Sports Outside the Beltway

It is the second straight major championship triumph for the 24-year-old South Korean.

Thirty-six holes of golf were not enough, but 39 worked out just fine for Inbee Park at Locust Hill Country Club on Sunday.

Park, the world’s top-ranked player, defeated Scotland’s Catriona Matthew in a three-hole playoff Sunday afternoon to win the Wegmans Rochester LPGA Championship, the second major on the LPGA Tour schedule this season.

The playoff was the sixth in the 37-year history of LPGA golf in Rochester and the first since Lorena Ochoa defeated In-Kyung Kim in 2007.

Park, 24, shot a 4-under-par 68 in the third round on Sunday morning but struggled down the stretch in the afternoon to a final-round 75 with bogeys on three of her last five holes (Nos. 14, 16 and 18).

Park and Matthew matched pars on the first two holes of the playoff (Nos. 18 and 10), but Matthew found the right rough off the tee on the third playoff hole while Park hit the fairway and was safely on the green in two shots.

Matthew chipped her fourth shot on and had about 15 feet left for bogey, but Park sank a birdie putt from about 18 feet to seal her third major victory.

Suzann Pettersen of Norway shot the low round of the week, a 65 on Sunday afternoon, to tie for third with Morgan Pressel, the 36-hole leader who began Sunday with a two-shot lead over Park and Chella Choi, at 4-under.

The victory makes Park, a native of Seoul, South Korea, the seventh woman in LPGA history to win the first two majors of the season. She also captured the Kraft Nabisco Championship in April. Asian-born players have won the last nine majors on the LPGA Tour.

- Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

Park nearly didn’t win today. Her driving was not very good throughout and she played the 72nd and last hole of regulation terribly. She needed to get up and down from the fringe to make bogey and get in the playoff.

Nevertheless Park came out on top. She now hold three legs of the Women’s Grand Slam. Before this year, she’d be one win away(The Women’s British Open) from a career slam but the LPGA decided to elevate the Evian Masters to major status. So she needs two more wins now.

The way Park is playing right now, I wouldn’t bet against her winning another major this year.


Hockey fan buys dressing room toilet for $5,300

I’ve heard the people in Toronto are nuts about the NHL, now I believe it.

If the NHL decides to flush the rest of the season, Toronto Maple Leafs fan Jim Vigmond is ready.

The Ontario lawyer purchased a toilet from the home dressing room of Maple Leaf Gardens for $5,300 at an auction, according to the Toronto Star.

Vigmond had been trying to score a 1967 Stanley Cup banner but he said the bidding became too steep, so he went for the toilet. And he was willing to go as high as $10,000 on the commode, which his friends thought was a little out there.

“They thought I had money to burn, and surely there was something that I could have better spent my money on,” he said, according to the newspaper.


Maple Leaf Gardens was home to the Leafs from 1931-99. More than 100 items from the arena were up for auction. Vacant for several years after the Leafs left for the Air Canada Centre, the Gardens was recently converted into a small arena for nearby Ryerson University and a grocery store.

Vigmond told the Star that the toilet will go in his sports memorabilia room. He’d like to sit on it, light a Cuban cigar, drink some single-malt scotch and watch a Leafs game, if the season doesn’t go down the drain.- ESPN

As it stands, I don’t expect an NHL game to be played between now and December 31st 2012. The player lockout imposed by team owners is over two months old and no resolution is in sight at present.


Domination- Jiyai Shin wins the Women’s British Open

The golfer nicknamed the ‘Final Round Queen’ lived up to her nickname today. She won the last LPGA major Championship of 2012 by 9 shots over Inbee Park. Just six days ago Shin defeated Paula Creamer in a sudden death playoff at the Kingsmill Championship.

Shin shot a 71 to open the tournament, then followed it with a course record 64 to open up a five-shot lead going in the day of play. Due to inclement weather on Friday, players who made the tournament cut, had to play 36 holes today.

