Sports Outside the Beltway

Lydia Ko wins New South Wales Open

She is just 14-years-old.

SYDNEY — Fourteen-year-old New Zealand amateur Lydia Ko has become the youngest winner of a professional golf tour event, taking the women’s New South Wales Open by four strokes Sunday.

Ko, the world’s top amateur, broke Japanese star Ryo Ishikawa’s mark of 15 years, 8 months, and Australian Amy Yang’s women’s record of 16 years, 192 days in the Australian Ladies Masters.

The South Korean-born New Zealander shot a 3-under 69 to finish at 14 under for the tournament, four strokes clear of Becky Morgan of Wales. Ko came close to winning the tournament last year, but missed a putt on the last hole to lose by a stroke.

Britain’s Laura Davies closed with a 71 and a 54-hole total of 216, 14 strokes behind.

“To be part of history is like a miracle,” Ko said. “It’s not something you can have by clicking your fingers.”


Ko, a Grade 11 student at North Harbour near Auckland, plans to play about 30 tournaments this year, including professional events over the next two weeks at the Australian Masters at Royal Pines on the Gold Coast and the LPGA’s Australian Open at Royal Melbourne.- Associated Press

I won’t pronounce Ko another up and comer. There is a line forming of top Korean or Asian amateur players who have burned out or are in the process of burning out as professionals. Angela Park, Virada Nirapattpongporn, Sukjin Lee-Wuesthoff, to name a few. Maybe Ko won’t be like them but at this point I’d only be guessing.


The Comeback I- Pittsburgh Penguins beat NY Islanders 5-0

Sid the kid played hockey last night like he hadn’t suffered a concussion that sidelined him for nearly a year. From AP-

Sidney Crosby is back.

The superstar center capped his return from concussion-like symptoms with two goals and two assists in his season debut as the Pittsburgh Penguins roared by the New York Islanders 5-0 on Monday night.

Unleashing more than 10 months of frustration in 16 energetic minutes, Crosby put to rest all the questions that had popped up during his lengthy comeback.

Can he still skate? Can he take a hit? Can he play at his nearly peerless level? Can he mix it up?

The answer — for the first night anyway — is an emphatic yes.

“I don’t really have good words for it,” coach Dan Bylsma said. “That was special in a lot of ways.”

For no one more than Crosby, who celebrated his first goal in 328 days in decidedly un-Crosbylike fashion.

After a breathless sprint down the ice in which he weaved through the New York defense and beat rookie Anders Nilsson with a backhand, Crosby raised his arms in triumph and let out a roar punctuated by a hard-to-miss profanity.

He laughed while watching himself on replay and later apologized for his poor choice of words while admitting “I couldn’t hold that in.”

Crosby added assists on goals by Evgeni Malkin and Brooks Orpik and capped his comeback with a second tally, a backhand that fluttered by Nilsson early in the third period to provide the final margin.

Steve Sullivan also scored for the Penguins while Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 29 shots to collect his 21st career shutout, one behind franchise leader Tom Barrasso.

The Islanders aren’t a good team and their goaltending is horrible but still Crosby’s performance last night beat any expectations I had for him in his first game. Pittsburgh had 25 points and was leading the Eastern Conference without Crosby. With him back in strength, the Penguins just became a whole lot scarier.


Seattle Mariners Outfielder Greg Halman stabbed to death at age 24

Reports are still early, but Halman’s brother has been arrested in connection with the murder. A very sad and tragic story. RIP Greg Halman.

Seattle Mariners outfielder Greg Halman was stabbed to death in Rotterdam on Monday and his brother has been arrested in connection with the incident, police said.

Halman, 24, was signed as a free agent by Seattle in 2004 and made his major league debut in 2010.

Police were called to a home in the Dutch port city early Monday and found Halman bleeding from a stab wound. The officers were unable to resuscitate the outfielder.


Hee Young Park wins CME Titleholders Championship

The 2011 LPGA Tour season is over. From USA Today-

Holding off some of the biggest names in women’s golf, unheralded Hee Young Park won the CME Group Titleholders on Sunday for her first career LPGA title.

Hee Young Park of South Korea shows off her prize after winning the CME Group Titleholders on Sunday in Orlando.

