In the first year where senior women’s golf had multiple majors, Laura Davies completed the sweep.
On Wednesday, Davies completed a wire-to-wire win of the second-annual Senior LPGA Championship on the Dye Course at French Lick Resort in French Lick, Ind. In windy, trying conditions in the final round in southern Indiana, Davies shot a final round of 2-under 70 to win by four shots over Helen Alfredsson and Silvia Cavalleri on 8-under 208 in the 54-hole event.
Underscoring the difficult scoring throughout the week, Michele Redman was the only other player to break par for the week, by a shot. In winds pushing 25 mph on Wednesday, several players who were under par for the first two rounds slid down the leaderboard and into over-par territory, including Brandie Burton, Jane Crafter, Maria McBride, Liselotte Neumann and Vicki Goetze-Ackerman.
However, time and again on the back nine on Wednesday, Davies’ putter secured pars and birdies to keep her challengers at bay.
After a mediocre third shot from pin high on the par-5 14th, Davies sank the resulting 17-footer for a momentum-saving birdie, extending a lead that had been completely wiped out earlier in the final nine but restored when Alfredsson double-bogeyed the 11th hole.
The Englishwoman nearly found the water on the par-3 16th, but she used putter from just off the green to set up a clutch par putt.
With the trophy all but in her hands on the closing par 5, Davies sank a final nine-foot birdie putt to secure her second senior women’s major of 2018.
The 55-year-old Davies won the inaugural US Senior Women’s Open in July by 10 shots over Juli Inkster. However, Davies put particular emphasis on this win because she came into the week believing Pete Dye’s Indiana design didn’t suit her game.
“It’s a golf course I didn’t think I would ever win on,” Davies told Golf Channel after the win. “It feels like a really big victory for me, this one, it really does.”
It also feels like this was a landmark season for senior women’s golf. Though Jane Blalock founded what is now known as the Legends Tour in 2000 (renamed in 2006), the 45-and-up set lacked major championships until last year’s dawn of the Senior LPGA Championship. Then the USGA’s US Senior Women’s Open debuted at Chicago Golf Club this year to acclaim with a flair of nostalgia. The hope is more legendary LPGA players will join in on the fun, including Annika Sorenstam and Karrie Webb, as well Nancy Lopez following recovery from a second knee procedure. Davies, Inkster, Trish Johnson and others remain active competitors on the LPGA or Ladies European Tour, keeping them fresh for events like these that could come along.
There’s hope these two majors might evolve into a more robust Legends Tour schedule of up to 10 events. That will require more support from destinations like French Lick, which can use the tournaments to simultaneously promote women’s golf and their offerings. Many of the companies who sponsor PGA Tour Champions events could translate to Legends Tour events. Purses would likely start in the $300,000-$400,000 range for non-majors.
From there, perhaps the R&A could get on board to help form a Senior Women’s British Open. In short order, senior women’s golf could go from nearly non-existent to exciting and thriving. It’s clear the LPGA’s most important generation still has plenty of gas in the tank, and Davies, for one, would love more chances to showcase her game.
After winning in Indiana, she told LPGA.com of the senior women’s majors: “I wish there were more of them to play.”