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Young stars taking over the LPGA Tour

By Mark Craig

Star Tribune

EDINA — Anyone who has taken an 8-year-old to the driving range probably has a hard time believing Herb Krickstein’s story about his granddaughter.

"We were in Tampa, where she used to live, and she had these toy clubs," Krickstein said. "You know, those plastic clubs. She didn’t have real clubs, so she picked up one of those plastic clubs for the first time and I watched her swing."

The first word that came out of Krickstein’s mouth?

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"Wow," he said. "It was beautiful. Beautiful balance. Beautiful follow-through. A very natural golf swing."

Krickstein took her to the golf course in Boca Raton, Fla. They hit the driving range, where the youngster began whacking golf balls with nary a whiff. People began to stare.

"I’ve seen thousands of kids on driving ranges, and this kid was unusual," Krickstein said. "Never once did she look awkward on the golf course."

Just another proud grandpa?

Hardly. Four years later, in 2001, the granddaughter was 12 when she set a record for youngest person to qualify for a U.S. Women’s Open. And last year, the granddaughter was 18 years, 10 months when she won the Kraft Nabisco Championship to become the youngest person to win a major LPGA Tour history.

"I just watched my grandpa’s great swing and copied him," said the granddaughter, LPGA Tour star Morgan Pressel, giving a playful nudge to Krickstein, 74 and once a single-digit handicapper. "Seriously, I don’t know where I would be without my grandpa."

Judging by the LPGA leaderboards, Krickstein wasn’t the only smiling grandpa earlier this decade.

Heading into last week’s Wegmans LPGA tournament, seven of the top 10 players on the money list were 27 or younger. The average age of those seven players is 22.

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Yani Tseng, a rookie from Taiwan, won the LPGA Championship earlier this month at 19 years, four months to become the second-youngest major winner in the history of the LPGA Tour. So that means the tour that was founded in 1950 has now crowned its two youngest major winners in the past 14 months.

"It’s a tremendous time for the LPGA," said Annika Sorenstam, who will retire at the end of this season. "I think we are as strong as we’ve ever been. We have a lot of good young players."

The person widely regarded as the tour’s best player without a major is Paula Creamer. She’s only 21.

Six years ago, the Solheim Cup was held at Edina’s Interlachen Country Club, the site of this week’s U.S. Women’s Open. The Junior Solheim Cup was held at Oak Ridge Country Club in Hopkins.

Eight of the 12 members from the victorious U.S. team are in the U.S. Women’s Open field this week: Pressel, Creamer, Jane Park, Brittany Lang, Brittany Lincicome, Nicole Hage, Whitney Wade and amateur Amanda Blumenherst.

"It’ll be fun," said Lincicome, a two-time LPGA Tour winner. "Maybe we’ll go somewhere and have a Junior Solheim Cup reunion."

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