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The Social Scene with Neal Reid - April

April 27 2013, Neal Reid

Texas two-step

Chilly temperatures in the Dallas area earlier this week had LPGA pros doing the Texas two-step to stay warm on pro-am and practice days.

The 72-hole North Texas LPGA Shootout, one of the Tour’s new events in 2013, attracted 49 of the top 50 players to Las Colinas Country Club (photo) to battle for a $1.3 million purse. Players bundled up (photo), (photo) and (photo) due to the record low temps on Wednesday and sent out desperation Tweets like this one from Michelle Wie: “Wearing all the clothes I brought with me today! Hope its enough! Did not pack for this 40 deg weather....”

Natalie Gulbis warmed up in the LPGA’s physio trailer to shoot some fitness tips for Michelob Ultra, which I thought was interesting because I don’t usually association beer and fitness. Although Michelob Ultra is definitely “healthier” than, say, Guinness. Mmm, beer.

But I digress.

Later in the week, Gulbis must have had a surreal feeling seeing so many likenesses of herself at a grocery store’s Michelob Ultra display.

Jessica Korda, a third-year American pro who’s had a great year so far with two top-fives, Tweeted this on Wednesday about the hand she injured by hitting a root last week in Hawaii: “For those who are asking, my wrist is better still sore but that is just muscle! :) ill tape it up and hopefully it warms up! Ready to play!” She seemed no worse for wear, going into Round 3 with a 69-69—138 total in a tie for sixth.

Karen Stupples added a new wedge to her bag this week, and I love its name. Lexi Thompson met some female golfers who are even younger than her, which is sometimes hard to do! Paula Creamer took the time for a photo with some loyal fans.

Julieta Granada gave back by spending some time with a group from the First Tee of Dallas, and Former Dallas Maverics star Michael Finley Tweeted these photos of his pro-am partners, Anna Nordqvist and Amy Yang, saying he had a great time.

Christina Kim’s extra time on the range Wednesday helped lead to a three-under 68 in Round 1 on Thursday, and she celebrated with some Korean barbecue with friends. Kim loved a new belt buckle she picked up in Dallas and also enjoyed some Mary Kay products that were put in all the players’ lockers earlier in the week.

LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan ran into a former Heisman Trophy winner at an undisclosed airport on Thursday, Tweeting: “Just went thru airport security with Herschel Walker – looks like he could still rush for 1,000!!” Yang geared up for Thursday’s opening round with a special waffle, and the USGA reminded everyone via Twitter that the LPGA was back in Dallas for the first time since Meg Mallon’s win at the 1991 U.S. Women’s Open.

In one of the cooler stories from Round 1, Taylor Coleman, a 16-year-old amateur, found herself on the media center’s interview stage after shooting an opening-round 68. She missed the cut following a second-round 77. I think Rodney Dangerfield’s character Al Czervik from Caddyshack would have loved her pants!

German rookie Caroline Masson held the first-round lead after a seven-under 64 and took the 36-hole lead into the weekend after posting a 71 in Round 2. She was one stroke ahead of Carlota Ciganda and has a great chance to improve on her fourth-place standing in the European Solheim Cup points.

Korda wasn’t the only player plagued by roots recently, as Maria Jose Uribe ran into one during her opening-round 79, Tweeting: “Sad to say I had to WD from this weeks event. I hit a root on my 6th hole and it kept bothering me the rest of the day #staypositive.”

After a recent trip to China, Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam celebrated being awarded a PGA of America membership that was much-deserved.

Yet another hectic week in the world of women’s professional golf, and that’s just the way it should be. Until next time….

Salas inches closer, Pettersen wins again

A week after shooting a final-round 79 that took her out of contention at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, Lisette Salas made heads turn in Hawaii.

The second-year pro shot the lowest LPGA round of the season, a 10-under 62 in the final round of the LPGA LOTTE Championship Presented by J Golf that included a makeable birdie putt on the 72nd hole where she settled for par. Salas’ amazing round forced a playoff with Suzann Pettersen, who closed with a final-round 67, but it was not to be.

The ladies played the par-5 18th again, and Salas’ chances went by the wayside after she chunked her approach shot into the water after finding the fairway off the tee. Pettersen made par to earn her 11th career victory, and Salas was left wondering what could have been for the second straight week.

