Sandra Gal Writing Diary for USA Today

It was New Year's Eve when Sandra Gal posted the above pic to Instagram, and she captioned it, "2015 already tastes good."

It probably tastes even better today: As I write this, LPGA players are in action at the tour's season-opener. And Sandra is now a diarist for USA Today. An editor's note that preceded Gal's first entry told readers that "(t)his season LPGA golfer Sandra Gal will be writing a weekly diary for USA Today Sports to share her adventures on the Tour."

What does Sandra have to say in her diary? Among other things:

I have never played an LPGA event so close to my college stomping grounds as here, just around the corner from Gainesville and the University of Florida. This feels like a full circle moment to me, because not only did I learn about the 25 second attention span during my coursework toward my degree in Advertising, but being a part of the College of Journalism and Communications I also learned that writing for, well, USA Today, is a big deal. My recipe? Be a pro golfer for seven years first, win, smile, oh, and be German.

The year could get even better for Gal later on, if she makes the European Solheim Cup team: the Cup is played in Germany this year.

More Sandra Gal pics

Lexi the First Female 'Golf Ambassador' for Zurich NA

(Photo: instagram/Lexi)

Congrats are in order for Lexi Thompson, who picked up another sponsor today: the Zurich Insurance Group, longtime title sponsor of the PGA Tour's Zurich Classic in New Orleans. Not surprisingly, since it sponsors a PGA event, Zurich's "golf ambassadors" have previously all be men. Lexi is the first female Zurich Golf Ambassador.

From the news release:

The golf ambassador program has helped Zurich expand its reach in golf far beyond the Zurich Classic to engage with customers, brokers, employees, executives and charities on a global level throughout the year.

Thompson will display the Zurich logo on her left sleeve and represent the company in the growth of its women’s golf initiatives throughout the relationship. She will join Zurich and their guests in attendance at the 2015 Zurich Classic. Other Zurich Golf Ambassadors include Ben Crane, Billy Horschel, Justin Rose, Keegan Bradley, and Rickie Fowler.

Instagramming with ... Cheyenne Woods

The 2015 LPGA Tour season is teeing off this week at the Coates Golf Championship in Florida, and one of the rookies in the field is Cheyenne Woods. What has Cheyenne been up to recently? Let's go Instagramming and find out.

First up is a photo of Cheyenne with her friend and fellow LPGA rookie Sadena Parks. Incredibly (then again, maybe not given golf's history), this is the first year since 1971 that at least two African-Americans will be LPGA Tour members.

This is the look anyone who tries to stand between Cheyenne Woods and one of her goals is going to get:

Cheyenne lives in Arizona, and that means she sometimes heads to a gun range (it's state law ... kidding! ... or am I?):

BangBang.

A video posted by Cheyenne Woods (@cheyenne_woods) on

For some unknowable reason, Woods wasn't included in Golf.com's Most Beautiful Women in Golf 2015 feature. Seems like a ridiculous oversight to me. But they got it right in 2014!

#tbt A day of glam last year with @si_golf

A photo posted by Cheyenne Woods (@cheyenne_woods) on

Training on the track, and in artsy black and white:

Cheyenne is one of many LPGA golfers who takes fitness very seriously, and works hard it. Here's a short video clip of one of Woods' workout routines - running steps - under the direction of her personal trainer:

This selfie served as a shoutout to Cheyenne's hairstylist (and a great excuse for a little alliteration!):

And finally, yes, when you're Cheyenne Woods, you're sitting pretty:

Follow Cheyenne on Instagram, or follow her on Twitter. Either way, you'll enjoy her social sharing.

The Most Beautiful Women in Golf Instruction

A couple weeks ago Golf.com released its 2015 version of The Most Beautiful Women in Golf. And a couple of those women featured were club professionals. Which got us to thinking: How about Most Beautiful Women in Golf Instruction?

It wasn't too long ago that a woman getting certified as and working as a golf instructor was a rarity. No longer. While men still far outnumber women among golf teachers, the industry now includes many women. These days, some of the best instructors in golf are women, and some of the best young instructors, too.

