Wednesday was pro-am day at the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup at the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort.
And once again the Tour was using a little creativity in who they invited to play with the pros. Once I tell you, you’d go, “Oh, sure.” But only after that. It’s Spring Training for all the major league baseball teams that train in the Valley of the Sun, so the Tour invited John Kruk, A.J Pierzynski and Aaron Rowland to play.
Kruk is probably the most well-known of the three because of his tenure with his second team, the Philadelphia Phillies, and his baseball broadcast career on ESPN after that. He played first base and the outfield and was a career .300 hitter.
A.J. Pierzynski plays catcher for the Texas Rangers, his fourth team. At 6′ 3″, he is a big man and batted .284 through 2012. Catchers tend to see the ball better.
Aaron Rowand is a free agent outfielder. His last team was the San Francisco Giants for the three years from 2008 to 2011. He batted .273 with a slugging percentage of .407.
In other words all of these guys are big men who are excellent hitters. But that’s baseball. Golf is different…and they met their match in Paige Mackenzie, Gerina Piller and Kristy McPherson.
But they had a good time in the process…
KELLY THEISER: First off, thanks so much, guys, for joining us today. I guess just immediately to start, just take me through what your day was like out there playing with these women. I know, John, it’s not your first time playing in an LPGA pro‑am, but kind of go through the experience of what this day was like.
JOHN KRUK: I marvel at their consistency. A.J. and I played together and one would go there, one would go there, one would go there, and then we’d hit one down the middle and we’re tickled to death. If they do that, they’re done, they’re out of the tournament. To me, the way they hit the ball consistently every swing pretty much where they want to hit it is the thing that I marvel at that we cannot do.
AARON ROWAND: I agree 100 percent. I was telling Paige the same thing, the exact same thing. What I marvel at is how consistent you guys are with hitting within 150 yards, it’s within 15 feet, it’s birdie or par at the worst. For your average Sunday golfer or in my case not very good everyday golfer, you know, it’s something to marvel at.
A.J. PIERZYNSKI: I’m just glad they were fun. They were really fun to play with. That was the biggest thing for me. We had a great time out there. The two girls we were lucky to play with on my right and left [Kristy and Gerina] were just fun. I know they’re better than me, I already knew that going in, so I wasn’t expecting that as much as John was, who was I think expecting to break par. But they were just fun. It was fun to get to know them, get to see them play. It was awesome to read putts and watch how they go about their business and see how good they really are.
So how much fun was it for these LPGA stars to play with major leaguers? The respect and admiration radiated both ways.
PAIGE MACKENZIE: I would say my favorite part was just talking about sports with another athlete and the similarities that we share, just going through the process together or with each other on how we each prepare. For me, that’s always been the highlight of meeting other athletes is being able to learn from each other and share those other stories that most people wouldn’t really experience.
GERINA PILLER: I think it’s great. I grew up playing little league baseball with the guys for eight years, so I kind of had to hold back with my baseball questions. I did ask you one. So I was itching to ask a whole lot more. It’s great to see someone be so good at their sport in baseball and come out to our sport — no, you did well. So it’s pretty cool to play with someone that’s kind of in the spotlight like we are and you just get to share that experience, and whether we’re playing in our backyard or we go watch them, we appreciate what we do and they appreciate what we do.
KRISTY McPHERSON: I’m a huge baseball fan, huge sports fan in general. I told A.J. out there, the Rangers are my American League team. I’m a huge Braves fan, which didn’t make Kruk very happy. But it was just really cool out there. I wouldn’t say we got as serious as Paige and Aaron did, I guess. They were talking about routines and stuff, we were just trying to have a good time.
PAIGE MACKENZIE: You have to see his routine.
AARON ROWAND: It’s slow and it’s awful and I’m not good.
PAIGE MACKENZIE: Well, if you’re going to take a long time, you’ve got to at least be good.
