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The Social Scene with Neal Reid

April 30 2014, Neal Reid

Ko joins Thompson as teen champ in 2014

Anyone wondering how long it would take Lydia Ko to win as a professional on the LPGA Tour had their question answered in San Francisco on Sunday.

The uber-talented Ko, who celebrated her 17th birthday on Thursday, gave herself a great birthday present by winning her third career LPGA tournament title and first as a pro. She shot 68-69 on the weekend to outduel 2012 Rolex Player of the Year Stacy Lewis by a stroke and, in the process, jumped ahead of Suzann Pettersen and Lewis to No. 2 in the Rolex Women’s Golf World Rankings.

Ko – who was named to TIME magazine’s “Top 100 Most Influential People in the World” list earlier in the week – was all smiles after earning a beautiful piece of hardware and pocketing $270,000 for her triumph. One of the most affable and well-liked players on Tour, Ko was congratulated by a number of her peers who were happy to see her succeed and become a Rolex First-Time Winner.

Ko’s victory capped the inaugural Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic, a tournament players thoroughly enjoyed. The $1.8 million event was a great addition to the Tour schedule, fans came out in droves, and San Francisco should be a West Coast home for LPGA tournaments for quite some time.

Players had a blast at the San Francisco Giants’ game on Friday night, when Paula Creamer and Michelle Wie did the “first pitch” before the game began. Here are more photos from that night from the LPGA’s Facebook page.

It was an exciting and busy end of the week for the entire Tour, as Brooke Pancake recovered from a rough day on the course with a host of new friends, Sandra Gal drew inspiration from a pair of pint-sized fans, Natalie Gulbis was happy to participate in a group photo, and Dewi Claire Schreefel is $100,000 richer after holing out on the 12th from 157 yards with a 7-iron, courtesy of the tournament. Special artwork from Taiwan that was tailored for women was spread around Lake Merced Golf Club, giving the tournament a festive and fun atmosphere.

The LPGA has a new fan for life after one fan brought his teeny daughter to the course, and Wie loved catching up with some of her Stanford University friends on Saturday.

In one of the cooler photos you’ll see, 2014 major champion Lexi Thompson flew to Milan, Italy, with track superstar Usain Bolt to shoot a commercial for their sponsor, Puma. She visited the company’s headquarters in Germany and met a well-dressed young golfer there.

This week, one of last year’s successful additions, the North Texas LPGA Shootout Presented by JTBC, is front and center. Tour players loved the tournament last year, and world No. 1 Inbee Park is back to defend her title against a loaded field.

Fans have until Friday to bid for this autographed painting of 2015 U.S. Solheim Cup Captain Juli Inkster, Creamer got glammed up on Monday for a calendar shoot in San Francisco, and Hall of Famer Karrie Webb did some wine tasting in Napa, Calif. Thompson was driving in style in a tournament courtesy car in Dallas and participated in a long-drive contest and met with fans of all ages, while Lizette Salas was in Oakland on Monday for a First Tee event and Gulbis was dressed in all white during a round with reps from her sponsor, Michelob Ultra.

Jessica Korda attended the Dallas Mavericks’ playoff game against the San Antonio Spurs on Monday night, as did Veronica Felibert, and Brittany Lang celebrated a top-10 finish in San Fran by taking in a Texas Rangers’ game with a number of her fellow Tour players in a luxury box. Pettersen was excited to find the one and only Laura Davies in Dallas, where Davies will tee it up as part of the 144-player field, and Creamer withdrew from the event on Tuesday, citing fatigue.

Thompson got dressed up for Tuesday night’s pro-am party, where some players received some new boots. Angela Stanford’s sported her college colors and logo, as did Lang’s (photo) and Lewis’ new kickers, and comedian Henry Cho emceed the party.

Austin Ernst had these great seats at Tuesday night’s Texas Rangers’ game, Wie got her barbecue fix, and Belen Mozo was looking good along with Gulbis and Beatriz Recari at a sponsor function. Elsewhere, Brittany Lincicome had the joy of meeting and talking to the legendary Jack Nicklaus, a treat for any player.

