Finland's Minea Blomqvist is the Charles Barkley of women's golf. Column: Minea Blomqvist, the Finnish Charles Barkley, shows why LPGA players are the most likeable athletes in sports

EDINA, Minn. - Some 99.9 percent of the time pro athletes drop a word that needs to be bleeped in a family publication, they're flying off on some type of red-faced tirade. A general manager is going to end up getting shoved to the ground. A coach will be rubbing choke marks. Or some deep thinker like Phillies pitcher Brett Myers is sure to call a reporter "a retard" as foamy spittle spews out the side of his mouth.

Only in women's golf do the bleeps go with heartwarming, funny, gooey, romantic tales.

Take Minea Blomqvist, a 5-foot-4 skinny blonde Finnish force who used a common four-letter word for human waste to talk about her fiancé. In a good way. Hey, Blomqvist had just shot a 4-under 69 in the second round of the U.S. Women's Open, vaulting her within one shot of the lead. She only wanted to spread the joy.


"Roope Kakko is his name," Blomqvist said of her beloved who's playing on the Challenge Tour (essentially Europe's version of the Nationwide Tour). "And you should feel bad for me about this surname, because it's not very good. Kakko means (bleep) in Finnish.

"It's very close. So I'm not very happy about that. I don't know if we're going to stay together."

Blomqvist laughed. Better yet, she produced genuine, real laughter from a small group of sports reporters - a profession that's known for giving fake suck-up chuckles to some of the lamest attempted "jokes" in the world. See a Tiger Woods press conference for reference. Any Tiger Woods press conference.

Blomqvist is women's sports version of Charles Barkley, though. With the major difference being that no one knows who the hell she is. That's a shame, too. Because Minea Blomqvist can bring it.

"I'm upset, because I forgot to put on makeup today," Blomqvist said, having just walked off the course and found a half dozen writers waiting for her. "I didn't think I was going to play that well. I should be looking nice for the media."

Okay, Martha Burk and some other militant feminists who only want women athletes crusading might not love Blomqvist. Who cares? The rest of us would take a Minea Blomqvist over any of the boringly programmed, rote-answer athletes who overpopulate pro sports these days.

She's a Finnish original. Sadly, they don't really make American originals anymore, not with everyone in this country petrified of what some special-interest group will think of what they say. Just ask Johnny Miller, who recently received the Tony Soprano protest treatment from a few Italians with nothing better to do.

In the real land of the midnight sun, however, humor apparently still flies - like golf balls at 2 a.m. in the summertime.

"I always tell a story about why Swedes are so good in golf," Blomqvist said later in a larger media gathering (like Barkley, this B almost has to be pulled away from a microphone, too). "It's because in golf you need an empty mind, and there's nothing going on in their heads.

"That's why (Swedes) play good."

Think Annika Sorenstam, No. 1 Swede, is going to go all Tiger-on-Rory Sabbatini over this remark from a Finn? Heck no. It's Minea Blomqvist, everyone loves her, and besides, Sorenstam's a women's pro golfer, which puts her in another league of class.

Hockey players have nothing on women golfers in class

LPGA Tour players are the nicest pro athletes in the world. Hockey players often falsely get this nod. Mostly because a bunch of white sportswriters feel like they can relate to the white guys with sticks. Anyone who's ever had to interview Mario Lemieux after a tough playoff loss or talk to Bobby Holik period can tell you that's bunk anyways.

Only in women's pro golf do the players seem happy to give their time 99.9 percent of the time. Even Michelle Wie - who often doesn't look like she wants to be on the golf course, let alone in front of the cameras post-round - almost always talks after bad rounds. Even after U.S. Open 81s.

Last week, I happened to run into second-year LPGA player Charlotte Mayorkas at the new Grand Del Mar Resort near San Diego. She was finishing up a putting lesson with the Grand's director of golf, Shawn Cox, and I was waiting to experience the SAM PuttLab that's become something of a rage on tour. Mayorkas was preparing for the U.S. Women's Open, while I was only attempting to dodge a little sunburn.

Still, Mayorkas tried to cut her lesson short so I could have Cox's time. That's like new Chicago Bulls rookie Derrick Rose deciding to stop shooting jumpers so some scrub sportswriter could have the gym. Never happening in million years or a dozen bizarro worlds.

LPGA players don't seem to understand the sense of entitlement any self-respecting pro athlete is supposed to walk around with, though. They largely treat people like people.

It's a shame the self-anointed handlers of the LPGA Tour don't realize this. The Tour, as run by Carolyn Bivens, is all about projecting a certain brand, often about keeping reporters they don't like from covering events rather than promoting women's golf. You can see the difference this week at the U.S. Women's Open, a tournament run by the United States Golf Association, a major where the best women golfers in the world are allowed to let out their real personalities.

This is why Minea Blomqvist is having her media breakout week at the Open. Finally, a few casual golf fans are learning about the budding Charles Barkley of the game.

Blomqvist has caddied for her man Kakko - her (bleep), if you're Finnish - in two tournaments. The results have been two top-10 finishes.

"I'm a perfect caddie," Blomqvist said. "So if this doesn't work out, I can go for that."

Just don't expect Blomqvist to work for free.

"Of course," she cracked when asked if she still demands the standard caddie commission from the golfer who gave her a diamond ring. "I'm not cheap."

No bleep. Blomqvist is only one of sports' last true originals, proof that women's golf is made up of the athletes with the best personalities in all of professional sports. Even if the world's too often not allowed to see it.

June 28, 2008

Chris Baldwin keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

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