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The Social Scene with Neal Reid

June 28 2014, Neal Reid

LPGA players enjoying Southern hospitality in Arkansas

Players have been having a ball this week at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship Presented by P&G, and social media has reflected that in a big way.

On the course, Alena Sharp was very sharp during a 6-under 65 on Friday, and she will take a one-stroke lead over U.S. Women’s Open champion Michelle Wie and Alejandra Llaneza into the weekend. There is a talented group of 10 players just two strokes back, so it’s anyone’s ball game heading into the final 36 holes.

Here’s a smattering of what’s been going on social media-wise this week.

Bryant Fortin, the director of junior golf for the Arkansas State Golf Association, got up close to a massive Paula Creamer banner, Lexi Thompson enjoyed some gym time, and Lydia Ko did a pre-tournament press conference in Arkansas on Wednesday. Anna Nordqvist practiced in the Southern heat, Brittany Lincicome and her First Tee helper gave a furry friend a hug, and the rains came in the afternoon at Pinnacle Country Club to cut the pro-am short, but Sandra Gal got this swing in beforehand.

Tiffany Joh showed off an eagle banner from the Wounded Warrior project, wine connoisseur Cristie Kerr met beer magnate Pete Coors, and this group of lovely ladies had fun together at the Wednesday night pro-am dinner. A host of players attended the night’s Pantene Beautiful Lengths hair donation event, and it was a huge success that impressed everyone.

Beatriz Recari was one of the celebrity hair choppers along with Morgan Pressel, who snipped away at a new friend’s hair, and even LPGA staff got in on the act. University of Arkansas head football coach Bret Bielema was also in attendance.

Mariajo Uribe bonded with one of her host family members, Hall of Famer Juli Inkster had a late birthday celebration with friends, and Stacy Lewis had the chance to speak with junior golfers and their parents at the KPMG Stacy Lewis Junior Open. Mina Harigae has a new member in her fan club, and LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan dressed up like Uncle Sam on Thursday in support of Team USA’s soccer match against Germany.

LPGA Rules Official Dan Maselli took time out of his schedule to impart some wisdom to members of The First Tee of Northwest Arkansas, Nordqvist used an Adidas ClimaChill shirt to stay cool in the Arkansas heat, and Joh got some love from this friendly furball. Harigae had a furry pool companion on Thursday afternoon, Lincicome treated herself to a pedicure, and Kerr did an autograph signing for Coors.

Some First Tee junior reporters sat in on Wie’s pre-tournament press conference and got to pose for a picture with the major winner afterward after she hit the range, and Wie said one of the thrills of winning the U.S. Women’s Open was receiving flowers from buddy Adam Sandler. Creamer and Austin Ernst (photo) greeted a pair of pint-sized fans, Wie re-Tweeted this cool collage about her time meeting actor Mark Wahlberg, comedian Whitney Cummings and NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard while making an appearance on the “Kelly and Michael” show in New York. Michael Strahan even tried Wie’s famous “table-top” putting approach.

LPGA fans are wearing pedometers for a Miles for Mercy charity initiative this week, the 17th hole has a sound meter to measure fans’ decibel levels in its massive grandstands, and fans are encouraged to be loud. A huge gallery greeted Lewis on the first tee on Friday, and they have been yelling “Woo Pig Sooie” at the former University of Arkansas star.

Ron Kroichick penned this piece for SF Gate about the impact of Wie’s U.S. Women’s Open victory, and Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols got an inside look at Wie’s New York media tour, as well as this awesome quote from “Wiesy.” In other news, Lizette Salas is teaming with Toyota to raise money for a Hispanic Scholarship Fund, just another way the impressive woman is giving back.

On Thursday, the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic announced its home for the next two years, which seems like a good fit. It feels as if the Tour is churning out good news each week, and this week has been no different.

Until next time….

What a Wie-kend for young LPGA star

You would have to live under a rock not to know that Michelle Wie won her first major at the U.S. Women’s Open on Sunday.

