A Celebration of Women’s Golf
French Lick Resort in Indiana will host the inaugural Women’s Senior LPGA Championship.
French Lick, Indiana: In 1950, the dreams of 13 gutsy women, including Louise Suggs and Babe Zaharias, founded the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA). The LPGA is the oldest continuing women's professional sports organization in the United States. This year, its 35-event schedule boasts largest total prize money in LPGA history with $67.35 million on the line. New to the schedule this year is the inaugural Senior LPGA Championship at French Lick Resort in Indiana.
“This is a landmark event for the LPGA because it provides a larger platform to celebrate the legends of the game,” beamed LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan. “The women that forged the way for the current generation are finally recognized. French Lick is an ideal host. The investment of almost $600 million made by Cook Medical [the owner of the hotels] is incredible. The resort has already shown tremendous support for senior women’s golf through the annual Legends Tour Championship. The Pete Dye Course is accustomed to hosting premier tournaments, serving as the site of the 2015 Senior PGA Championship, the Big Ten Men’s and Women’s Championship from 2012-2014, and the 2010 PGA Professionals National Championship.”
A Look Into The Future And The Past
“The future of golf depends on women and their children. The truth be told, women’s professional golf has never been held to the same esteem as the men by the industry or media,” expressed Steve Ferguson, chairman of Cook Medical. “I hope we can be a part of a sea change of thinking. It’s time to recognize the up-and-coming women golfers and the ladies who paved the way.
“Championship golf has always been a hallmark of French Lick Resort. The Senior LPGA Championship will continue the tradition. Our resort has made a five-year commitment to the tournament and, I hope, we will be the permanent host,” continued Ferguson. “I have never had a better business partner than the LPGA. The organization is an expert at marketing and I am impressed with their willingness to work with us to build the tournament into a must attend event.
“There is an interesting dichotomy when we celebrate the best of women’s golf this summer. The week starts with our Symetra Tour event, where the young ladies will play on our traditional Donald Ross Course, followed by LPGA’s veterans teeing it up on our modern Pete Dye design.
“The transformation at French Lick Resort is nothing but amazing. The impact on what we have accomplished is real. The two hotels, golf courses, and casino employ 1,700 Hoosiers who take great pride in their town and appreciate your visit. You will notice the difference. The smiles are a little wider and the hellos are heartfelt.”
The Road To The LPGA
The LPGA’s developmental tour, founded in 1981, has helped launch the careers of many well-known players including Karrie Webb and Lorena Ochoa. Now called the Symetra Tour, the circuit has 23 tournaments with prize money in excess of $3 million. “The top-10 money earners are guaranteed a promotion to the LPGA Tour each year,” said Mike Nichols, chief business officer of the Symetra Tour. “Since its inception, 600 Symetra Tour alumnae have earned LPGA membership.”
Growing up in the shadows of USGA headquarters in New Jersey, Nichols has been around golf most of his life. “During my four years at university, I interned in the USGA’s research department. Although college beer has helped erase many of the arcane facts I memorized, I still remember a few,” chuckled Nichols. “For example, the word caddy is derived from the French word for student or cadet, which is pronounced cad-DAY.
“When I joined the LPGA 10 years ago, it was a challenging time. Belt tightening from the recession had taken its toll. Renewing existing tournament contracts was not easy. Through hard work, we have righted the ship at the LPGA and Symetra Tour. Both are prospering. Our Tour’s approachability to get up close and personal with some of the world’s best female athletes is a major selling point. The players understand connectivity among sponsors, fans, and volunteers is essential for them to play that week,” said Nichols.
A Destination Worth A Visit
French Lick Resort is a combination of two hotels: West Baden Springs and French Lick Springs. Combined, they offers 686 guest rooms and suites, the largest resort meeting space in the Midwest, a 51,000 square-foot ,casino, 63-holes of golf, and two full-service spas.
The resort first welcomed guests in 1845, the same year Texas became the 28th state in America. Its buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the resort is recognized as one of the Historic Hotels of America by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
This year marks the centennial celebration of the Donald Ross Course at French Lick. “It was well received by the world’s best players from the day it opened,” lauded David Harner, director of golf operations. “The course, seven years after opening, hosted the 1924 PGA Championship, won by Walter Hagen.
“The experience we deliver is unexpected,” detailed Harner. “Most resorts tend to be located near a major highway or airport. We are close to neither. I like to say we are in the middle of nowhere, but really in the middle of everywhere. Our Midwest location places us within a day’s drive from many of America’s largest cities.”
First Of Its Kind
A week-long celebration of women’s golf will take place starting on July 7 with the Symetra Tour event to be immediately followed by the Senior LPGA Championship.
When Michelle McGann won her first LPGA tournament (the Sara Lee Classic in 1995), many current Symetra Tour players were in diapers. “The first time I stepped foot onto a golf course, I was seven years old. I can still distinctly remember the smell of the fresh cut grass and the feeling of having special ‘alone’ time with my dad,” recalled McGann, Golf Magazine and Golf Digest Amateur of the Year (1987), winner of seven LPGA tournaments, and two-time Solheim Cup player.
“This year marks my 28th year on the LPGA,” said McGann. “My travels around the world have left me with so many amazing friends. I can't begin to tell you how many fans, LPGA officials, tournament sponsors, host families, and past and present players have made such a positive impact on my life.
“French Lick has been a tremendous supporter of women’s golf and I am excited that they have chosen the Senior LPGA Championship as their next big showcase. The Pete Dye Course is both beautiful and challenging and I look forward to returning this summer to compete.”
French Lick Resort is located within a short distance from many Midwest cities: a 90-minute drive from Louisville, 2.5 hours from Indianapolis, 3 hours from Cincinnati, 3.5 hours from Nashville, and 4 hours from St. Louis and Chicago.
For information on Senior LPGA Championship and Ross Course Centennial golf packages, please visit their website FrenchLick.com, or call (888) 936-9360.