Hall of Famer Se Ri Pak was immortalized and got to throw out the first pitch in San Francisco on Monday night when the Giants celebrated “Korean Heritage Night” and gave out Pak bobblehead dolls to fans. That capped a stellar week for the Tour in the Bay Area.

It should be a heck of a week in Texas, where the Tour will be looking to build upon an epic month of April. Here’s a feature by Associated Press golf writer Doug Ferguson on the LPGA’s momentum.

Until next time….

 

Trolley good fun in San Francisco

It has been quite a full week in the Bay Area for LPGA players.

The Tour is in San Francisco for the first time since 2010, and players have really enjoyed themselves. LPGA players have fun every week, but this week’s event seems to rate high on the fun scale for a number of reasons.

They no doubt had fun watching Commissioner Mike Whan wearing a kilt in honor of the Swinging Skirts title sponsor, and he wore it during the pro-am as well on Wednesday (photo). Hall of Famer Karrie Webb teed it up with San Fransicso Mayor Edwin M. Lee, Cristie Kerr enjoyed some great wine and found a choice restaurant in the area, and Carlota Ciganda really had a blast near the Golden Gate Bridge.

The tournament has gone to great lengths to set up entertaining and festive course decorations, and this is quite the cup of java! The autograph tent was a popular place,

Michelle Wie’s win in Hawaii was commemorated by this full-page ad from Kia in USA Today, Suzann Pettersen was happy to be playing golf again after a few weeks off to rehab a bulging disk in her back, and Tiffany Joh shared her newest ESPNW blog. Danielle Kang got some range work in with her coach before tackling her laundry, and Brittany Lincicome found a baby bird in need of some help.

Lizette Salas loved having her coach in town, Austin Ernst had a great view of Alcatraz from dinner on Thursday night, and Mariajo Uribe made a new friend on Thursday. Elsewhere, Cheyenne Woods threw out the first pitch at a Tampa Bay Rays baseball game, Lexi Thompson visited Puma’s headquarters in Germany, and Annika Sorenstam was part of a special night with fellow Hall of Famer Jack Nicklaus.

Once play began on Thursday, Karine Icher fired an impressive 6-under 66 to grab the first-round lead. Stacy Lewis, who has had a great season so far, is the 36-hole leader heading into the weekend after two consecutive 69s.

Lake Merced Golf Club can be downright lovely, but players were greeted with a blanket of fog on Thursday, pushing back the start of the first round. The round had to be finished Saturday morning, and the second round was interrupted by a downpour but was completed before players ran out of daylight.

Wie reminisced on “Throwback Thursday” by sharing this photo of the day she received her degree from Stanford University. Dottie Pepper posted another ESPNW article on Friday, this one about the ascension of U.S.-born players that is a good read.

The players were treated to a night at the ballpark at the San Francisco Giants’ game on Friday night against the Cleveland Indians at the amazing AT&T Park, and they had a blast and even participated in interviews with fans. The SF Gate posted this article on Friday about Morgan Pressel connecting with a young fan.

Lydia Ko, who celebrated her 17th birthday on Thursday, is a stroke back at 5-under along with Icher, and Pettersen looks to be in good health at 2-under. Ko was bombarded with gifts and treated to a rendition of “Happy Birthday” from staff and fans as she arrived on the first tee on Thursday, and she responded with a 4-under 68 before signing autographs.

It was a big week for the talented teen, as she was named to TIME magazine’s “Top 100 Pioneers” list and had the honor of Sorenstam write this nice piece about her. Not bad for a 17-year-old!

I can’t wait to see what happens over the weekend, as a leaderboard mixed with established stars and up-and-comers will greet fans on Golf Channel on Saturday. It should be interesting.

Until next time….

 

Wie leads LPGA back to Bay Area for birdies

Oh, what a weekend it was.

Michelle Wie, one of the most highly scrutinized players in professional golf in the last 20 years, ended a four-year drought by winning the LPGA LOTTE Championship Presented by J Golf in her native Hawaii. All LPGA players enjoyed their week in paradise, but none more than Wie, who shot a final-round 5-under 67 to earn her third career LPGA win.

