BELLEAIR, Florida – It’s a home game of sorts for Elizabeth Szokol, who moved to Tampa from Chicago a little over a year ago. Her instructor, Justin Sheehan, is director of golf here at Pelican Golf Club. They met in 2017 at the KPMG Women’s PGA at Olympia Fields when Szokol was out following fellow Virginia grad Brittany Altomare.
Sheehan, who in addition to Altomare also works with Nelly Korda, was immediately drawn to 26-year-old Szokol’s sunny attitude. The pair started working together two years ago, and Szokol, who was a rookie in 2019, finds herself in position to have a career week at the inaugural Pelican Championship and earn valuable points in the Race to the CME Globe standings.
“It’s nice to be at home,” said Szokol, “and that’s helpful and relaxing.”
Szokol, whose career-best finish is a share of sixth at last year’s Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open, currently sits in eighth place. Sei Young Kim extended her lead to five at the Pelican Women’s Championship but the rest of the top 10 is bunched together. Because Szokol isn’t in the U.S. Women’s Open, she has one more event in Dallas to make a push for the season finale in Naples, Florida.
It was only a couple months ago that Szokol left a lesson with Sheehan with a mile-long list of things to work on. Sheehan said the list totaled 11 areas of concern; Szokol said it was more like 17. Whatever the case, she took it seriously.
“Her setup had gotten the face pretty open,” said Sheehan, “so she was hitting a lot of weak shots.”
After this year’s KPMG, Szokol switched putters to the Ping Heppler and the move paid off quickly.
Szokol’s mom is in the gallery this week (players are allowed two guests), and she’s enjoying sleeping in her own bed as the commute home takes about 40 minutes. She was an alternate for this event until last Friday, when a number of players withdrew because of injury or a positive COVID-19 result in tournament pre-testing.
Szokol, by the way, has since trimmed down her list of swing thoughts to two, and it’s all coming together at the right time.
“I like how she doesn’t think too much,” said Sheehan of his fast-paced pupil, “just gets up and hits it. Always positive, always smiling.”
A strong finish this week will boost Szokol into the top 70 on the Race to the CME Globe points list. She’s currently 79th with 222 points. The field at the CME Group Tour Championship was increased this season from 60 to 70 to provide more playing opportunities in a shortened season. (There will also be two sponsor exemptions.)
Yui Kawamoto currently holds the 70th spot with 288 points. Notable names outside the top 70 include Jessica Korda (71), Angel Yin (74), Charley Hull (76), Annie Park (77) and Eun-Hee Ji (80).
Here is the points breakdown for official LPGA events with a cut: