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LPGA back at Kingsmill Resort this week
September 05, 2012

Ai Miyazato, Rolex Rankings No. 5
Cristie Kerr, Rolex Rankings No. 10
Lexi Thompson, Rolex Rankings No. 26
Marcela Leon, Big Break Atlantis Champion

Williamsburg, Va., is back on the map for the LPGA Tour as it welcomes a 144-player field competing for a $1.3 million purse at the Kingsmill Championship. The River Course was previously home to the Michelob ULTRA Kingsmill Championship, which was founded in 2003 and was on the tournament schedule for seven years. After a two-year break, it returns for the 2012 season and will be final stop before the Tour heads over to the United Kingdom for the season’s final Major.

Rolex Rankings No. 10 Cristie Kerr, the 2005 and 2009 Michelob ULTRA at Kingsmill Champion, is the most recent winner at vaunted River Course at Kingsmill Resort. She opened with rounds of 69, 63, and 66 but was in a four-way tie for the lead before a birdie on 15 in the final round pulled her ahead. She closed with a 1-under 70 to finish at 16-under 268, just one stroke ahead of I.K. Kim. Kerr returns to the course looking to earn her fifth top-10 finish of the season with includes a T4 at the Safeway Classic Presented by Coca-Cola, T9 at the U.S. Women’s Open, T4 at the LPGA Lotte Championship Presented by J Golf and T6 at the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup.

Others slated to be in the field this week include the CN Canadian Women’s Open runner-up Inbee Park and Rolex Rankings No. 2 Stacy Lewis.

Is this the week? There has been plenty of excitement building as the LPGA returns to the Kingsmill Resort for the first time since 2009. But perhaps no one has looked forward to this event being back on the Tour’s schedule more than two-time champion Cristie Kerr (@CKGolferChic).

“I've got great memories here and I stay with a great family, the Wickers, and it's such a great time,” said Kerr. “The golf course is one of my favorites, it's about my favorite on Tour, and I've just got good feelings all around when I come here.”

Kerr won the Michelob ULTRA at Kingsmill in 2005 and in 2009, the last year an LPGA tournament was held here. Still the 14-time LPGA Tour winner comes back to the event having not captured a victory in over two years. Kerr’s last win came at the 2010 LPGA Championship Presented by Wegmans and she’s eager to find a way to get back in the winner’s circle.

Could being back at a place where she’s won multiple times provide a little extra energy boost for Kerr as she chases that goal.

“I think it does,” she said. “I felt that walking around the golf course today. Yeah, I want to win really bad. It's getting to the point where okay, it's time for one. I'm doing everything in my power to do it, you know, it's just got to happen now.”

Ai Miyazato might call Okinawa, Japan home but the six-year LPGA Tour veteran feels right at home in Virginia this week for the Kingsmill Championship. Miyazato has an impressive resume at the Kingsmill Championship where she finished sixth in 2007 and ninth in 2009.

“First of all, it's nice to be back here, I just love this golf course and I just missing this tournament really bad,” said Miyazato. “I feel really happy to be here. The golf course is in good shape and I had a practice round yesterday and the day before, and I played pro‑am today. The greens are beautiful. The course is in good shape. It's really fun to play.”

Historically the Kingsmill Championship has always attracted a large crowd due to the tremendous support of the surroundings communities and according to Miyazato, this is one of her favorite aspects of the week.

“Like I said, I love the tournament atmosphere, the always‑good crowds and the tournament is really organized,” said Miyazato. “It's just so many great things. I know so many great things about this tournament, so that's why I miss this so much.”

Another thing that makes the Kingsmill Championship popular amongst LPGA Tour players is Busch Gardens which is located just outside the gates of the Kingsmill Resort. While many players have already visited the popular theme park this week, you probably won’t find Miyazato there as she is admittedly afraid of heights.

“I should say Busch Gardens, but I'm scared of heights,” said Miyazato when asked if she had visited the theme park. “I'm not really a big fan of roller coaster, unfortunately. As I said, it's always fun to be here, even I'm scared of heights, I would love to go to Busch Gardens, too. I just love this place's atmosphere. It's really fun.”

