Sunday, August 26, 2012 - Day Four
It is 7 AM when the shuttle bus leaves the assembly area and heads out to Vancouver Golf Club, and I am on it. Thin, scattered clouds try to obscure the early morning sunshine with very little effect. It appears the weather will not be an issue for Championship Sunday at the 2012 CN Canadian Women's Open.
At 7:20, the driving range is near full capacity as the ladies prepare for the final 18 holes. Represented in the boxes are golfers from the global community. Canada, Japan, South Korea, England, Netherlands, U.S.A., Australia, Colombia, Spain and Philippines are all present. Perennial fan favorite Laura Diaz does her best to keep the mood light with her familiar light banter between the players. Regardless of the seriousness of the business at hand, there is always time for a smile or a laugh before work.
And so the groupings begin the day, going off the 1st and 10th tees for the final time. At 8:10, Yani Tseng, Amy Yang and Jane Park are welcomed by a surprisingly vocal gallery to begin their round. As the last hour of tee-offs approaches, the rise in tension is palpable. The practice green is crowded but almost completely silent. Everyone knows it is soon time to earn that cheque. At 8:30, Karrie Webb, Azahara Munoz and defending champion Brittany Lincicome start their round. As usual, Karrie enjoys a large following here in Canada. We don't forget a cluster of fine performances at the CWO, including a victory in 1999. At 9:30, Inbee Park, Chella Choi and Sydnee Michaels head out. Many at the course are still talking about Sydnee's back nine yesterday, an impressive 31 with 11 putts from all nine greens. That is spectacular in anyone's book. The cloud continues to disappear as a slight breeze picks up for the final three leading groups to go off of the 1st tee.
As I make my way onto the front nine, only in the first hour of play, the ooohs and aaahs can be heard in the air punctuated by the odd cheer even at this early time in the day. At the 5th hole, I watch Inbee, Chella and Sydnee tee off before waiting for the impending arrival of Lydia Ko, Jiyai Shin and Stacy Lewis in the final grouping. They appear from the 4th hole, but not before the gallery of 600 surround the tee and near fairway edges. Yes, Championship Sunday is now fully underway. The final group ebbs and flows for most of the front nine, a stroke lower here, a stroke higher there. The bottom line is 15 year old Lydia Ko is not buckling, not giving any window of opportunity to those chasing her. She is holding her own quite effectively. And it is amazing to witness as it happens. Jiyai, Stacy, Chella and Inbee are trying to mount challenges, but the young amateur is not yielding.
An early lunch is in order so that I can follow the entire back nine. I have a feeling I may be witnessing history here. At conclusion of the front nine Ko sits at -9, Lewis at -7 and Shin at -6. Inbee Park makes the turn at -8, and Chella Choi turns at -9. The vultures are circling. After my final lunch at the clubhouse (Thanks VGC staff!) I have a feeling I should check out the driving range. My intuition is correct as I find Rebecca Lee-Bentham getting in a little practice. I conversed with her and her dad, wishing them good luck and fine results for the rest of the year which were graciously accepted with thanks. The level of competition week in and week out on the LPGA tour is so high, there is no time to rest for the newer players who need to post results in their limited opportunities to maintain ranking status. Yet Rebecca is finding the time to stay in Vancouver an extra day to participate in a fundraising pro-am. Another demonstration of the outstanding humanitarian endeavors of the ladies of the LPGA. Thank you Rebecca, for everything. Bless you.
So the back nine for the final grouping begins. And so does history. On the 10th hole, Lydia birdies. On the 11th hole, Lydia birdies. On the 12th hole, Lydia birdies. On the 13th hole, Lydia birdies. With five holes remaining, Lydia Ko is -13. Stacy Lewis and Jiyai Shin are -8. One hole ahead, Chella Choi and Inbee Park are -9. No player would get within striking distance again. I have been to a few of these little golfing deals before. I saw Michelle Wie go wire to wire at the CWO in 2010. That was impressive. This was historic. By the 16th hole, the other players in the final group were revealing what everybody was thinking by the expressions on their faces. It's over.
