Trish Johnson (Bristol, England) completed a wire-to-wire victory at the inaugural Senior LPGA Championship presented by Old National Bank on Wednesday on the Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort. She turned in a final-round 73 to finish at 4-under, 212 for the 54-hole event, three shots clear of Michele Redman (Minneapolis, Minnesota).
“I’m often asked what my favourite course in the world is and I always say St. Andrews, but I think this place (Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort) has taken over,” said Johnson, who has now won twice on the course. “It feels fantastic: this is the reason you play golf to try and win something like this. It is going to be a very, very fun evening.”
Johnson posted rounds of 67-72-73 to win the first-place cheque of $90,000. Redman collects the second-place pay day of $54,397.
“I hit my driver so well all week,” said Johnson when asked about the keys to victory. “I was quite long so I was hitting a lot of short irons in. Some of these greens are pretty wicked so if you have short clubs in that is a major advantage.”
Redman, a former Indiana golfer and 20-year LPGA veteran, finished in second place at 1-under, 215. World Golf Hall of Famer Laura Davies finished in a tie for third with a final-round 68, alongside Wendy Doolan, a breast cancer survivor, and Helen Alfredsson, the LET Player President.
Johnson, 51, started steady with four pars and then made a birdie on five to get to 6-under. Michele Redman started the day three shots back, but made double on three and the lead was six shots. Johnson made bogey on seven and Redman made birdie on nine so the lead was four at the turn.
Redman made back-to-back birdies on 11 and 12 and pulled within three, but that is as close as she would get. Johnson made a critical par save from 10-feet on 14 and held on. She made bogey on 15 and then three pars to end the day.
Johnson did most of her damage on day one with a 5-under, 67 that included seven birdies. She did it in the most difficult conditions of the week.
This is the second time Johnson has won on the Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort. She also won the 2016 Legends Tour Championship.
“It (French Lick Resort) has the same type of feeling as St. Andrews,” explained Johnson. “When I got to St. Andrews I just love it and the first time I came here I sat on top of the road and thought, ‘wow, this is special’. The people here are very special, they are so welcoming. It is like one happy family.”
While Johnson didn’t want to put herself into the conversation of “legends” at the inaugural event, she said this week was major for players of her generation.
“Hopefully, this is the first of many,” said Johnson, who won three times on the LPGA. “This is so well deserved because all those girls playing for $2 million on the LPGA right now is because of these people here. It’s the same as the guys playing for the amount of money because of Tiger. This is huge and very special.”
Redman turned in rounds of 73-69-73 to join Johnson as the only players under-par for the three days.
“I’m happy, I wish I had two drives back, but other than that I played really well and hit some great shots,” said Redman, the current Minnesota women’s golf coach. “It was great to see that I could still hit shots under pressure. It was also fun to play with Trish, I really enjoyed it.”
Redman also heard that the event overall was a success including the ratings on Golf Channel.
“I heard from the Golf Channel guys that the ratings were great,” said Redman, when asked if an event like this helps the Senior Women. “That says a lot about the interest in these women so I think it’s great for the future.”
The tournament presented a check for $200,000 to Riley Children’s Foundation. In five years, the tournament at the Pete Dye Course has now raised $700,000 for the Riley Children’s Foundation.
DAVIES OPENED WITH 79 AND FINISHED T3: Laura Davies, the greatest Brit to ever play the sport, started the Senior LPGA Championship with a 7-over, 79 and was T38 after day one. She closed with a 70 on Tuesday and a 4-under, 68 on Wednesday to finish in a tie for third.
“I played really well today,” said Davies. “I was playing catch up as I was 5-over after 10 holes (on day one) so I kind of put myself out of the tournament after what Trish did that first day. If she hadn’t been so good on day one, I might have still fancied my chances. It could have been even better today, but I was happy to hole a nice putt at the end on 18.”
Davies said the experience was fantastic.
“I played with Betsy twice and Pat Hurst who I haven’t played with in a long time and today I played with Martha Nause and I haven’t played with Martha for donkeys’ years,” said Davies. “Although none of us are quite as good as we used to be, it is still quite competitive. It is fun to see how good everyone still is and people still want to win tournaments.”
Davies was most pleased with her fight.
“I never give up,” said Davies. “Sometimes it may look like I have given up if I’m slumping around, but I’m always trying to get the extra shot out of the round. I hate to walk away from a tournament knowing I left something out there. Six-under on the weekend is never a bad thing.”
JANE CRAFTER EXCITED FOR FUTURE OF SENIOR WOMEN’S GOLF: Jane Crafter (Adelaide, Australia) spends most of her time these days doing commentary for Golf Channel or PGA TOUR radio. In fact, she will be on the broadcast team at next week’s LPGA event in Toledo, Ohio. This week, she got to dust off the clubs and compete in the inaugural Senior LPGA Championship and she said it inspired her to practice more.
“This is about 10 years overdue so it was great that it came to life,” said Crafter. “Players like Betsy (King) and Nancy Lopez and Pat Bradley ten years younger makes a difference. I’m 61 and if I could have been 51, it makes a big difference on how you play.”
Crafter said that having a major like this will only help boost the schedule for senior women.
“This has been a big shot in the arm for our generation,” said Crafter. “I love to see some of the younger players coming up and then of course you have Jane Blalock, who is 71. I would have loved to see JoAnne Carner play, but hopefully she this is able to next year.”