By Karen Billing
The LPGA 2014 Kia Classic is returning to the Park Hyatt Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad, March 24-30. The fan-friendly tournament will feature a $1.7 million purse and a field of 144 LPGA golfers.
In 2013, 49 out of the top 50 players on the LPGA Tour participated in the event and they are expecting a high-quality field again this year, including defending champion Beatriz Recari.
Recari won last year in dramatic fashion, in a two-hole playoff over Rancho Santa Fe’s I.K. Kim. Recari, the golfer known as the “Iron Woman,” made an 18-foot birdie putt from the fringe to capture the tournament.
“I’m looking forward to coming back to Carlsbad and defending my title at the 2014 Kia Classic,” said Recari. “I have great memories of last year’s win and look forward to competing against the best players in the world at this year’s event.”
Tournament director Dennis Baggett said a lot of players love to come to the Kia Classic because of both the scenic San Diego course and the tournament’s position on the schedule, which is one week before the tour’s first major, the Kraft Nabisco Championship in Palm Springs.
The Kia Classic field will feature exciting players such as Lydia Ko, the 16-year-old rookie from New Zealand currently ranked fourth in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, and local pros such as Rancho Santa Fe’s Kim, Jennifer Johnson of Carlsbad and Tiffany Joh, a Rancho Bernardo High School graduate.
In addition to the $1.7 million purse, the winner will also receive Kia’s new luxury sedan, the 2015 K900, which will be showcasing at Aviara throughout the tournament.
“For us, the biggest thing is just to create the best possible spectator experience that we can,” Baggett said.
Kids under-17 years old can get in for free as well as members of the military. All of the practice rounds are open and free and Wednesday’s pro-am tickets are $10. Any day grounds tickets are $15 for adults and a weekly grounds ticket is $30.
“It’s very affordable family entertainment,” he said. “To come out and be able to interact with the players is really a highlight…you can get right up close and personal with some of the best golfers in the world.”
They will have a variety of vendors in the tournament expo, as well as a scavenger hunt, autograph sessions and a junior clinic on the driving range on Family Day, March 29. Juniors must pre-register for the 3 p.m. clinic on the tournament website.
This is the tournament’s fifth year and its second at Park Hyatt Aviara.
The only San Diego course designed by Arnold Palmer, Aviara overlooks the Batiquitos Lagoon ecological reserve and has a par-72 coastal layout that stretches 7,007 yards.
“It’s a great golf course, it’s recognized as the number one golf resort destination in San Diego,” said Baggett. “It’s a great test of golfers but the ladies love to play it.”
About a month out, Baggett said they are still prepping the course but the conditions are great and they were especially looking forward to last weekend’s forecasted storm.
“A lot of players have been here for practice rounds and have commented on how good the course is,” Baggett said.
Kia Classic fans can follow the tournament through social media on Facebook (search “Kia Classic”) or follow their Twitter feed, @LPGAKiaClassic. Exclusive photos will be posted as well as various contests to win Kia Classic tickets or other prizes.
To purchase tickets or sign up as a tournament volunteer, visit kiaclassic.com.