Next week, NFL Pro Bowlers, World Series Champions, actors and musicians will compete alongside the LPGA’s best at the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions at Tranquilo Golf Course at Four Seasons Golf and Sports Club Orlando.
Who wouldn’t be starstruck?
Not Brittany Lincicome. She’s taking it all in stride.
She is after all, an old-pro at this. Lincicome is one of a handful of LPGA players who played in the new, celebrity-infused season-opener in its former iteration as a PGA Tour Champions event. The two-time major champion knows what its like to get up close and personal with some of the most famous names in the world. She’s played with the likes of country music star Jake Owen, NFL Pro Bowler Larry Fitzgerald and World Series Champion Tim Wakefield, who has become a friend of Lincicome’s and plays in her annual charity event.
It’s no big deal to Lincicome to play with these guys. She’s friends with them.
Now, she wants her LPGA friends to meet her celebrity pals.
“I’ve tried to tell all of them how fun it’s going to be,” Lincicome said during a conference call Thursday. “It’s so fun to hang out with the celebrities and get to know them a little bit. I think everyone’s going to be more laid back than they think it is. Everyone’s going to have a great time.”
Lincicome, who is a Diamond Resorts Ambassador, mobilized her fellow pros to turn out for the season opener, which is limited to the winners on Tour from the prior two seasons. She knew it would be a tough ask to some players, especially those who spend the off season, literally, on the other side of the world, to cut their off-season short with the first event of the year moving up one week on the calendar. It was a concern she expressed to Mike Flaskey, the CEO of Diamond Resorts. And then she went to work lobbying players to compete.
“I was worried how many girls [would] come from overseas and come play this event because it’s so early in the season,” Lincicome said. “It’s cool to see all the girls stepping up and coming to play in this wonderful event.”
Her fellow pros got the message. More than half of the 26-player field is made up of players from outside the United States. They’ll enjoy not only a new 72-hole stroke play event with a purse of $1.2 million dollars, but also be treated to concerts and parties along with their celebrity counterparts.
Like many of the LPGA players who are new to the event, former NFL quarterback Carson Palmer is also making his first appearance. Palmer, who recently retired, is an avid golfer who has never played with a professional. Next week will be his first foray into competing alongside an LPGA pro. Like Lincicome spread the word to her fellow pros about the event, Palmer received a similar message from friends Larry Fitzgerald and Pat Peterson.
“I’ve been hearing about this tournament for a couple years now from my good buddies and old teammates. And they’ve been trash talking already,” Palmer said during Thursday’s conference call. “I’m really excited. I’ve heard such great things that they’ve both just raved about.”
Desperate to get his game ready for competition while being buried under four feet of snow at his home in Idaho, Palmer has been putting on the concrete in his garage.
“I’m really looking forward to just trying to stay out of the way, but trying to pick up pointers and little tidbits here and there, especially around the greens,” said the former quarterback, who struggles with his short game.
Like Palmer, Super Bowl MVP Mark Rypien would like to improve his game, too.
“Tempo, tempo, tempo,” Rypien said when asked what part of the game he’s hoping to learn from the pros. “I could watch them swing on the driving range all day long.”
In just a few short days, Rypien will be able to do exactly that. NFL Pro Bowlers, World Series champs, award-winning actors and musicians will join him. And while those famous figures are the ones the LPGA players are hoping to see, it sure sounds like it’s the celebrities who will be doing most of the watching, trying to learn a thing or two from the best female golfers in the world.
Who’s starstruck, now?