The Solheim Cup, the ladies' version of the Ryder Cup matches between the United States and Europe, will take place in less than a month in Sweden.
How much the upcoming competition - and the rush to qualify for it - weighs on the minds of the players pretty much depends on who you ask.
Meg Mallon, who is safely among the 10 players on the Solheim points list who will receive automatic berths on the U.S. team, said it has been on her mind every day since the start of the year.
“I was seventh on the list then and I knew I needed some wins, or at least a bunch of top-10s, to maintain my position,” Mallon said.
The popular veteran has posted six top-10 finishes this year and could produce another today with a hot final round in the Jamie Farr Kroger Classic. Mallon carded a 68 yesterday and is 4-under through 54 holes.
“I did what I had to do and I'm pleased,” said Mallon, who remains seventh on the points list. “I'm safe, as far as the list goes, but the race for 9-10-11 is really tight. Kelli Kuehne, Heather Bowie and others are really grinding to make the team. I'm glad I don't have to go through that.”
Kelly Robbins, another LPGA veteran and a two-time Farr Classic champion, is going through it, but insists she is not grinding.
“No, not me,” she said. “I think so many girls get caught up in making the team that they sort of neglect other aspects of their careers.
“I've always approached it that if I play well enough, the Solheim Cup [berth] will come as one of the rewards. If it happens, it happens. Obviously, we all want to make the team. It's important, but it's just my opinion that you can't force the issue. If I play well and things fall into place and I'm meant to be there, then I'll be there.”
Juli Inkster, Rosie Jones, Beth Daniel, Michele Redman, Laura Diaz, Cristie Kerr and Mallon are locks for the U.S. team. Angela Stanford, Robbins and Wendy Ward are 8-9-10 on the list, but nothing will be certain in their cases until the conclusion of next week's Wachovia LPGA Classic in Kutztown, Pa.
The 10 automatic berths will be finalized at that point and U.S. captain Patty Sheehan will announce two captain's picks.
The Solheim Cup will be played Sept. 12-14 at Barseback Club in Loddekopinge, Sweden.
“I was able to play a practice round there a week or so ago after the Women's British Open,” Mallon said. “It was in wonderful shape. It was also 75 [degrees] and sunny. By the time we get there, it'll probably be 45 and raining sideways. But it will be worth it.”
JUST LIKE BEN: Kristal Parker-Manzo grew up playing on a family-owned golf course in a small Ohio town. Sounds like the Ben Curtis story, Curtis being the 2003 British Open champion from Ostrander, Ohio.
Parker-Manzo was born in Columbus, but grew up in Cable, a small town north of Urbana in Champaign County about midway between Dayton and Columbus.
“My parents bought the property when I was 5 and built a nine-hole course called Woodland Golf Club,” Parker-Manzo said. “They expanded it to 18 holes when I was 12.
“My parents have since sold the course, but it was nice when I was a kid because I had 18 holes to go around and around and around on when I was learning the game.”
Parker-Manzo fired a 4-under 67 yesterday to position herself for a nice check this week.
“The last couple of days, I was all over the hole and nothing was dropping,” she said. “It was nice to find the hole today and make five birdie putts.”
Parker-Manzo delivered her second child, daughter Natalie, on Feb. 20 and didn't begin tour play this year until late May.
She has been in the money three times since, including a top-10 finish in the Sybase Big Apple Classic that produced much of her $46,000 in earnings to date in 2003.
NEW WAVE: It was the same Kelly Robbins, but that was about it.
“I have new woods, a new putter and a new caddie,” she said. “So I'm really, really pleased with how the week is going. It's hard to say what the leaders are going to do, but I'd like to shoot for the top five.”
A two-time Farr champion in 1994 and '97, Robbins fired a 4-under 67 yesterday and is at 6-under 207.
MANAGING THINGS: Karen Davies' caddie this week is Joe Kucinich, the manager for the women's basketball team at the University of Toledo.
PARTY ON: Farr Classic officials said an after-play party featuring the band Velvet Jones, originally scheduled for last night, will be held after the conclusion of today's final round.
The event, open to all spectators, will start at about 6 p.m. and run for three hours at Highland Meadows.