On Course For Greatness

At 21, Brittany Lincicome is already one of the best female golfers in the world. In February she hit the million-dollar mark.

She’s become one of the Ladies Professional Golf Association’s marketing icons. Personally, she has a string of corporate relationships ranging from Titleist, Adams Golf and Etonic athletic shoes to Kate Lord apparel, Trion Z ionic bracelets and Choice Hotels. Time magazine recently referred to her as a “blond, blue-eyed beauty.”

Thanks to pro-am events, she’s met her share of celebs and considers New York Yankee notables Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon among her closer acquaintances. The former even sent her a good-luck phone message before her stunning victory last year at the Women’s World Match Play Championship.

Her rapidly ratcheting career has already taken her to Australia, Hawaii, Asia, Europe and Las Vegas — and light years beyond the wildest expectations of anyone who has ever played golf at Seminole High School. Even a gifted girl on the boys’ team.

Lincicome was home-schooled starting in the sixth grade, but wanted the scholastic competition afforded by Seminole HS, which didn’t have a girls’ team. By then, her talent was more than manifest; she had already become a phenom on the Florida junior circuit.

“We knew early she had natural ability,” recalls her father, Tom Lincicome, 52. As a result, the 9-year-old was allowed to tag along with her dad and her two older brothers (Bryan and Hunter) to a local par-3 course. Brittany had her first hole-in-one by 10. Before she was a teen, she was better than her brothers. Before long, she was the best Lincicome. Period.

“We took it well,” deadpans Tom.

The Seminole High experience, however, did require some early adjustments — from her teammates.

“Yeah, I got the ‘Who’s the girl?’ reaction at first,” says Lincicome. “And sometimes from players at other schools. But all that really mattered was that my teammates accepted me.”

That they did. They were fully accepting of the best player on the team. The transformation was made even easier by Lincicome’s outgoing personality.

That hasn’t changed – even as her game has grown.

To those who know her best, there is nothing more impressive about Lincicome than this: She is “still Brit.” As in: still bubbly, still pony-tailed, still mannerly, still funny, still very much the unspoiled kid next door. Even with the celebrity elbow-rubbing and globe-trotting. Even with the increasing TV face time.

She still lives with her parents, Tom and Angie Lincicome, who run a Pinellas Park day-care facility, “A Child’s Choice.”

She likes eating Ya-Ya’s chicken, shopping at The Dollar Store, fishing off of a dock, watching baseball, hanging out with her boyfriend and playing “Texas Hold ‘Em” with her brothers.

“I loooove coming home,” says Lincicome through a luminous smile. “No tournament stress – just hanging out, sleeping in, going to my favorite restaurant (Arigato’s Japanese Steak House).”

She doesn’t travel with an entourage, but she does bring her childhood “Soft Blankie” with her, whether the venue is Singapore or South Florida. And until earlier this year, her dad was still her caddy. The demands of the global competition and the rigors of hoofing a bag of clubs around 6,000 yards under often broiling heat ultimately took its toll. Besides, Lincicome really needed to bring on a seasoned professional (former Juli Inkster caddy Greg Johnston) to help her better gauge distances and read greens.

“She’s just always been an All-American kid,” says Jan Zimmerman, the pro shop manager at Largo’s Bardmoor Golf and Tennis Club, where Lincicome can still be found working on her game between tournaments – as well as chatting up buddies. “She’s polite to everybody and has a fun personality. She’s genuine. She’s still Brit.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t kid you,” giggles Lincicome. “This life has its glamorous moments. And when you’re successful, it’s a great feeling. And since I didn’t come from money, now that I have some I like using it to help my family.” Indeed, she bought a house for one of her brothers and helped her parents buy their Seminole home.

“And I really do like the pro-ams,” she acknowledges, “especially Derek Jeter’s and (Boston Red Sox pitcher) Tim Wakefield’s. But what really matters is being able to put a smile on someone’s face – and help out a cause like autism or breast cancer.”

To golf purists, the 5’10” Lincicome is all upside. A powerful, elite athlete who averages 285 yards off the tee and will only get better.

They’ve seen it coming for a while.

