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GolfWRX interview with the Big Break’s Whitney Wright

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By Stephen Zinger

GolfWRX Contributor

In the teaser previews leading up to the start of the previous season of The Big Break (Ireland) on Golf Channel, there was one contestant that captured my attention from the beginning.  Whitney Wright, a sweet, no nonsense type of girl from North Carolina, seemed to have the right attitude with a game to match.  The type of player the other contestants wanted to have around, and the one I wanted to see do well, was eliminated in the season’s first episode.  Because of this limited exposure on the program, I have always wanted to learn more about this talented professional.

This past week, Whitney Wright provided me with that opportunity, and sat down for an exclusive interview for GolfWRX.  During her decorated high school career at Richmond Senior High in Rockingham, NC. Whitney was heavily recruited by several women’s golf programs.  She ultimately decided on Florida State where she played in four ACC Championships and two NCAA Regional Championships before graduating in 2008 after four years as a starter.  Since that time, Whitney has had her share of both highs and lows in her professional career.  She begins 2012 looking forward with determination to secure her LPGA Tour card as a member of LPGA Symetra Futures Tour.

I concluded my interview with Whitney feeling like I had known her for years.  I got the impression she spoke unscripted and right from the heart.  After only an hour with Whitney, you walk away feeling like she is a person you want to see achieve great things.  If you want an honest answer, she’ll give you just that.

Although her exposure on Big Break was limited, she got satisfaction from being selected from the thousands of applicants for the show and felt that alone was a boost to her confidence.  She felt as though she played well on the show, but fell short.  The actual elimination round was edited and shortened for TV purposes.

“I’ve never been so nervous in my life, I’ve played in tournaments, and have done photo shoots, but to know that every shot could be televised was very intimidating,” she said. ” There were 100 to 150 cameras and crew members filming us at all times.”

Whitney said this provided her with experience she would not have otherwise had to date in her career.  She said this has mitigated a great deal of nervousness she previously had playing tournament golf.

“Now when my name is called on the first tee I am like, wow, this is nothing compared to what I went through on The Big Break,” she said.

Whitney said she would like a chance to do another show in the future to “go back and prove to everybody that I was good enough to stay there.”

Following high school, Whitney narrowed college programs to UNC Wilmington (Division II), and Florida State.  Although she had a great deal of respect the coach and school, she fell in love with the facilities at FSU along with the opportunities the program provided.  Whitney felt the competition at a Division I school would be better for her long term.  Amy Bond, an assistant coach at FSU at the time ,played a role in recruiting Whitney to the program.

I asked Whitney to discuss the transition from playing collegiate golf at a respected program like FSU to life as a touring professional.  She said the biggest adjustment for her was leaving the structured environment the FSU golf program provided in her life.

“Your schedules are set out, you know what time you’re going to eat, sleep, what time you’re going to workout and then you are in a place where you have to do all this yourself,” she said. “That was the real world.  I had been spoiled for four years.  We never had to plan when we would play or practice.  I never had to make a tee time … I went up to Pinehurst to play with my friend, and they’re like, ok that’ll be $75, I was like, What?  It cost that much to play golf?  I’m not getting free range balls?”

A year after graduation in 2008, Whitney married her college boyfriend, a player from Norway on the men’s golf team at FSU.  Giving up sponsorships, family, and other opportunities to play professional golf in the United States, she followed him to back to Norway where they relocated so he could make a run at the European Tour.

“I gave up a lot of my dreams for his dreams,” she said.

She played some on the Scandinavian Tour but did not have the success she had hoped for.  Because her husband had a full time job as a club pro, she traveled alone by train to many of those events.  After a year and a half, she discovered her heart was no longer in the decisions that made up that part of her life.  They divorced and she returned to United States with a renewed focus not only personally, but professionally.

“I had to figure out who Whitney was, and what I was going to do with my golf career,” she said. But Whitney learned a great deal about herself and her game while in Norway.  She described herself as a religious person, and believes that was part of God’s plan for her at that point in time.

Whitney came back to the United States and played in Calcutta (auction pool wagering) golf events in the Carolina’s to earn money as a means to support her tour dreams.  She would play in these arranged events and at times, for $8,000 a hole. Golfers bid on on the player they think will win in an auction format.  She became known as “that girl” that beat the guys on the course, taking their money in the process.

