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Published: Sunday, 7/14/2013

COMMENTARY

More glitz than wins for some Americans

Outside Lewis, victories scarce for U.S. players

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST
Paula Creamer chips to the first green during the third round at the U.S. Women's Open golf tournament at Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y., Saturday. Paula Creamer chips to the first green during the third round at the U.S. Women's Open golf tournament at Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y., Saturday.
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There is truth in advertising. Well, at least some truth.

The ad on these pages the other day said, “The Girls Are Back In Town,” and, indeed, the ladies of the LPGA Tour will return to Highland Meadows Golf Club starting Monday.

The three players pictured in the ad — Paula Creamer, Natalie Gulbis, and Morgan Pressel — are indeed expected to be in the field.

Indeed, they will draw some of the largest galleries in the 2013 Marathon Classic, presented by Owens Corning and O-I.

They are all Americans, they are all attractive, they are all popular, and all have had their moments in past Toledo tournaments. They have a lot going for them.

If the intent was to drum up interest and ticket sales — of course it was; it’s an ad — based on personality and nationality and popularity and, yes, even sex appeal, then well done, Marathon Classic.

If the intent was to drum up those same things based on performance, well, perhaps some other golfers should have been pictured.

This may surprise you, regardless of your level of interest in the LPGA, but those three players have combined for exactly one official tour victory in the last 4½ years.

That one win was produced by Creamer at the 2010 U.S. Women’s Open, which is about as big as victories come.

But it’s still one. In 56 months. And that’s in 126 tournaments, not including the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic that concludes today in Canada.

Heck, Inbee Park has won three times … in the last three tournaments.

OK, you get the point.

Frankly, it’s probably unfair to include Gulbis in this threesome. She’s a bit older — 30 years to Creamer’s 26 and Pressel’s 25 — and much of her fame has always stemmed from reasons other than her score relative to par (see bikini model, body paint, calendars, posters, TV career, etc.).

Natalie Gulbis. Natalie Gulbis.
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Gulbis’ lone win in 12 years on the LPGA Tour came in July, 2007 at the Evian Masters in France, one summer after losing the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic in a playoff. She has gone six years without a top-3 finish and the after-effects of a bout with malaria earlier this year have seen her world ranking drop to No. 120.

On the bright side, she recently announced her engagement to a former Yale University quarterback. Sorry, guys.

Creamer and Pressel, however, were billed as the future of women’s golf in America, the next 1-2 punch that should achieve superstardom.

Neither, especially Creamer, has exactly stunk the joint up.

But when an American finally won the LPGA Player of the Year title after a lengthy drought it was Toledo-born Stacy Lewis who turned the trick in 2012. She subsequently ascended to No. 1 in the Rolex Rankings.

Lewis has won seven tournaments, including a major championship, and about $4 million in the last 2½ years. She is currently ranked No. 2 and, it should be mentioned, has also starred in “The Girls Are Back In Town” ads.

Creamer, who is ranked No. 14, recently surpassed the $10 million mark in career earnings and is eighth all-time on that list. Not bad. Not bad at all.

“I remember being the first one, the youngest player to ever make a million dollars,” she said last week. “I thought that was a pretty cool one. I’ve had a lot of success in my career. The greatest thing that I look at it is I still enjoy every single day out here. Every day is exciting. It’s a new adventure and I can’t wait for the next 10 years and see what happens.”

It could very well be that the best is yet ahead for the 2008 Farr Classic champion. Pressel, who lost in a playoff for the ’09 Farr title, is probably hoping the same thing.

(We won’t even get started on Michelle Wie, another U.S. star of the future, who has two top-10s in 14 starts this year and has dipped to No. 84 in the rankings.)

Once ranked as high as No. 4 in the world after winning the 2007 Kraft Nabisco, becoming the youngest winner of an LPGA major, Pressel is on the outside of the top 50 in the world rankings and barely inside the top 30 on the 2013 money list.

She had a series of injury issues — wrist, arm, shoulder — stemming from a mishap during the 2012 LPGA Championship but rebounded to contend at the same event earlier this summer. She closed with a 75, though, falling one stroke out of a playoff won by Park.

“I’m definitely disappointed,” Pressel, who was married in January, said then, “but it’s the first time in a long time I’ve contended.”

Maybe she’ll jump back into the picture at the Meadows. Maybe Creamer will be in the Marathon Classic title hunt. Heck, Gulbis too.

It’s time for some truth in advertising.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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