FRENCH LICK, Ind. — This week’s Donald Ross Classic is not the only women’s professional golf tournament coming to French Lick Resort in 2018, as the Donald Ross Course’s counterpart—the Pete Dye Course—will host the second annual Senior LPGA Championship presented by Old National Bank from Oct. 15-17.
The LPGA Tour opened entries for the event on June 5 and several high-profile individuals have already committed to play. LPGA and World Golf Hall of Fame member Betsy King highlights the list of early entrants, which also includes World Golf Hall of Fame member Laura Davies, as well as major champions Catriona Matthew, Janet Anderson and Brandie Burton.
“Those ladies deserve to play, they still have great games,” said Dave Harner, the Director of Golf for the French Lick Resort. “A couple of them have even been competitive on the regular Tour this year. Great time of the year in October with all the leaves turning.”
A 34-time LPGA Tour winner and six-time major champion, King headlines the 81-player field that will battle in a 54-hole stroke play format. Meanwhile, Davies returns following a tied for third finish in the inaugural event last year, when the 20-time LPGA Tour winner and four-time major champion narrowly missed out on the $90,000 first-place prize.
In addition, 31-time LPGA Tour winner and Team USA Solheim Cup captain Juli Inkster previously announced her intentions to compete this time around after missing the 2017 festivities because of broadcasting duties with FOX for the U.S. Women’s Open.
“It's a great opportunity for the Legends Tour players to compete and play a first-class golf course,” said Inkster. “We all look forward to the event and can't wait until October. Dave Harner and his people do an amazing job setting up the tournament. I'm sure once again it will be a first-class tournament.”
Furthermore, it will be the Senior LPGA Championship debut for Matthew, a nine-time Team Europe Solheim Cup member and the 2019 European Solheim Cup captain. She is one of six LPGA major champions to commit early to the field, which will be competing for a $600,000 purse.
“I’m really looking forward to playing in my first Senior LPGA Championship and catching up with all players I played the LPGA Tour with,” Matthew said.
Back for round two of this senior major championship is Anderson, the 1982 U.S. Women’s Open champion, as well as five-time LPGA Tour winner Burton. Seven-time LPGA Tour winner Danielle Ammaccapane and three-time LPGA Tour winner Wendy Doolan are also committed to the event, which will be televised live on Golf Channel from 4-6 p.m. ET during each of the three competition days.
Finally, the event’s first champion Trish Johnson, who won in wire-to-wire fashion, is eager to return to French Lick Resort, the site of both her Legends Tour victories.
“I am looking forward tremendously to defending my Senior LPGA Championship title,” Johnson said. “French Lick is without a doubt one of my favorite courses. There is something extremely special about the place and the people, and the fact that the Riley Children’s Hospital kids get to benefit from the tournament always makes it that much extra special.”
The Senior LPGA Championship is open to female professionals age 45 and older as of Monday, Oct. 15, 2018. Entries for the tournament close on Sept. 14 and a qualifier will be held at the Pete Dye Course on Thursday, Oct. 11, with the top-two finishers gaining entry to round out the field.
SYMETRA TOUR PROS GIVE BACK WITH JUNIOR CLINIC
Late yesterday afternoon, the French Lick Resort Golf Academy junior clinic featured instruction from several Valley Links Golf Course & Learning Center assistants, as well as four Symetra Tour professionals.
Emily Childs (Alameda, California), Allyssa Ferrell (Edgerton, Wisconsin), Jordy LaBarbera (Allen, Texas) and Haley Mills (Tyler, Texas) all took time out of their practice schedule to coach about 50 local youth from the greater southern Indiana area.
“We’ve long known that it’s important in a small community like this to have good community relations with the people around you,” said Dave Harner, the Director of Golf for the French Lick Resort. “We draw our employee base from right here in Orange County and open our doors to the kids to play and practice. It cultivates kids who want to get involved in golf. Today, growing the game is ever important.”
For LaBarbera, the experience brought her back to the days when she participated in summer camps.
“The best part was the cool counselors that you were so excited to hang out with,” said LaBarbera, who begins tournament play at 12:41 p.m. tomorrow off No. 10 tee. “I always keep that in mind when I’m coaching these kids, they think I’m the coolest person of the hour. Not only is it to show the community that we enjoy helping, but it’s good for us. I would much rather be doing this and helping kids realize that they can be great at golf too.”
Meanwhile, Ferrell graduated from Michigan State University (MSU) in 2014 with a Bachelor’s in Elementary Education. So, this opportunity was near and dear to her heart.
“I really love kids and it’s nice to see so many kids come out, shows golf is growing,” Ferrell said. “I was surprised as to how many little girls there were because mostly it’s boys that show up to these clinics. It was great to have them all come out.”
FERRELL, MEIER, NAGEL BACK AT SITE OF 2012 BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIP WIN
The Donald Ross Course at French Lick Resort, home to the Donald Ross Classic from July 12-14, is a familiar and welcoming host for three former Michigan State teammates turned Symetra Tour professionals.
Allyssa Ferrell, Christine Meier (Rochester Hills, Michigan) and Liz Nagel (DeWitt, Michigan) were all part of the Spartans squad that won the 2012 Big Ten Championship right here on this prestigious ground.
“I know it has been six years, but all the holes look exactly the same as they did then,” said Meier, who finished tied for 36th in the tournament. “You can remember the team dinners we had, the birdie you make on 17 to for sure get the win, coming down the 18th hole. It’s good stuff to play and remember that.”
That year, Ferrell finished tied for 14th and Nagel ended tied for 18th.
“It plays a lot different, the par-3s are a lot longer and we were also here a little earlier in the year,” Nagel said. “Your mindset is different too, playing in a professional event. I feel like just so many good memories and even walking in the hotel, I remember we got celebratory ice cream. It’s so fun to think about.”
Each individual was also part of the team that tied for the title with Ohio State University in 2014 at the Pete Dye Course, home of the second annual Senior LPGA Championship presented by Old National Bank from Oct. 15-17. In addition, current Symetra Tour pro Kelly Grassel (Chesterton, Indiana) played an integral role in the result as a freshman for MSU.
Finally, for good measure, Ferrell and Meier led the Spartans to the crown in 2011, albeit in Illinois at Lake Shore Country Club. Nagel was part of the team during the run, but did not play.