French Lick’s second Senior LPGA tourney will be bigger than the first

Defending champion Trish Johnson gets pro-am play started at French Lick.

FRENCH LICK, Indiana – Last year the long overdue first major championship for senior women golfers was staged on the Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort. The second playing of the event, 15 months later, will clearly be bigger and better than the original.

The inaugural staging was paired with the Donald Ross Centennial Classic, a Symetra Tour event, to create a big two weeks of tournament golf on both of the resort’s courses. This year the events were split up, with the Symetra stop remaining in July and the Senior LPGA taking fall dates that figure to made it more special.

The PGA Tour has already conducted its four major championships and PGA Tour Champions has staged its five. The LPGA has completed its five majors for the regular tour, and the senior women’s played their first U.S. Senior Women’s Open at Chicago Golf Club in July.

That means the second Senior LPGA Championship, with its $600,000 purse, will be the last professional major championship on any tour in 2018. It’ll also be the only one played entirely on weekdays. That encouraged television coverage, and The Golf Channel will carry the action live from 4-6 p.m. for the three tournament rounds beginning on Monday.

Barely a year ago there was one glaring void in the golf tournament calendar, with no major tournament for the senior women professionals who contributed so much to the growth on the LPGA.

French Lick was instrumental in correcting the problem, helping The Legends Tour put on its biggest tournament of the year for four years on the Pete Dye Course. The Legends Championship grew into the Senior LPGA Championship last year and it found a home on the Pete Dye Course as well.

First of the pre-tournament festivities for the tourney’s second playing were held on Thursday, with a gala and auction benefitting the Riley Children’s Hospital. First of two Faegre Baker Daniels Pro-Ams was held on Friday and the latest induction class into The Legends Hall of Fame – which is housed at French Lick Springs Resort –s was completed at the post-round dinner. Shelley Hamlin’s selection was announced on Thursday night.

On Sunday eight players will decide the Legends Honors Division title, with Jan Stephenson defending her crown in the immediate aftermath of her selection to the World Golf Hall of Fame.

Once the tournament proper begins, however, the focus will be clearly on England’s Trish Johnson. She won the last of the four Legends Championships in 2016 by beating Juli Inkster in a six-hole playoff and led wire to wire last year in claiming the first Senior LPGA title.

Johnson was a three-stroke winner over Michele Redman in the first Senior LPGA, and they were the only players under par for the 54 holes. Inkster, who won The Legends Championship at French Lick in 2015, didn’t play in the first Senior LPGA because she was part of the broadcasting team for the U.S. Women’s Open.. Now she’s back as is England’s Laura Davies, who won the first U.S. Senior Women’s Open by a whopping 10 shots in Chicago.

The 81 starters include five members of the LPGA Hall of Fame and 19 in the field have won LPGA major titles.