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The Social Scene with Neal Reid - November

November 30 2013, Neal Reid

It’s a wrap! 

Oh, what a year it’s been!

As I sit here wearing elastic pants after yet another sampling of a Thanksgiving Day feast with the LPGA season still visible in the rear-view mirror, it’s tough to fully grasp what transpired this year. There was never a dull moment, and women’s golf fans were treated to top-notch entertainment and drama at every turn. 

From playoff battles and first-time winners to dominance personified and jaw-dropping shots, the 2013 season had it all. It was a treat to follow along with the action as it unfolded, and I can’t wait to do it again next year.

This will be my final column of the year, as other assignments will take me elsewhere in December, so I wanted to do my best to wrap things up with a nice bow. In late September, I gave out awards for various things like Player of the Year and Breakthrough Performance of the Year, and most of that has not changed. 

Inbee Park, with her six wins, three straight majors and money title, wrapped up Rolex Player of the Year honors, but Suzann Pettersen and Stacy Lewis gave her a run for her money. Pettersen won four times and Lewis three, with Lewis becoming the first American to win the Vare Trophy in 19 years.

Shanshan Feng picked up the biggest paycheck in women’s golf, $700,000, for winning the season-ending CME Group Titleholders in Naples, Fla., and was one of three players to join the “Big Three” as multiple tournament winners in 2013. Lexi Thompson and Beatriz Recari were the other two, with Recari winning twice before the end of July and Thompson claiming two titles in October and November. 

Jennifer Johnson, Ilhee Lee and Amy Yang became Rolex First-Time Winners, and Thompson did as well with her first victory since winning as an amateur before joining the Tour. The season also saw veterans Jiyai Shin, Cristie Kerr and Karrie Webb win, as well as riveting action at the 13th staging of the Solheim Cup.

I was lucky enough to serve as PR Manager for the Solheim Cup, which was held at Colorado Golf Club in Parker, Colo., in August, and it was one heck of a week. The European Team played amazing golf and won for the first time on U.S. soil in front of more than 100,000 spectators during the week. 

One of the three best shots of the season came at the Solheim Cup, when Anna Nordqvist holed out on the par-3 17th hole for the first hole-in-one in the competition’s history in the Saturday afternoon Foursomes matches. The ace ended the match in favor of the Europeans and helped propel them to victory the next day.

Given the situation and the pressure, Lewis’ shot on the 17th hole of the final round of the RICOH Women’s British Open two weeks before gets my vote for “Shot of the Year.” Lewis hit her approach on the par-4 17th to within three feet of the hole en route to a birdie-birdie finish and a two-shot win over Na Yeon Choi

Lewis’ win ended a 10-major drought for Americans and took home her second career major title in the process.

Feng’s 3-wood to 3 feet on the 72nd hole of the Reignwood LPGA Classic in her native China set up an eagle that helped her leapfrog Lewis and thrill her local fans with a clutch win. Those three shots are easily the ones that stand out the most from the year that was. 

Other things that stand out from the season include the monsoon that hit the Bahamas at the Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic in late May, Lizette Salas’ final-round 62 in Hawaii to force a playoff with Pettersen and Caroline Hedwall becoming the first player in Solheim Cup history to go 5-0 during a single competition.

Every week had highlights and great storylines, and it was always fun to see what would happen next. That’s the way a golf season is supposed to be, and the 2013 LPGA season fit the bill in every way. 

I’d be remiss if I didn’t put together one more look at “Twitter Theater” as well. So, here are some of the top posts from this week.

Thompson was crafty in the kitchen on Wednesday, making some tasty-looking brownies, while painting her nails for the LSU-Arkansas football game she attended on Friday. Michelle Wie enjoyed some fresh papayas and SPAM and took a stroll down memory lane in Hawaii, Brittany Lincicome played cards with her family and did well, and Sophie Gustafson played some early (or late) golf on Wednesday. 

Christina Kim hit up In and Out Burger for some greasy grub, Becky Morgan shared this shot of a woman filling divots on a driving range in India, and Paula Creamer spent some time at a holiday cactus garden in Las Vegas. A number of players, including Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam (photo) shared photos from their Thanksgiving celebrations on Thursday.

