By Alexandra Whitten
LPGA pros go faux arctic to promote Bank of Hope Founders Cup.
Most professional golfers don’t expect to get up close and personal with penguins and dive with fish and manta rays for a media day, but one morning in February, three golf pros took the plunge at Odysea Aquarium.
Alena Sharp, Guilia Milinaro, and Ryann O’Toole came to the Valley to promote the 8th annual Bank of Hope Founders Cup taking place this month. The cup celebrates the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) and pays homage to its 13 original founders.
In attendance were LPGA members and members of the LPGA United States Golf Association (USGA) Girls Golf of Phoenix chapter for a day full of underwater family fun. The cup chose the aquarium due to its similar values of community and family, something they take pride in focusing on, according to a press release.
Sharp, Milinaro and O’Toole, all LPGA players participating in the cup, visited the aquarium ready for a day full of activities alongside the LPGA-USGA girls. The day began with a visit to Penguin Point, where both the players and the girls got to enter the chilling exhibit and interact with the aquarium’s African penguins. They were given cat toys to play with the penguins as they waddled around meeting their guests.
‘They just waddled up to you, and wanted to check you out, maybe nip on you a bit in a cute way,” O’Toole said of the penguins.
“They were way softer than I expected,” Molinaro added.
After getting up close and personal with penguins, the LPGA players suited up in wetsuits and diving helmets to enter SeaTREK, an underwater, immersive diving experience. The ladies got to dive deep and meet various sea creatures including a variety of fish and stingrays.
“My favorite part was just having stingrays coming right up to your face,” Sharp said. “I got a little dizzy when I was down there, and you have to be careful when you have the helmet on, cause if you turn your head too fast it’s kind of disorienting.”
After the SeaTREK, the LPGA players dried off and headed to a private media room to host a Q&A session with the LPGA-USGA girls and the media, all while sea creatures swam by behind them.
The Bank of Hope Founders cup is a premier golf tournament, known for being the ultimate family golf experience. This year they are expecting crowds of 60,000, local and national sponsors, and world-renowned golfers like Paula Creamer, Michelle Wie and Lydia Ko. The course will be a 72-hole stroke competition, with a winner’s check of $225,000. Don’t let the crowds and stakes intimidate you, though: Parents and children are more than welcome to interact with the players during the competition.
“All of us girls are really easy to talk to, always hanging out, so you can always bring your kids up and have them meet us, get an autograph or something like that,” O’Toole said.
The Bank of Hope Founders Cup takes place March 13 through March 18 at Wildfire Golf Club, 5350 E. Marriott Drive. Call 386-236-1369 or visit lpgafounderscup.com for more information.