2019 Hugel-Air Premia L.A. Open: Back For More!
February 26, 2019
By Andy Brumer
The stars will be shining full force on Apr. 25-28 at the second present day iteration of the LPGA’s Hugel-Air Premia L.A. Open, but you won’t have to wait until dark to see them. Rather virtually all the top players on the LPGA Tour will be showcasing their skills in the bright daylight illuminating the fairways and greens of the historic Wilshire CC, as it celebrates its 100th birthday this year.
But beyond the glitz and glamour universally associated with the City of Angels (and stamped into both its psyche and landscape by the iconic Hollywood sign, visible from every spot on the course,) this tournament exudes both an almost calming sense of dignity and a level of athletic competition and excellence of the highest order. That said, by all indications this second playing of the event will prove an encore performance even more applause worthy than the first.
“Wilshire CC had just over three months to prepare for the tournament last year,” points out Ricki Lasky, the LPGA Tour’s Chief Tournament Business Officer, “yet they really hit it out of the park."
“Their staff and membership, as well as the tournament volunteers that are so important to us… everyone involved with the tournament… all did their jobs wonderfully. “What’s more,” she continues, “the players…and like last year, we’re expecting one of the strongest fields on our schedule again this year…all loved competing on such an iconic, beautiful and challenging course.”
Lasky notes that both attendance and TV ratings on Golf Channel were great last year, and she expects the same if not even better numbers for this year’s event.
“We’re looking forward to becoming a staple in the L.A. community and returning to play at Wilshire each year going forward,” she says.
All involved took notes and learned from last year’s tournament, with the goal of making this L.A. Open even better.
Eiger Marketing Group, based in Seattle and Connecticut owns and operates the tournament out of their L.A. Office, with David Tucker serving as Eiger’s Tournament Manager for the L.A. Open. Tucker points out that along with Hugel and Air Premier (a Korea-based cosmetic manufacturing company and a new Korean airlines, respectively) and the event’s other sponsors, including the Korean Bank CBB and UCLA Health “all have really stepped up their involvement and commitment to making this a great tournament.”
Tucker delineates some of the improvements and changes fans can look forward to at Wilshire CC in April, including: additional bleachers installed on the course for better viewing, more bicycle racks at the course in anticipation of “the surprising,” as Tucker says, number of people who like last year will pedal to the tournament, a ‘Game Zone,’ with golf educational and entertainment features and experiences for adults and kids alike located adjacent to the first fairway, and many more of the fan favorite, locally-based food trucks on site featuring a variety of familiar ethnic cuisines.
What’s more, both on and off the course, Tucker points out the tournament will strongly support women and girls.
“We’ll have a motivational and inspirational ‘Ladies Leadership Luncheon’ at the club during Tournament week,” he begins, “ which will be attended by prominent L.A. women, who are leaders in the entertainment industry, medicine, education, business, banking and other fields.”
Tucker also reveals a program new for this year called “Playing with the Pro.” With the assistance of the SCPGA (Southern California Professional Golfers' Association) a junior golfer will be selected for what will surely be one of the great day of her young golfing life, as she will play an 18 hole practice round on Tuesday of Tournament week with one of the LPGA participants entered in the event.
Patrick O’Grady, Wilshire CC’s President, speaks of the overwhelming enthusiasm with which the club’s membership has embraced the LPGA players and the tournament as a whole.
As for changes to the course since last year, O’Grady notes that “the main feature we’re changing in response to LPGA feedback will be our range, as we’re making it 50% wider and longer than it was before.”
That said, in 2009 the course underwent significant modifications spearheaded by golf course architect Kyle Phillips. Geared to making the property more water efficient (i.e., more drought resistant), the changes Phillips made also returned several holes closer to MacBeth’s 1919 original design.
Course Superintendent Brian Sullivan adds that “the course’s present Hybrid Bermuda grass that replaced the old Common Bermuda on the course has resulted in firmer conditions that contributes to the ball rolling out farther, especially in winter.
“The fairways are now also top-dressed with sand,” he continues, “which adds to the course’s firmness.” This, Sullivan points out, allows it to play closer to their Scottish links-style ancestor and archetype courses that influenced MacBeth’s original vision and design for Wilshire in the first place.
Speaking of the course… quite literally… Danielle Kang, who grew up in Southern California speaks for many of her LPGA Tour player counterparts when she says, “Wilshire is a real shot makers course, that tests all parts of one’s game.” Last year’s Champion, Moriya Jutanugarn describes the course as “tough,” and adds that “it has a lot of tricky holes and greens that vary a lot in size.” She notes that a key to her victory last year was her ability to keep the ball on the course’s many undulating and well-bunkered fairways.
Another local star, Altadena born and bred, Mo Martin takes pride in the fact that the “new” L.A. Open is well-situated to take place as a high-status annual event along side the PGA Tour’s Tiger Woods Foundation operated Genesis L.A. Open, played at Riviera CC each February. Chinese Star Shanshan Feng, who lives in the L.A. area when not traveling the Tour, appreciates the large Asian golf fan base in the area. Not quite as an aside, she adds that “LA has a lot of very good food…and that’s very important!” Long hitting 20 year old Angel Yin(an L.A. area native as well) speaks about how much she enjoys “sleeping in my own bed,” during the L.A. Open’s tournament week.
If all of this sounds something like an ideal blend of a very happy family and a well-oiled sports business machine, you wouldn’t be far from the truth. All that’s needed, then, to complete this star studded cast is you, the fans, to come out and watch the action at Wilshire CC. Certainly that’s done best and enjoyed most in person, but, if it’s not possible, snuggle up on your favorite chair or couch and bask in the starlight of all the drama as it unfolds on TV.
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