She was overwhelmed and emotional after the long-awaited triumph, and there were a host of LPGA players, fans and even media who were thrilled to see “Wiezy” find her way back to the winner’s circle. She was doused with champagne, shed some tears, hoisted a beautiful trophy and even did a hula dance after the victory before driving off to play some ping pong while enjoying cake.

Here is a cool photographic look at Wie’s career, courtesy of Golf Digest. Wie was able to meet her favorite sushi chef, who helped her celebrate with a special dish, before flying to San Fran.

It was a busy weekend for the Tour, as Mariajo Uribe’s caddie had to pay up on a bet, Danielle Kang celebrated another hole-in-one, and Austin Ernst spent part of her Easter Sunday near the Golden Gate Bridge before going to Olympic Club. Karen Stupples shared this view from the TV truck, Brittany Lincicome went fishing, and Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam shared this colorful family photo on Easter.

Paula Creamer was dressed nicely for this shot in front of the Golden Gate Bridge on Sunday, Wie shared this great photo of her laughing exuberantly with her trophy before doing a live remote interview from her lovely home state with Golf Channel on Sunday, and Ryann O’Toole showed off her sweet new Oakley golf shoes.

Wie visited her old haunts and hung out with the women’s golf team at Stanford University on Monday, Recari celebrated her 27th birthday, and Stacy Lewis, Alison Walshe and Cindy LaCrosse did some sightseeing that day as well. ESPNW posted this article about Wie on Monday, Golf World’s Ron Sirak was enjoying the art shipped from Taiwan at this week’s tournament, and Natalie Gulbis has switched to camouflage grips this week.

Wie will carry the momentum from her big win to this week’s Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic in San Francisco, the Tour’s first stop in the Bay Area since 2010. The field is loaded with talent, with several top-10 players and 2014 tournament champions excited to tee it up at the beautiful and historic Lake Merced Golf Club.

Sandra Gal found this interesting mode of transport on the 18th hole at the club and discovered a lovely view of San Francisco, Kang got a great view of the Bay Area’s iconic bridge, and Beatriz Recari was downtown in the city. Hall of Famer Karrie Webb, who already has won twice this season, also did the “tourist thing” in the great city, and this week’s tournament has some great decorations around the clubhouse for players like Creamer to enjoy.

Nicole Castrale and Recari wowed dozens of young golfers at the tournament’s junior clinic on Tuesday, Lydia Ko enjoyed the gala dinner with friends, and Wie found herself back in the interview room on Tuesday. Jessica Korda bent the ear of Benjamin Franklin, here’s another shot of one of the tournament’s cool decorations, and Wie was forced to bundle up on a chilly Tuesday morning.

Lexi Thompson is one of the few top-10 players who won’t be in San Francisco, but here’s a nice ESPNW article about the season’s first major champion and her brothers. Speaking of well-written pieces, here is a great San Francisco Gate article on Hall of Famer and 2015 U.S. Solheim Cup Captain Juli Inkster that her fans will enjoy.

Until next time….

 

LOTTE birdies for Tour stars in Hawaii

Angela Stanford’s 8-under 64 on Thursday was impressive and reminded everyone how low scores can go at Ko Olina Golf Club (photo), host of the LPGA LOTTE Championship Presented by J Golf.

The American held a one-shot lead over Solheim Cup teammate Michelle Wie, with another teammate, Cristie Kerr, two strokes back heading into Friday’s third round. Players have been having a great time at the Hawaiian event, from the official photo call that drew quite a crowd to fun and leisure in the sun while they’re not at the golf course.

As they have all week, players have been sharing awesome scenic shots on Twitter and Instagram, making us all jealous we’re not with them in Oahu. Danielle Kang hit the hot tub after a Wednesday practice session, Carlota Ciganda went snorkeling, and Wie had dinner with her Nike Golf team.

Lexi Thompson enjoyed a practice round with her brother, Curtis, Jessica Korda worked on her wedge shots on a windy day in Hawaii, and here’s a video of Thompson working on her swing after a practice round in Florida. Here is a nice Beatriz Recari photo of the sky, Anna Nordqvist collected herself by the pool before the opening round, and here is some good advice from Kang.