Park, with a closing 70, finished at 9-under-par 279 to beat Paula Creamer and Sandra Gal by two shots at sun-splashed Grand Cypress Resort to win the LPGA tour’s season-ending event. Another shot back were Na Yeon Choi and world No. 2 Suzann Pettersen. Michelle Wie, world No. 3 Cristie Kerr and world No. 1 Yani Tseng, trying to win for the 12th time this season, made brief runs at the championship before finishing in a tie for sixth, seven shots behind.

“I still cannot believe this,” Park said. “On the back nine I was getting like nervous and then getting tight in my body. So my caddie said, ‘Just keep going, keep trying to (play) like (it’s the) first round. You’re on the tee first time each hole, and just keep doing the same thing.’ And then I said ‘OK.’ ”

After a pep talk from Kerr on the driving range — “She told me to cheer up and that I could do it, that I could win,” Park said — she pocketed $500,000, by far the largest check of her career. She said a key moment in her round came after a bogey on the fourth hole. Telling herself that she was thinking too much about every shot up to that point, Park from then on just trusted her instincts and her club selection.

Park had won a professional tournament before, the last of her three victories on the LPGA of Korea Tour coming in 2006.

“My first win in the U.S., it feels totally different,” Park said. “Still same kind of goose bumps, but this win, I think could change my life, my future.”

Park, the overnight leader with Gal, had recorded only two top-10s in 20 events heading into the Titleholders. But she took the outright lead in the final round for the first time with a birdie on the par-3 eighth hole, her third birdie in four holes. With the two paired in the final group, Gal pulled within one shot with back-to-back birdies on the 13th and 14th holes, but a bogey at the 15th dropped her two back. Park, with a steady hand and a clutch putter, closed out her victory with 10 consecutive pars.

“She had great composure all day long,” Gal said of Park. “She’s always smiling. I’ve played with her many times, and she’s such a great competitor to play with because she’s always happy and just plays her own game.

“She didn’t make any bogeys. Her short game was great, and she made some good birdies early on, and I think that kind of gave her the momentum for the entire round.”

Added Creamer about Park: “That’s awesome playing on this course, and playing against all the big names out there. She’s a great player, and she deserved it.”

Creamer, who missed three putts inside 4 feet early in her round, made a charge with three birdies in four holes on the back nine. But just as her whole season has gone — nine top-10s, no victories — she came up just short.

Park was a deserving winner today. It will have to be seen if she can follow up with more LPGA wins. The list of South Korean golfers with one or two wins is kind of long.(Birdie Kim, Jeong Jang, Gloria Park, Eun Hi Ji, Inbee Park, Jee Young Lee, Shi Hyun Ahn, and more.)

Park is only one of three South Koreans to win on tour in 2011. The others were Na Yeon Choi, and U.S. Open Champion So Yeon Ryu. Hee Kyung Seo aka ‘The Supermodel of the Fairways’ did take home the Rookie of the Year award. So much for the Koreans taking over the LPGA Tour, eh?

The LPGA hasn’t announced its 2012 schedule yet. I’m assuming it will be starting in Australia next February, but yours truly hopes for a miracle. A start up in South Florida, which was normal for the LPGA up till about 10 years ago, would be very nice not to mention convenient for me.


Oklahoma State Women’s Basketball Coach Kurt Budke dead at 50

He and an assistant basketball coach died when the plane they were flying on crashed in Arkansas. Very tragic and RIP.

Oklahoma State University women’s basketball coach Kurt Budke and assistant coach Miranda Serna were killed when the single-engine plane they were riding in during a recruiting trip crashed near a wildlife management area in central Arkansas.

The university said the pair died in the crash Thursday night near Perryville, about 45 miles west of Little Rock. The Winona Wildlife Management Area is in steep terrain in the eastern Ouachita Mountains. A cause of the crash was not announced.


Costly mistake- Blackhawks waive Rostislav Olesz

Chicago is probably praying right this second that somebody takes the ex-Florida Panther off their hands. IMHO it is very unlikely to happen. Olesz gets 3.4 million this year and that amount will rise over the next two seasons till it reaches 4.25 million. This for a defensive specialist/4th liner who will score at most 30 points in a season. At the 18 game point of this year, Olesz has no points for the 6 games he suited up as a Blackhawk. If noone claims Olesz, he will play for Chicago’s AHL affiliate, Rockford Icehogs. Unless something miraculous takes place, I bet Chicago buys out Olesz’s contract at the end of this season. Rusty will most likely go play in the KHL or somewhere else in Europe.

