Jill reports from the LPGA Corning Classic.
Championship Sunday at the Corning Classic followed record-breaking play on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. According to the Corning Leader newspaper, seven Corning Classic records were either broken or matched in this year's first three rounds of play. With shell-shocking performance like this, there was no telling what Championship Sunday would bring!
Making my way to hole number 1 to watch the leaders tee off, I passed the 12th hole just in time to catch Natalie Gulbis nail her 4th birdie of the day. I knew then and there that this was going to be a great day of golf! Off the 1st tee at 12:52 were Taiwan's Yani Tseng at 16 under par and Finland's Minea Blomqvist at 15 under par. And at 1:00, the Corning community gave what was to be their last "warm Corning welcome" to the day's - and to the Corning Classic's - final pairing, Japan's Mika Miyazata and South Korea's Soo-Yun Kang, both at 17 under par. It was an emotional moment. Scanning the crowd, you could see the 31 years of Corning Classic memories crossing the minds of sponsors, hosts, staff, volunteers, media, fans, and friends.
From a quick look at the leaderboard, it looked like South Korea's Jimin Jeong had joined the leaders with a birdie on the 8th hole, putting her at 17 under par. Unfortunately though, Jimin's birdie at 8 was met with a bogey at 9. Off to the 17th hole to catch up with World Gold Hall of Fame member Se Ri Pak and tour rookie, Michelle Wie, I passed Morgan Pressel, now 7th in U.S. Solheim Cup points, and Australia's Wendy Doolan on 16. Wendy can really drive the ball!
By now, things were really heating up on the course. Germany's Sandra Gal, Yani Tseng and Soo-Yun Kang, shared the top of the leaderboard at 18 under. And, with birdies on the 11 and 12, South Korea's Song-Hee Kim had just joined the pack. But wait...with a birdie on hole 5, Soo-Yun Kang would take the outright lead at 19 under par.
After following Se Ri and Michelle in to the 18th hole, I made a pitstop at 9 where rookie, Vicky Hurst, made a beautiful birdie shot to put her at 17 under par. Up next - par for Yani Tseng and a bogey for Minea Blomqvist. But it was birdies thereafter, as Mika Miyazato and Soo-Yun Kang wowed the crowd with two incredible putts. Soo-Yun was now at 20 under par.
It looked like Soo-Yun and Mika were on a roll, so I decided to follow the final pairing. And let me tell you, the leaders are where the action is on Championship Sunday! Val Skinner and her colleagues at the Golf Channel were racing across the back nine with golf carts and cameras doing their best to catch all of the action!
Despite a bogey at 10, Soo-Yun would redeem her score with a birdie at 12 to take the outright lead. Vicky Hurst and Yani Tseng were nipping at her heals. But they weren't the only ones. While at 13, I heard an awesome roar from the crowd at 18 - hometown favorite, Paula Creamer had birdied 16, 17, and 18 to put her in a tie for the lead at 20 under par. What a coup!
On to 16 - just as Yani Tseng sunk a birdie putt to put her in a tie for the lead with Paula Creamer and Soo-Yun Kang, Soo-Yun would up the ante with a birdie of her own on 16 to again seize the lead at 21 under par. But Yani would come back and match that with a birdie at 17 - now tied for the lead with Soo-Yun at 21 under par.
Approaching the 18th and final hole, the final chapter of the Corning Classic began to unfold - Yani Tseng and Soo-Yun Kang, neck and neck. Yani was greeted with roars and applause as she approached the 18th green. Looking a little nervous, could she come up with the birdie she needed to be victorious? Silence came over the crowd as we waited with great anticipation. The crowd gasped...she had missed the shot and would settle for par.
Finally, Soo-Yun Kang approached the green with the final putt on the final hole of the final Corning Classic. Emotions were high. A birdie would mean victory; a par - a play off; and a bogey would make Yani Tseng the 2009 Corning Classic Champion. And so, history was written - Soo-Yun Kang and Paula Creamer would finish play tied for second and an emotional Yani Tseng would celebrate her victory surrounded by family and friends. What a classic Corning moment!
And old English proverb tells us that, "All good things must come to an end." And though the end has come for the Corning Classic, the memories remain. Throughout this amazing and emotional week of golf, one message was seen and heard again and again - thank you Corning for 31 years of memories! The Corning Classic will always hold a special place in the hearts and minds of golfers, Corning Country Club members, volunteers, fans, friends, and community members.
