Kraft Nabisco 2009

Once again, the LPGA plays the first major of the year: The Kraft Nabisco Championship.

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Lorena Ochoa is the defending champion, and likely is the odds-on-favorite to win again. But Ji-Yai Shin, Angie Stanford, Karrie Webb, Suzanne Petterson and Paula Creamer also will likely be in the mix. In fact, in several years of casual watching of the LPGA, I don’t think I’ve seen a year in which there were more strong contenders.

It’ll be a nice warm-up for the Masters.

The purse is $2 million, with a winner’s share of $300,000.

The tournament began as a 54 hole event, known as the Colgate Dinah Shore Tournament. It has always been held at the Old Course at Mission Hills Country Club. The inaugural event was won by Jane Blalock.

Nabisco became the sponsor in 1982. That year, the Dinah Shore was the first LPGA event to have all four rounds broadcast on national television (by ABC—always a friend to golf). The tournament was designed a “Major” by the LGPA the following year.

For those who are not old enough to remember, Dinah Shore was a singer, actress and pioneering television talk show host. Beginning her career in radio as a singer, she had her own program by 1943. During the Second World War, Shore was the first woman to visit troops at the front. After the war, she recorded more than 70 songs, including one called “Dinah”, which gave her the nickname (her real name was Frances Rose). She had her own television variety and talk show starting in 1951. In the late ‘60s and ‘70s, the show was called “Dinah!” and was enormously popular (my mother watched it religiously). She certainly was the pioneer who made Oprah! possible. Shore died in 1994.

For the LPGA, Shore was a tireless promoter—kind of the Bob Hope of women’s golf. Dinah Shore is the first—and only—honorary member of the LPGA Hall of Fame. She was awarded the Patty Berg Award for her contributions to women’s golf.

Shore also left her mark in the traditional celebratory swim after the event. In 1991, she joined Amy Alcott for the dunk—the “swim at the Shore.” Viewers are sure to see the swim again this year.

The current name of the tournament reflects Kraft’s 2000 purchase of Nabisco brands. Kraft Nabisco’s support for the tournament is very strong, offering a purse of $1.8 million.

It’s a shame, though, that Dinah Shore’s name no longer is associated with the tournament she started.

Mission Hills will play as a 6,569 yard par 72 for the tournament. The course was designed by Desmond Muirhead. The signature is the 531 yard par 5, with an island green sitting right in front of the clubhouse. You can see a course map here.

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