The 24-year-old Stanford University grad earned the monumental victory after finishing as the only player under par for the tournament at 2-under. World No. 1 Stacy Lewis – one of Wie’s Solheim Cup teammates last year – was second at even-par after closing with a 4-under 66 on the final day, but Wie’s masterful even-par 70 not only gave the Hawaiian her second win of the season, but also the most coveted title in women’s golf.

Wie was overwhelmed with joy by the win, showered with champagne, smiling her wide, toothy smile and on top of the world. Always safety-minded, Wie made sure her trophy was secure before leaving the course and used this dandy travel case to take it with her on a jet plane.

She also let some emotion out during a big hug with her mom and “table-topped” while drinking beer out of the trophy. Her victory came in front of a slew of Hawaiian shirt-clad fans, and with Hall of Famer Louise Suggs there as motivation and inspiration.

She was live on SportsCenter on Sunday night, called in to “Morning Drive” on Golf Channel Monday morning and spent Monday glammed up and doing a media tour in New York City. Wie flew in style to “The Big Apple,” was a guest on The Today Show (photo), showed everyone on Fox and Friends how to putt, took the trophy to the streets, was on Fox Business’ “Opening Bell” show, appeared on CNN with Carol Costello, visited Niketown and the Empire State Building (photo) for a photo shoot and enjoyed a sushi dinner at one of her favorite restaurants.

Wie even was hit up for quotes by the ultimate media pest, TMZ, and called in to The Dan Patrick Show, and you can watch that interview here.

Not only was Wie’s triumph the cap on a great couple of weeks at Pinehurst No. 2, but it was a win for women’s golf. The LPGA has not seen a season this action-packed and with as many huge storylines in quite some time, and it’s a great thing for the Tour.

Here is Randall Mell’s take on the victory on GolfChannel.com, as well as a piece by Stuart Hall on USOpen.com and this one by Brian Hewitt and this one by Steve Eubanks for GlobalGolfPost.com. Karen Crouse of The New York Times wrote this article about Wie’s win, and Ron Sirak of Golf World talked about her major title here.

Sandra Gal made a fan’s day by giving him an autographed golf ball, Brooke Pancake made a special connection with a fan during the week, and Paula Creamer spent some time with some U.S. troops in North Carolina on Monday. Here is another shot of her fun-filled visit, here is another, and here yet another.

In other news, 2015 European Solheim Cup Captain Carin Koch was featured in this Q&A in Golf Monthly magazine, and 2013 European Solheim Cup Captain Liselotte Neumann gave some lucky First Tee kids a lesson on Monday, and Tiffany Joh caught some waves. Morgan Pressel joined the PGA Tour’s Jason Dufner and Billy Horschel for a press conference promoting the CVS Charity Classic on Monday, and Hall of Famer Juli Inkster was there as well to see a long-drive champion hit a ball through a watermelon.

Lexi Thompson and her brother, Nick, got decked out for the charity event’s gala dinner on Monday night, Sirak had the honor of presenting the Winnie Palmer Award to Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez, and Inkster celebrated her birthday and received a special birthday card from a fan on Tuesday. Cristie Kerr gave a clinic at the LPGA’s Arkansas stop on Tuesday,

Natalie Gulbis was supporting a Ronald McDonald House in Cleveland on Monday, LPGA players added 19 eagles to the Wounded Warrior charity total during the U.S. Women’s Open, and this could be the most precious charity donation ever.

Lewis’ gallery will be huge this week in Arkansas, and she’s happy to be in her home state. It pains me to post this, but some Rogers, Ark., fans made University of Alabama alums like Pancake feel welcomed, and Brittany Lang enjoyed some freebies courtesy of P&G.

What does this weekend hold?

Until next time….

On the brink of greatness in a great place

Ahh, the U.S. Women’s Open.

It’s long been the most coveted of championships in women’s professional golf, and being able to etch one’s name on the historic trophy is a dream for every little girl playing the game. This week, another name will be added to the list of those who have weathered the most ultimate of tests for four days and achieved greatness in the process.

