With LPGA starting 70th season, we reflect on long, storied history of women’s tour in Colorado; World Golf Hall of Famers have won 16 LPGA events in Centennial State
by Gary Baines
The LPGA Tour will begin its 70th season this week as 26 pros and 49 celebrities tee it up in the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., starting on Thursday (Jan. 17).
With that milestone in mind, and the fact that three local players — Colorado residents Jennifer Kupcho and Becca Huffer, plus former University of Colorado golfer Robyn Choi — will be LPGA rookies in 2019, it prompted us to revisit the long, rich history the LPGA Tour has in Colorado.
Many local golf fans are very familiar with the many visits the PGA Tour has paid to the Centennial State, including 21 straight Internationals and six major championships. But the LPGA’s time in Colorado is less well remembered, mainly because its run as a regular tour stop ended in 1987, the year after The International’s began.
All told, 22 LPGA Tour events have been held in Colorado over the last 70 years, in addition to the 2013 Solheim Cup team event that Colorado Golf Club hosted. That includes four LPGA majors — three U.S. Women’s Opens and the 1950 Women’s Western Open, which was just the ninth event following the launch of the LPGA Tour in January of that year.
The LPGA made an annual tour stop in the Denver metro area for 16 straight years beginning in 1972, with seven courses hosting or co-hosting over that stretch:
— Green Gables Country Club (six times).
— Columbine Country Club (five times).
— The Club at Rolling Hills (once).
— Pinehurst Country Club (once).
— Lone Tree Golf Club (co-host three years).
— Meridian Golf Club (co-host two years).
— Glenmoor Country Club (co-host one year).
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about LPGA Tour events held in Colorado is the number of current World Golf Hall of Famers who have won them. Sixteen times in the 22 LPGA tournaments (73 percent), the champion has been a current World Golf Hall of Famer.
Here’s a quick summary of the LPGA Tour events — plus the Solheim Cup — that have been held in Colorado (winners that are members of the World Golf Hall of Famers are noted with an *):
— 1950 Women’s Western Open — an LPGA major at the time — at Cherry Hills Country Club, won by Babe Zaharias* in a match play final over Peggy Kirk. That year, Zaharias was named the top women’s athlete of the first half of the 20th century by the Associated Press. Zaharias, who lived in the Denver area during part of the 1940s, ended up winning eight LPGA events in 1950 alone. She was one of the founders of the LPGA Tour and was part of the inaugural class of the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame, being inducted posthumously in 1973.
— 1955 Mile High Open at Lakewood Country Club, won by Marilyn Smith*.
— 1956 Denver Open at Lakewood Country Club, won by Marlene Bauer Hagge*.
— 1972 National Jewish Hospital Open at Green Gables Country Club, won by Sandra Haynie*.
— 1973 National Jewish Hospital Open at Green Gables, won by Sandra Palmer.
— 1974 National Jewish Hospital Open at The Club at Rolling Hills, won by Sandra Haynie*.
— 1975 National Jewish Hospital Open at Pinehurst Country Club, won by Judy Rankin*.
— 1976 National Jewish Hospital Open at Green Gables, won by Sandra Palmer.
— 1977 National Jewish Hospital Open at Columbine Country Club, won by JoAnne Carner*.
— 1978 National Jewish Hospital Open at Green Gables, won by Kathy Whitworth*, now the LPGA Tour’s career leader in victories with 88.
— 1979 Columbia Savings Classic at Green Gables, won by Sally Little.
— 1980 Columbia Savings LPGA Classic at Columbine, won by Beth Daniel*.
— 1981 Columbia Savings LPGA Classic at Columbine, won by JoAnne Carner*.
— 1982 Columbia Savings Classic at Columbine, won by Beth Daniel*.
— 1983 Columbia Savings Classic at Columbine, won by Pat Bradley*.
— 1984 Columbia Savings Classic at Green Gables, won by Betsy King*.
— 1985 LPGA National Pro-Am at Lone Tree Golf Club and Meridian Golf Club, won by Pat Bradley*.
— 1986 LPGA National Pro-Am at Lone Tree and Glenmoor Country Club, won by Amy Alcott*.
— 1987 Columbia Savings LPGA National Pro-Am at Meridian and Lone Tree, won by Chris Johnson.
— 1995 U.S. Women’s Open (the 50th ever held) at the East Course at The Broadmoor, won by Annika Sorenstam* (left). It was the first of Sorenstam’s 72 LPGA Tour victories and of her 10 major titles.
— 2005 U.S. Women’s Open at Cherry Hills, won by Birdie Kim after she holed out for — you guessed it — birdie from a deep greenside bunker on the 72nd hole of the tournament.
— 2011 U.S. Women’s Open at the East Course at The Broadmoor, won by So Yeon Ryu in the first three-hole aggregate in tournament history. The 2005 and ’11 Women’s Opens each drew more than 130,000 spectators for the week.
— 2013 Solheim Cup at Colorado Golf Club, where Europe won the event for the first time on American soil, 18-10 over the U.S.