Lizette Salas, who lost to Suzanne Pettersen in a playoff last year in Hawaii, had this great quote about how she handled that huge disappointment. So Yeon Ryu talked with the Golf Channel after her opening round, and Thompson threw out the first pitch at the Miami Marlins’ game against the Washington Nationals on Wednesday – throwing a “grounder,” as she described it – and also signed some baseballs for the umpires.

Pettersen, who has been out of action recently with a bulging disk in her back, was on the practice range working with her coach David Leadbetter on Wednesday, which is a great sign. Paula Creamer worked on her chipping after Round 1, Veronica Felibert took a swim in this amazing-looking lagoon before she played on Thursday, and Stacy Lewis and Alison Walshe were hard at work in the gym while enjoying an off week.

Thompson was in studio at Golf Channel on Thursday for the “Morning Drive” program in Orlando, where she also spent some time in the studio’s simulator. Sarah Kemp has this view from her hotel in Hawaii, Sydnee Michaels had breakfast in front of this view on Thursday, and the Georgetown University women’s golf team toured LPGA Headquarters in Daytona Beach this week as well.

Kerr had special company for her Golf Channel interview on Thursday, Vicky Hurst was working to get rid of her golfer’s tan, and Kang helped tow Amy Anderson and Lisa McCloskey back to shore. Salas and Mina Harigae visited a food truck after their round on Thursday, Mariajo Uribe was excited to make the cut, and players had fun at a traditional luau on Thursday.

In addition, Wie found a pretty feathered friend and captured this shot of an amazing sunset.

LPGA Chief Communications Officer Kraig Kann answered fans’ questions on Twitter on Wednesday and threw out this interesting stat: “Did you know ... 11 new marketing partners, 12 new title sponsors within last 3 years.” He also said that the Tour has $56 million in total prize money in 2014, a 15 percent increase.

That’s pretty impressive stuff that Commissioner Mike Whan and his staff can be proud of.

Congrats to LPGA rookie Daniella Holmqvist, who made the cut after getting into the tournament just 30 minutes before her tee time. I’d also like to wish Natalie Gulbis a speedy recovery from a wrist injury, as she withdrew from LOTTE after the first round.

Until next time….

 

Big week off leads into Hawaiian event for LPGA stars

Like the rest of us golf fans, LPGA players were glued to their TVs this weekend as Bubba Watson won his second Masters title in three years.

It’s always great to see how the pros from both tours support each other, and many of them have friends playing on their respective sides. Paula Creamer was even watching the event on an airplane on Saturday, while Annika Sorenstam posed for a photo with friend and fellow Hall of Famer Gary Player.

Michelle Wie spent part of the day playing a round at Ko Olina Golf Club with Hannah Medlock and Kim Welch before going to a blood bank, Danielle Kang made a feathery new friend, and Lexi Thompson got a second piercing in her ears. Brittany Lang saw some wildlife while playing golf in Texas, Jessica Korda has a new golf bag, and Natalie Gulbis was busy packing for Hawaii.

Brittany Lincicome tuned in on Sunday, Felicity Johnson bid everyone an “Aloha” from Hawaii, and Korda was watching as well. Creamer was excited to arrive in Oahu, Mina Harigae spotted a rainbow, and Dottie Pepper was proud to be part of ESPN’s Masters coverage team.

Kathleen Ekey had fun playing a practice round with Laura Diaz and Danah Bordner on a lovely day in paradise, while Lizette Salas and Harigae took a nice walk on the beach.

The week off was nice and relaxing for most LPGA stars, and now they’re bristling with enthusiasm as they tee off on Wednesday in the opening round of the LPGA LOTTE Championship Presented by J Golf. Jimin Kang Tweeted this postcard-like view from Oahu on Saturday, Wie enjoyed some local cuisine and shared a scenic shot of her own, and the LPGA wished Meg Mallon a Happy Birthday on Monday with this special photo.

