The Swinging Skirts LPGA Championship had just about everything that a first-class golf tournament should have to make it a premier experience for players and fans alike. With its narrow, twisting, tree-lined fairways and greens with mind-boggling ridges and breaks, Lake Merced Golf Club provided a worthy setting for the players and sheer visual delight for the fans. The four-round shootout between two of the finest players in women’s pro golf was a demonstration of skill, mental as well as physical endurance, and kept all of us on the edge of our seats for 72 holes. The Bay Area weather added just the right amount of seasoning to an already delicious dish of golf.
I took away so many images of the Swinging Skirts LPGA Championship that they have become swirled and blended in my memory. Lydia Ko‘s spectacular chip onto the 18th green Sunday afternoon that so perfectly set up her winning putt is a standout. But there are many others.
Line Vedel never stopped smiling. Another member of the 2014 LPGA rookie class, Vedel has been largely eclipsed by Ko’s presence, yet she has a fine game that’s been well-homed on the LET and will easily transfer to the Tour’s big stage. This was Vedel’s first top-10 finish and she did it with great panache and in very good company, alongside world no. 1 Inbee Park and no. 8 Shanshan Feng.
Another of my favorite visual memories was the fist bump Stacy Lewis, who was as hungry for victory as Ko, gave Lydia Ko after they both birdied the 15th hole in the third round and the score remained tied at -8. Fierce competitors, holding each other in high regard as good friends do — it’s an image I won’t quickly forget as I watch Lewis and Ko continue to play out their battle for the top spot in the Rolex Rankings during the 2014 season.
Shin’s Learning Curve
Jenny Shin also gave me some wonderful visuals. The 21-year old who’s playing her third year on the Tour and who’s best previous LPGA finish was a tie for 6th at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open is hunting her first Tour victory. She almost made it on Sunday. I watched as she labored over her final putt on the 18th green, and held my breath as her ball rolled. But for a couple of near-misses, Shin would have been in a playoff with Ko and, perhaps, with Lewis. The disappointment she must have felt, however, did not show. For four rounds, Jenny Shin was the picture of calm serenity.
So what did Shin learn from playing the final round with Ko and Lewis?
They were fearless. . . They just went for it. No matter where the pin was, they just went for it. If not, two-putt, par. Stacy didn’t putt as well as she usually does today, but it was really great watching them play. They were very calm and like they do this every day, you know, being in the final group every day. I learned a lot.
A $100k Ace
A golf tournament just isn’t complete without an ace, and players knew all week long that acing the 157-yard 12th hole would bring them a big paycheck. Rolex Ranked no. 121 Dewi Claire Schreefel did it and picked up $100,000 thanks to Chinatrust Bank.
Oh, my God it’s worth more than a car!
This was her first ace on the LPGA tour and second in her lifetime, the other coming on a Future’s Tour event in Albany, which was uphill so she couldn’t see it. She watched this one go in, standing beside Suzann Pettersen.
And so Lydia Ko has claimed her inevitable first LPGA Tour victory as a pro. There will be many, many more wins, for Ko is a talented young player with a bright future before her. But the tournament is a competition among many, and those who finish outside that solitary spot at the top of the leaderboard have also given their best to the game. Here are a few of those players: