BOCA RATON, Fla.— Most golfers at 20 are still learning the game, but American Jewish pro Morgan Pressel made golf history by winning her second pro tournament in 2008.
In only her third year competing on the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) circuit, Pressel became one of only four players in LPGA history to win two tournaments by age 20, after winning the Kapula Classic in October. Shooting an eight-under-par 280, she won the tournament impressively with three birdies in her last four holes for a one-stroke victory over Suzann Pettersen.
Pressel’s achievement is especially noteworthy, considering that recently retired LPGA Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam and current top-ranked golfer Lorena Ochoa both didn’t win their first tournaments until age 23.
“There are never any guarantees in golf, but Morgan has more than a head start to becoming one of the great golfers in LPGA history,” said retired LPGA Hall of Famer Amy Alcott, who is also a member of the International Jewish Sport Hall of Fame in Israel.
“I won three tournaments by age 20 and had a great belief in myself, which Morgan also has. She is destined to be a Hall of Fame golfer.”
Pressel’s first brush with history came in 2001, when she was the youngest golfer ever to qualify to for the U.S. Women’s Open as a 12-year-old. In 2007, she made history again by became the youngest ever, at 18 years and 10 months, to win a major championship – the Kraft Nabisco Championships in Rancho Mirage, Calif.
“I am elated at what I achieved so far, but I want to strive to do better. I learned very quickly that to do well at golf, I have to work hard on it,” Pressel said.
To achieve that end, Pressel hired Adam Schreiber as her coach in early 2008. He helped improve her swing and distance, two of her weaknesses.
Despite winning her second tournament, passing the $2 million (US) mark in career earnings and finishing in the top 10 five times, Pressel also missed the cut five times last season and is ranked under 100 for distance. Putting remains her forte.
“I have to work hard at this. I’m not happy if I don’t improve,” Pressel said.
“You have to be a perfectionist to win at golf. I hated to lose more than I enjoyed the wins, and that drove me to a great career, and I see Morgan reacting the same way,” Alcott said.
Pressel’s other asset is having her grandfather, Herb Krickstein, by her side. He’s been a mentor to Morgan since she took up the game at age eight.
For Krickstein, it was deja vu to again guide a young athlete. Some 26 years ago, his son, Aaron, made history at age 16 by becoming the youngest person to win a pro tennis title – in Tel Aviv. Krickstein was a world top 10 tennis player from 1983 to 1994, ranking as high as sixth in the world in 1990.
But Pressel’s young life has not been all about fun and golf.
Her mother, Kathy, died of breast cancer in 2003 at age 43, and Pressel has dedicated herself to raising funds to fight the disease. Her tournament in Boca Raton has raised $800,000 (US) over the past two years.
Pressel’s fame as a rising star and the only Jew on the LPGA tour has made Jewish community leaders seek her out for fundraising events, as was the case when Maccabi Canada in Ottawa gave Pressel a reception when she competed at the CN Canadian Women’s Open in August.
“I love to be the catalyst to draw young Jews and others to compete in golf, so I want to set an example by being proud of who I am and all I accomplish and hope to accomplish,” she said.