Meanwhile on the 18th hole, Inbee Park chipped in for birdie to go to -10 and sole possession of second place. A very valuable chip shot. Since Lydia Ko is an amateur, the first place purse is not available for her to collect. That chip shot earned Inbee in excess of $200,000.
The 17th hole was virtually surrounded by fans from tee box to green. As the group approached the putting surface, the smiles on their faces were bright as the Canadian fans applauded them for the fine exhibition put on by them today. Deciding to go to the 18th hole before the leaders finished 17, I was truly stopped dead in my tracks by the sheer volume of people stretching down both fairway edges in every available viewing position. Fans, players, media, everyone was on hand to see this historic event. The CN Miracle March grandstand was filled to bursting. The applause welcoming the players to the green was sustained and loud.
All that was left was the execution of the 18th hole. A bogey by the new CN Canadian Women's Open champion was of no consequence. History had been made. The other players rushed out to shower Lydia in bottled water. This moment will always remain with me, I shall never forget it.
My gratitude goes out to the Vancouver Golf Club for a wonderful event, worthy of the excellent legacy and reputation of the CWO. I can't guarantee you will be part of such occasions in the future, but there is only one way you will have a chance. Get out there to a LPGA event. It's different out here.
Saturday, August 25, 2012 - Day Three
Welcome to Saturday at the 2012 CN Canadian Women's Open. Scattered clouds and dew on the grass greet us as we arrive at the Vancouver Golf Club for the third round of LPGA action. Volunteers and grounds crew prepare for the day as the players who made the cut do the same. Once again the sound of golf balls flying down range dominates the air as the 76 players who will play the final two rounds all set their sights on the task at hand.
The day begins at 7:50 AM as Lisa Ferraro, Jane Park and defending champion Brittany Lincicome tee off from hole #1. The last person she talks to before entering the tee box is her father for those final words of encouragement and support. And with that, Moving Day is underway. The same dance, every ten minutes, from both the 1st and 10th tees continues until all the players are out on the course. By 9:00, the final groups are heading out from the 1st tee. Yani Tseng, Hee Young Park and Jane Rah start their round with around 150 of their closest friends tagging along down the 1st fairway in tow. Angela Stanford, Inbee Park and Na Yeon Choi are the penultimate group, with NYC getting the lion's share of support as their round begins.
The leaders head out at 9:50 from the 1st tee. Chella Choi, Moira Dunn and 15 year old Lydia Ko. I find it very interesting how Lydia seems to take it all in stride. I wish the same could be said for her family supporting her from outside the ropes. As we head down to the 1st green, a crowd of more than 350 are on hand to greet the players. Lydia repays the spectators with a sublime 25 foot birdie to add to her lead. At the par 3 trouble spot known as the 3rd hole, the green is encircled by fans to see the ladies all post a par score. Then it is time to make the short jaunt over to the 6th green. Just in time to see Yani lip out a birdie attempt, much to the disappointment of the gallery. Next through on 6 is Brittany Lang, Jenny Shin and Taylor Coutu. Two pars and a birdie are given, with Taylor getting the desired score. Next up on the 6th are Angela, Inbee and NYC. A valiant 40 foot birdie attempt by Angela stops directly beside the cup, resulting in a tap in par. Inbee, after chipping on, has her par putt lip out forcing her to take a bogey. The same chain of events turns out better for NYC, giving her a par.
Now it is the final group's turn on the 6th hole. Lydia's approach leaves her a 7 foot putt for birdie, which she makes to go to -10 for the tournament. Chella and Moira are forced to be content with pars. Hopping over to the 2nd green, it is perfect timing to see Paige Mackenzie drop a birdie, Jennifer Rosales par and Kristy McPherson par.
