Glen writes the fan diary from the 2013 CN Canadian Women's Open.
Sunday, August 25
Here we are on Championship Sunday for the 2013 CN Canadian Women's Open. It has all come down to this. The sun is shining and the clouds are burning off nicely. Smiling faces seem to be everywhere, from players to volunteers to fans. The crowds around the practice areas anticipate a big day of LPGA tournament action. Space at the driving range seems to be at a premium. Everything just feels a little more intense today. Because it is more intense. As the day starts, there are numerous players within striking distance of 3rd round leader Caroline Hedwall. Who would be hoisting the silverware when the day was done?
If I thought it was hard to decide on which group to follow yesterday, today's final round makes that look rather easy. What will it be? Inbee Park/Jiyai Shin/MJ Hur? Brittany Lang/Lexi Thompson/Yani Tseng? Paula Creamer/Karine Icher/Jodi Ewart-Shadoff? Or is it the leaders group consisting of Caroline Hedwall/Suzann Pettersen/Lydia Ko? All very compelling matchups worthy of some live viewing. For me, to get the day of play underway, it will be none of the above. My chosen group to walk the round with will be Kathleen Ekey/Charlie Hull/Angela Stanford.
At precisely 10:05 AM, off we go. It doesn't take long for some scoring to start. Angela Stanford birdies the 2nd hole. While Charley Hull bogeys it. This is corrected on the 4th hole with Charley scoring a birdie. The greens are proving not too co-operative for the vast majority of players out on the course so far. Kathleen ends up giving two strokes back in the first seven holes of play. I watch the drives on the 8th hole, then pull a quick return trip to the clubhouse area. The leaders have left on their round. Only players who had missed the cut are left in the practice areas. The day is now fully underway. A quick coffee grabbing, a quick reduction of wardrobe to match the rising temperature, and I pick up my chosen group on the 9th green. Depending on how you look at it, missing the 8th and 9th holes may have been some sort of luck one way or the other. All three players scored a bogey on the 8th.
As the front nine is completed with three par scores, the severity of the greens today and their toll is starting to be seen. As a group, the front nine yielded three birdies and nine bogeys. Meanwhile over the same nine holes, the leaders group posted nine birdies and three bogeys. These are the times all those big scoreboards around the course come in so handy. The recent improvements in electronic scoring make the boards much more up to date, allowing for better information for fans to make their case on who was going to win on any given afternoon. And by this stage of the day, that decision of who would be our winner today was starting to look like it was coming down to fewer and fewer possibilities. There was a distinct feeling of deja vu, very recent deja vu happening today.
I do a little scoreboard watching at the 11th green, awaiting my group to join me. Most of the players in contention, make that every player in contention except one was playing hard against the course gaining one or two strokes in the front nine. Only Lydia Ko was bucking the trend. Five birdies on the front nine with no bogeys was putting an end to many players hopes of victory. It was indeed a repeat of last year in Vancouver starting to happen in Edmonton. Lydia was having a remake of Catch Me If You Can, 2013 style. My chosen trio of Stanford, Hull and Ekey continued to battle the greens on the back nine. The stimpmeter is rising fast as the wind picks up on some holes, the first time wind became a factor all week. As the round closes out, Angela manages an even par round. Charley manages a round of one over. Kathleen pays the price posting a five over score. It would be a common story line for many players today. The Royal Mayfair had proven a very worthy opponent.
The LPGA and women's golf in general gets more competitive every year. It gets harder to stay ahead of the crowd, so to speak. All these great players putting it all out there week after week. Everybody's definition of what makes a certain player their favorite, someone they follow and keep an eye on, is different. The more a fan pays attention and looks into things like statistics and personalities, the more favorites a fan will find. I made a couple of new favorites this week. Being Canadian, it is only natural I would support the players from my back yard a little more loudly than others. For new favorites, Jennifer Kirby and Brooke Henderson stand out in this regard for me. Great games and really fine role models as not just young golfers, but as people as well. Foremost in this category for me is Kathleen Ekey. A very solid game, plenty of skill being honed, a steely determination to rise in the sport, a never say die attitude and a very engaging personality. Perhaps part of this combination comes from her caddy for the week in Edmonton. Her father. I thank both Kathleen and Mr. Ekey for the excitement, skill and goodwill they provided me this week. I wish them nothing but the best for the rest of the season and beyond.
