The Social Scene with Neal Reid - May
Surviving the storm
A wild and wacky week in the Bahamas ended Sunday with Korea’s Ilhee Lee becoming the second Rolex First-Time Winner in as many weeks (photo) after dominating the 12-hole layout at the Ocean Club Golf Course on Paradise Island. She was (involuntarily) lathered up in the sponsor’s product after her big win, which added $195,000 to her bank account.
Cristie Kerr reported via Twitter on Saturday that there were dead fish in the fairways on several holes, which had to be a bad omen of some sort, but really was more of an indication of how much rain the course received. The club’s GM reported that 45 million gallons of water were pumped off the course during the week, and with 144 players all slogging their way through just 12 holes instead of the customary 18, I’m sure the course will need quite a bit of recovery time.
Players were highly complimentary about the course’s crew, which worked around the clock to make enough of the holes playable so the Tour could complete 36 holes and make it an official tournament. LPGA Chief Communications Officer Kraig Kann posted this photo of a dedicated volunteer to remind us all that no golf tournament anywhere could ever be conducted without the help of an army of hundreds or thousands of volunteers and dedicated tournament staffers.
Alena Sharp sent out this message on Sunday: “Thank you to everyone who made it possible for us to finish the tournament this week @BahamasLPGA @PureSilkShave great event......... I will miss the great hospitality of the Bahamas. Everyone has been over the top nice! Can't wait to be back next year.”
Natalie Gulbis was lucky enough to take in a Colbie Callait concert on Friday night, shared this photo of her on the eighth hole and this one of an amazing Bahamas sunrise. Here’s another shot of Gulbis on one of the course’s oceanfront holes, and Sydnee Michaels shared this awesome picture of the beach before her afternoon tee time on Saturday.
Sophie Gustafson said something in Swedish along with posting this beach shot and also got in some paddle boarding, and Lexi Thompson was enjoying the rays as well. If this photo of Sandra Gal’s from Sunday morning doesn’t make you want to take a trip to the Bahamas, nothing will, and Jessica Korda certainly helped the Atlantis resort’s PR efforts by sharing this beautiful photo.
How awesome is this shot taken by the Golf Channel’s TV crane?
The affable Jane Park withdrew after two rounds due to dehydration and had to get intravenous fluids from a local doctor. After the tournament, Morgan Pressel, Julieta Granada, Thompson and Korda caught a private plane back to the States, which has to be a great way to fly!
The conclusion of the Pure Silk-Bahamas Classic also meant the end of a great career for LPGA tour rules official Jim “Comet” Haley. Comet decided to hang up his stopwatch, air horn and rain gear and shelve his rules of golf book after a 27-year career that included more than 700 tournaments worked.
Comet is a great guy, much beloved by Tour players and co-workers alike, and I have fond memories of working with him at dozens of events during my six years there. With Comet retiring, Robert O. Smith calling it quits in 2008 and the passing of Doug Brecht last year, recent years have seen a changing of the guard among the LPGA rules officials, a great group of people who work extremely hard to make the Tour a success. It’s sad, but just a sign of the passage of time, and they can rest assured they made the LPGA better through their efforts.
It was a pleasure working with you Comet, and I wish you all the best in the future!
As a grandson of two men who served in the U.S. Army, Memorial Day is always special to me and my family, and it’s also special to the LPGA family, which paid tribute to soldiers on Monday.
Gal showed off some of her artwork with the help of her sponsor, Dolce, on Tuesday, while Brittany Lincicome caught a nurse shark, of all things! Here’s a cool story about some LPGA players presenting a newborn with a Tour card in New Jersey as they promote the ShopRite LPGA Classic, and Gerina Piller enjoyed herself at a Lakewood (N.J.) Blueclaws baseball game Tuesday night, where she threw out the first pitch.
As usual, there’s a ton going on right now, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.Until next time…
Under the sea - May 25
This week no doubt will go down as one of the wackiest in the history of the LPGA Tour.
