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Commentary: Golf had its good and bad in 2010

With the New Year approaching faster than Augusta National’s greens in the spring, let’s not forget what happened in golf during 2010 before springing forward.

Or more importantly, how Manatee County had a hand in some prominent developments over the last year.

Tiger Woods opened the year as the No. 1-ranked golfer in the world, despite the scandal that forced Woods into rehab and a self-imposed exile from golf.

Woods made his return at The Masters, with cameras clicking every shot his rust-laden game produced.

But there was a local connection at the first major of the year as former Bradenton Prep student Ben An received an invite.

And while the University of California freshman didn’t make the cut, the experience can only help down the road.

An earned the invite -- along with exemptions to the U.S. and British opens -- as part of winning the 2009 U.S. Amateur.

He advanced to the semifinals in defense of his crown, where former IMG Academies student Peter Uihlein triumphed.

Speaking of the Pendleton School at IMG Academies, LPGA star Paula Creamer finally got over the hump to capture her first major championship.

Creamer won the U.S. Open at the venerable Oakmont Country Club.

Then there’s Jessica Korda.

The Bradenton born and bred phenom began the year as an amateur.

She qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open for a third time, was runner-up at the U.S. Women’s Amateur, played on the winning U.S. Curtis Cup team and was on the U.S. team at the World Amateur.

If that wasn’t enough, Korda made it through the sectional and final stage of LPGA Q-School -- earning her tour card after announcing she’d turn pro.

And if you wanted to play professional tournaments in the area, you didn’t have to travel far.

The West Florida Golf Tour was born, and with it came a developmental place for professionals and top-notch amateurs to compete without having to drive to the other coast -- or Orlando.

Sarasota’s Joey Lamielle took the inaugural Order of Merit for the top spot on the money list.

Even an amateur tour -- splintered off the WFGT -- has formed, offering good courses and competitive fields.

And don’t forget the special guest to the area right before Woods’ return to golf.

Jack Nicklaus visited The Concession Golf Club to talk about changes to the course, while taking a heavy dose of questions about Woods.

We witnessed plenty in 2010, especially on the men’s pro side.

The Ryder Cup saw Europe taking the trophy back, with Lee Westwood eventually usurping Woods as the No. 1 player in the world.

And America’s stranglehold in the men’s game seemingly slipped away as three foreigners won majors this year.

Oh, and just prior to the Ryder Cup, the Junior Ryder Cup took place with Doris Chen and Ginger Howard representing the United States.

The City of Bradenton Men’s Amateur -- the marquee amateur event for Manatee County -- featured a breakthrough as Aaron Bishop won his first tournament.

And even though a lot happened in 2010, next year could just be as explosive.

Jason Dill, sports reporter, can be reached at 745-7017.