ShopRite LPGA Classic: Five things to know from the Jersey Shore

Given the strict restrictions in place in New Jersey and canceled pro-am rounds (yes, rounds), there was reason to be concerned that (...)

ShopRite LPGA Classic: Five things to know from the Jersey Shore

Given the strict restrictions in place in New Jersey and canceled pro-am rounds (yes, rounds), there was reason to be concerned that this year’s ShopRite LPGA Classic might not happen.

To the delight of fans and players alike, the longstanding LPGA event at the Bay Course at Seaview Golf Club has become a fall classic in 2020, an ideal run-up to next week’s major at Aronimink Golf Club outside of Philadelphia.

But first, the skinny on this week.

This marks the 32nd playing of the ShopRite LPGA Classic on the Jersey Shore and the winner’s list reads like a who’s who in women’s golf.

The best of the best win here

Juli Inkster won the first showing back in 1986. Inkster ultimately won it twice, and Betsy King won it three times, as did Annika Sorenstam.

Cristie Kerr signs autographs for fans at the LPGA ShopRite Classic at Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club in Galloway Township, New Jersey.

Add in Nancy Lopez, Dottie Pepper, Se Ri Pak along with current players and major champions Stacy Lewis (2012, 2014), Brittany Lincicome (2011), Anna Nordqvist (2015, 2016), Cristie Kerr (2004) and Angela Stanford (2003) and all bets should point toward a marquee winner this week.

“It’s a thinking person’s golf course,” said Cristie Kerr. “You know, it’s a great short game and wedge playing golf course, so I think that’s why you see a lot of the great players that have won here have had very good careers. That’s where you make your money in golf, is chipping putting.”

Atlantic City can be seen in the background as Stacy Lewis walks along the 15th hole during the second round of the 2012 LPGA ShopRite Classic in Galloway Township, New Jersey.

New month, different course

The tournament has been held at Seaview since 1998 (in addition to the first two years of the event). Typically held in June, this year’s October dates will present a new challenge on an old-school track.

Stacy Lewis, who made a double-bogey every day in 2014 and still won by six, noted that the greens are actually better now than they are in the summer. It’s not playing as hard and fast as usual, which means length might be more of an advantage. The intricacies of the greens and the subtle breaks, however, remain the same.

“If you get on the wrong side of the hole putts can be really fast,” said Lewis. “This week especially it’s going to be dealing with spin and how much the ball is not releasing and controlling wedges.

“And the fescue is down, too, so who knows what that year is going to bring.”

Past champion Annie Park, who grew up 80 miles from the Seaview, described the wind on Wednesday as monstrous, telling Megan Khang it felt like they were back in Scotland.

“I love fall in New York and New Jersey,” said Park. “I love sweater weather.”

There’s an extra round

For the first time since 1990, and only the second time in event history, the ShopRite will be a 72-hole hole competition. Christa Johnson won 30 years ago at Greate Bay Country Club, finishing 5 under for the event.

The ShopRite typically hosts pro-ams on Wednesday and Thursday but due to COVID-19, both were canceled. Players have gotten used to not having fans at tournaments, but the lack of pro-ams and early-week bustle takes getting used to as well.

The mentality of needing to floor the gas pedal changes a bit too at a 72-hole event. Lincicome welcomes the change.

“If I’m going to win an LPGA event,” said Lincicome, “I always want it to be a four-day event against the top players in the world, hardest fields, just so when you win it’s kind of justified. You played four rounds against the best players.”

ShopRite LPGA Classic

Players walk up the fairway on the sixth hole and past the skyline of Atlantic City during the second round of the ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer on the Bay Course at the Stockton Seaview Hotel & Golf Club in Galloway, New Jersey. Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images

One group, five wins

One of Thursday afternoon’s must-see groups goes off at 1:06 p.m. ET, just in time for Golf Channel’s three-hour broadcast (1-4 p.m. ET).

Past champions Stacy Lewis, Anna Nordqvist and Lexi Thompson, who have five titles at ShopRite between them, will try to feed off each other’s good vibes during the first two rounds.

“What’ll be interesting is that you’ll see three different ways probably of playing the golf course,” said Lewis. “You’ll have Lexi who will bomb it; Anna and I are probably going to hit it pretty straight and hit it good.

So it’ll be three different ways you can win, and be fun playing with people that are obviously comfortable on the golf course. Hopefully see a lot of the putts go in.”

Hinako Shibuno lines up a putt during the 2019 AIG Women’s British Open near Milton Keynes, England. Photo: Tim Ireland/Associated Press

Special invitations

Four players received sponsor invites into this week’s field: Natalie Gulbis, Hinako Shibuno, Brynn Walker and Megha Ganne.

