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Friday, October 31, 2014

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Pro golfer Pressel talks pucks with best of them

Tags: Sports Detroit Red Wings LPGA Manulife Financial LPGA Classic Morgan Pressel
Morgan Pressel

Morgan Pressel hails from the Sunshine State, where golf, tennis, football, baseball and basketball – maybe even jai alai – are front runners on the sports pages, well ahead of that import from the north, hockey. But she can talk pucks with the best of them.

Ask her to name her favourite players on her favourite team, the Detroit Red Wings, and Steve Yzerman and Nicklas Lidstrom top her list. But it’s hard to ignore Pavel Datsyuk from the current edition of the Red Wings, she said.

Pretty impressive, but can she recall the third-pairing left-shooting defenceman for the Wings from those cup-winning teams? Better not to ask; she might actually know the answer.

So how does a Florida-based professional golfer, in 37th place in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, come to be a fan of the Red Wings and hockey?

Her family hails from the Detroit area and as a young girl she’d spent a lot of summers there. She played quite a few rounds of golf with Kirk Maltby, a Red Wing from the glory era.

Her love of hockey is right there on her LPGA bio and Pressel is all smiles describing her younger days on the course with Maltby. There seems to be an affinity between hockey players and golf, she said.

Pressel was playing hockey trivia with The CJN following the second round of the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic at the Grey Silo Golf Course in Waterloo, Ont. She plays LPGA events pretty much every week, though her performance at Grey Silo had to be disappointing.

At the end of the weekend, Pressel had shot six under par – well back of winner Inbee Park, who scorched Grey Silo with a four round total of 23 under par, including a 10-under 61 in her final round.

Pressel finished the tournament tied for 45th, earning $5,921. Last year in the same event she shot 13 under par and finished tied in 26th place, earning twice as much.

To date this year, Pressel has had two top 10 finishes and she’s won north of $205,000. Last year, she finished in the top 10 three times and earned more than $500,000, bringing her career earnings to more than $5 million.

Not bad at all, but you’ve got to go all the way back to 2007 for the highlight of her career, a victory in the Kraft Nabisco Championship, when at 18 she became the youngest player ever to win an LPGA major tournament.

When you’re that good, that young, it attracts attention and it no doubt helped her launch a charity golf event near and dear to her heart.

Having lost her mother, Kathryn Krickstein Pressel, to breast cancer when she was 15, Pressel now hosts the annual Morgan & Friends Fight Cancer charity tournament. Her golfing buddies, Paula Creamer, Lexi Thompson and Stacy Lewis, among others, participate, lending it credibility and glamour. This past January, the event raised $600,000 for breast cancer treatment.

While her trip to southern Ontario might be considered professionally disappointing, Pressel’s got her share of fans north of the border. As she makes her way from fairway to green, a small but loyal group follows her around. It makes coming to Waterloo a little more special, she said.

“I like playing in Canada,” she said. “It’s a great time of year to be playing here.”

Besides the group that follows her in Waterloo, she has found that young women and girls also look up to her.

“I try to be a good role model,” she said. “I think I’ve grown up a lot being out here.”

Turning pro at a young age, she never   had the opportunity to play in the Maccabiah Games. “I wish I could have,” she said.

In December 2011 she participated in a mission to Israel sponsored by the Jewish National Fund (JNF), accompanied by her sister and grandmother.  “We toured, we had so much fun.”

“The trip was great.”

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