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The Social Scene with Neal Reid - September

September 28 2013, Neal Reid

A glance back, a look ahead

We’re two-thirds of the way through the 2013 LPGA season, and it has been a doosie so far.

Whether it was dominating performances, jaw-dropping surprises or brushes with history, there has not been a dull moment on Tour through the first 22 events. Seven events – including six in a row outside the United States – remain, and there will be a considerable amount of drama to follow, but I think now is a good time to reflect on what has transpired thus far.

I’d like to do so by handing out some rudimentary awards for stars of the first two-thirds of the season.

Player of the Year
This is an easy one, although world No. 2 Suzann Pettersen has turned heads as of late. With six wins – including the season’s first three majors – and eight top-10s, world No. 1 Inbee Park is the pick here. She leads the money list with more than $2.1 million, is third in scoring average and won three consecutive events in June. Her first six months of the season were as dominant as any I ever saw from Annika Sorenstam, Karrie Webb or Lorena Ochoa, and that’s great company.
Honorable mention: Pettersen leads the Tour in scoring average (69.7), is second in earnings with more than $1.7 million and has three wins and 11 top-10s. She also went 2-1-1 in the Solheim Cup and was the Team Europe’s unchallenged leader. Stacy Lewis has once again been stellar, winning three times (including the RICOH Women’s British Open) and racking up 14 top-10 finishes. She is third in the world rankings, third on the LPGA money list with more than $1.5 million and second in scoring average behind Pettersen.

Rookie of the Year
This race could get interesting late, but Germany’s Caroline Masson has been the best rookie thus far. She has a pair of top-10s, $243,129 in earnings and went 2-1-1 for the victorious European Team at the Solheim Cup in her first appearance there.

Surprise of the Year
Even though she’d already won a tournament as a rookie in 2010, Beatriz Recari’s stellar season has been a pleasant surprise. She won the Kia Classic in California in March and earned win No. 3 in July in Ohio, has six top-10s and stands sixth on the LPGA money list with $876,541. Recari was a bulldog at the Solheim Cup, going 3-1 for Team Europe to help retain the cup.

Breakthrough Performance of the Year
A number of players could be considered for this, but my vote goes to second-year pro Lizette Salas. She has become a star on Tour and has embraced it, notching six top-10s and $701,058 in earnings in the process. She shot a 10-under 62 in the final round of the LPGA LOTTE Championship presented by J Golf in Hawaii in April, only to lose a heartbreaking sudden-death playoff to Pettersen after chunking her approach shot into the water. She also played in her first career Solheim Cup and has Nancy Lopez as a mentor, so Salas is in good hands.

Veteran of the Year
By “veteran,” I mean players who have been on Tour for more than a decade, as that is a term that’s thrown around way too often in sports these days. This is a tough one, but I give the nod to Australia’s Karrie Webb, who won the ShopRite LPGA Classic Presented by Acer in New Jersey in early June. She has five top-10s and also won an event on the Ladies European Tour, proving that the Hall of Famer still has some serious game. She’s also in the top 15 on the money list with $643,674 and is ranked seventh in the world, which is quite impressive for the 39-time LPGA champion.
Honorable mention: I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the seasons Cristie Kerr and Paula Creamer have had. Kerr, who joined the Tour in 1997, picked up her 16th career victory at the Kingsmill Championship in May and has a trio of other top-10s as well. Kerr, the top American money-winner in Tour history, has added $624,121 to her career earnings of $14.9 million and has a great chance to become just the third player (along with Sorenstam and Webb) to cross the $15 million mark later this season. Creamer, who is playing in her ninth full season, has six top-10s, $752,626 in earnings and became the LPGA’s eighth player to earn $10 million in a career earlier this year.

Most Impressive Performance
Park’s entire 2013 season could qualify for this, but it’s hard to look past what Caroline Hedwall did at the Solheim Cup in Colorado this August. The Swede became the first player in the event’s history to go 5-0 in a single competition, and she was an unbreakable rock all three days of the event. Hedwall is 7-1-1 all-time in Solheim Cup matches, helping lead the Europeans to back-to-back wins in 2011 and 2013.

