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Like most professional golfers, Morgan Pressel knew she had to get back to her roots.
Her phenomenal early success came when she was working with Martin Hall, The Club at Ibis’ acclaimed teacher, from ages 9 to 18.
In 2001, Pressel became the youngest (12) to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open. The Boca Raton resident almost won the 2005 U.S. Women’s Open if not for a miracle, final-bunker blast by Birdie Kim. Pressel became the youngest-ever winner (18) of a modern LPGA major championship when she won the 2007 Kraft Nabisco Championship (now the ANA Inspiration), improving to No. 4 in the world rankings.
How do you top such a brilliant start? The reality most times is you don’t. It probably didn’t help that Pressel left Hall in 2008 for another teacher.
She remained inside the top 25 on the LPGA Tour’s money list for four more years until injuries, a search for more length and an erosion of confidence led Pressel to make another major change.
As fate would have it, Pressel was leaving the range at the 2018 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship near Chicago when Hall was walking on it. Their eyes locked.
“I gave her a big hug and said, ‘I wish you were playing better,’ ” Hall said. “Then I said, ‘You know you can always call me.’ I wasn’t expecting to hear anything.”
Six weeks later, Pressel called Hall. She had just missed the cut at the Women’s British Open at St. Andrews, and she wanted to get the band back together again after a decade apart.
“He’s a great friend and an incredible coach,” Pressel said. “It’s been a lot of fun working together. We laugh a lot. I always feel like he’s right there in my corner through all the ups and downs. I feel like we’re headed in the right direction.”
Their work is not finished. At 32 – she has been a pro golfer for almost half her life – Pressel is coming off a career-low 93rd on the money list during the COVID-abbreviated 2020 season as she prepares to open her 16th season Thursday in the Gainbridge LPGA at Lake Nona.
“Golf is hard,” Pressel said. “Very few players remain on top for a long stretch of time. I’m looking forward to this season.”
Last year, it was a short commute for Pressel when the Gainbridge event was played at Boca Rio. It was the first time an LPGA event had been held in South Florida since the ADT Championship at Trump International in 2008.
“It was so nice to sleep in your own bed,” Pressel said. “From what we’ve been told, the tournament will return to Boca Rio next year. They just wanted to take a break with COVID-19.”
Like most golf fans, Pressel watched Jordan Spieth contend the last three weeks as he tried to end a four-year winless streak. If any golfer can relate to Spieth’s early success – he won three majors by 23 – and then struggles, it’s Pressel.
It’s been 13 years since she won her last LPGA title, the 2008 Kapalua LPGA Classic (she won in Japan in 2010). That’s a long time for any athlete. But she showed signs of a comeback when she finished fourth in the 2019 Women’s British Open.
“Golf is not linear, it ebbs and flows,” Pressel said. “It’s been great to watch Jordan get back into contention. I think the whole golf world is rooting for him to win again.”
No doubt the same vibes are aimed at Pressel on the LPGA Tour. Her early success made her a popular figure, and the way she has handled her bobbles while qualifying for six Solheim Cup teams (career record of 11-8-3) has endeared her to many fans.
Especially her instructor. Hall points out people overlook Pressel’s singles victory over Annika Sorenstam in the 2007 Solheim matches in Sweden – Sweden!
“When you have the kind of success Morgan had, you are thrust into a world that is very difficult, where people judge you unfairly,” Hall said. “They (golfers) are doing their best.
“Rather than wonder what the hell happened to a player, I think we should more admire, ‘Wow, what she did was fantastic.’ “
Pressel is not done. While filming one of Golf Channel’s “Lessons with the Pros” last week at The Club at Ibis, Pressel was striping drive after drive, much to Hall’s delight.
“We haven’t seen the last of Morgan,” Hall said.