Diaz, Pressel featured players

Women golfers will take center stage when Scotia native Laura Diaz and fellow LPGA Tour member Morga
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Women golfers will take center stage when Scotia native Laura Diaz and fellow LPGA Tour member Morgan Pressel headline the 16th annual Ellis Hospital Skins Game.

With proceeds going toward Ellis’ women’s health care division, the Skins Game will be held June 16 at Mohawk Golf Club. Also partic­ipating will be Skins Game regular Blaine McCallister, a veteran on the PGA Tour, and the Northeastern New York PGA local club professional who wins the Skins Game Pro-Am on June 15.

Event co-chairman Dr. Steve Goodman said that there may also be a fifth competitor. He will make that announcement at a later date.

The return of Diaz to the Capital Region is the big story.

“It should be fun,” said Diaz, a two-time winner on the LPGA Tour who already has two top-10 finishes in three starts this season.

“It will be nice to come back to the area, and I’m looking forward to doing something that benefits Ellis Hospital and women’s health care. My sister works for Ellis, so it’s even more special for me to try to help out. I’m happy to be going back to do something for the Cap­ital Region community, which has been so supportive of me and my career.”

Diaz said she was asked to be part of the Skins Game before, but there were conflicts. This time, her father, former local club pro Ron Philo, helped put the deal

together.

“They asked my dad if we could come back to the area, and they also had a list of possible LPGA players that would also compete,” Diaz said. “Morgan was the one on the list that we could get. Although we didn’t play together, I competed on this year’s Solheim Cup with her, and it should be a lot of fun.”

Diaz, ranked 29th on the LPGA Tour career money list with $4,104,322, is a four-time member of the Solheim Cup team. A member of the Wake Forest University Hall of Fame, Diaz won three times as a member of the Futures Tour, and was a past winner of the Gazette Women’s Amateur.

“With her golf bag on one shoulder and diaper bag on the other, Laura represents the challenge that many women face and can ap­preciate — balancing the demands of career and family,” said co-chairwoman Nora Jaski. “Sometimes, being on tour is a family affair, when her husband, Kevin, is her caddy, and they bring along their 2-year-old son [Cooper].”

Pressel, who already has $1,438,137 in career earnings, became the youngest player in LPGA Tour history to win a major championship last season when she captured the Kraft Nabisco Championship at 18 years, 10 months and nine days. Although it is an unofficial event, she teamed with Natalie Gulbis and Cristie Kerr to win last year’s Wendy’s 3-Tour Challenge.

Pressel’s well-decorated amateur career included a runner-up finish in the 2005 U.S. Women’s Open. She also won 11 times on the Amer­ican Junior Golf Association tour, and was a five-time Rolex Junior All-American.

“This is sort of a new era we’re going into with the Skins Game,” said Goodman. “I really pushed the people at Ellis to consider moving into the women’s health care realm. Neil Golub, who was very strongly involved with Bellevue before the merger or consolidation of Ellis, Bellevue and St. Clare’s, also was pushing hard for this. We felt, what could be better than having a

local young lady who played for the Solheim Cup so many times. We’re excited about having Laura coming back to the area. We talked about having her come back a couple of years ago, but it didn’t work out. The whole Philo family still has strong feelings for our com­munity, and they were very helpful in getting Morgan to come back with her.”

Goodman also is pleased that McCallister is returning as both a participant and the unofficial emcee of the event.

“Blaine is Blaine. He is really part of our community now. He has become a good friend of mine, not just because of his appeaerance here or because of the charity. He puts his heart and soul into this event every year.”

Goodman came close to ending his assocation with the Skins Game because it was so difficult to get headliners to play.

“To be honest, this is what I wanted to do in order to continue with [the Skins Game]. After the consolidation, I felt that this would be a great way to give something back to the community with a new focus.

“We never thought that the Skins Game would go more than four or five years, initially, but the com­munity has backed it. What we’ve got to do now, in order to make this successful, is to get all the area women to come to the fore. We want to have a women’s division in the Players’ Classic, and we’re even trying to get some women assistant pros to play in the pro-am.

“What’s really exciting is that the Skins Game proceeds will support the Bellevue Woman’s Care Center, where the tradition of caring continues,” said Golub, president and CEO of Price Chopper supermarkets. “From maternity and the state-of-the-art breast care center to mobile mammography and pelvic health, Ellis is continuing to provide an important range of services in the unique Bellevue tradition.”

Tickets for the Skins Game, priced at $25 each, go on sale at are Price Chopper supermarkets May 11.

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