Wednesday, June 20, 2018

LPGA Legends Tour Open Championship has strong field at Innisbrook

PALM HARBOR — Legends Tour CEO Jane Blalock splits her time between bureaucratic duties for the circuit for LPGA golfers 45 and older, and playing in a handful of the tour's 11 events.

At this weekend's season-ending Open Championship, which features a star-studded lineup at Innisbrook, Blalock will stay on the administrative side.

"I can't think of another Legends Tour tournament that has a stronger field," said Blalock, owner of the LPGA record for tournaments played without missing a cut who played in seven tour events this year. "You look at the roster and it's like 'I'm glad I'm not playing.' "

The field at this year's event, the fifth one played at Innisbrook's Island Course, is arguably the best of any tour event in 2013. The top 10 players on the money list will be in attendance, as will last year's Open Championship winner, Laura Davies, who made her tour debut at the event at Innisbrook in 2012 and won by two strokes.

Five LPGA Hall of Famers — Pat Bradley, JoAnne Carner, Beth Daniel, Nancy Lopez and Hollis Stacy — will also participate in the 36-hole event that begins Saturday.

"It's a nice way to cap off the season for the girls that play the Legends Tour," said Lorie Kane, first on the money list. "The Island Course is always a challenge. Any time Laura Davies shows up and Beth Daniel, you've got the best that the tour has had for a very long time. It'll be very heated."

Most of the players view the Innisbrook stop as the most lucrative on the tour's expanding schedule.

"What makes a tournament special is who you're playing against," said Nancy Scranton, third on the money list. "We may not play and practice a whole lot anymore, but we get to one of these things and we still want to win. It's a lot of fun.

"We're probably more laid back than we were when we were playing full time, but you get out here and you can't take the competitiveness out of us. Maybe we can't hit all the shots we used to hit, but there's a lot of really good golf out here."

The tour is in the final year of its contract with Innisbrook, with no extension in place. Blalock, however, is confident a new deal can be reached soon.

"Hopefully, we'll get good crowds this weekend, and we'll sit down and talk about the extension of this tournament," she said. "That's one of the things I have on my agenda for the weekend.

"We really want to keep this event here. This has been our best year yet for the tour. We've had 11 events, so momentum is definitely going in the right direction. It takes a few years to establish something, and there's such a rich history of women's golf in the bay area that we definitely want to stay here."

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