Gulbis practiced her putting on Monday morning after getting an adjustment in the SportsMed trailer, Stacy Lewis shared this new PureSilk commercial featuring herself, Salas, Lang and Gulbis, and Wie continued to make us jealous of the LPGA players by sharing this shot from her home state.

Gulbis went snorkeling, high-fived some stingrays and got in a workout on Monday, Wie and Christina Kim were forced to hit knockdown shots in 30 mile-per-hour winds at Ko Olina, and Sandra Gal spent time with Player. Lang shared yet another amazing photo from Hawaii before having a nice dinner with friends, Salas did a GoPro session with good friend Kang on Tuesday, and Wie attended a design meeting with Nike Golf.

Morgan Pressel, Irene Cho, Gulbis and Creamer attended the tournament’s pro-am party on a sunny Tuesday afternoon, and there was also a nice gala dinner as well. Here’s a photo of 2015 U.S. Solheim Cup Captain Juli Inkster and Assistant Captain Pat Hurst that the LPGA put out on Tuesday, and Angela Stanford – who is no stranger to the Solheim Cup – posted a new blog the same day.

LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan was out and about at Ko Olina on Tuesday, Salas made the front page of the Honolulu Star Advertiser’s sports section, and Kang and Lisa McCloskey hit the water and the beach for some fun. Wie showed good form in the pro-am, and Gulbis enjoyed it as well.

This week’s tournament begins Wednesday and concludes Saturday, so golf fans should make note and tune in to the Golf Channel a day early. I know I will be!

Until next time….

 

No idle hands during off week for LPGA players

The golf world may have shifted its eyes to a hallowed ground in Georgia this week, but LPGA Tour players have been busy with a number of endeavors.

Just because they’re not teeing it up at an official tournament doesn’t mean women’s professional golf’s stars haven’t been active. Not even close.

The big news of the week came on Friday, when Carin Koch was announced as the 2015 European Solheim Cup Team captain. The photogenic Swede was an assistant captain to Liselotte Neumann at last year’s event in Colorado, and she will be a great leader in Germany next year.

The Ladies European Tour wasted no time in conducting a photo shoot with Koch, and the announcement was made in grand style. Here’s a shot of the five Swedes who were instrumental in Europe retaining in the cup last year.

On Wednesday, Kraft Nabisco Championship winner Lexi Thompson had to go to one of her sponsors’ products to help wake her up for an early morning workout, while Catriona Matthew was in her native Scotland. Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam, who was also a Team Europe assistant captain last year, traveled in style with her husband, Mike McGee, from a crowded private airport and posted a new blog to her website, and Beatriz Recari had a new golf bag to show off.

Natalie Gulbis enjoyed a day by the pool with family and took in an amazing California sunset, Danielle Kang spent some time with her physio group and did some pool work as part of her shoulder rehab, and Brittany Lincicome met up with some strange hikers during a Wednesday trek. Jessica Korda shared this cool photo from high in the sky, Brittany Lang was taking a walk down memory lane in Texas, where she met up with my fellow Auburn Tiger Nicole Hage, and So Yeon Ryu spent some time with her mother.

Wednesday was the annual Golf Writers Association of America awards dinner in Augusta, and LPGA Chief Communications Officer Kraig Kann was there with Inbee Park as she accepted her Player of the Year award along with Adam Scott. Mariajo Uribe practiced at the beautiful TPC Valencia in Los Angeles, Lizette Salas was part of Team Toyota’s photo shoot, and Vicky Hurst and Tiffany Joh took a trail hike to a unique overhang by Mt. Woodson in Poway, Calif., that made Joh nervous.

Christina Kim took part in a cooking class, Michelle Wie was back in her native Hawaii and got out on the water, and Thompson played and early practice round at Trump International on Thursday. Sorenstam shared this great shot of her and fellow World Golf Hall of Famer Jack Nicklaus that was taken in Augusta on Wednesday, Paula Creamer racked up yet another award and visited Augusta with Meaghan Francella, and Gulbis was at a foggy Monarch Beach Golf Club on Thursday for an event.

