WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — While most 18-year-old athletes are just aiming to get better in their sports, golfer Morgan Pressel, left, has twice made history despite her young age.
Pressel’s first brush with history came in 2001 when she became the
youngest golfer ever to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open as a
It didn’t take that long for Pressel to make history again. In March, at 18 years and 10 months, Pressel became the youngest golfer ever to win a major championship by finishing first at the Kraft Nabisco Championships in Rancho Mirage, California.
Pressel was in shock and in tears after winning the $300,000 (US) championship prize. Though she birdied her final hole and finished with a three-under-par 289, she trailed Suzann Patterson of Norway by four shots while Patterson was playing behind on the 14th hole.
But Patterson self-destructed with bogeys to lose her lead and finish one stroke behind Pressel.
“Oh my God, I really did not expect this,” Pressel said. “I trailed, thought I had an opportunity but did not really expect to win when I finished.”
“I went shopping to celebrate, got a few purses, and enjoyed celebrating the Passover seder with my whole family at my grandparents’ home. It was so much fun to go through this experience, and I hope it is the first of many major championships in my career,” she said.
Yet, what works well in golf on one day does not always work well on another. Pressel closed out the 2007 season on a disappointing note at the $1.4-million U.S. ADT Championship in West Palm Beach, tying for ninth with a three-under-par 211 after three rounds of play.
Pressel was superb in the second round, making five consecutive birdies in the final nine holes for a seven-under-par 65, but shot a 73 the next day.
“You sometimes need to [be] knocked around once in a while to get better in golf or any other sport. Morgan has a long career in front of her and disappointment is part of the process,” said Pressel’s grandfather, Herb Krickstein.
Having Krickstein by her side is one of the many reasons Pressel has shined at such an early age. Krickstein has been accompanying Morgan on the pro circuit along with Morgan’s grandmother, Esther, for the past year and has been a mentor to Morgan since she took up the game at age eight.
For Krickstein, mentoring a young athlete was a case of deja vu. More than 20 years ago, his son Aaron, at age 16, made history by becoming the youngest champion to win a pro tennis title – in Tel Aviv – in 1983. Aaron Krickstein was a world top 10 tennis player from 1983-94, ranked as high as sixth in 1990.
“It is not a fluke for this to happen twice,” said Martin Hall, Pressel’s golf instructor. “Herb Krickstein is a man with a vision. He knows how to recognize talent at a young age, and also when to push the kids and when not to.”
“Both Aaron and Morgan never had to be pushed to achieve what they accomplished. They both are willing to work hard to reach their goals and know they have to sacrifice to reach their goals,” Krickstein said.
Pressel is so adept at golf that she turned down a scholarship at Duke University to turn pro in 2006, despite being an academic honours student at St. Andrews High School in Boca Raton, Fla.
Many former golf stars, such as LPGA Tour Hall of Famer Amy Alcott, think Pressel may be destined to be one of the giants in women’s golf.
Alcott, who saw Pressel play at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, told Pressel she would be enshrined as the champion just before she ended her final hole with a birdie. A few minutes later, Alcott’s prediction came true.
“I saw her win and saw how cool she is under pressure. Morgan is a marvelous young talent who will win many majors on the LPGA tour and her future is very bright. It would not surprise me if Morgan may become the youngest person to be inducted into the LPGA Hall Of Fame,” Alcott said.