I was lucky enough to attend and work the 2003 U.S. Women’s Open at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club outside Portland, Ore., when Hilary Lunke defeated Angela Stanford and Kelly Robbins in an 18-hole Monday playoff. It was a thrilling and wild week, and it was great to be part of women’s golf history.

It doesn’t get much more historic than Pinehurst No. 2, this week’s track for the crown jewel of the LPGA’s season. The players have been amped up about this tournament for weeks, and the fact that several of them arrived a few days early to prepare and take in the U.S. Open was a testament to that.

It’s already been a thrilling experience for a number of Tour stars, and they have been busy on social media.

Natalie Gulbis was the first woman on the range on Sunday as the men completed the U.S. Open, Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam was at the Lexus Performance Drive hospitality area signing autographs and hanging out with Scott Van Pelt on Sunday, and Lydia Ko did an interview with Golf Channel’s “Morning Drive” program and met and watched Sergio Garcia warm up on the range that day as well. Michelle Wie arrived in North Carolina on Sunday, Paula Creamer and Inbee Park – two women who have won the tournament before – talked with Steve Sands of Golf Channel live on the air during the men’s final round, and Jessica Korda got to chat with Rickie Fowler before the final round.

Ko and Sue Kim watched Phil Mickelson from afar, the media loved seeing the men and women practicing together on the range on Sunday, and Cristie Kerr helped Seung Yul Noh with his putting stroke. Here’s Golf World’s Ron Sirak writing about the women arriving early.

Wie scoped out Keegan Bradley, Pinehurst’s greens crew went to work on the front-nine as soon as the men cleared certain holes, and Morgan Pressel’s younger sister, Madison, won on the Symetra Tour. Gulbis stopped by the NBC television booth to check things out, Beatriz Recari surveyed the scene at the 18th green, and the bleachers were packed, just as they’re expected to be this weekend.

Brittany Lincicome got some TV time during Martin Kaymer’s triumphant final round while she watched from inside the ropes, Wie and Korda hit up the USGA’s Mike Davis with questions about the course, and Danielle Kang had her yardage book all ready to go. Sandra Gal helped her fellow German Kaymer celebrate his second major on Sunday, while Jenny Shin was able to practice putting next to him before his victory.

Lexi Thompson hit the range early on Monday as she goes after her second consecutive major title, here’s ESPN’s take on the women practicing alongside the men, and Hall of Famer Juli Inkster – a two-time U.S. Women’s Open champ – got in some practice as well on Monday. Laura Diaz enjoyed her practice group on Monday, Sorenstam visited the great Peggy Kirk Bell at Pine Needles, and Sirak chronicled the LPGA players’ early week preparations at Pinehurst.

Hall of Famer Karrie Webb practiced with a group of Aussies on Monday, Suzann Pettersen enjoyed a sweet gift package from Nike, and So Yeon Ryu – the event’s 2011 champion – gave herself some R&R time after a hot and tough practice round. Lincicome also kicked back to enjoy life on Monday evening, Wie talked to the USGA’s Scott Walker about course strategy, and Sarah Jane Smith has a special head cover for this week’s tournament.

Kristy McPherson had fun during a practice round with Gerina Piller, Dori Carter and Stanford on Monday, here’s a very cool art piece featuring both events’ trophies, and this awesome shot of the Payne Stewart statue is inspirational for anyone. Pre-tournament press conferences included Pettersen (photo), Thompson and world No. 1 Stacy Lewis (photo), and a group of players paid tribute to the great Laura Davies, who just earned the title of “Dame” from the queen of England.

Cristie Kerr is giving away a free wedge in this contest, Anna Nordqvist was on “Morning Drive” on Tuesday, and Webb and Lewis were part of this practice group. Dottie Pepper and Inkster ran into Titleist’s Ann Cain on Tuesday, a group of Ohio State University alums played a practice round together, and Lincicome and Nordqvist had to improvise during dinner when the power went out.

Ryu loved catching up with fellow U.S. Women’s Open champions on Tuesday night, Kerr and Creamer caught up at the same party, and Meg Mallon took this picture of Catherine LaCoste, the only amateur ever to win the U.S. Women’s Open, at the dinner. While that was going on, Nordqvist reeled in a bass while fishing with experienced angler Lincicome, which seems like a great deal of fun.

