With Sandra Palmer now set for induction, the number of winners of LPGA Tour events in Colorado during the 1970s and ’80s who are World Golf Hall of Famers is truly remarkable
By Gary Baines – 3/9/2023
Sandra Palmer was among those voted into the World Golf Hall of Fame on Wednesday, bringing back to mind the long gone — but hopefully not forgotten — LPGA Tour stops in the Denver area in the 1970s and ’80s.
I was fortunate enough to not only cover those events a handful of years for the Daily Camera newspaper in Boulder, but to have been involved with them on the organizational/staffing end several times when I worked at Columbine Country Club in the late 1970s and early ‘80s.
The reason I note Palmer is that she’s one of five players — along with Joanne Carner, Beth Daniel, Pat Bradley and Sandra Haynie — who won twice each at the Colorado tour stop — an annual affair from 1972 through ’87.
Among Palmer’s 19 LPGA Tour victories were two (1973 and ’76) at the National Jewish Hospital Open held at Green Gables Country Club, one of the top courses in Colorado until it closed in 2011 in the wake of the Great Recession.
In all, Green Gables hosted LPGA Tour events six times (1972, ’73, ’76, ’78, ’79, ’84). Other hosts in the Centennial State during this run were Columbine (1977, ’80, ’81, ’82, ’83), Lone Tree (1985 and ’87, both with Meridian; ’86, with Glenmoor), Meridian (1985 and ’87, both with Lone Tree), Rolling Hills (1974), Pinehurst (1975) and Glenmoor (1986).
But the impressive thing about those 16 consecutive years in which the LPGA Tour had a stop in the Denver area is how many of the winners of those events are in the World Golf Hall of Fame. Now that Palmer is going in, nine of the 11 women who claimed titles in Colorado during that stretch have been voted into the WGHOF. Put another way, the champions of 14 of the 16 LPGA Colorado stops during that time are Hall of Famers. The list includes the winningest player in the history of the PGA or LPGA Tour, Kathy Whitworth, who chalked up 88 victories on the LPGA circuit.
Here’s the rundown of the Hall of Famers, and the years they won LPGA Tour events in Colorado:
— Sandra Haynie (1972 and 74)
— Sandra Palmer (1973 and ’76)
— Judy Rankin (1975)
— JoAnne Carner (1977 and ’81)
— Kathy Whitworth (1978)
— Beth Daniel (1980 and ’82)
— Pat Bradley (1983 and ’85)
— Betsy King (1984)
— Amy Alcott (1986)
A very impressive list. For those wondering, the aforementioned nine players finished with a combined 345 LPGA Tour wins.
And, it should be noted, several other LPGA Tour events held in Colorado — though not in the stretch we’ve been focusing on — have also been won by current World Golf Hall of Famers:
Annika Sorenstam (1995 U.S. Women’s Open at The Broadmoor)
Babe Zaharias (1950 Women’s Western Open at Cherry Hills)
Marilyn Smith (1955 Mile High Open at Lakewood CC)
Marlene Bauer Hagge (1956 Denver Open at Lakewood CC)
For the record, the two LPGA Tour winners in Colorado during that 1972-87 stretch who are not in the World Golf Hall of Fame are Sally Little (1979) and Chris Johnson (1987).
Here’s a list of all of the LPGA Tour stops in Colorado during the 1970s and ’80s, including the host site and the winner:
1972 — National Jewish Hospital Open at Green Gables CC (Sandra Haynie)
1973 — National Jewish Hospital Open at Green Gables CC (Sandra Palmer)
1974 — National Jewish Hospital Open at Rolling Hills CC (Sandra Haynie)
1975 — National Jewish Hospital Open at Pinehurst CC (Judy Rankin)
1976 — National Jewish Hospital Open at Green Gables CC (Sandra Palmer)
1977 — National Jewish Hospital Open at Columbine CC (JoAnne Carner)
1978 — National Jewish Hospital Open at Green Gables CC (Kathy Whitworth)
1979 — Columbia Savings Classic at Green Gables CC (Sally Little)
1980 — Columbia Savings LPGA Classic at Columbine CC (Beth Daniel)
1981 — Columbia Savings LPGA Classic at Columbine CC (JoAnne Carner)
1982 — Columbia Savings Classic at Columbine CC (Beth Daniel)
1983 — Columbia Savings Classic at Columbine CC (Pat Bradley)
1984 — Columbia Savings Classic at Green Gables CC (Beth King)
1985 — LPGA National Pro-Am at Lone Tree GC and Meridian GC (Pat Bradley)
1986 — LPGA National Pro-Am at Lone Tree GC and Glenmoor CC (Amy Alcott)
1987 — Columbia Savings LPGA National Pro-Am at Meridian GC and Lone Tree GC (Chris Johnson)
After 16 straight years of Colorado hosting LPGA Tour events, the state’s run ended after the 1987 Columbia Savings LPGA National Pro-Am due largely to a downturn in the economy.
Another person voted into the World Golf Hall of Fame on Wednesday, Tom Weiskopf, also had a significant connection to Colorado. He designed numerous courses in the Centennial State, including Catamount Ranch in Steamboat; Eagle Springs in Wolcott with Jay Morrish; Flying Horse in Colorado Springs; Frost Creek in Eagle; The Ridge at Castle Pines North; and the now-reopened Grandote Peaks in La Veta with Morrish.
About the Author: Gary Baines owns and operates ColoradoGolfJournal.com