The inaugural Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic has been a doomed tournament because of torrential downpours, but LPGA officials and the staff at the Ocean Club Golf Course on Paradise Island have worked tirelessly to address the overwhelmingly confounding issues that have been presented to them by Mother Nature. On Tuesday, more than a foot of rain fell in an eight-hour period at the course, flooding several holes and rendering the course unplayable.
Wednesday’s pro-am was canceled, as was Thursday’s opening round, so golf course crew could continue to work to restore it to playing order. Players were scheduled to play their first of three 12-hole rounds on Friday, but a three-hour lightening delay forced play to be halted due to darkness at 7:41 p.m. without all of the players in the clubhouse.
Heather Bowie-Young and Silvia Cavalleri finished 12 holes at 6-under on the par-45 revised layout, with 27 players needing to finish their opening round on Saturday morning. The Tour’s hope is that all players can complete at least 36 holes, with an outside possibility of playing an entire 18 on Sunday.
Players may have needed a map to follow the 12-hole route, which was holes 10-6-7-4-5-11-12-13-14-2-3-8 in arguably the weirdest and most surreal weather-affected tournament in Tour history.
“It's just Mother Nature, and as a golfer you grow up with this,” Bowie-Young said in an LPGA press release Friday. “You know you just go when you can, and they're making the absolute best of the situation. I'm really glad we're playing golf.”
I remember sitting in the “war room” when rain forced tournament officials to discuss going from 54 to 36 holes for the Chick-fil-A Charity Championship hosted by Nancy Lopez in 2002, and that was an odd situation, to say the least. But nothing I experienced came close to this.
I sympathize with the Ocean Club staff, who I’m sure have been working around the clock to restore order and make the course playable. This will be a week they’ll never forget, and I know the players are supremely thankful for their efforts.
Players were Tweeting all sorts of pictures from the course, including this one and this one, and it looked like a flood zone you’d expect to see in the Amazon. It was reportedly the first rain the Bahamas has seen in four months, and boy, did it dump on that slice of paradise.
The rain didn’t stop players from enjoying themselves at the pro-am party Wednesday night, and those events are always a lot of fun. Players spent their free time on Wednesday and Thursday doing all sorts of things, from going to the beach and visiting with media and pro-am participants to swimming with dolphins (another photo), snorkeling and hanging by the pool.
Stacy Lewis and Brittany Lincicome went hunting for fish instead of birdies on the course’s fairways on Friday, and here are more photos from the LPGA’s Facebook page. Once the practice range was re-opened on Thursday, players also flocked there to stay sharp.
Natalie Gulbis ran into some young fans who one day might be LPGA players themselves, and I’m sure their smiles and support helped her focus for the first round.
Saturday and Sunday should be quite the couple of days as players play their best on the altered course. Whoever wins the tournament will have a special remembrance to help them think back to a wet week in paradise with great affection.
Until next time….
Big week in the golf world
It’s already been a doosie of a week in golf, and we’re only at the midway point.
First off, it’s the 10-year anniversary of Annika Sorenstam playing alongside the PGA Tour players in The Colonial, one of the most historic and transcendent moments in golf history. I remember it vividly, as I was an LPGA media coordinator at the time, and it was easily one of the most memorable times during my tenure there.
My former co-worker Laura Neal was in Fort Worth to chronicle the historic weekend, and she wrote a series of columns about it that gave great insight into everything that went on. LPGA Headquarters was abuzz that week, and the entire sports world was tuned in to Annika’s every move.
It was an event that transcended golf and not only captured the imagination of the rest of the sports world, but mainstream news media also took note as well. Even though she narrowly missed the cut, Annika did herself, women, the LPGA and its fans a huge service by having the courage and fortitude to chase a dream, not blink in the bright lights and make history.
Golf World Executive Editor Ron Sirak wrote about his recollections from that amazing week in this piece, and it also helps sum up what was accomplished in Fort Worth. ESPNW put together this photo series about the week that no doubt brought back some memories for her and everyone else.