You couldn't have asked for a more exciting day of golf that than what we had today at the Corning Classic in Corning, New York!
My day at the Corning Country Club started with an autograph from World Golf Hall of Fame member - Se Ri Pak. I knew then that this was going to be a good day! My first stop - the 18th hole where Paula Creamer, dressed in classic pink and white was met with a rousing reception from the gallery. First to putt, her partner, Sarah Lee - ending her day with a remarkable birdie shot. Paula, who made it to the leaderboard today, followed suit and finished at 13 under par. She came off the course all smiles and waving to her Grandpa who had a front row seat on the Country Club's veranda. With birdies like that, I stayed at 18 where Morgan Pressel followed in Sarah and Paula's footsteps with another spectacular birdie putt! From the leaderboard, I could see that 2006 champion, Hee-Won Han seized the lead at hole 5 at 16 under. Next on 18 - another crowd favorite, Natalie Gulbis from Donald Trump's famous television show - the Celebrity Apprentice. Natalie was joined by Yani Tseng, who really made a name for herself today. Following a birdie at 17, she birdied 18 too, making her our co-leader with Sarah Lee at 16 under. Next up, two more fan favorites - Pat Hurst and In-Kyung Kim. In-Kyung, like many of her predecessors, gave the crowd something to cheer about with yet another birdie on 18.
Speaking of the crowd, what a huge crowd there was today! Had to be close to record attendance. And, not only did the fans come out, but they came out with vigor - excitedly cheering on their LPGA favorites! Even the ever-diligent volunteers had a tough time keeping them quiet!
Next on 18, Becky Morgan and Angela Stanford, ranked 3rd in U.S. Solheim Cup points. After a bogie on 18 yesterday, Becky ended her day today with a crowd-pleasing birdie shot. Next, another birdie from Marcy Hart who, paired with Brittany Lang, were both wearing the prevailing color of the day - pink.
From there, I was off to the putting green, where there was lots of action. Michelle Wie, at 8 under for the tournament, was autographing golf balls for her adoring young fans. Paula Creamer was there too marking her infamous pink golf balls. Also on the putting green, sporting an Annika's Academy ballcap, was Annika Sorenstam's former long-time caddie, Terry McNamara, now on the bag for Momoko Ueda.
While I was at the putting green, momentum was building on the course. With a birdie on 12, Soo-Yun Kang replaced Hee-Won Han as co-leader, after Han hit bogies at 10 and 11. Then, with birdies on 15 and 17, Mika Miyazato joined the pack at 16 under. Wanting in on the action, I headed to 18 again where Mika Miyazato ended her day with a birdie to take the outright lead at 17 under. While on 18, I heard a roar from the crowd at 14 where Soo-Yun Kang eagled the hole and re-clenched the lead at -18. Soo-Yun's eagle was followed up with a birdie from Sandra Gal - this was getting exciting!
Before the day was over, I did not want to miss out on the opportunity to sample some of the fine New York wine produced right here in the Finger Lakes region. So, at about 3:30, I was off to the wine tasting tent. There, a host of fine volunteers were pouring samples of wine from local vineyards. My choices - Glenora Wine Cellars' Cabernet Franc, a Riesling/Chardonnay blend from Dr. Konstantin Frank, the Syval Blanc from Bully Hill Vineyards, and Montezuma Winery's blueberry and cranberry fruit wines. To enrichen the experience, the Gaffer restaurant on Market Street in downtown Corning treated guests to a palate-pleasing shrimp cocktail. I enjoyed the opportunity to try some local favorites.
From the wine tasting, I went back to 18, where Suzann Petterson ended her day with a birdie - putting her at 13 under par. Next on 18, Soo-Yun Kang and Sandra Gal. From the leaderboard, I saw that Soo-Yun hit bogies at 15 and 17 putting her back to 16 under. Could she redeem herself at 18? Fans on 18 waited with baited breath. Yes! Both Soo-Yun and Sandra birdied 18. Soo-Yun ended the day tied for the lead with Mika Miyazato at 17 under par. In third place is Yani Tseng at 16 under and in fourth at 15 under is Minea Blomqvist.