No South Korean golfer other than Se Ri Pak has won more than one LPGA major. Another tidbit- No South Korean golfer other than Pak has won a double digit amount of LPGA tournaments. As I’ve written a few times, there have been a large number of South Korean golfers who started strongly on the LPGA Tour and then went into decline. Jiyai Shin, winner of the 2008 Women’s British Open, came into today with one LPGA major championship triumph and nine LPGA wins respectively. So she was looking to join Pak.

Karrie Webb shot a third round 68 to pull within 3 shots of Shin with 18 holes to go. The weather turned horrible in the short period of time between Webb and Shin finishing their 3rd rounds and teeing it up for the 4th round. Rain and gusting strong winds. The final round was going to be a matter of survival.

Shin makes a triple bogey on the opening round of her 4th round. Webb made double bogey but Shin’s lead was down to two. That is as close as it came. Shin played the final 17 holes of her 4th round in 2 under par. Webb, Inbee Park, and Mika Miyazato, all faded. The weather was bad for most of the day, in fact there was a 15 minute stoppage as the winds were just gusting too strongly. It was just incredible how Shin played after the 1st hole. She never came close to another disaster. Her final round 73 may have been just as good as Shin’s course record 64 in the second round. Only two golfers, Creamer and Alexis Thompson, shot better rounds than Shin and they each came with 72s.

I think its safe to say Shin is back. The last few weeks look to me look like her making another run at #1 in the world.


Eight is Enough- Edmonton beats Chicago 8-4

Sam Gagner took part in every Edmonton goal last night. From AP-

It was a spectacular evening for Sam Gagner, who scored four goals and four assists to tie a club record and lead the Edmonton Oilers over the Chicago Blackhawks 8-4 on Thursday night.

Gagner’s eight-point game tied the club record held by Gretzky and Coffey and fell two points shy of matching the league mark of 10, set by Toronto’s Darryl Sittler on Feb. 7, 1976.

It was also the first eight-point game in the NHL since Pittsburgh’s Mario Lemieux did it on Dec. 31, 1988, against New Jersey.

The 22-year-old Gagner came into the game with five goals on the season.

I had never heard of Gagner before this morning.

The Blackhawks started the scoring six minutes into the game as Mayers fluttered a long shot from above the circle that fooled Oilers goalie Devan Dubnyk.

Chicago kept pouring it on but hit a pair of posts — a long blast from the point by Brent Seabrook and another from in close by Andrew Shaw.

Just 40 seconds into the second period Chicago made it 2-0 when Patrick Kane fed it to Sharp who found a clear lane to beat Dubnyk.

The Oilers responded less than two minutes later as Gagner earned his first point of the night. With a long pass Gagner sprung Hall who chipped in his 18th of the year past Chicago goalie Corey Crawford. Hall has scored in three straight games.

Gagner then tied it just over seven minutes later when he picked up his own rebound, circled behind the net, and scored on the wraparound.

The Oilers took a 3-2 lead with seven minutes remaining in the second as Whitney ripped a shot from the point while on the power play for just his first of the season. Gagner earned the assist.

Chicago tied it two minutes later on a short-handed 2-on-1 as Dubnyk gave up a rebound to Sharp who buried his second of the night.

Gagner made it 4-3 two minutes into the third with his second goal of the night. Whitney’s shot sailed over the net but bounced in front for Gagner to put past Crawford.

The Oilers chased the Chicago goalie two minutes later when Barker fluttered a shot from the point that Crawford waved at as it went into the top corner. Gagner earned his third assist and Ray Emery replaced Crawford.

The Blackhawks got a goal back six minutes into the third as Bolland made a no-look backhand swat at a puck that squirted past Dubnyk.

Gagner completed the hat trick 30 seconds later to make it 6-4, as Hall spun around and found Gagner streaking for his sixth point of the game.

But he wasn’t done yet.

Eberle and Hall did terrific tic-tac-toe passing to get Gagner the puck, and he slapped his fourth of the game into a wide-open net as Emery slid to keep up with the play.

Gagner’s heroics brought a little bit to an otherwise dismal Oilers season. If not for the horrid Columbus Blue Jackets, Edmonton could finish with the worst record in the entire NHL. Just like they have the last two years.


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.


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