Walker, a senior at North Carolina, has competed in ShopRite’s Monday qualifier six times dating back to her senior year at Radnor High School outside of Philadelphia, advancing twice.

Ganne, the reigning New Jersey Junior Girls champion, competed in the 2019 U.S. Women’s Open, the 2019 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship and the 2019 Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals at Augusta National.

While Gulbis has been a staple at Seaview for two decades, Shibuno is new to American golf. The 2019 AIG Women’s British Open champion turned down LPGA membership last season but now hopes to play her way onto the tour. Shibuno had hoped to participate in LPGA Q-School this season, but it was canceled due to the pandemic. She plans to try next year if she doesn’t play her way onto the tour before that.

“When I played with So Yeon Ryu and Nasa Hataoka at Japan Women’s Open Championship last October, I realized that they were on totally different levels with me,” she said with the help of an interpreter. “That incident made me want to go to the U.S. and compete in more high-level tournaments.”

Source : Golf Week More   

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'Fuzzy' among the gators roaming the grounds at Sanderson Farms Championship

Fuzzy might be near the bottom of a list for words that would describe an alligator. But not in Jackson. Fuzzy (which may or may not be the (...)

'Fuzzy' among the gators roaming the grounds at Sanderson Farms Championship

Fuzzy might be near the bottom of a list for words that would describe an alligator.

But not in Jackson.

Fuzzy (which may or may not be the gator pictured above) became the only named alligator at The Country Club of Jackson according to Head Golf Professional Jason Prendergast ahead of this week’s Sanderson Farms Championship.

“One of my assistants was out giving a junior golf lesson, and they ran into [an alligator], and he named it ‘Fuzzy,'” Prendergast said. “So that’s the only alligator that I’m aware of that’s been ever named out here.”

Prendergast, who started at The Country Club in 2004, spotted his first gator within two years.

Now, about 10 gators occupy the bodies of water at the course.

“The members certainly look for [gators] as they’re playing,” Prendergast said.

Signs warn golfers not to stand near the ponds’ edges. According to Prendergast, a large alligator looms on the left side of No. 16, and another large gator on the left side of No. 17, and hole No. 2 on the Cypress Nine.

Sanderson Farms: Tee times, TV info | Fantasy | Odds, best bets

“Sometimes you have to be a little nervous when you walk over by a pond’s edge to just make sure that there’s not one — just out of sight,” Prendergast said. “But in general, they’re more afraid of us than we are of them, and when they see you they scurry themselves down into the water. And it gets a little spooky, because they’ll submerge and disappear, and you don’t exactly know where they are when they go under.”

Once the gator becomes too large or its attitude becomes too skittish, the Country Club has The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks remove if from the premises.

An alligator lays in the sun at the Sanderson Farms Championship at the Country Club of Jackson. Photo by Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

The Country Club of Jackson called the MDWFP earlier this spring to remove an alligator, and they found an interesting surprise.

“The tag showed that the alligator had already been removed from our property one time before,” Prendergast said. “So I’m not sure where they moved that alligator to – if they moved it up into the reservoir somewhere – but ultimately, that gator had been removed once before, a year or two earlier from our property, and it came back. I guess: They find home somehow.”

Junior programs for Crocs and Gators

The Country Club of Jackson’s junior program began with two names; “Crocs,” for children ages 3-9, and “Gators” for juniors 10-and-up. An alligator head with a golf ball in its mouth is the logo for the program.

“The junior program grew from those two names,” Prendergast said. “Now, we have a National Junior event here at the club, and it’s still referred to as ‘The Gator.'”

The Gator Invitational Junior Championship began as a high school team event for schools in Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky. Arkansas and Georgia from 2013-2017.

It transitioned to an elite individual championship In 2018, and the field has featured players from 25 states and six countries – Mexico, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Thailand, China and South Korea.

More than 100 Gator alums have played at, or committed to, the collegiate level.

According to the Gator’s Co-Chairman Mark Markow, the 2020 event was canceled due to the historic flooding in the Jackson area, but it was scheduled to be held March 12-15, a time where the COVID-19 pandemic started to become a pressing issue.

The event is still finalizing a date for 2021.

“Typically, this event is done in late February or early March, Predergast said, but we’re looking at late summer, early fall, with the hopes of getting through COVID.”

Five Gator alums have competed in the Sanderson Farms Championship: Camden Backel, Ross Bell, Wilson Furr, Braden Thornberry and Hayden Buckley.

Isaiah Jackson will become the sixth when he tees off at 2:50 (ET) on Thursday.

Source : Golf Week More   

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