LPGA stars come out for inaugural Diamond Resorts TOC

NAPLES, FL - NOVEMBER 18: Brittany Lincicome reacts after a putt on the first green during the final round of the LPGA CME Group Tour Championship at Tiburon Golf Club on November 18, 2018 in Naples, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) Michael Reaves/Getty Images

LPGA stars come out for inaugural Diamond Resorts TOC

LPGA Tour

LPGA stars come out for inaugural Diamond Resorts TOC

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Brittany Lincicome stood off to the side on the second tee, driver in hand, and offered advice, quips and commentary during the Mixed-Gender Long Drive competition. It was a light-hearted affair, featuring three shots apiece from John Smoltz, Mark Rypien, Jeremy Roenick and the LPGA player known as “Bam Bam.”

“Are there prizes?” Lincicome asked before going off in the anchor position. “If I throw my back out, are there prizes?”

Roenick, a nine-time National Hockey League All-Star who turns 49 on Thursday, suggested Lincicome hit 3-wood to keep ’em in it.

The LPGA’s 2019 season kicks off Thursday with the inaugural Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions, featuring 26 LPGA players and 49 celebrities. Lincicome, winner of the last two season-opening events, came up short in the long drive contest, putting up a best effort of 255 yards into the wind. Smoltz, who backed off several times to “let the wind play through,” came up three yards short of winner Roenick at 279 yards.

“Into the wind is not my specialty,” said Lincicome. “I’m more of a downwind hit it hard let it fly kind of girl.”

Players at the TOC stay at the Four Seasons and are treated to a variety of concerts and carts for their practice rounds. Stacy Lewis said the week had a low-key vibe to it, a nice way to ease into a new year, particularly for a player coming off of maternity leave.

She particularly enjoyed around being all-star athletes cutting it up on the range. Her husband, Gerrod Chadwell, had already asked Tom Glavine for an autograph. They might hit up Smoltz later in the week too.

“I feel like events like this are really going to help us get more eyeballs on us,” said Lewis, “get more people paying attention. We’re on network TV this weekend, so I feel like we’re trending, but we still haven’t reached our peak yet. So I always feel like there’s work to do.”

While the LPGA champions compete for a $1.2 million purse, the celebrities have their own 72-hole Stableford competition with $500,000 up for grabs.

When asked what’s more nerve-wracking, being on the mound of inside the ropes at the Diamond Resorts, Mulder didn’t hesitate.

“It’s this for sure,” he said. “I’ve gotten used to it more over the years, but the first few times, I can’t begin to describe to people how the energy, the nervousness that was in me. I mean, with baseball, I was confident in what I was doing. It didn’t matter. I didn’t see the fans. I didn’t hear anything. But then when that happened, next thing you know, the cameras are showing up. And the thoughts that go through your head, I’d never had them before in my life, so that’s what made it a different animal.”

The celebrities here this week aren’t hacks on the golf course, and they understand that there’s a bigger tournament going on alongside their celebrity event.

“I don’t know how these guys feel,” said Roenick, “but I literally want to go out and try to beat them. … I’m not kidding. I have that kind of competitive mode in me. Even if I have no chance, at least in my mind, if I can go out there and try to compete with them and try to hit the ball in the fairway, hit greens and try not push them, to me, that’s going to be a great inspiration for me.”

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