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Sybase Classic - The place to be and be seen

The LPGA, like much of the world around it, has been beset by rough economic news this season. Sponsors have said goodbye. A flagship tournament -- the Corning Classic -- announced its final run. A must-see event -- the Lorena Ochoa-Suzann Pettersen duel last month -- was not televised in the states. 
But there is good news this week anyway. While we were sleeping, the Sybase Classic in Clifton, N.J., became a hub for star power on the LPGA Tour. One week after the Michelob Ultra Open at Kingsmill -- the LPGA's so-called fifth major -- the Sybase Classic has attracted one of the strongest fields of the season. Ochoa. Pettersen. Cristie Kerr. Paula Creamer. Karrie Webb. Angela Stanford. Michelle Wie. Morgan Pressel. Christina Kim. Birdie Kim. Laura Diaz. Laura Davies. Feels a lot like a major, doesn't it?
Big news always seems to happen at the Sybase. It is where Paula Creamer in 2005 won her first LPGA event as a high school senior, and where Annika Sorenstam a year ago announced she was leaving competitive golf. It is also the tournament Ochoa has won three times in a row. Things happen at the Sybase.
There are obvious reasons why the Sybase pulls in such a strong field (it's a hop, skip and jump from New York City, for starters), but there is a lesser-known factor in play as well.
Each Monday after the Sybase tournament, former LPGA player Val Skinner hosts her annual LIFE event (LPGA Pros in the Fight to Eradicate Breast Cancer) at Ridgewood Country Club in nearby Paramus, N.J.
It is a day of golf, food, laughter and tears as Skinner and 28 pros (many from the Sybase, including Webb, Pressel, Stanford and Christina Kim) raise money and awareness in the fight against breast cancer. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the LIFE event, which Skinner began following the death of LPGA pro Heather Farr to breast cancer at 28.
Skinner has worked tirelessly in the fight against breast cancer. In a way, it all starts at the Sybase, peaks at the LIFE event, and continues all year long.

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by Kevin Cunningham