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Aug 31

The Social Scene with Neal Reid - August


West coast birdie barrage sets up exciting weekend

LPGA Tour players have been enjoying themselves in scenic Portland, Ore., this week for the Safeway Classic Presented by Coca-Cola, and they’ve felt so at home that they are unleashing a birdie barrage at Columbia Edgewater Country Club.

Red numbers and rounds in the 60s have been the norm during the tournament’s first two days, and there’s no reason to think that will change over the weekend. Pornanong Phatlum of Thailand holds the 36-hole lead at 14-under-par after rounds of 64 and 66, with Suzann Pettersen a stroke back after a nice 63 on Friday.

A number of players are within striking distance – especially considering how many birdies are on the course – so the next two days should be a frenzy. The Golf Channel will carry all of the coverage, so stay tuned to see how things play out.

“Twitter Theater” has been in full effect, as always, and here’s a glimpse of some of the highlights.

Nike released this photo via Twitter of Pettersen helping the company design golf shoes, a pretty cool experiment to be a part of, no doubt, and she also stocked up on shoes at the employees’ store. Here’s a video of Amy Yang teeing off on the fifth hole on Wednesday, Sydnee Michaels, Morgan Pressel (photo) and Lexi Thompson (photo) were among the pros who participated in the annual Caddy for a Cure charity event, and Belen Mozo got a lift from her pro-am group.

Natalie Gulbis did an autograph signing at the Haden Island Safeway for her sponsor Michelob Ultra, a delight for shoppers who made their way into the store, while Thompson was enjoying a special card of encouragement from a fan. Anna Nordqvist showed off her golfer’s tan, Michelle Wie has yet another new golf bag, and Alena Sharp found this magnificent waterfall after getting her work on the course done on Wednesday.

The weather didn’t cooperate early in the day on Thursday, but all players were able to finish their rounds after a lightning delay. European Assistant Captain Carin Koch and player Catriona Matthew were reunited with the Solheim Cup trophy in Scotland, where they are for a Ladies European Tour event, while Paula Creamer met with some soldiers and airmen at the tournament.

Here’s a nice article by Randall Mell of GolfChannel.com about Ariya Jutanugarn’s ongoing recovery from shoulder surgery. Gulbis had a hole-in-one on the second hole on Thursday, Thompson had to get creative with this shot en route to a first-round 65, and Jeong Jang found some similarly clad fans in Portland.

Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam and “the logo” Jerry West of the Los Angeles Lakers crossed paths at the Greenbrier, while Gulbis spent some time with some Taylor Made staff at Columbia Edgewater. On Friday, Azahara Munoz participated in a “Twitter Takeover” in the press room at the Safeway Classic, a great chance for fans to be able to connect with players via social media.

Amanda Blumenherst has decided to put her golf clubs away for a while and travel with her professional baseball-playing husband, Nate Freiman, of the Oakland A’s. A number of players threw her a “going away” party Friday night, complete with an appropriately themed cake.

Here is Mell’s article about the change for Blumenherst, and I wish her and Nate the best.

Until next time….

Amateur hour continues in Canada

What more can you say about amateur phenom Lydia Ko?

All she did Sunday was successfully defend her title at the CN Canadian Women’s Open – by a whopping five strokes – after closing with a stellar 64. Her amateur status – which she has shown no signs of relinquishing – is now worth well more than $1 million, and that’s just prize money she’s had to say no to.

When you’re that good, maybe you can afford to hold off being a pro for a few more years, and if she keeps playing the way she has, the millions will be there waiting for her when she finally does give the nod. Regardless, what she’s accomplished has been nothing short of amazing.

This last title was the fourth victory in a professional event and moved her into the top 10 in the Rolex Women’s Golf World Rankings. That’s right, an amateur is among the top 10 players on the planet.

It was an eventful weekend for a number of players. So Yeon Ryu made a new friend, Veronica Felibert ran in a 10k after missing the cut, and Beatriz Recari found her game again on the range after not qualifying for the final 36 holes. The stands at 18 were packed to watch Ko win again, and Brittany Lincicome made some fans happy by signing autographs.

