By Aaron M Smith
For those who haven’t seen a local Rochester newscast, read the Democrat and Chronicle or watch the Golf Channel in the past week – Rochester was in the spotlight of the LPGA this past week. For the past 33 years, Rochester has been a traditional stop on the LPGA tour – 2010 upped the ante as the Wegman’s Classic became the LPGA Championship. Rochester was hosting a major! Now don’t get me wrong – this isn’t the first time that Rochester has seen a major. Oak Hill has been the host for several PGA majors and was also the site of the 1995 Ryder Cup. But for Locust Hill, this was a first and a potential permanent stop for the LPGA Championship. Rochester had to come up huge and for the most part – it delivered. After walking the course Thursday and working the last 3 days as a course marshal – I thought I would share some of my thoughts and experiences from the weekend:
1. Cristie Kerr absolutely dominated on a course that caused most golfers to struggle all weekend. When most golfers struggled to stay below par – Kerr dominated from the first day. There haven’t been too many golf tournaments that I have watched, where the tournament was over on Friday. When I think of dominating performances, Tiger Woods’ 2000 US Open victory comes to mind. Not sure if this weekend’s performance compares, but it has to rank as one of the top performances in LPGA history.
2. Locust Hill and Rochester deliver! It is a great sign when the crowds surpassed tournament officials expectations on Friday, forcing officials to call in additional shuttles. The weather on Saturday forced tournament officials to push up the tee times, but Rochester fans were there. On Sunday, the crowds were huge and really showed their support for all of the golfers. Locust Hill Country Club was in phenomenal shape – possibly the best I have seen it in the last 3 years. The fairways were like walking on a carpet and the greens were in fantastic shape. The rough was U.S. Open like and penalized any golfers who missed the fairway with their drives. How deep was the rough? Put it this way, when I stepped into the rough – these size 12s disappeared.
3. Two instances where I was really impressed with several of the golfers. During a back-up at the 13th hole, Morgan Pressel was on the tee waiting to hit her drive. Since there was a delay, Morgan proceeded to walk down and start up a conversation with a 7 or 8 year old girl that she had never met before. While the little girl was shy at first, Pressel continued to talk with her and by the end – she had a new fan. Something tells me that little girl will be talking about her encounter with Pressel for quite a while. On Sunday, Michelle Wie missed a birdie putt on the 16th green. As she was walking off the green and right by me – she tossed her golf ball to an unexpecting little boy. His eyes were as huge as saucers and the look he gave his Dad said it all. Wie could have pouted after missing the putt, but instead took the high road. That is how you create fans…. What you don’t do is…
4. Boos to Dottie Pepper and her comments against the LPGA Championship being in Rochester. Her anti-Rochester rants on multiple occasions were in these eyes – out of line. Sure she can have a opinion, but wait until after the tournament to share them. Blasting Rochester, while the tournament was here was of poor taste. Rochester has been a major stop for years on the LPGA and has supported players like Pepper throughout the years. Wegmans has been a major corporate sponsor over the years and has been good to the LPGA. Wegmans is one of the reasons that the winner of the LPGA Championship walked away with a check for $370,000. Rochester being a small market city, is not the reason that NBC, ABC,CBS or ESPN didn’t cover the tournament. The fact that it was the LPGA is probably the main reason for the lack of major television coverage.
5. We got the full spectrum of Rochester weather this weekend. Cool weather to start the tournament, rain on Saturday – followed up by hot and humid on Sunday. Regardless, the fans were troopers and were out in full force. LPGA officials have to think Rochesterians are crazy.We will sit through anything.
I am not sure if the LPGA Championship will be back in Rochester in 2011. Wegmans and Locust Hill have expressed an interest, and as of right now – so have has LPGA officials. The opinion amongst the players, is they are in favor of it returning, albeit it is not overwhelming. What I do know is that the LPGA needs Rochester, NY on the tour and Rochester needs the LPGA. One way or another – there will be a tour stop in 2011. Whether it is a major is a different story. For right now, Cristie Kerr is the defending champion.