Saturday at Corning was nothing less than electrifying. With a day like this today, there's no telling what championship Sunday will bring. I'm planning on being on the course bright and early to catch all of the action. Hope to see you there. And if you can't join us here in beautiful Corning, New York, be sure catch us on the Golf Channel at 7:30 p.m. Eastern time. See you on Sunday!
It is Memorial Day weekend and the beginning of weekend play at the 31st LPGA Corning Classic in Corning, New York. This year's tournament is bittersweet. Sweet first - the weather is picture perfect - lots of sunshine. The players are first rate as always - a mix of veteran players and the next generation of women's golf. The course is gorgeous - and challenging. The volunteers are in full force. The staff are eager to please. Fans are rallying around their favorites. And the community is holding true to their tradition of raising funds for hospitals in the Twin Tiers. Now the bitter - facing difficult economic times, 2009 will most likely mark the end of the LPGA Corning Classic tradition.
Feeling a little nostalgic, I left Albany today determined not to miss this special event. Before I took the road, I read an Albany Times Union interview with Scotia, NY native and 2002 Corning Classic champion Laura Diaz. Laura described how she came to Corning this year with fond memories of her 2002 victory and with regret that the tournament has had to come to an end. She also shares her appreciation to the Corning community for over three decades of kindness and Southern NY hospitality.
I arrived at the Corning Country Club just after 3:00 this afternoon and at 14 under, France's Karine Icher held the outright lead. As I entered the tournament, I couldn't help but be moved by the series of plaques showcasing the names of each Corning Classic tournament champion dating back to the 1979 title holder - Penny Pulz. On the field today, I saw former champions - Hee-Won Han (2006), Jimin Kang (2005), Laura Diaz (2002), and Carin Koch (2001).
First, I stopped at the putting green where I ran into Christina Kim and Brazil's Angela Park - unfortunately, both players missed today's cut. From the putting green, it was off to the 7th hole - one of my favorites - an uphill par 3. First up - Canada's Lori Kane and two of Sweden's legends - Lisolette Neumann and Maria Hjorth. All three left on par. Next up - also from Sweden - Louise Friberg, South Korea's Hee Young Park, and Italy's Silvia Cavalleri. Lucky Silvia - she had her Mom on her bag!
As I was watching play at the 7th, I saw a huge gallery swarm onto the adjacent hole. Curiosity got the best of me, so headed off to 15 - where I caught up with three LPGA superstars - Norway's Suzann Petterson at 8 under, England's Lindsey Wright at 7 under, and American favorite - Morgan Pressel at 6 under. Fully expecting to see some spectacular golf, I followed this threesome through to 18 - and they did not disappoint! Donning lavender and white, Suzann birdied the 15th. Morgan followed suit and birdied the 16th. Unfortunately, her birdie at 16 was met with a bogie at 17. But birdies were abound today - Lindsey wowed the crowd with a birdie in the 18th. What a finish!
I decided to stay put (not putt) on the 18th where from behind, LPGA Hall of Fame member Se Ri Pak approached the 9th - her last hole - at 5 under. Golfers started play at both the 1st and 10th on Friday morning. In Se Ri's threesome was 2006 Corning Classic champion Hee-Won Han at 13 under, giving our leader, Karine Icher, a run for her money.
Next on 18 was crowd favorite, Paula Creamer, rookie Jiyai Shin, and Na Yeon Choi followed by Allison Fouch, LPGA veteran Laurie Rinker, and South Korea's Kyeong Bae. Allison is a sentimental favorite of mine - coming to the LPGA from the Duramed Futures Tour. For the past several years, the Futures Tour Championship has been held in Albany, NY in September, where LPGA exemption cards are awarded to the top five players of the year. After finishing 6th in 2006, Allison came back to Albany in 2007 and won her card! Those of us in Albany had no doubt that Allison would be a spectacular success in the LPGA!
When I left the Corning Country Club, I headed to downtown Corning and was instantaneously reminiscent of why Corning is such a special place for the fans of women's golf. In Corning, each year, for one weekend in May, the stars of the LPGA are members of the Corning community. At dinner tonight, for example, at the delectable Thali of India on Market Street, Paula Creamer, joined by her Dad and her caddie, shared an update on her play for the day with other diners and staff. LPGA and Corning are one in the same. Just walk around and you will see for yourself. And if you do, stay for dinner - I highly recommend the Chicken Palek.
See you in Saturday at Corning!
Topics: Fan Blog