On Tuesday, the USGA and R&A banned anchored putters, causing a ripple of debate through the golfing community. Players, pundits, media and fans took to social media to weigh in on the issue.
Jennifer Johnson made headlines of her own by becoming a Rolex First-Time Winner at the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic on Sunday. She was awesome on the weekend, posting back-to-back 65s to edge Jessica Korda (photo) and Pornanong Phatlum by a stroke and set a tournament record with a 21-under-par total.
Johnson pocketed a cool $180,000 and moved into the mix in the 2013 U.S. Solheim Cup standings. Mallon took note, sending Johnson this congratulatory Tweet: “@JJohnson_LPGA Congratulations great performance today!”
Anna Nordqvist, who will likely be part of Liselotte Neumann’s European Solheim Cup Team, fired a 61 on Saturday, the lowest round on Tour so far this year. She went on to tie for fourth place and earn some additional Solheim Cup points.
Players enjoyed themselves in Mobile and loved the southern hospitality. Brittany Lincicome took notice of some wildlife on an adjacent Robert Trent Jones Trail course, while Lexi Thompson ended Saturday by taking in a University of South Alabama baseball game.
Some young fans took advantage of the chance to get some autographs, and Christina Kim posed for a picture with her standard bearer on Saturday. Korda – who was captured by a Getty Images photographer in this awesome shot – and Karrie Webb had fun while doing a post-round interview, and LPGA rookies Alejandra Llaneza put in some rookie hours helping with the telecast.
Vicky Hurst tried out a special feature on her new phone with the help of Amy Yang, and Veronica Felibert celebrated finishing the 72nd hole with a birdie. After tying for 13th, Sydnee Michaels enjoyed a nice dinner, where she ran into former University of Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron and former Minnesota Vikings running back Rickey Young.
The LPGA is in the Bahamas for the first time ever, and players are really enjoying themselves and all of the amazing views. Oh, how I wish the Tour had added this stop while I was working there! You just can’t get tired of looking at these views.
Lisette Salas and her mother arrived early and enjoyed some dinner Sunday night with a cool backdrop. The LPGA put together a great photo series from the Bahamas on its Facebook page that everyone should check out, and the pro-am party was a big hit as well.
Meanwhile, Michelle Wie was at the Ron Jaworski Celebrity Golf Challenge at Atlantic City Country Club on Monday, where she rubbed shoulders with NBA legend “Dr. J” Julius Erving and Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (photo). Karen Stupples was featured in the new Prevention magazine, talking about her amazing weight loss and body transformation.
Whew, that was a busy few days!
Until next time….
Birdies by the bay
Looking at the scores from the first two rounds of the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic, one question pops into my head: How low can they go?
Players have absolutely blistered the Crossings Course at Magnolia Grove the first two days, and there’s no reason to expect anything different on the weekend. Stacy Lewis won the event at 17-under last year, and that total is certainly going to be in jeopardy of being eclipsed on Sunday.
Chella Choi led at 11-under through 36 holes, and Syndee Michaels posted a 10-under 62 on Friday to tie Lisette Salas for the lowest LPGA round of the year and move into a tie for second heading into the final two rounds. It’s harder to find rounds in the 70s than ones in the 60s on the top page of the leaderboard, and that sets the stage for high drama.
Players have thoroughly enjoyed themselves in my home state of Alabama this week, and they’ll get to visit there twice next year. LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan gave Alabamians a big compliment Wednesday when he Tweeted: “If you want to see nice on steroids, you come to Alabama because there's no better nice than this market.”
Wednesday was not only pro-am day, but college day, so some players donned their favorite teams’ colors. I have to admit I enjoyed Nicole Hage’s Auburn duds quite a bit more than Lexi Thompson’s LSU outfit (her brother’s from Halloween was even better!), but I was glad to see Thompson share the first-round lead on Thursday anyway. Hage found some other Auburn people to hang with, which is always nice.
