Some of the world’s greatest golfers will display their skills for local fans this week, as the Airbus LPGA Classic takes place at the Magnolia Grove course off Moffett Road in West Mobile.
The actual tournament begins Thursday, May 22, and concludes Sunday, May 25. The players, though, have been here all week for numerous events.
“Mobile has a strong legacy of hosting the best women’s golfers in the world, and this year it is going to a higher level,” said John Cannon, president of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail (of which Magnolia Grove is a part). “Inbee Park and Stacy Lewis, the top two players in the world, will be competing in Mobile against 142 other world-class golfers.”
Members of the LPGA compete all season long to collect points in official tournaments. At the end, the points are totaled and a winner receives the CME Globe. The Airbus Classic champion receives 500 points.
Lewis is the current leader, as she has 1,979 points after a victory May 4 at the North Texas LPGA Shootout. She won the 2012 Mobile title with a four-round total of 271.
Up next with 1,540 points and a victory in her home state of Hawaii on April 19 is perhaps the most famous athlete on the tour — 6-foot-1 Michelle Wie. Now 24, she captured headlines at age 10 by becoming the youngest player to qualify for a USGA amateur championship.
Other members of the Top Ten who are signed up to play and compete for the $1.3 million purse include Karrie Webb (1,147 points; 2 wins this season), Anna Nordqvist (1,150 points; 2 wins), 19-year-old Lexi Thompson (1,135 points; won Kraft Nabisco Championship), Azahara Munoz (1,123 points), Paula Creamer (1,111 points; 1 win; won Mitchell Company Tournament of Champions event in 2007), Park (1,033 points) and Chella Choi (887 points).
“The event in Mobile has become a fixture on the LPGA Tour schedule and we look forward to working with Airbus to continue a first-class event,” said LPGA Tour Commissioner Mike Whan. “The Southern hospitality of Mobile sponsors, volunteers and fans is second to none on the Tour.”
Airbus, which is constructing its first U.S.-based aircraft assembly plant at the Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley, announced in January it would become the tournament’s sponsor.
“With Airbus as the new title sponsor, this tournament will be an even larger international event,” Cannon said. “Not only will we get to see some of the world’s best athletes complete, but the international exposure and economic impart are tremendous.
“With the Airbus LPGA Class on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail in 2014, the eyes of the international golf community will be on America’s original golf trail.”
Other Top 25 players in the Women’s Rolex Golf Rankings set to play include Suzann Petterson, SoYeon Ryu, Na Yeon Choi, Angela Stanford (the Mobile event’s first winner in 2008), Catriona Matthew, Amy Yang, I.K. Kim, Se-Ri Pak and Hee Young Park.
Jennifer Johnson is coming back as the defending champion. She shot a 7-under-par round of 65 to win the event by one stroke, and set the tournament record with a 21-under par total of 267.
A qualifying tournament took place Monday. Filling the last two spots in the field are Ariya Jutanugarm and Paula Hurtado.
The involvement of Airbus as a sponsor added an unusual twist this week. The long-drive contest took place Tuesday on Runway 18 at the Brookley Aeroplex, adjacent to the plant currently under construction.
Tournament play on the 6,521-yard, par-72 course takes place Thursday and Friday, from 7:15 a.m. until dark. The Golf Channel will carry action on a tape-delay from 5:30 to 8 p.m. For the final two rounds, the Golf Channel will be live from 2 to 5 p.m.
For those wishing to attend, tickets range from $10 (one-day pass), $40 (pass for each day of event), $125 (one-day pass to the Sky Box on 18th hole, which includes covered seating plus light food and beverages), $550 (pass for each day to the Sky Box), $135 (Par Package offers 15 tickets good for any day), $280 (Birdie Package offers 35 tickets, good for any day), $600 (Eagle Package offers 85 tickets, good for any day) and $1,200 (Double Eagle Package offers 200 tickets, good for any day).
The Magnolia Grove course includes creeks, marshland and lakes, with each of the holes carved from a forest of hardwoods and pines. Although the facility stretches over 54 holes, only the Crossing Course will host the LPGA tournament.
For complete details on the tournament, visit www.AirbusLPGAclassic.com or call 251-645-0075.