Fan Diary KIA Classic Sunday 3/24/13
As promised in our diary/blog yesterday, Joni and I went back out to #3 at the Aviara Golf Club to watch everyone play again today. We had seen on Saturday where the pin was to be located on Sunday, and I had said to Joni “This is potentially really ugly and really exciting”. We were right about that.
However, before I get to today’s action, I was remiss in not mentioning one of the funny things that happened yesterday. I have made no mystery of the fact that I have always been a HUGE Juli Inkster fan. So when Joni and I arrived yesterday we hustled out to the first tee to follow Juli and Tiffany Joh (another Cali girl) off the first tee. Tiffany’s caddy was NOWHERE to be found. Here came Tiffany with nothing but her driver, and some other person carrying her bag. She and Juli had a great laugh about this, and when her caddy finally showed up, we all stood and applauded. Just one of the cool things about hanging with the LPGA is the humor and relaxed atmosphere that you encounter.
So, on to today. The pin on #3, which plays 147 yards over a lake with water on both sides of the green, was front right today. Three yards too long and you had an impossible downhill snake of a putt that would break about four feet. Six feet right of the flag, you were in gnarly fringe. Ten feet left and you had an uphill then downhill putt breaking hard right at the hole. We are talking 3-4 FEET of break. Leave your ball short of the hole and you were left with an uphill putt with a lot of break in it that you simply could NOT afford to hit past the hole. The downhill comeback would be a killer. The hole was a disaster waiting to happen to anyone who didn’t hit a perfect tee shot.
One more thing about the hole. Come up 20 feet short and you were in the lake. We saw five balls in the water among the first 20 two-somes. Sara-Maude Juneau hit a great tee shot about three feet above the hole and managed to caress the ball into the cup. Amanda Blumenherst (who got HOT and shot 68 today) birdied the hole from below the cup and in the fringe.
By the way, we were blown away that the ladies were playing lift clean and place on a day when the course was in superb shape. What we were told is that there were a couple of holes with soggy fairways and the tournament committee didn’t want to allow lift/clean/place on just those two holes. As a fan of golf and a teaching pro, I think this was a poor decision on their part. The ladies are good enough they don’t need an extra boost, and this detracted from the fan experience when a poor lie due to a slightly errant shot, was turned into a better, more playable lie on a course where the ball was sitting nicely and the turf was in superb shape. Hopefully the tournament committee will rethink this in the future.
Anyway, the hole gave the ladies fits today, with several triples, lots of doubles and the occasional sparkler from one of these fine players.
When Stacy Lewis came through, she showed why she is #1 in the world by draining an uphill 20 foot birdie putt with authority.
One of the things I love about this game is the integrity of the players. Jennifer Johnson put her tee shot right of the green on a nasty slope. As she was near the ball, it moved. She called the penalty on herself and went on to finish the hole.
Lisa McCloskey hit her tee shot into the rocks on the right of the green and made a truly great four from there. If there is such a thing as a great bogey, that was one. Stephanie Sherlock had her tee shot carom off the rocks lining the front pond and finish on the hillside above the hole. She saved par from there, taking advantage of a tremendous break from the golf gods.
The 33rd group, of Na Yeon Choi (NYC) and Jane Park from So Cal showed just how treacherous this hole could be. Jane hit the shot of the day, just two feet left of the hole and made two. NYC hit her tee shot 15’ above the hole and putting BRILLIANTLY to make a four. Several players three putted from inside 10 feet.
Just a nasty hole location that was everything it promised to be yesterday.
I have said this dozens of times in these blogs, but one of the coolest things is the people you meet. The ladies we met yesterday joined us again today, and will catch up with us at the Kraft Nabisco Championship in two weeks. We also ran into several people whom we usually see at the Kraft Nabisco Championship and had some fun visiting with them also.
The weather was great, the course is beautiful and we are looking forward to our next encounter with the Ladies of the LPGA.
The Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad, CA - Saturday 3/23 KIA Classic
What an interesting couple of days it has been for the LPGA as the first of two tournaments in California debuted at the Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad, CA. This is the only Arnold Palmer Design in San Diego County, and it is a GORGEOUS golf course. Just walking around the course is an experience all its own.
Two days ago Yani Tseng, the defending champ, over slept and missed her Pro-Am tee time. As a result she was forced to withdraw from the tournament. This is a good rule because the sponsors and the fans are the ones who pay the bills, and respecting them is hugely important. Yani, being the classy lady she is, apologized to everyone. She is not the first tour professional on either tour to be bitten by this, and probably won’t be the last. However, the rule should stay in place.
