Davies Tops the Leaderboard at Senior LPGA Championship presented by Old National Bank
FRENCH LICK, Indiana – Dame Laura Davies and Juli Inkster finished one-two in the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open at Chicago Golf Club in July, and the possibility loomed for a similar result after a weird finish to Monday’s first round of the Senior LPGA Championship here.
Temperatures in the 40-degree range and winds of 15 miles per hour made play difficult for the 80 starters in the second of the two major championships for senior women golfers. Davies bundled up with a blanket in her golf cart at times, but she was hot early in the round when she opened a three-stroke lead.
An eagle at the par-5 seventh hole triggered Davies’ fast start, but Inkster matched it at a most critical time – on her last hole. That brought Inkster to 3-under-par 69 for the day and in a three-way tie for second with Sweden’s Liselotte Neumann and Maria McBride. The trio is one stroke behind Davies.
Davies had a tough finish. She hit her tee shot on the par-3 17th hole over the green and made bogey, her lead slipping to two shots. Neumann and McBride birdied No. 18 and Inkster rolled in her 15-footer for eagle before Davies – playing in the last threesome – finished her round.
After the bogey at No. 17 Davies sent her tee shot far left on the par-5 finishing hole, the ball ending up in high grass.
“We could never find the ball,’’ said Davies. “Fortunately I made birdie on my second ball.’’
That “birdie’’ was actually a double bogey so that created a three-shot swing with Inkster and two-shot swing with Neumann and McBride. Davies won at Chicago Golf Club by a whopping 10-stroke margin but this week’s 54-hole competition wouldn’t seem to be so one-sided.
“Winning two senior majors in one year would be incredible,’’ said Davies. “I’d love to have a chance, but you’ve got to be aggressive around here.’’
The Pete Dye Course was set up shorter than usual (about 6,100 yards) to help the players combat the chilly weather. Eight finished under par, but defending champion Trish Johnson (73) wasn’t among them. She is bidding for her third straight victory on the Pete Dye Course after finishing second to Inkster in 2015 Legends Championship here.
Neumann started her round with two bogeys, then charged back with birdies on five of the next nine holes. She did it without Mark Williams, her long-time caddie. Williams is on the bag for another player in the LPGA’s qualifying tournament.
“He left me for a younger woman,’’ said Neumann, who drew laughs with that comment after a day in which the golf wasn’t much fun.
“Our round took 5 hours 40 minutes. It was a long day out there,’’ said Inkster.
“Keeping yourself warm, that was the hardest part,’’ said McBride. “There was a lot of stopping and waiting.’’
McBride had reason to celebrate. Monday marked her 45th birthday. If it had come a day later she wouldn’t have been eligible to play in the Senior LPGA Championship. Only players who have reached their 45th birthday are eligible.
The forecast is for better weather in the next two rounds before the champion gets $90,000 from the tourney’s $600,000 purse on Wednesday.
DAME LAURA DAVIES ON TOP AT THE SENIOR LPGA CHAMPIONSHIP
A few months removed from a dominating victory at the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open, Dame Laura Davies is back at it again. Davies opened the 2018 Senior LPGA Championship presented by Old National Bank on Monday with a 4-under par 68, good enough to take a one stroke lead at the major championship over Juli Inkster, Maria McBride and Liselotte Neumann.
The Pete Dye Course was struck with temperatures in the 50s and whipping wind all day on Monday, but World Golf Hall of Fame member Davies was able to get to 6-under par until stumbles on 17 and 18 brought her back down to a one-stroke lead.
“You’ve got to be aggressive around here,” Davies said of her game plan. “If you start just trying to hit fairways, you’re going to leave yourself tough putts. You need to be going in there with as short an iron as possible, to make some birdies, because you are going to make bogeys as I proved on the last two holes.”
LPGA and World Golf Hall of Fame member Inkster is playing in her first Senior LPGA Championship, but she has experience at the French Lick Resort as the winner of the Legends Tour event at the same venue in 2015. On Monday, Inkster rolled in a 15-footer for eagle on 18 and was pleased with how the round went.
“Overall, I drove the ball well,” Inkster said. “I hit a lot of fairways, I think I only missed one fairway, just didn’t roll in a lot of putts. I played the par-5’s very mediocre, I three-putted one for par, but overall I drove the ball well I just got to hit the ball a little closer to the hole tomorrow. It was tough out there today though.”
After a sixth-place finish at the inaugural Senior LPGA Championship in 2017, Neumann was all smiles to end the day as one of just eight players in red figures amid the challenging conditions.
“I’m super happy with the way I played today,” Neumann said. “I started out a little shaky, I bogeyed the first two holes, but then made some birdies on three and four and I had a really good stretch with birdies on 9-11. The course didn’t play that long, but obviously with the cold it got really tough anyways…Overall, I’m super happy with the round, it’s a good start.”