Karen Stupples added bacon to her bird, Natalie Gulbis got a visit from some actual turkeys on the festive day, and Thompson even got in some practice. Lincicome’s niece made this awesome snow angel, Jennifer Song got some new workout equipment, and Jessica Korda had to bundle up on the range. 

Ryann O’Toole went hiking before eating, Wie went on a post-meal walk with an amazing backdrop to look at and a waterfall as a destination, and Gulbis visited the Taylor Made experience in Las Vegas.

Here’s a nice article by Associated Press golf writer Doug Ferguson about the Tour’s Korean players breaking stereotypes. Here’s a plug for Recari’s pro-am for the Alliance for Eating Disorder Association’s Golf Classic, which benefits a great cause. 

Well, that’s all for now, and this year, and I’ll be back in January to pick things up again. Here’s wishing everyone a great holiday season and a Happy New Year.

Until next time….



Feng has fun at Florida finale

As Thanksgiving approaches, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say I was thankful to have had the chance to write this column this year.

It’s been a fun journey, and I’m happy to continue it this week. The season is over, amazingly, and it sure did go by fast.

I’ll do my best this week to put a wrap on an awesome season that was not short on drama. We’ll start with everything that played out in Naples, Fla., at the season-ending event, and each day was filled with news and excitement.

After this past weekend, Shanshan Feng has 700,000 more reasons to be thankful. She finished with back-to-back rounds of 67 and 66 to edge Gerina Piller by a stroke to claim the CME Group Titleholders title and take home the biggest payout in women’s golf at $700,000.

Piller (photo) had a birdie putt on the 72nd hole to force a playoff, but it slid wide right. The near-miss was seen by a big gallery of fans and media, and Feng got to fire a cannon after her big win.

That massive haul moved her to fourth on the final LPGA money list with $1,716,657 and to fourth in the Rolex Women’s Golf World Rankings. Only the “Big Three” of Inbee Park, Suzann Pettersen and Stacy Lewis stand ahead of her in both categories, and all four players had monumental seasons.

Feng’s win in Naples made her the LPGA’s sixth multiple tournament winner of 2013, along with Park, Pettersen and Lewis, Beatriz Recari and Lexi Thompson. Feng also won the Reignwood LPGA Classic in her native China in early October and now has three career victories to go along with more than $4 million in career earnings.

The LPGA did a fascinating comparison of the Big Three, and the way the trio battled for supremacy atop the LPGA heap reminded me of when Hall of Famers Annika Sorenstam, Karrie Webb and Se Ri Pak dominated the tour in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Lewis became the first American-born player to win the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average since Beth Daniel in 1994, an accomplishment she no doubt treasures.

Moriya Jutanugarn clinched the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, and here is more information on Lewis’ and Jutanugarn’s achievements. If statistics are your thing, here are more tidbits from the 2013 season the LPGA Communications Department put together.

Naturally, there was plenty going on in “Twitterville” this past weekend and earlier this week.

Sophie Gustafson was on a jet plane heading somewhere on Sunday, and here is a cool photo talking about Jacqui Concolino having Fairways for Warriors member B.J. Jackson caddy for her in Tuesday’s pro-am. The CME Group rolled out the blue carpet for Tour players this past week, Lizette Salas was on the Golf Channel’s “Morning Drive” show on Monday, and Dottie Pepper posted her thoughts on the LPGA season from her last ESPNW column of the year.

Cristie Kerr shared this awesome sunset photo from New York City on Monday, Paula Creamer was already working on getting ready for 2014, and Thompson attended a Carolina Panthers game on Sunday. Brittany Lincicome made a nice gingerbread house with her niece, Mika Miyazato and Amy Yang went to Disney World, and Michelle Wie headed to her home state of Hawaii on Tuesday.

Ryann O’Toole spent part of Saturday at Pebble Beach and shared this amazing photo, and Sorenstam was there, too. Maria Hjorth was at Bay Hill, and Vicky Hurst got a look at Air Force One landing in San Fransicso. PING Chairman and CEO John Solheim was inducted into the Arizona Golf Hall of Fame, Pettersen ran into none other than Arnold Palmer in Oslo, Norway, and Park got to see some snow in her native South Korea.

