April 18, 2013

LPGA's seniors schedule a return

The Harris Golf Charity Classic will be held in mid-September at the Falmouth Country Club.

By Tom Chard tchard@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

FALMOUTH - In its first Maine stop last summer, Legends Tour officials, after four days at the Falmouth Country Club competing and enjoying appreciative galleries, professed a hope to return in 2013.

LEGENDS TOUR

WHO: The Harris Golf Charity Classic

WHEN: Sept. 12-15

WHERE: Falmouth Country Club, Falmouth

FACTS: 40 LPGA Senior golfers (36 holes). Two one-day pro-ams precede the tournament

DEFENDING CHAMP: Sherri Turner

PURSE: $200,000 (First place, $30,000)

It became a reality with an announcement Wednesday.

The Legends Tour -- the senior tour of the Ladies Professional Golf Association -- will return Sept. 12-15 to Falmouth for the Harris Golf Charity Classic.

Harris Golf, owner of the Falmouth course and eight others in Maine, is the lead sponsor.

The field will have 40 pros, some of them the top players in LPGA history, competing over 36 holes.

The Legends Tour has more than 100 golfers, including 12 LPGA and World Golf Hall of Fame members.

Last year's event had such former LPGA greats as Nancy Lopez, Pat Bradley, Hollis Stacey, Jan Stephenson and Patty Sheehan. There will be two one-day pro-am tournaments before the event. The tournament carries a $200,000 purse. Last year's winner, Sherri Turner, won $30,000.

Last year's tournament, called the Hannaford Community Challenge, was held June 21-24. When Hannaford decided last fall not to continue the sponsorship, Harris was determined to keep the tournament alive.

"We decided the show must go on," said Jeff Harris, president of Harris Golf. "The tournament was never in doubt. We've been working on it since December. By hosting an LPGA Legends event here, you're creating interest and excitement around the game. That's healthy for Maine golf."

Harris and Jane Blalock, whose company handles the marketing and administration for the tour, have been in contact since Hannaford dropped out.

"Jeff said, 'Let's try to pull something off,' " said Blalock, a native of Portsmouth, N.H., and 27-time LPGA Tour winner.

"The players just love the Greater Portland area. The news will surprise a lot of the players because it was unclear if we would be returning. No one likes to have a tournament and it not continue, particularly when it was so well received. This says a lot about Harris Golf and its commitment to golf. This happened because they are comfortable doing it and signing the agreement to provide the purse."

Last year's tournament was the first LPGA event in Maine.

There wasn't enough time for last year's dates to work. The Legends Tour offered August and September as alternatives.

"We actually prefer September to June," said Harris. "That's why we chose it. June is a good early-season date and the weather was nice to us last year, but the month can be a big risk weather-wise. We felt a September date with more reliable weather would be a good fit. This gives us a chance to keep the excitement of the golf season going strong."

The other advantage is New England courses are traditionally in their best condition in September. Harris pointed out that the tournament will coincide nicely with the players' schedule. The BJ's Charity Pro-Am in Plymouth, Mass., the next stop on the Legends Tour, takes place three days after.

"It's the perfect time of the year," said Blalock. "It's going to be beautiful."

The Legends Tour, for players 45 and over, started in 2000 with one tournament. It had eight in 2012 and has added three.

Blalock said she anticipates a field similar to last year but perhaps with a few additions. Players have a month before the tournament to commit. Last year's tournament attracted a two-day crowd of 4,000.

Harris said tournament charities will be announced in the next 30 days.

Tom Chard can be reached at 791-6419 or at:

tchard@pressherald.com

Twitter: TomChardPPH

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