Returning to the clubhouse area, the crowds are ever present and strong. The round for the leaders is nearly half over, so it is time to recharge the batteries with a fine Prime Rib sandwich with Caesar salad from the Vancouver Golf Club chefs in the clubhouse. Nothing makes the meal go better than watching the live coverage on big screens while talking with other fans about the days action so far. But there is no rest for the serious LPGA fan. It's back out onto the course, going from the 18th green back up the course towards the final group. We stop in on the 17th green to watch Katherine Hull, Azahara Munoz and Cydney Clanton on their second last hole of the day. Coming across the final group on the 12th green, there has been some movement in the scores. Lydia Ko now leads at -9, with a one shot cushion over Chella Choi at -8. Moira Dunn has had some bad luck, now scored at -4. All three players par the hole.
All three players choose a 3 wood to tee off on the 13th hole, the par 5 measuring 493 yards. After working their way down it, Lydia and Chella settle for pars while Moira gets a shot back with a birdie. The course is playing tight as they work their way through the back nine, all three scoring par on the 14th. The 15th hole holds a little excitement, as Lydia lips out a 35 foot birdie attempt to accept a par, while Chella commits a 3 putt to score a bogey. Moira hangs tough with a par. The 16th hole is playing as the toughest on the course with an average score of 4.292 on the par 4. All three players of the final group manage to get their pars out of it. A repeat of scores is the result for the 17th hole.
As the leaders approach the 18th hole, their scores are Lydia Ko at -9, Chella Choi at -7 and Moira Dunn at -6. Doing some quick calculations, I estimate 3000 people lining the 18th, from the tee box all the way down the fairway. The day has turned out to be splendid golf weather, the sun shining brightly in the cloudless sky. Applause greets the players as they walk towards the green, the gallery eight deep circling the putting surface and five deep for 50 yards down the fairway approach. The CN Miracle Match grandstand is packed. All these fans were not disappointed with drama to set up tomorrow's final round. Leader Lydia Ko commits the sin of 3 putting, a bogey lowering her score to -8. Chella Choi manages to score par after putting her 45 foot birdie attempt to within 18 inches of the cup to end the day at -7. Moira Dunn had a difficult 18 foot downhill putt for par, which resulted in a bogey tap in to close her card out at -5.
There is good news and bad news to be had at the end of the last two rounds of the CN Canadian Women's Open. The bad news is the golf is over before 4 PM. The good news is that leaves plenty of time to check out the CN Fan Village, maybe see who is on the range or putting on the practice green, or congregating with other LPGA fans to discuss the day's action and speculate on what will transpire tomorrow in the final round on Championship Sunday. I will be there. Come on back to read tomorrow and you can be there too.
Friday, August 24, 2012
Curious as to what happened at day two of the 2012 CN Canadian Women's Open? Well, keep reading and I will tell you what happened through my eyes. As the shuttle rolled up to the main entrance, it was 7:20 AM. The morning was overcast and chilly, but this by no means limited the amount of activity going on inside Vancouver Golf Club. The relative calm of the crowded main practice green was in sharp contrast to the metallic thunder coming from the driving range. No fewer than 75 LPGA professionals were preparing to go out and work in the morning groups on course.
My viewing started at 7:44 on the 10th tee to see off Christina Kim, Lizette Salas and Danielle Kang. One of the rather unique features at a LPGA event are the parents of many players in attendance to watch their daughters at work. Not only is it a nice gesture to wish good luck for the day to them and their girls, the smiles and thanks received are priceless. Such wishes of fortune were extended to Mr. Salas and Ms. Kang, which were warmly accepted with smiles and thanks.
As 8 AM arrives, the driving range is a full house with players getting in that last swing before teeing off. By 9 AM, an eerie calm has replaced the bustle of minutes before as the morning groups have all started their rounds. The fans keep arriving, by the busload from shuttle locations. One thing in common is the smiles on all the faces. The LPGA is in town and we are here to see it. How much does Canada love the LPGA, you ask? The last morning group off of hole #1 was Laura Diaz, Chella Choi and world #1 Yani Tseng. The gallery that followed them down the fairway was in excess of 150 fans right from the get-go.
