French Lick has a long history supporting women’s Golf
French Lick Resort, even from the earliest days of the LPGA Tour, has had a love affair with Women’s Golf. It began in the 1950’s and grew into an admiration and respect for the Legends who helped shape the LPGA Tour.
This year, the Senior LPGA Championship presented by Old National Bank will be held Monday, October 15th through Wednesday, October 17th and promises to be an exciting event. Juli Inkster returns to the championship and Trish Johnson tries to win back to back titles and her 3rd consecutive event at the Pete Dye Course. This will also be the second senior women’s major of the year as Chicago Golf Club hosted the US Senior Women’s Open in July.
The Inaugural event drew World Golf Hall of Fame Members, Pat Bradley, Laura Davies, Betsy King, and Hollis Stacy, plus players who accounted for 339 LPGA Tour Wins, and 43 LPGA Major Championships.
The history of women’s golf at French Lick Resort kicked off in 1958 when the Sheraton Corporation hosted the French Lick Open for the fledgling LPGA Tour. Louise Suggs triumphed in that event over Marlene Hagge. Suggs went on to win 61 events in her career, and was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1979.
In the years that followed, Betsy Rawls and Mickey Wright picked up wins in the LPGA Championship hosted at the Donald Ross Course in 1959 and 1960. Both Rawls and Wright were named to the World Golf Hall of Fame as well. Suggs, Rawls and Wright were also 3 of the 6 original members of the LPGA Hall of Fame.
Having hosted one of the earliest PGA Championships in 1924, the LPGA Championship in 1959 and 1960, and Senior PGA Championship in 2015, it seemed only fitting that that French Lick be involved in the Inaugural Senior LPGA Championship.
Although many years had passed since those early championships, French Lick embarked on a path in 2013 that would lead the Resort to be instrumental in creating and hosting the Inaugural Senior LPGA Championship at the Pete Dye Course.
The Legends Tour, led by 27-time LPGA winner Jane Blalock, was looking for new venues to continue to grow the Senior Tour for the women of the LPGA. French Lick stepped up in a big way and Chairman of the Board Steve Ferguson entered into an agreement with the tour to host a 54-hole championship on the newly-opened Pete Dye Course and compete for a record $500,000 purse to be divided among 58 of the greats of women’s golf.
That event was won by Canada’s Lorie Kane. Kane stated: “I don’t know if I consider myself a Legend, but I am totally honored to win this event”
Year two, despite a second round, 9-under par 63 by Sherri Steinhauer, Laurie Rinker triumphed in a 2 round rain shortened event.
Juli Inkster made her Legends debut in 2015 and won the title. She launched her bid for a repeat in 2016, however, England’s Trish Johnson matched her down to the wire and won a 6-hole sudden death playoff.
Feeling the need to further grow golf opportunities for the senior women, and following talks with the LPGA and Commissioner Mike Whan, Steve Ferguson again stepped up to the plate and was instrumental in forming the first-ever Major Championship for Senior Women; The Senior LPGA Championship. Old National Bank, who had been a title sponsor of the Legends Tour event here, followed suit and was named the presenting sponsor.
The field was expanded to 81 players and the purse set at $600,000.00
The stage was set for a historical event as the Golf Channel was brought on to do live television coverage all 3 days of the 54-hole event. The event was contested in July of 2017, and it was again, Trish Johnson who triumphed. When accepting the trophy, Johnson said: “People ask me what is my favorite course, and I always said St. Andrews, but I have to say, this place has certainly taken over”.
The event designated Riley Children’s Hospital as the benefit Charity and over $200,000 was raised the week of the tournament for the cause.
The Champions Trophy, an elegant silver 38” masterpiece, was named in honor of Steve Ferguson for his effort in making the event a reality.