The beginning of the new week had players thinking about golf on the West coast.

Natalie Gulbis got in some practice on Monday before heading to Portland, while Morgan Pressel was in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, for the Women’s Celebrity Golf Invitational to raise money for the Alberta Children’s Hospital. Michelle Wie was busy raiding the Nike employees’ store, a great place I went once while working the Safeway event years ago, and wine connoisseur Cristie Kerr was enjoying some quality vino on Tuesday.

Victorious European Solheim Cup Captain Liselotte Neumann kept celebrating thanks to this tasty treat and some bubbly, and PING Junior Solheim Cup European Captain Janice Moodie got up close and personal with a tall member of the wild kingdom.

This week, the Tour moves on to the Safeway Classic Presented by Coca-Cola in Portland, Ore., the last domestic event before seven straight tournaments outside the United States. The area is lush and green, and temperatures are expected to be in the low 80s, which is great golf weather.

Columbia Edgewater Country Club is in great shape, so players should enjoy themselves this weekend. Recari filmed some spots for Oakley sunglasses, and Sandra Gal got in 18 holes on Sunday and posed for a picture on the 17th hole with the course’s maintenance crew.

World No. 1 Inbee Park was scheduled to play this week, but had to withdraw due to illness. Gulbis stopped by one of her sponsor’s stores to check out some shoes and ran into a famous rapper, while Wie stopped by Nike headquarters on Tuesday, an awesome building I was lucky enough to visit as well.

It’s going to be another great weekend, and we will see if Mika Miyazato is able to defend her title. Two of the last three winners of the event have had the Miyazato surname (Ai won in 2010), so I say her chances are good.

Until next time….

Oh Canada!: Big title on the line north of the border

Well, world No. 1 Inbee Park is back at it again.

The South Korean star shared the 36-hole lead at the CN Canadian Women’s Open in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, with Cristie Kerr at 8-under-par, setting up a frantic finish this weekend. Solheim Cup star Karine Icher is a stroke back along with Angela Stanford, while Paula Creamer, veteran Laura Davies and a group of others are in the mix.

Amateur phenom Lydia Ko, who just happens to be the defending champion this week, was tied with Stanford for the first-round lead after carding a 5-under 65 and will be a factor again this weekend.

With so many birdies up for grabs at Royal Mayfair Golf Club, the next two days should be quite the sprint to the finish line. All of the action will be televised on the Golf Channel, so relax and tune in for some quality golf.

There are 20 Canadians in the field this week, and a few of them appeared in the media center for interviews on Wednesday. Solheim Cup victors Suzann Pettersen and Charley Hull stopped by as well, and players had great weather in which to see the course one last time before the tournament began.

Natalie Gulbis and other LPGA players were greeted by a pretty nice-sized group of fans on Wednesday, and Lexi Thompson’s pro-am team was color coordinated on the same day she met up with a participant of the Future Links program. Michelle Wie enjoyed interacting with her program participant as well, and Brittany Lincicome made a new friend.

Danielle Kang found some awesome roller-coasters in a mall in Edmonton, here’s a beautiful picture courtesy of Bernard Brault, and this photo shows just how pretty the 18th green at Royal Mayfair is. Thursday was also Brittany Lang’s birthday, and she did her country proud by going 3-1 in last week’s Solheim Cup.

More photos surfaced this week from Team Europe’s Solheim Cup triumph, and players were still celebrating their impressive victory. The Waterford crystal trophy is already back at the Ladies European Tour office, where it will remain for at least the next two years.

The week wasn’t all roses and champagne for European Captain Liselotte Neumann, who had car trouble on Thursday, but at least she made the cover of Golf World.

Jennifer Johnson did a photo shoot for Bridgestone Golf on Thursday, these great signs are being used by volunteers at the tournament this week.

This flurry of activity is just another week on Tour, where the action never stops and Twitter is ablaze with posts. Ahh, the world of a professional athlete in 2013!

Until next time….


A glance back, a look forward

As I sit here in my home office in Colorado Springs resting tired legs and an achy back, I can’t help but think about the week that was at Colorado Golf Club.

