The First Tee/Girls Golf goes behind the scenes in Arkansas

Taylor Maddox, Michaela Earls, Grace Nuttle and Claire Rose Latta meet their favorite players: Stacy Lewis and Paula Creamer

Four First Tee/Girls Golf members of The First Tee Junior Course Reporters program received an all-access tour of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship Presented by P&G last week in Rogers, Arkansas. The aspiring golfers saw an LPGA tournament “behind-the-scenes” and met some of their favorite golfers along the way. Each reporter blogged about their experience for

Claire Rose Latta
First Tee of Fort Smith, Arkansas

Getting to represent The First Tee of Fort Smith as a junior course reporter for the past two days at the Wal-Mart NW Arkansas Championship presented by P&G has been an exciting experience.  The behind the scene access that the media receives is something most people do not get the privilege to do and I feel extremely grateful to have been given the opportunity.

My first day started with meeting Mr. Mike Scanlan who is the Director of Media Communications for the LPGA.  Mr. Scanlan took us to the media room where he introduced us to the LPGA Commissioner, Mike Whan.   Mr. Whan informed us about player relations with the media and public. While sharing his views about keeping a good relationship between the players and benefactors, I realized that a lot of what he was saying relates to The First Tee’s Nine Core Values.  It proves that what we are taught about honesty, courtesy, sportsmanship, and all the other values do apply in aspects other than while playing golf. When we were done in the media room, Mr. Scanlan took us outside where he was able to introduce us to Lizette Salas.  She told us about how she got interested in golf and her story was a big inspiration.  She said that where she grew up, golf was not a popular sport.  The only mentor she had was her dad and her favorite player was Nancy Lopez.

Brooke Winniger who is involved with player relations took us on a tour. She took us to the club repair van where the players can go and get their clubs fixed when needed.  An interesting comparison between the LPGA and the PGA is that for the LPGA, one club repair trailer holding all brands of equipment travels to all accessible events.  For the PGA, each brand usually has their own club repair trailer. We also visited the fitness trailer and got to met one of the two physical therapists that travel with the girls to help them with all sorts of injuries and stiff muscles.

Also on our first day, we got to attend Suzann Pettersen and Stacy Lewis’ press conference where we were able to ask questions. It was such an amazing experience to see the two professional golfers so close and personal and to see how well they carried themselves and how they answered each question.

We finished out the first day by visiting a Golf Channel taping.  We watched Golf Channel host, Tom Abbott, interview Stacy Lewis, Paula Creamer, and Mike Whan about slow play.   The LPGA is looking at ways to increase the pace of play.  They are looking at options such as the one that is used by the AJGA. They monitor the pace of play by using a card system where playing group is given a green, yellow, or red card, three times a round so they will know if there pace of play is okay or slow.
On the second day and final day as junior course reporters, we learned about Octagon, the company that works with the LPGA to set up a tournament. Octagon transforms the course for spectators. 

We finish our last day at The Golf Channel trailer.  They showed us how the golf rounds are filmed. It was very exciting to see all the different cameras and where the camera men are placed on the course. They allowed us to climb into the camera stand on the seventieth green and learn how to work the camera by zooming in and out and focus. Running a TV camera is a lot harder than you would think.

Being a junior course reporter was a great experience. It is something I will never forget and I am extremely grateful to The First Tee for giving me this opportunity and to Mike Whan and to all the other LPGA employees and Golf Channel employees who allowed us to come and took time out of their busy day to work with us.  I especially would like to thank Mike Scanlan for working with us on both days. 

It is going to be great to watch the golf action this weekend.  The course is in great shape and there could be some low scores posted.  I can’t wait to see who takes home the victory!

Michaela Earls learns how to use the Golf Channel camera in the tower at 17 green

Michaela Earls
First Tee of Fort Smith, Arkansas

My name is Michaela Earls from Muldrow, Oklahoma.  I am a First Tee Member of Fort Smith, Arkansas. I, along with three other First Tee members, was given the amazing opportunity to tour the LPGA and meet tour players.  On this journey I learned so many interesting things and met so many wonderful people.

One of the first people we met was Mike Scanlan.  He is the Director of Media Communications for the LPGA.  It was amazing that he took so much time out of his busy schedule for two days to show us around.  We got to see the media room and how it works.  We also got to sit in on a press conference with Suzann Pettersen and Stacy Lewis.  During the press conference, I asked Stacy if she had any superstitions while playing.  She said she always has to use a quarter when marking her ball but other than that she isn’t superstitious.  One statement by Stacy stood out to me.  She said it’s good to keep your emotions steady when playing golf.  Too many high or low emotions can take away from the game.  I totally agree!  During this time with Mr. Scanlan, he also took us to the driving range where we got to meet Lizette Salas.  She was sweet enough to tell us a little about her history and how she began playing golf. 