AARON ROWAND: That’s what I told her, the kicker is I spend all this time going through my routine and I get over the ball and if I shank it, everybody’s going to go, Well, why did you even go through that? We talked about that. But we had a great time out there, too. It was really fun playing out there with Paige.
KRISTY McPHERSON: There’s a lot of wedge work between these guys, don’t let him fool you. Between the two of them, both of them didn’t hit the fairway in any certain hole but between the two of them, one of them would hit the fairway and give me 60 yards into a par 4 that I’m used to having 150 into.
A.J. PIERZYNSKI: Aaron’s just mad because Gerina outdrove him on the long drive hole.
KRISTY McPHERSON: Gerina outdrives everybody [5′ 7″].
KELLY THEISER: One of the big things that we promote at the LPGA is See Why It’s Different Out Here, but a lot of it is the personalities and the accessibility of our athletes here on the LPGA. How nice was it in terms of this experience in the pro‑am to see these players relate so easily to you guys and just really have fun with all the groups? And it wasn’t just you guys, it was some other people that were in the pro‑am groups as well.
JOHN KRUK: Well, I’ve done a few of these and I’ve done some with the men. No disrespect to the men, but I would much rather play with these ladies because they’re helpful —
AARON ROWAND: Thank you.
JOHN KRUK: Well, not you.
AARON ROWAND: I was saying thank you, I agree with you.
JOHN KRUK: They’re more helpful reading putts, helping — constructive criticism, sometimes getting honest because we hit balls so far out of bounds, it’s unrealistic. But that’s the thing I like about playing with the women. When you watch men play, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and those great pros, we can’t do that. We can’t. As much as we would try, we can’t do that. We can’t hit a ball 210 out of a bunker with a 6‑iron to a guarded pin over a lake like Tiger Woods did in Canada. Impossible. So if we’re good players, we would hope to be as good as these ladies and we’re not, but we know we’ll never be as good as the men.
KELLY THEISER: So I have [a] question for you guys up here because you guys were all hitters. What’s the difference between hitting a baseball and hitting a golf ball, and which do you find easier?
A.J. PIERZYNSKI: What’s the old line, in golf they have to hit their foul balls? Isn’t that the difference? We were joking on one hole that I don’t understand why golfers, they have to have it all quiet. We hit balls that are moving this way and that way and there’s 50,000 people telling me I stink, so I don’t understand why it’s so hard to hit a golf ball that’s not moving, but then again, it goes left, it goes right, like Kruky was saying. We have a hard time keeping it on the green stuff.
JOHN KRUK: If you put a baseball on a [batting] tee, I could tell you I could hit it that way, I could hit it that way, I could hit it that way whenever I feel like it. I put a golf ball on a tee, God knows where it’s ending up and it’s just the way — that’s why they sell them by the dozen, right? We went through a dozen, didn’t we, A.J.?
AARON ROWAND: I’m just amazed like you were saying at the beginning, any one of us can put a ball on a baseball tee, swing a bat and I can say I’ll hit that corner, I’m going to hit that corner, I’m going to hit that. No brainer. I know where to set it up in my stance, I know what kind of swing I need to take. But what gets me and what amazes me is how consistent you guys are and you guys put it there every time, you put yourself in — you don’t have the big cajones to try to go for it. You lay up and then you go, I’m going to go —
A.J. PIERZYNSKI: She does. She outdrove you on 18, so easy there.
AARON ROWAND: Well, she knows where she’s hitting it, I don’t. That’s the biggest deal. But you give yourself 150, 110, 100 yards in, 80 yards in, whatever it is, and then you roll it from 15 feet and you make a birdie and you do it consistently. It’s like, Hey, good hole, A.J., or Good hole, Kruky, and then the next one’s a triple.
JOHN KRUK: And 10 holes later we say it again.
AARON ROWAND: And that’s why you end up having a handicap of 15. That’s what really amazes me about all you guys and how well you guys can do that kind of stuff. It’s amazing.
And if you have the good fortune to get to an LPGA event to see these great players play, you will be amazed too.