Michaels and Mariajo Uribe suited up in UCLA gear, while the LPGA hosted a SEC trivia contest in the media center featuring players with ties to the conference. There are a lot of LPGA Tour players with SEC ties, and most of them sent their best wishes and support to Auburn women’s golf coach Kim Evans, who is battling ovarian cancer.
Brittany Lincicome had a special 6-year-old cart buddy for the day, and Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez, who sent two daughters to school at Auburn, was in town and did some media interviews as well. Felibert posted this scenic shot from the 18th tee at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail course, while Natalie Gulbis shared this picture from a practice session back home in Lake Las Vegas that will make you stop for a beat and say “Wow!” She also stopped by her Boys & Girls Club to give some putting lessons.
Beatriz Recari snapped this shot of the LPGA driving range on Wednesday, showing just how hard Tour players work on a daily basis to hone their skills. Here’s a cool video of my Mobile Press-Register buddy Tommy Hicks interviewing Christina Kim aboard the USS Alabama on Wednesday.
Lewis and Lincicome attended a Mobile Bay Bears baseball game on Thursday night, and Lincicome did some quality air guitar moves on the field. The ladies ran into former Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron at the game, while Lewis threw out the first pitch, which she said was a strike.
Korda Tweeted this cool shot of her and Karrie Webb from the first round, and here’s an even better rendition of it. Webb posted a 63 in the second round to stand a stroke behind Korda heading into the final two rounds.
U.S. Solheim Cup Team Captain Meg Mallon hung out with former captain and Hall of Famer Judy Rankin on Wednesday, and I’m sure the two talked about the upcoming event, which is just three short months away 50 miles up the road from where I sit in my home office. We all can’t wait for this year’s Solheim Cup to get here.
Congratulations are in order for U.S. Solheim Cup Assistant Captain Dottie Pepper, who signed a two-year deal to join the ESPN golf broadcast team, as well as Golf World Executive Editor Ron Sirak, who became a grandfather earlier this week. Fittingly, Sirak wrote this piece on Pepper, which is a great read. Pepper was doing some “homework” on the course earlier this week and even managed to get out of this bunker in one shot.
That’s all for now.
Until next time….
Sweet Home Alabama!
Being an Alabama native, I always made sure the LPGA’s stop in my home state was on my travel calendar. Trips to Mobile for the tournament meant great, fresh seafood, inspiring nighttime views of the U.S.S. Alabama in Mobile bay and great golf at one of the top Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail courses.
This week, the LPGA returns to The Crossings Course at Magnolia Grove for the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic, where Stacy Lewis is the defending champion.
Speaking of my home state, I’m proud to report that my Auburn Tigers’ women’s golf team – playing for head coach Kim Evans, who is battling ovarian cancer – qualified for the NCAA Championship. Here’s the article Beth Ann Baldry of Golfweek wrote on the accomplishment. Congrats to the Tigers, and best of luck at the NCAAs.
It was an eventful weekend for LPGA players as well. One of the most heartwarming highlights was Belen Mozo attending a high school prom with a special fan with a neuro developmental disability who is a big fan of hers. What a great story!
With Sunday being Mother’s Day, several players Tweeted photos of themselves and their mothers, including Nicole Hage here, Brittany Lincicome here, Michelle Wie here, Yani Tseng here, Angela Stanford here and Julieta Granada here.
This fan, and potentially a future LPGA player, did some nice artwork on her driveway, while Wie got in one last painting session before heading to Mobile on Sunday. European Solheim Cup Team Captain Liselotte Neumann had some friends sporting some stylish clothing three months before the international event.
Lincicome filmed a commercial for CME Group in New York on Monday, where she hit a golf ball of a skyscraper. Jessica Korda visited a chilly Rochester, N.Y., for the Wegmans LPGA Championship media day, where she visited with local school kids, who signed a banner for her in exchange for her signing some autographs for them.