It all played out on the Golf Channel, and I was one of millions watching, and Salas shed some tears in her post-round interview with former LPGA player Kelli Kuehne. She was obviously disappointed, but had the right attitude in her press conference in the media center afterward.

“I just want to win,” Salas said. “I don't play here just to travel the world.  I'm here to win championships, and I'm here to change the world of golf. So, if people have something bad to say, then they can say it to me.

“I'll gladly take criticism. But that's not going to stop me from achieving my goals. I'm here to fight, and that's why I went to USC, we fight on.”

Fight on she will, and I believe everyone around the sport who’s seen Salas play believes firmly and confidently that she will win and win soon. I wish her the best, and I’m sure LPGA fans will be seeing her wide smile quite often in the weeks to come.

Salas moved into the top eight in the U.S. Solheim Cup points standings, so she’s well on her way to achieving one of her season goals of making the team. Captain Meg Mallon was in Hawaii for the tournament, and I’m sure she was impressed by what she saw from Salas, who has moved up to 22nd in the Rolex Women’s Golf World Rankings and already has four top-10s this season.

In fact, Mallon sent Salas this note via Twitter: “‪@LizetteSalas5 hold your head up high you were a joy to watch today. All the greats had speed bumps to their success.”

Mallon is right. Numerous LPGA stars suffer through near-misses before winning for the first time, and I think immediately of the great Lorena Ochoa when I think about that trend.

Ochoa did everything but win numerous times before breaking through, and I was lucky enough to be working the tournament where she became a Rolex First-Time Winner in Tennessee. The rest was history.

Congrats to Pettersen, who is a consummate pro and a great ambassador for the game. She’s clearly dialed in so far this season, winning a non-LPGA event in China as well before her Hawaii triumph, and I’ll be excited to see her in action at the Solheim Cup this summer here in Colorado.

European Solheim Cup Team Captain Liselotte Neumann took note, sending “Tutta” this Tweet: “Congratulations ‪@suzannpettersen you are playing fantastic golf. Save a few good swings for the Solheim Cup!”

Pettersen did her best to perform the customary hula dance required by all champions of the Tour’s Hawaiian event, and she did a pretty good job. She finished, looked at the camera and said, “That’s why I play golf.”

Jessica Korda had another great tournament, tying for sixth after a final-round 69, but she got dinged up a bit. Korda Tweeted, “So to the people asking , on 17 I hit a metal pipe that I didn't see under the ball, when I hit down it felt like I broke my hand, but.... I'm fine!!!! Just a strained tendon in my right hand! Currently it's under ice! Aka I can't feel anything!!!”

Maria Jose Uribe spent time Saturday paddle boarding, snorkeling and relaxing at the beach, and Azahara Munoz also found “la playa” after posting a final-round 66. Beatriz Recari spent some time talking to Golf World TV after the event before sending out this photo the next day on her way to the airport.

While Recari was traveling in an airplane on Sunday, former world No. 1 Yani Tseng was jumping out of one for the second consecutive year in Hawaii. She’s braver than me and seemed to love the experience.

Natalie Gulbis got in some last-minute snorkeling before heading back to the mainland on Sunday, and Brittany Lincicome went deep-sea fishing with her mom. Christina Kim caught a Shinedown concert in Dallas after returning from Hawaii and had a blast at the show.

Several LPGA players went to Houston Monday to take part in the Randalls for Kids Pro-Am to give back to the community, something that’s always nice to see. It was a great cause and a successful day, according to Jennie Lee’s Tweet: “Played in the Randall's ‪@bgcgh Pro Am today in Houston. Randall's and its vendors and sponsors raised $431,000 today!! Such a great cause.”

Sandra Gal sent out this interesting Tweet – “Didnt go on a boat in two weeks in Hawaii but on a sailboat this afternoon in Dallas. Something wrong with this picture :)” – and backed it up with this photo and this great one of a sunset.

Players are in the Dallas area for the inaugural North Texas LPGA Shootout, one of the Tour’s growing number of new events that have been added to the schedule in recent years. Conditions were cold on Tuesday during practice rounds, but players love the Las Colinas Country Club course.