I spent eight invigorating and adrenaline-pumping days there for the 2013 Solheim Cup, an event I am proud to have been a part of. There were ups and downs, just as with any other event of its magnitude, but at the end of the week, we all survived to fight another day and the world was treated to a spectacle of great golf and competition.

It was an interesting week, to say the least, and it was fascinating to see years of preparation come to fruition as the golf world turned its eyes to Colorado. Europe won in record fashion and claimed back-to-back victories for the first time in the event’s 23-year history, and history was made in the process.

The victorious European Team celebrated late into the night Sunday, as they became the first team to win on U.S. soil. Captain Liselotte Neumann had trouble letting go of the beautiful trophy, while Golf World’s Ron Sirak shared this amazing shot of former Solheim Cup captains from the Captains’ Dinner.

Players from both teams and LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan Tweeted earlier this week about how awesome the event was for them, and it was a great week for us staffers as well. I was disappointed to learn I missed seeing actor and longtime LPGA supporter Jamie Farr in the press tent last week, but the LPGA’s Mike Scanlan tracked him down.

In addition to stellar volunteers, I had a great team from the LPGA to work with last week. Here’s a shot of us toward the end of a long day on Sunday.

U.S. Assistant Captain Dottie Pepper shared some of her thoughts about the Solheim Cup in an ESPNW.com column I thought was great, and some of the European Team’s neighbors were nice enough to put this sign out to welcome them home to Florida. Friends Jessica Korda and Jodi Ewart-Shadoff, who squared off on separate teams last week, enjoyed breakfast together on Tuesday.

The LPGA reported – via Twitter, of course – that the hash tag #SolheimCup received 269.5 million impressions last week, which was phenomenal. Hopefully, this column helped attract some of those hits.

The LPGA Tour is back in action this week for the CN Canadian Women’s Open in Edmonton, Alberta, and So Yeon Ryu used Monday as a day to see the Royal Mayfair Golf Club course. Nicole Castrale has a new bag for this week, Mariajo Uribe will be putting some new ball markers to good use, and Danielle Kang was busy working on her putting.

Hall of Famer Juli Inkster found a cool way to deal with a wait at the Edmonton airport’s baggage claim, and defending Canadian champ Lydia Ko – who is still technically an amateur – took part in a press conference in the media center on Tuesday. Former Canadian star Lorie Kane was there as well, while Amy Yang raved about the course.

Looking forward, the LPGA has 10 more events this season, including the The Evian Championship, which will be a major for the first time. It may seem odd to have five majors in a single season, but this change should be a solid boost for the Tour, and players should enjoy a considerably revamped course in Evian-les-Bains.

I worked that tournament one magical summer, then spent a glorious day in Paris before going to England for the Women’s British Open, and it is one of my most cherished memories from my LPGA days. In addition to this week’s event in Canada and the aforementioned major in France, the Tour will head to China, Malaysia, South Korea, Taiwan, Japan and Mexico for a six-week stretch like none other I’ve ever seen in professional golf.

It’s just evidence of how global the LPGA is, and Commissioner Whan and his staff are doing the right thing by embracing these events abroad. The Tour’s season will culminate in Naples, Fla., for the CME Group Titletholders the week before Thanksgiving, and it should be a fitting conclusion to what has grown into a stellar season.

On a random note, one of the highest honors my former Auburn cohort Jason Dufner received after winning the PGA Championship – in addition to going on the Howard Stern show – was this Tweet from legend Gary Player, who joined the ranks of people who have been photographed while “Dufnering.” That’s just awesome.

Until next time….


The calm before the storm

What day is it? I’m not setting up for an automatic answer, I honestly am having trouble keeping days straight right now.

The last few days have been a blur, full of hundreds of e-mails, various requests, fires to put out, a buzz of activity at Colorado Golf Club like none other and a laundry list of things to get done each day. Ahh, but that’s the way it goes the week before an event like the Solheim Cup.

The Solheim Cup staff has been joined in Parker, Colo., by a host of LPGA staffers, with more to arrive over the weekend, and the CGC property is like the inside of an ant hill. Everything is taking shape, and the hardworking staff is getting its ducks in a row as the monumental event nears.

