All golf, no tennis, for this Lendl
Junior standout, 15, playing well on eve of U.S. Women's Am
Isabelle Lendl turned 15 last Saturday, but it's been a while since she's been a kid.
Life is going too fast. The middle one of Ivan Lendl's five daughters will be among the 156 players attempting to qualify Monday and Tuesday at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club for 64 match-play berths in the U.S. Women's Amateur. It will be just another stop on her whirlwind tour of life as one of the country's top juniors.
Lendl comes to Portland today straight from Chicago and participation in the Canon Cup, featuring the top 20 boys and girls from the western U.S. against their top 20 counterparts in the East.
Nearly every week in the spring and summer, there is a tournament somewhere. Over the past year, Lendl estimates she has played at least 30 golf events. And the native of Goshen, Conn., has spent 10 months of each of the past two years at the David Leadbetter Golf Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
'The rest of the year is traveling,' she says. 'I've been home eight days since last August. I love to travel, but I do miss home.'
Home now is pretty much Bradenton, since her family bought a house and spends much time there. Ivan - the Hall of Fame tennis great - is a scratch golfer and a regular on the men's celebrity circuit. Three of Isabelle's four sisters - including 16-year-old Marika - play competitive golf.
Isabelle is ranked second in the American Junior Golf Association (Marika Lendl is ninth) and fifth in the Golfweek national junior rankings (Marika is 15th). Isabelle has won four tournaments in the past year, including back-to-back events in May, and was a second-team Rolex Junior All-American last year in competition with girls as much as four years older.
A few classes, lots of training
Isabelle has athletic genes, but she puts in the work. A typical day during the school year at the Leadbetter Academy goes like this: Up at 6:15 a.m. Gym workout from 6:45 a.m. to 8 a.m. Shower, breakfast, then school from 9 a.m. to noon. Quick lunch, then work on her game at the practice facility from 12:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. or 7 p.m.
If that seems short on class time and long on practice sessions, it is.
'Two classes a day, plus I take another class online,' she says. 'But it's a good education. I like it much better than regular school.'
But isn't six to seven hours of practice daily a bit much?
'Not really,' she says. 'It's not just hitting balls. We work on our short game, putting, pitching, chipping, bunker shots, everything. We have a trainer, a sports psychologist … it's amazing how much knowledge you can gain.'
As a young girl, Isabelle also played her father's sport.
'At first, golf wasn't competitive and tennis was,' she says. 'But I'm not good at tennis. I'm slow and clumsy. I switched over to golf for good when I was about 8 because I liked it more.'
Marika and Isabelle have met only once in match play, with Isabelle winning 1-up at the Polo Golf Junior Classic in Sea Island, Ga., in November.
'If I could, I'd choose to go against someone else, but it was fun to beat her,' Isabelle says.
Third try works for Oregon trip
Ivan Lendl used to caddy often for Isabelle. Not anymore.
'Our personalities collide on the golf course,' she says. 'It's tough when he gets frustrated and I get frustrated. We figured it's better to let someone else do it.'
Having a famous father is no big deal, Isabelle says.
'I didn't see any of his tennis career,' she says. 'To me, he's just my dad - overprotective, bossy and funny. He just loves me because I'm his daughter.'
Lendl says she is looking forward to the U.S. Women's Am, which she regards as one of her most important tournaments of the year, in her first visit to Oregon. As a 13-year-old in 2004, she lost in the first round. Last year, she failed to qualify. 'Just had a bad round at a bad time,' she says.
This year could be different.
'I'm playing well,' she says. 'I hope I can do well. But I hear Pumpkin Ridge is tough. A lot of local knowledge goes a long way, I'm told.'
Does Isabelle ever tire of golf? Does it ever get to be a grind?
'Never,' she says. 'I love it.'