So below we present some (10, to be exact) of the most beautiful women currently working as teaching professionals. Our apologies to all the women we missed, and our thanks to all the women working as golf instructors today, helping grow the game and helping grow women's golf. (Note that the teaching professionals listed here appear in alphabetical order.)

Tasha Browner

PGA Director of Instruction at El Caballero Country Club in Tarzana, California. tashabrownergolf.com

Skye Choueiri

Assistant golf professional at Manly Golf Club in Balgowlah, NSW, Australia. manlygolf.com.au

Chandra Hall

Head women's golf coach at Angelo State University in San Angelo, Texas. Also teaches (during offseason) at Bentwood Country Club in San Angelo. angelosports.com or bentwoodcc.com.

Meredith Kirk

Teaching professional, Blackmoor Golf Club in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina. meredithkirk.com

Courtney Mahon

Lead Instructor at the Tour Striker Golf Academy in Chandler, Arizona. tourstriker.com

Maggie Noel

Teaching professional at GolfTec Westheimer in Houston, Texas. golftec.com

Shi Hyun Park

Teaching pro, Seoul, South Korea.

Annabel Rolley

Teaching pro, formerly at Royal Sydney Golf Club, Trump National Golf Club in New York, Royal Melbourne Golf Club and The Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey. Now on Lesson Tee Live on Golf Channel.

Sara Stephens

Teaching professional at Maketewah Country Club in Cincinnati, Ohio, and The Andrew Stephens Golf Academy in Burlington, Kentucky. maketewah.com and AndrewStephensgolf.com

Christy Yun

PGA Teaching pro. Was at Gleneagles Country Club (Plano, Texas) with Chris Como Golf Academy, but recently moved to Arizona and plans to start her own golf instruction business there.

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Cara Robinson Latest to Join 'Morning Drive' Cast on Golf Channel

We told you a few weeks ago about Bailey Mosier and how she became a new Morning Drive host on Golf Channel.

But Golf Channel isn't finished introducing new Morning Drive hosts. And, beginning in late February, Cara Robinson joins the cast.

Robinson is English, and the Golf Channel announcement of her impending arrival on these shores states:

Robinson brings extensive experience in television and golf. She most recently served as host of Golfing World, a weekly program on Sky Sports – available to 20 million viewers in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Italy, Germany and Austria – traveling to golf’s biggest events to conduct player interviews and features about all aspects of the game. She also participated in @TheOpenLIVE, a live digital telecast of the Open Championship, and has contributed as a studio host and reporter for productions surrounding Wimbledon, World’s Strongest Man, rugby and the London 2012 Olympics, where she hosted Sky Sports’ tennis coverage.

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Brooke Pancake's New Sponsor Is ... Waffle House

A few years back we were driving around the Deep South and, somehow, I managed to convince or cajole my wife into eating three consecutive meals at Waffle Houses. It's one of my proudest achievements. (Do I need loftier goals?)

You know who else loves Waffle House? Brooke Pancake. Sounds like a joke, but it isn't. And today both Waffle House and Brooke Pancake announced that the restaurant chain has become a sponsor of the golfer.

It's a match made in breakfast-served-all-day heaven.

When she posted the photo above to Instagram, Brooke wrote this along with it:

"What an exciting, fun day! And to think this all began when I announced on national television that I actually like waffles more than pancakes ... on National Pancake day #breakfast #AllStarspecial"

Brooke also shared a video on Instagram from her Waffle House photo shoot today:

And, of course, Waffle House got in on the social media fun:

In a press release titled "Pancake Comes To Waffle House Restaurants," the company says:

Before waffle-lovers the worldwide get upset, Waffle House is not changing its menu. Rather, Waffle House is excited to announce a partnership with LPGA rising star Brooke Pancake for the 2015 season.

"Growing up in Chattanooga, I've always been a Waffle House fan, "says Brooke Pancake. "And to be quite honest, I prefer waffles over pancakes anyway."

"This will be the first time that the Waffle Nation will be cheering for a Pancake," says Waffle House President and CEO Walt Ehmer. "Brooke exemplifies hard work, southern charm and a contagious personality which makes her a great representation of Waffle House."

