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The Social Scene with Neal Reid - February

Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn
Photo Credit: Victor Fraile/Getty Images

Thailand's Ariya Jutanugarn (R) is consoled by her sister Moriya after loosing the event with a triple bogey on the final 18th hole during day four of the Honda LPGA Thailand at Siam Country Club in Chon Buri, Thailand.

February 27 2013, Neal Reid

Drama in Thailand -2/27/13

We’re only two weeks into the 2013 LPGA Tour season, and there’s already been a laundry list of storylines to follow and explore.

Ariya Jutanugarn, a 17-year-old LET rookie whose LPGA Tour rookie sister, Moriya, tied for fourth at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open the week before, was in the driver’s seat to become the third-youngest winner in LPGA history Sunday before disaster struck. Ariya, who grew up with her sister in Thailand, took an eight on the final hole to finish with a 72, which enabled Inbee Park’s final-round 67 to catapult her to the victory by a single stroke.

Moriya and others comforted Ariya on the 18th green, but considering her week included a hole in one and a string of five straight birdies, I’m confident Ariya will be back to challenge for a title again.

Park picked up her fourth career win, and here’s a link to my LPGA.com feature about her from last September: http://www.lpga.com/golf/news/2012/9/walk-in-the-park.aspx.

Ariya’s eight on the 18th wasn’t the only wreck of the day, as a number of Tour players were involved in a five-car crash in Bangkok that sent Paula Creamer, Ai Miyazato and Suzann Pettersen to a local hospital to have minor injuries suffered by Creamer and Miyazato checked out. Here’s a link to Pettersen’s blog about the incident: http://suzanngolf.com/average-week-with-a-scary-ending/.

Here’s what Creamer Tweeted about the wreck: “I was in the middle car and felt like a ping pong ball. I saw doctors today no concussion, sore shoulder and moderate whiplash. I will probably be sore for several weeks. My air bag did not deploy. Had seat belt on thank goodness. Colin (Cann) was in the back seat. Colin has a sore neck and shoulders. We might have to get small bag this week. We were very lucky. Hope to be able to play this week.”

Players traveled to Singapore on Sunday and Monday for the HSBC Women’s Champions event at Sentosa Golf Club, where Angela Stanford is the defending champion. Here’s a nice article the LPGA media crew did about Stanford, Yani Tseng, Creamer and Pettersen doing a photo op to promote the tournament: http://www.lpga.com/golf/news/2013/2/hsbc-players-walk-on-water.aspx.

Twitter has been aglow with players raving about Singapore and the official tournament hotel, which seems like it’s not a bad pile of bricks. Here’s a cool photo Catriona Matthew Tweeted from the hotel (https://twitter.com/Beany25/status/305867706689802241/photo/1/large), another one of the hotel’s 55th-floor workout facility by Sandra Gal (https://twitter.com/TheSandraGal/status/305910110151122944/photo/1/large) and yet another shot by Gal of the infinity pool on the 57th floor (https://twitter.com/TheSandraGal/status/305989272824070144/photo/1/large). Karin Sjodin needed some navigational help to get around the hotel, Tweeting this: “Wanna know how big this hotel is? I had to download the hotel's app in order to find my way around without getting lost ‪#huge.”

Players have already attended a HSBC Women’s Forum dinner (http://instagram.com/p/WMkre4p-jo/) and visited a Singapore amusement park (https://twitter.com/natalie_gulbis/status/306379806839296000/photo/1/large), Sentosa Universal Studios, where some of them went zip-lining (https://twitter.com/Brittany1golf/status/306328400069541888/photo/1/large).

In an interesting turn of events, Lisette Salas apparently received a text from Robby Krieger of The Doors. Although she didn’t mention what it said, it was probably to congratulate her on a career-best tie for eighth. Brittany Lincicome was apparently the victim of hackers Sunday, as she went to Twitter to ask for advice on changing her password, advice that was provided by Golf World Executive Editor and Tweet machine Ron Sirak.

European Solheim Cup Captain Liselotte Neumann had a busy week, participating in an Arizona Kidney Foundation event in Phoenix and playing in the Legends Tour’s Walgreens Charity Classic there, where she tied for 29th. Neumann had to bundle up for the final round: https://twitter.com/lotta_eucapt/status/305808327571550208/photo/1/large.

Big congratulations are in order for 2012 Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year So Yeon Ryu, who graduated from Yonsei University in Korea with a degree in sports management (http://t.co/C5nIvYZXOn).