Shot of the Year
Also from the Solheim Cup, no shot was bigger than Anna Nordqvist’s 7-iron on the par-3 17th hole on Friday, Aug. 17. The Swede recorded the first hole-in-one in the competition’s history during hers and Hedwall’s Foursomes match against the U.S. duo of Morgan Pressel and Jessica Korda, an ace that abruptly ended the match as a 2&1 win for the Europeans.

Clutch Performance of the Year
This could also be a toss-up, but Lewis’ finish at the RICOH Women’s British Open was as clutch as they come. Not only did she card a much-needed 3-under 69 in the third round – one of just two rounds in the 60s in that round along with Catriona Matthew’s 68 – but Lewis had a finish for the ages. She overcame five final-round bogeys with a shocking birdie-birdie finish for an even-par 72 to edge Na Yeon Choi by two strokes and end a 10-major championship drought for the Americans. It was simply poetic for the 2012 Rolex Player of the Year.

There are numerous other awards and accolades I could dole out, but I’ll save some for the end of the year.

Until next time….

More fun time for Tour players

The LPGA heads to China next week for the Reignwood LPGA Classic, but this week is another chance for players to relax, let loose and enjoy life before getting back to the grind.

Tour players are always busy, seemingly always in motion, and this past weekend and the beginning of this week are proof of just that. “Twitter Theater” has been entertaining once again, and here’s a sampling of some of the best posts from the last few days.

On Saturday, Beatriz Recari visited the beautiful PGA National Golf Club in West Palm Beach, where she was attending a panel discussion for The Alliance For Eating Disorders and did an interview with the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Lexi Thompson was busy practicing and attending an event for her sponsor Red Bull, a large group was participating in Annika Junior Day at the Annika Academy with Sorenstam herself, and the always photogenic Natalie Gulbis was taking part in yet another photo shoot.

Stacy Lewis got this awesome piece of hardware in the mail on Saturday, Michelle Wie fired off a couple of rounds of a different type with this entertaining group of gals, and they even got to shoot this huge sniper rifle as well. Brittany Lincicome beat her father and brothers 5&4 in a match on Saturday despite being outnumbered, Lizette Salas spent some quality time with her mom, and Jessica Korda caught up with one of her cousins in Prague.

Here’s a beautiful shot of Gulbis putting in Cristie Kerr’s Birdies for Breast Cancer charity event with the Statue of Liberty in the background, Golf World’s Ron Sirak was in good company at the Legends Tour’s BJ’s Charity Open Pro-Am, and Sandra Gal enjoyed some time in beautiful Florence, Italy. Nicole Hage was with friends in New York City, Thompson was in the gym on Sunday, and Wie lounged on the beach, saw some cool art and visited the historic Santa Monica Pier.

Hage had this great view from the Birdies for Breast Cancer dinner – which was also attended by Morgan Pressel – and Angela Stanford’s (photo) and Val Skinner’s charity tournaments also took place this past week in Texas and New Jersey, respectively. Monday meant a return to the gym for Paula Creamer, Pressel shared this beautiful picture of NYC, and Gal ran into these guys at the airport in Frankfurt, Germany.

Anna Nordqvist was back at work, Gulbis shared this great shot, and Wie enjoyed breakfast by the ocean on Monday. Sydnee Michaels and Veronica Felibert took the scenic route to Liberty National Golf Club for Kerr’s pro-am, and LPGA Headquarters staffers donated blood on Tuesday.

Gulbis visited the headquarters of Sirius XM Radio on Tuesday, and Hage had a celebrity sighting in NYC when she saw actress Katie Holmes and her daughter, Siri. Lewis attended a school in Newark, N.J., Tuesday for her sponsor KPMG’s Family for Literacy program, and Lincicome gave some lessons and putting tips to some lucky kids in Chicago today.

The Tour made a big announcement on Monday – with the help of Thompson and Lewis – announcing the site of the 2017 Solheim Cup, the next staging of the event in the United States. Germany will host the 2015 Solheim Cup, and it’s great to know the 2017 event will have a good home in Des Moines, Iowa.