Texans Angela Stanford and Brittany Lang participated in a pre-tournament press conference on Tuesday, while Gerina Piller and Kathleen Ekey were on the “Good Morning Texas” show with Carrie McClure. Former LPGA star Michelle McGann ran into world No. 2 Stacy Lewis at the tournament’s pro-am party, where Lexi Thompson was all dolled up.

It should be a great weekend in Texas, and I know the players are excited to have a new tournament in the U.S. There’s obviously a ton going on right now on Tour, and it’s great to be able to chronicle it.

Until next time….

Stage set for Saturday drama

With the LPGA LOTTE Championship Presented by J Golf beginning on Wednesday, we’re three rounds through the 72-hole event, with a champion to be crowned at Ko Olina Golf Club on Saturday. 

It should be an interesting final 18 holes, with Suzann Pettersen – who already has a non-LPGA win in China this year – holds the 54-hole lead by one with a 14-under 202 total. Hee Kyung Seo is a stroke back, and defending champion Ai Miyazato is three strokes behind going into Saturday. Players have been blistering the course, going as low as 7-under in a single round and posting more than 40 rounds in the 60s in the first three rounds.

The scores weren’t the only things that were pretty about the week, as players continued to do great jobs as amateur photojournalists by sharing pictures from Hawaii. 

Sandra Gal provided this scenic shot from Oahu on Wednesday morning and Natalie Gulbis posted this photo and this one from a boat, while Veronica Felibert joined some friends for yoga with a one-of-a-kind backdrop. Nicole Hage got this shot of the sunset and enjoyed some beach time after missing the cut and returning to the mainland, and Amy Yang took her pooch to the beach.

Karen Stupples, who has had an amazing physical transformation thanks to hard work and dedication in recent months, got in a morning workout before the first round with this as her motivation. LPGA Chief Communications Officer Kraig Kann snapped this one from just off the 10th fairway at Ko Olina. 

Even though they were thousands of miles away in paradise, LPGA players’ hearts went out to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings. Many could be seen wearing red ribbons in support of those affected by the tragedy. Christina Kim put things in perspective with this Tweet: “I was pissed I bogeyed 2 of my last 3 holes. Considering what's taken place in Boston and West, I have nothing to be upset about. EVER.”

Danielle Kang was interviewed by Tom Abbott of the Golf Channel after a first-round 66 and answered questions from fans online, further proof that LPGA players are awesome at marketing their Tour and interacting with their supporters on a consistent basis. 

U.S. Solheim Cup Team Captain Meg Mallon joined Hall of Famer Judy Rankin and Terry Gannon in the Golf Channel booth on Friday to talk about the upcoming international competition, which is just four short months away.

Cristie Kerr employed some liquid therapy after missing the cut, while Yani Tseng Tweeted this inspiring picture from the range. Brittany Lincicome and Reilley Rankin relaxed Friday afternoon by hitting the water for some fishing

The LPGA’s trip to Hawaii continues an exciting month of professional golf and comes one week before an inaugural event in Irving, Texas. The leaderboard is an eclectic mix of established stars and up-and-coming young players working to climb up the ladder, so Saturday will no doubt be a day to watch.

Let’s see who says “Mahalo” and “Aloha” in the end. 

Until next time….


Aloha!

Ahh, Hawaii.

There's no place like it, and the LPGA players are lucky enough to be there this week for the LPGA LOTTE Championship Presented by J Golf. I've been to Hawaii twice - although not with the LPGA - and it is a glorious place everyone should visit at least once if given the chance.

The Tour players are there to work, believe it or not, but that doesn't mean they can't also have some fun, too. How can you not have a blast in paradise, after all?

I can't write about this week without posting an insane amount of photos from Oahu and Ko Olina Golf Club, like this one from Nicole Hage, this one from Beatriz Recari and this shot by Karen Stupples. Hage, Brittany Lang, and Paula Creamer beached it over the weekend before tournament week started.

Sophie Gustafson's attempt at surfing in Hawaii did not go well. She earned a shiner after getting “heady” with the board, and here's hoping it doesn't affect her putting this weekend.

Danielle Kang had more success paddle boarding and soaking up the rays (photo). Even a rainy day over the weekend looks good in Hawaii, and the greens should be nice and soft for the pro-am after this weekend rain.

