Rancho Santa Fe woman one of 144 to compete in LPGA tournament

Rancho Santa Fe resident I.K. Kim plays at the 2012 Mizuno Classic in Japan.

By Claire Harlin

–Photo courtesy of the LPGA

Watching Rancho Santa Fe resident I.K. Kim return to the greens after a shocking second-place finish last year at the Kraft Nabisco Championship in Rancho Mirage — in which she lost her first major title to a missed one-foot putt — is only one of the attractions of the upcoming Kia Classic golf tournament at the Aviara Golf Club, set to take place March 21-24.

Previously held at La Costa Resort and Spa, the LPGA competition is in its third year and will feature 99 of the top 100 female golfers from the 2012 final money list. This year, 144 players will compete for a purse of $1.7 million in prize money and first place will be $255,000.

Tournament director Dennis Baggett said the tour started in Australia in mid-February, and made its rounds to Thailand, Singapore, Phoenix and is now in Carlsbad. La Costa has been the home to the PGA tour for 38 years and Kia, the tournament sponsor, is headquartered in Irvine, so Southern California is the perfect fit for golf.

“People love to play in San Diego, so they bring their families and make a whole week out of it,” he said.

Last year, No. 1-ranked Yani Tseng captured her third victory of the 2012 LPGA season and her 15th career win after securing a six-shot victory at the Kia Classic.

Kim is ranked No. 22 globally, has 50 top-10 finishes under her belt and more than $5 million in tournament earnings, Baggett said.

The Aviara Golf Club is located at the

Park Hyatt Resort, at 7100 Aviara Resort Drive

in Carlsbad.

For more information or tickets, visit