On Saturday, I will give out some honors from the first two-thirds of the season and make some predictions about what will happen the rest of the way as the LPGA finishes the 2013 season with its final seven events.

Here’s a look at Mike Scanlan’s LPGA staff badges from the past seven years. He’s leaving the Tour as director of Tour Communications this fall to take a job in Cleveland with IMG Golf, where he’ll still be involved with the LPGA.

I have most of my seven staff badges from back in the day, and it’s funny to see how I looked back then. Looking at them also brings back some great memories from working with an awesome group of people.

Ahh, nostalgia.

Until next time….

 

Leisure, fun on an off week

Weeks off are chances for Tour players to rest, recuperate and enjoy life, and that is exactly what they have been doing this week.

A tournament in China looms on the horizon next week, but players were busy leading active lives and taking part in a number of activities this week. They really do hardly ever sit still, and it’s fun discovering what Tour players spend their free time doing.

Cristie Kerr and Irene Cho participated in a cooking class on Wednesday, Jessica Korda drove a BMW in Prague, and Michelle Wie got in an early morning run in some very loud-colored shoes. Sandra Gal spent the day on the water in Italy (photo) and Brittany Lincicome – who celebrated her birthday on Thursday – changed her eating habits and took in a Tampa Bay Rays baseball game.

Danielle Kang shared this amazing photo of Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower and made a special gesture to her father in the amazing city. I remember standing in the same spot 10 years ago and being blown away by the view.

Karin Sjodin wasn’t feeling it while working out to rehab her back, Ryann O’Toole was sporting a sassy new grip, and Gal’s father was pressed into caddie duty. Hall of Famer JoAnne Carner, 74, had two eagles while playing in the BJ’s Charity Open on the Legends Tour, further proof for my belief that she’s one of the coolest people to ever swing a golf club.

Kerr shared this great shot from Aroma restaurant in Rome, where she tried her best to make it through a seven-course meal. Natalie Gulbis was all dolled up for her visit to Sports Illustrated headquarters in New York City, where she was a guest on a SI.com show and did yet another photo shoot for the magazine.

Paula Creamer enjoyed some tasty seafood, Gal had this view to soak in while playing on Thursday, and Morgan Pressel was excited to find out she will soon be able to rub elbows with actor Rob Lowe at the Go Pink Luncheon to benefit breast cancer awareness in Boca Raton, Fla. Wie did her best Charlie’s Angels impression with a golf ball gun during a Nike photo shoot, TransAmerica posted this very cool YouTube video of Gerina Piller talking about her Solheim Cup selection, and Lexi Thompson had recovered enough from wisdom teeth removal to get in some short-game practice.

Lizette Salas shared this photo from Solheim Cup week of her with Val Skinner, Nancy Lopez and Nancy’s granddaughter, Molly. Creamer was sporting some wings on Friday, Korda got in nine holes of practice before the cold and rain sent her inside, and Gulbis was treated to amazing weather in Central Park on the same day she participated in a Starwood Preferred Guest golf outing with the PGA Tour’s Paul Casey.

Annika Sorenstam was busy at the Annika Academy, Azahara Munoz enjoyed some time at home by taking to the links at Club Golf Guadalmina, and Nicole Hage shared this shot of the New York City skyline.

Kerr was nice enough to post a number of amazing photos from her and Cho’s tour of Rome, including this shot of the Vatican, this one of St. Peter’s Basilica, one of the Colosseum and one of the ancient ruins. They rode vespa scooters, took in some amazing sights and stopped by one of the city’s many fountains.

Here’s a quick Facebook look at what players have been up to, thanks to LPGA.com.

Congrats to the LPGA’s Kathy Milthorpe, who was named to the Sports Business Journal’s list of “Game Changers” in sports. She does great work in leading the LPGA’s Finance Department.

Until next time….

Suzann remains super with major triumph

How good is Suzann Pettersen?

Well, she’s been as good as anyone on the LPGA Tour this season, that’s for sure. Her two-stroke victory at the Evian Championship this past Sunday further cemented a stellar season and moved her past Stacy Lewis to No. 2 in the Rolex Women’s Golf World Rankings behind Inbee Park.