Natalie Gulbis checked out some stingrays before a morning run, then did a golf clinic for Taylor Made earlier in the week. Gulbis also made a new friend while snorkeling. Karen Sjodin enjoyed this view after a practice day.

U.S. Solheim Cup Team Captain Meg Mallon celebrated her 50th birthday in the Aloha state, as she is on site this week to scout potential players for August's battle against the Europeans. Mallon enjoyed a nice Sunday breakfast before watching The Masters, which was not a bad way to start a busy week, and had dinner with friends.

Hall of Famer Karrie Webb was jumping for joy after her fellow Aussie Adam Scott won The Masters. Vicky Hurst found some surfboards and nice scenery during the week.

Even though there was no LPGA event last week, Kraft Nabisco Championship winner Inbee Park jumped Stacy Lewis for the top spot in the Rolex Women's Golf World Rankings because of the rankings' rolling system. The No. 1 ranking could be on the line this weekend in Oahu.

Cristie Kerr met some young friends at the course this week, as did Michelle Wie here. Players got together for the tournament gala Monday night and enjoyed the party.

Tuesday was National Golf Day, and it was interesting to learn that 2 million jobs can be attributed to the golf industry and $3.9 billion in charitable donations are made through the sport. Golf does a lot of great things for many people.

It was fitting the LPGA players were gearing up for another tournament as this special day was celebrated. The 72-hole event should be a great one, and we will soon know who's in the driver's seat to pick up a win.

A victory could be as pretty as this picture, which was posted on Tuesday by Recari, or this one from Jessica Korda. Gulbis found this great sign near the 18th green.

On a personal note, my heart goes out to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings, and I was also saddened to learn about the passing of the great Pat Summerall on Tuesday. He was one of the best.

Until next time….

All eyes on Augusta

For as long as I can remember, the LPGA has always had the week of The Masters off, and it is for good reason.

It’s not only to avoid competing head-to-head with the iconic tournament, but also to give the world’s greatest female professional golfers the chance to watch their friends and “brothers” take on the immaculate Augusta National and compete for a green jacket. Some people may be surprised to see how much the LPGA players revere and love the tournament, but from what I’ve seen this week on Twitter, that admiration is alive and well.

The eyes of the sports world turn to Magnolia Lane this week in April each year, and LPGA players are no different.

“As a kid I was always allowed to stay up and watch the Masters, even on school nights. Getting to stay up late for this was like Christmas,” Karen Stupples Tweeted on Wednesday. Beatriz Recari sent this out: “Wishing my ‪@OakleySports family member ‪@bubbawatson good luck this week ‪@The_Masters! ‪#DefendingChamp ‪#oakleywomen.”

Cristie Kerr was excited to see the par-3 tournament, saying, “Watching the par three tourney with jack, Gary and the king. How great Is this!” Natalie Gulbis was also excited about the tournament, Tweeting, “Good Morning!! Masters week!!  I absolutely love to watch the Masters on TV. My favorite sporting event to watch on TV!!”

Annika Sorenstam was in Augusta with husband Mike McGee, where they attended sponsor dinners and various other functions. Catriona Matthew started her day on Thursday watching the tournament, Tweeting, “Cup of tea and an Easter egg...watching the masters...can't beat it!”

Wednesday night also meant the annual Golf Writers Association of America (GWAA) Awards Dinner, and world No. 1 Stacy Lewis was on-hand to accept her Player of the Year award from 2012. She rubbed shoulders with Rory McIlroy (photo) there and gave a rousing speech that encouraged those in attendance to follow the LPGA and seek out non-traditional storylines while covering the sport of golf.

That’s great advice.

Laura Davies received the Jim Murray Award that night, and the affable legend is well-deserving of the honor. Laura has been an ambassador for the game for quite some time, and she is extremely well-respected among her peers.

Players also found other things to do in the off week. Jane Park took in a Lakers game (photo), while Christina Kim attended a media day at the Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg, Va., for the Kingsmill Championship. Suzann Pettersen posted a new blog on SuzannGolf.com about last week’s Kraft Nabisco Championship, and Gulbis posted some more photos from the opening of her Boys & Girls Club in Las Vegas (photo) and of a Thursday practice round (photo).

