It doesn’t have a sponsor or a specific golf course or even a specific date yet, but supporters of a Legends of the LPGA event believe their tour can continue the legacy of Dinah Shore and the LPGA in the Coachella Valley in 2023.
“I don’t really think it is just me,” said three-time Chevron Championship winner Amy Alcott at a news conference Sunday morning announcing the Legends Tour Desert Championship for next spring. “I think it is the community, the people, the passion of all of the people that come up to you and say it is really sad (the Chevron event) is leaving, and we need to keep something here.”
With past Chevron winners Alcott, Patty Sheehan and Sandra Palmer as well as other members of the Legends of the LPGA Tour in attendance, tour officials announced a two-day new team tournament preceded by two days of pro-am play.
Mike Galeski, who was the tournament director of the Chevron Championship in the late 1980s and early 1990s, will serve as tournament director of the new Legends event. He said he and Linda Chen, executive director of business development for the Legends Tour, have a lot of work to do to get the tournament played next year.
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“We have an opportunity here to not lose momentum and shift into something new. It’s all evolving. The event is evolving, golf is evolving, we can evolve,” Galeski said.
The Legends of the LPGA is the official senior tour of the LPGA Tour for players 45 and older. The tour held six official events in 2020 from June to October, including the Senior LPGA Championship and the U.S. Senior Women’s Open.
The Chevron event, a major championship on the LPGA, is leaving the desert after 51 years, moving to Houston for 2023.
Sponsorship, course are keys
Of the many decisions that have to be made in the coming months to get the event played, the crucial one is finding a sponsor. Galeski said the Legends Tour Desert Championship is certainly a name the tour is willing to change for sponsorship. Chen, who has been connected with LPGA events before moving to her position with the Legends Tour, said the tour knows how to find the right sponsors for the right event.
“What is that sponsor looking for? It is really looking for someone who sees the tremendous value these legends provide and as ambassadors of the game,” Chen said. “They are amazing athletes, and they are of a generation that is aging and living well.”
“We have a lot of flexibility with this event,” Galeski said. “We have a small field. We won’t have 144 players playing in it. As a result, this is a much more affordable sponsorship evaluation for potential sponsors, and not checks that are going to choke anyone.”
Galeski said the tournament is in discussions with Mission Hills Country Club to play at the only home the Chevron Championship has known since debuting in 1972, and that those discussions have been good.
Many of the reasons that the Chevron tournament will move to Houston, including television availability, the loss of the golf course for 10 days for members because of infrastructure construction and the need for millions of dollars in funding from a sponsor, don’t exist for a Legends event. Chen said the tournament would likely be livestreamed, something that has worked for the Senior LPGA Championship.
But Galeski isn’t locking the tournament into Mission Hills yet.
“Clearly Mission Hills is at the top of our list,” Galeski said. “Could we do it somewhere else? Sure. Do we want to? If we need to. But I don’t mean that with any angst or irritation.”
For 1996 Chevron Championship winner Sheehan, who has a home at Mission Hills, keeping the LPGA in the desert in some way is a big reason to get the Legends Tour event going.
“It is really important. To me, (the original Colgate-Dinah Shore Winners Circle) set the stage for the LPGA. It holds so much history and the success of the LPGA. Since we are all a little bit older than we were when we played in the tournament, I really feel keeping that alive and that presence and relevance really means a lot not only to us but the valley and the LPGA.”