By Eric Gillard, email@example.com | 757-247-4879
6:34 PM EDT, September 6, 2012
It wasn't exactly the return to Kingsmill LPGA Tour golfers — and fans — had in mind Thursday.
Throughout the morning, the blue sky that painted the River Course for the Kingsmill Championship turned ominous.
As the sky became gray and the thunder boomed, fans and volunteers had umbrellas ready in case of a downpour. They didn't have to wait long as play was suspended at 12:24 p.m. because of thunderstorms.
Players, fans, caddies and course officials rushed for cover at the clubhouse as the air horn sounded.
"We kind of had a warning it was coming," said tournament director Katherine Thigpen.
She said metrologists kept officials updated every 15 minutes after the delay started.
Christina Kim, who finished with a 5-under 66 Thursday, was the leader coming into the clubhouse at the delay.
"I feel for the girls that are out there," she said. "That's going to make for a long day."
Numa Gulyanamitta, who did not tee off before the rain delay, took to Twitter.
"Rain delayed," she tweeted (@NumiGuly). "First one of my rookie year!"
"Craziness in the clubhouse for this rain delay," tweeted Alena Sharp (@AlenaSharp), who was 2-under through 15 at the delay (she finished at par-71). "2 and a half holes left!"
Fans on Twitter were disappointed at the inclement weather as well.
"Thank you thunder storm for ruining my day," said Sarah Bailey (@Skibby) of Newport News. "No LPGA — Xbox it is!"
Kim praised the work Kingsmill's grounds crew did in the run-up to the tournament.
"The course is in phenomenal shape, to be honest," she said. "The grounds crew have done a wonderful job."
Kim acknowledged, however, that rains effects the course no matter how well-maintained it is.
"The fairways aren't going to be as firm," she said.
Some players benefited from the rain.
"You have to play your best," said Beatriz Recari, who finished 6-under 65.
"I think the rain helped me," said Jiyai Shin, who finished with a tournament-record 9-under 62. "The rain helped make the greens softer."
Paula Creamer, who also shot 65, said delays test a player's resolve.
"The rain delays, they come and go," she said. "It's one of those things that you've kind of got to use your experience from the past. ...
"It's been a long day and I'll still take a 65, that's for sure," she joked.
For Thigpen, the rain delay was a chance to put the course's evacuation plan to use. Forty-two vans were used to take the players' groups to the clubhouse and locker room.
"The clubhouse was packed," she said.
When first-round play resumed an hour and 56 minutes later, fans gathered at the first, 10th and 18th holes as if nothing happened.
Kristy McPherson, who finished with a 1-under 71, was through 15 1/2 holes at the delay. She said the weather affected her game.
"The winds switched 180 degrees," she said.
The delay pushed back tee times for golfers by two hours.
Thigpen said Thursday's delays will push tee times up for players Friday and Saturday, adding that players who did not finish their round Thursday will finish it first thing Friday.
"The (LPGA) officials will do everything they can to finish a round," she said.
According to the National Weather Service, the forecast for Friday is partly cloudy with a high of 88 degrees. There is a 40 percent chance of thunderstorms Saturday with a high of 86 degrees. Sunday should be sunny with a high of 81.
Thigpen said tournament officials do not want to impact preparations for the major Ricoh Women's British Open tournament next week.
"We do not want to finish on Monday," she said.
The rain wasn't all bad news for the tournament. David Murphy of Chesapeake brought his daughter, Emily, on Thursday.
"It's been fun," he said. "She's been real excited to be here."
Murphy said the delay allowed Emily to get signed hats, balls, photos and trading cards from players in the clubhouse.
The rain also provided relief to golfers from the heat and humidity that started the day.
"The players appreciated it," Thigpen said.
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