I’m well acquainted with Olesz from his Florida days. He isn’t a bad player, but Florida took him far too early in the 2004 NHL Draft(7th overall) and then gave him an outrageous contract. Florida dealt him to Chicago for Defenseman Brian Campbell. Another player with a huge contract. The difference is- Campbell has 17 points this season, tied for the most among defenseman in the NHL. Campbell is also helping to lead a surprising Florida team this year which at this moment is tied for the Southeast Division lead. Washington has tiebreaks. The trade made still go sour for Florida, but right now Florida

The Campbell-Olesz trade, which I thought was a good trade for Florida from the start, could still go sour for both teams but at this moment the Panthers look to have made some of the smartest personnel moves of the last NHL offseason. Trading for Olesz, plus signing free agents Kris Versteeg and Tomas Fleischmann.


Manager Tony La Russa announces retirement

This news comes less than three days after the St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series.

Tony La Russa is calling it a career after 16 seasons as manager of the St. Louis Cardinals.

La Russa, 67, only days removed from winning his third World Series title, made the announcement during a Monday morning news conference.

La Russa had hinted at a possible return during the NL championship series against the Brewers, expressing excitement about the Cardinals’ talent in place.

But apparently claiming his second World Series ring with the Cardinals — his 1989 Oakland A’s team also won it — was enough of a capstone.

La Russa’s 2,728 regular-season victories over 33 seasons as a manager rank third on the career list behind Connie Mack (3,731) and John McGraw (2,763).

Mack stayed on at least a decade too long. Illness was the cause of McGraw’s resignation and he would die two years later The Giants last World Series appearance with McGraw came eight years previously.(But the Giants did go to the WS the year after McGraw’s resignation) La Russa chose to get out while on top, and I think he made the right decision.


Puck Drop- Florida Panthers start the 2011-12 NHL season

Tonight I’ll be back to watching my favorite hockey team. The cats open the year against the New York Islanders on Long Island.

Florida is almost a brand new team from last year. Considering that the Panthers were 30-40-12=72 last year and last in the Eastern Conference, the turnover should be for the better.

The new faces include Scottie Upshall, Kris Versteeg, Jose Theodore, Tomas Fleischmann, and Brian Campbell. Departing players- Cory Stillman, Tomas Vokoun, Rostislav Olesz, Darci Hordichuk, and others. I think the new additions are for the better with one exception.

Hockey pundits have weighed in on Florida. With one exception, none have picked the Panthers to make the playoffs. That would be 11 straight years without a post season appearance if they’re right.

I think Florida won’t make the playoffs. My prediction for them this year- 36-33-13=85 or 10th in the Eastern Conference.

Florida has the makings of a good offense. David Booth and Kris Versteeg have scored 25 goals before and I expect them to do so this year. Mike Santorelli had 20 goals last year but had little support. I expect him to up it to 25 at least. One of these players will get it 30, and I expect it to be Booth who did score 31 goals in 08-09 before he suffered a serious concussion the next season. Booth started slow last year, but looked back to his prior form at the end of the season. Stephen Weiss should be in the low 20′s in the goals scored department.

Besides those four players, Evgeny Dadonov, Upshall, Tomas Kopecky and Scott Mathias should be more than solid contributors. Dadonov is the sleeper, he being one of the few Panthers to impress me last year. He could be up in Santorelli-Versteeg territory on a full season.

Florida I think is in good shape Defensemen wise. They’re a mixture of youngsters (Dmitri Kulikov and Erik Gudbranson. Florida’s first round selections in 2009 and 2010 respectively) and veterans (Mike Weaver and 2nd time around Panther Canada Ed Jovanovski.)

The biggest problem Florida faces right now is their goaltending situation. Vokoun was one of the best goalies, but he is gone. In his place is Theodore who I have derided on multiple occasions. My opinion on Theodore hasn’t changed now that he is wearing a Florida uniform. He played poorly in the preseason and I’m not expecting good things from him in the regular season.

