It will have been 232 days since they graced our presence. The lasting image of Cristie Kerr hoisting the 2006 trophy remains intact. The blistering first round 64 by Annika Sorenstam elicits memories of a classic showdown on Sunday.
The silky-smooth swing of Mexican sensation Lorena Ochoa prompted golfers to pack area practice ranges. Paula 'Pink Panther' Creamer prowling from driving range to the first tee box all the while signing autographs just speaks to the character of these ladies.
Visuals and crowd-speak of the sultry Natalie Gulbis embedded to memory. Hometown heroine Stacy Prammanasudh visiting with family and friends after her rounds conjure up all that is right with professional sports. Excited? Hell yeah!
The time has come. The LPGA's SemGroup Championship presented by John Q. Hammons returns to Tulsa April 30 -- May 6. The tournament is the only annual, professional sporting event in town.
I'd like to think I support all Tulsa area sporting events to a certain degree. However, I implore you to attend the LPGA event at least once this week. You'll become a believer.
The city and Cedar Ridge Country Club must be doing something right. World class golfers continue to make the trek to Tulsa one of their favorite stops on tour. Word of mouth continues to spread as the field gets stronger each year.
The LPGA in general is exploding in popularity. More televised coverage has helped showcase the ladies in all their glory.
"It's really good to be involved in some of the most exciting times in LPGA golf. It's just going to get better from here on out," says Tulsa's very own Prammanasudh.
She is one of the rising stars set to tee it up May 4-6. A first time entrant to T-town's tournament, Morgan Pressel recently captured her first LPGA victory at the Kraft Nabisco Championship. At 18 years of age, she became the youngest major champion.
The youth movement on tour is in full effect. The ailing Sorenstam contributed to Tulsa's marketability over the years. She was diagnosed with a ruptured disk and bulging disk and is forced to miss this year's event. We will miss her.
In the end, it pushes the new wave of stars on the tour to the forefront. "Oh it's fantastic. It's exciting to have so many great finishes week to week," said Stacy P. Stacy is looking for her second victory on tour this season.
"It's great to play at home and stay in your own bed and be in your normal surroundings. It's an exciting week and there is a lot of pressure. It is good just having everybody behind me," she continued.
Imagine the pressure of competing in front of a gallery full of family and friends. Now add to that the world's best golfers putting low scores on the leaderboard all weekend long.
"Everybody expects so much from you based on previous play or the Stacy they know when they are playing with her on Saturdays," said Stacy P., slipping in a solid third person reference for good measure.
"You want to perform well in front of the people you are closest to. At the same time, it is just another event and you have to approach it that way. You can't expect more of yourself than what you do on a normal basis or it will be just that much more pressure," she said.
Just in case world class competition and personal pressure are not enough, there is also the golf course to deal with. Cedar Ridge CC has hosted the tournament since 2004.
"Tough but Fair" has been used to describe par 71 course tucked away in Broken Arrow. The traditional layout requires accuracy over distance. But you'll never hear a golfer complain about a little extra length.
Mature trees mark the entire course. When avoiding the foliage, sand traps are waiting to further complicate matters. Don't forget about Little Haikey Creek. The waterway runs through the middle of the course. Water can come into play on 11 of the 18 holes.
The greens are on the smallish side. An average area of only 6,000 square feet welcomes the approach shot on to the putting surface.
Drive for show and putt for dough right? The top players year after year have one thing in common. They roll the little white dimpled ball into the cup consistently.
"I'm feeling really comfortable with my putter. The belly putter was new at the beginning of last year -- a little learning process there. I've taken a few lessons in the offseason - trying to work on being more consistent," said TU grad Prammanasudh.
The SemGroup Championship has named The Children's Hospital at Saint Francis as the official Tournament charity for '07.
The tournament gets live coverage on ESPN2. We have another outstanding opportunity to showcase our city to a national audience.
You should have your tickets by now. If you do not, call (877) 583-9925 or visit HYPERLINK "http://www.semgroupchampionship.com"; www.semgroupchampionship.com for details.
See you on the course. I'll be the one getting served with the restraining order(s). Good Times, who's with me?
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