As part of the partnership, Brooke will visit Waffle House restaurants along the tour and post stories from the road on social media.

Before turning pro, Brooke led the University of Alabama to the school's first national golf championship in 2012. She was named first team All-American and received the Honda Award as the nation's top collegiate golfer.

This calls for a celebration! Waffles for everyone, but especially for Pancake!

Rebecca Lee-Bentham

(Photo by Anil Hanasoge/Courtesy of Rebecca Lee-Bentham)

Rebecca Lee-Bentham is only 22 years old, but she's already been a member of the LPGA Tour for three years. And 2015 will make it four - although she'll have to start the season with conditional status.

But Rebecca knows what to do about that. She told Golf Babes that her plans for the 2015 LPGA season start with "get(ing) into as many LPGA events as I can with my conditional status," and playing well enough that she can "hopefully reshuffle my way to full status by summer time."

If you're not familiar with the "reshuffle" process on the LPGA (other tours do the same thing), the thumbnail version is this: At the beginning of the year all tour members are ranked on a priority list that determines who gets into each tournament. But several times during a season, that priority list is "reshuffled" to take into account results to date. A golfer who is lower down the list can jump up it during a reshuffle, improving her chances of getting into more tournaments.

Lee-Bentham is Canadian, and among her most-treasured achievements in golf to date are winning the Canadian Junior in 2009 and the Canadian Amateur in 2010. Recently the Golf Canada website published an article about Rebecca titled "Lee-Bentham aiming for consistent results in 2015," which includes a quote about Rebecca from Lydia Ko. Lydia said this:

“I think Rebecca is a great player. What really impresses me about Rebecca is that she is one of the first players to come out to the course in practice and she is also one of the last ones to leave. She is a really hard working player. ...

“Rebecca has a great personality and whenever I see her, she has a smile on her face. Having confidence and also having fun are one of the most important parts of the game; and that’s what I try to work on too.”

Lee-Bentham, from Toronto, turned pro in 2011. She gained LPGA status for the 2012 season by medalling at Q-School. Her rookie season was an education, but she improved in 2013 by climbing to 80th on the money list. That season included an 11th-place showing at the Evian Championship.

Last year, Rebecca's best finish was 12th at the Marathon Classic.

"I want to focus on staying in the present; each tournament, each round, each shot," she told GolfCanada.ca. “I want to be able to say that I gave it all I got. That’s all I can really do, and the results in 2015 will take care of itself.”

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Meet Michelle Piyapattra, One of Golf.com's 'Most Beautiful Women in Golf' for 2015

Golf.com's Most Beautiful Women in Golf 2015 feature recently debuted, and one of the tour professionals included is Michelle Piyapattra. Don't know her? Don't worry, you soon will.

Michelle found out she was under consideration for the feature in that most modern and social way: she was contacted by a Golf.com representative on Facebook. One of Piyapattra's friends was included in the 2014 feature, so Michelle "was ecstatic to get the opportunity," she told us.

"I thought it would be good exposure and also a good experience since I have never done a photo shoot before," she said. Her very first photo shoot? You can bet it won't be her last.

You can see Michelle's photo shoot on Golf.com, and some of the photos are included in the following behind-the-scenes video about the shoot (the photos at the top and bottom of this post are screenshots from the video):



 

What are the highlights of Piyapattra's golf career to date? Although she's been a professional for only a few months, she already has a victory in a pro tournament. Playing as an amateur last May, Michelle won the Canadian Tour's 2014 season-opener in a playoff.

"One of my biggest wins other than the Canadian Tour is winning the Ivy League Championship my freshman year in college," Piyapattra said. "I won by 10 strokes and was only the second Columbia player to win the Ivy League Championship individually."

Michelle was named to the All-Ivy League team as a freshman, and again as a sophomore and as a senior. For her sophomore season, she won the conference's Player of the Year award. And following her final season, Piyapattra won Columbia's Connie S. Maniatty Award as the school's top senior athlete. She won six times total during her years on the Columbia golf team.

All that while carrying a double major in political science and anthropology. So you won't be surprised to learn she was valedictorian of her California high school.

