By Ellie Riegner
GALLOWAY, N.J. - The 2023 ShopRite LPGA Classic is where I kicked off my summer as an intern with Gilly Group, and it was also where I attended my first professional golf event. While I wasn’t experiencing the nerves and excitement of teeing off as a professional for the first time, I believe I had similar feelings as other golf fans and workers who attend their first event. What do I wear? Where is the best place to watch the action? Will I get to follow my favorite players? Throughout the day those nerves settled, and the excitement kicked in. My experience at the ShopRite LPGA Classic got me hooked on golf events forever.
One of the very first things I noticed when arriving at the tournament was the tremendous layout of the course, its fan experience and the setup of each person preparing for the event. The media room was where I went first. The number of desks and stations that were set up for so many different people covering the same event was something I appreciated the most. There was a big screen set up at the front of the room that the tournament was being played on so everyone in the room could remain up to date with the latest. I thought it was so interesting how such a large amount of people can be responsible for what viewers at home think are simple things. For example, statistics on last year’s tournament and the storylines of those is in the lead are all things you hear when watching at home or can find through a quick Google search, but I was able to watch just how much work goes into all those little things.
I have always been interested in the behind-the-scenes story of pretty much everything. Being an athlete myself, this has remained particularly true in the world of sports. From the stars of my high school football team to the MVPs of the Super Bowl, I have always said to myself, “What’s their story?” So, it was only fitting that when attending my first golf event I was able to enjoy a behind-the-scenes experience while getting to act as a “reporter for the day”.
The best part of my experience was getting to participate in a press-conference with 17-year-old Chiara Noja who was making her LPGA debut. A few others and I had the opportunity to sit with Noja and hear her story.
As you can imagine, this was especially fascinating for the side of me that loves a good back story! Chiara Noja, only 17 years old, was preparing to make her LPGA debut, then heading right back home to attend her high school prom. I was lucky to have my first reporter-type experience be with someone so humble and relatable. Noja touched on everything she was hoping to accomplish that weekend at Seaview’s historic site, but she didn’t hesitate to mention how much she also enjoys getting to still just be a “normal” teenager. While it was great to be able to sit and talk with Noja, it was incredible to be able to follow her throughout the day while she practiced. Seeing how up close you can be while watching some of the greatest players compete was another big takeaway from attending my first professional golf event. To me, this was unlike any sporting event I had ever been a spectator at. It was amazing to have the chance to walk with Noja and watch her do what she does best, but it was also awesome to see how personable and down to earth every single athlete at the ShopRite LPGA Classic was.
The ShopRite LPGA Classic will always be a special memory for me as it was where my appreciation for the game of golf grew as well as my passion for wanting to get to know the person behind the athlete.