BJ’S NOTEBOOK: Legends Tour to add 2 tournaments
By NATE CROSSMAN
For The Patriot Ledger
QUINCY - The Legends Tour may not be able to compete with the Champions Tour’s high-profile events and million-dollar purses.
Like its professional golf sibling, which evolved from a single tournament in 1978 into the 29-event juggernaut it is today, the Legends Tour, which is based in Cambridge, is slowly growing.
Legends Tour players will compete for $1 million in prize money at four events this season, including this weekend’s $500,000 BJ’s Charity Championship tournament at Granite Links Golf Club. That is the same number of tournaments and roughly the same amount of money as last year. Expansion, however, is planned for 2008.
At July’s media day, Legends Tour founder and participant Jane Blaylock said the tour for LPGA players 45 or older will add two tournaments. April’s Duane Reade Charity Pro-Am at Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, N.J. will be expanded into a tournament, as will August’s Red Carpet Premiere Celebrity Golf Classic at Apple Mountain Resort in Freeland, Mich. The Legends Tour is also trying to form a closer bond with the LPGA, which will improve its credibility not only with players but sponsors.
Blaylock also pointed out that the Legends Tour Open Championship has been moved to November at Concord Country Club in Sydney, Australia, and will be played at the same time and same venue as the Australian Men’s Senior Open Championship for added exposure.
If the Legends Tour grows into something akin to the Champions Tour, the BJ’s Charity Championship, which begins Saturday and runs through Sunday, can say it was there from the very beginning. The BJ’s currently offers the biggest purse - $500,000 - and the most popular format.
Unlike conventional pro tournaments, where individuals compete in medal play, the BJ’s consists of two-women teams playing a round of best ball and scramble. Players like the teams, while fans like the scramble, which leads to exciting scores. Last year’s winning team of Nancy Scranton and Christa Johnson fired a 14-under-par 58 last year at Granite Links to beat Cindy Figg-Currier and Sherri Turner by one stroke.
‘‘Nancy asked me to play last year and it turned my season around from the time she asked me to when we played,’’ said Johnson, 46, who still competes on the LPGA Tour. ‘‘I got so excited.’’
Excitement appeared to be the buzz word yesterday as several of the top players hit the driving range to fine-tune their swings before today’s pro-am.
Jan Stephenson, who with Cindy Rarick earned co-champion honors with Patty Sheehan and Pat Bradley in 2005, took time off from her burgeoning golf course design career to prepare for the tournament.
‘‘When I was out there (in California) working with my coach, I started to get excited because there’s a tournament,’’ Stephenson said. ‘‘It’s time to compete, plus I have a partner who plays all the time and I can’t let her down. So I’ve been practicing like crazy. I even brought my coach out here. I got so excited yesterday (Wednesday), he said, ‘You’re doing too much too early.’’’
Stephenson also brought her work home with her, taking her putter to her hotel room to work on her stroke.
Rarick played last year’s tournament with a broken nose she suffered during the junior clinic, but she’s healthy now and feeling good about her swing.
‘‘We played a practice round yesterday; she’s hitting it pretty well, I’m hitting it pretty well,’’ Rarick said. ‘‘I’m encouraged about it.
‘‘But in this format you have to make the putts. That’s what it’s all about and that will be the key for us.’’
A majority of the 60 players were at Granite Links yesterday, either working on the range or playing practice rounds in preparation for the tournament, which begins Saturday at 8 a.m. As always, it will feature 30 two-woman teams playing rounds tomorrow and Sunday, competing for a $500,000 purse. Tomorrow’s format is best ball, while Sunday will be a scramble. It’s the format, according to Legends Tour founder and participant Jane Blaylock, who is based in Cambridge, which makes the BJ’s tournament one of the most popular on the circuit.
‘‘I’ve never heard so many 42- and 43-year-old players dying to get older so they can play,’’ Blaylock said. ‘‘They want to be here because of the great field of players and the good camaraderie.’’
Although the tournament doesn’t actually begin until Saturday at 8 a.m., fans will have the opportunity to see their favorite players today in a pair of pro-ams. Rosie Jones, JoAnne Carner and 2005 co-champion Rarick will play in the morning Pro-Am, which begins at 7:30 a.m., while 2005 co-champs and New England natives Patty Sheehan and Pat Bradley and defending champs Nancy Scranton and Christa Johnson will play in the afternoon, beginning at 1 p.m. ... The qualifier scheduled for yesterday morning was canceled because the field was already full.
8 a.m.: Mary Enright and Cindy Pietrusik; Marjorie Jones and Janice Gibson
8:10: Bobbi Salmon and Jeannette Kohlhaas; Kay Kennedy and Maria Alice Gonzalez
8:20: Liz Rowland and Sherrin Smyers; Deedee Lasker and Barb Whitehead
8:30: Shirley Furlong and Carolyn Hill; Jan Kleiman and Cathy Panton-Lewis
8:40: Lenore Rittenhouse and Janet Anderson; Missie McGeorge and Mary Beth Zimmerman
8:50: Michelle Estill and Elaine Crosby; Cathy Gerring and Cindy Miller
9:00: Sue Ertl and Laura Shanahan Rowe; Laurie Rinker and Judy Dickinson
9:10: Barb Moxness and Kathryn Young Robyn; Marilyn Lovander and Martha Nause
9:20: Shelley Hamlin and Ann Marie Palli; Sally Little and Patti Rizzo
9:30: Debbie Massey and Allison Finney; Jane Blalock and Mieko Nomura
9:40: Dawn Coe-Jones and Barb Scherbak; Val Skinner and Sandra Haynie
9:50: Colleen Walker and Barb Mucha; Amy Alcott and Alicia Dibos
10:00: Cindy Figg-Currier and Sherri Turner; JoAnne Carner and Dale Eggeling
10:10: Jan Stephenson and Cindy Rarick; Lori West and Rosie Jones
10:20: Patty Sheehan and Pat Bradley; Christa Johnson and Nancy Scranton
Copyright 2007 The Patriot Ledger
Transmitted Friday, August 03, 2007