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LPGA tourney was boost for county

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Column by Jim Clark

Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, I was working as a sports editor near Port St. Lucie, which at that time was about 200 homes and a golf course.
There was a women’s golf tournament there, and one of the young ladies didn’t have a place to stay, so one of my writers, who was considerably older than I was, and his wife took her in for the weekend.
The LPGA has come a long way.
That Coates Golf event at Golden Ocala last week drew thousands of spectators and a great number of LPGA golfers. The four-day tournament, moved up a day so it wouldn’t end on Super Bowl Sunday, was a tremendous success, with a clutch finish, a barely missed eagle putt that thrilled those around the final green, and a young lady, not the winner, becoming No. 1 in the world.
You can’t get much better than that.
Although it was a little cool in the mornings, it was actually Chamber of Commerce weather throughout.
One of the impressive things about the tournament was how fast the players stepped up and shot. Whereas the men seem to walk all around their ball three or four times, the ladies looked, maybe studied one angle, then stepped up and hit the ball. It really made things interesting trying to follow who was on which hole.
There was also the enthusiasm. Can you imagine one of the men getting a hole-in-one and dancing at the tee and again at the hole? But that’s what Paula Creamer did after her ace in an early round.
Congratulations must go to all those who, first of all, had the foresight to realize that something like this would go over well in the Ocala area, and to the many volunteers and workers who made it happen. It’s also important to point out how much professional sports can mean to an area in terms of publicity and name recognition.
As a person with a couple of bad legs and a lifelong case of hay fever, I figured it was probably better if I didn’t grace Golden Ocala with my presence. I did, however, watch almost every minute of the television coverage on NBC’s The Golf Channel, and I felt the operation had some glitches that need to be worked out.
The announcers weren’t the problem. They constantly referred to Ocala and Marion County as being good hosts, and the cameras showed some file video of pastoral horse farms. The only negative view shown was the traffic backup on Saturday, but that’s something that can be worked on.
All in all, that part of the coverage was great for our area.
But from a golf standpoint, it wasn’t exactly Masters style. I can’t remember how many times there was a camera behind a tee, and just as the golfer was ready to swing, the caddie would walk right in front and block the camera’s view. I know it happened a couple of times with Creamer.
The graphics were terrible. As a golfer came on the screen, it might show her name, which hole she was on, number of strokes, etc. But that only stayed up for a couple of seconds, and if you missed it, you were left guessing who you were watching.
The most serious problem, to me, was the scheduling. On Day 3, which is when those who made the cut really push to get in position to win, the channel abandoned live coverage and only showed a delayed replay at 8 p.m. That was a disgrace. We deserved live coverage of the event all four days, and The Golf Channel didn’t come through.
Despite all of that, it did give you a little bit of pride every time they mentioned Ocala, which they did often. We’ll look forward to next year and hope for another thrilling finish at Golden Ocala.

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Jim Clark is the editor of the South Marion Citizen.