by Jeff Skinner
There’s never anything wrong with a trip to Hawaii and after a four year hiatus from America’s paradise the LPGA will once again tee it up under the ever present Hawaiian sun.
The LOTTE Championship Presented by J Golf represents one of the five new tournaments that the LPGA has added to the 2012 season and while it is a new tournament and a new sponsor it isn’t a new venue. Ko Olina Golf Club in Oahu hosted the LPGA from 1990-95 and then again from 2006-2008.
At least two LPGA golfers will be more than pleased to compete at Ko Olina once again; Paula Creamer who was the last winner here and Michelle Wie who spent much of her young life growing up and learning the game at Ko Olina.
The LOTTE Championship has a fine field of 144 golfers including Yani Tseng, Cristie Kerr, Suzann Pettersen, Stacy Lewis and all but one of the top ten ladies in the Official Rolex Rankings. The LPGA has made a wise decision in changing the tournament to a Wednesday start with a finish on Saturday. That change and the time difference has enabled the tour to get some much needed live, prime time exposure on the Golf Channel.
I was fortunate to have a chance to play Ko Olina a few years ago on a trip to Oahu. My brother served as travel agent for our group and we stayed at the JW Marriott Ihlani Resort which includes Ko Olina and where the LPGA players are staying. It’s a luxury resort with a well deserved reputation of excellence.
We played Ko Olina and the Palmer Course at the Turtle Bay Resort. We had planned another round during our week but with so much to do on the island we opted out of the third round for another day of sightseeing. Needless to say it was an amazing trip.
The course at Ko Olina was a fine layout with plenty of great looking holes and some spectacular water features. Let’s just say that Ko Olina had waterfalls before Donald Trump made them a standard at his courses. It winds through a beautiful piece of property just a wedge from the resort.
Ko Olina is proud of their relationship with Michelle Wie and they have pictures and plaques referring to Wie as “our adopted daughter.” Wie spent her early years playing at Ko Olina and eating at Roy’s. So I learned on our last day there when we had our “Michelle” spotting.
After our round we stopped for a cold one at the world famous Roy’s Restaurant at Ko Olina and then for some souvenirs in the pro shop. Ko Olina’s logo includes a lady bug and once my brothers and I saw that we scooped up some items for my sister who has a real thing for lady bugs.
Well that wasn’t enough and on our last day there we promised to swing by the pro shop so she could stock up on all the lady bugs she wanted. As we were leaving the pro shop which is in the same building as Roy’s we passed a group of people waiting at the curb for their car. We all were distracted I’m sure by all the laughs we were having about the swarm of lady bugs my sister was carrying and we walked past the family as they waited.
As we were about to get in our cars for the ride to the airport, it hit me, I looked back up at the family and sure enough there was the six foot tall, teenage Michelle done up in her Sunday best, waiting with her parents. It’s kind of hard to go unnoticed when you’re a six foot teenage girl but for a minute we missed her. I looked at my brother and we both realized that it was Michelle. We got in one last look, verifying it was her before she stepped into her car.
I can understand why Michelle has such affection for Ko Olina. She grew up around the place and has years of great memories. It only took me one week to get mine.