The Coast News Group
South Korea’s Eun-Hee Ji returns to defend her title at the 10th annual Kia Classic on March 28-31 at Park Hyatt Aviara. Courtesy LPGA/Getty Images
CarlsbadCarlsbad FeaturedCitiesCommunityNews

10 years later, Kia Classic remains one of LPGA’s biggest tourneys

CARLSBAD — Ten years ago, the LPGA began a new tournament in the country’s hot spots for golf.

First held at Omni La Costa Resort & Spa in 2010, the Kia Classic has found its home at Park Hyatt Aviara and hosts the world’s best women golfers. Sponsorships have grown and the $1.8 million purse is one of the largest on tour.

Lindsay Allen, tournament director for the Kia Classic, said the tournament could not have a better location, timing and support. The Kia Classic runs March 28 to March 31 and will feature the likes of returning champion Eun-Hee Ji, plus other stars such as Michelle Wie, Paula Creamer, Inbee Park and Sung Hyun Park, to name a few. In total, 75 of the top 80 players will be competing, Allen said.

The tournament tees off at 7:15 a.m. on March 28 and March 29 and 8:45 a.m. on March 30 and March 31.

And for a local touch, Carlsbad High School grad Alana Uriell will make her Kia Classic debut.

“I have very fond memories of watching the Kia as a kid and looking up to these girls and thinking ‘oh my gosh, these people are amazing celebrities,’” she said. “To be here on the 10th anniversary in my hometown on my home course and to have the support of my family and friends, is just an amazing opportunity.”

One of the big draws, at least for viewers, Allen said, is how the course appears on TV. With its scenery, lush and green fairways and greens, the course is an idyllic setting for viewers and the players, she added.

As for the players, Allen said what makes the tournament such a powerhouse is the field. Year after year, the world’s best line up to play at the Kia Classic.

She noted the field is the toughest on tour outside a major tournament.

“That never happens anywhere on tour,” Allen said. “It really shows how much they like the golf course and the San Diego-Carlsbad area. We have a stellar field.”

As for the tournament, she said it suffered growing pains in its first three years. The Kia Classic started at Omni La Costa, went up to Los Angeles for a year then returned to Omni La Costa.

By the fourth year, the LPGA found its home at Park Hyatt Aviara and the tournament has flourished ever since. However, Allen said the challenge was keeping fans updated as to where the tournament would be held.

But once the stability came into play, fans knew every year the event would remain in one location and around the same time of year.

Additionally, the tournament is one of the more challenging on tour, especially the walk due to the hills, Allen said. The course and greens are also a challenge and provide a nice tune-up for the players preparing for the season’s first major tournament, the ANA Inspiration, the following week.

“It’s a great tune up,” Allen said. “The challenge, the greens, the grass all really set the players up to have a great first major of the year.”

As for the fans, Allen said the Kia Classic is family friendly, noting anyone under 17 years old is admitted for free, along with military members and their families. There are also numerous activities throughout the week, which opens to the public on March 26.

There is also a pro-am on March 27, a women’s leadership day and a junior clinic on March 30.