The Social Scene with Neal Reid - June
Halfway home to history
After two rounds (nearly) of the U.S. Women’s Open, world No. 1 Inbee Park holds the 36-hole lead at Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y. Insert your mock surprise here.
Park, who has won five times this year and claimed the first two majors of the season, is looking to become the first LPGA player since Hall of Famer Babe Zaharias in 1950 to emerge victorious at the season’s first three major championships. She’s well on her way thanks to 12 birdies against just three bogeys and will definitely be the player to beat this weekend.
Play was suspended due to fog on Friday night, with 41 of the 156 players still on the course. It could change, but the cut looks to be five-over, with just 10 players under par as of the weather suspension. ESPN2 and NBC will carry all the action over the weekend, and I know I’ll be tuning in.
Hall of Famer Juli Inkster (photo), who set a record this year by playing in her 34th Open, likely has missed the cut, which is a bummer for fans of the two-time Open champ. Michelle Wie was sporting this sweet new golf back this week compliments of her sponsor Kia, but will miss the cut after an opening-round 80.
Players have been active on Twitter this week as the excitement has built toward the season’s third major. The setting for this week’s tournament has been a visual wonder, with players capturing great shots of the course like this one from Beatriz Recari.
Mariajo Uribe posed for a picture with some fans on Wednesday, Brittany Lincicome utilized her shade umbrella and sported a nice custom-made belt buckle for the week and Yani Tseng watched a little Wimbledon coverage in the player lounge. Players are looking for birdies, but a deer made its way onto the course on Wednesday.
Here’s a link to Dottie Pepper’s ESPNW column about the majesty of the U.S. Women’s Open, and here’s a cool Sports Business Daily article on Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam on the topic of business in golf. Cristie Kerr posted this pic on Wednesday of her with New York Jets center Nick Mangold from the Hampton Hills Golf Classic that was held on Monday, and Jessica Korda played a practice round on Wednesday with her 14-year-old sister, Nelly, and Na Yeon Choi, the defending champion. Here’s a cool pic of the Korda sisters, who are on this week’s Golfweek cover.
Wednesday also meant the Golf Channel’s “State of the Game” show, which was broadcast live from Sebonack and featured LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan, Sorenstam, Kerr and some media members, among others. The panel was sweating like me standing over a six-footer for par, but it was an entertaining show.
Pepper had homework to do to get ready for her TV gig with Hall of Famer Judy Rankin and Sean McDonough (photo), and “foodie” Jane Park enjoyed a tasty-looking pie and a nice view at the same time. Fans voted for the outfit Sandra Gal wore during the first round, and here was a nice ESPNW article about Paula Creamer – who won the U.S. Women’s Open in 2010 – that was posted Wednesday. CNN also did this nice piece on So Yeon Ryu on Friday, and Lizette Salas was profiled in this article as well.
Sorenstam took this picture of fellow Hall of Famer Karrie Webb hitting an approach shot on No. 9 on Thursday, making it the first picture I’ve seen of one Hall of Famer taken by another one. Sorenstam and Webb were two of the main dominant forces during my LPGA tenure from 1998-2004, so it was pretty neat to see Annika post this shot.
You’ve heard of a “farmer’s tan” I’m sure. Well, here is a look at a “golfer’s tan” thanks to the elder Korda. Top-ranked American Stacy Lewis had quite the support staff backing her on Friday after a tough 76.
Congratulations are in order for the USGA’s Rhonda Glenn, who is retiring after working 38 U.S. Women’s Opens. She’s a nice lady who has done a good job for a long time. Good luck Rhonda!
The annual ESPY nominations were announced this week, with Lewis – who is also in the latest issue of SHAPE magazine – Jiyai Shin, Park and Choi as the four nominees for “Best Female Golfer.” So, go to ESPN.com and vote!
Until next time….
It’s Open week!
Few things cause players more delight or despair than competing in the U.S. Women’s Open.
Arguably the most coveted tournament trophy is up for grabs this week, and players of all ages, tours and states have converged at the amazingly beautiful Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y. – which was designed by none other than Jack Nicklaus – to battle each other and a wicked course setup with fame and fortune on the line. As always, par will be a great score, and there will be no shortage of drama during the 72-hole event.
