Hugs, high fives and smiles are the order of the day as the Honda PTT LPGA Thailand gets ready to begin outside Bangkok. Much like the first day back to school, players are trading offseason stories and looking ahead to another season. Several of the LPGA's best officially kicked things off on Wednesday high above Siam Country Club. Rolex Rankings World No. 1 one Lorena Ochoa and fan favorites Paula Creamer and Michelle Wie first paid their respects by leaving flowers at the golf course's memorial to a Buddhist monk who once lived on the site. They then signaled the start of the tournament by hitting tee balls from the hill onto the driving range with a clear view of the Gulf of Thailand.
Thailand has embraced the LPGA in a big way, first at the airport where local media welcomed players with interviews, then throughout Pattaya where billboards line the streets featuring past champs Ochoa and Suzann Pettersen. On Wednesday night, the players gave back by donating signed memorabilia for a formal auction and dinner benefiting local charities. Earlier in the day, LPGA rookie Amanda Blumenherst gave a clinic to sponsors and local children.
Tournament officials expect more than 15,000 people per day this weekend. With 49 of the top 50 from the 2009 LPGA Money List and temperatures expected to stay in the mid-90's, the heat is on for an exciting season-opener.