Amy Yang and Vicky Hurst hammed it up on Monday, a practice day for both players, and Paula Creamer spent some time at the Sapphire Now conference in Orlando with former WTA tennis star Lindsay Davenport and “Mr. October” himself Reggie Jackson, among others (photo). Several LPGA players have successfully qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open at sectional qualifiers in recent weeks, including Christina Kim, Jane Park and Becky Morgan, so congrats to them.
Lisette Salas Tweeted this nice Instagram picture of her practice session, as did Jennie Lee (photo). Cristie Kerr spent some time with NBC’s Jimmy Roberts at a wine tasting for her Curvature wine, then got in some play in New York.
On Tuesday, Wie and Kim participated in a putting contest on the aforementioned battleship (where they couldn’t help but do their best “Titanic” impression), and that was definitely a first for both players! They each teamed with two soldiers for the contest, which was part of the Hope for the Warriors program.
Tuesday night, LPGA rookies attended a media training class given by LPGA Chief Communications Officer Kraig Kann. He taught them about maximizing their potential exposure and media reach by marketing themselves and realizing the importance of being media savvy.
I was happy to see LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan make an announcement in Mobile about a contract extension for that event, as well as the addition of a Tour stop in Prattville beginning in 2014. Here’s the press release, and the fact that the LPGA continues to expand and add events is a big sign of the direction the Tour is going. Lewis and Thompson were also on-hand for the announcement.
Onward and upward.
Until next time….
A chance to catch their breath
We’re roughly a third of the way through the 2013 LPGA Tour season, and it’s been quite the ride so far.
This week’s off week is serving as a nice opportunity for players to recharge their batteries, perhaps watch The Players Championship and enjoy some time at home. As someone who has traveled extensively in the past, I can assure you the players relish these chances to catch their breath and regroup.
Just because there was no tournament didn’t mean there wasn’t anything going on, and “Twitter Theater” is evidence of that.
Michelle Wie was sporting some new kicks on her way to practice on Wednesday, and Christina Kim excelled in an impromptu audition for the job of NASCAR pit crew member, according to these Tweets: “Golfer. Tweeter. Author. Mechanic. I just blew out a tire trying to get @Teamfrench23 and I to the airport. I changed it in 19min flat. Boom. For those asking, @Teamfrench23 helped me loads changing the tire! I just like to be in command with difficult situations!”
European Solheim Cup Vice Captain Annika Sorenstam has obviously stayed in tremendous shape thanks to her consistent workout regimen, and she was showing off some new exercise duds via Twitter. Suzann Pettersen used Twitter to promote her Suzann Pro Challenge 2013 on Wednesday as well.
Angela Stanford hosted her charity event “Night With the Stars” at Billy Bob’s Texas on Wednesday, which benefits her foundation (@4ASFoundation) and began the day playing golf with country music star Tracy Lawrence. Gerina Piller snapped this shot of Stanford and country music artist Thomas Rhett on the first tee at Shady Oaks and this one of her and Lawrence later that night.
Some players weighed in on Vijay Singh’s lawsuit against the PGA Tour. Maria Hjorth Tweeted: “Vijay Singh sues the PGA tour for giving him bad reputation. Should he not be thanking them for not banning him????” and Kim commented, “I land in Orlando to find that Vijay is suing the PGA tour? I really don't think that's a good move....”
Sophie Gustafson added, “I'm completely baffled by Vijay's lawsuit. Normally you can kinda, sorta see someone's point but from no angle this makes sense.”
Golf World Executive Editor Ron Sirak addressed the issue in this column. He also wrote this nice piece on U.S. Solheim Cup Assistant Captain Dottie Pepper making the decision to leave her high-profile TV job.
Vicky Hurst probably had the most interesting day of anyone Wednesday, Tweeting: “I attended a joint meeting of Congress today and met the President of Republic of Korea!!! Nbd.” She also posted this picture of her with the president of the Republic of Korea.