I’ve always loved the U.S. Women’s Open and was lucky enough to work one, in 2003, at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in North Plains, Ore. I remember Hilary Lunke defeated Kelly Robbins and Angela Stanford in an 18-hole playoff on Monday, and I wasn’t able to return to LPGA Headquarters in Daytona Beach, Fla., until Wednesday because of a travel snafu. It was a great week nonetheless, with no dull moments and tons of activity.
That should be the same case the remainder of this week, and there are plenty of storylines to follow. Inbee Park is red-hot, winning her second tournament in a row and fifth of the year on Sunday at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship Presented by P&G in Rogers, Ark.
Park beat Na Yeon Choi – who just happens to be the defending champion this week – on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff to push her season earnings past the $1.5 million mark, almost twice the total of second-place Stacy Lewis. It’s anybody’s guess how many events Park can and will win this year, and she has a chance to do something no player has done since 1950 by winning the first three majors of the LPGA season.
Park won the Kraft Nabisco Championship in early April and the Wegmans LPGA Championship earlier this month and can join Hall of Famer Babe Zaharias as just the second player to win the season’s first three majors. Considering Park already has a U.S. Women’s Open title on her resume – she won the 2008 event the ripe age of 19 – Zaharias could soon have company in the history books.
The weekend was an exciting one, and the beginning of this week has also had its share of happenings. As proof, I give you another installment of “Twitter Theater.”
Music star Kenny Loggins was in attendance in Arkansas, and Morgan Pressel enjoyed herself at Celebrity Chef Night at the tournament Friday night. Here’s a great shot of LPGA rookie Nicole Smith interacting with a young fan during her round on Saturday, and Jennifer Song and Brooke Pancake – who has the best last name on Tour – were twins in all pink. Sandra Gal also spent some time with a possible future LPGA player, and Paula Creamer received a candy treat from another dedicated fan.
Danielle Kang stayed busy with autographs, and Sunday was Olympic Day, which had players thinking about the 2016 Games (photo) that will include golf. Here’s a shot of Suzann Pettersen and Michelle Wie campaigning in Copenhagen, Denmark, for golf’s addition to the Olympics.
Creamer caught a sweet ride to the U.S. Women’s Open, as did Hall of Famer Juli Inkster (photo), while Jennie Lee and Mindy Kim rubbed shoulders with Olympic legend Jackie Joyner-Kersee at an event to benefit Mercy Hospital in Joplin, Mo., on Sunday. Sophie Gustafson has this view from her digs this week in Southampton, and Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam and Lexi Thompson (photo) were among the throng of pro golfers to participate in the CVS Charity Classic in Southern New England on Monday.
Inkster and Pressel were among the players who participated in the skills challenge, and Sorenstam was the first player to put a hole in one of the signs. Pressel played in the tournament with Jay Haas and met up with him again at that night’s gala dinner.
Monday was Inkster’s birthday, and it’s pretty neat she’s celebrating it the week of the Open since she has won two of them (1999 and 2002). She had fun talking to Rickie Fowler (photo) and Haas (photo) on her special day.
Park and 2011 U.S. Women’s Open champ So Yeon Ryu posed for a picture before getting to work preparing for the tournament, and Jessica Korda enjoyed some time with younger sister Nelly, who qualified for the event as well. Felicity Johnson was all thumbs up about her wheels this week, and Natalie Gulbis and Amy Yang helped show why Sebonack is a heck of a locale for this week’s tournament.
Creamer and Brittany Lincicome were all smiles on Monday during a practice session, and Creamer’s caddie, Colin Cann, was busy doing some homework on the course. Christina Kim stopped in the middle of the street to grab a milkshake (I can’t blame her!), while Wie was admiring Nicklaus’ initial drawings of the golf course.
Vicky Hurst is rocking a new golf bag this week, compliments of Callaway, and European PING Junior Solheim Cup Captain Janice Moodie was enjoying the course, too. Here’s another pretty shot of the course, and Moodie, Catriona Matthew and Sally Watson – who qualified for the Open here in Colorado Springs, Colo., at The Broadmoor – posed for an all-Scottish photo.
On Tuesday, Wie and Lincicome posed with their standard bearer for a photo, and Wie was the middle of a “Korda sandwich” as well. Pressel also gave her standard bearers a photo souvenir, and Gerina Piller spent Tuesday night at a Yankees game while Creamer enjoyed the view from her lodging for the week.