They were in for a surprise on hole #3, as Yani put her tee shot into the drink and returned to the tee for a second drive. The par three took its share of golf balls from the pros today. After hitting again, a 20 foot putt for bogey was begging. As Yani's attempt stalled on the absolute edge of the cup, the resulting double bogey took her from the lead she would not see again all day. From the 3rd hole, you can look over to the right and see Suzann Pettersen, Stacy Lewis and I.K. Kim on the 7th hole with a gallery in tow of over 100 people.
My next viewing choice was the 15 year old world #1 ranked amateur Lydia Ko. She was off to a quick start, having birdies 3 of her first 4 holes to sit at -7 through 22 holes of play. Did I mention she is 15 years old? It was truly fun to watch her play, seemingly having no pressure or expectations upon her. Simply playing the game, to great effect. Lydia would garner one more birdie on the front and play par golf the rest of her round to be the co-leader at -8 after two rounds.
Require more proof of the popularity of women's golf here in Vancouver? At just after 11 AM, there were roughly 50 fans scattered about the driving range. Then the ladies from the afternoon groupings started to come down and warm up. By 11:40, more than 200 curious fans had filled every nook and cranny to watch the action. As the clock passed 12:30 and the ranks thinned in the range boxes, the fans remained to get any insight they could as to who would go out on course and post a low number today. All the while, the traffic past the range, over to the 10th tee and the 9th green continued to grow, surging with each group making the turn or fresh group going off to start their round.
As the heart of the afternoon groups go out on course, the sun is now shining down with a slight breeze as the crowds continue to move about and grow. A perfect time for me to pause for lunch. Sometimes, the simplest thing can still be very good when prepared well. Case in point was my cheeseburger from the Vancouver GC clubhouse. Nothing very fancy, just extremely tasty and accompanied with wedge fries. Certainly did the trick. Throw in a strong cup of coffee and I am ready to hit the course.
My afternoon walking the course turned into the supper hour, which turned into the early evening as the action finished up for the day. Walking back to the shuttle bus pick-up point, I realized I had been at the course for more than 12 hours. Time flies when you are having fun, LPGA style.
Thursday, August 23, 2012 - Day One
Hello LPGA universe and welcome to the 2012 CN Canadian Women's Open. As is custom, every late August the best female golfers on the planet congregate in a Canadian city to vie for the national championship of Canada. This year we are in Coquitlam, British Columbia at the Vancouver Golf Club. Designed by T.H. Gardner in the first decade of the 20th century, the club was officially founded in 1910 sprawling over a woodland park setting covering 176 acres. Two different types of layout are in store for players, with the front nine having commonly sized greens of undulating severity, mountain views and numerous elevation changes. The back nine is a flatter layout with first or second growth forest lining every fairway, leading to some interesting doglegs and funnels to the greens. The tournament layout is 6,783 yards with a par 72. The course rating is 72.7 with a slope of 132. Besides being tough to play, it is beautiful to travel.
My name is Glen and I am hoping to share my annual holiday experience with you all so you get the feel of this spectacular event on the LPGA Tour. And on that note in particular, I would like to send thanks to Kraig Kann, Kelly Thesier, Katie Ann Robinson and Stacy Shanks for all their assistance and goodwill towards me in this endeavor. It is so refreshing to come across people and an organization that solves problems and makes their product better. Proof positive that it truly is different out here.
Since I arrived for the CWO prior to the week beginning, Monday to Wednesday is the time when all the players, their families, fans and media arrive for the big show come Thursday. There is never a dull moment at the course from Monday morning until the trophy is presented on Sunday afternoon. Pro-ams, clinics put on by the title sponsor Canadian National and the LPGA, the CN Fan Village, championship merchandise, local cuisine...you name it, you can find it at the CWO. More about all that as I experience it, I am sure.
