18th green and Poppy's Pond on a calm Wednesday night before KNC
The LPGA’s first major of the year is in the books and Stacy Lewis is your 2011 Kraft Nabisco champion. But long before the first tee shots it all began for me on Monday as I left a shortened Toshiba Classic (PGA Champions Tour) media day of golf at Newport Beach Country Club to get to Rancho Mirage in time for the Pro-am party.
Alice Cooper jams with Tommy Thayer et al at KNC Pro-am party
And what a party it was with plenty of celebrities, music, and food to go around for the rest of the year. Some of the highlights were the great musicians on stage including the lead guitarist for KISS Tommy Thayer who most wouldn’t recognize without his makeup on. And after he got the crowd all worked up, new Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Alice Cooper joined him to play a few of his classics which really got the room rockin’.
Don Felder sings his Hotel California with Tommy Thayer and band at KNC Pro-am party
And then walked out Don Felder of the original Eagles’ and he played with Thayer and a stellar local rock band and it was worth the long ride to the desert just to hear a great rendition of Felder’s own classic ‘Hotel California’.
Ted Sobel with Alice Cooper at 2011 KNC Pro-am party
No question it was fun hanging with the rockers and it was the first time I had met Cooper in person (I did a phone interview with him a few years ago when he told me that my radio station KFWB was his favorite growing up in L.A. in the early 60’s).
Ted Sobel with Johnny Bench at 2011 KNC pro-am party
I also renewed acquaintances with baseball Hall of Famer Johnny Bench (who was my unofficial caddy and ball retriever last year) and ran into his longtime Dodger rival Steve Garvey along with many other familiar names from the sports and entertainment world-too numerous to mention here. After the music stopped they finally announced our Pro-am pairings and my Tuesday morning group included maybe China’s greatest player Shanshan Feng who’s as nice as she is a stellar player, and ironically the same Tommy Thayer who would replace his guitar for the day with a set of clubs that he could swing pretty well (if only we both could play this game as well as he plays guitar-the guy can really pick it!). We played well as a team but my driving was atrocious and fortunately I helped with a few clutch putts which brought out the best line of the day twice from Feng. She couldn’t help but say with conviction “at least you can putt!” If was overly sensitive I may’ve taken that the wrong way-but of course she was 1,000% correct (just wish I had a better day off the tee to show her I’m not always that lame!) 🙂
with Tommy Thayer (Kiss) and Shanshan 'Jenny' Feng at 2011 KNC Pro-am
My Wednesday group included veteran LPGAer Mi Hyun Kim who’s back on tour after starting a family and it was fun to see her play with a set of $40,000 gold irons.
Ted Sobel with Morgan Pressel at 2011 KNC
Also in my group was Andy Bush who I eventually found out was 2007 KNC Champ Morgan Pressel’s boyfriend and she joined us on 18 where Andy hit the best approach shot I’ve ever seen there (including Lincicome’s classic to win in 2009). It was a laser beam from about 225 yards out from the right rough and over the water that softly landed on the green which we 2 putted for a birdie. Folks, if that shot was in tournament play-we’d be seeing it on Youtube forever. Way to finish strong Andy and Morgan told me that you will never let her forget it, too!
My Wednesday pairing in the KNC Pro-am
I quickly left on Wednesday night to be in studio at KFWB on Thursday morning before heading to the Dodgers’ season opener against the hated Giants. And Friday was a whirlwind working on-air until 2pm before winning the long drive contest back to the desert where for the 3rd straight year I would be the KNC 18th green announcer on Saturday and Sunday.
Ted Sobel with Louise Friberg on KNC Sunday
I had to hustle back and forth a few times late in the 3rd and final rounds to get an interview from a player while still working the 18th green but it’s all in a days work. LPGA pro Louise Friberg who I met while playing in her Pro-am group 2 years ago, joined me for a goodbye hug late on Championship Sunday after she unfortunately missed the cut two days earlier. I wanted a picture with Louise right next to the winner’s trophy to maybe give her some mojo for next year here! I also took a few pictures from my vantage point right behind the bridge on 18 as the players wrapped up the tournament.
My view of Paula Creamer putting out on KNC Sunday
My view of Michelle Wie trying to make her final putt on KNC Sunday
And finally it was Lewis outdueling world #1 Yani Tseng for her first tour win and fulfilling the dream of jumping into Poppy’s Pond.
The Stacy Lewis family pops out of Poppy's Pond
I finished up Sunday getting interviews with the new champion and her father before sending the sound back to the stations and I was done for another year. What I want to stress to you is the most satisfying part of my gig is the passionate response that the fans give each player when I announce their name…it gives me goosebumps sometimes and to see her reaction is simply priceless!! I’d like to thank tournament director Gabe Codding and his entire staff for another great week of hospitality and family atmosphere, the Rancho Las Palmas Hotel for another awesome stay, Donna Hahn and her nice staff in the media tent for helping me with my work needs, old friend Paul Lester (THE golf photographer) for taking some of the nice personal pictures to share with you, and the KNC fans who are always fun to work for. What another great week it was and what a lead-in to this week’s Masters, if only I could be there (even for just once in my life)?