The LPGA Tour prepares to stage its first event of the season on U.S. soil, the inaugural Kia Classic, with 144 players contending for a $1.7 million purse beginning Thursday at La Costa Resort and Spa.
"I think there's an optimistic feeling," said Judy Rankin, a World Golf Hall of Famer who is here this week working for the Golf Channel.
It has been a little while since anybody has felt that way about a tour which has gone from 34 tournaments in 2008 to 27 last season, the lowest number since 1971. There are 25 events this season, but nearly half of those will be staged outside of the U.S.
La Costa was a longtime PGA Tour destination. The Tournament of Champions, Mercedes Championships and Accenture World Match-play Championship were all held at La Costa from 1969 through 2006.
Carlsbad High graduate Leta Lindley, an LPGA Tour player since 1995, is delighted that the LPGA is coming here now.
"I'm just thrilled to finally be playing in San Diego again," said Lindley, 37. "When I was growing up my dad used to take me out to Poway, and then when the ladies played at Torrey Pines. I've been waiting for 16 years to come and play in front of my hometown crowd. So obviously I'm thrilled to be in San Diego.
"And I think everybody else is obviously enjoying the lovely scenery, and recognizing, just as I've always known, that this is the spot to be."