Other local top golf stories

On Sunday in The Desert Sun we ran a list compiled by our staff of the top stories of the 2012 calendar year. And space being what it is, only two of the golf stories we agreed on made it into print. One was the changes and the smooth running of the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation, the other was the crazy ending to the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

I wanted to make sure that the other event we had agreed on and I had written made it out there somehow, so here it is


While fans were enjoying smoothies they could make on stationary bikes and craning their necks to see former President Bill Clinton, on the course a solid performance by Mark Wilson was winning the Humana Challenge in partnership with Bill Clinton.

Mark Wilson at the 2012 Humana Challenge (Desert Sun file photo)

Wilson, who spends time in the desert each winter, blitzed the Palmer Private Course at PGA West for a 62 in the second round, but it might have been the third round when Wilson won the tournament. Playing at La Quinta Country Club, Wilson managed to holes an iron shot for an eagle and stayed under par as violent winds started to tear across the courses. Wilson was 5-under through 15 holes when play was suspended and held the tournament lead. He completed that round Sunday morning, then managed a solid 69 in the final round at the Palmer Course for a 24-under total and a two-shot win over John Wagner, Robert Garrigus and John Mallinger.

For Wilson, it was his fifth career tour victory, and it propelled him to a year that included a third-place finish in the Accenture Match play and appearances in three of the tour’s four FedEx Cup playoff events.

In addition, I had suggested as possible stories, the rise of La Quinta Troy Kelly on the PGA Tour, the Palm Desert High School girls golf team making it to the CIF state tournament for the third year in a row and the comeback year of Palm Desert’s Nicole Castrale on the LPGA. But none of those events made the cut.


A numbers game for Kelly and Castrale

Here is some fun with numbers for Troy Kelly, the La Quinta star who lost a playoff at the Greenbrier Classic Sunday, and Nicole Castrale, the Palm Desert star who tied for ninth in the U.S. Women’s Open.

La Quinta's Troy Kelly was second at the Greenbrier Classic Sunday (AP photo)

WORLD RANKINGS: Kelly moved up 297 spots in the men’s world rankings, from 464th to 167th. Castrale moved up 82 spots and is now 160th in the women’s world rankings.

MONEY LIST: Kelly won $658,000 for finishing second at the Greenbrier and moved from 199th on the tour’s money list to 87th with a total of $740,444. Castrale earned $72,596 and moved from 67th on the LPGA money list to 45th at $149,128. Kelly is also now 104th in FedEx Cup points.

MONEY LIST NOTES: For Castrale, in the middle of a strong comeback from shoulder surgery and a maternity leave, her $149,128 is already almost double what it took last year to finish 80th on the LPGA money list, the level needed to earn a full exemption to the tour the following year. That means she is guaranteed to be exempt next year for something other than medical reasons.

MORE MONEY LIST NOTES: The same seems to be true for Kelly, who is exempt on the PGA Tour this year before of his play on the Nationwide Tour (now Web.com Tour) last year. Kelly has $740,444 in earnings this year. Last year, the 125th place on the tour money list at the end of the year, the level needed for a full exemption the following year, was $668,166.

Sunday was Palm Desert's Nicole Castrale's fifth top-10 finish in a women's golf major (AP photo)

SURGERIES: In 2010, both Castrale and Kelly had major surgeries. Kelly had a left hip replacement surgery at Eisenhower Medical Center in September of that year. Earlier that year, Castrale had major surgery on her left shoulder to repair and torn labrum and other issues. Just weeks after the surgery, Castrale had to sit and watch the U.S. Women’s Open. ”I’m not going to lie. It was very hard watching the U.S. Open, wanting to be there and compete against the best,” Castrale told me at the time. “That’s my dream, That’s my thing.”

SOLHEIM CUP: With double points available because the Women’s Open is a major, Castrale zoomed up to 15th in the Solheim Cup points standings for the 2013 event. Castrale is a two-time Solheim Cup member. Points are awarded to American-born player who finish in the top 20 of LPGA event. Only seven Americans were in the top 20 at the Open, and only one, Paula Creamer, finished higher than Castrale for the week. The top eight in points next summer will automatically make the U.S. team.



Lots of local golf after a week away

Gee, a guy goes away for a week and look at all the Coachella Valley-based golf that happens. For instance:

–Palm Desert’s Nicole Castrale continued her strong play in her comeback from having a baby last year. She made her fifth cut in five starts and shots rounds of 71, 70, 69 and 68 to finish tied for 12th at the Mobile Bay LPGA event in Alabama. The tie for 12th is her best finish since the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic in July of 2009, when she tied for eighth. Castrale is back up to 313th in the world rankings.
–Esther Choe, who played two years of golf at La Quinta High School before moving to Arizona, won not one but two Symetra Tour events in the last nine days. She won one event in Florida by four shots and another event in Mexico by six shots. She has won $33,500 in those two weeks and is now a strong candidate to make the top five on the Symetra Tour money list and earn an LPGA card next year. The would give the desert another connection to the women’s tour.
–Berry Henson continues his strong play on the Aisan Tour with a 10th place finish in the CIMB Niaga Indonesian Masters, his second 10th-place finish on the Asian Tour this year. He followed that up with a tie for 38th in the Ballantine’s Masters. Henson is currently 15th on the Asia Tour’s Order of Merit with $77,181.

–La Quinta’s Troy Kelly made the cut in the Zurich Championship on the PGA Tour,  making it five cuts in 10 starts this year. He tied for 62nd to earn $13,632.  Kelly has $68,350 for the year and is now 178th in the FedEx Cup standings.

–Palm Desert High School beat La Quinta High School in a key Desert Valley league competition. Both teams will be looking for post-season success starting next week

–The Prestige college tournament traditionally in November is moving to a higher-profile date of February. That will give the desert two big college golf events in February, along with the University of Wyoming event at Classic Club that same month.

And all of that was just in nine days of me not being in the office. Imagine what will happen in the next nine days.


A wild weekend in golf

A few thoughts from the wild weekend in professional golf:

–With his third-place finish in the Accenture World Match Play Championship, Humana Challenge winner Mark Wilson moved to 24th in the world rankings, a personal best. He’s right behind Justin Rose and right ahead of Paul Casey.

–Hunter Mahan did play the best golf of the week, but even he said after his win that Rory McIlroy is the best player in the game today.

–That being said, McIlroy has spent zero weeks at No. 1 in the world, while Tiger Woods has spent 623 weeks at No. 1. Comparisons to Woods right ow are a little unfair to McIlroy, who will spent plenty of week at No. 1 in the future.

–Luke Donald won the Match Play last year and went out in the first round this yar. That won’t help him in the eye of those who question his No. 1 ranking.

–In the Mayakoba Classic in Mexico, John Huh beat Robert Allenby in an eight-hole playoff, with Huh making par on each of the playoff holes. Allenby double bogeyed the final hole in regulation to fall into the playoff.

–By the way, Huh, a rookie who went through Q-school in La Quinta in December, wouldn’t be on the tour now under the proposed changes the PGA Tour wants to make to Q-school. Instead, Huh is now exempt for the tour through 2014. Hmmmm . . . .

–La Quinta’s Troy Kelly finished tied for 37th in the Mayakoba event, the best finish he’s even had a PGA Tour event.

–You might have missed it, but Angela Stanford survived a four-hole playoff to win the LPGA’s HSBC Champions in Singapore. That’s two playoffs in the first three LPGA events this year with 10 players combined in the extra holes.

–The LPGA now takes two weeks off before starting the build-up to the Kraft Nabisco Championship March 29-April 1.