Wie and her pup found a beach to frolic on, and Yani Tseng shared an impressive sunset shot of her own and this one of her in a rowboat. Today Show co-anchor Matt Lauer joined Creamer on the driving range for a junior clinic on Tuesday, and Thompson captured this scenic shot from the course.
It’s going to be an amazing tournament, and if you don’t tune in to watch it on the Golf Channel, you have only yourself to blame.
Until next time….
Off and running in Arkansas
Round 1 of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship Presented by P&G is in the books, with Japan’s Mika Miyazato holding a one-stroke lead over South Korea’s So Yeon Ryu and American Angela Stanford after a 6-under 65.
There’s a long way to go before the outcome is decided in this player-favorite $2 million event, and the weekend should be a fun one. Pinnacle Country Club (photo) is in great shape, and players get the treat of challenging themselves with an island green this weekend on the course’s 15th hole.
Defending champion Ai Miyazato and Vicky Hurst both celebrated birthdays on Wednesday, with Jane Park noticing something interesting about her playing group for the first two rounds. Jessica Korda is still working to recover from a left wrist injury, and she’s been taping it in order to get through practice sessions at home.
Players and sponsors were treated to a beautiful pro-am day on Wednesday, and world No. 1 Inbee Park made her customary appearance in the media center for a press conference. Here’s a great article about Park by Golf World magazine’s Ron Sirak.
Also on Wednesday, a number of players participated in the Pantene Beautiful Lengths event, where people cut copious amounts of their hair off in order to donate it to cancer patients. What a great cause! Here’s the LPGA’s coverage of the awesome event.
The KPMG Stacy Lewis Junior Open was a big hit, and the top-ranked American made a special appearance to congratulate the winners. The Arkansas Razorback was jazzed to see this sign in the pro shop at Pinnacle Country Club and is definitely a featured player this week.
Morgan Pressel enjoyed attending an inspiring breakfast on Thursday (photo) that featured Linda Cohn and Rosalind Brewer, and LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan interviewed a couple of First Tee participants on Thursday. Jane Park just had to pose for a photo with this interesting display set up by the tournament, and Amy Yang and Chella Choi were busy doing and interview on Thursday for JGolf.
Natalie Gulbis showed off an Adidas golf shoe she designed herself, then signed autographs for her sponsor Michelob Light Ultra at an area Walmart. A special fan got to follow Paula Creamer around during her practice round on Thursday, and Stanford had a new caddie for a day and met a new fan for life.
Gerina Piller participated in a “Twitter takeover” in the skybox on the 17th green after the opening round to answer fans’ questions, and one lucky fan caught a cool keepsake from Stanford, who threw the prize into the crowd. Cristie Kerr withdrew from the tournament on Friday due to a nasty stomach virus, while a local from Rogers, Ark., named Matt Brooker enjoyed caddying for Christina Kim.
Meanwhile, away from tournament action, Lexi Thompson, who is not playing this week, spent some time helping kick off a Salute the Troops fundraising event in Miami by making a donation. Hurst launched her website (www.vickyhurst.com) on Friday and will be posting blogs on there regularly, so be sure to check it out.
On a personal note, like most everyone else, I was saddened to hear about actor James Gandolfini passing away suddenly on Wednesday. Not only was he a talented actor, but he did a lot of charity work to help others and was a genuinely good guy.
Until next time….
Sweepin’ through the South
Arkansas may not be exactly considered a golf Mecca, but this week’s Walmart NW Arkansas Championship Presented by P&G is a treat for Tour players.
Of the top 100 pros in the world, 98 will be in Rogers, Ark., to tee it up for 54 holes at Pinnacle Country Club in the $2 million event. They’ll be rested and ready after a week off, with Japan’s Ai Miyazato looking to defend her title.
Miyazato’s triumph last year ended the two-year winning streak of former world No. 1 Yani Tseng of Taiwan, and with South Korea’s Jiyai Shin taking the title in 2009 and Seon Hwa Lee winning in 2008, the tournament has been a proving ground for the world’s top Asian-born players. Who will take home the hardware this year?
