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Torrey Pines will host LPGA event in SeptemberThe 20-player field is invitation onlyBy Tod Leonard Union-Tribune Staff Writer2:00 a.m. March 9, 2009
Paula Creamer won the Samsung World Championship last year, when it was held in Northern California. (File photo / Getty Images) - The LPGA Tour is returning to San Diego this year with a premier tournament to be played at Torrey Pines.
City officials and representatives from International Management Group will announce this morning that the $1 million Samsung World Championship will be played Sept. 17-20 on the Torrey Pines South Course.
The 72-hole event, sanctioned by the LPGA and staged by IMG, will feature 20 of the best players in women's golf, including 2008 Samsung champion Paula Creamer and the tour's biggest star, Mexican Lorena Ochoa.
“Torrey Pines is held in such high regard, and this is a tournament with the best players on the LPGA Tour, so it's an attractive fit that works for everybody,” said Torrey Gane, the tournament director from IMG who moved into a San Diego office recently.
A deal to bring the 29th edition of the Samsung to Torrey Pines has been in the works for more than a year. Negotiations moved slowly until after the 108th U.S. Open was held on the South Course last June. Since then, discussions have focused on matching dates with when the Torrey courses were available.
Initially, the South Course was booked with several large corporate outings during the September week the LPGA had designated for the tournament. The North Course was being considered by IMG, but after two corporations canceled their bookings on the South, it became available.
The city's agreement with IMG is to host this year's tournament, with an option for 2010. Tournament week begins Monday, Sept. 14, but practice by the LPGA players will be limited that day because a corporate outing on the South will go on as scheduled. The North Course will host its usual public play during the week, according to City Golf Manager Jon Maddern.
The deal calls for IMG to reimburse the city's golf enterprise fund for lost green fee revenue on the South and staff overtime during the week. Maddern has estimated that figure to be $200,000.
Maddern said very little extra work is required to bring the South to the LPGA's requirements. He said the tour's agronomy officials have requested the rough be 2½ to 3 inches, and that's around where it's set for the general public. The green speeds will be around 11 on the Stimpmeter, and that can be accomplished in a matter of days.
The women will play the South at about 6,700 yards, or about 80 yards longer than the white tees. “Quite frankly, I think it's going to be very interesting to see what the women shoot out here,” Maddern said. “Their short-iron games and putting has always intrigued me. It's a difficult golf course, we know that.”
This won't be the first time the LPGA has played on the South, although it was a far different track when Hall-of-Famer Patty Sheehan shot 10-under and won the 1983 Inamori Classic. The visit to Torrey turned out to be a one-shot deal. The Kyocera-Inamori Classic wasn't played in 1984 and moved to Fairbanks Ranch Country Club in '85. Twelve Kyocera events were played on five area courses, the last in 1993 at Stardust Country Club, on the Mission Valley property that is now Riverwalk.
The Samsung World Championship was the brainchild of IMG's late founder, Mark McCormick. Since 1980, it has been played at 15 venues, including Bighorn Golf Club in Palm Desert from 2004-07. Annika Sorenstam is the event's all-time winner with five titles.
The Half Moon Bay Golf Links hosted last year, and Creamer, a Northern California native, was the popular winner. Gain said IMG does not keep attendance figures, but she said ticket sales were up 270 percent from the previous year at Bighorn, when Ochoa won.
“There was tremendous appeal at Half Moon Bay, but I'm certain we'll get a lot more fans in San Diego,” Gane said. “It's a true golf community and the first time the LPGA has been here in over 15 years.”
The field will be of top quality. The defending champion (Creamer) and last year's leading money winner (Ochoa) already have qualified. The winners of this season's four majors will be in the field. One exemption goes to the top money winner on the Ladies European Tour (who is often also a member of the LPGA), one goes to a Hall of Fame player if she is in the top 30 on the current money list, and one goes to an invitee of the championship committee. The other players will come from the top 20 on the tour's money list as of Aug. 31.
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