By Brad King
In late March, Winston-Salem resident and former Wake Forest two-time first team All-American Laura Diaz set a pair of unusual LPGA records: First, she recorded a pair of hole-in-ones on consecutive days at the Kia Classic in Carlsbad, Calif., becoming just the second player in LPGA Tour history to make two aces in a tournament.
Diaz aced the par-3 third hole in the third round and then holed out on the par-3 sixth hole in Sunday’s final round. “I went out [Sunday] hoping I could get another one,” Diaz said. “Just really using my head to see how wild and crazy it could get. Then it happened and I went nuts. It was pretty crazy.”
On Saturday Diaz followed her first ace by making an eagle 2 on the par-4 seventh, holing out with the same 50-degree wedge she had used to make the hole-in-one four holes earlier.
Yet the more unusual record came on Sunday when Diaz immediately followed her hole-in-one on the 157-yard sixth, where she used a 6-iron, with an eagle on the par-5 seventh, again holing out with the same 50-degree wedge — this time from 122 yards.
“I was trying to hit it a little left-to-right high and take a little bit off of it,” Diaz said. “And, yeah, I did it. It went in.”
Diaz became the first Tour player to follow an ace with an eagle on the next hole. For those of you scoring at home, that’s 8-under for four holes in a six-hole stretch over two days. Jenny Lidback is the only other player with two aces in an event, accomplishing the feat in the 1997 Tournament of Champions.
The 38-year-old Diaz – a two-time LPGA champion who has recorded 57 top-10 finishes and earned more than $5 million in career money –shot 2-under 70 in each weekend round to finish the tournament at 2 under. The magical strokes also helped her qualify for the Kingsmill Championship in Williamsburg, Va., where Diaz missed the cut.
Yet the bigger payoff may have occurred away from the golf course. While Kia was sponsoring the event in which Diaz recorded her heroics, the company was not giving away a car on either of the holes where Diaz made her hole-in-ones.
However, on Wednesday of tournament week Diaz had been paired in the Pro-Am with Bob King Kia President and CEO Rob King, of Winston-Salem.
“We had a great time,” King said. “[Diaz] is a lot of fun. Obviously, we have followed her career since she was at Wake Forest. We were very excited when she moved back to town. She’s such a well-rounded mom and family person, who happens to be a professional golfer.”
Diaz’s husband and former caddie, Kevin, is now the Wake Forest assistant women’s golf coach. Her entire family, including her mother and father, relocated from Amelia Island to Winston-Salem in the summer of 2012.
“I told [Diaz], you know one of these days after you come back we need to talk about putting this deal together and get you in a Kia,” King said. “You are good for us, you are good for the community and you love Kia.
“We laughed about it and then, sure enough, back-to-back hole-in-ones.”
King said he and Diaz reached a “soft handshake” partnership deal (an “Arnold Palmer-type agreement,” according to her father and coach, Ron Philo Sr.).
Diaz is now driving a sporty new Kia K900 Sedan around town. In return, she will don the Bob King Kia name on her bag, while also helping the company with some exclusive advertising in the local market and attending various Kia fundraisers.
“Two fast friends decided to shake hands on a deal and we are happy with it,” said King. “We are delighted to be just a small, tiny partner with her. But anything we can do to help her continued success is something Bob King Kia wants to be involved with.
“She is such a good steward for the game and the community. We really wanted to give back to somebody who has given so much to the game of golf.”