Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Stanford International Pro-Am Preview

The LPGA holds its first pro-am event in seven years this week at the Stanford International Pro-Am. This inaugural event will be played at Fairmont Turnberry Isle Resort & Club in Aventura, Florida (near North Miami Beach). All four rounds of the event will be televised live on ESPN2 starting Thursday afternoon.

The Stanford is a limited-field event, with 112 pros playing alongside 112 amateurs over two of the resort’s courses. The cut after Friday’s second round will leave 70 pros and the top 20 pro-am teams. Saturday’s action will decide the pro-am championship and the pros will battle it out alone on Sunday. The
tournament page at lpga.com says par is 71 and the length is 6239, but I don’t know if that refers to the Soffer Course or the Miller Course – most likely Soffer since that’s the one in use over the weekend. Maybe the ESPN folks will clear that up for us.

The celebrity amateurs are listed here. I’m really surprised there aren’t any stars from ABC’s roster (ESPN’s big brother network) in attendance. Where are William Shatner and Sandra Oh? Maybe this tournament should have been played in California. I’m not really complaining – the LPGA needed the extra Florida event. Of course it depends on who he’s paired with but at first glance, I’ll take James Caan to win the Pro-Am. Don’t bet against Sonny Corleone!

As you probably already know, Lorena Ochoa is sitting this one out. Of my just-released Top 30, she is joined by Ji-Yai Shin (as usual), Se Ri Pak (a late scratch) and Sherri Steinhauer on the truant list. I’ve heard Mi Hyun Kim is bypassing it as well but as of Tuesday afternoon, she was still
listed in the field. With fewer available slots, the cut-off point gets so high that even some exempt players are out in the cold – Carolina Llano, Young-A Yang and Sandra Gal most notably. UPDATE: Llano got in when Song-Hee Kim withdrew. There IS enough room, apparently, to include Nancy Lopez and Jan Stephenson. If this wasn’t a pro-am, I might take exception to that decision.

Pro-Ams are good for golf, and this one is especially good for the LPGA right now. It’s too bad Ochoa isn’t here – with her winning streak, she’s sparked an interest in the Tour from the mainstream sports media that this event could help fan into something bigger. If the guys on Pardon The Interruption are talking about her, Lorena is grabbing some attention. I’m sure her name will be mentioned often this weekend despite her absence. Getting a few more celebrity names might have fanned that flame a little better (the link above hasn’t been updated since last Tuesday) but if they run this event for a few years, it should become easier to get greater participation.

The last winner of an LPGA pro-am event was Grace Park at the 2001 Office Depot. Grace is in the field this week but I won’t be picking her. With #1 on the sidelines, I’m going with #2 Suzann Pettersen to win. I choose Angela Stanford (the event is named for her, after all) and Song-Hee Kim as my CYAs. UPDATE: Song-Hee Kim dropped out Wednesday am, so I'll go with Yani Tseng as my second CYA.

Stats: Winners 5-8 (7-8 with CYAs), Top Tens 14-24.

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