Monday was a big day for the 2013 Solheim Cup, as U.S. Captain Meg Mallon, Assistant Captain Laura Diaz were joined by Stacy Lewis, Brittany Lincicome and Lisette Salas at beautiful Colorado Golf Club for media day. The players and captains – who’d been at the club all weekend along with Angela Stanford, Brittany Lang and Lexi Thompson to play some practice rounds – participated in a press conference, sponsor breakfast, Twitter takeover, photo shoot and interviews with local print, radio and television media.
It was a whirlwind day, made even greater by the fact that us media types were able to play the course in the afternoon after our work was done. Colorado Golf Club is a great track that will set up beautifully for match play, and the greens are diabolical on some holes. The matches are going to be something to see, for sure, and if the players can birdie No. 18 like I did, it might be the difference in winning or halving a match.
Just an FYI, Diaz is the latest player to break into the Twitter world, and you can follow her @DemonDeaconDiaz. She got a quick tutorial about the social media tool from Solheim staffer Kristen Hicks and some of her fellow players, and so she should be good to go!
We made a special announcement that 15 percent of the proceeds from the Solheim Cup’s remaining ticket sales for the rest of June will be donated to the Colorado Professional Fire Fighters Foundation. The area has seen a couple of big fires rage in recent weeks, and these donations will help fire fighters and their families, so it’s a great cause.
After the press conference and one-on-one interviews, Diaz, Lewis, Lincicome and Salas flew to Arkansas in style thanks to Bill Millam and International Jet.
As always, players have been busy the last few days, so here’s a smattering of activity from “Twitter Theater” for your enjoyment.
Suzann Pettersen was sweating to the oldies on Saturday, while Jessica Korda was looking forward to some quiet time to catch up on some reading. Anna Nordqvist enjoyed some beach volleyball with Annika Sorenstam and Tseng, while Danielle Kang welcomed some new residents to her home.
Sunday was Father’s Day, prompting a number of players to send props to their pops on Twitter. From Michelle Wie, Thompson (photo), Nicole Hage (photo) and Sydnee Michaels (photo) to So Yeon Ryu (photo), Korda (photo), Christina Kim (photo) and Lincicome (photo), players were all about Dad on Sunday.
Michelle Wie even made her father some tasty-looking cookies I wouldn’t mind trying, and then she wrapped up her Sunday by making some snazzy bracelets. If you’ve read “Social Scene” before, you might know the well-rounded pro also paints as well.
Natalie Gulbis was at the U.S. Open, where she did a meet and greet with ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt, and she also got in a bit of practice at Trump International (photo) in Philly. Monday meant a Liberty National Golf Day appearance for Morgan Pressel (photo) and Cristie Kerr (photo), and here’s an awesome shot of Pressel teeing off with the Statue of Liberty in the background.
Paula Creamer had ominous-looking clouds and rain pay a visit during an afternoon practice session in Florida. Speaking of rain, the pest followed the LPGA to Arkansas on Monday, but players should be used to it by now this season. It didn’t keep Thompson from practicing her putting.
Korda, who is in the running for a Solheim Cup spot this year, kept working hard on rehab for her ailing wrist, an injury that’s been nagging her since Hawaii in mid-April. Salas was featured on the Golf Channel show In Play with Jimmy Roberts on Monday at 10:30 p.m. ET, and you will likely be able to find the show online at GolfChannel.com later this week.
Karin Sjodin posted this photo from Sweden, which made me want to go back to that beautiful country again after being there for the 2003 Solheim Cup. Sanda Gal was among the players who attended the Tuesday night pairings party in Arkansas, and it seems like players enjoy those events almost as much as the sponsors.
Watching the U.S. Open this past weekend, I couldn’t decide if I was witnessing bad golf or just an insanely difficult setup. Maybe it was a bit of both, but I was thrilled to see my fellow Auburn Tiger Jason Dufner post a 3-under 67 on Sunday despite a triple on the 15th hole to climb into a tie for fourth place. I hope it’s a sign of greater things to come for Duf.
A number of people – including former LPGA standout Jane Crafter, who was at the Open doing TV work – believe that Merion would be a great location for a U.S. Women’s Open or a Solheim Cup. I tend to agree, and I think the prospect of playing there would intrigue the players. Dottie Pepper was there doing TV work as well, and I’d be interested to hear her comments on the subject.
Until next time….
No rest for the weary
One thing I learned from working at the LPGA in the past and from following current players on Twitter is that they’re never sitting still for very long.