The next thing that happened is Natalie Gulbis, one of the most gracious and more recognizable Americans on tour withdrew due to fatigue caused by her contracting malaria while overseas this spring.
So, that being said, the tournament got off to a rousing start, and Joni and I finally managed to make it out on Saturday. We are bummed that our friend Katie Futcher didn’t make the cut this week, so we didn’t get a chance to see her today. However, the day was filled with really good happenings, not the least of which was the marvelous San Diego weather.
Having scoped out the course, we decided upon arrival that we would follow the next group out and camp at the 3rd hole for the day. Those of you who have not watched a tournament this way should give it a try. Arrive early, follow one of the first groups out to whatever hole you decide to camp at, and then settle in and watch everyone come by. This gives you the chance to see everyone, rather than running all over, and gives you a much better perspective as to how people are playing than following one group.
So we followed Tiffany Joh and Juli Inkster off the first tee, through #2 where Tiffany dropped a shot, and then went to sit beside the 3rd green. Little did we know as we settled in that these two would provide two of the highlights of our day at this short par 3. The hole plays downhill into an undulating green over a lake, with lakes and waterfalls on both sides of the green. As the day progressed, it became obvious that everyone was expecting the ball to jump forward when it landed, as it had been on most of the greens the previous two days. That wasn’t happening today on three. Instead the ball was either sticking or curling back toward the front of the green.
Typical of Palmer designed greens, they are about as big as the first floor at Nordstrom’s. The PROBLEM is that this means there are multiple pin locations available, and all of them are in small areas. You have to hit your tee shot into the right department (to continue the Nordstrom’s analogy), or you are faced with some really challenging putts and chips.
Tiffany hit her tee shot to about three feet and made the birdie. Juli left her tee shot about 18 feet below the hole and sank the putt for birdie also. Not many people had much luck from that far away.
Vicky Hurst birdied the hole with the best tee shot of the day, and Paula hit the third best shot of the day, and misread the four footer for birdie. Stacy, our new #1 in the world, bogied the hole with a three putt. The greens are big, but the landing areas on the greens are small.
The shot of the day came from Ayako Uehara who pulled her tee shot left of the green to the edge of the hazard and chipped in for birdie. The ball broke about five feet down the hill from where she landed it on the green and dropped into the hole. GREAT shot that was probably under appreciated by those who had not sat there all day.
Many of the really hot players had trouble with this simple par 3, but we did see several birdies along the way.
One of the really cool things about hanging at a hole at an LPGA tournament is the other people you meet. We had several great conversations with other folks, including a nice couple of ladies who sat next to us all day after we urged them to hang for a while and watch people come through. We hit it off with them and are planning on meeting them again tomorrow for some great fan time at the KIA Classic.
The pin placement on three tomorrow is going to be extremely difficult. It is short and right, near the lake in a small valley. This is going to be TERRIFIC to watch tomorrow, as we have decided to return there for the first half of tomorrow.
We are looking forward to tomorrow when the tournament will conclude. Joni and I are both hoping that all of the ladies who entertained us today had as much fun out there as we did watching them.
We will report in tomorrow at the conclusion of the tournament.
Fairways and Greens,
Fred and Joni
Gearing up for the Kia Classic - 3/20/2013
It has been a LONG year waiting for our friends on the LPGA tour to return to Southern California. Joni and I aren’t retired, so following the tour around the U.S. is not practical for us. Wish it were (grin). So we are hanging out in So Cal, watching Stacy become #1 in the WORLD and in a thrilling fashion over a classy competitor, Ai Miyazato, at the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup. What a great event honoring the ladies who put the LPGA together, ride sharing between tournaments, doing promos for their events at minor league baseball games, etc. Great stories of that era. If you haven’t read up on those days, you should. It will give you a greater appreciation for the LPGA.
Also, congrats to the LPGA and Aviara Golf Club and KIA for the tournament contract announced last week. One more great event has found a home, and that is good news for the tour.
So, here we sit, chomping at the bit to go see the ladies play this coming weekend. We will catch up with Katie Futcher, our friend and a sponsor of our foundation who currently sits in 9th place in the Solheim Cup standings. Hopefully Meg will pick her this year if she doesn’t succeed in moving into the top eight by selection time. We will see some other regular fans that we know, and hang out for two days in Carlsbad watching the best in the world.
If you are within driving distance, I urge you to come watch these ladies play. It is always a great time with gracious and fan friendly professionals and caddies in a wholesome family atmosphere.
We will check back in after Saturday’s round.
Fairways and Greens,