Gerina Piller showed her support for the Mary Kay Foundation (photo), while Michelle Wie took her dog for a walk on the beach in Hawaii before getting her ears pierced for the first time. Brittany Lincicome went fishing Wednesday, but paid for her mistake of not applying sunscreen.

Hall of Famer Juli Inkster took in a San Francisco Giants’ game Wednesday (photo), and Jessica Korda (left) did her best Phil Mickelson impression by swinging from the other side of the ball (photo). Becky Morgan sent out this inspiring picture from Hawaii, and Maria Jose Uribe enjoyed a Los Angeles Kings hockey game.

It seems as if it’s been a busy and enjoyable week for all.

Watching The Masters today got me thinking about a big, serious topic regarding the tournament. With Augusta National finally admitting women members last year, its members showed progress and forward thinking that will go a long way toward endearing itself to female sports fans going forward.

That’s a positive and long overdue change.

Golf World Executive Editor Ron Sirak, who also serves as GWAA president, Tweeted this about the development: “ANGC chairman Billy Payne says making Darla Moore & Condi Rice members a ‘joyous occasion for the club’ and says ‘It's just awesome.’”

It’s all very good news.

That’s all for now. Until next time….

 

Park-ed at the top

The Kraft Nabisco Championship, the first major of the 2013 LPGA season, was four days of excitement and drama, but one player rose above the rest to leave no question about who was the most dominant at Mission Hills Country Club.

Korea’s Inbee Park posted three rounds in the 60s en route to a four-stroke win over fellow countrywoman So Yeon Ryu with an impressive 15-under-par total. It was her second career major title – along with the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open – and moved her to second in the Rolex Women’s Golf World Rankings.

Park is a dedicated and talented player widely regarded as the best putter on Tour, and she showed that in Palm Springs. This interview (photo) with the Golf Channel before her round didn’t rattle her, and she closed with a 3-under 69.

Here’s a link to USA Today’s guide to the KNC in pictures: photo. LPGA Chief Communications Officer Kraig Kann Tweeted this beautiful shot (photo) from Palm Springs before the final round, further showing how easy on the eyes the area is, and he snapped this shot (photo) of Park taking a dip in Poppie’s Pond after her win.

World No. 1 Stacy Lewis teed off with fellow top-five player Na Yeon Choi on the final day with the KNC trophy close by (photo). Suzann Pettersen, another top-five-ranked player, celebrated her birthday on Sunday with a tie for third place.

European Solheim Cup Captain Liselotte Neumann was happy with the Europeans’ performance at KNC, sending out this Tweet: “Great week for the European girls! 6 girls in the top 10 ‪@KNCGolf  the first major of the year! Happy and proud captain!”

Speaking of the Solheim Cup, Gerina Piller scouted out a potential Team USA golf cart for U.S. Captain Meg Mallon at the KNC (photo).

Paula Creamer, who lost her grandmother on Easter Sunday, thanked fans after tying for 13th with this Tweet: “Most importantly thank you to all the fans. This was an incredibly hard week and I couldn't have done it without you by my side.”

Even though I don’t know her, I felt bad for Lizette Salas, who dropped out of contention with a final-round 79 after being in the hunt all weekend.  I’m sure she was extremely disappointed and will use it as a learning experience, and she was classy enough to thank the fans with this Tweet: “I can definitely say I have the best fans and supporters! Thank you everyone for their love and support at the KNC! Means the world to me:)”

Earlier this week, Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam relived some memories of playing in the Colonial on the PGA Tour 10 years ago with her playing partners Aaron Barber and Dean Wilson (photo). I remember being at the LPGA at that time, and everyone was so impressed by Annika’s poise and professionalism in that tournament. It was definitely one of the highlights of my time there.

Michelle Wie is spending the LPGA’s week off in her home state of Hawaii, the site of next week’s Tour event, and enjoying some Hawaiian food (photo) and time with friends (photo). Sandra Gal was also there (photo), where she went surfing (photo) and provided this amazing shot (photo) that makes me want to go back.

Natalie Gulbis spent time on Tuesday at a local Boys & Girls Club in Las Vegas that will now carry her name (photo), an illustration of how giving LPGA players are. Great job Natalie!

