It took a team of only three LPGA stars to defeat a celebrity foursome of men Tuesday in a Short Game Challenge that kicked off the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions.
Eun Hee Ji, the tournament’s winner last year, blasted a 30-foot sand shot to four inches from the hole, barely beating John Smoltz for the first 10 points.
The celebrities went ahead 15-10 when seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens had the best chip among the seven players, hitting a 15-yard chip to within 11 inches of the hole.
At the third and final station, Pernilla Lindberg clinched LPGA victory when her knockdown 7-iron shot from 15 yards away broke a 3-by-3-foot pane of glass situated 7 feet above ground. It was worth 25 points and victory.
In an unofficial competition afterward, Diamond Resorts CEO and tournament founder Mike Flaskey won a putting competition by dropping two putts from 6 feet and another from 9 feet.
The entertainment continued afterward when comedy legend Larry The Cable Guy, one of the celebrity team members, held court:
- “(It’s so hot here) you could film an entire episode of Swamp People in my shorts.”
- “I went to get a physical this morning and three mushrooms fell out (because of moisture).”
- “It’s so cold in Lincoln (Nebraska, his residence) that the ice cream machine at McDonald’s is working.”
The tournament features 26 LPGA winners from the previous two seasons competing alongside 49 celebrities from sports and entertainment. The event runs Thursday-Sunday at Four Seasons Golf and Sports Club Orlando.
The LPGA champions will play four days of stroke play, with no cut, for $1.2 million. The celebrities will play for a separate $500,000 purse, using a modified Stableford scoring format.
The LPGA field features Lexi Thompson, Brittany Lincicome, Brooke Henderson, Inbee Park, Nelly and Jessica Korda, Ariya Jutanugarn and defending champion Eun Hee Ji.
In the celebrity division, former major league pitcher Mark Mulder is listed as a slight favorite over two fellow past champions, ex-tennis star Mardy Fish and baseball Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz. Smoltz, the Atlanta Braves legend turned broadcaster, edged Mulder in the final round last year.