“Everybody’s story is not the white picket fence where people grow up with money and their parent’s paying for everything,” she said.  “Everybody’s story is different.  I am not really ashamed of what I had to do to play.  It is what it is.”

Hesitant to provide details, Whitney suggests other tour players get their start in these events, and have backers that continue to support them through their career.

In 2011, Whitney only played in a handful of events on the LPGA Futures tour.  In 2012, she has rededicated herself with one goal in mind, finishing the season in the top ten while securing her LPGA Tour card.  Whitney has status to play in most Futures Tour events for the season.  She plans on entering events at the beginning of the season and assessing her progress after the first few events.  Additionally, she must keep a close eye on the money.

“I am going to play the first four or five [tournaments], then kinda feel it out, and see where I am at with the money,” she said. ” Otherwise, it’s like you’re playing every week just to try and get your money back.  The money is really not that good.  So I am going to play in the first couple, see where I am.  If I am good on the money, then I am going to keep going, I’m going to keep playing.”

To supplement her finances, Whitney just partnered with a website called Golf Junkies.  Golf Junkies hosts a number of golf events and trips in North and South Carolina which she will now be affiliated with.  She owns a share of the company and hopes her involvement contributes to their success.  She is also working on another partnership with Barefoot Landing, a club in Myrtle Beach, where she will be involved in their marketing efforts.

“I’m trying to broaden my horizons to make more money,” she said.

Whitney said she will attempt to Monday qualify for select LPGA, Canadian Tour, and a few Sun Coast Series events as well.  She also has her eyes on Blackwolf Run, the site of the 2012 U.S. Women’s Open in Kohler, Wisc.

In professional golf, as you look down the range, there is a lot of talent.  I asked Whitney what she believed separates the good from the great players in professional golf.  She said it comes down to putting.

“Especially with women,” she said. ” We don’t miss many fairways or greens.”

She also cited the importance of the mental game in women’s golf.

“It’s true, we are emotional creatures, and golf can be emotional,” she said.  “It’s being able to keep your emotions in tact, mentally being in the moment, and able to focus for that amount of time, that many days in a row for women, is a lot harder (I feel like) than it is for men.”

While feeling confident off the tee, Whitney is devoting much of her practice to her short game.  Although she missed qualification for the Ladies European Tour in January this year, she said she was hitting the ball solid off the tee, only missing two fairways in four days of tournament play.  She felt she putted the ball great in high school, but “something happened” when she played at FSU.  She said she putted poorly and lost a great deal of confidence and has yet to get the putting stroke back.

Currently, she is working on her stroke with a former FSU teammate out of Raleigh, NC, and said she prefers working with female instructors.  She spends about six hours a day practicing and has a cadre of friends that partake in her efforts.  Other than the practice green, Whitney does not spend a lot of time on the range, practicing her long game right on course.

“I am not really a big range rat,” she said.  “I think you get more out of it going out on the course and putting yourself in different positions you may never think you are going to be in.  Then, you get in a tournament, and you’re there.  So now, you know not to panic when you are there.  I’m working on fine tuning right now.  At this level, it’s all about the fine tuning.  We have all the equipment to get there, we have the knowledge, the game, right now, it’s about making small changes.”

I asked Whitney for advice for the common weekend hack who does not have the time to practice and work on their game for a living.  She said amateurs tend to get too mechanical and focus on those mechanics as opposed to feel.  She said less accomplished players try to get into positions that are ingrained into muscle memory for most professionals.

“You have to make it about feel rather than mechanics, and quit worrying about how you look,” she said.  “People will get a lesson and an instructor will tell them you have to do this, and be here … you have to practice some of those moves 1000 times to be able to get that right, to do it on your own without having to think about it.  They will never be able to practice that much to make it a muscle memory.  It has to be about feel.”

Whitney has a great deal of respect for Annika Sorenstam, and what she has done for women’s golf.  She views her as a role model even today.