There is one key advantage on a final round Sunday to not following the last group. When your group gets to the 18th hole, you are already in position at the place it all goes down. It's very entertaining and exciting to see the tournament come to an end for the field in front of you. There were some surprises to me. Karine Icher, Stacy Prammanasudh and Caroline Masson to name a few. Plus the usual suspects like Paula Creamer, I.K. Kim, Caroline Hedwall and Suzann Pettersen. Top level golf displayed against a course fully prepared to fight back against the players. But again just like last year in Vancouver, I witnessed a day with one player in control. A player who seemed to be golfing on a different course than everyone else. That player is Lydia Ko. Two years in a row she has come to Canada and tamed the best players in the world. All I can say is see you next year Lydia. We will be looking forward to it. What on earth could she do to top it?
My week of seeing the best golf in the world played by the ladies of the LPGA has come to completion yet again for another year. But I will remember it for the rest of my days. Thank you Royal Mayfair Golf Club and the City of Edmonton. Thank you Canadian National for your sponsorship. Thank you LPGA. Thank you to all the fans I re-acquainted with and all the fans I met for the first time. And thank you readers.
Saturday, August 24
It's Saturday at the 2013 CN Canadian Womens Open. Welcome to Moving Day, eh? The field has been cut to 74 players and the dash for the purse has begun. One little benefit is the tee times start later. The little extra sleep really helps by day six of my week of everything LPGA. At 8:30, it is a late start for me but I am still on course well before round three gets underway. Choosing who to watch on the course today will be a difficult task. Even though it is early for a Saturday, players are out on the practice areas already. Sandra Gal, Jiyai Shin and MJ Hur are going through the routine nearly two hours before tee time. That's what it takes to play on the LPGA.
I guess it is really no surprise that so many Solheim Cup team members are among the top half of the leader board after 36 holes of play. The beauty of having the CWO right after the Solheim, just like in 2011, is that Canada gets a chance to welcome relative new faces to North America. Charley Hull may be the most welcome exemption in years. Carlota Ciganda and Caroline Masson are not known widely enough on this side of the pond. How do you choose which group to concentrate on? Is Suzanne Pettersen/Caroline Hedwall/Brittany Lincicome interesting enough? Or maybe Angela Stanford/Laura Davies/Paula Creamer? How about the final group of world #1 Inbee Park/Cristie Kerr/Karine Icher? All these choices are good ones. But... I'm going to head out with Lydia Ko/Kathleen Ekey/Charley Hull. Nothing further needs to be said about the defending champion Lydia. She is a pleasure to watch play. Kathleen is a young lady with a great game who just happened to shoot a career low round of 64 on Friday. Charley has arguably been the most popular female golfer on the planet for the last two weeks. Her straightforward playing style is refreshing to watch.
It is nice to see so many families here to take in the action. I'm sure they all visited the CN Spectator Village. So many things to do and touch and see for the whole family, especially the little ones. There are also stops of interest for the parents too, including official LPGA, Golf Canada and 2013 CN CWO merchandise. If you love the women's game and the LPGA, then let everyone know it.
Sensing that my stomach may have an issue with leaving the first tee at 10:55, a quick stop to the Spike Bar fixes that. A fresh coffee and a very yummy Nanaimo bar will tide me over. The crowds around #1 tee are much bigger today. When I arrive for my chosen group, it seems 200 other people made the same decision. After the raucous introductions, the players let fly and we are off! Charley wastes no time, sinking a 50 foot birdie putt on the 1st hole. Lydia adds an 18 footer birdie. On the 3rd hole, Kathleen gets in on it to even the day up. It seems that more often than not, at least two of the three drives are within 10 feet of each other, many times all of them. On the 5th hole, Kathleen breaks the streak of pars for everyone with another birdie from 22 feet. Who do I see inside the ropes with this group for CBC television coverage? None other than Maria Hjorth. I told her she gets a pretty good response from her twitter account since posting Friday afternoon she was available for a different gig on the weekend. Hint hint. Good job, Mimi. Thanks for answering my questions.
