The grandstands and scoreboards are set up around Lake Merced Golf Club, the installation art pieces that are the trademark of the tournament sponsor are on the course, and all of the physical pieces are in place as LPGA golf action returns to the Bay Area this week with the advent of the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic. The final touch, before practice rounds begin and the players get ready for competition, was the selection of the last two players in the field via a Monday qualifying tournament.
A field of forty hopefuls teed it up this morning at Lake Merced Golf Club to vie for the final two spots in the field in the inaugural Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic. Notable names vying for the chance to play against the LPGA’s best included Bay Area favorite Casie Cathrea, 18, of Livermore, taking her first steps into a pro career after leaving Oklahoma State University; Laura Diaz, a 15-year pro with two LPGA Tour victories and four Solheim Cup appearances to her credit; Sacramento’s Kim Welch, winner of Golf Channel’s reality/competition show Big Break Ka’anapali; and San Jose State graduate Pat Hurst, a 20-year professional with six wins, including one major, and five Solheim Cup appearances on her resumé.
The final two spots in the field went to Venezuela’s Veronica Felibert, and Brogan McKinnon, of Canada. The pair were the only two players to shoot under par on the 6,507-yard course, Felibert posting a 4-under 68, and McKinnon coming in with a 2-under 70. Laura Diaz was two strokes back of McKinnon at even par. Felibert, a 2008 graduate of the University of Southern California, turned pro in 2009 and played two years on the Symetra Tour, the LPGA’s developmental tour, before moving up to the LPGA in 2012. McKinnon, who had a successful junior and amateur career in Canada, is in her rookie year on the Symetra Tour.
McKinnon had this to say after her round, “Lake Merced is a challenging course and the staff here are tremendous. It’s gratifying to earn my way into my first LPGA event. Hopefully the first of many to come.”
Casie Cathrea, who set the course record at Lake Merced with the 11-under 61 she shot in medal play at the 2012 USGA Junior Girls’ Championship two years ago, got her round off to a clean start with a string of four pars before running into trouble at the 381-yard par-4 fifth hole, where she made triple-bogey. She finished with a 7-over round of 79.
The 144-player field for the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic features fourteen of the top fifteen players in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings. Bay Area and Northern California players in the field for the event include Pleasanton native Paula Creamer, ranked #9 in the world in the Rolex Rankings; World Golf Hall of Fame member Juli Inkster, of Los Altos; Michelle Wie, a native of Hawaii who graduated from Stanford University last year while playing on the LPGA Tour; Sacramento native Natalie Gulbis; Monterey’s Mina Harigae; and San Jose native Christina Kim.
The tournament carries a $1.8 million purse, one of the largest non-major purses on the LPGA Tour. Regulation play begins Thursday, April 24th, and concludes Sunday, April 27th at Lake Merced Golf Club, with practice rounds Tuesday and a pro-am Wednesday.