Blackwelder invited to play in first major of the year

Since she was a baby, Mallory Blackwelder has been immersed in the world of professional golf, sitting on the green as her mother, Myra, played on the LPGA Tour, and watching her father, Worth, caddie for numerous pros.

As she grew and became interested in playing golf herself, Mallory Blackwelder’s dream soon became playing in the majors.

Now, her dream is about to come true.

On April 3 at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif., Mallory Blackwelder will play in the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the first major tournament of the year on the tour. The tournament is a four-day event.

Mallory Blackwelder, a junior on the women’s golf team, was one of seven amateurs that received sponsor invitations to play in the tournament. The field of more than 100 professionals includes 2007 Rolex Player of the Year Lorena Ochoa, multi-major winner Annika Sorenstam and last year’s Kraft Nabisco Championship winner Morgan Pressel.

“It is the most exciting news that I have ever gotten,” Mallory Blackwelder said. “It’s a huge opportunity to get an invitation to play. That’s what I want my future to be, to go out and play on the tour, so to get a glimpse of that right now as an amateur, there ­­will be pressure, but not as much pressure. I’m really excited.”

Mallory Blackwelder said she is looking forward to seeing how she compares to the world’s best golfers.

“They’re all out there right now and they’re successful, and that’s what I want to do,” she said. “I want to see what I need to do next year, and after that, try to get out there and be successful in golf.”

At the tournament, Mallory Blackwelder said she wants to play a practice round with seven-time major winner Juli Inkster. Mallory Blackwelder’s father caddies for Inkster, and she is hoping he can pair up the two for a round of 18 holes.

“I like to pick up on things that some of the best players in the world do and try to learn all aspects of it,” Mallory Blackwelder said. “Their short games are more refined than mine, and they are able to practice all day and every day. I’m going to classes and it’s snowing outside right now, so I want to do well, but I’m not going to put too many expectations on myself or too much pressure on myself.”

Besides playing a practice round or two with some of the professionals, Myra Blackwelder and Mallory Blackwelder plan to head to the tournament a week early to get comfortable with the course. The tournament designated March 31 as a day for practice rounds for all the players.

Myra Blackwelder, UK women’s golf head coach, said she hopes her daughter will take a lot from the tournament, including the sense of belonging and being comfortable playing to the best of her abilities at the professional level.

When Myra Blackwelder heard the official word that her daughter was selected to play in the tournament, she said she was practically speechless. Myra Blackwelder has played in the tournament before, and with her daughter’s selection, the two will become the first mother-daughter pair to have played in the tournament.

Myra Blackwelder said her daughter’s mindset will be a strength in the tournament.

“She’s got great concentration and focus,” Myra Blackwelder said. “That’s always been her strong suit. She has always been really consistent in driving and hitting the ball.”

Mallory Blackwelder still has more than two months to prepare for the tournament. Until then, she will have the chance to hone her game, starting with UK’s opening to the spring season Feb. 17 in the Papa John’s Collegiate in Miami.

In the end, Mallory Blackwelder said she hopes to be among the world’s best golfers who make the cut to play the final two rounds at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

“My goal is to make the cut,” Mallory Blackwelder said. “If I make the cut, I think that will be a huge accomplishment. I’m just happy to get to play. If I believe that I can go out there and do well, then I will.”