The pin placement for Moving Day was quite different today, I think. Many pins in corners of the green. The pin on the 6th hole was 2 paces from the front and 3 paces from the left. That's one big, empty dance floor. There were many others similarly flagged today. Sun is shining, clubs are swinging, fans are filing in, LPGA action is happening. At the turn, Lydia is -10, Charley is -6 and Kathleen is -6. Overall, an excellent nine holes to witness. As long as it takes to walk to the back nine is as long as it takes for the ladies to be ready to go. But things don't always work out that way in golf. Our relative brisk pace of the front nine seems to have hit a wall. Despite the longer periods between holes, Charley doesn't let it bother her. She birdies the 12th and 13th holes but gives one back on the 15th. Kathleen gives a couple back and forth but still makes some very big pars. Lydia pars the back for the most part. When the group arrives at the 18th approach, the traveling gallery joins the stationary gallery to form a thousand strong plus throng of LPGA fans. A great round by three great players. Autograph Alley was lined up way back to the clubhouse, the longest I've seen so far this week.
One of the benefits of knowing other fans who follow different groups is the post-round exchange. In my opinion, this is almost the best part of the day. Nothing like getting the feeling you followed two or three or more different groups for the whole round. Even television can't do that. Another action packed day draws to a close. There wasn't even time for lunch today! I expect a memorable final round tomorrow. I will certainly be keeping track of it.
Friday, August 23
Welcome to Friday at the 2013 CN Canadian Womens Open. Day one held lots of interesting golf, large crowds and anticipation for more. So, what are we waiting for? It is 7:20 in the morning and this is how Glen's day went. As usual, the shuttles from the parking areas are getting more crowded every morning. The dew on the grass is especially heavy this morning. My shoes are quite wet by the time I get my coffee from the clubhouse. But there is no time for little details like that, we have LPGA golf to watch.
Yesterday showed most lower scores coming from the morning tee times. As the day wore on, the greens got harder to read and the rough grew. Friday was almost the exact opposite. Today the moisture just wasn't getting burned off like it had all week. The greens were inconsistently slower and the rough was more slippery. Just like yesterday, I headed out with Michelle Wie, Rebecca Lee-Bentham and Brooke Henderson. But today it was at 7:45, not after lunch. All three of these ladies had to right the ship to make the cut. As they worked their way around the front nine, the squirrels were the happiest ones out there. Shots were gained, shots were lost in alternating fashion. At the turn, it was time to lose the windbreaker and see what was happening in the practice areas. The projected cut was alternating between +1 and +2 every 10 minutes or so it seemed. There seemed to be some nervous faces around on players, caddies and parents alike. As I rejoined the threesome I started with, things had gotten worse. The sun was now beating down on things, but there would be no sunshine on these three golfers as far as making the cut went. When the round is finished, only Brooke has a chance if the cut line moves higher. This would prove to be unfounded as +2 was the cut line. I accept a very gracious and friendly thanks from Rebecca for supporting her out on the course. In return I thank her and her father for competing on the LPGA tour. This is the highest calibre tour for women's golf in the world after all. And it shows.
One complete round down and it's time for lunch! Today in the Royal Mayfair clubhouse it is a fine prime rib sandwich with fries. Gotta love that Alberta beef. Add in some more much required coffee, and it is time to head back out on the course for some more action. I decide I am going to watch multiple groups for one or two holes, and use the course layout to my advantage to see as many different golfers as I can. Since the cut line is coming into focus, I choose to watch golf this afternoon that is right around it. Let's try and see who can play their way into the weekend. First up it's Eun-Hee Ji, Veronica Felibert and Cindy LaCrosse off the 1st tee. Everything seems to be functioning as all three players score a par to open the round. Since the 2nd tee is right beside the 1st green, it's time for watching two groups at once. Approaching down the 1st fairway is Jane Rah, Wendy Ward and Kathleen Ekey. All I can say is it's a good thing I was looking the right way. Kathleen's second shot on the 1st hole approaching the green bounced once on the putting surface then jumped into the hole. An eagle from 140 yards. Now that's a start to a round. On the 3rd hole, Kathleen adds another birdie to her card. She would go out in 30, a score of -5 for the front nine. Outstanding performance for a talented young player. Kathleen would finish the round at an impressive six under total of 64.