Congratulations go out to Liselotte Neumann and Azahara Munoz (photo) for their win at the ISPS Handa Heroes charity event, which was attended by a number of stars and legends. It was one heck of a year for those two ladies, who were major players for the victorious European Solheim Cup Team in August. Here’s a cool picture of both Solheim Cup captains from the ISPS Handa Heroes event.

Stacy Prammanasudh is calling it quits on her career and had her father, Lou, who taught her the game, caddy for her in Naples. Here is Beth Ann Baldry’s column on Prammanasudh for Golfweek.

The CME Group Titleholders was also the final event for LPGA Tour rules official Janet Lindsay, who received this tasty-looking cake to commemorate her 19 years at the LPGA. Janet is a wonderful lady, and I was thrilled to see her at the Solheim Cup.

I wish you the best Janet and know the Tour will greatly miss you!

Well, that’s it for now. Tune in this weekend for my final blog of 2013, where I’ll dole out some awards and accolades from the season that was.

Until next time….




Two more rounds to go

Here we are, with just 36 holes left in the 2013 LPGA Tour season, and I can’t help but wonder where the time has gone.

The season-ending CME Group Titleholders is at the halfway point, and it’s been one heck of a week in Naples, Fla. Sandra Gal, whose lone LPGA win came in 2011, has been the story so far on the course, but there’s been plenty going on off the course as well.

Gal leads South Korea’s Sun Young Yoo by three strokes heading into the weekend, but there are enough birdies at picturesque Tiburon Golf Club for someone to make a charge from behind. It will be a furious sprint to the finish line, that’s for sure.

Stacy Lewis and Suzann Pettersen are both at even par heading into the final two rounds, with the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average on the line. The LPGA money title is also up for grabs, but newly crowned Rolex Player of the Year Inbee Park, who sits at 4-under, is in the driver’s seat to claim that honor.

As expected, it has been a week of big announcements for the Tour. On Thursday, the Kia Performance Awards were revealed, with Cristie Kerr, Beatriz Recari, Nicole Smith and Lewis all earning brand new Kia Cadenza sedans for taking home awards. Here’s the press release announcing the news.

The same day, the LPGA announced the eight countries that have officially qualified for the 2014 International Crown. They are, South Korea, the United States, Japan, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, Chinese Taipei and Australia (photo), and the four players who will represent those countries in the July competition will be finalized on March 31 following the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

Friday brought the release of the 2014 LPGA Tour schedule (video), a beefed-up and impressive 32-event lineup that features four new tournaments. The season begins Jan. 23-26 with the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic and will culminate with the CME Group Titleholders Nov. 20-23.

The Tour announced that key stats, like TV hours and total purse, will be up in 2014, and you can read all about it here.

With all of the buzz surrounding the LPGA this week, Twitter has been highly active, even more so than usual. Here are some highlights.

This week also meant the professional debut of 16-year-old Lydia Ko, who joined LPGA Chief Communications Officer Kraig Kann in the media center for a press conference on Wednesday. Natalie Gulbis was one of multiple players who took to the driving range midweek to work on final tune-ups for Thursday’s opening round, and the Tour’s final pro-am of the year also took place on Wednesday, with last week’s winner Lexi Thompson having fun with her group.

Gulbis and USA Today golf writer Steve DiMeglio joined forces for some Google+ time on Wednesday, while Golf World’s Ron Sirak emceed the LPGA Tournament Owners Association luncheon, where he got to take a photo with a trio of Hall of Famers. Gal was excited about her new Callaway driver, Jessica Korda sported some new Adidas outerwear, and Catriona Matthew was happy to see this treat in her hotel room.

Michelle Wie got in a workout on Wednesday, Lizette Salas got some treatment for achy muscles, and Kerr also took home the Kia Community Assist Award (photo) for her Birdies for Breast Cancer charity work. Thompson signed autographs on Thursday, Brittany Lincicome found a slow-moving buddy, and Gulbis made an appearance at Tommy Bahamas.

Rookie Brooke Pancake received a bottle of wine sporting her surname, Karen Stupples interviewed Gal for the Golf Channel on Thursday, and LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan spent time in the Golf Channel booth on Friday. Azahara Munoz signed autographs on Friday, Gal hosted the Rolex Awards Dinner (photo) that night, where she hung with her mom, and the players were dressed to the nines.