What's next for Michelle Piyapattra? The coming year will be her first full season as a pro golfer. She fell one stroke shy of making it to last month's LPGA Q-School final, but advancing into the second stage did earn her status on the Symetra Tour for 2015. She'll be playing some Cactus Tour dates, too, as well as the Suncoast and Grasshopper tours.

"I will also be doing the Canadian Tour again as well as some LPGA Monday qualifiers," Michelle told us. "My main focus will be Symetra Tour and trying to earn my tour card."

Nikki Garrett Wins ALPG's 2015 Opener

The Australian Ladies Professional Golf (ALPG) Tour just completed its first tournament of 2015, and the winner is Nikki Garrett. Garrett closed with a 5-under 68 to win the BWAC Regional and Community Services ALPG Pro-am. Garrett won by three shots over runner-up Rebecca Codd.

It caps off quite a trifecta for Garrett: She recently got engaged, had a birthday one day before the tournament's final round, and then won the tournament!

This is a significant step for Garrett, who hadn't won anywhere since 2007. That year, she claimed wins in back-to-back weeks on the Ladies European Tour, and appeared poised to become a star in the golf world. Alas, problems with her driver were soon holding her back. But Garrett told reporters at the tournament today that her driving is much improved. The ALPG website story includes this:

Nikki’s struggles off the tee with her driver have been well documented in recent years and she credited her move to Brisbane earlier this year with now fiancĂ© Frank Barrett to her improved form.

“Lots of things have fallen into place since I moved to Brisbane last year.” She credited physiotherapist Sean Fyfe for the work they have done together on her strength and stability.

’Sean picked up that I was weak in some areas, especially through the hips. The hips have always been an issue in my swing and once I started seeing results and feeling stronger I started to feel more comfortable with the driver. I played much better this year in Europe than I have done in previous years, from the middle of the year I felt that I wasn’t far away from another good week.

Congrats, Nikki, great to see you back in the winner's circle.

Bailey Mosier Begins Latest Role at Golf Channel: Co-Host of Morning Drive

We first met Bailey Mosier back in January of 2011, just after she was hired by the Golf Channel as a content producer for golfchannel.com.

And Bailey's still at GC - but in a much more visible role now. On Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015, Mosier begins her new role as a host on one of the network's flagship shows, Morning Drive.

How did she go from editing website copy and writing headlines when she started four years ago to being one of the prominent faces of the network? By working - hard - and taking advantage of opportunities. Talent wins out.

Bailey (Twitter: BirdieBaileyGC) spent a couple years in her content role for golfchannel.com. Her first on-camera assignments were web videos reported from the 2012 PGA Show, but her first studio hosting for web segments didn't happen until May 2013. At that point Mosier would fill in on web segments for Win McMurry when Win was unavailable.

Beginning in 2014, Bailey took over the web-hosting duties that had been performed by McMurry following McMurry's departure from Golf Channel - while continuing to write, report and edit web copy, too. Her writing/editing duties included developing the Grill Room blog.

Grill Room soon become the name of a social media-based show, and Bailey became the host of that. She also worked last year as the host of Big Breakdown, the web-exclusive, behind-the-scenes show about the show Big Break Myrtle Beach.

Finally, in August of 2014, Bailey made her first live appearance on the Golf Channel television network. Through the rest of 2014, she did live spots, including covering the Symetra Tour Championship and the Big Break Invitational.

By November of last year, Mosier was ready to audition for the high-profile role as a co-host on Morning Drive. And on Jan. 6, Bailey's steady but not-so-slow rise up the ranks culminates when she takes her seat in front of the Morning Drive cameras.

Meantime, Bailey still produces web content and has other web-hosting duties. She's a dynamo.

(Above Photos: Instagram/baileymosier)

She's really the perfect person for a Golf Channel career, coming from both a golf and journalism background. She played four years of Division I golf at Old Dominion, and holds a Masters Degree in journalism from Arizona State's Walter Cronkite School.

How's her golf game these days? She "can still break 80 every once in awhile, which is good enough for me," she told us. She plays mostly during the Florida winters.

"I still love playing and it's something I do over the holidays with family and in Florida when my dad comes to visit," Bailey said.