“She’s proven she can have all the success, and also have a husband, children, and have a normal life too,” she said.  “Men can have all those things too, and not miss a beat.  With women, it’s hard because it’s going to take us away from the game for a while and we may not come back as strong as we were.  That’s why I respect Annika, she went out, had her success, and family life too.”

Whitney currently resides in Raleigh, NC, and plays out of both the Raleigh Country Club as well as Verdict Ridge in Charlotte, NC.

It was a sincere pleasure sitting down with Whitney. I would like to convey my appreciation for her time with this exclusive interview for GolfWRX.  Her candor, dedication, and respect for the game is evident.  On behalf of the readership of GolfWRX, I wish Whitney Wright my best in her endeavor of securing her tour card and career on the LPGA.

Click here for more discussion in the forums.

Follow Whitney on:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Whitney-Wright-Golf/165744786774709

Twitter — @blondiewlw

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Dave Andrews

    Feb 12, 2012 at 8:47 pm

    I’ve gotten to know Whitney a little over the past few years on the Symetra (Futures) Tour. A nicer person you will not find out there. She is also a great golfer. I’ll be rooting for her this season and hoping she can earn one of those 10 tickets to the LPGA. Go, Whitney!

  2. Jody Garaventa

    Feb 12, 2012 at 8:40 pm

    I know Whitney and have played a fair amount of golf with her. When she figures out her putting, watch out LPGA because she’s a ball striking machine!!! I think Whitney has loads of potential and her GREAT personality will make her an excellent ambassador for golf.

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Tour News

Tour Rundown: Rahm gets win No. 2 and goes to world No. 2

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Week two of the 2018 calendar season added events on the PGA Champions and European tours. The PGA caravan left Hawaii for California and found its first playoff of 2018, just as the Champions Tour reached the islands. The Euros teed it up in Dubai, and the Web.Com Tour stayed in the Bahamas for a second week. With an Asian Tour event in Singapore, the globe’s eyes were once again on professional golf. Time for Tour Rundown at warp speed!

Rahm continues to build career with win at CareerBuilder Challenge

For all of the final round, it looked like Jon Rahm would pull away for a 4-stroke victory. His driving was impeccable and his irons were dialed in. His putting stroke looked sound, but some of the birdies simply did not nest. Throughout the four-hole playoff with Andrew Landry, it seemed as if Rahm was destined to lose. Somehow, he persevered and won.

Rahm’s patience pays off with second PGA Tour win 

How many edges of holes were singed with putts and chips by Jon Rahm down the stretch? At least four, not counting the playoff. Fortunately for the Basque, only Andrew Landry made enough of a move to track him down temporarily. Rahm played like the 3rd-ranked player should, and now he’s the world No. 2 player. Perhaps the fact that he couldn’t or didn’t separate himself from his pursuers, yet had enough weaponry to pull out a victory, mattered more than a runaway triumph. Yet golf is a funny game. The only fairway Rahm missed in extra time came on the 4th hole. Despite that errant tee ball and his misses on the first three playoff holes, Rahm was able to drain the only birdie of the playoff and walk away a champion.

See the clubs Jon Rahm used to win

Landry and others made the most of their opportunities

Andrew Landry showed more gumption than anyone anticipated. The 2016 first-round leader of the U.S. Open stayed around even longer this week. A 72nd-hole birdie brought him to 22-under par and a tie with Rahm. The Arkansas alumnus drove the ball straight and far on each of the playoff holes, and never once sniffed a bogey. His irons brought him within birdie range but, like Rahm, he could not find the proper combination of line and speed. In the end, Landry missed last and settled (if such a term might be used) for a runner-up finish.

Fleetwood greets 2018 with title defense at Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Tommy Fleetwood looks for all the world to be a millenial hipster with his free-flowing hair and his strands of beard. In absolute contrast, he is equal parts passion and cold blood. When opportunity beckons, he doesn’t look away. Given the slightest opportunity to defend his 2017 Abu Dhabi title, Fleetwood assented and took charge.

