By Jake Riepma

I started the day with a 4:30 a.m. wakeup call and the uncertainty of covering a PGA Major Championship for the first time. The combination set me up for a mix of excitement, nerves, a lot of caffeine, and the challenge of making the most of a neat opportunity.

In late June, several of my classmates and I had the unique opportunity to attend the practice rounds for the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Kemper Lakes Golf Club in Kildeer, Illinois.

We arrived at Kemper Lakes on Tuesday, June 26, and we were immediately directed to the media center, located just up the elegantly decorated ramp that contained more flowers than the garden section at the Home Depot on Mother’s Day. I envisioned a slow stroll up the ramp, gradually taking in all of the sights and sounds of my first moments at the course.

Mother Nature had other ideas…

OK, after the rain, it was time to regroup and refocus. I was attempting to, when right in front of me walked a shorter gentleman with a distinct look – golf shorts, salt and pepper colored beard overtaking the bottom portion of his face, and a cuddly husky body type that was made for TV. If you’re a golf fan, you probably guessed it, but it was ESPN’s Michael Collins, more commonly known as the @ESPNCaddy. Spoiler: he’s even nicer and funnier in person than on TV.

Anyway, back to the coverage. With a limited amount of time on the first day, we went right to work to set up for our live shots from the course. I delivered a report on the course conditions at Kemper Lakes following the severe rain, and I also attempted to speak with as many sources as possible to better position myself for our full day of coverage the following day.

The jump from Tuesday to Wednesday was monumental. On day two, there were no time constraints. There was a full slate of scheduled interviews with players competing in the tournament. Plus, there were a number of appealing extra stories to cover, such as the Women’s Empowerment Summit with former Olympic athletes Nancy Kerrigan and Hilary Knight. Oh, and not to be overlooked, there was time to enjoy the amenities at Kemper Lakes Golf Club, like the buffet of delicious food items in the media center that included a delightful Sriracha Asian coleslaw that I must have eaten at least four pounds of.

As the practice rounds concluded, and with the help of my great teammates Darren Zaslau and DeForest Mapp, I conducted a video report from the course, complete with footage from one of the press conferences.

Aside from the practical application of lessons learned in the classroom, such as gathering sources, crafting story angles, and obtaining compelling video, we were also reminded of the importance of one of life’s simplest lessons – treating people with respect. Apparently, not all members of the media do this. Barb, one of the staff members handling credential pick-up, told Darren Zaslau and me that we were “the nicest and sweetest people here.”

Barb was a sweetheart, I miss her already.

Despite the unpredictable challenges, reporting from the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship allowed me to apply concepts I learned in the classroom and provided me with fantastic networking opportunities, footage for my broadcast reporting reel, and an overall memorable experience that I am grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of.