Scotia native Diaz, fellow LPGA standout Pressel to star in Skins Game at Mohawk Golf Club

Scotia native and LPGA Tour standout Laura Diaz will be the center of attention when she makes a spe

Scotia native and LPGA Tour standout Laura Diaz will be the center of attention when she makes a special trip home for the 16th annual Ellis Hospital Skins Game on June 16 at the Mohawk Golf Club.

The event will this year be turning its focus toward women’s health care.

Diaz, who has two LPGA victories to her credit, will be joined at the Skins Game by fellow Solheim Cup competitor and brilliant young LPGA tourist Morgan Pressel. Completing the lineup in the charity event will be longtime Skins contestant Blaine McCallister and the local club pro who wins the Northeastern New York PGA’s Ellis Hospital Skins Pro-Am on June 15.

Tickets, which go on sale at area Price Chopper supermarkets May 11, will be priced at $25 apiece.

For many years, proceeds from the Ellis Hospital Skins Game went to the Wright Heart Center, but this season, with the consolidation of Ellis Hospital, St. Clare’s and Bellevue, event organizers decided that the proceeds would benefit the Bellevue Woman’s Care Center.

“We are pleased to announce that for the first time, the Skins Game is featuring two terrific LPGA golfers, hometown standout Laura Diaz and Morgan Pressel, the youngest woman in history to win a major,” said Skins co-chairman Dr. Steve Goodman. “It’s quite a milestone for the Skins Game and for our community, because LPGA golfers are teeing up to benefit women’s health care. This event truly reflects Ellis’ ongoing commitment to meet the full health care needs of women and their families.”

Bringing Diaz back to the area was the key for Goodman, who has previously arranged for big names like Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, John Daly, Fuzzy Zoeller, Fred Couples, Paul Azinger, Peter Jacobsen and Gary Player to be his headliners.

“What could be better than to bring back our local young lady who played on the Solheim Cup so many times,” said Goodman. “We’re very excited about bringing her back. We tried to make it happen a couple of years ago, but it didn’t work out. I know she’s very excited about coming back to the area.”

“It should be fun,” said Diaz, who got off to a great start in 2008 with two top-10 finishes in her first three starts. “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’s father, former local club pro Ron Philo, helped get both his daughter and Pressel in the Skins Game.

“The whole Philo family still has strong feelings for the community, and they were helpful in getting Morgan to come, as well,” said Goodman.

“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 event co-chair 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].”

Through the first five events of the season, in which she posted two top-10 finishes, Diaz was 29th on the LPGA career money list with $4,104,322. The four-time Solheim Cup team member was recently inducted into the Wake Forest University Hall of Fame. She won three times as a member of the Futures Tour and won her first big local amateur event in the Gazette Women’s Amateur.

Pressel, who will celebrate her 20th birthday next month, became the youngest player in LPGA Tour history to win a major when she captured the Kraft Nabisco Championship at 18 years, 10 months and nine days. She also teamed with Natalie Gulbis and Cristie Kerr to win last year’s Wendy’s 3-Tour Challenge.

Pressel was the runner-up in the 2005 U.S. Women’s Open and won 11 times on the American Junior Golf Association tour. She was a five-time Rolex Junior All-American.

McCallister, who will be eligible for the Champions Tour in October, has split his time between the PGA Tour and the Nationwide Tour over the last few seasons. He has five PGA Tour wins and has earned more than $5 million.

“We are pleased that Blaine is back for our 16th annual event,” said Jaski. “He has been a big part of our Skins Game success over the years, and he’s a great champion of Ellis Hospital.

“Blaine participated in the first event, and it just wouldn’t be the Skins Game without his talent, energy and sense of humor,” added Goodman. “He’s a real friend.”

Goodman said that a fifth competitor might also join the field.

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