NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. — Brittany Lincicome has every reason to be nervous as she chases golf history.
The eight-time LPGA Tour winner hopes to knock out the jitters over first few holes at the PGA Tour’s Barbasol Championship and play well enough from there to stick around through the weekend. If she were to make the cut, Lincicome would achieve something no woman has done against male competitors.
The list of players who’ve tried includes greats such as Babe Zaharias and Annika Sorenstam. Lincicome knows what she’s up against. If she earns a Saturday tee time, she knows what it will mean for women and girls — and for golf in general.
“I’m super excited,” said the long-hitting Lincicome, the first woman to compete on the PGA Tour since Michelle Wie in 2008. “I’ve always thought it’d be cool to play in a men’s event, but never did I think I would actually have the opportunity.
“Obviously, I’ve heard many times it would be cool to be the first woman to make the cut in a men’s event, but I’m just going to roll with it and see what happens.”
As the British Open begins Thursday in Carnoustie, Scotland, PGA Tour players who didn’t make the field for that major will aim to break through alongside Lincicome at the Barbasol. The event has moved after three years in Alabama to the 7,328-yard, par-72 Champion Trace course at Keene Trace Golf Club outside Lexington.
The 132-player field includes Hall of Famer and 1997 PGA Championship winner Davis Love III, 2014 FedEx Cup champion Billy Horschel and tour veterans Stuart Appleby and Hunter Mahan. The winner earns 300 FedEx points — a reduction from the usual 500 for PGA Tour wins because it’s opposite the British Open — and $630,000.
Lincicome — a two-time major champion on the LPGA Tour — said she was “speechless” when she was offered a sponsor’s exemption by Tom Murray, president and CEO of Perio, which makes Barbasol and Pure Silk shaving products. She took a couple of days to talk about the pros and cons with her family before deciding to accept.
The St. Petersburg, Florida, native determined the experience would be completely positive and added that male competitors have been “super supportive.” LPGA counterparts have cheered her on — a group includes Sorenstam, a Hall of Famer who competed against the men at Colonial in 2003 described it as one of her career highlights.
The 32-year-old Lincicome lost in a playoff on Sunday to Thidapa Suwannapura at Marathon Classic and didn’t get in touch with Sorenstam before coming to Kentucky. Sorenstam’s advice was to savor the moment.
“I’d just say enjoy the journey, trust yourself, have fun,” Sorenstam said on LPGA.com’s On The Tee podcast . “Not a lot of ladies will have this opportunity, so make the most out of it.
“Obviously, set some goals, what’s important for you, what you want to achieve and just go from there. Don’t worry about what other people think. … You’ve just got to focus on your own game.”
Lincicome is ranked 10th on the LPGA Tour in driving distance but still gives up some length against the men at Keene Trace. She expects to approach greens with longer irons than usual and hopes to take advantage of birdie opportunities on the par-5s.
To that end, Lincicome will observe playing partners Sam Ryder and Conrad Shindler for pointers that she hopes will pay off in LPGA play. Her goal is to continue learning throughout the weekend, a quest that has drawn a lot of attention.
Judging from the galleries that have watched her practice, Lincicome’s presence appears to be having an effect that matters as much to her as her place on the leaderboard.
“If I can inspire one child to pick up the game of golf and want to play,” Lincicome said, “I feel like my job as a pro has succeeded.”
Added Love: “No matter what she does this week, it inspires a younger generation, anyone, to play golf. So I think it’s great.”