FRENCH LICK, Indiana, July 10, 2017 – The first time Trish Johnson (Virginia Water, Great Britain) pulled up to the Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort, she knew instantly that the place was special. Johnson posted a 5-under, 67 on Monday in the first-round to build a four-stroke lead at the inaugural Senior LPGA Championship. On a day that featured wind gusts peaking at 33-miles-an-hour, Johnson handled the difficult conditions masterfully and made seven birdies.
Carolyn Hill (Saint Petersburg, Florida) is in second place at 1-under, 71 and Marilyn Lovander (Punta Gorda, Florida) is in third place at even-par. World Golf Hall-of-Famer Betsy King is in a three-way tie for fourth.
“I’m feeling very happy,” said Johnson. “The score reflected how I played. It was a tough day, but I struck the ball really nicely and the wind didn’t affect me too much.”
Johnson, who has three LPGA Tour wins and 18 Ladies European Tour victories, made back-to-back birdies on holes three and four to get her round going. Her lone mistake of the day was a double-bogey on the par-4 sixth, but she responded with a birdie on seven.
Her back nine was stellar. Johnson made birdies on 11, 14, 15 and 18 during a bogey-free inward march. The highlight of the day was an unexpected chip-in birdie on hole 15.
“I got a bit lucky, I hit the drive well, but I let it go into the wind,” explained Johnson. “It ended up in the heavy stuff and I had a flyer in the rough. I hit a wedge to the back of the green. The moment I hit it, I thought ‘oh, that’s nice’ and it just dropped in and that was a major bonus.”
Johnson, 51, posted rounds of 68-71 and outlasted Juli Inkster in a 6-hole playoff last year on the Pete Dye Course to win the Legends Tour Championship.
“This week is massively cool,” said Johnson. “It’s a big event, we’ve got the U.S. Senior Open next year so it’s one of two major events (for us coming up). Everyone wants to win and just because people get older, they don’t less competitive.”
Johnson still plays regularly on the Ladies European Tour (LET). In 2016, she made 15 starts on the LET and finished 52nd on the Order of Merit. Her most recent win came at the 2014 Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open, where she became the Tour’s oldest winner aged 48.
Johnson’s last LPGA Tour win came in 1996 at the Fieldcrest Cannon Classic. She won twice on the LPGA in 1993.
Since she still plays, Johnson’s competitive fire has never waned as she has aged.
“Everyone wants to win the first major,” said Johnson. “The competitive juices never go away, that’s why these women have been such amazing players. I’m still playing full-time, so for me this is a massive bonus. We don’t have a lot of tournaments in Europe so I haven’t played a lot, but I have practiced a lot.”
Johnson’s love affair with French Lick Resort is ongoing.
“What don’t I love about French Lick?,” asked Johnson when she was asked what she likes about the resort. “It’s just a magnificent place, when you look at it, you just think ‘wow, this looks amazing’.”
The US$600,000 tournament pursue comes with a $90,000 payday for the winner.