This will be the fourth Solheim Cup (along with 1998, 2002 and 2003) I have attended in person, and it’s been quite different being part of the setup crew. It’s been amazing to see the event grow on a weekly and monthly basis, and all of our planning and meetings from the past two years seem to be paying off.

I saw U.S. Captain Meg Mallon and some members of Team USA at the course on Wednesday, and they are all excited for the event to get here. On Sunday, I will head from my home in Colorado Springs 50 miles to the south to CGC for the duration, and, together with Kraig Kann, Mike Scanlan, Kelly Thesier and Katie Ann Robinson, will run the operations in the sizable press tent.

We have more than 225 media from around the country and the world credentialed to cover this year’s Solheim Cup, and we will be busy helping them do the best job possible. It will be an amazing week, and we’re all looking forward to it.

I will increase my blog posts to a daily basis next week, so be on the lookout for the Solheim Cup edition of “Social Scene.”

Players and captains for both sides are getting energized and excited about the three-day event, and they’ve taken to Twitter to share their joy.

You may see Team USA sporting these bad boys during Thursday’s Opening Ceremony (photo), and Team Europe’s Catriona Matthew spent part of her Wednesday picking some tasty-looking strawberries. Anna Nordqvist posted this cool collage from then and now, Michelle Wie’s fingernails may look something like this next week and Cristie Kerr was relaxing Wednesday night at an event to promote her Curvature wine.

Brittany Lincicome spent some quality time with her four-legged buddies at home in beautiful Florida, European Assistant Captain Annika Sorenstam was in Sweden hosting the Annika Invitational Europe event, and two former Solheim Cup participants, Michelle McGann and Hall of Famer Pat Bradley, got together for a round of golf.

Wie shared this photo of herself from the 2009 Solheim Cup outside Chicago, a win for the Americans, and Paula Creamer was feeling patriotic and nostalgic as well. Team Europe’s Azahara Munoz got away from golf to recharge her batteries with a beach trip from her parents, while Team USA got some great motivation from the LPGA/USGA Girls Golf Club of Sarasota Manatee.

Wie was gearing up for the Solheim Cup by doing a kettle bell workout on Friday, while it was “nails day” for Solheim Cup rookies Lizette Salas (photo) and Jessica Korda (photo) and European Captain Liselotte Neumann’s (photo).

We expect around 120,000 people to come through the gates next week, and the Golf Channel will carry all the action live beginning with the Opening Ceremony. Check out LPGA.com for my daily blogs and SolheimCup.com for information as well.

Until next time….


Clutch finish for Lewis at ‘Home of Golf’

Wow, oh wow!

That’s all you can say about Stacy Lewis’ birdie-birdie finish to win the RICOH Women’s British Open on Sunday after a marathon day at The Old Course at St. Andrews. Lewis did her best Phil Mickelson impression and closed with a vengeance, earning her second career major title and eighth LPGA tournament victory.

It was great timing for Lewis, who will lead Team USA against the Europeans at Colorado Golf Club in Parker next week in the 13th staging of the Solheim Cup. In fact, U.S. Captain Meg Mallon must have been excited to see five Americans finish in the top 10 in Scotland.

U.S. Assistant Solheim Cup Captain Dottie Pepper posted this article on ESPNW.com about Lewis’ win following Mickelson’s triumph. Naturally, Lewis made the Golf World cover this week, as she should have.

Play was suspended on Saturday due to diabolical winds, so most players had to play 36 holes on Sunday. That’s not exactly an ideal finish for a major tournament, but it did help create some additional drama on Sunday. It also provided some interesting photos of flags being assaulted by the blustery winds that hit 50-60 miles per hour.

As always, Twitter was busy this weekend, especially due to the wind suspension.

In other news, Jeong Jang was rocking some snazzy pants on Saturday, Mariajo Uribe did some impressive pushups and Christina Kim helped Michelle Wie rest during the wind delay. Kim shared a great scenic shot, Natalie Gulbis posed for a photo with some cute fans and Golf World’s Ron Sirak posted another nice photo from Scotland.

