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LPGA season off to a rocky start — no locker room access, practice facilities restricted at TOC

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ORLANDO, Florida. At the opening of the LPGA season, an event dedicated to those who have lifted trophies over the past two years, there is no dressing room for the players. Don’t be surprised to see players at the Hilton Grand Vacation Tournament of Champions changing in the parking lot.

Lake Nona Golf & Country Club has a men’s locker room that would be more than adequate for 29 players on the course. LPGA players can use the restrooms and showers in the women’s complex, but have nowhere to store anything while they’re on the field. This area is also not private.

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Mathilde Castrén can’t imagine something like this being played out on the PGA tour. Grant Waite, a former PGA Tour winner, was at the Lake Nona shooting range on Tuesday working with his student Jodi Ewart Shadoff and confirmed that he has never competed in a PGA Tour event where locker room access was not available. .

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Castrén was as shocked by the dressing room situation as she was by the January 14 players’ newsletter, which outlined restrictions on when players had access to training facilities in Nona. In a memo, the players were informed that they “may not use training facilities more than an hour before their training time. Use of training facilities is not possible unless a practice round is being held.”

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On Monday, Castrén inquired with an LPGA rules official about the situation and was told that it was not negotiable with the tournament, but the LPGA would not strictly monitor it.

“Guys would never agree to an hour-long workout every day,” Castren said.

Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions 2022
Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions 2022

Danielle Kang’s reaction after winning the 2022 Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions at Lake Nona Golf & Country Club on January 23, 2022 in Orlando. (Photo: Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

An LPGA official said that what was written in the memo only applies to last Sunday, although there is a section in the memo, directly below the disputed lines, that reads “Sunday, January 15” in bold and underlined type, followed by four lines follow, explaining the rules specifically laid out for Sunday.

Aaron Stewart, vice president of sports marketing at Hilton Grand Vacations, said players were never limited to one hour of practice and were free to practice without even scheduling a practice round.

“Once they get their credentials,” he said, “that’s their course.”

In regards to the locker room, a tour spokesperson said that due to the hospitality arrangements, the men’s locker room had to remain open to the public to allow the use of the restrooms, and that they were unable to create a private and secure locker room for LPGA players.

Stewart said they planned to book lockers for the week and use the lower level area of ​​the clubhouse next to the on-field dining area for the players, but the tour itself changed course.

“I don’t know why they canceled the lockers,” he said.

The LPGA’s statement on the situation noted that the space proposed for adding temporary lockers does not include a bathroom, and that due to the prioritization of the space for use by other players, the tournament team decided not to use this option.

“We are always open to player feedback,” the statement said, “and are working with our tournament partners to allocate limited space.”

Ryan O’Toole is sharing a car with a player this week, which makes working out of the trunk less than ideal.

“I’m not mad at the club; I’m not mad at the sponsor,” O’Toole said. “It annoys me that LPGAs just overlook the factor.”

One veteran LPGA player said that in general, she often considered the club’s attitude towards hosting the event based on the dressing room situation. If LPGA players were allowed to use the men’s locker room, which is usually the larger and prettier one at the club, she felt especially welcome. Often a member of the club left a note in the locker wishing good luck.

The locker room is not only a place to store valuables and change clothes. It is also an oasis for players to gather their thoughts away from the rest of the world.

“You have to have a certain standard,” Castren said.

While TOC has always been known for its festive atmosphere with concerts, music and celebrity participation, it is also positioned as an elite event filled with the LPGA’s brightest stars, although some of them conspicuously absent this year with a full month tour after TOC.

Stewart said the 43 professional players who compete on tours around the world call Lake Nona home.

World No. 1 Lydia Ko, who didn’t ride this week because she recently got married and went on her honeymoon, has a home here. Annika Sorenstam, who will compete in celebrity competition, has called Lake Nona home for decades. It was here that the first Solheim Cup was played in 1990. Players love this place.

LPGA commissioner Molly Marco Samaan has often said that she emphasizes superior performance. It focuses on putting together a strong schedule with big wallets, as well as the small, important things that are needed to help players perform.

“So how do we create an environment where everyone in our ecosystem can achieve peak performance?” she asked during a press conference in Singapore last year.

“And that goes with the things I was just talking about, making it as easy as possible for our women to get the sleep they need, eat right when they come to tournaments, so that the administration takes care of them so they can focus on being the best.” who they might be.”

This of course includes the basics of properly setting up the locker room and training facilities, as well as clear and concise communication.

An LPGA spokesperson confirmed that Marku Samaan was not aware of any of the situation this week.

The year didn’t start well.


5 things we want to see at the LPGA in 2023: majors for Lydia Ko and Lexi Thompson, buy-ins from PGA Tour stars and more

The story originally appeared on GolfWeek.


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