SPECIAL BIRTHDAY FOR MCBRIDE
Lucky for Maria McBride the Senior LPGA Championship presented by Old National Bank switched to an October date for 2018. McBride celebrated her 45th birthday during Monday’s first round, which happens to be the cutoff date to be eligible to compete. She made the most of her opportunity, with an opening-round 3-under par 69 on Monday at the French Lick Resort.
“It’s great to be playing out here,” McBride said. “I haven’t played much golf the last two years, so it’s nice to go out there and actually shoot a really good round. I was very happy with my game today.”
McBride (also played as Maria Hjorth) was a five-time winner on the LPGA Tour, and is relishing the opportunity for her career to have a second stage, even at the challenging Pete Dye Course. “It’s a very tricky course,” she said. “The green areas are very, very hard especially in this wind and cold weather. It’s tough and you have to make sure you place yourself in the right spots coming into the greens.”
IN HER WORDS
Jane Crafter (-2, 70), on having two senior women’s major championships:
“It’s fantastic. The LPGA got this Senior LPGA Championship going before the U.S. Senior Women’s Open, but to have both of those it’s really just a celebration of the women who paved the way for the LPGA. We had the founders, and now my generation is really kind of the builders upon that founding platform. It’s a lot of fun, we enjoy being out here, seeing each other, competing again and we still get butterflies. It’s a great thrill and we’re very grateful to French Lick for putting this on and to the LPGA for stepping up for senior women’s golf.”
HONORS DIVISION CHAMPIONSHIP
Judy Dickinson (Tequesta, Fla.) and Martha Nause (Sheboygan, Wisc.) won the Honors Division Championship on Sunday at the Pete Dye Course as part of the 2018 Senior LPGA Championship presented by Old National Bank.
Four-time LPGA winner Dickinson and major champion Nause, each earned $4,000 for their four-stroke victory in the four-ball competition over World Golf Hall of Fame member Jan Stephenson and 27-time LPGA winner Jane Blalock.
Laura Davies (1, -4)
- Member of the World Golf Hall of Fame (class of 2015)
- Has 20 career LPGA wins, including four major championships
- Has 45 career wins on the Ladies European Tour
- Won the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open conducted by the USGA in July
- Finished T3 at the inaugural Senior LPGA Championship in 2017
- Davies is still active on the LPGA Tour, with seven made cuts in 15 starts during the 2018 season including a runner-up finish at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup in March
- On the Legends Tour in 2018, Davies teamed up with Trish Johnson to win the BJ’s Charity Championship
Juli Inkster (T2, -3)
- Member of the LPGA Tour Hall of Fame (1999) and the World Golf Hall of Fame (2000)
- Making her debut at the Senior LPGA Championship this week
- Finished runner-up at the inaugural S. Senior Women’s Open conducted by the USGA in July
- Inkster is a 31-time LPGA Tour winner, seven-time major champion and is one of seven golfers to have completed the Career Grand Slam
- Inkster is still active on the LPGA Tour and has made 11 starts in 2018
- Will captain the U.S. Solheim Cup team for a record-setting third-time in 2019
Maria McBride (T2, -3)
- Monday Oct. 15th is McBride’s 45th birthday and as such she is eligible to compete at the Senior LPGA Championship for the first time
- McBride is a five-time LPGA Tour winner and has two wins on the Ladies European Tour
- McBride was a member of five Solheim Cups for Team Europe, including the victorious team in 2011
- Played on the LPGA Tour from 1998-2016
Liselotte Neumann (T2, -3)
- Neumann has 33 professional wins to her name, including 13 on the LPGA Tour with one major championship title
- Finished sixth at the inaugural Senior LPGA Championship in 2017
- Finished T6 at the inaugural S. Senior Women’s Open conducted by the USGA in July
- Has three Legends Tour victories: 2017 Red Nose Day Walgreens Charity Championship, 2015 Walgreens Charity Championship and 2014 Walgreens Charity Classic
- Neumann was a member of six Solheim Cups for Team Europe, and captained the team to their first victory on U.S. soil in 2013
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INAUGURAL EVENT TOP FIVE
1st, Trish Johnson, 67-72-73—212 (-4)
2nd, Michele Redman, 73-69-73—215 (-1)
T3, Laura Davies, 79-70-68—217 (+1)
T3, Helen Alfredsson, 78-70-69—217 (+1)
T3, Wendy Doolan, 75-71-71—217 (+1)
TOURNAMENT SCORING RECORDS
18 holes: 67, Trish Johnson, 2017 first round
36 holes: 139, Trish Johnson, 2017
54 holes: 212, Trish Johnson, 2017
The Senior LPGA Championship began with a special opening tee shot by LPGA and World Golf Hall of Fame member Sandra Haynie and 19-time LPGA winner Sandra Palmer before the first round began on Monday.
The tournament will again benefit Riley Children’s Foundation, which is connected to Riley Children’s Hospital, the premier children’s hospital in the region. To date the event has raised more than $630,000 for the Riley Children’s Foundation. On Monday, kids from the Riley Children’s Hospital acted as the first tee announcers.
Defending champion Trish Johnson is T14 through one round after shooting a 73 on Monday.
via Kevin Frisch and LPGA