French Lick hosts biggest-ever LPGA Legends event

FRENCH LICK, Ind. – The stage is set for what amounts to more than just a golf tournament. The Legends Championship presented by Humana is a week-long celebration of women’s golf at French Lick Resort.

The Legends is the official senior tour of the Ladies PGA. It has been in existence since 2000, but the 54-hole tournament that tees off on Friday, is the circuit’s biggest event yet. It offers a record purse of $500,000 with Sunday’s champion receiving $75,000.

Veteran competitor Jane Blalock, chief executive officer of the circuit, calls it “the most significant event in the history of the Legends Tour.’’

French Lick, with a rich history in women’s golf, unveiled its new Legends Hall of Fame on Thursday night at the West Baden Springs Hotel prior Friday’s first tee shot by a field of about 60 LPGA stars of the past on the resort’s Pete Dye Course.

Kathy Whitworth, winner of 88 LPGA tournaments and six major championships, and Jan Stephenson, the leading career money-winner on the Legends circuit, will be the first inductees to the new Hall and Louise Suggs, Betsy Rawls and Mickey Wright were also honored on Thursday.

Suggs won the 1958 French Lick Women’s Open, the first of three LPGA events staged on the resort’s Donald Ross Course. That layout also hosted the LPGA Championships of 1959 and 1960, with Rawls and Wright the respective champions. Whitworth was in the field for those two majors.

“With our history of women’s golf – past, present and future – and the addition of the Legends Championship, it was a natural fit to create a Hall of Fame here for these legendary golfers,’’ said Dave Harner, French Lick’s director of golf. “Stephenson and Whitworth have done so much for women’s golf and are perfect choices for our first year of honoring these legendary golfers.’’

The Ross Course, which also hosted the 1924 PGA Championship won by Walter Hagen, underwent a renovation in 2008, but it won’t be the site of the Legends tourney. The well-received Dye Course, the last course designed by the legendary Indiana-based architect, will be the site of the competition that includes nine members of the LPGA Hall of Fame and six former Solheim Cup captains. The Dye course has previously hosted the Professional Players National Championship and the Big Ten men’s and women’s championships.

Among the competitors in the Legends Championship are Nancy Lopez, Joanne Carner, Betsy King, Beth Daniel, Pat Bradley, Amy Alcott, Donna Caponi and Hollis Stacy. All won at least 18 LPGA tournaments and were major tournament winners.

Laura Davies, Liselotte Neumann, Blalock and Rosie Jones are also among the leading competitors. Blalock and Caponi will join Hall of Famers Sandra Haynie and Sandra Palmer in a 36-hole Super Legends event on Saturday and Sunday.