From there we met Brooke Wininger and Donna Wilkins, from LPGA Player Relations.  They showed us the golf club repair trailer and the PT trailer.  They also took time out of their busy schedules to tell us how everything works and introduce us to many more people.

Another great person we met was Mike Whan, the LPGA Commissioner.  He really opened my eyes to many things about the LPGA Foundation such as the efforts that are being made to get more females into golf and to stay into golf. He talked to us about the scholarship program that is there for girls who want to go to college but can’t afford it.  They also have a fund set aside for LPGA members who are having financial or medical hardships.  These topics along with sponsorship for the LPGA were very enlightening.

We were also allowed to be present for the taping of a panel discussion about slow play that included Stacy Lewis, Paula Creamer, and Mike Whan.  They discussed the speed of play during the golf game and ways to reduce this time in order to make the game of golf better for everyone.  A few ideas were mentioned that included colored score cards, ready play, a set time to hit each shot, or an overall time limit for the whole game.  Nothing has been decided, but the main reason for these concerns are the golfers and the hope that this will be better for everyone involved.  At the end of this discussion we got to meet Stacy and Paula. They were so friendly and willing to give autographs and take pictures with us. 
On day two we got to tour the Golf Channel trailer.  During this tour Beth Hutter showed us the inside of the trailer and how taping and live TV happen.  It all seemed so complicated and fast paced.  I’m not sure I could think as fast on my feet as they do.  We were also allowed to go to hole 17 and try to follow a ball through the camera viewfinder.  It was really hard but fun.  It made me respect the cameramen so much more!! 

On day two we also watched several groups of golfers play the course.  I did notice the speed of play was different with different groups.  The group with Creamer, Pettersen, and Miyazato was very fast paced.  They were always ready to hit their ball.  They didn’t wait until their turn to decide how they were going to hit, they decided on their options while the other players were hitting.  This sped up the play.  I can’t say the same for all the other groups. 

As I watched the golfers, I enjoyed seeing all the different fashion choses.  Being a girlie girl, this was a lot of fun for me.  I also liked seeing how the golfers decorated their golf bags and what colors that liked.  There were so many different types of fashion on the course to observe.  There aren’t many sports for girls where you get to be fashionable.  I love it that golf is a sport that you can. 

One of the things that stood out throughout this whole experience was the way we were treated.  It was unbelievable to me that so many people’s workday was disrupted to show us the ropes but every single person acted like they were so happy to be with us.  It seemed like one big family.  Everyone knew everyone and treated each other like friends and family.  It was great! Another thing about this experience was the fact that it has added career options to my future.  I have always wanted to golf but not everyone can make it as a pro.  From being behind the scenes, being in front of the camera, or maybe designing golf apparel, being able to tour the LPGA has allowed me to see the many different jobs within the golf world other than playing golf.

This has truly been one of the most memorable experiences of my life.  I appreciate being given this experience and hope that I get the opportunity to get behind the scenes of the LPGA again.  I would like to thank everyone that we met for the wonderful time I had.  It means a lot to me that you would give so much of your time at such a big LPGA event.  I had an incredible time and would recommend this opportunity to everyone!!