That’s why even off weeks on Tour are chock full of action and things to write about, and it’s a fact that definitely makes my job writing this column much easier. As usual, players were scattered across the country and abroad as the men took on Merion Golf Club at the U.S. Open, and there was plenty going on.
On Wednesday, the USGA rolled out its “While We’re Young” public service announcements regarding pace of play, and they were pretty darn funny. The campaign included appearance by Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam and Paula Creamer in addition to Arnold Palmer, Tiger Woods and acting legend Clint Eastwood, and the series pays tribute to a Rodney Dangerfield line in the classic “Caddyshack,” which has long been a favorite of mine.
Here’s a link to a behind-the-scenes look at the making of those videos.
Top-ranked American Stacy Lewis spent some time signing pin flags for an upcoming AJGA event, while Cristie Kerr Tweeted out a couple more photos from her trip to the Mets’ game on Tuesday night. Anna Nordqvist played a couple practice rounds at Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y., which will host the U.S. Women’s Open June 27-30, as did Julieta Granada (photo) and Azahara Munoz (photo). Jennie Lee also got some practice in during the off week.
The LPGA’s apparel line can now be found online at Macy’s, and Lizette Salas appears on the new cover of Latina Style magazine. In addition to serving as one of Meg Mallon’s assistant Solheim Cup captains and doing TV work for ESPN, Dottie Pepper is also ESPNW’s newest columnist and had her first piece appear on the site on Wednesday. Here’s Pepper posing with Bobby Jones’ rock at Merion before getting to work on Friday.
I finally figured out where the photo of So Yeon Ryu with her hand on fire during a science experiment I mentioned in Wednesday’s blog came from, and it’s all explained in this Toledo Blade article. Beatriz Recari, who won the Kia Classic in March, was enjoying the new wheels that were part of her perks for the victory on Wednesday, and Natalie Gulbis was teeing off and practicing at Liberty National Golf Course in Jersey City, N.J., before heading to the Philly area to see the sights and watch the U.S. Open.
Mina Harigae relaxed for a bit thanks to this view on Wednesday, and last week’s runner-up Catriona Matthew enjoyed a pretty day back home with a casual round. Mallon had a pretty cool view and some interesting breakfast visitors on Thursday, and Kerr attended a party in honor of her appearing on the cover of Hamptons Magazine. Here’s a link to more photos.
Michelle Wie survived this “attack” in the pool from her furry friend Lola while enjoying a rare day off on Thursday before getting back to practicing and hitting the beach on Friday, while Vicky Hurst posed for a picture with champions from her AJGA event. Suzann Pettersen and Sorenstam enjoyed playing some tennis on Thursday, and Ryu took in a performance of WICKED.
Apparently Creamer got the privilege of going aboard the U.S.S. Columbus (photo), a treat she enjoyed immensely.
Lexi Thompson participated in some extreme indoor go-carting on Thursday after attending a Red Bull media day, and she was in my neck of the woods in Colorado by Friday to get in some crucial practice rounds, nearly making the second double-eagle of her golf career. On her way here, she met some pretty cool guys in the airport who are avid golfers.
Monday will be a busy day at Colorado Golf Club in Parker, site of the Solheim Cup Aug. 13-18, as we are having a media day with members of Team USA. As PR Manager for the event, it’s been a seriously busy year getting ready for this amazing event, and Monday will be a big day.
A number of players are at the club this weekend with Mallon and Assistant Captain Laura Diaz to play some practice rounds, and Mallon, Diaz, Lewis, Salas and Brittany Lincicome will participate in a press conference on Monday. We’re all excited about the Solheim Cup, and it’s going to be a great competition that’ll be here before we know it.
Hopefully the fires in Black Forest, Colo., right between my house in Colorado Springs and Colorado Golf Club, will continue to become increasingly contained by the fire crews who are working around the clock to fight them and we won’t have too much smoke at the course on Monday. It’s been a heck of a week, to say the least.
Until next time….
June 12, 2013 - Park is major force atop world standings
Another LPGA major, another title for South Korea’s Inbee Park.
She had to really work for it, but Park captured yet another major championship with a birdie on the third playoff hole at the Wegmans LPGA Championship against Scotland’s Catriona Matthew, who seems to be in fine form heading into the sweltering summer months. All Park (photo) has done this year is win four times – including both majors – bank another $1.2 million and take a stranglehold on the Rolex Women’s Golf World Rankings No. 1 spot.
