The Big Time

Victory in John Shippen Cognizant Cup gives Colorado Springs’ Paige Crawford her first LPGA Tour start

By Gary Baines – 5/10/2023

A dozen years ago, when the U.S. Women’s Open came to The Broadmoor, Colorado Springs resident Paige Crawford distinctly remembers following competitor Ryann O’Toole “all eight days” as O’Toole posted a top-10 finish.

This week, starting on Thursday, Crawford will be in the same field as O’Toole — along with many of the big-name players on the LPGA Tour — at the Cognizant Founders Cup in Clifton, N.J.

It will mark, at age 31, Crawford’s first time competing in an LPGA Tour event.

“I watched a lot of golf growing up. It’s just amazing to be inside the ropes with them,” Crawford said this week.

On Monday, Crawford earned her first berth in The Show by winning The John Shippen Cognizant Cup, which offered the champion an exemption into this week’s LPGA event. Crawford shot a 3-over-par 75 at Upper Montclair Country Club to prevail by two strokes over defending champion Lakareber Abe at the Shippen. Former Stanford All-American Mariah Stackhouse placed third.

The Shippen tournament, which showcases black amateur and pro golfers, is named for John Shippen Jr., the son of a former slave who is believed to be the first American-born golf professional. He lived from 1879-1968, playing in six U.S. Opens and finishing fifth in 1902. He was awarded PGA of America membership posthumously in 2009.

“I’m mostly looking forward to being out on the course and experiencing it — being inside the ropes for once,” Crawford said of competing in the LPGA event this week. “I’m just so grateful for this opportunity.

“Giving black golfers the opportunity to experience playing at a higher level is really amazing. … I want more black girls to be playing golf.”

A decade ago, Crawford won the Big Sky Conference individual title while competing for Montana State. During her pro career, she’s played primarily on mini tours, but with a couple of starts on the Epson Tour. She didn’t compete full time until last year, but even in her 30s, she’s still relishing playing golf as her occupation.

“It’s really amazing. I’m so grateful for this opportunity,” she said. “At my age a lot of girls stop playing. But I just had to keep going. I couldn’t help it. I’ve just loved the game since I was 7 years old. I’ve loved watching it.

“I feel like I’m a late bloomer. The great thing about golf is it’s a sport you can play for a lifetime. So why not keep going and follow my dreams? I don’t care if people say I’m too old. It doesn’t matter. You can keep playing golf. I want to be an inspiration to all those who are around my age. Keep going for your dreams. It doesn’t matter what age you are. You can be 50, 40. Go for your dreams.”

So what are Crawford’s expectations in her LPGA Tour debut?

“This week has been all about gratitude and appreciating the moment,” she said. “Just have fun out there. I don’t care what happens. I don’t care what score (I shoot). I’m just going to have fun out there.”

Crawford is scheduled to tee off for round 1 at 12:05 p.m. (MT) on Thursday. Another player who grew up in Colorado, three-time LPGA Tour winner Jennifer Kupcho, is also in the field. She’ll tee it up on Thursday at 6:10 a.m. (MT). For the Cognizant Founders Cup leaderboard, CLICK HERE.

About the Author: Gary Baines owns and operates