Jennie Lee enjoyed a hike back at her old haunt at Duke University, Wie got her SPAM fix, and Korda made her own guacamole. It’s hard to beat the view Gulbis had at dinner on Thursday night after she had some more pool time with family, Jeong Jang enjoyed the beach with family in Hawaii, and Lincicome had to fight LA traffic to catch her flight to the island paradise.

Hall of Famer and 2015 U.S. Solheim Cup Team Captain Juli Inkster took a “selfie” with daughter, Hayley, and dog, Colbie, Austin Ernst took in a Florida Panthers hockey game, courtesy of tickets from Thompson, and Wie shared a throwback photo of her in a soccer uniform as a kid. Wie visited her favorite sushi chef in Hawaii on Friday, Recari ditched her shoes during a practice session, and world No. 2 Suzann Pettersen says she’s feeling better after having to withdraw from two consecutive tournaments with an ailing back.

Gulbis did some beach yoga early Friday morning, Alena Sharp was at Hawaii’s famous and fabulous North Shore, and Koch attended the German Golf Association’s gala dinner. Thompson was a hit on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” program on Friday morning, Kang and Hurst got in a workout, and Salas decorated her bed with some college memorabilia.

Ryu worked out on the range on Friday, Kang had a hole-in-one, and Wie shared this amazing photo from Hawaii.

There will be plenty more like that photo next week when players descend upon Ko Olina Golf Club for the LPGA LOTTE Championship Presented by J Golf, so get ready to be even more jealous of the experiences the players get to enjoy.

Until next time….

Kraft Nabisco Championship is major step for tall teen

Anyone wondering if 19-year-old Lexi Thompson had the mettle to fight her way to a major championship title had their question answered on Sunday.

Tied with Michelle Wie heading into the final round of the Kraft Nabisco Championship (photo), Thompson shot a 4-under 68 at Mission Hills Country Club (photo) en route to a three-stroke win, a $300,000 pay day and a ceremonial jump in Poppie’s Pond. It was the teen’s fourth LPGA victory and should give her even more confidence going forward.

She was able to add her name to the Dinah Shore Wall of Champions and should be a major threat for many years to come. Angela Stanford shared this photo of the first tee on Sunday, and here is a crowd shot from the final pairing and one of Sandra Gal thinking over a putt. Here’s some nice golf art, a cool photo of a couple of young LPGA fans and one of Thompson crossing the bridge to 18.

Ryann O’Toole caught a Los Angeles Dodgers game while in California, 2013 European Solheim Cup Captain Liselotte Neumann found some European fans, and here is a look at all of Wie’s outfits from the week. Red Bull, one of Thompson’s main sponsors, Tweeted this photo compilation from her dip after her win, and Thompson herself posted this shot of her with the massive KNC trophy.

Karen Stupples posted this awesome shot of a look at KNC from 125 feet.

Here’s a happy bunch from a Monday pro-am, Lizette Salas, Danielle Kang and Mina Harigae were excited about a Batman-Green Lantern double feature before going into the theater, but exhausted afterward. Salas won a stuffed animal for Kang at Six Flags before they got their caricatures done, and here’s a shot of all three gals.

Paula Creamer enjoyed a pedicure to start the off week, while Jane Park got back to golf with a chipping session. Tiffany Joh posted this amusing photo on Tuesday, Gal drank some Incredible Hulk juice, and Wie had a nice view to enjoy during a workout.

Pat Hurst, who will be one of Juli Inkster’s assistant captains for next year’s Solheim Cup in Germany, took in the San Francisco Giants’ home opener with Inkster on Tuesday, Jennifer Song got some great R&R time, and Salas helped some juniors limber up at a golf practice.

The Masters is this weekend, so it should be an exciting few days again, but Friday I will be highly interested to see who is announced as the European Solheim Cup captain. Hopefully that news gets the buzz going about the event, and I’m sure it will.

At least it will give me something to talk about in Saturday’s column.

Until next time….

 

4/5/14: Major weekend in paradise for LPGA’s best

Ahh, the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

Not only is it the first major of the LPGA Tour season every year, it is one of the most storied and beloved tournaments on the schedule. Players relish every opportunity to tee it up at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif., and love being in the Palm Springs area for a week of sunshine and birdies.