Natalie Gulbis was multitasking, listening to interviews from The Players Championship on the Golf Channel while getting in a workout, and she also got in a nice run on the beach. Here’s a link to Gulbis’ most recent blog for ESPNW.
Three-time and reigning Kingsmill Championship champ Cristie Kerr enjoyed an amazing sunset at Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y., on Wednesday, and she posted this shot of her and her caddie Worth Blackwelder.
Paula Creamer was in New York for her Taylor Made Golf outing, with New York Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara among the special attendees.
Thursday was Sandra Gal’s birthday, and Wie spent some time doing this photo shoot for Vogue Korea that produced some amazing photos. Julieta Granada took in the Miami Heat-Chicago Bulls playoff game, and Beatriz Recari did a playing lesson for the Golf Channel.
Here’s a great article about Belen Mozo attending a high school prom on Friday night in Knoxville, Tenn., with a special student who had reached out to her via social media. She also did a golf clinic for the Special Olympics, showing just how caring LPGA players are.
On a personal note, I’d like to wish the best to Auburn women’s golf coach Kim Evans, who has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Coach Evans is not only a top-notch coach, but a warm and caring person who loves golf, does many things to promote the game and is just a quality person. I was lucky enough to work with her quite a bit when I was in school there as the media relations student assistant assigned to both golf teams, and I always enjoyed seeing her on my trips back to campus.
Here’s an article about her battle, and former LPGA player Danielle Downey has been filling in for Evans as the Tigers competed in the NCAA East Regional. Golfweek’s Beth Ann Baldry also wrote this nice piece about Evans.
She’s a fighter, and I’m confident she can beat this. War Eagle coach, War Eagle!
Until next time….
Thrice is nice for Kerr
Cristie Kerr may want to buy property in Williamsburg, Va.
It would be fitting, considering she’s owned the Kingsmill Championship since its inaugural year in 2003. This year, she defeated Suzann Pettersen on the second hole of a playoff to win her third career event at the Kingsmill Resort, one of the players’ favorite locales of the season.
Kerr – who also won the tournament in 2005 and 2009 – now has 16 career victories and nearly $15 million in earnings, making her one of the most successful American players in LPGA history. Knowing Kerr as I do, the win will only motivate her to aim higher and strive for more and work toward regaining the No. 1 spot in the Rolex Women’s Golf World Rankings she earned in 2010.
Pettersen has been lights-out this season, winning on both tours and occupying a regular spot on leaderboards virtually every week. A singles matchup between Kerr and Pettersen on Sunday of the 2013 Solheim Cup could be quite the show!
Big crowds packed the course for the final two days, and they weren’t disappointed. Some Peggy Kirk Bell Girls Tour members walked inside the ropes on Saturday, an experience they no doubt will never forget.
Christina Kim eased her woes of missing the cut with a visit to Busch Gardens Saturday, while I.K. Kim had some special fans pulling for her at Kingsmill. There was a junior clinic at the resort on Saturday as well, and Paula Creamer met a fan wearing more pink than her for once.
Second-round leader Ariya Jutanugarn talked to the Golf Channel before the third round on Saturday, had a rough day but recovered with a 5-under 66 on Sunday to tie for third. It was the fourth top-five of the season for the 17-year-old LET member, so get ready to see her on Tour full-time next year.
Pettersen’s final-round 67 that forced the playoff was probably inspired, at least in part, by these touching drawings given to her by some young fans while she was having dinner Saturday night. Kerr, whose father was on-hand for the final round, helped a fan make the day of his father, who has leukemia, and Creamer made this fan smile as well and posed for a shot with these fans. Creamer and some fans created a sea of pink in this photo.
Ryann O’Toole and Nicole Smith spent some time in Colonial Williamsburg (photo) on Saturday, and Natalie Gulbis was captured in this scenic shot on the 17th green. Michelle Wie relaxed by painting after missing the cut, and her work is pretty impressive.