Park has won six times in the last 12 months, including two majors, and has earned $3.3 million, an impressive feat pointed out by LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan via Twitter. Her start to this season has been as dominant as some of the stretches Annika Sorenstam used to have in her prime, and that’s pretty darn good company!
Matthew, who could be a force at this summer’s Solheim Cup for Team Europe, enjoyed some time at home during the off week after her runner-up finish.
Park, Matthew and the rest of the field that was lucky enough to make the cut played 36 holes Sunday after Thursday was washed out, and players and their caddies were definitely feeling it at the end of the day. That’s a lot of golf in one day, but at least they finally had some nice weather in Rochester to enjoy as they teed off.
Morgan Pressel held the 36-hole lead before finishing in a tie for third, and USA Today’s Steve DiMeglio wrote this nice article on her. Pressel (photo) picked up some valuable Solheim Cup points to jump from 15th to 10th in the standings and also moved up 21 spots to 47th in the world rankings thanks to her solid finish at Locust Hill Country Club.
Paula Creamer, on the other hand, was less than thrilled with her tie for 58th place, sending out this Tweet: “Top 5 worst ball striking tournaments of my nine years out here on tour. Wow that was some ugly golf. All I can say is it is over.” Christina Kim and Jane Park celebrated the end of the tournament with chocolate, none of which they got in their teeth whatsoever.
The LPGA Girls Golf Club of Buffalo attended the tournament on Saturday, and Michelle Wie signed an autograph for a lucky little girl. Wie had a productive weekend, tying for ninth to pick up some crucial Solheim Cup points of her own.
This “super fan” collected a hat full of autographs, while Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez was spotted in Lizette Salas’ gallery on Saturday. Felicity Johnson made a trip to a New York landmark after missing the cut, no doubt a soothing way to shake off the unwanted finish to her weekend, and Amy Yang was there on Sunday.
Julieta Granada sent out this shot from Times Square in New York City on Sunday, and Suzann Pettersen, who finished tied for third after a final-round 65, showed this photo of a painting of herself she received as a gift from a fan. So Yeon Ryu was literally on fire on Monday during this science demonstration, and hopefully her hand didn’t end up like Kim’s did last week.
Natalie Gulbis was also in the Big Apple, sharing this photo of the New York Stock Exchange, this one of a nice sunset from Sunday night and another one of an alley practice session. Yani Tseng and Ai Miyazato used Monday to get in a practice round at Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y., site of the U.S. Women’s Open June 27-30, as did Beatriz Recari (photo).
Former LPGA player Val Skinner held her 14th annual LIFE tournament on Monday to raise money to fight breast cancer, and a number of players made the trek to Hamilton Farm Golf Club in Gladstone, N.J., to support the cause. Skinner is a top-notch lady, and her pro-am and foundation have done some great things to fight the terrible disease. Good work Val!
Brittany Lincicome and Pressel took this sweet ride to Skinner’s pro-am on Sunday, and Cristie Kerr was delighted last week by this ESPNW piece by Mackenzie Lobby. LPGA Chief Communications Officer Kraig Kann joined Brittany Lang at the Manulife LPGA Classic media day in Toronto on Tuesday, while Kerr was recognized on the field at the Mets-Cardinals game at CitiField.
On a personal note, I was troubled to see a large plume of smoke billowing skyward in Black Forest, Colo., on my way home from a Solheim Cup meeting at Colorado Golf Club on Tuesday. It was a reminder of the crazy fires we had in Colorado Springs last summer, and with temperatures in the upper 90s and wind swirling during the first part of this week, I’m concerned we may be in for more trouble this summer. More than 7,500 acres have burned, several homes have been lost and more than 3,000 people have been evacuated.
So, keep your fingers crossed for us Colorado folks, as we don’t need any more destruction or safety concerns.
Until next time….
Rain, rain, go away!
For the second time in three weeks, the LPGA Tour has found itself at the mercy of Mother Nature.
Rain and lightning on Thursday forced the postponement of the opening round of the Wegmans LPGA Championship by 24 hours, and players took to a soggy course on Friday to begin their march toward a major title. Rain gear and umbrellas were in abundance at Locust Hill Country Club, and several players used the unscheduled off day to get in extra workouts and naps, practice a bit, enjoy dinners with friends, go bowling, take in a movie or even visit a museum.
