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LPGA Legends Tour Open Championship at Innisbrook puts players in younger mind-set

By the numbers

5 Hall of Famers in the tournament: Amy Alcott, Pat Bradley, JoAnne Carner, Beth Daniel and Patty Sheehan

40 Major championships won by the players in the field

42 Players, among 44, who shot over par for the 2009 tournament

71 Age of JoAnne Carner, the oldest player in the field

Five players to watch

Patty Sheehan

She spent 25 years on tour and won 35 times, including six majors. She is a member of the LPGA Hall of Fame. On the Legends Tour, Sheehan, 54, has three wins among 16 events. She has played once on the tour this year.

Sherri Steinhauer

Not necessarily a household name. But she did spend 23 years on tour and won eight times, including two majors. Steinhauer, 47, is the defending champion of this tournament and one of the longest hitters on the tour.

Jan Stephenson

Once the face of the LPGA Tour, Stephenson, 58, resides in Tampa. She had a 30-year playing career with 16 wins. She has been a regular on the Legends Tour with 25 appearances and three wins.

Beth Daniel

Another Hall of Famer in the field. Daniel, 54, won 33 times during her 28-year career. She has played only once on the Legends Tour, and this is her first tour event this year.

JoAnne Carner

Okay, she's 71 and long past her prime. But consider this: Carner finished tied for 14th last year, beating players much younger. Plus, she's a pioneer with 43 wins during her 36-year career. Big Momma can still get around a course.

Dale Eggeling circled her calendar. By Saturday, Eggeling, 56, was going to get herself in the best physical and mental shape possible.

The Legends Tour Open Championship this weekend at Innisbrook might seem like a fun little event for former LPGA players 45 years and older, but Eggeling isn't about to embarrass herself.

"I've actually started working out for the first time in about two years,'' said Eggeling, who in 2009 finished last among 44 players at 26-over. "I wake up in the mornings now getting ready for Nov. 20. This is to show people how great we can play; how great we can still look. Life does start after 50.''

Eggeling will be joined Saturday in Palm Harbor by 45 of her peers. The tournament is considered a major on the six-tournament Legends Tour calendar. It is the last tournament in 2010.

Sure, it's a chance for players to get together and talk about the old times. But there's prize money and a trophy at stake. And when there is something on the line, the players tend to act much younger.

"We're all very competitive,'' said Dawn Coe-Jones, 50, who resides in Tampa. "I think sometimes we revert back in our minds to the things we used to do. We're not quite capable of that anymore, but we still have fun trying.''

Last year was the first time the Legends Tour came to Innisbrook's Island Course. Sherri Steinhauer won with a 36-hole score of 3 under and pocketed $50,000. She was the only player to shoot under par.

Most of the field from last year returns. A notable absence is Nancy Lopez, who lives in The Villages but did not play last year either. But there are players golf fans will remember, especially Jan Stephenson, who returns. Stephenson, 58, said she still lives to compete.

"We are so competitive, and the Legends Tour has given us a chance to compete again,'' Stephenson said. "It's so important to compete. I don't think I could get up in the morning and work out hard if I didn't have something to play for. It's in your blood. Even when I go fishing, I always try to see if I can catch the most fish."

But Stephenson said life on the Legends Tour isn't do-or-die.

"I remember playing with Amy Alcott last year, and she said, 'Gosh, you're a much nicer person now,' '' Stephenson said. "I'm actually pretty nice, but I knew what she was saying. I enjoy playing out here.

"When I was on the LPGA Tour, it was all about the next week. My dad always wanted me to smell the roses, but I was always thinking about the next week. But now I savor every part of it because I know it's almost over.''

But until it is over, the players live to compete.

"It's hard to let go,'' Eggeling said. "I've tried other things to do in life, but it always comes back. I still want to play.''

.Fast facts

Legends Tour Open Championship

When/where: Saturday-Sunday, Innisbrook Resort (Island Course), Palm Harbor. There is a pro-am on Friday with an 11:30 a.m. shotgun start.

Who: 46 former LPGA professionals 45 years and older

What: The sixth and final tournament of the Legends Tour season. It is considered the only major tournament on the schedule.

Tickets: $15 at the gate for Saturday and Sunday. Kids younger than 17 and military personnel are free.

Defending champion: Sherri Steinhauer


LPGA Legends Tour Open Championship at Innisbrook puts players in younger mind-set 11/17/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 17, 2010 8:28pm]
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