Parting ways

Rosie Jones (pictured) was at the Atlanta airport at 5 a.m. Monday morning, trying to get to Corning, N.Y. The LPGA had asked her to represent the players at a news conference April 20, when Corning Classic officials announced the event would come to an end in May. Corning came on board in 1979 and is the LPGA’s longest-running title sponsor.

Weather delays kept Jones from making the trip, so she sent a letter expressing her sadness to a community that had heartily embraced the two-time Corning champ.

“It’s just an icon of events,” Jones said by phone later that evening. “People came from all over. That tournament put (that area) on the map.”

The Corning Classic is about as community-driven as tournaments come. Jones called it the “perfect tournament model.” Look no further than the downtown leaderboard to get an idea of how big the LPGA is to the people of Steuben County.

Betsy King, also a two-time Corning champ, recalls downtown businesses participating in a Corning window display contest in the early days.

“It’s nice to play in a town like that,” said King, “where you’re the social event of the year.”

King also remembers the LPGA’s then-resident band, “The Unplayable Lies,” made its debut at a Corning pro-am party sometime in the early 80’s. The ensemble of players was such a hit they were immediately booked by other tournaments.

Corning is rare not only because of its longtime sponsor, but also for its longtime venue. King noted how much Corning Country Club changed during its time as host, specifically how much the trees matured.

“It got a lot tighter,” she said.

Kind of like this economy, which pinched the tournament’s budget until finally cried uncle. News of Corning’s departure stings the LPGA community.

The immediate question, of course, being “What tournament is next?”

• Mind games: It’s good to see Lorena Ochoa lighting it up in Mexico. She seemed out of sorts in her last two LPGA starts, showing an unusual amount of frustration on the golf course. Ochoa’s most valuable trait is her mind, making it all the more surprising to see the level-headed player repeatedly lose her cool.

Ochoa is bogey-free through two rounds at the Corona Championship with 14 birdies and one eagle. In this economy, the LPGA needs its World No. 1 to keep her head in the game. That Morelia scorecard is a good sign.

• Border patrol: No offense to the good people of Morelia, but if Paula Creamer, should have sat this week out. Creamer told the Mexican media on at a pre-tournament press conference that doctors still don’t know why she’s been sick since last November.

The stomach pains started at the ’08 ADT Championship, which happens to come right after the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Guadalajara. Creamer said at the Kraft Nabisco Championship that she may have picked up a parasite while in Mexico last year. Whatever the case, I’d stay north of the border until doctors get it figured out.

Creamer will skip next month’s Michelob Ultra Open to play in Japan.

• Amateur hour: Ana Alicia Malagon put on quite a show for the home crowds Thursday at the Corona Championship, setting an event record with six consecutive birdies on Nos. 6-11. The 17-year-old finished at 3-under 70.

• Will play for money: Hannah Yun turned 17 years old last week and cashed her first paycheck on the Duramed Futures Tour. Tour rules stipulate that a player can’t play as a professional on the Futures Tour before the age of 17, and even then must receive special permission.

Yun played in 13 Futures Tour events as an amateur before turning pro. She earned $534 last week at the Louisiana Pelican Classic. With mom and dad along for the ride, Yun most certainly lost money after subtracting travel expenses.

She’d probably make more money working at The Gap this summer, but that’s not the point.

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