Lincicome won the American Junior Golf Association championship at age 15. Then she got everyone’s attention when she was the first-round leader of the 2004 U.S. Women’s Open as an 18-year-old amateur. Last year she officially served notice when she won the World Match Play Championship – and $500,000. This spring she recorded her first stroke-play victory on the LPGA Tour, pocketing $390,000 at the Ginn Open, and tied for second ($141,000) at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

No one has a better handle on Lincicome’s game than Matt Mitchell, director of instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Learning Center in Tampa. He’s worked with her for six years. They talk every day during tournaments and they practice in between.

“She starts with a huge advantage,” Mitchell points out. “Her sheer athleticism. And she hits it a mile. She’s also highly competitive, absolutely hates to lose and has this uncanny capacity to get focused when the time comes to get the job done.

“She’s also so grounded,” he stresses. “Very confident without being full of herself. A sweet kid.”

So sweet, noted Mitchell, that the ESPN commentators at the Kraft Nabisco at Rancho Mirage, Calif, repeatedly referred to Lincicome as “the happy golfer.”

To the LPGA, which has long struggled with female-image issues and a surfeit of personality-challenged South Koreans, young, attractive, engaging American players such as the winsome Lincicome are marketing manna. The tagline “These Girls Rock” now accompanies television promos featuring Lincicome and other comely LPGA players.

All of which suits Lincicome, who’s hardly enamored of the baggy, genderless look that had been more the norm until the last few years.

“I think the Tour is doing a great job,” assesses Lincicome. “Sure, sex sells and everyone knows that. But I don’t think in any way that they’ve crossed any lines. We’re not a bunch of (Anna) Kornikovas.”

“I am in awe of her,” says Terry Decker, the head golf pro at St. Petersburg Country Club. He’s known Lincicome for about four years and has played a number of rounds with her.

“She is absolutely what the LPGA is looking for. She’s as social as she is tenacious. Just a great, great young person. The smart money is on Brittany.”

And to the Lincicomes, Brittany’s success has definitely been a family affair. From home-schooling to car-pooling to caddying. The original plan was to hone her game to earn a college scholarship. Likely the University of Florida, probably to study veterinary medicine.

But her talent level soon warranted a change of course. In effect, she was already too good. The big time beckoned sooner than expected.

And now she has fame and money – and the prospect of a lot more of both. Half way through the calendar year, she was third on the LGA Money Leaders list with nearly $700,000.

What the future is unlikely to produce, however, is an identity change.

“She is what you see,” says Tom Lincicome. “It’s still special to hear people say what a great kid she is.”

That she is, in fact, “still Brit.”

True Brit

* “I’m not the calendar type but dressing feminine is important. Golf is number one, but we are women. We wear skirts and look cute. And it’s not our fault if that attracts a lot of attention from men. But we’re not wearing bikinis.”

*“The girls on the Tour are nice and
sweet. Not stuck up or snooty.”

*“The first time I met Michelle Wie she was as sweet as can be. There was a rain delay and we talked. School stuff. Kid stuff. But she definitely has a game face; I saw it when we matched up last year (in the World Match Play Championship). We would like her to join our tour. But, personally, playing with men is not for me. If Annika (Sorenstam) isn’t doing it, I’m not.”

* “Yes, my dad and I used to argue sometimes when he was my caddy. It’s tough to block all that out and just go to dinner.”

* “I like that little room with the microphone and they ask you questions. It means you did well. I used to watch Tiger Woods do that all the time.”

* “If it’s fishing, I want to catch more fish. If it’s poker, I want the winning hand. Maybe it goes back to having older brothers. They never just let me win because I was a girl.”

* “Mom calls me about 50 times a day. I always call ahead if I’m going to be late. But, no, my parents can’t ground me. I pay rent.”

* “Sometimes I think I’ll retire by 35. Buy a home on the water with a dock. The travel is hard.”

One thought on “On Course For Greatness”

  1. There is nothing good about what the Florida legislature has done to education. Smaller class size is critical to education. i am a retired teacher who taught in Polk County for one year. The 1978-79 school year was sheer misery for me. I had between 25 and 39 students in my classes which included Civics and Geography. I couldn’t walk between the rows but I slid sideways. Try bending down to help a student with that situation!. After one year I returned to ohio where I had no more than 25 per class. Each was much easier to teach and to maintain discipline. My wife currently teaches in Polk County at the elementary level. She has 18 students. That is workable but anything more than 20 is outrageous. It would be far better with ten per teacher. Don’t critsize what you obviously no little about.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.