“I think hopefully this can kick start my action towards No. 1,” Pettersen said Sunday. “Inbee kicked off a pretty fantastic year winning this tournament last year; hopefully I can feed off that and do the same.”

Here are some notes on Pettersen’s season and the LPGA’s five majors that give some interesting perspective, and her win was honored with a skydiver carrying the Norwegian flag. These notes include one about 16-year-old amateur sensation Lydia Ko, who is looking to 2014 to finally turn pro. It’s time for her to do that, in my opinion, as she’s proven herself time and again and deserves to be able to deposit those big checks she’s been earning, but turning away because of her amateur status.

Pettersen also went 2-1-1 to help Europe retain the Solheim Cup in August, so she’s got to be on top of the world right now emotion-wise. She’s worked really hard to get and stay in shape and to polish her game, so Pettersen deserves everything she is enjoying now.

Even though the event was shortened to 54 holes because of incessant rain (which even required tarps on some greens), it didn’t diminish Pettersen’s accomplishment, and dozens of players were very happy for the likeable Norwegian.

It was an extremely busy weekend on Twitter, and players have also been Tweeting a good bit early this week as they enjoy a week off before going to China.

Evian-les-Baines is such a beautiful place, and you can see Lake Geneva (photo) from the hotel balcony while enjoying a meal, which is a treat. The course was immaculate and the views were breathtaking even with the heavy downpours making conditions soggy.

A bunch of players, including Lexi Thompson (photo), wore pink on Saturday in honor of cancer survivors, and here’s a great picture of all five major championship trophies together in France. The LPGA’s Mike Scanlan and Kelly Thesier made sure to take advantage of a photo op with the trophies at the tournament’s awards dinner, as did France’s Patricia Meunier-Lebouc and Annika Sorenstam (photo).

The tournament invited 600 children from regional golf programs to Evian Masters Golf Club on Saturday, and they seemed to have a blast experiencing professional golf. Jane Park tried out a new, but odd, putting stroke on the putting green on Saturday, Michelle Wie had some fun by the lake, and Saturday night’s awards dinner included a tribute to the tournament’s sponsors.

Even LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan spent some time on Sunday surveying the waterlogged golf course before the final round began, and I know players and everyone involved was ecstatic that they were able to complete three rounds. The sun even came out to allow fans to enjoy the finish, which was great, and players were somehow able to get to the course in tiny courtesy cars, which is an achievement.

While the Tour was in France, 2010 Women’s British Open champ Karen Stupples was in Tallahassee, Fla., for her induction into the Florida State University Athletics Hall of Fame. She had a great time seeing the sights around town, hanging out in the football team’s locker room, checking out pre-game action on the field and even posing for a photo with team mascots Chief Osceola and Renegade (photo).

Beatriz Recari spent some time Monday at an Allianz Golf camp at St. Andrews in Scotland, where she was given a look into the history of golf via some vintage clubs and old-school caddie before spending some time with area junior golfers. Danielle Kang roughed it in Paris on Monday, an endeavor I accomplished with glee when I worked the 2003 Evian Ladies Masters. The city is so beautiful and full of life, and there is no shortage of cool sights at every turn.

Christina Kim enjoyed some fondue in Switzerland before returning to the States, Natalie Gulbis was lugging golf clubs around in an airport on Tuesday, and Thompson had her wisdom teeth removed. Paula Creamer enjoyed some R&R time in Monte Carlo on Tuesday, while Wie tested her sewing skills.

The LPGA did this nice photo tribute for Helen “Alfie” Alfredsson, who retired after Evian. She will be greatly missed on Tour, a sentiment that was made clear by this Tweet from Commissioner Whan: “LPGA will not be the same without Helen Alfredsson on Tour. Thanks Helen - for your friendship, your passion, & for always making us laugh.”

I learned via Facebook on Monday that Scanlan, the LPGA’s director of media communications is leaving the Tour to take a job with IMG Golf in Cleveland this fall. Evian was his final tournament, and the LPGA is losing a great employee.

