The LPGA Tour Returns to Hawaii

After a four year absence, the LPGA Tour has returned to Hawaii for the LPGA Lotte Championship at the Ko Olina Golf Club in Kapolei (Honolulu), Oahu, Hawaii. Lotte is a South Korean conglomerate in a broad range of consumer products and services, heavy chemicals, publishing, entertainment and construction. How they find time to play golf is anybody’s guess, but at least they’re smart enough to sponsor it.

As a nod to the Korean television market, the tournament began Wednesday and finishes up on Saturday, Sunday in Korea. This works well for everybody. The sponsors get their Sunday finish and the players get an early “get away” to head to next week’s tournament in Mobile, Alabama. Although, given the great establishing camera shots beamed back to us, I can’t imagine that anyone will be in a real big hurry to leave.

Wednesday’s start was marked by unrelenting trade winds that blew all day long. On-course commentator, Mark Rolfing who lives in Hawaii, said that it was blowing anywhere between 10 to 20 miles per hour with gusts to as much as 30. My sense watching the palm trees bustle was that it was closer to 30 than it was to 10.

As you know from many of my previous posts, playing in the wind is one of the hardest things to do in golf. Not only is your ball getting buffeted around, so are you. You never really realize how still your putting stroke motion is until you get hit by a big wind gust right in the middle of it. So scores were…contained…by the wind.

The big name leaders were at 3-under: World No. 1, Yani Tseng, Angela Stanford, Jiyai Shin and Brittany Lang. And we have no less talent at 2-under: Brittany Lincicome, Christie Kerr, Suzann Petterssen, Inbee Park, and the winner of the Kraft Nabisco, Sun Young Yoo (and for good measure, 2nd at the Kia Classic the week after).

But sitting atop the leaderboard, looking down on all this talent, is the unlikely Beth Bader. That she finds herself in this position is what’s great about the game. How can someone who’s only made $1.0 million in the ten years she’s been on Tour suddenly flourish like this? Especially on such a windy day? She had five birdies and just one bogey while so many others struggled.

Yeah, it feels good.  Been a while since I’ve been here.  Been a while since I actually tee’d up in an event. But it’s good.  I practiced hard.  I played some Grasshopper Tour events [a new, developmental mini-tour] in Phoenix to get ready and keep going.  So it was nice to be able to transition back into target golf, because I haven’t done that for a while.  So I’m very pleased.

But beyond her hard work, first of all, it’s because the game knows no one’s history; every swing is a new creation, a new possibility. Second, the ball doesn’t know who’s hitting it; a cliche but true. And third, she never gave up; you have to get in the game to be in the game.

If she could play that good Wednesday, it’s possible that she could do it for three more days. But even if she doesn’t, she’ll remember the day she led this tournament forever. And there will be more fuel added to stoke the fire that burns within her. What a great game.

To give you a feel for how good the field played in that wind, 33 players shot even par or better.

Teen phenom, Lexi Thompson got it around in even par through 16 holes, but then finished bogey, double bogey, 3-over. Given her talent, I don’t think those two holes will dissuade her that she can really do some damage on this course.

And hometown favorite, Michelle Wie, apparently still hasn’t recovered from successfully graduating from Stanford finishing at 6-over. With school taking up so much of her time, she wasn’t able to just hang around the golf course practicing for days at a time. When she finally gets settled into her regimine in her new home in Jupiter, Florida, her focus can get back to once again mastering the nuances of the game and she’ll be great. But it may take a while yet. Given that she practiced at Ko Olina when she lived there, she was very disappointed. But she was enumerating the positives and looking forward. Atta girl

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