Check out Bailey's work weekdays on Morning Drive, beginning at 7 a.m. (ET) on Golf Channel. She's starting out appearing on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but will be expanding her duties as the year goes on.

(Photo courtesy of Golf Channel)

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Injury Not Dimming Ashlan Ramsey's Optimism About Rookie Season

(Photo by Jerome Go)

Ashlan Ramsey has a very bright future in professional golf, but the past couple months have been a bit trying.

The 19-year-old turned pro in June, coming off a more than 1-year-long stretch during which she was the top-ranked amateur female golfer in the world according to Golfweek's ratings. Unfortunately, during a November tune-up tournament, prepping for LPGA Q-School, Ramsey "noticed back pain and pain going down my leg that wouldn't go away," she told us.

That prevented her from playing her best at Q-School, but not from looking forward to the year that's coming.

Ashlan is currently doing physical therapy to deal with the pain, for which doctors have so far been unable to pinpoint a cause.

"It's been very frustrating trying to get rid of the pain and be able to do my normal activities again," she said.

Still, Ashlan is optimistic about 2015, which will be her first full season as a pro. In the early part of the year, she plans on playing in LPGA Monday qualifiers, and then the Symetra Tour once that tour gets its season started.

Much still depends on her back, and also on finances. She's been working two jobs to save money for entry fees and travel expenses. (You can help her out by visiting her page on GoFundMe.com.)

"I'm optimistic that I will get back to playing and working out again soon and I can't wait!" she told us.

Ashlan turned pro coming off a short but very productive stay on the Clemson University golf team (where her older sister Taylor will be a junior on the golf team this year). As a freshman, Ashlan led the team in stroke average, was twice a winner and twice runner-up, and posted six Top 10 finishes.

That record helped her earn a spot on the American Curtis Cup team, which won the 2014 match over Great Britain & Ireland by a 13-7 score. It's an experience she counts as her greatest in golf so far in her young life.

"I told my dad the summer before my senior year of high school that I wanted to make that team and he told me it would take a lot of hard work and even still I couldn't count on making it because it was all based off the committee's selection," she said. "To have all my hard work pay off for me was one of the most exhilarating moments of my golf career. And to have my family in St. Louis watching us play is something I will cherish my entire life."

Before heading to Clemson, Ramsey was a two-time AJGA All-American and the Georgia State Golf Association's Women's and Girls' Player of the Year.

You can keep up with Ashlan on social media by following her Twitter, Instagram and/or Facebook pages.

(Photo by Jerome Go)

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Melanie Collins Back for 'Big Break Palm Beaches'

We're quite certain that Melanie Collins won herself a legion of fans when she cohosted Big Break Florida early in 2014. So we're quite certain that there'll be many happy Golf Channel viewers hearing the news that Collins is returning as cohost of the next Big Break, which begins airing in February 2015.

Collins cohosts Big Break The Palm Beaches FL with Tom Abbott. The series is the 23rd season of The Big Break. (Alas, Melanie will be the only woman on the new Big Break - it's an all-male cast of golfers.)

Melanie's career in sports broadcasting continues to trend up, up, up. As part of the Yahoo Sports team in 2014, she even worked the world's biggest sporting event, the World Cup.

She can be seen regularly on Yahoo Sports, and, during the college football season just past, as a sideline reporter on the CBS Sports Network.

Collins has been spotted in other high-profile gigs, too, such as filling in for Michelle Beadle on ESPN's SportsNation.

On her website, from which the screenshot above is taken, her "About Me" page includes this rundown:

"Melanie Collins is a Sports and Entertainment host, anchor and reporter. She is currently the face of Yahoo! Sports, co-host of Big Break on Golf Channel and contributor to The Insider on CBS. Collins will report from the Olympics, World Cup, Super Bowl and World Series in the coming year, among other marquee sporting events. Prior to joining Yahoo! Sports, she covered the NBA for NBA-TV and Turner Sports, College Football and Basketball for the Big Ten Network and Total College Sports, as well as Major League Baseball for MLB.com. She's hosted segments on PGA.com, PGATour.com and Nascar.com."

It's a pretty easy call to say that Melanie is well on her way to being a star.

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