound up with rounds of 71-74-69-71 for a tie for third, her best finish since she was the Ping Welch's Championship runner-up in 1995.
[bf]DIVOTS:[nf] Tiger Woods' victory in the PGA Championship ended three straight weeks of tournaments won by Nike Tour alumni. The Buick Open, won by Tom Pernice, was the 13th PGA Tour event won by a Nike grad, tying the record set last year. ... The Salesmanship Club of Dallas, which puts on the Nelson Classic, raised $5.9 million for charity, tops among all PGA Tour events. Proceeds go to at-risk youth programs in the area. ... Paul Stankowski missed his first PGA Championship since 1994 but was home in Dallas for a greater prize -- he and wife Regina had their first child (Joshua). ... Sophie Gustafson recorded the second double-eagle on the LPGA Tour this year, a 3-iron from 217 yards on the par-5 sixth hole in the British Open. The other albatross also came overseas -- Alison Nicholas in the Australian Ladies Masters. ... MacGregor Golf, which got a huge lift when Jose Maria Olazabal won the Masters, is moving to a 60,000-square-foot building in Albany, Ga., for manufacturing and testing. It also is moving corporate headquarters to Atlanta from Raleigh, N.C.
[bf]STAT OF THE WEEK:[nf] After only 11 tournaments as a pro, Sergio Garcia is No. 31 in the world rankings. Tiger Woods was No. 33 after his first nine tournaments.
[bf]FINAL WORD:[nf] "Generation X is looking like Generation Selfish to me." -- Lanny Wadkins, the 1995 Ryder Cup captain, on the flap over Ryder Cup revenue.
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