Now it's time to check out the 18th fairway to see Morgan Pressel, Angela Stanford and Jiyai Shin play their way down the 9th hole of the round for them. There is a very efficient area of the Royal Mayfair course that allows watching play on five different holes within 100 yards. The 3rd tee, the 6th green, the 7th tee and the 2nd green are all right there while the 18th fairway runs past the entire area. Now this is how you see as much as possible with minimal movement. Sounds like a plan! Maria Hjorth, Becky Morgan and Marcy Hart are on the 6th green while Moira Dunn, Nicole Forshner and Silvia Cavalleri are on the 3rd tee. Paula Creamer, In-Kyung Kim and Caroline Hedwall make their way down the 18th fairway finishing their first nine holes of the round. But it is at the 3rd tee I remain, waiting for the next group to get there. First I see the gallery coming, the usual sprinting to the next hole for position stuff. Then I see the players coming. Lydia Ko, Charley Hull and Jennifer Kirby make their way past a green and a tee that they will see shortly to get from the 2nd green to the 3rd tee. When they arrive, they are greeted by 120 of their closest friends surrounding the tee box. It is then I see the funniest scene yet at this year's event. Three young men, in white t-shirts, with "Charley's Angels" printed on them. Gee, I wonder who they are cheering for? Off we go on the dogleg par 5 hole. The fan club seemed to have an effect. Charley Hull birdied the 3rd, 4th and 5th holes. By the time we reach the 6th green in our little circle of holes, Beatriz Recari, So Yeon Ryu and Catriona Matthew are on the 3rd tee. Now this is the way to watch world class golf.
My selected threesome put some fine golf on display. Despite birdies on the 8th and 9th holes, the last two of her round, Jennifer Kirby ends up one shot outside the cut. I have never had the opportunity to see Canada's Jennifer Kirby play before this week. I am impressed by what I saw. She is strong, hits a long ball and never gives up on a round. I was fortunate enough to talk to her and her mother afterwards to tell them she has made a new fan.
The field for the weekend has been set. Tomorrow is Moving Day. I can hardly wait. Until then....
Thursday, August 22
Greetings from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Welcome to the Fan Diary for the 2013 CN Canadian Womens Open. My name is Glen, and I will tell you all about this year's version of my annual holiday to watch the finest women's golf in the world. Royal Mayfair Golf Club is the site of this year's tournament, just like it was in 2007 when Lorena Ochoa won and I was introduced to the LPGA live and in person. The "CWO" as it is known has been in my annual plans ever since.
Royal Mayfair Golf Club was founded in 1920 on 147 acres of land along the south side of the North Saskatchewan river. After opening in 1922, Stanley Thompson was brought aboard in 1927 to bring the course into its current configuration. Renovations by Les Furber in 1989 give us the championship track we have this week. The USGA course rating is 77.2 and the slope is rated 138 from the tips. Fairways are Kentucky bluegrass and poa annua. Greens and tees are Penncross and poa annua. 6443 yards and a par score of 70 provide for only two par 5 holes, but some of the par 4 holes make that 70 very elusive for most. Straight drives are required for any chance to enjoy the play. Tiered and spined greens are in abundance, with some flag locations simply diabolical. In 2007, straight from her victory at St. Andrews, Lorena Ochoa won the CWO here with a score of 70-65-64-69-268. All accounts from all corners regarding the condition of the course have been nothing but glowing. I have seen this course many times, and it is in Championship form. This morning I had a nice conversation with RMGC General Manager Wade Hudyma about the course. An awful lot of effort has gone into the preparation of the course for this week. Wade reminded me that 90 days ago, there was still snow in places on this course. Course Superintendent Wade Peckham and his staff have done masterful work. As a native Edmontonian, I am proud to have Royal Mayfair represent us this week.
Of course attending a CN Canadian Womens Open is a full experience. Besides the golf and the great players, there is all that CN brings to the table. The CN Future Links program has been crucial to helping establish Canada's golfing future. Competitions for age groups up to 18 years are always a highlight of Wednesday. The CN Miracle Match charity has raised over 8 million dollars since 2006 for hospital foundations all over Canada. This year's charity is the Stollery Children's Hospital Foundation. The Stollery serves northern Alberta and the Yukon and Northwest Territories. A vast area to supply care for children with specific medical needs not available elsewhere. Edmonton thanks and supports CN in their charity work. The CN Fan Village has lots to check out, sample and interact with. You'll be reading about that later before I'm done on Sunday.
Like I mentioned, the CWO is an annual thing for me. This is also the fourth year that LPGA.com has allowed me to write this diary. I wish to thank everyone involved for making this easier for me. I am certainly no journalist. To get assistance and support, just like real media, is a very welcome thing to me. To Stacy Shanks, Kelly Thesier and Meghan Flanagan of the LPGA and Dan Pino of Golf Canada, my humble thanks to you all.
