Wednesday means Pro-Am day! All the nerves of a regular day on Tour (from the Am’s) but without any of the stakes or quality of shot-making! Yay!
While it may not be the fastest paced round of golf you’ll ever see, once again it was extremely evident how differently the LPGA does things than the PGA. For one, the setup on the LPGA is that each group gets paired with two pros, one of which plays the front nine with the four amateurs in the group, and the other plays the back-nine. They also play a scramble format, which, trust me, is much more entertaining to watch than four guys (or girls) and a pro playing best ball with handicaps (best score on the hole is taken). I think this has to be more fun for both the amateurs, and the pros. Not only do they get to interact intimately with two pros instead of one, but the pressure and nerves in a scramble format are much easier to keep under control because it really doesn’t matter if you hit a bad shot; it only matters if you hit a good one. 95% of the time the pro will hit the best shot of the group anyways, so being free to go after a shot instead of feeling the need to strategize the entire hole and play that out, is just such a better idea. Kudos to the LPGA.
I told you yesterday to stay tuned for food updates. Well, I have a few to share with you. There was no dedicated media food area like in Hilton Head, but they did give us a voucher for a sandwich and a pop.
The burger was actually pretty darn good. Maybe because by that point I’d been walking in the sun for hours and needed sustenance, but hey, my taste buds enjoyed them, so who am I to judge?! I’ve also never heard of that pop company, but it tasted just like Sprite, so no complaints here!
The food quest didn’t quite end there, though. As I was conducting interviews on the putting green, I couldn’t stop seeing these delicious looking smoothie-type drinks that all the players were carrying around. It reminded me of seeing Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, and all the guys at the Memorial Tournament at Jack Nicklaus’ Muirfield Village, carrying around and bragging about the smoothies there. Quick note — that tournament is actually next week and it’s always a good one. Anyways, back to the smoothies on the putting green. As you’ll hear in my interviews from today, I was very determined to get some answers as to where these were coming from and just how good they were. After some sleuthing, I was able to find the origin spot of this delicious nectar, and although I asked to take a picture of one, I was really hoping to get a taste. Thankfully, my wish was granted. Voila! Behold, the majestic beauty that is, the best smoothie I’ve ever tasted.
Ok, back to golf. There was a brief announcement, sort of, on the future of this particular event on the LPGA Schedule. In just its third year in existence, the Volvik Championship has been a great success, but their 3-year contract ends this year, and there has been scuttlebutt bandied about throughout the media centre all week on what next year will bring. Well, LPGA Tour Commissioner Michael Whan was on hand today, along with the tournament organizer and the President of Volvik, to pass this message along regarding the topic:
Not exactly a confirmation of a return, but definitely positive news moving forward.
Now for the interviews. With it being a hot, sunny, beautiful day, there were a lot more people on the golf course today; patrons and players.
This allowed me to go after some of the bigger names in the field. First up was Paula Creamer. Paula was just strolling to the clubhouse when I came across her, and she said she had two minutes to spare, so here goes:
Couldn’t get a winning score prediction out of her, but some good insight into her thoughts on the course, the Solheim Cup, and what works on the LPGA Tour.
After speaking with Paula, I made my way to the driving range to see who might be warming up, and I kept hearing this one girl laughing and joking around with her caddie and some of the other golfers. I saw her doing the same thing yesterday, but I didn’t recognize her, and just let it go. Today though, her bag was right beside her. Hot tip — if you’re at a golf event and you don’t know who the player is, just look at their bag; they all have their names on there. Her bag said Sarah Jane-Smith. I didn’t recognize the name, but I had to speak with this cheery lady.
That girl has such a good outlook on life! Being around her, the energy was contagious. Hard not to like someone like that.
After doing a few more laps around the range and not wanting to interrupt anyones warmup session, it was back to the putting green for me. That turned out to be a wise decision. There were a bunch of big names strewn across the green, so it was just a matter of biding my time and waiting on them, one-by-one, to finish their putting and then I’d make my move. First up was Laura Davies, an LPGA veteran and fan favourite:
A very wise and sweet lady.
The next to step into my web, was actually a girl I had followed for a bit earlier, but didn’t want to bug during her practice, so when Moriya Jutanugarn stepped off the green and towards the first tee, I was excited to speak with her. Moriya and her sister Ariya are two of the most successful golfers on the Tour, and just the second sister duo to both earn wins on the LPGA.
She was one of the rare ones that hadn’t had a smoothie. Despite her maybe not speaking the best English (it’s obviously not her first language, so all things considered, she did very, very well) she had a very calming demeanour and I like the way she thinks about golf.
Full disclosure, the next girl I spoke to, will be something I’ll never forget. Not necessarily because of anything in particular she said, although she was very eloquent and well-spoken, but because I’ve wanted to meet her for such a long time. In my haste, I had a good five minute conversation with her before pressing record, but still, meeting Cheyenne Woods was really cool. It’s as close to Tiger as I’ve ever gotten, and it was cool to ask her about him, but she definitely has an aura around her too. Her game is really, really good, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see her become the first black woman to win on the LPGA Tour. And soon. One last thing; her eyes and Tiger’s eyes, are identical. So cool.
You can hear in her voice how much the hospital visit meant to her, and I found her comments on Tiger always being this way behind closed doors to be really interesting.
I thought after Cheyenne, that I’d gotten enough audio for the day and it was time to get something else done. But then I saw Morgan Pressel and I thought, what the heck, one more. Morgan has been a star on the LPGA for years and years; one of the girls I rooted really hard for back when I watched the LPGA every single week. Not only that, but as you’ll hear, she is extremely down to earth.
No idea why I let it slip that I used to have a crush on her back in the day, but what are you gonna do? Aside from that, I thought it was probably the best interview of the day. I saw her again later as she was playing her pro-am, and she was just chatting it up with her group and they looked to be having a great time. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from Morgan, to be honest, but she surpassed anything I would have thought.
That was it for the interview portion of the day. Time for a quick water break and to re-apply the sunscreen, and out to really check out the course.
I wanted to try something new today, so I brought out the video camera and here is my first attempt at a vlog style video documenting the front-9 at Travis Pointe Country Club.
Hope you enjoyed all of that! I’ll be back tomorrow with the back-nine course vlog, and another edition of RJ, on-site, at the LPGA Volvik Championship.
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