After almost 40 years, the LPGA moves out of the Rochester, NY area
For the past 38 years, golfing fans in New York’s Finger Lakes area have looked forward to the excitement of LPGA players coming to town. This year was no exception with the Wegmans LPGA Championship. taking place August 11-17 at the historic Monroe Country Club in Pittsford on the outskirts of Rochester. Designed by Donald Ross in 1923, Monroe is a course Stacy Lewis has called the second-best venue of 2014 (next to Pinehurst No.2). Prior to Monroe, these prestigious LPGA events had been held at nearby Locust Hill Country Club.
This tournament has generated a lot of memories: Kathy Whitworth’s victory in 1984 that broke Sam Snead’s record of 85 professional golf wins; Nancy Lopez’s first LPGA win in 1978; early tournaments that brought in legends like Pat Bradley and Patty Sheehan; Juli Inkster’s celebration of her 50th birthday; and this year’s final tournament when Inbee Park won in a playoff over Brittany Lincicome.
This year as we drove in, many residents along the route had turned their front and back yards into parking lots charging $10 to $20 for the day. One lot close to the entrance allowed parkers to reserve places for subsequent days. Certainly they like many other local businesses from hotels to restaurants will miss the extra income.
And we will miss unsung moments like during the Pro Am on Wednesday when Na Yeon Choi, a 26 year old LPGA player from South Korea took time during her round to give a swing tip to one of the amateurs playing in her group — and the hug Paula Creamer gave her Dad who followed her rounds. Creamer is known to have a special place in her heart for the area. Her grandfather, Tom Creamer, who died two years ago at the age of 94, used to drive up to see her play from his home in Ithaca.
Creamer who has been playing here since she was 16 years old (she’s now 28) says, “I love these kinds of golf courses, where they’re tree-lined and narrow with tricky greens.”
On the final day, the gates were opened at 4 p.m. to allow droves of fans to come in for free. It is estimated that more than 25,000 came to watch the final round while more than 100,000 passed through the gates during the week. Then after the trophies were presented, the LPGA went out literally with a bang as fireworks were set off
And where will the girls be next year for the Championship? At the Westchester Country Club in Rye, New York, 30 miles north of the Big Apple. Renamed the Women’s P.G.A. Championship, the event will be sponsored by KPMG, the international auditing firm and the purse will be increased from $2.25 million to $3.5 million. That may be good news for those on the tour, but it’s an altogether different kind of day for the Rochester area golfing fans that have marked the tournament dates faithfully on their calendars for close to four decades.
Karrie Webb echoed sentiments of many when she said, “It’s goodbye for now, but hopefully we’ll be back.”
Below: Na Yeon Choi gives a swing tip; Paula Creamer contemplates her next shot.
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