She Has The Name … And The Game
Lendl Took Up Golf Only After Incentive From Famous Father
Conn. – Ivan Lendl has one simple rule for his children: they must participate
in some sort of physical activity. “I don’t want them sitting around
watching TV,” said the eight-time Grand Slam tennis winner.
when his eldest daughter – Lendl has five girls – gave up tennis three
years ago due
nagging shoulder injuries, he suggested golf. There was one minor problem,
though. Marika Lendl wasn’t interested. “I told her I don’t care if
you pick a sport and want to
it professionally or just for fun, but you have to do something,” Ivan
said. “She really wanted a dog and I kept telling her no.”
when Ivan came up with an incentive plan. If she took some golf lessons
and practiced hard for a sustained period of time, he would get Marika
her coveted pet.
it bribery or just dangling a carrot, the directive worked.
Lendl not only started playing the game, but enjoying it as well. “I
really got into
once we got the dog (a German Shepherd),” Marika said. “I definitely
have a passion for it now.”
summer, Marika’s game has taken off. Not only did the Goshen, Conn.
resident place fourth in her age group at the Pepsi Little Peoples event
in Illinois, but she also qualified for the U.S. Girls’ Junior at Brooklawn
Country Club. Lendl is one of 10 13-year-olds in the 156-player field
this week and her 5-over-par 76 in the first round of stroke-play qualifying
has her in solid position to advance to the match-play portion of
tuned up for the Girls’ Junior last week in San Diego at the Junior
where she finished 24th in the 13-14 division.
was really nervous,” said Fran Hoxie, her swing coach and caddie for
was trying to get her to smile out there.”
if Marika needs any advice about the pressures of big-time competition,
she doesn’t need to go very far. Her father captured three U.S. Opens,
three French Opens and three Australian Opens during his illustrious
career. “He just told me to play my game,” Marika said.
has now taken his competitive spirit to the golf course where he regularly
competes in Celebrity Players Tour events across the country – he tied
for 13th this past weekend in Lake Tahoe, Nev. During his competitive
tennis days, it was not uncommon to find Ivan at the golf course after
one of his matches or on an off-day.
was a sport he began later in life after moving to the U.S. permanently
in 1980 (he is now a U.S. citizen). Growing up in Czechoslovakia, which
was a communist country
1989, golf had reputation for being elitist and snobby. Tennis also
had that label,
that sport had more history with Hall of Famer Jaroslav Drobny winning
1954 and Jan Kodes doing the same in 1973. Lendl said many of the country’s
great hockey players took up tennis in the summer to improve their conditioning
however, golf has started to grab the country’s attention. Jana Peterkova
the 2003 NCAA Division II title at Florida Southern. She has since turned
pro and now competes on the Futures Tour. Lendl actually played tennis
against her mother.
until a few years ago, we only had four courses in the entire country,”
we have seven or eight. It just takes time like anything else. It’s
going to be very popular. I know (former tennis star) Petr Korda ’s
daughter has picked up the game and is shooting in the low 40s (for
now, though, Ivan Lendl might be the Czech Republic ’s best male golfer.
Besides playing CPT events, he annually tries to qualify for the U.S.
Open. But it was his
that became the first family member to play in a USGA competition by
for the Girls’ Junior.
like the most is that she is enjoying it,” Ivan said of Marika’s newfound
love for golf. “I have great memories of being a kid and traveling around
Europe playing in tennis tournaments at the age of 10, 12, 14 and 18.
I hope it is the same for my girls. Playing here this week is a great
opportunity for her.”
at first glance that Marika Lendl has athletic gifts. Despite a lack
of length – she hit fairway woods into several par-4s – her swing is
have her on a program to strengthen her up,” said Hoxie, who is the
head pro at Washington (Conn.) Golf Club, where he teaches all of Ivan
Lendl ’s daughters. “But
her first national tournament, I think she did great.”
Marika’s goal was just to qualify for this championship, but now she
hopes to make match play. But if that doesn’t happen, the experience
this week will be priceless, from playing a championship-caliber course
to just watching and observing how the best junior girls approach the
just walking up to your ball and saying, ‘Oh it’s a 7-iron,’ ” Marika
said. “It’s how they manage their games. It’s very good to see that.”
knows, someday in the not-so-distant future, Marika will be joined by
her two younger sisters on the USGA stage. Isabelle, 11, was an alternate
for this year’s Girls’ Junior, and Daniela, 10, might have the most
natural talent, according to Hoxie . Isabelle and Marika have become
so proficient that Ivan won’t allow them to play a best-ball match against
him. And if Ivan ’s youngest daughter, Nikola (5), takes up the game,
he might not get into a match at all.
little one picks it up,” said Ivan, “I am going to get kicked out of
Shefter is a staff writer at the USGA. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.