Sunday hodgepodge on menu as play concludes
What a week it’s been!
From a rousing kickoff and a nail-biting playoff between the top two seeds, to proud displays of flags and amazing golf, the inaugural International Crown has had it all. Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills, Md., has been a long and tough test for the world’s best women’s golfers, and they have produced amazing play every day inside the ropes.
Here’s a hodgepodge collection of some of the highlights from a great week in the Baltimore suburbs.
Commish impressed with event. I ran into LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan at the first tee before the matches began on Sunday, and he was very pleased with the International Crown’s debut. “It’s been great, and it’s only going to get bigger from here. It’s definitely had a major-event vibe this week.” I tend to agree with him, and I think most fans who came out to Caves Valley and watched on Golf Channel and people in the golf industry do as well.
Hall of Famers in the house. The International Crown’s appeal was big enough to bring out a slew of LPGA Tour and World Golf Hall of Famers. I saw Carol Mann, Nancy Lopez and Betsy King at Caves Valley, and Juli Inkster and Judy Rankin were part of Golf Channel’s broadcast team. Throw in Karrie Webb, who played for Australia, and that’s a heck of a half-dozen.
Lee plans to turn pro this year. Australia’s Minjee Lee, the top-ranked amateur in the world, told media before the International Crown that she plans to turn pro later this year. “Yes, probably toward the end of the year and closer to q-school,” she said when asked the question directly. That’s good news for the LPGA, and fans should expect to see the 18-year-old on Tour full-time next year.
Big pay day. The quartet from Spain split the first-place $400,000 prize in addition to winning the beautiful International Crown trophy and awesome crowns of theirown. Second-place Sweden split $250,000 ($75,000 apiece), while the Republic of Korea and Japan tied for third, and each player took home $47,500. Not bad for four days of work!
Hedwall’s streak ends. Caroline Hedwall of Sweden had one of the more impressive streaks in match play history come to an end on Sunday when she lost 4&2 to Republic of Korea’s Inbee Park in singles action. Hedwall entered the match having won or tied her previous nine matches in Solheim Cup (5-0-1) and International Crown (2-0-1) play, a feat professional golf has not seen at this level in some time.
Taking one for the team. Rankin pointed out to Golf Channel viewers on Saturday that Paula Creamer of the U.S. switched from a tan skort to navy blue shorts mid-round. It turns out, Creamer had a “wardrobe malfunction” of sorts and her skort was rubbing her the wrong way, and she had to turn to an unlikely source to remedy the situation. Stacy Lewis’ mother, Carol, took one for the team and let Creamer wear her shorts for the rest of the round. Talk about dedication to the cause!
Eagles aplenty. Caves Valley is a long course, and the International Crown players played it at 6,628 yards, but that didn’t stop players from finding eagles out there. The field knocked in 14 eagles in 34 matches over four days, with six of those coming on Saturday alone. Japan’s Sakura Yokomine led the way with three, Australia’s Teresa Lu, the United States’ Lexi Thompson and Sweden’s Hedwall each had two, with Lu holing out her approach from the fairway on the first hole on Saturday morning. Yokomine put two down on her scorecard on Saturday and another Sunday, while Hedwall had two eagles on Friday. So Yeon Ryu and Park of the Republic of Korea, Sweden’s Mikaela Parmlid, Spain’s Belen Mozo and the U.S.’ Lewis also registered eagles.
End of an era. The July 28 edition of Golf World magazine that came out this week was the final print version of the 67-year-old publication, as its publishers decided to switch to an online digital edition. For one, I’m sad to see it go, mainly because it means my friend Ron Sirak will be no longer penning great pieces for the magazine. It’s their loss, and Ron is talented and well-respected enough to have his pick of the litter when it comes to freelance assignments, so I don’t anticipate the golf industry being deprived of his prose from the world’s biggest golf tournaments in the coming years. It’s also a bit of a pinch in the pants for me as a traditional journalist who hates to see hard-copy editions being shelved for good. It’s a sign of the times, I suppose, but still a drag.