The Golf Channel used the time to bank a few additional on-camera interviews in the golf club’s fitness room to fill air time on its telecast, a common practice for networks facing rain delays. At least Tiffany Joh could find humor in the situation.
The postponement followed a pretty Wednesday pro-am day and will force the Tour to attempt to play 36 holes on Sunday after making the cut Saturday night. Players had fun with the miniature shopping carts the course is using as tee markers, and Vicky Hurst enjoyed having awesome amateurs Lydia Ko and recent U.S. Open qualifier Gavin Hall (photo) in her pro-am group.
Several players attended the Conversation with Champions lunch on Wednesday, and Paula Creamer signed some autographs for fans hanging out at the course. Wednesday also included a cool press conference with the three current major champions – Inbee Park, Na Yeon Choi and Jiyai Shin, while Brittany Lincicome made a new friend with a special member of the police force.
The rain no doubt made the gnarly rough at the tournament even more treacherous, but a number of players were able to post sub-par rounds on Friday. Chella Choi, who’s had two top-10s this year, led the way with a 5-under 67, followed by Morgan Pressel (photo) and Shin a stroke back and Lincicome (photo) just two behind.
Yani Tseng aced the 15th hole on her way to an opening-round 72, and par was a good score considering only 15 players finished with red numbers. The weather didn’t keep Rochester’s dedicated fans away on Friday, and some were lucky enough to run into Lexi Thompson.
They’re all playing for a chance to add their name to this impressive trophy, and it’s going to be one heck of a weekend. With 36 holes slated for Sunday, anything can happen on the tournament’s final day.
There are tons of Solheim Cup points up for grabs for players from both sides, and there’s no doubt that will serve as motivation for the pros this weekend.
On a sour note, the news came out yesterday that the Denver Nuggets fired coach George Karl after a record-setting season and NBA Coach of the Year honors. It’s a somewhat puzzling move and is sad because he’s such a good guy and well-liked coach.
He was very welcoming when U.S. Captain Meg Mallon and Assistant Captain Dottie Pepper accompanied some of our staff to a Nuggets game earlier this year, and we were delighted to see him sporting a Solheim Cup jacket in one of his post-game interviews in the playoffs. Karl is a member at Colorado Golf Club, which will host the Solheim Cup Aug. 16-18, and I hope we’ll still see him out there at the course during the event.
Until next time….
Major implications in store this week
This week’s Wegmans LPGA Championship kicks off a six-event stretch on the LPGA Tour that includes three major championships. It’s an amazing portion of the 2013 schedule that will likely shake up the money list and standings of all sorts for LPGA players.
Big money, fame and the title of major champion are up for grabs this week in Pittsford, N.Y., outside of Rochester, one of my favorite stops on Tour. I worked the tournament for four or five straight years before it became a major, and I always loved the atmosphere, hospitality and kind volunteers – not to mention the white hots and red hots for which the area is known.
Awesome Aussie Karrie Webb enters the week as a contender after winning the windy ShopRite LPGA Classic Presented by Acer after a final-round 68 on Sunday. Webb, one of the three dominant players during my LPGA tenure from 1998-2004 – along with Annika Sorenstam and Se Ri Pak – has stood the test of time and no doubt enjoyed her 39th career LPGA win.
No. 40 could come this week.
Crowds were thick at the Stockton Seaview Hotel & Golf Club’s Bay Course over the weekend, and Mariajo Uribe enjoyed the view from the skybox behind the 18th green. Lexi Thompson made yet another fan for life on Saturday, and this cool article about first-round leader Amanda Blumenherst and her baseball-playing hubby – who was named American League Rookie of the Month for May – appeared on MLB.com.
Veterans Juli Inkster and Pat Hurst hit the road to Rochester after playing in ShopRite, and Natalie Gulbis posed for a picture with some dedicated tournament volunteers. Amy Yang endured a tough Sunday workout with a jump rope, something I remember vividly from my high school wrestling days.
Shanshan Feng, who finished second last week, is the defending champion in Rochester, and it seems from last week that her game is coming into form, so she could be a force to contend with again this year. It’s going to be a shootout for quite the piece of hardware, that’s for sure.