It’s been a great year for LPGA.com so far, as the website folks reported Tuesday that the site received 6 million page views last week and the mobile website was up 57 percent in unique page views. See what happens when you give me a regular column? Surely, I jest.

What the first two tournaments have shown is that there are a number of players who have started the season in great form, and it’s going to be a free-for-all on the leaderboard virtually every week. I think that’s great for the sport, as the level of play has been impressive, to say the least.

It’s clear the Tour’s supply of young stars is immensely deep, and that will provide for good theater as the weeks roll on. Fasten your seat belts folks, it’s going to be quite the ride!

 

LPGA players “Thai one on” in Asia - 2/23/13

The LPGA’s world tour continues in Thailand this week, and the players have thoroughly enjoyed their trip there so far. Twitter has been peppered with Tweets from players raving about their experiences, and I can’t help but feel a bit envious about it all.

I traveled to Malaysia and Japan during my LPGA tenure, and I loved every minute of it. The Asian community loves golf and really knows how to do hospitality right, so I’m sure the players are appreciating that this week.

Players glammed it up at the pro-am party and charity auction this week, Tweeting pictures of themselves in cocktail dresses. That’s something the PGA Tour just can’t provide tournaments, and here are a couple of shots of the players: (https://twitter.com/ThePCreamer/status/304218251917926401/photo/1) and (https://twitter.com/natalie_gulbis/status/304196680876691456/photo/1).

Meanwhile, back in the States, LPGA Chief Communications Officer Kraig Kann represented the Tour at the annual Florida Golf Day at the capitol in Tallahassee on Thursday. It was a full day of promoting the sport, the LPGA and efforts to grow the game, and Kann had a great time doing so (https://twitter.com/KraigKann/status/304586251783249920/photo/1/large) and (https://twitter.com/KraigKann/status/304633370053328896/photo/1/large).  

“It’s great to represent the LPGA and the industry for events like this,” Kann said. “Growing the game has become such a common theme among industry leaders. This ‘alliance’ of the major golf organizations in Florida is committed to helping the state showcase the great things we have and helping bring more people to the game and to the state that is home to tours, tour players and so many key golf partners.

“Sitting among the key legislators in the state was a thrill. There’s a whole lot of energy for the game of golf, and it’s our job as golf industry leaders to represent the golf well and to work together to make sure that the game continues to grow and attract new followers.”

Christina Kim took in the sights back in the States earlier this week after “clambering up some incredible rock formation,” (https://twitter.com/TheChristinaKim/status/304121082372317185/photo/1) and I’m not sure if I’m more impressed by her “clambering” ability or her use of the word in general.

Reigning Rolex Player of the Year Stacy Lewis has picked up right where she left off last season. After a tie for 15th last week in Australia, Lewis set a course record at Siam Country Club’s Pattaya Old Course in the first round of the Honda LPGA Thailand with a blistering nine-under 63. Here’s a link to video of her performance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=LZ-ZXbT2bKs.

Lewis – who just signed with KPMG and is sporting the company’s logo on her hat – was the 36-hole leader at -12 after a second-round 69 and will be the one to beat this weekend as she chases after her sixth career victory. It was interesting to see the weather differences for the two main tours, with a heat index in the mid-to-upper 90s in Thailand and snow delaying the start of the Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona.

LPGA Commish Mike Whan is in Thailand as well and Tweeted this about his trip overseas: “Orlando-Chicago-Hong Kong-Bangkok-Pattaya. 8 movies, 1 book, multiple cans of diet Pepsi #livinthedream.” Trips abroad are always fun and eventful, but a number of players, including Kim, Angela Stanford, Karen Stupples and Jane Park Tweeted about suffering from jet lag this week.

The Daytona 500 is this weekend, and I was lucky enough to attend a few of them while I was living there during my LPGA days. Here’s a picture of Natalie Gulbis and Brittany Lincicome wishing Danica Patrick – who became the first woman to secure the pole at the famed race – luck for the weekend: http://t.co/53GXxduIxq and a video of several LPGA players cheering her on: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=HLopskNHrfI.

Always eager to promote their sport, LPGA players were busy re-Tweeting a link to this page (http://www.atlantis.com/promotions/lpga.aspx?CID=ban_LPGASite), which highlights one of the Tour’s new tournaments for 2013 – the Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic (puresilkbahamasclassic.com) in late May. There are special rates and deals for the Atlantis resort, and mark me down as one person who’d love to go there!

Sports Illustrated’s Alan Shipnuck, a talented writer who’s covered the sport for years and who can, at times, be critical, posted this glowing “shout-out” to the LPGA and its players for being ultra fan-friendly: http://www.golf.com/tour-and-news/sports-illustrateds-alan-shipnuck-case-lpga?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter. Thanks to Kann for posting the link on Twitter on Friday.