Here’s a shot of Thompson, one of Park and one of Reilley Rankin receiving the Heather Farr Perseverance Award for overcoming a major back injury. This is a cool photo of players on the red carpet for the event, and Gulbis interviewed one of the best ever, Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez.

Amanda Blumenherst, who is married to Oakland A’s player Nate Freiman, received the Ellen Griffin Rolex Award, and Park was recognized for her Rolex Player of the Year award.

Meanwhile, in Lake Tahoe, Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam was busy overseeing work on her new house at the resort town, which looks amazing. Julieta Granada took in a Miami Heat-Orlando Magic basketball game, Vicky Hurst got to roam around in a Callaway Golf big rig, and Liselotte Neumann found an interesting training buddy at the Ritz Carlton.

The weekend will produce the final champion of the season, and it will all play out on the Golf Channel. I, for one, will be sure to tune in.

Until next time….

 

Thompson triumphs, final week begins

As I continue to come back down to Earth after Auburn’s miracle win over Georgia, I can’t help but reflect on one heck of a weekend.

It was a busy and thrilling one in the sports world, and that definitely included Lexi Thompson’s win at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational Presented by Banamex in Guadalajara, Mexico. The 18-year-old made a clutch five-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole for a final-round 69 that left her one shot ahead of Stacy Lewis.

It was Thompson’s third career LPGA win – her second as a pro – and second in the last five events. She moved to 10th in the Rolex Women’s Golf World Rankings, fifth on the LPGA money list with more than $1 million in earnings and first in the 2015 U.S. Solheim Cup points standings.

It appears the uber-talented teen is learning how to win, and I believe this is a sign of more things to come in the future. Look for Thompson to become a big-time contender on Tour for years to come.

Speaking of “big-time players,” Inbee Park finished fourth in Mexico to wrap up Rolex Player of the Year honors for this season. The six-time 2013 winner has 297 points to go along with her nearly $2.4 million in earnings, mathematically putting her out of reach of Norway’s Suzann Pettersen heading into this week’s season finale.

The 25-year-old becomes the first player from South Korea to win the coveted award, and she is very deserving of the honor. Pettersen and Lewis kept the heat on her down the stretch, but her top-five south of the border sealed the deal.

Players had a blast in Mexico, enjoying both the picturesque golf course and its courteous staff, the tournament’s hospitality and the city of Guadalajara. It was a great conclusion to the Tour’s 2013 international lineup and was a nice chance for players to tune up their games for this week’s CME Group Titleholders in Naples, Fla.

It was a busy weekend.

Azahara Munoz and Carlota Ciganda hung out on Saturday night, Thompson stretched in her hotel room before shooting a third-round 67, and Michelle Wie and Ai Miyazato had fun playing together in the first two rounds. Amy Yang and the rest of the players had to contend with rain on Saturday, Morgan Pressel made a new friend, and Sandra Gal signed autographs for fans.

Natalie Gulbis appeared in GOLF.com’s list of “Most Beautiful Women in Golf” in a 25-photo spread. The 18-member list also included Tour players Kathleen Ekey (photos), Beatriz Recari (photos) and Belen Mozo (photos).

Thompson was already at work practicing at the CME Group Titleholders early on Tuesday before taking a nap, Gal and Lisette Salas had fun shooting an LPGA commercial, as did Brittany Lincicome and Gerina Piller (photo) and Jessica Korda and Cristie Kerr (photo), and Gulbis and the other players had great weather for the pro-am. This is what the amazing 18th hole looks like at Tiburon Golf Club, where a champion will be crowned on Sunday, and rookie Brooke Pancake found herself handling her own caddie duties for a bit.

Wie took a picture with the hole-in-one prize on the 16th hole on Tuesday, while one of Pancake’s pro-am partners played a joke on the Alabama grad by putting an Auburn head cover on one of her clubs. Thompson was styling in heels and a new dress and Rolex for Tuesday night’s dinner, which featured actor Mark Wahlberg and entertainment from Gloriana.

The LPGA unveiled its online media center on Tuesday, which is a great tool for media and avid fans alike.