The Locust Hill Country Club course in Rochester looks to be in fine shape for this week’s event, as you can see from this practice-round photo from Gulbis, this one from Yang and another one from Veronica Felibert. Stacy Lewis was part of the press conference lineup in the media center on Tuesday, while Thompson got in some practice on the course and Gulbis got in some bowling at the annual player-caddie tournament Tuesday night.
Ariya Jutanugarn, the 17-year-old amateur phenom who has a slew of top-five finishes under her belt this year, withdrew from Wegmans on Tuesday after injuring herself during a practice round on Tuesday. That’s bad news for a talented player and a well-liked player. Meanwhile, Christina Kim will be contending with a nasty burn on her left hand this week.
With three majors in the next six events leading up to the Solheim Cup, Aug. 16-18 at Colorado Golf Club in Parker, I expect to see a big shift with so many points available for both teams. There are only a select few players who are “safe” on each squad right now, and the rest are going to have to have their A games on-hand in June and July. The real battle for spots on the teams begins this week, and it’s going to be quite the sprint to the finish.
This week also included yet another honor for Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam, who will be the honoree at the 2014 Memorial Tournament hosted by legend Jack Nicklaus. She responded with this Tweet: “Thanks everyone for the congratulatory notes about me being the '14 @MemorialGolf Tournament honoree. I am very excited!” It’s another much-deserved tribute for, in my opinion, the best female golfer of all time.
That’s all for now.
Until next time….
June 1, 2013 - Busy by the boardwalk
This week, the Tour is in the Atlantic City area for the ShopRite LPGA Classic Presented by Acer, an event I enjoyed working during my LPGA tenure.
The Stockton Seaview Hotel & Golf Club’s Bay Course in Galloway, N.J., is the site of the action this week, and players got things off to a rousing start on Friday. Amanda Blumenherst and Moriya Jutanugarn shared the first-round lead with 5-under-par 66s, with reigning Rolex Player of the Year Stacy Lewis a shot back.
As players routinely do, Michelle Wie took some time after firing an opening-round 68 (-3) to sign autographs for fans. Lexi Thompson was decked out in neon yellow on Friday, and Alison Walshe answered fan questions (photo) in the Golf Channel booth.
Earlier in the week, world No 1 Inbee Park stopped by the media center for a press conference, Kristy McPherson enjoyed some birthday flowers from none other than Greg Norman and Thompson was impressed by the hotel gym. Always busy on Twitter, Thompson also showed off a cool view from her hotel room and was treated to some nice gifts upon her arrival there.
Lewis took in a Philadelphia Phillies game on Wednesday night from the team’s suite, and she did a local radio show before the game and went on the field with the Phillie Phanatic (photo) in the fifth inning. Lewis can be found on the side of Pure Silk shaving cream cans thanks to the sponsor of last week’s tournament and also all dolled up as a model in the July issue of Golf Digest.
Natalie Gulbis did some schmoozing with some Anheuser-Busch execs at the pro-am party at Harrah’s, then teamed with Paige Mackenzie to help chef Luke Palladino cook up some tasty morsels. These lovely ladies definitely enjoyed themselves and were even nice enough to let LPGA Chief Communications Officer Kraig Kann join them for a photo, and LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan was in attendance as well.
Gulbis found a company with the same first name at the course and teed off simultaneously with her entire group on the 18th hole, while Jessica Korda was thrilled to see her younger sister, Nelly, qualify for this summer’s U.S. Women’s Open. I.K. Kim hosted a putting clinic and participated in a press conference with some Special Olympics athletes on Thursday, and Mariajo Uribe celebrated hitting a hole in one in the pro-am.
Staying on-site has its benefits for Karen Stupples, and Thompson enjoyed some time near the beach, while Danielle Kang made a new, tiny friend. Here’s a cool skills challenge Thompson, Gulbis, Kathleen Ekey and Brooke Pancake took part in on Friday night after the first round on the Atlantic City Boardwalk.
Meanwhile, across the pond, European Solheim Cup Captain Liselotte Neumann met up with Vice Captain Carin Koch in Germany, where they held a press conference to promote the 2015 event, which will be held there. Caroline Masson, who is a virtual lock for this year’s Solheim Cup in Parker, Colo., joined Neumann for a press conference to announce the dates of the 2015 competition.
Well, that’s all for now.
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 a media relations coordinator for the LPGA from 1998-2004.
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