One big reason I chose to play Encinitas Ranch yesterday is because it was a geographic excuse to stop by Aviara Golf Resort and check out the LPGA Kia Classic in the afternoon. Originally, I was planning to volunteer at this event this year, but the timing didn’t work out. Hopefully next year I’ll be able to participate.
I’ve never been to any professional golf event before. Like many sports, it’s something that is more easily watched on television because you can know everything that’s going on and follow all the groups at once. I hope to get to a PGA event one of these days, but I had a lot of fun this afternoon at this LPGA event. The LPGA is very fan-friendly and the vibe of this event reflects that desire to connect these great female players with their fans.
There were plenty of people out there, but it wasn’t as crowded as I would have expected for a Saturday round. I’m sure tomorrow’s final round will draw the largest crowds. That made it really easy to get around the facilities and peek in on a bunch of different groups throughout the day.
Since I got there in the afternoon around 2:00, I figured I’d start on the 18th hole and work my way backward until I got to the final pairing—and then follow them for awhile. After all, Paula Creamer is one of my favorites to root for and she was tied for the lead after two rounds.
I took a wrong turn once I got onto the grounds. Instead of the 18th green, I ended up at the 10th tee. I was pleasantly surprised when I turned and saw another favorite teeing off—the beautiful Sandra Gal sporting one of the best outfits of the day. I stuck with her for a couple of holes and then found myself camped out near the 11th green (which was conveniently located near the 17th tee box) as I looked at my pairings guide and tried to figure out who’d be coming by and when.
I jumped back and forth between those two spots and watched a number of marquee groups come through. A-list players like Ai Miyazato, Jessica Korda, Stacy Lewis, I.K. Kim, Suzann Pettersen, Karrie Webb and Christie Kerr came by one location or the other and I got to see some really great golfers hit some really great shots. I was amazed at how close you can get to the players in some locations. On the 17th tee box, I found myself just a few feet from some of the most lovely and talented ladies on tour as they prepped to hit their drives.
Once the final pairing (co-leaders Paula Creamer and Beatriz Recari) got to the 11th hole, I followed them the rest of the way around. They both had excellent birdies on the par-3 11th and then put on a big show on the par-4 16th, which was moved up today to make it driveable for many of the women. Creamer put a great tee shot onto the front of the green. Recari one-upped her by almost acing the hole and walking away with an easy eagle.
This is the first year the Kia Classic is being held at Aviara. In recent years, it’s been at nearby La Costa Resort. I thought the course presented well and all the volunteers, LPGA folks and Golf Channel people did a great job. It was easy to get around and things seemed to run pretty smoothly from a spectator’s perspective. I know I enjoyed myself out there.
I usually don’t talk much about professional golf on this site, but this was a fun experience for me and I want to support and promote this event any way I can. I’ll definitely try to be back there next year as either a spectator or volunteer!
Some pictures from the LPGA Kia Classic (3/23/13):
Sandra Gal rips one from the fairway on the 10th hole:
The beautiful 11th hole at Aviara:
Suzann Pettersen lines up a birdie putt on the 11th:
Ai Miyazato gets ready to hit her drive on the 17th:
Jessica Korda hitting her drive on the 17th:
Stacy Prammanasudh surveys as Jenny Shin attempts a long chip shot:
A view from behind the 16th green:
Stacy Lewis is in there somewhere as she walks off the 11th green:
Sandra Gal strategizes with her caddie on the 17th tee:
Karrie Webb and I.K. Kim on the 11th green:
Paula Creamer prepares to drain a birdie putt on 11 while Beatriz Recari watches (she made her own birdie putt a few moments later):
Creamer hitting her approach on the 13th hole:
Another Creamer birdie attempt on 13. Great putt, but came up half a rotation short. So close!
View of the scenic 14th hole:
Recari attempts a long putt while Creamer watches on:
Keep in mind I took all these photos with my phone (often quick and stealth-like to not be a distraction for players) and had several zoomed in a lot. Not the greatest photos, but you get the idea.