Florida’s #2 Goalie was supposed to be Scott Clemmensen. Who I used to deride on a scale similar to Theodore but I warmed up to him based on his play last year. That said, Clem isn’t more than a serviceable #1 Goalie and to make matters worse he will be out the first month of the season due to injury. So instead of Clem being on the opening day roster, Florida Panther Goalie of the future Jacob Markstrom, will be in the NHL rather than the AHL to start the season. I think Markstrom still needs minor league time, but Theodore has the potential to be an absolute bomb(He played poorly in the preseason, including a 7-goal disaster against Dallas) as starting goalie and that could cause the Swede to get the starting job earlier than anticipated and while he is still in need of more pro experience. The Florida Goalie situation is questionable at best and could be terrible this year.

Florida has a new head coach in Kevin Dineen. He and General Manager Dale Tallon look to have the Panthers going in the right direction. There are the usual skeptics, but hardcore Panther fans for the most part are more optimistic about the team than they have been for 5 years at least.

I’m being optimistic in predicting a 36-33-13=85 finish for the Panthers because I expect them to start poorly unless someone steps up at Goalie. The Panthers should get better as the year goes on and finish the year with a rosy future ahead of them as Jonathan Huberdeau, Quinton Howden, and others make it to the NHL. In a few minutes, we’ll begin seeing how my predictions will work out. Go Florida!

Hat tip- John at The Litter Box from whom I borrowed the above photo from.


13-time PGA Tour winner Dave Hill dead at 74

My interest in golf began in the late 70′s. As I recall now, my weekly golf watching began with the 1978 Masters which was won by Gary Player after he shot a final round 64.

Naturally enough as my interest in following the golf tour grew, I wanted to read about it also. In 1979 shortly before I enlisted in the Navy I bought a book. It was titled Teed Off and it was written by Dave Hill. Hill, whose productive PGA career ran before I began following the sport, gave his opinions in Teed Off on everything from golf course design to some players think sex helps them play better golf. I loved the book and recently bought a new copy of it because the old one I had was falling apart.

Hill was a controversial player.(In Teed Off he claimed or joked that the PGA used to allow fan banners until ones were seen with the words ‘Hill’s Angels’ on them) He’ll never be forgotten for his 80 acres of corn and a few cows wisecrack about Hazeltine National Golf Club in 1970. Less remembered but more important, was Dave Hill filing an anti-trust lawsuit against the PGA Tour in 1971. He said there were two sets of rules, one for the stars and one for everyone else. It’s still true today. Tiger Woods defaces a green at a US Open and does he get fined or penalized? Of course not. Hill’s lawsuit I think did bring about changes but they are behind the scenes. The fines and suspensions handed down to players and why used to be public. Now the PGA Tour doesn’t discuss the matter as seen with their suspension of Jonathan Kaye a decade ago. Did he just attach a badge to his pants zipper or do much more? The Tour won’t talk about it.

Back to Hill. He was outspoken and controversial(Age didn’t seem to mellow him. He got in a fist fight with JC Snead when both of them were playing the Seniors Tour. 20 years prior to that Tour officials had to prevent Hill from having a go at Chi Chi Rodriguez too.) but he was also a talented golfer who won a Vardon Trophy and one of the best shotmakers of his day. RIP Dave.


Dave Hill, whose golf skills combined with a sharp tongue made him Jackson’s most famous athlete, died Tuesday at age 74.

Hill, recognized as one of the top shotmakers on the PGA Tour in the 1960s and ’70s, had suffered from emphysema for several years, according to his brother and fellow PGA Tour player Mike.


NBA suspends training camps indefinitely

File this under not surprising news-

NEW YORK — The lockout has started doing real damage to the NBA’s calendar.

Players won’t report at the usual time. The preseason won’t start as scheduled.

And more cancellations could be necessary without a new labor deal soon.

Out of time to keep everything intact, the NBA postponed training camps indefinitely and canceled 43 preseason games Friday because it has not reached an agreement with players.

All games from Oct. 9-15 are off, the league said. Camps were expected to open Oct. 3.

“We have regretfully reached the point on the calendar where we are not able to open training camps on time and need to cancel the first week of preseason games,” deputy commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “We will make further decisions as warranted.”

The players’ association did not comment.

I don’t expect their to be another NBA game this year. This kind of labor conflict is usually protracted and nothing will get done till the season is on the verge of being lost. As NHL fans know from 2004-2005, even then the dispute can go over the cliff taking a whole season with it.

I have no sympathy for either owners or players. The players are rich and overindulged, the owners of small market NBA teams had to know when going in that they had little chance of making the franchise they were purchasing into NBA Championship contenders/moneymakers.


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