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5 SoCal golf storylines we’re following, including Phil’s Champions Tour debut
There's plenty going on in the world of SoCal golf these days, from one of the biggest names in professional sports making his PGA Tour Champions debut to the coronation of a newly minted LPGA star that no one outside of the Symetra Tour had ever heard of prior to this past weekend and much more.
Here's a look at five storylines we're following…
Mickelson makes PGA Tour Champions debut: Well that was some debut for a guy who not that long ago declared: “When I stop hitting bombs, I'll play the Champions Tour.”
With his driving distance clocking in at just over 300 yards a pop this year, Phil Mickelson hasn’t stopped hitting bombs — and yet the Rancho Santa Fe resident who turned 50 in June made his PGA Tour Champions debut this week at the Charles Schwab Series at Ozarks National in Missouri – and won in historic fashion.
Mickelson put together a three-round score of 191 (22-under), tied for the lowest 54-hole score ever in the tour's history. He opened the tournament with a 61, followed by rounds of 64 and 66.
And to think all of this came after the five-time major champion missed the cut at The Northern Trust this past week, bumping him from the FedEx Cup Playoffs and putting an end to his 2020 PGA Tour season.
“I’ve been playing well and I want to play,” Mickelson said in a tweet. “I wish I was playing in Chicago [in the playoffs] but excited to play my first Champions event.”
Read more at CBS Golf.
Former USC star Sophia Popov wins AIG Women’s British Open: Sophia Popov, who played collegiate golf at the University of Southern California, stunned the golf world over the weekend by coming out of nowhere to win the AIG Women’s British Open at Royal Troon in Scotland.
Ranked 304th in the world with no LPGA status, the 27-year-old Symetra Tour player finished the week at 7-under par to win by two shots, joining Bernhard Langer and Martin Kaymer as the only players from Germany to win a major championship. She is also the first woman golfer from USC to win a major.
The win comes on the heels of a battle with Lyme disease that went undiagnosed for three years and resulted in a 25-pound weight loss.
“I guess it is an incredible story,” Popov said. “I think that's why I broke down on the 18th hole, because it's something I couldn't have dreamed of just a week ago.”
While playing for USC, Popov was a three-time All-Pac 12 First Team selection in 2011, 2013 and 2014. In 2011, she was named the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year and was a member of the 2013 NCAA Championship-winning team.
Read more at Golfworld.
USC names new golf coach: The University of Southern California's search for a men's head golf coach is over.
J.T. Higgins, a Hall of Famer who has spent the last 19 years at the helm of the Texas A&M team, was hired on August 14.
Higgins led the Aggies to 17 NCAA appearances, including a national championship title in 2009, the school’s first in golf. He has been named Conference Coach of the Year three times and was inducted into the Golf Coaches Association of America Hall of Fame in 2015.
He replaces Chris Zambri, who led the Trojans for 14 seasons in which the teams captured three Pac-12 titles, three NCAA regional crowns, and a runner-up finish at the NCAA Championships in 2008.
Texas A&M had quite a run under Higgins, who spent part of his younger years in Southern California. The Aggies posted 12 top 5 finishes in NCAA Regional play, including Regional championships in 2018 and 2019, and had 10 top 15 finishes at the NCAA Championships, including tied for fifth in 2018 and 2019. A&M finished in the Top 20 national ranking 12 times under Higgins and twice was in the nation's Top 5 in scoring rating.
Read more at usctrojans.com.
Kia Classic at Aviara cancelled: The LPGA’s Kia Classic, originally scheduled for March, then moved to September 24-27 due to the coronavirus pandemic, has officially been removed from the 2020 calendar.
The LPGA issued a statement on August 21 that read in part: The Kia Classic will not take place in 2020 and the event will return in its original March date in 2021 at Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad.
“We appreciate all of the efforts by Kia to try and make this event happen this year and we look forward to playing again at beautiful Aviara Golf Club in 2021,” said LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan.
Read more at Golf Digest.
Women’s golf Hall of Famer Mildred ‘Millie’ Stanley dies at 91: Mildred ‘Millie’ Stanley may not be a household name, but she sure made a name for herself around the Southern California golf scene. The former golf coach at Long Beach State passed away on August 1 at the age of 91, but leaves behind a legacy of more than 100 championship victories, including a club championship at Escondido Country Club when she was 80 years old.
Read more at the Long Beach Press-Telegram.
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Greetings, fellow golfers, and welcome to SoCal Golf Insider! We are Rob Lyon and Eric Marson and we've been reporting and writing about the game throughout the region since 1995. Here, we will provide you with the latest news, features, reviews and more on all things golf in Southern California. Let’s tee it up!
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