How Fleetwood dispatched Fisher and the rest

Through 9 holes of Sunday’s final round, the tag for Tommy Fleetwood’s title defense percolated as He gave an admirable effort. Nine holes and six birdies later, that tag line had changed to How in the name of all that is known did he defend his title? And yet, there was Fleetwood with the fourth European Tour title of his career and third in the past dozen months. When Fleetwood needed a great drive, he got it. When he didn’t hit a great drive, he came through with a stellar approach. When his approach was off, he drained a long putt. And for good measure, he hit a wonderful pitch at the 18th, nestling the ball 5 feet for birdie, and made that. The end result was a 2-stroke margin of victory over the runner-up, Ross Fisher.

What is it about Ross Fisher?

Ross Fisher is eternally composed. Not like his countryman Colin Montgomerie (more on him later), who wore every disappointment like a Halloween mask. Yet, the two share a certain sad penchant for missing opportunities. Last October, Fisher wasn’t going to catch Tyrell Hatton in St. Andrews, but he was chasing immortality. He had a 25-foot putt for the first 59 at The Old Course…and missed. He had a 4-foot putt for the first 60 at the Old Course…and missed. He broke the course record with his 61, but, you know. Fisher has an 0-5 record in European Tour playoffs. On Sunday, he was victimized by Fleetwood’s marvelous back 9 of 30 strokes, but by his own inability to gather the fruits of opportunity. Case in point: Fisher made a long and testy putt for bogey on the par-5 10th, a hole that many birdied. Rather than use it as a springboard to return to his coach on the birdie train, he floundered with four pars and one bogey over his next five holes.

Kelly wins at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

Jerry Kelly earned the 2017 PGA Tour Champions rookie of the year award, on the strength of consistent play and his first two tour titles. On Day 3 of the 2018 season, he added to his victory total with a 1-stroke win over Colin Montgomerie. A 2-stroke swing on 18 decided the fate of both…here’s how!

How Kelly klaimed the championship

For fans of Hideki Matsuyama and his deceptive reaction to fantastic shots, Mr. Kelly is guilty of the same on well-struck putts. He drops his putter from one hand and slumps his shoulders after mid-range putts. All the while, the ball is tracking toward the hole, and usually drops. Kelly played a fine round on Saturday, with 5 birdies and 1 eagle. It might have been the sole bogey of the round, on No. 16, that ignited his hockey-bred fire. The miscue allowed Colin Montgomerie to take a 1-shot lead into the final 2 holes, but Kelly’s birdie on No. 18 brought him the title. How’s that?

How Monty lost his opportunity

We forget how difficult it is to hold a lead in any event, at any juncture. Colin Montgomerie never figured the recipe out in major championships on the regular tour, but he had it down, for the most part, in regular tour events. On the Champions Tour, he has been quite solid, winning six times as a senior in the U.S. and five times in Europe. In the third round at Hualalai, Monty’s most reliable club betrayed him at the least opportune time. A drive into a fairway bunker at the last hole left him 100 yards to the green. He flew the putting surface with his approach and played an indifferent flop shot to 7 feet for par and a playoff. His effort was off the mark and the title slipped from his grasp.

Sergio’s Singapore Open

Despite this unexpected result, Sergio Garcia opened the 2018 season with a victory in Singapore. We’ll run down what he did right.

Sergio and Singapore on a Sunday

The #SingOpen2018 and @TheSergioGarcia made a perfect match on an extended final day. Wet weather forced a last-day completion of Round 3, and most golfers played more than 20 holes on the final day. Garcia stormed from behind with 66-68 over those final 36 holes to wrest the lead from Danthai Boonma of Thailand. Nine birdies and 1 bogey over that stretch of two rounds finished the task for the Spaniard, who looks to defend his 2017 Masters title in the spring.

See the clubs Sergio used to win

The battle for second ended in a tie

With Garcia separating himself from the peloton, attention turned to Boonma and cast for the runner-up resolution. After three stellar rounds (70-68-65), Boonma stumbled in Round 4 with 73, finishing in a tie for 4th with countryman Jazz Janewattananond. Satoshi Kodaira of Japan and South Africa’s Shaun Norris each birdied the final hole to finish tied for second at 9-under, 5 blows behind the champion.

