Florida teenager Alia Scotka has been living a dream this week at Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club, walking inside the ropes with 2011 LPGA Tour rookie Amelia Lewis during practice rounds for the ShopRite LPGA Classic and getting the low-down on how to go about competing against the game's best female players.
Scotka, who earned her VIP privileges by winning the under-13 division at last year's Amelia Lewis Girls National Championship in Orlando, has been peppering Lewis with all sorts of questions and is now looking forward to cheering her fellow American on when the three-round tournament starts on Friday.
"It's been really cool, I've learned a lot," Scotka, a charming 14-year-old from Crestview in Florida, told LPGA.com after following Lewis for all 18 holes in the pro-am competition. "Being inside the ropes has been amazing and I've been able to learn so much about playing tournament golf and just watching her play. It's been really good.
"We went up there (to the tournament office) yesterday and we got a couple of passes and I looked around and there was a lot of stuff going on and I was like, 'Wow, I didn't know how much work was put into this event, in any LPGA Tour event actually.' It was really cool to see all that."
Asked if there was anyone in particular she would really like to meet at the ShopRite LPGA Classic, Scotka replied with a broad smile: "A long time ago, I wanted to meet Michelle Wie and I didn't get to. I think there might be a chance for me to meet her here this week. But I mainly want to stay with Amelia and cheer her on throughout the week."
For Lewis, watching Scotka embrace every aspect of her red-carpet treatment at Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club has been hugely rewarding, and something she would have relished doing at a similar age.
"Oh my gosh, it would have been amazing if I had been able to do this as a 14-year-old," said Lewis, who started playing golf at the age of 10 and later became a three-time Florida All-First Coast Girl Player of the Year. "I never had this kind of experience and it would have definitely made me want to work even harder to get on the LPGA Tour, and even quicker.
"Being able to walk inside the ropes with players that you watch on TV, that you can look up to and learn from, it's such a great experience."
Scotka has benefited from much more than just inside-the-ropes access. Her father used up vacation days from his job to be able to spend time with his daughter this week and she has been granted dining and pavilion passes for the three days of the tournament.
“Alia will get a great experience as an LPGA spectator at one of the best events on Tour,” said Lewis. “The crowds here are amazing and the weather looks great for the rest of the week, so it's going to be a really fun atmosphere for her to be at.”
Lewis, who qualified for the LPGA Tour on her first attempt, has been impressed by the variety and depth of Scotka’s questions.
"She asked us if we had any superstitions, and then she also asked how to hit certain chip shots and how to approach practice rounds, a lot of things that you know on Tour but you don't really learn in junior golf," said Lewis. "Many of her questions were about course management.
"It's been a great experience for Alia and hopefully she'll be out here one day competing on the LPGA Tour. This week, she can see what it's all about. That was the main goal, and I'm just so happy that she won so she can join me!"