Lewis made an appearance on a number of CNN shows on Tuesday, including a sit-down interview with Dr. Sanjay Gupta (photo) and golf swing demonstration (photo) with him, as well as the “World Sport” show (photo). Lewis made the Atlanta visit before heading to Augusta National to take in The Masters.

One of my biggest regrets from my days at the LPGA is that I never made the drive to Augusta to take in The Masters, especially since we were allowed one free day of admission with our LPGA staff badge. I’ll be watching this weekend, pulling for my former Auburn cohort, Jason Dufner.

That’s all for now. Until next time….

 

Half way to a delightful dip

The first major of the 2013 season has had LPGA players abuzz with activity and excitement this week, and Twitter has been lighting up at all hours.

With a two-day pro-am, various events going on surrounding the tournament and the thrill of a major championship finally arriving, it was a busy week for the pros.

Jennifer Song tuned up for the first round with a hike up a Palm Springs mountain on Wednesday with her mother, and they loved the views (photo). Suzann Pettersen enjoyed time with former boxing champ Oscar de la Hoya (photo) in the Wednesday pro-am, and their discussion must have worked because she shot a first-round 68 to put herself into contention.

Jessica Korda’s pro-am group (photo) included former LPGA Commissioner Charlie Mechem (left) and actor Craig T. Nelson (second from right). The past champions dinner featured quite the array of stars (photo).

Hall of Famer JoAnne Carner and longtime Associated Press golf writer Doug Ferguson celebrated birthdays this week, so happy birthday to both of them!

Lexi Thompson did a demo of the EA Sports game Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 in the media center on Wednesday, much to the delight of the media, and hit some balls with vintage clubs (photo). Azahara Munoz once again received inspiration from a gift from a fan (photo) during her pro-am round, and Jimin Kang was rocking some colorful compression socks (photo).

Becky Morgan posted this picture (photo) on Wednesday, showing just how beautiful Mission Hills Country Club and Palm Springs are. Hall of Famer Juli Inkster and USA Today’s Steve DiMeglio were looking good Wednesday night (photo), and it was also announced Wednesday that Natalie Gulbis will have her name associated with a Boys & Girls Club in Las Vegas, a development that will officially be put into motion next week.

Some young fans enjoyed their LPGA fan books (photo), world No. 1 Stacy Lewis played in the pro-am with Michael Bolton (photo) and Julieta Granada met Olympic champion Bruce Jenner (photo), who was paired with Danielle Kang in the pro-am (photo).  

LPGA players are always giving back and spending time with fans, evidenced here by Paula Creamer visiting with a young fan (photo).

And that was all before the tournament even started!

Beatriz Recari, who won two weeks ago in Phoenix, lived up to her “Iron Woman,” nickname by making yet another cut thanks to a second-round 70 (-2). She spent some time with the Golf Channel on Wednesday (photo) via satellite to promote the event.

The 36-hole leaderboard was further evidence of just how much of a world tour the LPGA is, with players from six different countries occupying the top 11 spots. Amy Yang provided a picture (photo) of the different national flags flying in Palm Springs.

American Lizette Salas was 6-under through two rounds, one stroke behind leader Inbee Park, and perhaps drew inspiration from this Tweet from de la Hoya: “‪@LizetteSalas5 good luck to you at the Kraft Championship this weekend. You "can" do it! And tell sato to take some huesitos.” A phone call from Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez sure didn’t hurt either.

The talented boxer also sent Salas this Tweet on Friday: “‪@LizetteSalas5 way to go!!! Remember its a 12 round championship fight, rounds 7,8 and 9 go for knockout and 10,11 and twelve put on a show.” Pretty cool stuff!

Speaking of inspiration, Creamer was playing with a heavy heart after losing her grandmother (photo) on Easter Sunday. She shot a 4-under 68 on Friday to get to 2-under for 36 holes.

Pettersen got a congratulatory hug from one of her biggest fans – Annika Sorenstam’s daughter, Ava (photo) after the opening round. Sorenstam spent time signing autographs (photo) in the Mission Hills Country Club pro shop, and I think she’s just as busy now in retirement as she was during her career, which I was lucky enough to witness firsthand and up close.

