A local thing – LPGA tournament shines light on area golf course
AUBURN ” The Ridge is on the map.
On Sunday, the LPGA wrapped up its first tournament at The Ridge Golf Club in Auburn, the Ninth Annual Longs Drugs Challenge.
For the first seven years, the tournament was held at Twelve Bridges Golf Club (Lincoln), and last year it was at Lincoln Hills G.C.
The location was not the only first in the tournament.
San Jose’s Christina Kim fired a 65-stroke final round on the par-71 course to finish at 18-under and earn her first championship on the pro tour. Her score was one better than playing partner Karrie Webb, who shot 64, but ended at 17-under.
Twenty-year-old Kim quickly became the fan favorite due, in part, to her obvious love for the game and constant enthusiasm, but mainly because there was no one else in the field from northern California.
“I always hoped that when I won it would be close to home,” Kim said. “I’m arrogant, so I like all the attention. I strive to play better when people want me to play well.”
Just the fact that professional golf came to Auburn was enough for some, including 54-year-old Auburn native and The Ridge member Mike Linville.
“I just enjoy seeing the level of golf they’re playing,” Linville said. “It’s neat to see people play the same course I always play, and to see them play it right, unlike me.”
One participant in particular played the course correctly ” better than it had been played in its half-decade existence.
Anna Acker-Macosko, who started Sunday at 2-under, shot a course-record 60, shattering the old record of 64 set by Kim on Thursday and finishing at 13-under.
“I had a feeling I could shoot a good round,” she said. “But I had no idea I’d be shooting this low.
Before the tournament, the ladies’ record was 66. The mens’ record is 65.
Although The Ridge had never hosted a pro tournament before, the golfers were mostly pleased with the setting, and only slightly disappointed in the fairway conditions.
According to Marty Cross, a 31-year-old employee of the club, the poor fairways were caused partially by a lack of substantial rain, but mostly by being ignored for the last week by the grounds crew while the focus was on cleaning up the bunkers.
Most of the feedback Cross received was positive, though.
“(The players) absolutely love it,” Cross said. “They all love the layout.”
The only downside Cross and Linville both found was their secret was out.
“This course was a secret,” Linville said. “Now people are going to know about it.”
“People are finding out about it and they think it’s absolutely gorgeous,” Cross said.
One of the biggest reasons the tournament ran so smoothly, according to Cross, was the number of volunteers, which exceeded 300.
The course certainly had enough time to prepare. The Ridge staff found it was being considered as a replacement for Lincoln Hills in January, and was informed in April that it was official.
Other courses on the list included Winchester Golf Club (Meadow Vista), Morgan Creek (Placer County), and Whitney Oaks (Sacramento).
The reason the LPGA turned away from Lincoln Hills after a year was the conflicts it created for spectators: Players would travel more than 11 miles on golf cart to get from hole to hole, so fans following certain players would not be able to keep pace.
“We’re so spectator-friendly,” Cross said. Because The Ridge’s contract with the LPGA expires after 2006, Cross and crew will have two more times to create an even smoother tournament.
The course doesn’t rely solely on its beauty to bring people back ” according to Linville, the small-town feel remains even when the big show comes to town.
“Everybody’s very personable and friendly,” he said, adding he expected the hubbub to create a more uptight environment, taking away from the friendliness of it.
Even Webb had positive things to say about it following a loss that was difficult for her to swallow, although she says she can’t complain about shooting a final round of 64.
“I don’t see (the fairways) being a problem,” Webb said. “I wouldn’t not return next year because of it.”
Although Webb’s presence hasn’t been felt as much as it had earlier in her career, if she lost to anyone she didn’t mind it being Kim.
“She’s really laid back,” Webb said. “She really makes me laugh.”
Long after her victory, Kim said she still didn’t think the reality of it had hit her.
“I’ll probably be driving halfway to San Jose tonight and just start screaming,” she said.
She was ecstatic about her $150,000 winnings, though, and
extremely happy about her new trophy.
“I’m going to eat with it, drink with it, and sleep with it,” she said.
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