Soon, the world’s top female golfers will climb these steps to the first tee as they embark on a march toward history. It should be quite a ride!

Until next time….

 

LPGA players busy on off week during hectic time for pro sports

With the NBA Finals and Stanley Cup playoffs going full tilt, the World Cup and the U.S. Open beginning on Thursday, it’s been a sports fanatic’s dream week.

LPGA players have been among those who have been glued to their televisions to watch all the action, but they have also been busy with their hectic lives and getting ready for next week’s U.S. Women’s Open. Here are some highlights.

Michelle Wie drove her Kia to the gym on Wednesday, Lexi Thompson got glammed up for a photo shoot with Golf Punk magazine, and Paula Creamer had a furry riding companion for a road trip. So Yeon Ryu was practicing at Trump National Golf Club, Dottie Pepper was hard at work for ESPN during the U.S. Open, and LPGA.com posted this scenic shot of Pinehurst’s No. 3.

Brittany Lincicome and Sandra Gal teed it up for a fun round on Wednesday, LPGA.com posted this video about Babe Zaharias’ 1954 U.S. Women’s Open victory and this one about the construction of the 18th grandstand at Pinehurst, and Lizette Salas’ niece was wearing some of her sponsored gear.

Pinehurst is selling these hats and sporting these pin flags to commemorate the first time the men’s and women’s Open championships have been held on consecutive weeks at the same course, Beatriz Recari was impressed by this Taylor Made 3-wood, and Morgan Pressel has a new patriotic bag to use next week. Natalie Gulbis’ hubby is styling in this new Lexus, Cristie Kerr gave a female perspective about Pinehurst No. 2, and Kathleen Ekey was sporting some sweet socks.

Vicky Hurst has a set of awesome new wedges, Anna Nordqvist loves her new Adidas skirt and Gulbis loves her new skort (who doesn’t?), and Kerr got the treat of meeting super chef Thomas Keller. Angela Stanford took a picture of a plaque commemorating Meg Mallon’s U.S. Women’s Open win, Salas has a new purple putter that celebrates her first career LPGA win, and Sarah Kemp was happy to be home in her native Australia.

Brooke Pancake was thrilled to get this e-mail on Thursday, Wie continued her U.S. Women’s Open practice, and Thompson also has a new bag to use next week. LPGA.com posted this nice shot of the fifth hole at Pinehurst on Thursday, Creamer Tweeted a weather photo, and Christina Kim and Jane Park were goofing around.

Wie admits she may have a sneaker problem and shared this interesting “Flashback Friday” photo, Jessica Korda hit the beach in Florida, and Ryu posted this putting video. Creamer and her caddie, Colin Kann, have been together more than 10 years, Gulbis picked up her courtesy car for next week, and Nordqvist got some wedge practice in on Friday.

Here’s a look at the seventh hole and another at the eighth at Pinehurst on LPGA.com, here’s a cool blog by Jeehae Lee talking about the LPGA, Thompson practiced on Friday, and Creamer is going to be teeing it up next week with these patriotic fingernails.

Soon, the preparation for the U.S. Women’s Open will be complete and the world’s best female players will be center stage in the golf world. It should be quite the show!

Until next time….

 

Big year keeps going for LPGA with off-week news

Even though the LPGA has no tournament this week doesn’t mean the Tour isn’t making headlines.

On Tuesday, the LPGA announced the addition of yet another domestic event, the Meijer LPGA Classic Presented by Kraft at Blythefield Country Club in Grand Rapids, Mich., Aug. 7-10. It’s an event near and dear to Morgan Pressel’s heart, and Nicole Castrale was also at the announcement with her, while LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan got in the spirit of the event.

The Tour had a great weekend in Canada, with Inbee Park shooting a 61 on Sunday to win the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic just a week after Stacy Lewis nudged her from the No. 1 world ranking. This fan had a great week in Ontario inside the ropes, Lewis signed autographs on Saturday, here’s a scenic shot of the 18th hole, and past champ Brittany Lang had a reserved parking spot and shared her workout regimen on YouTube.

