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LPGA Championship will put Rochester on the world map

By RICK WOODSON
On Sports
Rochester Business Journal
June 18, 2010

So, whattaya doing next week? Going fishing? Camping? Climbing Mount Everest? Swimming the English Channel? Teeing it up somewhere? Working in the yard? Or maybe just flopping in front of your TV?

Well, if your agenda has nothing to do with golf, may I suggest that you postpone whatever it is and beat it out to Locust Hill Country Club and see a piece of local, national and even (somewhat) international history. And if you just yawned and thought, “Huh? What’s this guy talking about?” then pay attention.

Sure, the LPGA tournament has been at Locust Hill now for 33 years. And many of the greatest names in the history of women’s golf have played here. But next week, Rochester will host the LPGA Championship presented by Wegmans.

It will be the first women’s major championship played here since 1973, when the U.S. Open was held at the Country Club of Rochester. The first, by the way, was the 1953 Open, also at CCR.

Even though the Wegmans LPGA really has been something of a major, this event is significantly different. Our tournament, major or not, is one of the most popular among the players and one of the best attended—roughly 90,000-plus for the week—on the women’s tour. Ticket sales for this year’s tournament reportedly have increased dramatically.

Women’s professional golf has never been at the level it is today. For a few years now, female talent has been teeing off around the world, which was not the case way back when. And the LPGA Championship isn’t a tournament any player will skip just so she can have some time off.

There will be players at Locust Hill from just about every country with a golf course, so next week’s tournament will be somewhat of a historic event in Rochester, the golf capital of New York.

Doubt that? Then check out the numbers. First, the purse will be $2.25 million. At the Open here in 1973, the purse was $40,000. As this is written, 288 media credentials have been issued to 66 media outlets, and tournament marketing director Kim Osur said she expects that number to pass 300 before tee times next Thursday.

Writers and reporters will be here from Sweden, Japan, China, South Korea and the United Kingdom, Osur said. “We are definitely putting Rochester on the world map.” No kidding.

About the only thing missing from this year’s tournament at Locust Hill will be multiple double-digit red numbers, players beating par to a pulp. Officials have added 150 yards to the length of the course, some of the fairways are narrower, and the rough is brutal. If a shot misses the fairway and there’s no spotter following it, a player might need a golf ball detector to find it. When a shot does stray into the rough, hitting the green in regulation will be almost impossible.

Throw in greens that are likely to be 12-plus on the Stimp Meter—lightning fast—and those who don’t bring their A-game aren’t likely to be around for the weekend.

Unfortunately for us golf nuts, Annika Sorenstam and Lorena Ochoa—both retired—will not be here next week. Still, the field will be loaded with talent from everywhere but Antarctica, including defending champion Anna Nordqvist. Jiyai Shin, who won the non-major Wegmans last year, is also listed in the field, but she had an appendectomy recently and it’s uncertain whether she’ll be here.

The long-term question for Rochester is the future status of the tournament at Locust Hill. It has been one of the superstar events on the LPGA Tour for decades now, thanks to Nancy Lopez back in 1978, when as a rookie she won here for her record fifth consecutive victory.

Who knows if the Wegmans LPGA will become a permanent major, but it should. My guess is it depends on how next week goes—scores, players’ reaction, etc. With the increase in ticket sales, I wouldn’t be surprised if Rochester sets an LPGA record for tournament attendance, major or otherwise.

One thing Osur emphasized is that the tournament is a fundraiser and “there’s no money to be made. The purpose is to keep kids in school, and the money goes to United Way’s Graduation Is the Goal Fund.”

It has always been a great event, but this year at Locust Hill there will be electricity in the air as never before. So, folks, get out to Locust next week and let’s show the world that golf doesn’t get any better than right here in Rachacha.

Rick Woodson’s column appears each Thursday on the Rochester Business Journal website at www.rbjdaily.com. His book, “Words of Woodson,” is available at www.authorhouse.com/bookstore. Listen to his weekly program, “The Golf Tee,” at 9 a.m. Sunday on WHTK-AM 1280 and FM 107.3.


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