The polished and professional Scanlan will do a great job for IMG, and it was a pleasure to work with him last year and this year on the Solheim Cup. I’ve worked with and seen a great deal of media coordinators and PR people in my years in the business, and Scanlan is one of the best I’ve seen or worked with.

It is clear all of the players like and respect him, and I know that will help him in his new job. Good luck Mike!

Until next time….

Pluie is the French word for rain

Having studied Spanish in high school and college, I had to turn to Google to find that French word, but there’s no doubt LPGA players in Evian-les-Baines, France, have heard it more than once this week.

The Evian Championship, the Tour’s fifth major of the season, has gotten off to a soggy start, with Round 1 moved from Thursday to Friday due to unplayable course conditions at Evian Masters Golf Club (photo). Friday was a pleasant and even beautiful day for play, and the opening round is now in the books, but the weekend weather looks iffy at best.

The weather outlook forced LPGA officials to issue this statement, “Based on the current weather forecast models for the next 72 hours, tournament officials will target the completion of 54 holes with a 36-hole cut to top-70 and ties at the 2013 Evian Championship.” So, the final major of the season will be a three-round shootout complete with plenty of rain gear, umbrellas and (likely) lifting, cleaning and placing.

Mika Miyazato’s 6-under 65 leads the way heading into Saturday, with Hall of Famer Se Ri Pak, Suzann Pettersen and Sandra Gal a stroke back. Eighteen players, including Christina Kim at 4-under, are within four strokes of the lead, so the next two days should be a delight to watch.

They’re all playing for this awesome piece of hardware and $487,500 in prize money, which is the second-largest pay day among the LPGA’s majors. Here’s Dottie Pepper’s ESPNW column about the event being major No. 5.

It has been a busy week in Evian, with players enjoying themselves immensely despite the rain. Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam and likely 2013 Rolex Player of the Year Inbee Park chatted on Wednesday, while the course was set up for an Augusta-like finish on the 18th hole.

Members of the victorious European Solheim Cup Team stopped by the Evian media room for a press conference on Wednesday, and Michelle Wie got some good pointers from her coach on the driving range before joking around with Jiyai Shin. Danielle Kang shared on Twitter some of the gifts players received this week, and Sorenstam enjoyed the fireworks in the area in Evian Wednesday night.

Gerina Piller was treated to flowers and champagne on Wednesday for a hole-in-one, Alison Walshe and Vicky Hurst entertained themselves with a game of chess during Thursday’s rain delay, and Beatriz Recari got in an extra workout thanks to the rain. Wie hit some wedges on the practice range during the suspension, wine enthusiast Cristie Kerr enjoyed some French vintage, and a number of players spent the afternoon on the practice range. Yani Tseng and Austin Ernst couldn’t play golf, so they played pool instead.

The tournament will host an awards ceremony Saturday night, and the stage was being put together on Friday. Here’s a great ESPNW article about Gal’s off-the-course pursuits, and Lexi Thompson enjoyed these views after going for a run on the banks of Lake Geneva.

I was wrong when I said Helen Alfredsson retired after last week’s Ladies European Tour event. Evian will be her final tournament, and here’s Beth Ann Baldry’s Golfweek column on “Alfie.”

Here’s hoping the tournament can get good enough weather to complete 54 holes and players aren’t too worse for the wear at the end of the weekend. Fingers crossed!

Until next time….




Viva la France!

Any day spent in Evian-les-Baines, France, is a good day.

LPGA players are being reminded of that this week while they are in town to play in the Tour’s fifth and final major of the 2013 season, The Evian Championship. Evian is a beautiful area with great views of Switzerland’s Lake Geneva, and the hotel the players get to stay in is both quaint and classy.

I remember eating breakfast on the outdoor balcony that runs the length of the hotel, waking up to views of that beautiful lake and the natural beauty of the land. There’s no doubt players are not taking it for granted, and many of them have been out and about in the charming town throughout the week.

The Suzann Pro Challenge hosted by Suzann Pettersen (photo) wrapped up over the weekend, and a number of LPGA players enjoyed themselves while playing in the event in Oslo, Norway. The weather was picture-perfect, and everyone involved had a good time including Paula Creamer, Sandra Gal and Jessica Korda, who got all snazzy for the event’s dinner party.