I was lucky enough to work the great event three or four times, and everything about the week the LPGA is in town is special. From great food – including stellar milkshakes in the VIP dining tent – and breathtaking scenery, to huge crowds, tough battles and a champion’s dip in Poppie’s Pond (photo), the KNC is pure class all the way.

There’s always great golf at Mission Hills, and this week has been no different. Lexi Thompson and Hall of Famer Se Ri Pak are tied atop the leaderboard at 7-under through 36 holes, with Michelle Wie a shot back and Cristie Kerr and Shanshan Feng two off the pace. A total of 27 players begin the weekend under par, including two-time 2014 champions Anna Nordqvist (-4) and Karrie Webb (-1), so the final two rounds will be a heck of a spectacle.

Tournament week has been filled with non-stop action from the start, and here are the highlights of the second half of the week from “Twitter Theater.”

Here’s a great photo Nordqvist shared on Wednesday, the same day the LPGA announced the creation of the Rolex ANNIKA Major Award that will be given annually along with a check for $100,000 to the player who performs the best in the Tour’s five majors. Here’s a shot of the press conference, one of an honored Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam with the five major trophies and another of the trophies by themselves.

Wie was thrilled to welcome a friend home from serving in Afghanistan, here’s an up-close look at Jessica Korda’s putter, and Golf World’s Ron Sirak and Sorenstam did their weekly Sirius XM Radio show live from the course on a beautiful Wednesday with Lydia Ko among the guests. That was also pro-am day at Mission Hills, and here is Thompson with her group and a shot of Nordqvist taking in the sights.

This is a pretty awesome shot of Wie teeing off, a picture of the ever-present Oscar Meyer Weinermobile (#haveahotdog) that’s always at the tournament and a photo of the new golf bag Kerr is using this week. Sandra Gal captured this inspiring photo on Wednesday and shared a shot of her new golf bag, Thompson made one fan’s day by signing his driver before he took a “selfie” with Christina Kim, and Wie shared this shot of her new Blingo Ballmarks.

If you didn’t know how hard pro golfers work to stay in shape, just watch this video about Paula Creamer’s rigorous workout regimen. Karen Crouse of the New York Times wrote this nice piece about Webb and her place as a promoter of women’s golf on Wednesday, and here is a blog Natalie Gulbis wrote about overcoming back problems, which was timely given the announcement that Tiger Woods had back surgery and will miss The Masters for the first time in his career.

Wie sat down with the Golf Channel’s Kelly Tilghman to talk about her opening-round 67 that included a birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie stretch, and she shared this photo from her first KNC in 2003 when she was just 13 years old. I worked that tournament and remember the buzz Wie provided the tournament vividly.

Thursday was also the day LPGA players responded to model Paulina Gretsky getting the cover of Golf Digest. Here is Crouse’s piece on the issue, as well as Commissioner Mike Whan’s strong views on the matter.

Morgan Pressel signed autographs after her round on Thursday, and Sirak shared this cool photo of Hall of Famer and 2015 U.S. Solheim Cup Team Captain Juli Inkster and Webb from the putting green late in the day. Creamer paused for this photo with fans, the driving range was a hotbed of activity Friday morning, and Sorenstam signed autographs in the Mission Hills pro shop.

Pak did some leaderboard examination in the KNC media center after her post-round press conference on Friday, Thompson signed autographs, and Tiffany Joh showed up to the course in this costume after a 2-under Thursday. Wie earned some physio treatment with a post-round workout before enjoying a sushi dinner, the LPGA shared this awesome view of the 18th green, and Thompson’s caddie had to pay off a bet he lost with 50 pushups.

Tilghman Tweeted a very cool stat about Creamer, who made her 37th consecutive cut in a major – she’s never missed one in an LPGA major in her career – to tie Woods’ record for pros.

One note about this tournament, Whan confirmed on Wednesday that Kraft is out as title sponsor for 2015, but said there is a 75 percent chance it will have a title sponsor when it returns to Mission Hills next year. Whan also said that a trio of potential title sponsors had representatives at the tournament this week to evaluate the prospect of signing on.