As you can see, there’s never a dull moment when the LPGA season is going full force, and I’m glad I am able to help give you the low-down on what’s happening. Until next time….



Tour set for another great week abroad
- 2/20/13

If the first week of the 2013 LPGA Tour season is any indication, it's going to be one heck of a year!

From spiders, kangaroos and ducks (oh my!) to amateurs and the world's No. 1 player in the hunt, it was an immensely eventful start in Australia. Congrats to Jiyai Shin for four superb rounds and claiming her 11th career LPGA title.

If an 11-time champion can fly under the radar, Shin has done that somewhat since joining the Tour in 2009. The immensely talented Korean is famous among her peers for her dominance in closing out tournaments, and the statistics are pretty impressive.

Shin, who was ranked No. 1 in the world in 2010 and won three times before joining the LPGA, won eight times through 2010 and rebounded from a 2011 season that included the death of her mother and a back injury by winning back-to-back events last September. One of those was the RICOH Women's British Open, adding a major title to the 2009 Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year's resume.

She's back at it in 2013, is up to No. 6 in the Rolex Women's World Golf Rankings and should be a force to be reckoned with all season. You can read more about her in a feature I wrote for LPGA.com last fall: http://www.lpga.com/golf/news/2012/10/shin-feature.aspx.

As always, Twitter is a hodgepodge of randomness and entertainment thanks to the LPGA players.

To get in the spirit of this week's Honda LPGA Thailand 2013 event, Tour players Michelle Wie, Paula Creamer, Ai Miyazato and Sandra Gal got into traditional Taiwanese garb and joined two-time defending champion Yani Tseng for a photo opportunity at the course. Here's a link to the photo the folks at LPGA.com posted Tuesday: https://twitter.com/lpga/status/303832846777331713/photo/1.

Speaking of Twitter photos, here's a nice shot of Natalie Gulbis teeing off on No. 6 at Siam Country Club during a practice round she enjoyed with Tseng: http://twitpic.com/c57i7w. Speaking of pictures, here's one Karin Sjodin posted of some Edward Scissorhands-type of work someone did on a hedge: http://via.me/-9uwodgk.

Karen Stupples, the 2004 RICOH Women's British Open champion, has made the switch to Callaway, and the company excitedly posted a picture of Stupples and her new clubs on Twitter (https://twitter.com/CallawayGolf/status/303922153898770432/photo/1). Suzann Pettersen and Wie enjoyed hamming it up at a Nike Golf appearance in Thailand: https://twitter.com/suzannpettersen/status/303786498149453825/photo/1.

This week should be an interesting tournament, with Tseng going for three in a row at this event after finishing second to Shin last week. She's excited to be back in Thailand, where she's been dominant the last two years: https://twitter.com/YaniTseng/status/303823771431743489/photo/1.

Tseng, according to the hardworking folks in the LPGA Communications Department, crossed the $9 million mark in career earnings ($9,080,765) thanks to the $109,523 she banked in Australia.

That made Tseng the second-fastest to the career milestone, just one event more (120) than Lorena Ochoa took to set the LPGA record for being the fastest to $9 million. I'm no mathematician, but that works out to roughly $75,000 an event for Tseng since joining the Tour in 2008.

Simply amazing.

Speaking of amazing, amateur extraordinaire Lydia Ko - who is now ranked 26th in the world - will be in Thailand this week to go for yet another LPGA title. She finished third in Australia a week after bagging her third career victory at a professional event, and there's no reason to think she won't be a factor again this weekend.

On a personal note, I'd like to wish Hall of Famer Judy Rankin a happy belated birthday (it was Monday). She's a super classy lady who not only was a great golfer, but is also a great TV commentator and just all-around top-notch person in general.

Congratulations are also in order for LPGA Director of Media Communications Mike Scanlan, who welcomed daughter Caroline Kay into the world earlier this week along with wife, Julie. Mike does good work for the Tour and is well-liked by the players, and here's wishing him and his new family the best.

 

Off and running 'Down Under' - 2/16/13 

Well, the LPGA Tour season is officially under way, with three rounds now in the books at the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open in Yarralumla. By now, I'm sure most of you have heard about the animal-related shenanigans that have taken place "Down Under," but if not, here's a brief recap.

Sweden's Daniela Holmqvist made headlines in Monday's 18-hole qualifier after she was bitten by a spider in the rough on the fourth hole. Thinking she had been bitten by a black widow, Holmqvist used a golf tee to puncture the swollen bite site and extract "clear liquid" that was likely the spider's venom. 