Michelle Wie made a pledge on the tournament’s heart wall, Shanshan Feng did a TV interview after leading through three rounds, and Wie and Anna Nordqvist shared a laugh on Saturday. Jennifer Johnson added to her coffee mug collection north of the border, Pressel made a couple of young fans’ day, and Sandra Gal had a cute practice buddy to keep her company.

On Monday, Wie’s pooch was happy to have her back home and quite relaxed while her owner enjoyed receiving some new Nikes, Lang played in the annual USO golf outing on Monday, and Jessica Korda was in Adidas heaven.

Elsewhere, Lizette Salas did some putting drills and enlisted the help of her family during a practice session, 2013 U.S. Solheim Cup Captain Meg Mallon was in St. Louis supporting the Curtis Cup players, and Lexi Thompson got in some work with famed instructor Jim McLean on Saturday during a week off before breaking in some pink Pumas. Natalie Gulbis had a busy weekend showing off her yoga skills, using her Sky Caddie during a practice round, hitting some balls with her mom and hanging out with kids from the Las Vegas Boys & Girls Club (photo), while Gal donated a signed golf bag to the 18 FORE Life charity.

Korda rehydrated while playing in Florida and shared a picture of some of her most precious things, Karrie Webb went fishing and caught a couple tuna, while Beatriz Recari was busy with radio interviews and checking out a street named after her as part of media day as defending champion of the upcoming Marathon Classic Presented by Owens Corning and O-I.

Randy Mell from GolfChannel.com wrote this piece on the LPGA players being able to scout the U.S. Women’s Open by watching the men play at Pinehurst this week as the tournament celebrates its first-ever back-to-back schedule at the same course.

The news of the Michigan event is awesome for the Tour and further shows Whan’s commitment to building the schedule back up to where it was years ago. The LPGA sure is on a roll, and it will only get better as the season moves along.

Until next time….

 

International leaderboard north of the border for LPGA Tour

The most international tour in professional golf heads into the weekend in Canada with a leaderboard as varied and colorful as they come.

The top 15 after 36 holes features players from six different countries, and the tournament title is up for grabs going into Saturday. China’s Shanshan Feng and South Korea’s Hee Young Park lead the way at 11-under, while the United States’ Michelle Wie is a stroke back and Norway’s Anna Nordqvist is two behind.

Spain’s Belen Mozo (tied for sixth) and Germany’s Caroline Masson (tied for 10th) round out the international group at the top, and it will be interesting to see which country’s players make a run down the stretch at Grey Silo Golf Course (photo).

Players were active and entertaining on social media this week, as always, and here are some highlights.

Suzann Pettersen spent time with a couple of young fans on pro-am day on Wednesday, new world No. 1 Stacy Lewis talked to ESPNW about the status of the LPGA Tour, and Maria Hjorth found some interesting logos to put on her golf balls. Cristie Kerr showed some support for the New York Rangers on Wednesday, Nordqvist received a special gift and did some homework on the golf course with her caddie during the pro-am, and Morgan Pressel held a clinic in Toronto.

Sandra Gal found a young fan who shared her surname, Ron Sirak of Golf World wrote about the LPGA’s hugely successful 2014 campaign, and Gerina Piller and her pro-am group were in synch off the tee. Kathleen Ekey had fun during the CN Future Links Walk With a Pro event, Gal posted this amazing photo from Canada, and Wie was a media favorite and a patient in the LPGA physio trailer on Thursday.

U.S. players like Jessica Korda (photo), Brooke Pancake (photo), Paula Creamer (photo) and Wie (photo) Tweeted their support of the U.S. Curtis Cup Team that is playing this weekend, Karen Stupples is working the event, and Pancake is going patriotic with her golf bag for the U.S. Women’s Open. Here is a cool silhouette of Wie on the third hole, a nice shot of Brittany Lang eyeing up a putt, and Kerr putting on the 18th hole.