Jane Park designed a golf hole on a Sunday flight, while Gulbis posted a new ESPNW blog about her involvement with the Boys & Girls Club in Las Vegas. Karin Sjodin (link) and Anna Nordqvist also posted new blogs.
Nordqvist enjoyed opening some new merchandise that arrived earlier in the week, which is enough to make us all jealous!
This is a week of for the LPGA, but as usual, that didn’t mean players weren’t active. Sandra Gal, who hit 20,000 followers on Twitter on Monday, did a Callaway photo shoot at Doral before doing an interview with some German media, and Stacy Lewis gave a putting lesson at the media day for the ShopRite LPGA Classic.
Brittany Lang did an interview with a local TV station at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills, Md., to promote the 2014 International Crown on Monday, while Kerr signed autographs at a Wegmans grocery store in Dulles, Va., a day after her big win.
Monday was the annual World Golf Hall of Fame induction, and there were a number of LPGA players and Hall of Famers in St. Augustine, Fla. LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan had a great time at the event, Tweeting: “As always, World Golf Hall of Fame induction night was a spectular experience – thanks Jack Peters for being such a wonderful host!!”
U.S. Solheim Cup Captain Meg Mallon and Hall of Famer Beth Daniel stopped by LPGA Headquarters in Daytona Beach, Fla., to talk to the LPGA staff before heading to the inductions. Their appearance was a big boost to the staff, which decorated the lobby in red, white and blue.
On Tuesday, Creamer filmed some TV spots for the USGA about speeding up pace of play, an issue that really needs to be addressed in the game in a big way (especially at the amateur level). Scotland’s Janice Moodie, who will captain the European PING Junior Solheim Cup Team this summer, qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open, sending out this Tweet: “US Women's Open here I come. Looked like a drowned rat out there but shot 76,68 to make it. Canny wait!”
It will be interesting to see who qualifies for the Open in the coming weeks, and I’m sure it’ll be a great field once again.
That’s all for now. Until next time….
A teen shall lead them
The LPGA has long been a hotbed of achievement for teenagers, and this year is no different.
Ariya Jutanugarn, a 17-year-old Ladies European Tour rookie and sister of LPGA rookie Moriya, took the 36-hole lead into the weekend at the Kingsmill Championship at 7-under, a stroke ahead of Americans Stacy Lewis and Angela Stanford. The Thai sisters already have top-five finishes under their belts this season, with Ariya finishing second at the Honda LPGA Thailand, fourth the following week in Singapore and third in Hawaii and Moriya tying for fourth in the season-opening ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open.
Ariya, playing on a sponsor’s exemption, blistered the River Course (photo) on Thursday, posting a 7-under 64 that included a double-bogey on 17. She has bragging rights over her sister, whose low round of the year is a 66 last week in Texas.
Time will tell how the teen handles the pressure over the weekend, and if she’s going to win, she’s definitely going to have to earn it. The leaderboard is loaded with talent, including red-hot Suzann Pettersen, Cristie Kerr, Shanshan Feng and Juli Inkster.
It’s going to be a thriller of a weekend. Now, on to what I like to call “Twitter Theater.”
Natalie Gulbis rubbed shoulders with Virginia Tech football coach Frank Beamer on Wednesday, and Sandra Gal and her group were all smiles as well at the scenic 17th hole. Paula Creamer had a full crew of media on-hand for her pre-tournament press conference to talk about last year’s eight-hole playoff she lost to Jiyai Shin, while Amy Yang showed off her new golf towel.
Michelle Wie gave some love to a couple of young helpers during a rainy and windy pro-am and snapped this shot of a cannon by the 16th green at the Kingsmill Resort. Beatriz Recari found some authentic Spanish items in a Williamsburg store, and Vicky Hurst found an inspiring view close by as well.
The sun came out for Round 1 on Thursday, and Yang captured this image from the course. Gulbis spent some time on the range after a first-round 72, and received some motivation from the boys and girls from her Las Vegas Boys & Girls Club.
