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Bridgestone Invitational Golf Tournament

Wives club important to golfers’ success

By jim Published: August 6, 2011

They were college kids sitting at a bar in Orlando, Fla. She was finishing her degree in advertising, he had just graduated and relocated from blustery Champaign, Ill.

They made small talk. He said he was a professional golfer.

“And I laughed at him,” Lori Points said. “Everybody in Orlando is a pro golfer or an aspiring golfer. I just said, ‘Oh, OK. Whatever.’ He said, ‘No, I really am.’ ”

Lori giggles now recalling their story. Her husband, Darren Andrew Points, is better known on the PGA Tour as D.A. He enters the weekend at Firestone Country Club 4-under, tied for 13th and still very much in contention at the Bridgestone Invitational. She enters every weekend the same way — as the supportive wife, loving mother, expert travel agent and part-time psychologist of the family.

Lori, who has family in the Cleveland area, has been a full-time traveling wife on the PGA Tour for the past six years, ever since D.A. proposed to her in 2005. Never much of a golf fan, she had worked for the Golf Channel in sales and marketing, but kept their romance quiet while he was working his way into becoming the leading money winner on the Nationwide Tour.

They married later in the year and celebrated the birth of their first child, Laila, last year. When the baby was 8 weeks old, Lori and daughter were right back out on the road. The family is rarely apart.

“It’s definitely not a glamorous life,” Lori said. “We’re in a city for a full week, so that’s nice. But nobody sees the lugging of the suitcases, trying to make a flight and all the stuff that goes into it. You’re in hotels and eating out all the time. It’s different. The guys have their own routine every week and the wives kind of adapt, too.”

Lori isn’t complaining. She realizes she lives a blessed life that changed forever in February, when D.A. won the Pebble Beach Pro-Am with Bill Murray at his side. It was Points’ first victory on the PGA Tour and came at the perfect time — it was the weekend of Laila’s first birthday and came on the couple’s favorite course.

That victory qualified Points for this weekend. It also assured him of his tour card for another two years.

“That changed everything,” Lori said.

Blind luck

She was a senior completing her degree in communications at Mount Union. He was an established star on the PGA Tour, but a widower after his wife was killed in a car accident in 1998.

A mutual friend introduced Ashley Saleet, a Canton Mc-Kinley graduate, to Australian Stuart Appleby. They went on a blind date on the Sunday night after Bridgestone in 2000, the year Tiger Woods won with the Shot in the Dark.

They talked for hours. She thought he was cute and loved the Australian accent. They kept in touch with email in the weeks that followed, then Appleby invited her to Las Vegas for a golf tournament in October.

It coincided perfectly with Ashley’s fall break, so she boarded an airplane for the first time and flew across the country.

“This guy better be a good golfer,” Ashley thought. “And if he’s not, I’m going to have fun in Vegas.”

Now they’ll celebrate their ninth wedding anniversary in December. They have four children, all beaming blonds, and they own three homes — including one in Australia.

“Life is as simple as you want to make it,” Ashley said. “I had a simple life before we met and he had a simple upbringing. We try to keep it simple still.”

Kids day

Bridgestone is unique because it’s a no-cut field. A typical golf weekend consists of about 150 golfers, and Lori estimated about 30 wives. The numbers go up in the summer when the kids are out of school.

That’s what allowed Ashley to travel back home this weekend with all four kids — two boys and two girls.

Rory Sabbatini’s wife, Amy, was pushing a stroller up Firestone’s hills during Wednesday’s practice round. A few wives elect to walk the practice round, but many choose to stay at the hotel. Walking the four rounds during tournament weekend can be tough enough in the summer heat.

Children generally do not attend the tournaments. Instead, the PGA provides day care for all the kids at every stop. The tour employs about 14 workers who rotate to different events to watch the children. All of the wives rave about the care the children get in day care.

“I felt so safe leaving her in the beginning,” Lori said of Laila, “because they knew more than I did.”

There can be as many as 60 children in day care at the start of a tournament week, but rules stipulate they can’t be there for more than six hours a day. Sometimes day care is at the course, but usually it is off-site somewhere at a church or school that is heavily guarded by local police.

When Points was in contention at Pebble, Lori left the course when he was on No. 13 and dashed to day care to pick up Laila. She returned when he was on No. 17, just in time to celebrate. It was a fantastic first birthday present for both father and daughter.

“He adores Laila,” she said. “She has him wrapped around her finger. I usually don’t want to stay away [from traveling] for more than a week. She’s growing so much, he doesn’t want to miss it. It’ll be different when she goes to school. We won’t be able to travel. These are the years to do it.”

Common bonds

The wives are all part of the PGA Tour Wives Association, which is active in charities across the country. The women traveling a particular week participate in a charity event, usually on the Wednesday before the tournament.

They’ve walked to battle domestic violence, they’ve hosted children with chronic illnesses at the courses where their husbands play, they’ve golfed with their husbands as caddies for charity and they’ve stuffed backpacks full of food for children underprivileged and undernourished.

They are a close-knit group of women who stick together and lean on each other to make it through the tough times. Neither Lori nor Ashley would talk about the struggles Elin Woods faced after Tiger Woods’ messy sex scandal two years ago.

“You have so many friends out here in the same boat as you. You become good friends with them real quick because everyone is in the same situation,” Lori said. “It’s actually like a little family out here.”

They love running into one another on the course, which is why Ashley was quick to embrace Ernie Els’ wife, Liezl, when the two passed each other between the first and ninth fairways Friday.

The first thing Ashley did? Compliment Liezl on her hair.

Changing faces

Both Lori and Ashley have seen changes in their husbands since the children were born. Before kids, both could stew or brood over bad rounds for much longer.

Lori says when D.A. would have a bad round, no one would speak for hours. Now he’s quicker to dismiss bad rounds and return to family life. When he’s on the course, it’s common for him to find Lori and ask what she wants to do for dinner that night, or ask how Laila did when she was dropped off at day care.

He loves to talk. If his playing partner isn’t in the mood to chat, Lori notices he finds her more often so he has someone to talk to.

Appleby, meanwhile, suffered through a back injury early in the season and continues to struggle with all parts of his game. He’s missed the cut in his past six tournaments and has stuck around for the weekend only once since the end of March.

But the joys of fatherhood have taken some of the stress off his golf game. Much of Ashley’s family still lives in Canton and attended Friday’s second round.

While the galleries roared for Phil Mickelson’s stunning eagle on No. 11, Appleby and fellow countryman Richard Green walked the fairway on No. 8 in relative anonymity.

Appleby finished his round 6-over for the day and 9-over for the tournament. He enters the weekend 75th in a field of 76, ahead of only Darren Clarke by 2 strokes.

“He has a new perspective and a new life,” Ashley said. “When you’re not playing well, you can get so wrapped up in it to the point that it’s unhealthy. There’s only so much you can say as a wife, but the kids make everything funny. They love you no matter what.”

The Applebys and Saleets were expected to gather for a big family dinner Friday night. They’ll play out the weekend and move on to the PGA Championship next week in Atlanta.

Lori and Laila will be there with D.A. Amy Sabbatini will probably be there pushing the baby carriage again.

Another week, another stop in another strange city. The husbands on the greens, the wives behind the ropes, holding it all together.

Jason Lloyd can be reached at jlloyd@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ.

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