Brittany Lincicome and Gulbis visited with a group called “Swinging Skirts from Taiwan,” Jennifer Johnson did some sightseeing after missing the cut and here’s a great shot by Sandra Gal of the 18th green. Gulbis posted this gem of a photo that shows just how the weather can be in Scotland, and Lewis found this nice message at The Dunvegan Hotel on Monday.

Sunday also meant the announcement of the finalized Solheim Cup teams for both the United States and Europe, and that press conference was the place to be. Here’s a great picture of Team USA on the Swilcan Bridge, one of Team Europe by photographer Tristan Jones and another one of both teams hanging out together. Jessica Korda posted this cool collage of some of the photos taken after the team announcement.

Those festivities closed out a busy and great week for the LPGA at St. Andrews. Good friends Nicole Hage and Paula Creamer celebrated their birthdays on Sunday and Monday, respectively, a great way for them to end the week.

While the LPGA and LET were in Scotland, some LPGA legends were at the 3M Championship last week, and here’s a great picture of Hall of Famers Arnold Palmer, Nancy Lopez, Annika Sorenstam and Pat Bradley. Sorenstam, who will be at CGC as a European Assistant Captain next week, was in her native Sweden to host the Annika Invitational Europe event for juniors.

Players have had heck getting back home from Scotland after last week’s major. A number of them, including Lewis, Creamer and Lizette Salas, had to change flights after delays forced them to miss connections, and it meant a trio of U.S. Solheim Cup Team members had to wait another day to visit CGC for a practice round this week. Other players are missing golf clubs that supposedly never made it out of Heathrow Airport, so it’s been a big mess.

These travel hurdles are just part of being a professional golfer, unfortunately, and many of them are used to running into complications.

Preparations for the Solheim Cup continue, and we’re all excited about the event. Here’s a look at what the first tee area looked like on Sunday, a shot from Korda from CGC of a Colorado sunrise on Tuesday and one from the first tee from Angela Stanford.

Fans at the first tee will have this bird’s eye view of the festivities, and here is a look at where the Opening Ceremony will be held next Thursday. The LPGA’s social media gurus are all jazzed up as well, and here’s a link to everything they’ll be doing next week.

The days are counting down, and after the PGA Championship ends on Sunday, the golfing world will turn its eyes to the Solheim Cup to see who reigns supreme. It’s going to be great, and I’ll be bringing you insider coverage every day from Parker.

Until next time….


August 3, 2013 - High drama at the ‘Home of Golf’

As expected the RICOH Women’s British Open at The Old Course at St. Andrews, Scotland, has provided some compelling action through two rounds.

World No. 1 Inbee Park, chasing the Grand Slam this weekend, stands eight strokes back after 36 holes, with 2012 U.S. Women’s Open champ Na Yeon Choi leading the pack at 10-under-par after back-to-back 67s. Park shot a one-over 73 on Friday as the wind picked up at the “Home of Golf,” and her quest to become the first professional golfer – male or female – to win four majors in the same season seems to be in jeopardy.

Here’s Beth Ann Baldry’s Golfweek column on Park chasing history, and Christine Brennan of USA Today also weighed in with her thoughts on the spectacle. Speaking of which, here’s one of the coolest photos you’ll ever see in golf.

Miki Saiki of Japan is a stroke behind Choi, with American Morgan Pressel two back at 8-under as she fights to qualify for the U.S. Solheim Cup Team. A trio of players that includes Norway’s Suzann Pettersen is three behind, and numerous other players are within striking distance heading into the weekend.

It’s about to get very interesting in Scotland.

Players had a beautiful day to practice on Wednesday, and Lexi Thompson was out early hitting balls on the range, as was Jessica Korda (photo). Natalie Gulbis was wearing layers during her practice round, LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan was impressed by the grounds crew’s attention to detail and got a solo look at the 18th tee on Wednesday, while Irene Cho got a helping hand from Pressel to escape from one of the course’s famous diabolical bunkers.

