RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – What will you miss the most about the Dinah?
Stacy Lewis choked back tears on Wednesday as she talked about the bench she sat on in the locker room after winning at Mission Hills Country Club more than a decade ago. She was still wet from the jump in Poppie’s Pond and in search of dry clothes.
“I sat on that bench and called my college coaches and it was like it all hit me there,” said Lewis. “It’s just the whole week.”
Sunday will be the LPGA’s last lap around the Dinah Shore Tournament Course in the 51st playing of the Chevron Championship. Next year the event will move to a different spot on the calendar in Houston. The front runner, Golfweek has learned, is The Clubs at Houston Oaks.
But honestly, right now, the only thing most folks are thinking about is tomorrow.
There’s a rumor going around that past champions will join this year’s winner in Poppie’s Pond. Whether or not that happens, there have been plenty of legends on property this week. Perhaps that’s what comes next here: a senior event. Maybe even a U.S. Senior Women’s Open.
“It’s very disappointing to see it leave here,” said LPGA Hall of Famer Patty Sheehan. “It was very disappointing to see the history be dismissed.”
RANCHO MIRAGE, CALIFORNIA – APRIL 02: A fan sits behind a sign protesting the 2023 move of The Chevron Championship to a new venue during the third round of The Chevron Championship at The Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa on April 02, 2022 in Rancho Mirage, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Wasn’t there a way to stop this event from moving? The closer we get to the end, it makes sense that the “why” question keeps coming up. But while this event has been called the Masters of the LPGA, it’s unfair to compare the two.
For starters, the buzz around this event took a sharp downturn long before the Augusta National Women’s Amateur conflict and the COVID-19 pandemic, prompting many to ask, “Where is everybody?” on more than one occasion.
As Judy Rankin has said, sometimes a community gets tired.
This week, fan support has been better than just before the pandemic, but there are certainly some folks who came back just to say goodbye.
Moving this event away from the ANWA proved more difficult than imagined given the need for a 28-hour window of live television, the club’s flexibility, Coachella, a dwindling volunteer base, and the desert heat.
Even if a blue-chip sponsor came in that wanted to keep the event at Mission Hills, there’s no guarantee that the problems that surround the event (namely the date and community support), would’ve been solved.
Besides, there isn’t a line of Chevrons waiting to do business with the LPGA. Quite the contrary. A partner like Chevron serves as a beacon to other Fortune 500 companies that the LPGA is a worthy partner.
The purse has already increased by 60 percent to $5 million. Next year, the event will move to network TV.
Patty Tavatanakit jumps into Poppie’s Pond with her caddie, Ryan Hogue, after winning the ANA Inspiration at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif., on Sunday, April 4, 2021.
It’s difficult to imagine not coming to this beautiful spot every year. The dramatic mountain views, the bright and cheery flowers, the pristine and intriguing golf course. There’s something about the beauty of this place that makes your heart smile.
The Dinah transformed the LPGA. Two-time winner Sandra Post talked about playing golf with President Gerald Ford here and Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope. There were chandeliers in the pro-am tent that first year. She’d never seen such a glamorous tent.
Fans know this golf course. They remember the epic shots, the heartbreakers, and the champions.
Yes, it’s important for players to appreciate history. They must do their part, too. There was a champions dinner earlier this week, and when asked about her favorite part, last year’s winner, Patty Tavatanakit said the food, which she helped put together. Former No. 1 Lydia Ko and current No. 1 Jin Young Ko were among those who did not attend.
As the tour moves away from the place where it has the most history, the organization must make an even greater effort to help players understand what got them to this point. And that nothing is guaranteed.
Post, who won here in 1978 and 1979 before it became a major, believes the event “should go with our blessing to Houston with a bigger purse.”
“Think about how many tournaments – men or women – last for 50 years,” said Post. “It accomplished a lot, more than you could ever, ever ask for it.”