It all comes to a close this week in Naples, where the 2013 season concludes and players make a final push for an event title. It’s hard to believe the season is already in its final week, and it’s been one heck of a ride this year.

Next week, I’ll do my best to sum up the year that was, and we will see if this weekend’s champion will make their way into the season highlights with their performance. Only four rounds remain, and I’m willing to bet they will be quite entertaining.

Until next time….

 

Crowded leaderboard south of the border

With just two tournaments remaining on the 2013 schedule, players are teeing it up with a keen sense of urgency.

That’s been apparent in Mexico so far this weekend, as the leaderboard is a crowded place to be. Anna Nordqvist, Pornanong Phatlum and So Yeon Ryu are tied at the top with 9-under totals after 36 holes, with Inbee Park, Lexi Thompson and Gerina Piller a stroke back and a host of talented players within four strokes of the lead.

They’re all playing for this awesome trophy, and the weekend finale should be one heck of a show. We’ll see who wants it most on Sunday afternoon, and it appears that the champion will need to go pretty darn low to fight off the rest of the field.

Thompson had a blast with her Wednesday pro-am group and dressed up for the occasion, and Jessica Korda enjoyed her new hand sanitizer container, courtesy of Paula Creamer. Lizette Salas spoke with media on Wednesday, as did Park, and Amy Yang got in some work on the driving range.

Michelle Wie was bummed after losing in a side game in a lighthearted pro-am and made a new friend, while Beatriz Recari shared this photo of herself warming up before the pro-am, where she got to play with a fun group that included the father of host Lorena Ochoa. The pro-am featured a first that I’ve never seen before – casino games – which players seemed to love.

Amy Yang also got in the fun-loving spirit during the pro-am with her very colorful group, Sandra Gal had a zany crew of her own, and Park signed autographs after an opening-round 68. Friday was Ochoa’s birthday, and the LPGA celebrated it by doing a nice photo collage on Facebook.

Thompson dressed up for a Friday night function in Guadalajara, as did this group of tall LPGA players.

Meanwhile, back in the States, Natalie Gulbis appeared on her local Channel 5 News station to promote her Dec. 16 charity event for the Boys & Girls Club of Las Vegas, then dropped by ESPN Radio on Friday to do the same thing. She also played an early round of golf on Friday, while Danielle Kang played until the sun went down. Earlier in the week, Liselotte Neumann gathered some clubs to donate to The First Tee of Palm Desert.

Congrats to Suzann Pettersen, who was named the United States Sports Academy’s Athlete of the Month for October, a big honor you can read more about here. Speaking of awards, Annika Sorenstam is receiving the First Lady of Golf Award from the PGA of America, and here is more information on that big-time distinction.

Next week’s season-ending CME Group Titleholders in Naples, Fla., will honor the U.S. military, and here is the nuts and bolts information about that cool added wrinkle to the tournament.

Before we know it, the season will be over, so each round is such a big deal to players this time of year. It makes for an exciting atmosphere and compelling drama.

Until next time….

 

Lu goes low for win in Japan

Teresa Lu will remember Nov. 10 forever.

The eight-year pro from Taiwan amassed eight top-10 finishes in four years on the LPGA Tour before relinquishing her card in 2010. She’s been playing on the JLPGA since then and has 13 top-10 finishes in 28 starts this season, so Lu has been a force in Japan.

She felt right at home on Sunday, carding a tournament-low 64 to come from behind and edge Chella Choi by two strokes for the $180,000 first-place prize. Choi’s 66 on the final day helped her separate herself from the rest of the pack, but Lu’s round was just a bit better.

Both players could be names to watch in the future, and Choi has been a regular atop the leaderboard throughout the season. Reigning Rolex Player of the Year Stacy Lewis tied for eighth and maintained her lead in the race for the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average.

Entering this week’s Lorena Ochoa Invitational Presented by Banamex, Lewis’s 69.54 average leads Norway’s Suzann Pettersen by five-hundredths of a point, with Inbee Park in third at 69.93. Lewis is trying to become the first American in 19 years to win the coveted prize, and the final two events should be an interesting stage for this drama to play out.

It was a busy weekend away from the tournament as well, and “Twitter Theater” has plenty of proof of that.

