LPGA season off to rocky start: no locker room access, practice facility restricted in TOC

LPGA season off to rocky start: no locker room access, practice facility restricted in TOC

ORLANDO, Fla. – There are no player locker rooms here at the LPGA season opener, an event designed to celebrate those who have lifted trophies over the past two years. Don’t be surprised to see players from the Hilton Grand Vacation Tournament of Champions changing shoes in the parking lot.

Lake Nona Golf and Country Club has a men’s locker room that would have been more than adequate for the 29 players on the course. LPGA players can use the restrooms and showers in the women’s facility, but there is no place for them to store anything while on the course. That area is also not private.

Matilda Castren can’t imagine something like this on the PGA Tour. Grant Waite, a former PGA Tour winner, was on the Lake Nona course Tuesday working with his student, Jodi Ewart Shadoff, and confirmed that he has never played at a PGA Tour event without access to a locker room. .

Castren was as shocked by the locker room situation as she was by the player data sheet that was released Jan. 14, which laid out the restrictions on when players had access to the practice facility in Nona. In the memo, players were informed that they “may not use the practice facilities more than one hour before their practice tee time. The use of the practice facilities is not available unless a practice round is being played.

Castren consulted with an LPGA rules official about the situation Monday and was told it was non-negotiable with the tournament, but the LPGA would not strictly monitor it.

“Guys would never agree to an hour of practice every day,” Castren said.

Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions 2022

Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions 2022

Danielle Kang reacts 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 applied only 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, followed by four lines explaining the rules laid down specifically for Sunday.

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

“Once they have their credentials,” he said, “it’s their course.”

Regarding the locker room, a tour official said that due to the hospitality setup, the men’s locker room had to remain open to the public to use the restrooms and that they could not create a private and secure locker room for LPGA players.

Stewart said they planned to order lockers for the week and use an area in the lower level of the clubhouse next to the players’ dining room for players on the field, but the tour itself changed course.

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

An LPGA statement on the situation noted that the space offered to add temporary lockers did not include a restroom area, and that due to the prioritization of that space for use by other players, the tournament team chose not to pursue that option.

“We are always open to player feedback,” the statement continued, “and we work with our tournament partners to allocate finite space.”

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

“I am not angry with the club; I’m not mad at the sponsor,” O’Toole said. “I’m upset with the LPGA for being an overlooked factor.”

A veteran LPGA player said that, in general, she often saw how a club felt about hosting an event based on the locker room situation. If LPGA players were allowed to use the men’s locker room, usually the biggest and nicest facility in a club, she felt particularly welcome. Many times, the club member would leave a note inside the locker wishing him luck.

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

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

While the TOC has always been known for its party atmosphere with concerts, on-course music, and a celebrity split, it also bills itself as an elite event filled with the LPGA’s brightest stars, though a number are conspicuously absent. this year with the tour taking a full month off after OCD.

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

World No. 1 Lydia Ko, who is not on the pitch this week because she recently got married and went on her honeymoon, has a house here. Annika Sorenstam, who will compete in the celebrity portion of the event, has called Lake Nona home for decades. This is where the first Solheim Cup was held in 1990. Players rave about the place.

LPGA commissioner Mollie Marcoux Samaan has often spoken of emphasizing performance excellence. She focuses on putting together a strong schedule with big payouts, but also the small, big things it takes to help players perform.

“So how do we create an environment for everyone within our ecosystem to reach their own peak performance?” he asked her during a press conference last year in Singapore.

“And that goes into the things I just talked about, making it as easy as possible for our women to get the sleep they need, eat properly when they come to tournaments, have the administration take care of them so they can focus on being the best they can be.”

That, of course, would include the basics of a proper locker room setup and practice facilities, as well as strong and clear communication.

An LPGA official confirmed that Marcoux Samaan was not aware of either situation this week.

The year is off to a rocky start.

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The story originally appeared on GolfWeek

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