The Sime Darby LPGA 2012

Oct 20, 2012 in , , , ,

When my dear Uncle KC offered my parents and I passes to the Sime Darby LPGA 2012, we couldn’t resist the offer, and on Thursday (October 11), my mom and I went to watch the 72 talented women, including the defending champion, Na Yeon Choi, and World No. 1, Yani Tseng, tee off.

By the time we got there, it was already past nine, but we were held back further at the guardhouse, because we didn’t have a VIP carpark pass. After about 45 minutes, we were finally allowed to enter, but by then, we had missed all the tee offs.

Since we didn't want to go home without seeing anything, we headed out towards the course. It was actually my first time on a golf course, since I don’t usually follow sports all that much. For this LPGA, however, I just had to make an exception, since it was too good an opportunity to miss. The greens were more beautiful than they appear in the pictures, and the rolling hills of green, trimmed trees, and lakes made for gorgeous scenery.

We stayed at the 5th hole for most of the time, watching the players putt for a while as we tried to guess who would be playing in the next batch. Most of the players we wanted to see had just passed, so we decided to go home after watching them play a few rounds.

Not wanting to miss the tee offs again on Saturday, we woke up bright and early, and arrived at KLGCC just past 7am. This time, we had no issues at the guardhouse, and made it to the second hole in time to see most of the tee offs. Unbeknownst to us, the future champion, Inbee Park, would also be teeing off at that hole.

They kept the most exciting players for last, with the stars set to play at around 9am. We watched them play until the sound of pouring rain roared in, and people started opening their umbrellas. It wasn’t too heavy, so the players carried on. My feet got drenched, but that was a small price to pay. The rain continued until after the tee offs, and after the last round, which saw Na Yeon Choi, Sydnee Michaels, and Suzann Petterson start their game. We then decided to go back into the clubhouse for lunch. As we were going back in, the horn sounded, signaling a break from playing.

Though I watched more than twenty players tee off, I could never seem to spot where the ball landed… I’d track it over the trees, and then it’d mysteriously vanish. The only way I knew if it was a good shot (or that it had landed at all, in fact) was when people started clapping. That method stopped working when the umbrellas came up, however – people had their hands full, and couldn’t clap anymore.

With Jessica Korda

The next day, on Sunday, we went later, at around 2pm, not to watch them playing, but rather to see the award ceremony, and hopefully get a few autographs. When we got to the club, we saw that the players were just walking around, so, armed with a giant poster, and a pen we bought solely for this purpose, my mom and I started to look out for players. It was quite interesting, since we didn’t know some of the players too well, and the ones we did know looked different in real life compared to the pictures. We had to come up with inventive ways of identifying them, including matching faces to the ones on the posters, eying their caddies, and reading golf bags sideways.

One of the players we saw was Jean Chua, a Malaysian player who is now based in the U.S., and plays mostly overseas now. This tournament was actually her first time back home for the year, so it's nice to have her home. She's such a sweet girl, and I was really happy to meet her.

Jean Chua and I - isn't she sweet?

Along the way, we made friends with a mother-daughter pair who had forgotten to bring their pen, so we had four pairs of eyes keeping a look out for the players. The girl was most excited for Paula Creamer, and perhaps funniest part of the entire day was when two boys ran towards the restaurant shouting her name. It was like a frenzy, but she wasn’t even there! After that, I couldn’t stop laughing for quite a while – it was just too ridiculous.

We’d gotten a number of autographs by then, including one from Ariya Jutanugarn, the amateur champion, before we knew she had won. She came in a while after the Paula Creamer incident, and a crowd gathered around her.

It was Ai Miyazato, however, who really gave us a taste of how crazy a crowd of fans could be. Guards formed a human barricade around her, and she signed a few autographs over their arms. I wasn’t sure if we would be able to get to her, but the guard let us in, so we got her autograph, which was really awesome. There was a Japanese lady living in Malaysia who went solely to see her.

It was a while later that the next bout of hysteria began, when the clubhouse started to buzz with news that Na Yeon Choi was about to come in. The guards formed another barricade around the entrance, and before long, Choi walked in, wearing a checkered red-and-white shirt. I was particularly excited to see her because I’d heard some pretty awesome things about her.

As she signed autographs for fans, my mom asked her caddie if we could have a moment with her. He nodded, and signaled to us to wait for a little while. Just before she slipped away, he called her back, and I was able to ask her for her autograph, and give her a copy of my book, The Last Chapter, which was published by MPH in 2009. Then, I got a picture with her! It was the only one taken that round, and I was super excited to get it.

From left: Choi, me, and my mom

Just a few moments after she walked away, while I was still slightly reeling from what had just happened, a man from the event walked up to me and gave me a signed ball from Inbee Park! I was really surprised, and so ecstatic. After that, the next thing we had to do wait for her to actually come out. There was quite a bit of anticipation building up, and it was obvious from the growing crowd that people were there just to wait for her.

The crowd grew larger with the minute, and soon, even the staff from the reception were lining up. The funny thing was that Inbee didn’t have a picture on the poster, so people eventually decided to ask her to sign their passes.

From outside, a group of people came in, including Chris Syer, the man with the awesome pink wig I had taken a picture with the day before (everyone was wearing pink in conjunction with Pink Saturday to raise awareness and money for breast cancer). He told us that Inbee was having a press conference, and that she would be coming in soon. Just a couple of minutes before Chris walked in, Badrul, who was part of the media team, came by. He was the guy who took a shot of Chris and I on Saturday, pink wig and all, and uploaded it to the official Sime Darby LPGA Facebook.

Chris with his awesome pink wig

We watched the guards’ movements, looking for any sign of Inbee’s appearance. A couple of times, people who wanted to walk through that path were stopped by the guards because of security, but most of them just wanted to go into the shop. However, I couldn’t help but wonder if anyone was planning to hide in there, and make a run for it when she came… Thankfully, no one did that.

Sometime during the wait, a man came out with Inbee’s trophy, and I got a picture of me hugging it, which was a really fun moment!

After what seemed like a really long time, the guards started talking into their walky-talkies, creating excitement in the crowd, and Inbee Park finally walked in with her entourage. Chris had told us that Inbee would see us, so we waited for a little while until the guards called her over. I congratulated her, then asked her to sign my tag, and gave her a copy of my book. She left shortly after that, and as the media team walked away, I asked a man, whose name we later found out was Ross, if he had any of Inbee’s golf balls, but he didn’t. He asked if we had gotten a signed cap, which we hadn’t, and he proceeded to take off his own cap, damp from being out in the rain, and looked for Inbee, coming back a few seconds later with her autograph, which was pretty amazing.

Seeing Inbee rounded up the 4-day LPGA tournament, which was truly an unforgettable experience for me. It certainly wasn’t something I expected, and to be honest, I wasn’t really sure what to expect, going in. For it to turn out as well as it did was amazing, and I am so grateful for everything that happened.

I would like to thank Uncle KC so much for exposing me so much to the world of golf (and for telling me what exactly a par is), and also to Badrul, Chris, and Ross for making the experience all the more memorable. I definitely learned more about golf in the four days of the tournament than in my entire life. It also changed some of my preconceived notions about golf, and I learned to value it as a demanding sport, and that the professional players work hard, traveling from place to place to compete. The players are all such wonderful people, with really great attitudes and talents, and it was so awesome to get to see them in action, and meet them as well.

Last picture of the day with Jenny Shin from South Korea