Michelle Wie didn’t let some dark clouds keep her from practicing in Stanford headwear on Saturday, the same day Anna Nordqvist was practicing with Sam Horsfield and saw this suped-up golf cart. Natalie Gulbis found one heck of a “big gulp” at the Wendy’s 3-Tour Challenge, Lexi Thompson had some new Puma workout gear, and Carlota Ciganda enjoyed a nice meal in Spain with family.

Annika Sorenstam took in a Josh Groban concert with friends on Saturday, Paula Creamer shared this cool shot of herself with her boyfriend, and Brittany Lincicome received this nice photo message from a fan. Sunday was a workday for Thompson at Trump International, Sorenstam was back on the sand volleyball court, and Wie spent part of the day getting her nails done.

Catriona Matthew shared this nice shot from Japan before heading to Mexico, here’s some really cool Instagram art from Wie, and Cristie Kerr attended the Wendy’s 3-Tour Challenge dinner. Monday was Veteran’s Day, and here’s a cool shot of Creamer thanking a Marine for his service at one of the Tour’s events.

Jane Crafter was in Tarpon Springs on this beautiful day in Florida, where she visited Sponge Docks and found plenty of sponges being processed. Amy Yang arrived in Guadalajara on Monday, Lizette Salas was already on the putting green at Guadalajara Country Club a day after visiting the Basilica de la Virgen de Zapopan, and she was delighted that her hotel room was decorated in her favorite color.

During a practice round, Danielle Kang found herself with a precarious lie that looks like the result of one of my tee shots, Beatriz Recari provided this early morning view of Guadalajara on Tuesday, and this was Wie’s view of the same vibrant city. Here’s a cool shot of Thompson crushing a ball during her practice round, this is one of Wie doing the same thing, and another one of Yang taking time to mug for the camera on the seventh tee.

Azahara Munoz took time out of her schedule to give a junior clinic at the tournament, much to the delight of a good-sized group of youngsters, and congrats to Lewis, Gulbis and Kerr, who won the Wendy’s 3-Tour Challenge.

We’re on to the final two events, and it should be an eventful couple of weeks. Here’s Randy Mell’s Golfchannel.com article about Pettersen having the chance to overtake Park for the No. 1 world ranking that will give you a sense of what’s at stake. Speaking of articles, congratulations are in order for Lydia Ko, who was named one of Time magazine’s “16 Most Influential Teens of 2013.” Here’s a photo of her with Hall of Famer Phil Mickelson.

There’s just never a dull moment on Tour.

Until next time….

Getting things going again

The LPGA is concluding its impressive Asian swing in Japan this week at the Mizuno Classic, and the title at the 54-hole event is up for grabs heading into the final round. 

Longtime JLPGA pro Shiho Oyama carded back-to-back four-under 68s and is tied at the top with a pair of her fellow Japanese players, Yuki Ichinose and Mamiko Higa, at 8-under-par. Brittany Lincicome and Asako Fujimoto are a stroke back, and nine other players are within three shots of the lead, so the final round should be a shootout.

One of those is defending champion Stacy Lewis, a member of Team Mizuno this week, who is at 5-under, and she has a lot to play for these last few weeks. Lewis can become the first American in 19 years to win the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average with a strong finish this season, and she can do so a year after becoming the first U.S.-born player to take home Rolex Player of the Year honors since Beth Daniel in 1994. That’s pretty impressive stuff. 

Players have been busy this week with a variety of activities, providing for entertaining viewing on Twitter. Here are some highlights.

Hall of Famer Juli Inkster had to pay up on a bet with Cindy LaCrosse on Tuesday, while Michelle Wie went for a morning jog on Wednesday. Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam was busy working with her sponsor Cutter & Buck on an annual photo shoot, where her sister, Charlotta, joined her for a few shots. Lexi Thompson was in Sea Island, Ga., to support her brother, Curtis, as he played in the PGA Tour event there, and LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan was excited to promote the 2014 CP Women’s Open that will take place in Canada. 

Maria Hjorth was on the practice range on Wednesday, the same day Sandra Gal hit the beach after a practice session of her own. Natalie Gulbis spent part of the day Wednesday doing a radio show to promote her charity event, the Natalie Gulbis Golf Classic, Jessica Korda played some golf with her dad, and Lizette Salas was at the beautiful South Hills Country Club.