She was a trooper, finishing her round under medical supervision, but her 74 left her out of the tournament. Officials noted that the black widow is not native to Australia, so it was theorized Holmqvist had actually been bitten by a redback widow spider, which causes approximately 250 anti-venom injections to be used in Australia each year.

Calling her "Spider Woman," the event was covered by national media outlets that included ESPN's SportsCenter, ESPN's "Pardon the Interruption" show and the Associated Press. Here's a link to the AP story, which I found on SportsIllustrated.com.

Another animal-related news item came out during the opening round, when a group of kangaroos caused a delay in play when they took a tour of Royal Canberra Golf Club. Stefan Postles of Getty Images snapped a great photo of Aussie Karrie Webb waiting for her country's official animal to clear the fairway, and a number of media outlets, including USA Today, ran with the odd occurrence. Ducks and other birds have also been reported to make appearances on the course, so it's a regular zoo out there!

As always, players have been Tweeting up a storm, posting thoughts ranging from dismay over missing the cut in Australia and getting new clubs (http://instagram.com/p/VwPfMczh4_/) to excitement from good play and practice news. Natalie Gulbis, one of the most active players on Twitter, posted this picture of her using technology to work on her putting stroke.

Even LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan (@LPGACommish) got in on the action, praising the Solheim Cup for selling $30,000 worth of tickets during a two-day stretch after last week's Denver media blitz. Here's a link to my article on that awesome week. 

I can't talk about Australia, or golf in general, right now without mentioning 15-year-old phenom Lydia Ko. The terrific teen amateur has been tearing it up again, winning her third professional event (yes, her THIRD) last week in New Zealand, shooting a 10-under-par 63 in the first round to take the lead in Australia and being one off the lead after 36 holes.

Pressure is mounting on Ko to turn pro instead of spend at least two years in college - something she said she's wanted to do all along - and chances are good she could petition the LPGA for early membership after turning 16. Given her talent and past performance, the LPGA would likely rubber-stamp her request and get the youngster on the course full-time. 

Time will tell, as they say, and it will be fascinating to see how things play out.

Thanks for reading, and I'll keep writing.



It's great to be back! - 2/13/13

As I sit in my office and watch the snow melt on Pike's Peak here in Colorado Springs, I actually find my mind drifting to Australia, where the LPGA Tour season begins this week with the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open.

I always heard great things about Australia during my six years as an LPGA media coordinator, and I always wanted to work a tournament there. I never got the chance, but I can live vicariously through the players and staff who are there now.

Players have been Tweeting about it like mad, posting pictures of kangaroos just yards off the course and how great it is to be there kicking off the 2013 season. After months of offseason, they're chomping at the bit to get going.

This column will be a regular occurrence this season, as I look to give fans an in-depth and comprehensive view of what's going on as the season rolls along. A couple times a week, I'll be writing about everything from charity news and off-the-course happenings to players' Tweets and LPGA news, and I will do my best to keep it lively and fun.

For instance, Morgan Pressel (@MP_Foundation) Tweeted this week about opening the Morgan Pressel Center for Cancer Genetics at the Boca Raton (Fla.) Regional Hospital, and you can see her there by clicking on this: http://instagram.com/p/VmxyPDw4AT/. Here's the center's website (http://www.brrh.com/cancergenetics.aspx), and Boca News Now did an article on the center (http://bocanewsnow.com/2013/02/04/destined-for-cancer-boca-regional-may-have-the-answer/).

I had a blast working for the LPGA from 1998-2004 and am excited to be working with the Tour again. I've written features for LPGA.com the past few years that you may have read, and last year I was lucky enough to be asked to be the public relations manager for the 2013 Solheim Cup, which will be held Aug. 13-18 at Colorado Golf Club in Parker, Colo., just 50 miles up the road from my home in Colorado Springs.

I worked roughly 60 tournaments during my tenure at the LPGA, and none were more exciting than the Solheim Cup. This year's event will be my fourth Solheim Cup, and I can't wait to see how it all plays out. I will be writing about the event and its news in this column from time to time and am working with U.S. Captain Meg Mallon to produce a Captain's Blog for LPGA.com every month leading up to the event.

Feel free to write in with questions for players, myself, LPGA staffers, etc., and I will do my best to track down the answers. Also, if there's a funny Tweet or picture you see out there, you can also send it my way via a comment on this column.

Thanks for reading, and I'll keep writing.

 

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 a media relations coordinator for the LPGA from 1998-2004.


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