Michelle Wie’s mother, Bo, accompanied her to France, Stacy Lewis spent part of her Saturday working on her wedges, and here’s a nice article from the Tulsa World newspaper about Lewis making a special charity donation. Tokyo was awarded the 2020 Olympic Games, and here is Jason Sobel’s article about the golf venue.

Lexi Thompson practiced at Evian Masters Golf Club on Sunday with an amazing view in the background, Creamer enjoyed this stellar view from breakfast at the club, and Christina Kim and Jane Park took a much-needed break after walking from the fourth green to the fifth tee during a practice round.

The course has been redesigned to add contour and shape to the greens and implement other changes the players will be excited about. They spent ample time practicing on the new layout to get a feel for the changes, and it will be interesting to see if the adjustments come into play down the stretch this weekend.

Here’s a beautiful shot from the No. 2 tee, another one from 2007 Evian Masters champion Natalie Gulbis and this shot of Thompson by Lake Geneva, where she went for a scenic jog.

Helen Alfredsson, or “Alfie” as she is affectionately known, apparently played her final tournament this past weekend at The Helsingborg Open on the Ladies European Tour in her native Sweden. Alfie has always been one of the most-liked players on either Tour, and it’ll be sad if she truly isn’t around inside the ropes anymore. She got this hug from event runner-up Caroline Hedwall at the end of the event.

Today is the 12th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, and I wish the best to all the families that were affected by the tragic events that day. I’ll never forget watching it all unfold from the small lunchroom at LPGA Headquarters, and it was a devastating day.

That was one of the most difficult weeks I’ve had working in professional sports, as we fielded a number of calls from fans about canceling that week’s tournament in honor of the victims. The Tour joined the PGA Tour in canceling that week’s event, which I believe was in Portland, Ore., and we were all glued to the television to try and make sense of it all.

I’ll always think about that week each time the anniversary rolls around, and I will definitely be reflecting upon it today.

Until next time….

 

LPGA begins eight-event international tour in France

It’s time for LPGA stars to get their passports ready.

With players hailing from 34 countries making up the LPGA Tour, women’s professional golf is a true global entity that has a reach that’s both far and wide. One only needs to look at the next seven tournaments to see that fact loud and clear.

The Tour has already made stops in Australia, Thailand, Singapore, the Bahamas, Canada and Scotland, and players will be able to get stamps in their passports from seven additional countries the next few months. The LPGA’s seven-event international parade begins next week in France with The Evian Championship, the fifth and final major of the 2013 season.

I was lucky enough to work that event in the summer of 2003 and enjoyed it immensely. Travel can be a daunting, arduous and maddening thing, but being able to see the world was one of the great joys of my job with the LPGA.

Players take two weeks off after the major before heading to China, Malaysia, South Korea and Taiwan, then get another week off before back-to-back weeks in Japan and Mexico. That stretch will lead them to the season-ending CME Group Titleholders in Naples, Fla., where the season awards will be finalized.

It will be interesting to see what takes place the rest of the season as players fight jet lag and travel issues while attempting to play high-level golf against the best in the world. Let the games begin!

Many Tour players have spent this week practicing, resting and packing for France, and there has been some news as well. “Twitter Theater” has been entertaining, as usual.

On Thursday, top-ranked American Stacy Lewis announced that she will play in the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters (article), an event on the Ladies European Tour, in India in December following the conclusion of the LPGA season. Wednesday found Michelle Wie somehow ingesting a kale/spinach smoothie after a workout and entertained herself with some arts and crafts action, while Anna Nordqvist found some Shaquille O’Neal-sized shoes at a PUMA store in Sweden.

A number of players, including Paula Creamer, Beatriz Recari and Jessica Korda, were on their way to Norway for Suzann Pettersen’s Suzann Pro Challenge event (photo). Here’s a great Tristan Jones shot of Sophie Gustafson playing in the LET event this week, and Natalie Gulbis – who won the Evian Masters in 2007 for her lone LPGA victory – has some glow-in-the-dark Adidas shoes to sport.