Grace Nuttle
First Tee of NW Arkansas

Hi this is Grace Nuttle and my story of working at the LPGA with the First Tee of NW Arkansas.  Thanks to the First Tee I was able to be an on course reporter for the 2013 Walmart NW Arkansas Championship presented by P&G held at Pinnacle Country Club. On Thursday, Mike Scanlan, the director of media communications, led our group of reporters to the media room. The media room is where press conferences are held. In the media room, I was introduced to Mike Whan, the commissioner of the LPGA. Taylor Maddox, one of the reporters, and I got to pretend we were golf professionals in a press conference. Then, all of reporters went to the driving range to watch the golfers. Mike Scanlan introduced us to Lizette Salas, one of the players. Lizette talked about her golf career. We were then introduced to Brooke Wininger, one of the staff members. She led all of us to the club repair truck where we met Paul Boehmer the club repairer. Paul had every kind of shaft and grip you could want. All the club grips were bright neon. Outside the club repair truck, we meet two staff members: Vicki Goetz Ackerman and Donna Wilkins. We also met another golf player, Wendy Ward. After visiting the club repair, we went to see the physical therapy truck. There we discussed with one of the physical therapist. He told us that the most common injury for golfers was problems in the back and neck. After the physical therapist was done talking with us, Donna told us about childcare. She said there was a special truck that remains hidden where the golfer’s children can stay. The childcare truck and the physical therapy truck travel to every place on the tour. Soon after a long discussion and lunch, we went back to the media room to watch Suzann Pettersen’s and Stacy Lewis’s press conference. It was interesting listening to both golf professionals talk about the European golf team and the American golf team. Stacy Lewis told the press the reason why she went to college at the University of Arkansas was because she loved the small town feel. After both press conferences, we were able to watch the golf channel interview Stacy Lewis and Paula Creamer about pace of play. They said that pace of play is very important. Golfers should keep up with the group in front of them. If a golfer is too slow, she may be put on the clock which messes up each golfer in the group’s tempo. After the interview, I got to meet Stacy Lewis and Paula Creamer. I got both of their autographs and a couple of pictures.
On Friday, I met one of the members of Octagon. I then followed Paula Creamer and Suzann Pettersen on several holes before lunch. After lunch I was able to see where the golf channel video and podcast are produced. Our group then went to the seventeenth hole and I was allowed to video three professionals tee off onto the green. Videoing was awesome, even though it was tough to follow the ball with the camera. Over all, I am so thankful to be an on course reporter. Thanks to the First Tee and the LPGA!

LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan hosts a mock press conference with Taylor Maddox and Grace Nuttle

Taylor Maddox
First Tee of NW Arkansas

I visited the Pinnacle Country Club Golf Course in Rogers, Arkansas. Once I got there, I met the person in charge of the NWA First Tee, Mike Shea, as well as the Director of Media Communications, Mike Scanlan. While I was there, Mike Scanlan introduced me to many interesting things. Some of which included: meeting the Commissioner of the LPGA (Mike Whan… I’m beginning to notice a trend in names here..), attending a press conference featuring Stacy Lewis and Suzann Pettersen, and spectating at an interview regarding Slow Play for the Golf Channel featuring Stacy Lewis and Paula Creamer.

After the interview, three other girls (who are also writing a blog) and I got the chance to meet Stacy and Paula. They were very nice and they seemed happy to take five minutes out of their busy day to meet some eager teenage girls and sign some autographs. That is just one of the little things that can change someone’s entire day, or an entire event.

 Another thing that would normally go unnoticed by the public is the Golf Club Repair Truck. That’s a truck that travels to almost every LPGA event and is almost always unnoticed by the camera. Another big impact on the LPGA tournaments is the Physical Therapy (PT) Trailer.  All of the players have an opportunity to visit the trailer and have all of their aches and pains attended to. The Physical Therapists that are on site see a variation of injuries; however the most common are back related. The last thing that (most likely) no one knew about was the Child Care Center, which is available to the players in the LPGA that have children. The things that are needed to set up the area are kept and transported in a smaller truck that follows the tournament.

Have you ever wondered how the whole event gets on TV? Well, it isn’t that easy. There are numerous camera-operators that have to work dozens to focus on the balls and players across the entire golf course. Think about how hard that must be! I got a chance to go up in the camera booth on Hole 17, and I also got to try my hand and tracking a golf ball. Trust my word, it is no easy task.

 There are also three or four people all working in the main production truck. That’s where all the camera footage they get from the course goes. After that, they look at all the footage on a big screen that shows all of it at once. From there, they have to choose which footage they want to show on the Golf Channel by a push of a button. This sound like it would be easy to do as well, but it’s not. Think about it; watching over 20 screens of golf and then having to decide which one has the most interesting footage.

 I also got to take a look at the place where the commentators Whit Watson and Kay Cockerill sit during the tournament. It seems like it would be a big huge room that has hundreds of people watching; when really it’s more like the size of your bedroom. Also, you might think that the commentators actually watch the golf that’s being played. They do, but do you ever wonder how they seem to know exactly what you’re seeing on TV? It’s because they’re watching it too! This is so they can provide you with the right information.

It’s phenomenal players that bring out the fans from all over the place to watch them play, but it’s the phenomenal sponsors that write the check for all of this. I would really like to thank the amazing sponsors who made this event amazing (P&G and Walmart), which helped give me this incredible opportunity. So again, thank you so much.
 As the behind-the scenes tour concluded, I realized that the LPGA is not just an organization about golf.  It’s an organization that goes out of its way to give the players, sponsors, crowd, and staff the ultimate experience of what golf has to offer.


Topics: Creamer, Paula, Lewis, Stacy, Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, Outside the Ropes

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