Hello, World for Sungjae Im at Web.Com Opener

Sungjae Im, all of 19 years of age and pegging it in his first Web.Com event ever, gave us a Hello-World moment with a closing 65 and a 4-shot win over Mexico’s Carlos Ortiz. How did the young Korean pro flu powder his way to the top of the podium? We’re asking ourselves the same question

How Im became I’m The Champ

Im entered the final round of the Great Exuma Classic in a tie with Ortiz, but eyes were on proven winners like Rhein Gibson, Steve Marino and Erik Compton. Sungjae Im went out in Round 4 and played perfect golf. He had 4 birds on his outward half, then seized the trophy by both handles with 3 more chirps on holes 14 to 16. Simply put, there was nothing that Ortiz or any other entrant could do, beyond bow and salute the victor.

How Ortiz and the others took the shock

Carlos Ortiz did what he had to do during Tuesday’s final round. He played a solid round, minus-3 with 5 birds and 2 bogies. He stayed ahead of Gibson and all the others, but would have needed to turn his bogies into birdies to tie Im atop the board. Rhein Gibson began round four like a boss, with birdies on 5 of the first 6 holes. He reached 8-under and looked like the eventual winner. The engine sputtered, and it was 1-birdie-1-bogey-10-pars the rest of the way. Gibson would have needed 10-under on the day to tie for the trophy, but with a few more birdies along the way, would he have frightened Im? Who knows!

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Lexi Thompson signs multi-year endorsement deal to play Bridgestone ball

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Lexi Thompson, who currently plays Bridgestone’s Tour B X ball, will now do so in an official capacity. The company announced today it inked the 22-year-old to a multi-year deal.

The eight-time LPGA Tour winner had been playing Bridgestone’s B330-S for the past two seasons.

“I’ve used Bridgestone for years and the new Tour B product is shockingly good,” said Thompson. “It gives me tremendous distance off the tee without sacrificing any performance around the green. What’s more, I feel confident hitting any type of shot the situation calls for.”

“When I’m testing a golf ball, I look for three things – distance, accuracy and feel,” said Thompson. “For me, the new Tour B delivered in spades. I’ve never played anything that has responded so positively to any situation the golf course throws at me.”

Bridgestone’s Tour B Series includes four models–X, XS, RX and RXS (each $44.99). The company leveraged data from more than three million consumer ball fittings, as well as third-party insights and Bridgestone’s own resources, to create the four-ball lineup.

RELATED: Bridgestone’s Tour B balls were designed with the player in mind

Bridgestone’s professional staff includes, among others, Tiger Woods, Brandt Snedeker, Matt Kuchar, Fred Couples, and Bryson DeChambeau.

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Sergio Garcia WITB 2018 (with commentary from Sergio)

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This special-edition of Sergio Garcia’s WITB includes commentary about his clubs from a podcast he recently did with Callaway, Garcia’s new equipment sponsor. Below are the clubs he is using in Singapore this week.

Driver: Callaway Rogue Sub Zero (9 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi KuroKage Dual Core 70TX
Sergio says: “This new driver feels really, really good. I love the ball flight. I can hit it both ways, left to right, or right to left. And I’ve been driving it quite well. So that gives me even more confidence.”

3 Wood: Callaway Rogue 3+ (13.5 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi KuroKage XT 80TX

5 Wood: Callaway Rogue Sub Zero (18 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi KuroKage XT 80TX

Irons: Callaway Apex Pro 16 (3-4 iron), Callaway Apex MB 18 (5-9 iron)
Shafts: Nippon Modus 130x

Wedges: Callaway Mack Daddy 4 (48-10, 54-10 and 58-08)
Shafts: Nippon Modus 130x
Sergio says: “I loved the wedges right away. They feel so much better for me. I got a lot more spin and different ball trajectories. And because I get more spin, I can be more aggressive with my chipping.”

Putter: Odyssey Toulon Azalea

Golf Ball: Callaway Chrome Soft
Sergio says: “My golf ball feels really nice. It’s definitely much better around the greens for me. It was important for me to make sure I liked the golf ball (when I came to Callaway)… It’s very important to see and feel that you can work the ball, and flight the ball. And that’s obviously one of the reasons why I decided to come to Callaway.”

Discussion: See what GolfWRX members are saying about Sergio’s switch to Callaway in our forums

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