My round one Thursday begins somewhat bright and early, the clouds refusing to let the sun in. But the players are busy preparing for the task ahead and the fans are milling about, watching final preparations or heading out onto the course with the early groups.My day begins in earnest at 7:33 AM on the 10th tee with the threesome of Victoria Tanco, Canada's Samantha Richdale and Amanda Blumenherst. Interestingly enough, the last time Samantha and Amanda were paired together in tournament play was Hurricane Sunday at the 2011 Canadian Women's Open in Mirabel, Quebec. A round I shall not soon forget. But there are no hurricanes to be had here on the west coast. Rain is a different matter. There have predictions of rain all week long but we have yet to see any. One of the pleasures I get from attending LPGA events is the level of closeness you can get from the athletes themselves. I have always been a staunch supporter of Canada's own Samantha Richdale. This morning on the course I had the pleasure of meeting and talking with her mother. A wonderful lady with a wonderful daughter out on the tour. The result is I am now even more supportive of Samantha and her efforts.
This being the national women's championship of Canada, there is no shortage of Canadians in the field. From legendary Lorie Kane to the youngest winner of a professional event in the history of the game, 14 year old Brooke Henderson. This is Brooke's first time at the CWO, and I wish her luck and many, many more of them to come. The young Canadian that has garnered much of my interest is LPGA rookie Rebecca Lee-Bentham. I first saw her play making the cut at the 2010 CWO in Winnipeg as an amateur. An impressive performance I have never forgotten, taking low amateur for the event. Today Rebecca was off at 8:06 AM from the 10th tee with fellow Canadian Natalie Gleadall and Dewi-Claire Schreefel. The overcast conditions and the natural windproofing from the trees lining the back nine kept the greens much wetter than they have played all week in practice. This combination proved to difficult to adjust to for many of the ladies today. Bucking the trend early, I witnessed an excellent 40 foot birdie putt by Rebecca on hole #11. a very rare sight in the entire morning wave of groupings.
By 9 AM, it is time to break out the rain pants. A light but steady shower comes down on the course. Fans flock under the large trees to watch the action along with the black squirrels that live on the course. There is certainly no shortage of wildlife considering this layout is completely surrounded by urban progress. Along with the rodents, plenty of birds and a few coyote families call the course home. As the threesome end the back nine, the rain has relented somewhat but is certainly not finished.
Hole #4 at Vancouver Golf Club has a severe rise in elevation from tee to green. Measuring 322 yards and a par 4, it plays much longer than that number would suggest. The slope of the green matches the wicked climb up the hill to get there. The steady light rain has returned, making the putting even more difficult on such a tilted dance floor. As the morning wave comes in, scores are generally higher than expected. As the afternoon wave goes out onto the course, those players have a new mindset than what they were expecting. From scoring to damage control and consistency. Despite the varying amount of rainfall, the crowds continue to grow. A little vertical moisture will not deter the LPGA fans.
With my personal favorite Rebecca Lee-Bentham completing her work for the day, they have their work cut out for them on Friday to make the cut and play the weekend. For me that means lunch time! Today it is an excellent Chicken Caesar from the clubhouse. Walking in the neighborhood of 7,500 yards in 5 hours seemed to have tired me out somewhat. So after recharging, it is time for my next favorite task. Getting the LPGA players to autograph pictures I have taken during the first three days of the week. My personal momentos and requests from friends who could not attend. There is no sport organization in the world that has friendlier and more accessible stars than the LPGA. I thank all the ladies for providing their signatures today. Cindy LaCrosse, Kathleen Ekey, Azahara Munoz, I.K. Kim, Lydia Ko, So Yeon Ryu to name a few. I won't bother listing the signed pictures from the first three days. We don't have that much time.
At 2:15, lo and behold, the sun appears. As the rain disappears, the course starts to firm up. A few ladies start to post some lower numbers. The world #1 amateur Lydia Ko posts a 4 under 68, good enough for a piece of 4th place after the first round. Not too shabby for a 14 year old, I would say. As the round comes to an end, there is a familiar face sitting atop the leader board. In 2007, at the Vancouver Golf Club, a CN Canadian Womens Tour event was held. The winner of that event was a bright, outgoing 18 year old from Taiwan. Her name was Yani Tseng.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
I look forward to another exciting day of golf tomorrow, round two of the CN Canadian Womens Open. Check back here and I will tell you how it went.