The area golf pro took a break from teaching to compete in this year's tournament.
By PETE MOLLICA
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
VIENNA -- Lisa Becka doesn't expect to have her "A-game" this week when she competes in the Giant Eagle LPGA Classic at Squaw Creek Country Club.
The Columbiana native and golf professional at Copeland Hills Golf Course hasn't had much time to prepare for this tournament because of her teaching duties at Copeland.
Becka runs a huge junior clinic in Columbiana which some days ties her up for as much as 14 hours of teaching golf.
"Our junior program has grown so much in the last few years," Becka said. "We run an 11-week junior program that has 182 youngsters in it.
"We also had three group sessions a week with 16 juniors in a group."
Becka hired two additional LPGA teaching professionals for her staff, which has a student-teacher ratio of 4-to-1.
"Three days a week, I'm teaching golf for 14 hours a day," she said.
So why is Becka in this year's Giant Eagle Classic field?
"I applied for a sponsors' exemption some time ago and got it," she said.
"I know that my game is not ready for this competition, but I plan on going to LPGA Qualifying School in the fall and I felt that this will give me a good indication of where I have to be by then."
Two years ago, Becka fell down the stairs and broke her ankle, something that she feels might have been more good than bad.
"Ever since than I've been hitting the ball much straighter," she said. "I was going downstairs to do some laundry and fell. Since then I've gotten somebody else to do my laundry."
Third trip: This is Becka's third time playing in this tournament. She had to qualify the other two times. She failed to make the cut in the first two tournaments, both at Avalon Lakes.
"Am I ready to play in this tournament? The answer is no," she said. "I just hit some balls and did some putting and chipping drills last week for the first time.
"I really haven't had time to play or practice because of my teaching schedule right now."
Becka took part in the Trumbull Foundation Physically Challenged and Seniors Clinic Monday at the Squaw Creek driving range.
She also conducted the Eddie DeBartolo Junior Golf Clinic, something she has done for the last nine years.
"They asked me to help out in the Trumbull clinic this year for the first time and I couldn't say no. I really enjoyed it today," she said
She is scheduled to play in today's KeyBank Pro-Am at Youngstown Country Club and will play in the first round of the Cellular One Pro-Am on Wednesday.
"I was originally scheduled to play in the Pro-Am on Thursday, but I switched because Thursday morning is my junior clinic and 182 youngsters would have been disappointed if I wasn't there for them."
Familiar face: This week, Becka has also been able to get her long-time friend Lorna Miedema, a former touring professional, to caddie for her this week.
Becka has caddied twice for LPGA Tour regular Marianne Morris, another close friend from Middletown.
"Watch out for her this week, she's going to be a sleeper," Becka said. "She had been struggling with some new irons and we got her to go back to an old set and she's playing great right now."
Becka said her time off enabled her to fulfill another long-time dream.
"I got my pilot's license during that time," she said. "In fact we might just do a little fly-by here at the tournament this week," she said.