Friday was “Red Day” at the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic, Na Yeon Choi participated in a radio interview, and reigning Rolex Player of the Year Inbee Park was named as one of “30 Women who are Changing the World” by Business Insider. Here is a great story on the LPGA’s Child Development Center, Pancake was treated to cupcakes on her birthday on Friday, the same birthday as Louise Solheim, the 96-year-old wife of PING founder Karsten Solheim.

In other locales, Lexi Thompson had some beach time after a Wednesday practice session and hit the gym during a week off, Creamer spent time in Pinehurst, N.C., getting ready for the U.S. Women’s Open, visited a farmer’s market and found Natalie Gulbis in a Pure Silk magazine ad, and Brittany Lincicome went fishing….again. Hall of Famer Juli Inkster enjoyed a night out with her girls, Azahara Munoz went on vacation, and Lizette Salas received some cool drinking glasses from one of her sponsors and finally got her trophy from winning the Kingsmill Championship Presented by JTBC.

That’s a heck of a week of activity on Tour, but it has become the norm for LPGA players, which is a great benefit to fans of theirs around the globe.

Until next time….

 

No. 1 ranking on line as LPGA readies for Canadian challenge

Sunday was a monumental day for Stacy Lewis.

The 2012 Rolex Player of the Year won the ShopRite LPGA Classic Presented by Acer and, in the process, took over the top spot in the Rolex Women’s Golf World Rankings from Inbee Park, who had held the position for 59 weeks. This week, as the Tour heads north for the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic in Ontario, Canada, Lewis – who crossed the $1 million mark in season earnings with the win – will look to hold on to that coveted spot.

She can do so by finishing seventh or better this week at the Grey Silo Golf Course (photo), but Lydia Ko can grab the top spot by winning and have Lewis finish eighth or worse, according to Golf World’s Ron Sirak. It should be an interesting weekend!

On Saturday, Kathleen Ekey took this photo of Brittany Lincicome practicing her bunker shots, here’s a nice article about Christina Kim, who finished second, and these young fans had a good time at the course on Sunday. Paula Creamer found a big plane that had plenty of room for her furry friend, Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam shared this photo from up in the air, and So Yeon Ryu was part of a group that flew Wheels Up Jets to Baltimore for an International Crown media day that included a special appearance by Hall of Fame baseball player Cal Ripken Jr.

Suzann Pettersen posted this awesome shot of New York City, Sandra Gal and Jessica Korda took a road trip, and Mariajo Uribe made a young fan’s day by posing for a photo. Lexi Thompson had this sweet ride to the International Crown press conference and did a TV appearance and radio show with Ryu in Washington, D.C., while Morgan Pressel participated in the RBC Golf 4 Kids event.

A number of players took part in Val Skinner’s 15th annual charity event to raise money for breast cancer awareness on a beautiful day on Monday, Cristie Kerr spent time with a special veteran in New Jersey over the weekend, and Michelle Wie found some impressive street art in Toronto. Lewis had private transportation to Canada on Tuesday after a busy day, Mina Harigae and Lizette Salas joined up for a practice round, and Danielle Kang stopped by Wayne Gretsky’s restaurant.

Korda will be on Golf Channel’s “Playing Lessons” show with Holly Sonders on Wednesday, Creamer, Ernie Els and David Leadbetter were on the course together for sponsor SAP on Tuesday, and Natalie Gulbis held a fundraising event and clinic at the lovely Southern Highlands for her Boys & Girls Club (photo) in Las Vegas that included all sorts of prizes. Dottie Pepper handed out the Dottie Pepper Achievement Award at a local high school in New York, Karrie Webb visited Pinehurst for a practice round for the U.S. Women’s Open, and Wie and friends had a short-lived run as a caddie on Tuesday.

Here’s a great article about the LPGA’s appeal, an ESPNW video detailing Pepper’s take on the LPGA and PGA of America joining forces for a major championship, and another one about the success that Skinner’s event has enjoyed through the years. Val is a great woman who has done amazing things for others, and so it’s great to see her success continue.

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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