PALM HARBOR — On the surface, this weekend's Legends Tour Open Championship is a chance for former LPGA players to reunite and play a little golf. But the tournament is more than pro-am parties and players telling old stories.
All 44 players in the field want to win. They are past their prime, but once a competitor, always a competitor. This may be the week they catch lightning in a bottle and get their old game back. And it's a safe bet their stomachs will be churning as they stand over a 3-foot par putt, just like they did on the LPGA Tour.
"We still get the same feelings,'' said 25-year LPGA veteran and six-time major winner Patty Sheehan. "We still get nervous. We still get antsy. We're still keyed up and feel the pressure. It feels the same. It's equally exciting and nerve-racking.''
What isn't quite the same is the level of play. But these players can still score. Rosie Jones won last month's event with a two-day score of 7 under in Hawaii.
That kind of score is possible this weekend at Innisbrook's Island Course.
"Everybody out here has game,'' Cindy Rarick said. "In some cases, their games have gotten even better after taking some time off. Sometimes when there is less pressure, your game can get even better.
"Once you're a competitor, the fire is still in there. That's why we would love to have more tournaments. We all still want to compete."
Even JoAnne Carner, 70, feels she has one more win in her.
"I always want to win,'' Carner said. "That never goes away."
Though the competitive drive is still there, the need to win is not. The Legends Tour has only six events, so none of the veterans can make a full-time living on it. Because there is no cut, even the last-place finisher will earn a check.
The events are laid-back, yet competitive. Golfers are likely to chat with playing partners as well as the gallery throughout a round.
"It's still competitive, yet it's congenial, if that makes sense,'' Rarick said. "Everyone gets along and is supportive, but we still want to beat each other. These are the players that built the LPGA, and they are immensely talented."
Nancy Scranton put it in simpler terms.
"This is fun," Scranton said.