COLD. Carlsbad California, March 24th, 7:30 AM. Darn, it is COLD this morning. We drove through fog to get to La Costa Resort which is hosting the Kia Classic for the second time. Last year it was at Pacific Palms in City of Industry, and two years ago, for the inaugural event it was held at La Costa.
Joni and I arrived early this morning in order to follow the first or second group out to where we would park for the day. Our usual method of watching a tournament, and one I highly recommend is to pick a hole and sit there and watch every group come through. That way you get a good feel for how everyone is playing. If you have a favorite player, following her is fun, but you don’t get a feel for how the tournament as a whole is going.
When we got there we were chatting with one of the event security people and he told us something very disturbing. He said that several of the players (he didn’t name names) were very rude the last few days. This distresses us greatly, as one of the major selling points of the LPGA is the fan-friendly atmosphere and the interactions with the players before, during and after the round. Ladies, if you are reading this, please check in the mirror and see if you are one of those who needs to be more fan and helper friendly.
On the upside, we caught up with Brittany Lang on the first tee. Brittany made a point of walking over to every volunteer on the tee and introducing herself and saying “Thank you for helping today”. THAT is the way it should be done. We followed Brittany out to the first green (unfortunately she missed the green and made a 5), and then parked there for the day. This is at the apex of the 1st green, the 17th green and the 18th tee. Very good spot.
The greens at La Costa are tiny and the grass is Poa Annua. The combination made for some very interesting moments. For those of you who don’t know about Poa, it is bumpy because it blooms in the afternoon. The greens slow down a lot as the Poa blooms. The ladies who are used to Bent or Bermuda greens had a hard time adjusting today.
Our good friend Katie Futcher missed the cut (as did several of the people whom we love to follow), so we were sad not to see her today. But watching the ladies it was obvious that missing a fairway was a recipe for disaster. In most places the rough was over the tops of our sneakers and gnarly. Small wonder that most of the field was over par. The cut was at +5 if that gives you any idea about how hard the course was playing.
So we parked at the 1st green, which is subtly sloped and guarded by three bunkers. We saw very few birdies in spite of the relatively short hole (370). The green fooled a lot of people, and we only saw three birdies made outside of six feet.
Amanda Blumenherst, whom we met when still an amateur and college student at Duke when she played on an invitation at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, made the first birdie of the day, holing an eight footer from left of the hole. We saw only one putt made outside three feet from the right of the hole all day.
As we watched everyone come through, Vicki Hurst lost her drive into the left rough. She was in a bad spot behind two trees. I looked at Joni and said, “She’s in jail” which was funny when we saw her outfit which was black and white with horizontal stripes. The last laugh was had by Vicki who promptly hit a high looping cut from between the trees that cleared the left bunker and came to rest about 3” from the hole.
Part of the fun is interacting with the other spectators. At one point one of the ladies hit her approach into the right greenside bunker. A lady standing next to Joni asked “Does she get to throw it out from there?” We both laughed until we realized she was serious. (grin). So we spent a few minutes acquainting her with some of the basic rules of golf.
The leaders finally came through and Yani Tseng birdied the first hole making the only putt we had seen made all day from above the hole.
We then moved over and watched several groups come through 17 which is a longish par 5 with a typically small green and a typically nasty pin placement.
Paula Creamer came through and had her par putt lip out, leaving her somewhat frustrated. We know she lost her grandfather last week, and our hearts go out to her. Hang in there Paula, it will get easier with time.
One of our thrills today was seeing Judy Rankin go by in a cart. She lost her husband recently and has our condolences, but it was GREAT seeing her back out there. She is our favorite commentator by far.
On the way out today we saw something that gave me goose bumps. The USMC was standing station on the 9th green. The flag on the 9th green was a US Flag. As each group came to the green, the caddy would remove the flag and hand it to the Marine on guard (there were two on station). The Marine would accept the flag, salute, and present the flag at Parade Rest until the group holed out. Then the Marine would return the flag to the hole, salute and then return to his/her station beside the green. As a disabled Vietnam Vet, it was a great treat to see our troops being so honored by the organizers of the tournament.
As we were headed for the parking lot, Paula was standing on the walkway chatting with people, signing autographs and posing for pictures with the fans. THAT is also the way it should be done. That is what makes the LPGA special.
Take care, everyone. We will write again from the Kraft Nabisco Championships next week.