Brittany Lincicome Shoots a 78 in a PGA Tour Event, but Finds a Bright Side
The crowd ringing the 10th hole at Keene Trace Golf Club on Thursday morning included more young girls than typically appear at a PGA Tour event. They included Alaina Dalton, an 11-year-old golfer from nearby Lexington, who came with her father to watch Brittany Lincicome compete against men in the first round of the Barbasol Championship.
Alaina’s father, Kevin, thought the outing would deliver a powerful message. “It will give her a viewpoint that everybody should be on an equal stage,” he said.
Alaina, a budding golfer, said she had recently spent six weeks in a program where boys and girls practiced together, only to have the boys square off in a nine-hole competition at the end while the girls participated in a six-hole contest. With that experience in mind, Alaina said she thought it was important that Lincicome, a two-time major winner, “has the chance to play with people she usually doesn’t get to play with because she’s a girl.”
Lincicome, who became the sixth woman to tee it up on the PGA Tour, finished her round with a six-over-par 78 that left her in a tie for 129th in the 132-player field and very unlikely to become the second woman, after Babe Didrikson Zaharias in 1945, to survive a PGA cut.
But Lincicome, after some early tension, managed to smile through her disappointing finish, and at least once outdrive the men in her group: Sam Ryder, who carded a 68, and Conrad Shindler, who posted a 72. The leader, with a 10-under 62, was Troy Merritt.
“Over all I did what I wanted to do with having fun,” Lincicome said, adding, “Just didn’t hit as many putts as I would have liked.”
Lincicome, 32, has played thousands of competitive rounds, but Thursday’s had a different feel from the start. At breakfast, her agent, Jeff Chilcoat, noticed that she was unusually quiet. Lincicome managed a smile for a fellow competitor — Aaron Baddeley, a four-time winner on the tour — when he stopped his warm-up to come introduce himself and wish her luck as she was heading to the range. But once Lincicome was there, her husband, Dewald Gouws, observed that she wasn’t smiling as much as usual or conversing as readily with Missy Pederson, her longtime caddie.
“I told her she was the hottest golfer out here,” he said.
Lincicome stopped to sign autographs and hug relatives on her way to the first hole. She typically laughs easily through a round and doesn’t take herself, or her scores, too seriously. Between shots, she has been known to work on Sudoku puzzles that are taped to the pages of her yardage book. During a practice round at KPMG Women’s P.G.A. Championship last month, Lincicome reached into her golf bag and grabbed a toothbrush and small tube of toothpaste.
“Don’t mind me,” she said as she brushed her teeth. “I had coffee this morning.”
But on her opening holes Thursday — even after her first two drives found the fairway — Lincicome kept pausing before her swings and taking breaths so deep her whole upper torso rose and fell.
Lincicome had settled down by the time she arrived at her eighth hole, the 559-yard, par-5 17th. She was two over par but appeared poised to make a birdie after finding the fairway with her drive and her second shot, and sticking her approach to four feet. But she missed the putt, and then, in a seeming ripple effect from that disappointment, found the water with her tee shot on the par-3 18th and made a double bogey.
Along the 17th fairway during her round, the wail of a bagpipe drifted from a suite, where a television was tuned to the men’s British Open at Carnoustie. As Lincicome walked in front of the spectators, they were watching Tiger Woods, who was under par after five holes.
Any tournament opposite a men’s major is bound to be a side dish for a golf fan, but Lincicome lured a couple of hundred people away from their televisions or offices to follow her around the course, which on Thursday was playing 7,168 yards.
Tom Murray, the chief executive of the company that owns Barbasol, banked on Lincicome’s presence drawing more attention to this event. He ran the idea by his wife, whose enthusiastic endorsement sealed his decision to offer a sponsor’s exemption to Lincicome, who has been a brand ambassador for Barbasol’s sister product, Pure Silk, since 2009.