Bell Micro LPGA Classic returns to revamped RTJ trail site at Magnolia Grove
While I was in Mobile, Ala., in March, I met Lorena Ochoa for the first time.
Well sort of.
I met the cardboard cutout of the LPGA star as “she” was traveling the state to promote the Bell Micro LPGA Classic. I even had my picture taken with her on the porch of Magnolia Grove, the Robert Trent Jones site in Mobile that will host the tournament May 10-16.
Unfortunately, Ochoa pulled a fast one on everybody and announced her surprising retirement last week after one final swan song, the Tres Marias Championship in Morelia, Mexico, where she finished sixth.
But don’t feel sorry for the folks at the Bell Micro LPGA Classic for losing Ochoa and their marketing campaign. Even without the world’s former No. 1 player, the field is a strong one, featuring the likes of Michelle Wie, Natalie Gulbis, Morgan Pressel, Cristie Kerr, Karrie Webb, Jiyai Shin, Yani Tseng and Anna Rawson to name a few. The top nine women in the world (minus the injured Paula Creamer) will be teeing it up.
Also adding some excitement to the tournament is the newly revamped Crossings course at Magnolia Grove. I had played the Crossings course years ago and remembered little – that’s never a good thing – when I returned to tee it up again in March. The new course shines much brighter now. It’s a more dynamic test of golf, while actually becoming easier for everyday hackers.
Nearly 5,000 trees were removed, opening up more forgiving corridors off the tee. And the greens were softened. Anybody who’s played on the RTJ trail knows what a smart move that is for attracting future customers who don’t hit it like pros on tour.
“It’s a lot more playable than most of the other trail courses,” says director of golf Paul Martino.
Several new water features still give the course some teeth and provide even more aesthetics. According to the tournament website, the players love the new look.
“I think the changes are awesome,” Solheim Cup team member and LPGA Player Brittany Lincicome is quoted as saying. “It plays long, but for myself that’s fine.”
The sister course of Crossings, Magnolia Grove’s Falls course, is currently closed for a similar renovation project that should be finished by this fall. The mammoth waterfall fronting the green on the par-5 10th hole inspired its name.
I won’t be able to return to Mobile to cover the LPGA tournament. I’m bummed because Mobile’s a fun-loving town with some cool hangouts like Wintzell’s Oyster House and Callaghan’s Irish Social Club.
I’ll be watching from afar instead to see how the ladies fare on the holes I birdied and bogeyed. Coverage on The Golf Channel runs tape-delayed on Thursday (5:30-7 p.m.) and Friday (11 p.m.-1 a.m.) and live on the weekend from 3-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
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