Jane Park shared a nice shot of herself from one of the course’s massive greens, and Thompson relaxed after an opening-round 71 with a round of putt putt golf. Danielle Kang had this amazing view to inspire her on Friday while she did an interview with PGA Tour Radio on Sirius XM Radio.
Friday was another beautiful day in Virginia, and kids visiting the course could enjoy the Family Fun Zone (photo) when they weren’t watching golf. Salas took over the LPGA’s Twitter account to interact with fans, and Yang enjoyed some time at Busch Gardens after her round.
Brittany Lincicome enjoyed a party at Kingsmill Friday night, just another example of the immense number of entertainment choices LPGA players have on a nightly basis when on the road. Clearly, this column is called “The Social Scene” for a reason, as players live great lives full of friends and activities while competing for big money each week.
Until next time….
Cream of crop rises to the top in Texas
It was an eventful and exciting weekend in Texas as the LPGA returned to the Dallas area for the first time in more than 20 years.
World No. 1 Inbee Park held off Spain’s Carlota Ciganda by a stroke at the North Texas LPGA Shootout to win her third tournament of the season and further cement herself atop the Rolex Women’s Golf World Rankings. Both players birdied the final hole to give the finish some drama, and Park received this Tweet from Hall of Famer Gary Player: “Congratulations @InbeePark on your victory in the North Texas Shootout on the @lpga and still World No 1. Well done.”
The tournament featured a unique format, with two cuts – something I’d never seen before. After the customary cut to the top 70 players and ties after 36 holes, the field was again cut to the top 50 and ties for the final round. It was an interesting twist that the players seemed to enjoy.
Fans came out in droves, and players navigated their way through a massive autograph line after their rounds. Paula Creamer spent time with some fans who made a lengthy drive to see her play, before signing autographs for others, and Sandra Gal met a miniature Rickie Fowler at Las Colinas Country Club and posed for a picture with more fans as well. Gal’s young fans were so enamored that they even watched her warm up.
Texan Brittany Lang tied for 54th, but more importantly, said yes when boyfriend Kevin Spann proposed to her on the 18th green after her round on Saturday. I watched the whole thing play out on the Golf Channel, and it was heartwarming to see. She was flooded with a number of congratulatory Tweets and was all smiles even though she didn’t make the second cut.
High schooler Haley Mills made the first cut in Texas after rounds of 73-71, but didn’t make the 54-hole cut after a third-round 76. Still, that’s a great accomplishment and something she can be proud of for quite some time.
Jessica Korda made some fans for life by giving a young boy and girl golf balls after her round, something players do on a regular basis and that often goes on under the radar. Korda tied for 37th and withdrew from this week’s tournament to rest a sore wrist she banged up in Hawaii.
The pros loved the course and being in Texas, and there’s no doubt the event will be a must for their schedules in 2014.
Now, the players are at the Kingsmill Resort for the Kingsmill Championship in Williamsburg, Va., a favorite among Tour pros for a number of reasons. I was lucky enough to work that event years ago, and the course, facilities and hospitality are fantastic.
Scotland’s Catriona Matthew traveled to Virginia in style, as did Gal (photo), and Karen Stupples posted this scenic shot of the River Course during a Sunday practice round. Amy Yang shared this picture of a nerve-wracking tee shot on the 17th hole (try not to think about the water!), and Venezuela’s Veronica Felibert sat down for an interview with Telemundo on Tuesday.
Michelle Wie showed off her new trendy Kia golf bag on Monday (photo), and made a furry friend on Tuesday. Yang hung out with Smokey the Bear himself (photo), as did Sydnee Michaels as well, and players even took time to learn more about working with the media at LPGA media training with Chief Communications Officer Kraig Kann.
On a side note, one of the cooler things from the weekend was seeing Denver Nuggets coach George Karl – a member at Colorado Golf Club – sporting Solheim Cup gear in his post-game press conference on Sunday. I’ll be writing much more about that amazing event as August nears, so stay tuned.
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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