The $1.7 million Kia Classic women’s golf tournament begins Thursday at the Aviara Golf Club with the first of three special days.

Thursday is Women’s Leadership Day, which will begin with a panel discussion with four business executives and Golf Channel analyst Karen Stupples. A luncheon will follow, with a keynote speech by Wendy Bahr, the senior vice president of the Americas Partner Organization for the computer networking firm Cisco Systems Inc.

Women’s Leadership Day will conclude with a driving range demonstration and a networking happy hour.

Friday is Military Appreciation Day, which will include a color guard presentation with local military representatives.

Saturday is Family Day with activities including a scavenger hunt, autograph sessions and a junior clinic featuring LPGA players. Registration is required for the clinic and can be made on the tournament’s website,

Active military members with valid identification and their families will receive free admission throughout the tournament. Children 17 and under accompanied by adults will also receive free admission.

The field of 144 includes 42 of the top 50 players in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, topped by 17-year-old Lydia Ko of New Zealand, who last month became the youngest player, male or female, to top the World Golf Rankings.

Ko has been the world’s top-ranked player for eight consecutive weeks. She would retain her No. 1 ranking if she finishes in a three-way tie for second or better, even if second-ranked Inbee Park wins, or if Park finishes in a tie for second or lower.

“I think the most surprising thing about her is her age because nobody really played that well in her age,” Park said.

Ko has 10 consecutive top 10 finishes. The LPGA record is 16 by Australian Karrie Webb.

The tournament is the LPGA’s seventh of the year. There have been six different winners, all born in South Korea.

The tournament concludes Sunday. The winner will receive $255,000.

—City News Service

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