One of the big stories was the opening-round 71 shot by Louise Friberg, who came out of retirement to play in the tournament. She did an interview with the Golf Channel (photo) afterward.

With players going low on a tough golf course in the first 36 holes, the weekend should be a roller-coaster of a finish. I can’t wait to watch it on the Golf Channel!

Until next time….


Major happenings in Palm Springs

Fasten your seatbelts folks, the LPGA’s first major of the season is about to begin.

Mission Hills Country Club in Palm Springs, Calif., will be the nexus of the golf universe this weekend as the Kraft Nabisco Championship – one of the players’ favorite and one of the most revered tournaments on the LPGA slate – will separate the great from the good. An established star could further cement her legacy, or an up-and-coming talent could announce her presence on the scene.

Either way, there will be high drama in the desert as the weekend rolls on. I’ll be glued to the Golf Channel on Sunday to see who jumps into Poppie’s Pond with the giddiness of a school girl before hoisting the champion’s trophy clad in the traditional white robe. It’s one of the top traditions in golf, and I was lucky enough to see it in person a handful of times during my LPGA tenure.

Everything about the KNC is of the highest quality, from the immaculate golf course (photo) and celebrity-heavy functions to hospitality and overall operation. There’s no doubt why the players adore the major, made immensely popular by the one-of-a-kind Dinah Shore before her passing.
Just looking at players’ Tweets from the week show evidence of the tournament’s standing as one of the LPGA’s best. Players joined celebrities for some good-natured competition in the EA Sports LPGA Shootout, which you can read about here (photo). Check out the pictures, as Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam, Natalie Gulbis, Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Theismann and actor Anthony Anderson were among the attendees.

Yani Tseng (photo) and Azahara Munoz (photo) did photo shoots for LaCoste, and Tseng smartly set multiple alarms for her pro-am so she didn’t miss her pairing on Tuesday. “My phone is working, my alarm clock is all set for 10 times from 7-8am. Ready to go to bed for 10:55 proam time. Have good night everyone,” she Tweeted.

Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist is styling in these wheels (photo), and Becky Morgan nearly had an ace (photo) in her practice round on Sunday. Gulbis, Paula Creamer and Stacy Lewis can be found on area hotels’ key cards in Palm Springs this week (photo), which is pretty cool, and U.S. Solheim Assistant Cup Captain Dottie Pepper sent out this picture (photo) of juniors and legends who participated in the Youth Challenge on Tuesday.

Jennie Lee was happy to reunite with an old friend (photo), while Lexi Thompson met a rock legend at the EA Sports event (photo) and actor Joe Mantegna at the course on Tuesday (photo). KNC fans can feed their tapeworms at a famous fast food establishment on site (photo), and Sorenstam posed for pictures with Pepper (photo), European Solheim Cup Captain Liselotte Neumann (photo) and fellow Hall of Famer Kathy Whitworth (photo), who will captain the U.S. PING Junior Solheim Cup Team this summer, before leading a junior clinic (photo).

Celebrities came out for Tuesday’s pro-am, including actor Kiefer Sutherland (photo), who played with Cristie Kerr, and Gulbis’ partner, comedian George Lopez (photo). LPGA Media Director Mike Scanlan asked an interesting question with this Tweet: photo, and I wonder if Lizette Salas had to duke it out with former world champion boxer Oscar de la Hoya, who warmed up in her spot on the driving range (photo).  

Na Yeon Choi, ranked second in the world, was No. 1 in the hearts of the Boys & Girls Club of Sheboygan after making this $30,000 donation Tuesday: photo. Bravo to her for giving back.

Needless to say, it’s already been an eventful week at every turn, and that bodes well for the rest of the week.

My condolences go out to Creamer, who has always been friendly and welcoming to me, after she lost her grandmother on Easter Sunday. She’ll be playing with a heavy heart this week.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the Dufnering trend continues to gain steam. Someone submitted the term to be added to UrbanDictionary.com, and pictures are still lighting up Twitter from around the world.

Some of the best pictures since I last wrote came from the rock band Shinedown (photo), which was shared by Christina Kim, and this soldier (photo).

That’s all for now. 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 a media relations coordinator for the LPGA from 1998-2004.

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