It’s a star-studded leaderboard at the inaugural Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions, where 26 LPGA pros and 49 celebrities are putting on quite the party. Brooke Henderson, who twice played at Tranquilo when it was a PGA Champions event, fed off the good memories in a second-round 67. Henderson’s 10-under 132 gives her a two-stroke lead over current No. 1 Ariya Jutanugarn, former No. 1 Lydia Ko and Eun-Hee Ji.
Lexi Thompson sits four back in a share of sixth place.
Henderson played alongside tennis pro Mardy Fish, twice a winner in the celebrity division of the former DRI. Fish holds a one-point lead over John Smoltz in the stableford format.
“Sometimes when you step up to hit a tee shot or you step up to make a putt, you’re like, ‘Oh, this actually does mean something,’ ” said Henderson of the unique format. “It’s not like just in a Pro-Am where, if this goes in, it’s great. It’s sort of like, I need this one. So it’s just a constant reminder of remembering to stay focused and stay in it.”
Ko can’t get enough of the format, saying if every week had a celebrity component she’d play in 30-plus events.
On Friday, Ko played with Chad Pfeifer, an Army veteran who lost his leg during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2007 when his truck was hit with a pressure plate IED. Pfeifer picked up golf at the Brooke Army Medical Center as a form of therapy.
“Chad, obviously, with his leg amputee, it’s so impressive,” said Ko. “He’s a right-handed player, and you’re always loading into that left leg. I complained that I have a zit on my face, and there’s him without one leg, and he loves his life, and he’s so happy, and he’s so talented. So I really had a great time. He even cracked a joke. He left one putt a little short, and he’s like, ‘Oh, man, I’m one leg short.’ Just for him to say things like that just shows how amazing these celebrities are.
Jutanugarn peppered former NBA star Ray Allen with questions about being a top athlete during their round. Even with the good conversation, Jutanugarn wasn’t expecting to shoot 4 under after hitting it “everywhere.” She credits a new attitude for being able to hold the round together.
“I’m going to say yes because like before, when I missed the shot, I feel like, you know what, it’s the end of the world. I can’t hit a good shot anymore,” she said. “Especially the last two days, today and yesterday, I’m just like bad shot, so what? Just keep my head down and go hit the next shot.”
Thompson felt her 69 could’ve been much improved had several putts not burned the edges. They were tough reads, she said.
“I know my game’s in a good spot,” said Thompson. “I’ve been working on it. It’s not as good as it was at CME, but it’s still right there.”