Jennie Lee celebrated her birthday with Amanda Blumenherst, Wie did her best Heisman pose on Thursday before watching her fifth-ranked Stanford Cardinal run all over No. 3 Oregon, and Gulbis drove her sweet-looking Lexus to a morning workout while decked out in her customary Adidas gear. Karin Sjodin appreciated the work of the golf course’s greens crew during a practice round, while Wie was practicing “trouble” shots on Thursday. 

Gal was putting oranges and working on her wedge game while practicing in Florida, Ryann O’Toole took in a Los Angeles Kings hockey game, and Thompson hit the gym before going on the Golf Channel’s “Morning Drive” program on Friday. Whan was at the scenic Caves Valley Golf Club outside Baltimore on Friday to promote the 2014 International Crown, and Gulbis posted this cool shot from a practice session as she prepared for the Wendy’s Three-Tour Challenge that began on Friday.

Lydia Ko, who received early membership to the LPGA Tour from Whan last week, found a youngster (who’s even younger than her) who drew a picture of her as a school project, and she was participating in the Hi Well Charity Golf Tournament in New Zealand, where she was received with flowers and met the company president. 

Here’s the article Golfweek’s Beth Ann Baldry wrote on Nicole Hage, a fellow Auburn Tiger, transitioning away from playing on the LPGA Tour to a full-time job in membership relations at a Dallas golf course. I join many people in wishing Nicole the best.

Future Hall of Famer Lorena Ochoa will host the Lorena Ochoa Invitational Presented by Banamex next week in her native Guadalajara, and she will be able to bring her new daughter, Julia, to check out the event. Lorena is a great person and was always one of my favorite players, and it’s awesome to see her become a mother again. Felicidades Lorena! 

The LPGA continued to roll out big news this week, announcing a new domestic event for 2014 on Friday. Here’s the press release about the Meijer LPGA Classic, which will be played in Grand Rapids, Mich., and this addition is further proof that the Tour is on one heck of an upswing.

Speaking of exciting future news, here is the golf pictogram for the 2016 Olympic Summer Games in Rio de Janiero, Brazil. 

There’s never a dull moment in the golf world, and that’s one of the things I love about it.

Until next time….




Back in action in Japan

It’s time to tee it up.

With its final off week in the books, the LPGA begins its three-tournament finale to the 2013 season this week in Japan. Stacy Lewis will defend her title in the Mizuno Classic against a strong field that could just produce another Rolex First-Time Winner.

World No. 1 Inbee Park and second-ranked Suzann Pettersen are taking another week off, so their battle for the Rolex Player of the Year award will have to wait. Lewis is third in that race and third in the world, and a successful title defense by her could bring her closer to Park and Pettersen.

Dating back to 1973, the Mizuno Classic is one of the LPGA’s longest-standing international events, one I was lucky enough to experience during my days as a Tour employee. Players will enjoy themselves, and squaring off for $1.2 million no doubt will keep them focused and enthusiastic for all 54 holes.

LPGA veteran Michelle McGann will be busy in November, which is Diabetes Awareness Month, and she was doing some local TV on Saturday to promote diabetes charities. Paula Creamer cooked a tasty-looking meal on Saturday, and Michelle Wie puckered up with a duck.

Lexi Thompson spent part of her Saturday getting a lesson from her coach, Jim McLean, while Natalie Gulbis was with her coach, Butch Harmon, at Golf Galaxy, where she signed autographs and took photos with fans. Gulbis also got some new Winn grips on her clubs, and Jessica Korda enjoyed a round of golf with her sister, Nelly, and her boyfriend.

Ryann O’Toole took in the UCLA-Colorado game on a beautiful Saturday in Pasadena, Cristie Kerr saw a bobcat during a practice round, and Lizette Salas, right, enjoyed a bonfire at Newport Beach while trying not to freeze. Gulbis put in some practice on Sunday, Wie was at a dog park, and Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam was back on a volleyball court with friends.

