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Youth is served at LPGA Match Play

Professional golf has dramatically become a young person’s game in recent years, with the majority of winners on the PGA and LPGA tours all under the age of 30.

The Bank of Hope LPGA Match Play provided further evidence of the trend last week as semifinalists Pajaree Anaannarukarn, Ayaka Furue and Linn Grant are all just 23 years old. Leona Maguire was the “senior” in the group at 27.

“It’s exciting,” Grant said of the trend. “I mean, I think there is a lot of young players coming out, not only us, but this year, next year, the years to come. Golf is just getting better and better both on the men’s and women’s side.”

Maguire said age isn’t important on tour any longer, due to the experience young players are getting in amateur events and in college. They come out ready to compete.

Grant is a perfect example. As a rookie on the LPGA Tour in 2022, Grant played well enough in six events overseas to retain her playing card since she was ineligible to enter the United States due to her COVID-19 vaccination status. The Swedish star bided her time in Europe over the past year and won five times on the Ladies European Tour.

“Yeah, you should look out for all the young ones, I think,” said Grant.

Lessons learned

Harry Hall held up well last week on one of the most difficult courses on the PGA Tour, opening with a career-low 62 on Thursday and staying atop the leaderboard all week at the Charles Schwab Challenge. He finished one shot out of a playoff in a tie for third with world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler.

”I learned a lot. I learned that you don’t have to play great golf to win on a hard golf course coming down the stretch,” said Hall of any lessons taken away from his close call. “You’ve just got to hit it in the middle of the green and not do anything stupid.”

The Las Vegas rookie on the PGA Tour had opened the final round with two straight birdies to reach 12 under and a two-shot lead, but he missed two par putts inside five feet later in the round to lose his solo lead. He went to the 72nd hole in a three-way tie for the lead, but his drive went 344 yards just left of the fairway and found water which Hall thought was out of reach. He made bogey to miss the playoff.

“I don’t even know what happened on the last,” Hall said. “That shouldn’t be in play really. Probably a really firm bounce or some adrenaline. Even then, I didn’t think that was in play, that hazard.”

His finish moved him to 72nd in the FedEx Cup standings, just outside the top 70 necessary to reach the playoffs in late summer. He also vaulted 72 spots to a career-high 125 in the world rankings.

Henderson Amateur

Craig Erickson was the only player to shoot two rounds under par on his way to a 5-under 139 finish and a three-stroke victory over Brett Sodetz at the Henderson Amateur at Legacy Golf Club.

Playing from shorter tees, Todd Roberts had 12 birdies on his way to a 9-under 135 and a four-shot win over Jay Grybowski in the Senior field. Gary Carpendale ran away with the Silver title, finishing at 1-over 145 and an 11-stroke win.

Other winners included Ayden Frey (Championship net), James Amihara (Senior net) and Frederick Herrmann (Silver net).

Chip shots

* Winners at the SNGA Tour event at Aliante Golf Club included Arpepanya Phosavanh (Championship), John Bobroski (Senior), David Foggia (Silver) and Michael Haas (All-Ages net).

* Jim Foss won the low gross flight at the Legacy Men’s Golf Association club championship, with handicap flights taken by Gary Russell, Dave Klimek and Jerry Van Riper.

Greg Robertson covers golf for the Review-Journal. Reach him at grobertson@reviewjournal.com.

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