I’m sure he will get the deal done, as no one involved with the event or the Tour wants it moving from that golf course.

Until next time….


Twice as nice for Nordqvist in Cali.

The 2014 LPGA Tour season is just a few months old, but we already have two multiple-event winners thanks to Anna Nordqvist.

The leggy Swede carded a final-round 67 at the Kia Classic to edge Lizette Salas and her fan club by a stroke and claim her second victory of the season. Nordqvist, who also won in Thailand, moved to 10th in the Rolex Women’s Golf World Rankings thanks to the triumph, and she’s on pace to have a huge season.

She joined Hall of Famer Karrie Webb as a two-time champ in 2014. I will write more about Nordqvist later this week, so stay tuned for that.

It’s Kraft Nabisco Championship week this week, and the Tour has been abuzz as players prepare for the season’s first major championship. This was always one of my favorite tournaments to work for a dozen reasons (including natural beauty), and I can tell you that players are over the moon about the event.

Beatriz Recari played an early morning practice round on Monday in great weather at Mission Hills Country Club, two-time KNC champion Dottie Pepper was surprised to find she still had a locker at the country club, and Annika Sorenstam, who won three KNCs, spent time with junior golfers at the major’s official junior challenge.

Yani Tseng, the 2010 KNC champ, is sporting a new bag and head covers this week and had fun with good friend Na Yeon Choi in a practice round, Lexi Thompson went for a scenic jog after her practice round, and Salas met the Coachella High School girls golf team on Monday and also spent some quality time with her parents.

Brittany Lincicome took a walk down memory lane on Twitter, LPGA Chief Communications Officer Kraig Kann and Hall of Famer Donna Caponi reunited in Rancho Mirage, and former KNC winners had a blast at the annual Champions’ Dinner on Monday night. Webb played a practice round on Tuesday with Su-Hyun Oh and Minjee Lee, and Natalie Gulbis worked on her putting.

On Tuesday, everyone was sad to learn that world No. 2 Suzann Pettersen withdrew from KNC, her second consecutive WD, because of recurring back problems. Salas, Thompson and Rebecca Lee Bentham were practice-round partners on Tuesday, Titleist’s Ann Cain and pro Jimin Kang were decked out in blue, and an official International Crown press conference took place as well, where this stellar trophy was unveiled.

Karen Stupples needed a bit of a lift for her Golf Channel segment from KNC, and Team Korea posed for this photo and Sorenstam has the whole family in California this week.

Over the weekend, Salas did a Golf Channel interview before the final round and Mariajo Uribe was showing off a Wounded Warrior Project flag that signified CME Group’s ongoing donations to the great cause. The always photogenic Gerina Piller celebrated a birthday on Saturday, Paula Creamer enjoyed some gluten- and dairy-free pancakes and raved about her new pink camo Adidas golf shoes, and Maria Hjorth did some hiking at Torrey Pines.

Danielle Kang had to have more pages stitched into her passport, Saturday was a chance for players like Salas to salute the troops, and the LPGA put out this cool time-lapsed video of the Kia Classic putting green. Michelle Wie signed autographs after the third round, Kathleen Ekey spent time with a young fan, and Laura Diaz had two holes in one at the tournament, inspiring this statistic that was Tweeted by the LPGA.

Here’s another cool GoPro time-lapsed video of the manual scoreboard at the Kia Classic, Gulbis and a tiny fan followed Salas by wearing purple, and Creamer found a wee golf fan of her own to pose with on Sunday. Thompson gave a fan her golf shoes on Sunday, so perhaps the girl will one day literally follow in her footsteps.

The conclusion of the tournament also signaled the finalization of the eight teams that will compete in the inaugural International Crown in July. Here is more information on that very cool event.

Until next time….

Neal Reid is a full-time freelance writer based in Colorado Springs, Colo., who just spent nine weeks covering the Olympic Winter Games and Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, as a sports writer for the Olympic News Service. The Auburn University graduate spent six years as an LPGA media relations coordinator from 1998-2004. Follow him on Twitter @NealReid21.

 
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