Thursday at 7:15 in the morning. It's go time. The field of 156 players, including 20 Canadians, is set to go. The purse of two million dollars is waiting to be claimed in four days time by the entrants which include 96 of the top 100 on the current money list. As I arrive, the first groups are getting things started. After a much needed caffeine dosage, it is time to head out on course. Off the #1 tee at 7:45, I begin the round with defending champion Lydia Ko, Solheim Cup darling Charley Hull and Canadian Womens Tour event winner Jennifer Kirby. I am certainly not alone. Over 60 strong, we walk down the fairway to begin the round. The CWO is underway! Lydia is hot early and all 3 players are sharp. After 4 holes, I leave the trio and their 70 close friends to carry on.
Returning to the practice areas, the range is doing steady business along with the chip and sand trap area behind it. some of the ladies from warmer climes sport the ear wraps, but it is a beautiful Canadian summer morning. By 9:15, relative calm has returned to the warm-up areas as all the morning groups are on course. The sun continues to climb, the constantly arriving fans continue to disperse and the armies of dragonflies are out looking for mosquitoes to feast on to make our event more enjoyable. Let me just say this, dragonflies rock. Just like the LPGA.
Heading back to the 9th green, I am just in time to pick up the trio I had departed. Charley Hull welcomes me back (well not really) with a 12 foot birdie. Jennifer Kirby drains an 8 footer to match. Lydia Ko pars and the threesome ends the front nine collectively at -6. Quite a bit better than the other groups making the turn. The party continues on the back nine. Lydia and Jennifer birdie the 10th and Charley pars. Great golf by three players all in control of their games. But my stomach is beginning to protest. I last until the 13th hole. Off I go to the RMGC clubhouse for some lunch. Since I have been here all week, I have tried a few different meals for lunch. All have been excellent. Today was no exception. A Mayfair burger was just the ticket. I know some, maybe a lot of you out there can appreciate a really good burger. With real french fries. Melted cheddar, 4 strips of bacon, lettuce, tomato, pickle. Oh yeah.
Fully recharged, it's back on the course for the afternoon groupings. At 12:45 from the 10th tee I find Michelle Wie, Canadian Rebecca Lee-Bentham and young Canadian Brooke Henderson. You may have heard of Brooke. The youngest golfer to win a professional event at 14 and winning the US Womens Open qualifier at 15 has made a little noise. Rebecca has won low amateur at a CWO before turning professional two years ago. She is currently in her 2nd LPGA season, having won Q-school. Apparently people here have heard of these three players as well. The gallery heads off down the 10th hole with over 150 members in tow. Brooke is the first to start things off with a birdie on the 10th. The strokes go back and forth for all of them as we head around the back nine. As the day wears on the poa annua greens get a little less smooth. Scores are generally higher from the morning groups. When we get to the 18th hole, the gallery numbers over 200. Not bad for a Thursday for one group. The trio makes the turn collectively scoring at +3. The conditions are not quite the same as the early groups had them. So many putts stopping withing 6 inches from the cup. That last break to skirt the hole. The slope affecting the ball line when sufficient speed is lost. That little bounce in the putt that wouldn't have been there 6 hours earlier. But if you go off the back nine on Thursday afternoon, you will go off the front nine on Friday morning. All three ladies will have to take advantage tomorrow to make the weekend.
Now what do I do? I've only been here nine hours so far today, not my usual length of day at the CWO. Anyone who has read my diaries before knows the answer. Anyone can bring a camera the first three days of the event, Monday to Wednesday. You will simply not find a more friendly, more willing to chat group of high calibre athletes than the golfers of the LPGA. For my own souvenirs and for others than cannot attend, I always take pictures of the players and get them autographed. It leads to some great conversations. Thanks today go to Caroline Hedwall, Catriona Matthew, Karrie Webb, Michelle Wie, Katherine Hull-Kirk, Belen Mozo, Inbee Park, Sydnee Michaels, Lexi Thompson and Brooke Henderson. Not to mention all the lovely players on Tuesday and Wednesday.
After twelve hours on course, it is time to leave. Fans on the shuttle back to the parking areas are filling each other in on all the days action, including the hole-in-one by Christel Boeljon on the 16th. There is always something you will miss with over 150 of the top female golfers on the planet in one place. See you on Friday.