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For Rob Sanders, an eight-year Kingsmill Championship volunteer from Virginia Beach, deciding to host an LPGA Tour professional for the first time turned out to be a hole-in-one.
Sanders, who owns a timeshare at King’s Creek Plantation in Williamsburg, decided to offer up half of his allotted space — the equivalent of a small two-bedroom apartment — for more than a week to any LPGA Tour player who needed a place to stay during the Kingsmill Championship.
After not hearing anything from tournament officials about offering to host a player, Sanders assumed his other half of a timeshare would be going to waste, as it had the past three years during the tournament week.
In a fortuitous turn of events, volunteer coordinator Lauren Zalaskus approached Sanders and asked if he still had housing available for a player.
He told her his place was still up for grabs, and Zalaskus handed him a yellow sticky note with a name and time written on it.
The name: Joanna Klatten. The time: 6:30 p.m.
Klatten, a French golfer who ranks 107th on the LPGA Tour money list this year, signed up for private housing during the tournament at the last minute and was scheduled to arrive in Richmond at 6:30 p.m. that night on a flight from Dallas.
After having her fight flight canceled, Klatten eventually touched down in Richmond at 10:30 p.m. and was shuttled to King’s Creek Plantation, where she was greeted briefly by Sanders in the parking lot.
“It was very brief,” he joked about their first meeting. “It was essentially two people going, ‘I’m so tired.’ I actually was catnapping on the sofa and I just told her to call me when she was like 15 minutes out.”
Few words were exchanged between the two during their initial meeting as Sanders helped Klatten carry her luggage into the timeshare, which is located in the same building as his, and bid her farewell for the evening.
The initial plan was to have Klatten stay at a different timeshare across the complex, as to give the LPGA Tour professional some space and to limit any potential indications of impropriety on his part. Instead, Klatten was placed in the same unit as Sanders.
“I bet somebody there thought, ‘Oh, this man has two units. Let’s put them together,'” he joked.
Despite residing so close to one another, the two were only formally introduced Tuesday after not crossing paths Monday.
In between their initial meeting late Sunday night and their first extensive interaction Tuesday, Sanders admitted he not only did not know anything about Klatten as a golfer, but had to Google pictures of her just so he could figure out what his new guest looked like.
If Sanders did not know much about Klatten as a golfer before the tournament, he certainly knew more after the first day of competition.
Klatten finished the opening round of the Kingsmill Championship in first place after tying a career-low round of 6-under 65 —the first time in her career she led an LPGA Tour event after the first round.
Suddenly, Sanders went from hosting a relatively unknown golfer to the talk of the Kingsmill Championship after day one.
Earlier in the week, Klatten promised to treat Sanders to dinner the day before she had an afternoon tee time. As fate would have it, Klatten was in one of the first groups Thursday, meaning the two could celebrate her first-round lead with dinner at Le Yaca French Restaurant in Williamsburg, Klatten’s favorite local restaurant.
“Last night I took him out to dinner to thank him,” Klatten said. “He’s been great.”
Not knowing what to expect from hosting a player, Sanders said he was surprised at how quickly his week changed when Klatten finished the first round in the lead.
“All of a sudden, I’m hosting the overnight leader and the overnight leader bought me dinner. It was very interesting the way the circumstances worked out,” he said with a smile. “When I first Googled her it was my hope she would make the cut and would be able to stay and play all week. The first day turned out well for her, and it turned out well to me. I’m now a minor celebrity in my peer group.”
Sanders got his wish, with Klatten making the cut despite a less impressive second round in which she shot 4-over 75 to bring her to 2-under on the tournament.
Excited to have a rooting interest in the tournament, Sanders said he would be open to hosting Klatten in future years.
“The fact that she led the tournament was a plus, but she’s so nice. I would like her if she was on the verge of not making the cut. She’s so pleasant and appreciative,” he said. “I would certainly offer to her to stay here again. It’s very, very early to know how this will all turn out. But I could certainly offer it to her again.”
Klatten agreed with his sentiments, saying she would be open to stay with him again in the future.
“For sure,” she said when asked if she would consider staying with Sanders again. “I always like to get to know new people and he’s really nice so, yes, of course I would like to come back.”