Despite spending countless hours on the golf course and in the gym preparing to compete on the LPGA Tour, Lexi Thompson (@Lexi) always finds time to interact with her fans via Twitter or Facebook.

“It's really important to me,” said Thompson. “I mean, I love interacting with my fans, especially on the golf course. They take time out of their day, so I might as well give time back and just get to know them a little bit more.”

Unlike your average 17-year-old, Thompson has an impressive 26,488 followers and the majority of her 5,466 tweets are devoted to responding to fans or expressing her gratitude to the latest tournament. Thompson takes full advantage of the opportunity to update her fans on her tee-times and encourages them to come watch her play.

“Yeah, I feel really connected with my fans,” said Thompson. “Twitter, Facebook, now Instagram, it's great. I mean, you get to interact with them. Just to get to see them out here and tell them to come watch you play and let them know when you're teeing off and everything, so it's amazing.”

This week has been a bit of an adjustment for Marcela Leon who gained entry into this week’s Kingsmill Championship after her win on Golf Channel’s Big Break Atlantis. Leon devotes the majority of her time playing on the Symetra Tour and has had to adapt quickly to the ins-and-outs of playing on the LPGA.

Known amongst her peers for her contagious smile and outgoing personality, Leon has had to rely on close friends Jacqui Concolino and Lisa Ferrero this week to show her the ropes.

“When I got here on Monday, I pretty much didn't know what to do. Little by little, I started seeing familiar faces,” said Leon. “I just asked them and they were very, very nice. You know, I saw several people that used to play with me on Symetra in 2004, 2005, they were very helpful. Jacqui Concolino, I've known her actually from this year down in Florida in the winter and she's like, ‘Whatever you need, give me a call.’ Lisa Ferrero, the same thing. So they've been very nice.”

Leon appeared on the Big Break Atlantis series where she defeated fellow Symetra Tour member Selanee Henderson 5&4 in the final match to take home a variety of luxurious prizes including a sponsor’s exemption into the Kingsmill Championship, an endorsement contract with Adams Golf and a return trip to Atlantis, Paradise Island, Bahamas. During Wednesday’s pre-tournament press conference, Leon admitted her appearance on Big Break Atlantis was a once in a lifetime experience.

“Well, that experience was pretty much once in a lifetime,” said Leon. “You know, when I got the call, I was very happy and I got the chills pretty much. That's pretty much how I feel right now. It's my first LPGA event in a long time. I'll pretty much do my best and enjoy the opportunity.”

After this week, Leon will turn her attention back to the Symetra Tour where she will play the remaining three tournaments on the 2012 schedule. This year, Leon recorded a season-best tied for 26th finish at the Northeast Delta Dental International in Concord, N.H.

“I'm actually really excited about it,” said Leon. “I can't wait to go to Charlotte. I know the community, the sponsors are very excited to have us there. Then we go to Vidalia, Georgia. I played there last year and that community is excited to have us there. They have great onions, and I tried them, they're amazing. And the golf course, it's a great layout. And then we'll be back in Daytona. Definitely looking forward to playing there just because I'll be hopefully playing final stage there and it's a great venue. It's the last tournament of the season and I'm really excited to be part of the last three events.”

“It's getting harder to win every year. I've been close a lot the last couple years, especially last year, and haven't gotten that win. It seems like once I get it, the flood gates could open because I just feel like that little extra bit of confidence to know, hey, I got it done again, will help. You have to be on your game, you can't have a bad round, you can't have a bad stretch of holes if you're going to win a golf tournament out here now.” – Cristie Kerr

Symetra Tour members Alexandra Casi and Whitney Neuhauser both secured spots into this week’s field via the Monday qualifier. Casi fired a 2-under par 69 while Neuhauser shot an even-par 71 and survived a three-way playoff with Sue Kim and Tracy Stanford to secure the final spot in the field.

KINGSMILL CHAMPIONSHIP
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