Karen Stupples ran into some creepy crawlers and reptiles on Sunday, including a scorpion, tarantula, gecko and even an alligator, while Wie hit the practice range, went to the gym and cooked some delicious-looking ribs. Sorenstam recommended this chardonnay, O’Toole kept her sports weekend going by attending a Los Angeles Lakers game, and Mina Harigae visited a famous Buddhist temple in Kyoto on Sunday.

Sandra Gal hit some bunker shots as part of a photo shoot for Callaway, Gulbis was doing charity work with a paralysis foundation, and Creamer hit the practice range. Dottie Pepper was at the 9/11 Memorial site in New York on Monday, Salas followed in O’Toole’s footsteps by taking in a Lakers game, and Maria Hjorth had the pleasure of swimming with dolphins.

Katie Futcher shared this beautiful photo from a hike in Phoenix. Brooke Pancake wrote this nice piece about the lessons she’s learned during her rookie year, which is a good read. Jodi Ewart will be on the cover of the new Golfweek, and Beth Ann Baldry wrote the cover story.

The next few weeks will be interesting, and we will soon know who the 2013 Rolex Player of the Year is. I can’t wait to see how things end.

Until next time….

 

Halloween, shenanigans and a week off

Michael Myers is resting again for another year, everyone is working hard on cavities from too much candy and the LPGA is enjoying its final off week of the 2013 season.

The final three events of the year loom on the horizon, but this week was about fun, relaxation and enjoying life for Tour players. They sure know how to get the most out of their time off, and this week was no different.

Halloween was Thursday, and a number of players took part in the festivities.

Lexi Thompson dressed up as a “flirty nerd,” Lizette Salas had her face painted for her “dead cowgirl” costume, and Ryann O’Toole was a pirate. The LPGA Communications team was very clever with their “social butterfly” costumes as well.

As always, it’s been a busy week in “Twitter Theater,” and here are some of the highlights.

Brittany Lincicome got to hold tiger cubs and see elephants while in South Africa and donned these socks in honor of Halloween, Michelle Wie promoted her Pinterest site, and European Solheim Cup Captain Liselotte Neumann was hiking in the desert. Natalie Gulbis was on the course on Wednesday, Karen Stupples continued to give a behind-the-scenes look at the Golf Channel’s “Morning Drive” program, and Amanda Blumenherst was living the good life in Arizona.

Wie attended the exciting Miami Dolphins-Cincinnati Bengals game in Miami on Halloween night, and on Friday, Mina Harigae shared some amazing shots from a sightseeing trip in Thailand, including this one from the great Leonardo DiCaprio movie “The Beach.” Thompson took this video of Donald Trump arriving at Trump International in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Friday, a great course where they used to hold the ADT Championship.

Gulbis found a gold and glittery pumpkin, Sandra Gal was staying in shape with a workout on Friday, and Anna Nordqvist was enjoying a Swedish Christmas drink. Alena Sharp spent some time on Friday hitting drives to raise money for the Make a Wish Foundation at Seville Golf & Country Club (photo) in Arizona, Jessica Korda enjoyed a gingerbread latte, and Nicole Castrale was giving swing tips to Arizona Cardinals star wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald

By the end of the month, we’ll know who the Rolex Player of the Year is for 2013, and Suzann Pettersen’s recent achievements have made it less of a “done deal.” Inbee Park is still in the driver’s seat, but the door is open for Pettersen to nip her at the finish line.

The LPGA will also give out the remainder of its 2013 awards, and those no doubt will make some players’ holiday seasons that much brighter. Only three weeks remain, and they’re likely to be just as action-packed as the rest of the season has been thus far.

I always enjoyed working the season-ending Tour championship because of its significance, but it also signaled the end of a long and fulfilling season. Naples, Fla., will once again be the site for that this year, and players will get a brief respite before kicking the 2014 season off in the Bahamas in January.

Then, it will all begin again!

Until next time….



Neal Reid is a freelance writer based in Colorado Springs, Colo., who has written for USA Today, The Associated Press, ESPN.com, ESPNW.com, Newsday, the Colorado Springs Gazette, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Oakland Tribune, Marin (Calif.) Independent-Journal and numerous regional and national magazines. He was an LPGA media relations coordinator from 1998-2004 and served as PR Manager for this year's Solheim Cup. Follow him on Twitter @NealReid21

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