Maria Hjorth posted this pretty photo from her hotel gym in Sweden, Lexi Thompson was working on putting on Friday before heading to France, and LPGA Chief Communications Officer Kraig Kann was checking out this ski jump in Oslo on Friday. Sandra Gal posted this shot of a view from the top of the jump, which is pretty amazing and scary at the same time.
Wie got in one final day of practice and some pool time on Friday before heading abroad, Christina Kim shared this beautiful scenic shot, and Thompson hit the gym. Gulbis had a four-legged gallery during her practice-day round Friday with Irene Cho (photo), while Yani Tseng, Creamer and Korda were looking good for a nice dinner.

I wish I was on the road with the players the next few weeks, but I’ll just have to live vicariously through them and soak in as many details as I can on the Golf Channel, which isn’t a bad alternative. The home stretch of the LPGA season is about to begin, and players will be frantically trying to climb up the money list and chase down year-end awards as well.

It should be good theater.

Until next time….

 

Pettersen adds another title to resume

Suzann Pettersen’s already stellar year got even better on Sunday when she edged Stacy Lewis by two strokes to win the Safeway Classic Presented by Coca-Cola.

The Norwegian star carded a 5-under 67 at Columbia Edgewater Country Club on the final day to pull away from a top-notch leaderboard and earn her 12th career LPGA victory. It was her second Tour win of the year, along with a triumph in Hawaii in April, and further cemented her as one of the top five players in the world.

Former world No. 1 Yani Tseng held a three-stroke lead heading into the final round, but faded with a 6-over 78 on Sunday to run her winless streak to 36 events. A number of people were pulling for Tseng, who has fallen all the way to 16th in the world standings in the last two years. 

Here’s a cool video of Lexi Thompson talking about her career, and she snapped this nice sunset shot on her way to the airport on Sunday. Jane Park had dinner on the river Sunday night, while Lizette Salas was photographed in her customary purple on the way to her sixth top-10 finish of the season.

Michelle Wie was stressed about a flight delay, Park spent Labor Day in Los Angeles (photo), and

Sophie Gustafson announced via Twitter over the weekend that she is stepping away from the LPGA for the foreseeable future to work on her game on the Ladies European Tour. The five-time LPGA winner is an immensely likeable player who will be missed on Tour, but I have a feeling she will be back before we know it.

I was lucky enough to be at one of her five wins at The Woodlands, Texas, in 2003 when she won the Samsung World Championship, and it was always enjoyable to see her do well. Here’s a cool photo tribute LPGA.com did for Gustafson.

The Evian Championship, the LPGA’s fifth major of the 2013 season set for Sept. 12-15, promptly announced that Gustafson has received a sponsor’s exemption to play in the event. Good luck Soph!

LPGA.com also did this nice photo tribute to Amanda Blumenherst, who is stepping away from the game to travel with her husband, Nate Freiman of the Oakland A’s, and we all wish her the best as well.

Speaking of announcements, Nicole Castrale had this to say on Twitter on Tuesday: “Unfortunately, Portland was my last event in 2013. Having hip surgery this week after grinding it out all year.” Here’s hoping a quick recovery for the talented American, who was in the running to make this year’s Solheim Cup team.

On a personal note, congratulations are in order for my fellow Auburn Tiger Jason Dufner for qualifying for the U.S. Presidents Cup Team. He was 3-1 in last year’s Ryder Cup, and I’ll be excited to see him playing for the U.S. again the first week of October.

It will be held at the lovely Muirfield Village Golf Club, Jack Nicklaus’ place, where I was lucky enough to work the 1998 Solheim Cup. It will be nice to see that awesome course again on television.

Players have a week off this week before heading to France next week for a major championship at a beautiful course. Evian is a charming place, and I’d love to go back there some day. For now, I’ll have to settle for the Golf Channel’s broadcast Sept. 12-15, which isn’t a bad option.

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 an LPGA media relations coordinator from 1998-2004 and served as PR Manager for this year's Solheim Cup. Follow him on Twitter @NealReid21

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