Bright and early on Saturday morning we headed down the street to the HSBC Womenâ€™s World Match Play LPGA event at Hamilton Farm in Gladstone, NJ. My fiancÃ© and I had attended the inaugural event last year, and had been looking forward to this yearâ€™s event ever since!
When we arrived, at 8am, many of the matches had already started. In fact, as we drove into the country club, we passed by Annika Sorenstam teeing off on the 3rd hole. We got a move on, and headed down toward the clubhouse.
The people at HSBC and Hamilton Farm certainly put some more effort into presenting a more professional looking tournament. Near the clubhouse, a spectator village had been setup. With the usual enormous manual scoreboard, as well as some new items including: golf nets with free golf lessons, a golf simulator, a mini-golf putting challenge, a tent with programs, and a giveaway tent. I won myself a little squishy golf ball, quite cute. They had also opened the Hamilton Farm pro shop this year to the general public, so one could pickup some neat Hamilton Farm merchandise. I fell victim to the capitalistic pressure, and bought myself a nice golf shirt and a hat.
After spending a little time in the spectator village, we were off to the course to see some actual golf! We headed over to the 9th green, a long, downhill, par 5 where we could see attempts to reach in two, some putting, and run over to the 10th tee to catch a few drives on a nice dogleg left par 4. It turned out to be a good decision.
Ironically enough, the first group we saw reach the green at 9 was that of the eventual winner Brittany Lincicome and Kyeong Bae. Brittany won the hole as Bae struggled with a poor lie just off the green, ending up with a Bogey. I had never seen Lincicome in person, so I followed them over to the 10th tee and watched them hit their shots. Lincicome certainly hits the ball with a lot of power, with her slightly strange swing. I got a closer look at that later at the driving range.
It was then time to get back to the 9th green, as Michelle Wie looked to be trying to get on in two. She hit a beautiful, low rising long iron that landed dead center of the green, ending 15-20 feet from the hole. A challenging putt to be sure, but I figured a birdie was in orderâ€¦at least. She ended up three putting and halving the hole with Se Ri Pak. Michelle would continue to struggle with the putter the rest of the tournament. Ultimately, she got smoked by Lincicome. I had to see the two of them tee off, so a few steps back over to the 10th tee.
Waiting at the tee box with a few other spectators, someone from HSBC approached us and asked if we would pose for a shot holding up the American flag when Wie teed off. Of course, we obliged (see the picture to the right, thatâ€™s me in the blue hat/white shirt). Michelle proceeded to smash her driver (yup, it was the same SasQuatch I had reviewed), though it looked like she left it out to the right some, but it was certainly quite a way out there.
Back to the 9th green where we watched Creamer & Pressel, Webb & Hurst, Inkster & Hart, and finally Sorenstam & Lang. Sorenstam and Lang provided the greatest excitement of the day. Both had laid up in the landing zone about 75 yards from the green. Lang was away and hit a beautiful lob that hit about 2 feet past the hole, spun back ending up with a 3 foot putt for birdie. Wow, the gallery went crazy. Lang raised her hand, acknowledging the applause. When things quieted down, Annika settled in, took her nice easy swing and bam, her ball hits the green about 2 feet past the hole as wellâ€¦but hers spins back into the cup! I thought the gallery had gone crazy on the last shot!
Annika was in the last group, so it was time to move on. We headed up to the 12th green, and followed the Creamer vs. Pressel match for a bit. It turned out to be far less competitive than I had originally thought it would. Morgan Pressel was quite upset at herself, actually slamming her wedge into the fairway on one hole where she left her shot short of the green. When that match wrapped up, we waited for the two girls to head off. We caught Morgan on her way off the green and I got her to sign the new Hamilton Farm hat. Given the circumstance, she was quite gracious to be there signing autographs. Sadly though, she was pretty shaken up by the loss, to the point of shedding some tears. When she learns to do a better job of controlling her emotions, sheâ€™ll certainly be winning many tournaments.
We caught Hurst vs. Webb here and there. Pat Hurst certainly seemed like she was still a little worn out from last weekâ€™s US Open. She made a few mental errors it seemed, at one point trying to hit out of some very deep rough with her putter.
The third round wrapped up around lunch time so we headed back to the Spectator Village for a bite to eat and to watch the driving range for a while. Sophie Gustafson and Lorena Ochoa were both hitting away at balls when we arrived, followed shortly there after by Michelle Wie and Brittany Lincicome. Wie had her mother and caddy by her side, looking deadly focused on working on her swing. Why she was there and not on the putting green, Iâ€™m not sure. A stark contrast, Brittany Lincicome was chatting away with some people on the range. Hitting balls, and then chatting it up. She was telling some story of having spent too much money at The Mall at Short Hills. Saying that she would have to do well this weekend to pay off her purchases! Good motivating tool, I suppose?
The Quarter Finals would soon begin, so we found ourselves a nice piece of grass near the 1st tee. The introduction of players is always a fun time. Though, I can only imagine how stressful it must be to hit a tee shot with so many people standing around watching. Especially after they just announced that youâ€™re in the World Golf Hall of Fame, won 69 tournaments, and last weekâ€™s US Open.
The rest of the afternoon was entertaining. We did much of the same, following Sophie Gustafson and Lorena Ochoa for a few holes. One interesting story of the afternoon happened at the 7th green. Standing next to me were a group of 5 people speaking Spanish to each other, carrying the Mexican flag. As Sophie and Lorena approach, they go wild, cheering loudly. It was obvious, but I had to ask the man standing next to me, â€œAre you Lorenaâ€™s father?â€ He beamed, and replied with an emphatic â€œYes!â€ At the time Lorena was down 2, and as we left the green I turned to her father and wished him and his daughter luck. Of course, from that point on she turned things around and beat Sophie. All due to my wish of good luck, of course
By this point, the afternoon sun had taken quite a toll on our bodies. It was up to the low 90s without a cloud in the sky. So, shortly after most of the quarterfinal matches were over, we headed home. Of course, little did I know Juli Inkster would birdie several of the last holes, winning her match vs. Annika on the 18th!
There have been rumblings about the membership at Hamilton Farm not wanting to host this event in the future. I overheard several staff members saying how much they wanted to keep the event here, and how the women loved to play here. We will see what happens, but for now, it seems that the HSBC Womenâ€™s World Match Play event will be held elsewhere next season.
In the end, a wonderful time was had. Hamilton Farm is a beautiful golf course, albeit extremely hilly. If the opportunity to play there should ever arise, definitely leap at the chance! If you are just interested in seeing part of the course, hereâ€™s a tip: The US Equestrian Teamâ€™s headquarters is on the course. So, if you can get yourself a tour there, youâ€™re bound to see a fair amount of Hamilton Farm.
Congrats to Brittany Lincicome!