Nicole Hage worked on her bunker shots, and Jane Park and some friends said hello to a furry friend. Here’s a great shot of the course from Beatriz Recari, Mina Harigae tried this approach to a bunker shot, and Michelle Wie decided to get fancy with her fingernails. Sarah Kemp had to make good on a bet she lost, Danielle Kang’s caddie had too much free time and Jennifer Johnson made sure her golf balls were sporting some NFL flair.

Sophie Gustafson found some boats that were missing something and paid a visit to a tribute to Tom Morris before missing the cut, Kang shared the view from her walk to the course each day and Wie chowed down on a nice steak at the Jigger Inn Wednesday night. The R&A Club hosted a reception that night, Jeong Jang Tweeted this nice picture of herself from the first tee, and So Yeon Ryu and Karrie Webb – who won the LET event last weekend – joined dozens of other players who paused for photos on the famous Swilcan Bridge on Wednesday.

Thanks to Golf World’s Ron Sirak, here is a shot of Inbee Park teeing off at 7 a.m. on the first hole on a rainy Thursday, and this is a nice shot of Paula Creamer putting on the spacious 18th green. Inbee had an up-and-down first round, but birdied the 18th before heading to the press tent for interviews.

Sirak captured this photo of longtime Associated Press golf scribe Doug Ferguson, who was rocking some quality headgear, while Creamer found this awesome photo of herself wearing some Dr. Seuss-like socks at last year’s tournament. Gustafson locked herself out of her hotel room on Thursday, Sirak shared this great shot from the clubhouse and the wind kicked up as the first day came to a close.

The area is pretty darn scenic, as evidenced by this Felicity Johnson shot, and Thompson found a beautiful spot at St. Andrews Cathedral after her round. Kang took a night stroll on the beach Thursday night, Sirak snapped a picture of the golf club at night and U.S. Solheim Cup Assistant Captain Dottie Pepper – who is at St. Andrews doing TV work for ESPN – found an amazing garden in which to take a few photos.

Sirak continued a 20-year tradition at the Open and checked out one of his favorite spots on the course, while Thompson was sporting some new Cobra gear before the second round.

Hage summed up players’ feelings for the historic and beloved golf course, Tweeting, “This place is like Disneyland 4 golfers. It is so special. It brings out the golf nerd u never thought u had inside.” It’s really nice to see them enjoying themselves there.

Gulbis had trouble getting out of one of the tough bunkers on Friday, but still enjoyed the scenery anyway. Ryann O’Toole was surprised with a thoughtful gift from a fan, the conclusion of play just beat the sunset and Korda spent part of her night sharing this great shot of Friday’s sunrise from that morning.

On Wednesday, U.S. Solheim Cup Captain Meg Mallon and European Solheim Cup Captain Liselotte Neumann hammed it up on the Swilcan Bridge. They are going to be the center of attention Sunday afternoon as they announce their captain’s picks for the event, which is just 13 short days away!

Speaking of the Solheim Cup, European Assistant Captain Annika Sorenstam joined other golf legends like Nancy Lopez, Pat Bradley, Johnny Miller and Fred Couples for a one-of-a-kind photo at the 3M Championship in Blaine, Minn. Can you identify all of the stars?

I stopped by the Solheim Cup office at Colorado Golf Club in Parker on Friday to get some things squared away, and I took a look inside the press tent, which will be a hub of activity in a couple weeks. I also picked up my special Solheim Cup license plates, which our staff is sporting on their vehicles now through the end of the event.

The Solheim Cup will be an amazing week for women’s golf, and I am so ready to get it started. It all begins Sunday when the teams are finalized, and life will be a whirlwind from then on.

Until next time….


Neal Reid is a freelance writer based in Colorado Springs, Colo., who has written for USA Today, The Associated Press, ESPN.com, ESPNW.com, Newsday, the Colorado Springs Gazette, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Oakland Tribune, Marin (Calif.) Independent-Journal and numerous regional and national magazines. He was an LPGA media relations coordinator from 1998-2004 and is serving as PR Manager for this year's Solheim Cup. Follow him on Twitter @NealReid21

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