Sports Extra

By Jess  Willard

When you ask someone to think about the phrase “famous golfers”, they’ll typically respond with “Tiger Woods” or “Arnold Palmer.” But what about women and The Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA)? Names like Mickey Wright and Annika Sörenstam seem to slip the brain or have never been heard of at all despite their accomplishments within the sport.

Wright is a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame and was dubbed the top female golfer of the 20th century by the Associated Press, while Sörenstam acquired 72 career LPGA victories and 10 major titles.

According to ScholarshipStats.com, there are 72,172 young women that play on a high school golf team. Many of these girls aspire to follow in the footsteps of the LPGA players who were in their shoes once. Gaining the opportunity to interact with professionals would be a dream come true for many young female golfers.

The LPGA State Farm Classic offered this chance starting in 1976. This women’s professional golf tournament not only contributed over $2.5 million to medical and children’s charities, it also served as inspiration for female golfers in and around the community of Springfield, Illinois. This event continued for 35 years before being cancelled for good.

So what happened?

Little is known about why this event ended. Wikipedia offers brief information about State Farm Insurance dropping their sponsorship and ESPN offers six sentences on the cancellation. Six sentences were written about a professional event that helped young female golfers visualize their potential future. Six sentences described an event that could’ve meant the world to someone. Former Executive Director of the LPGA State Farm Classic Kate Peters cleared up the mystery behind the lost sponsorship.

“They actually opted not to continue,” said Peters. “It’s a significant expense and after 19 years, they decided to go in a different direction.” She revealed that the tournament cost around $3 to $4 million to put on every year. But in her opinion, the event was worth the price. “I think any time you can put a role model in front of young women and show them possibilities for the future, it helps them visualize what they could do someday,” she said.

Although the LPGA State Farm Classic has been discontinued, Springfield still draws attention from golf fans. This year, the Lincoln Land Charity Championship will be held at the Panther Creek Country Club from July 14 to 17 as part of the Web.com developmental tour for the Professional Golfers’ Association of America. It will be a great opportunity for aspiring golfers and bring notoriety to the area; however, not much will change for young women involved with the sport. That chance to see LPGA players won’t be there.

Or will it?

The Decatur-Forsyth Classic is part of the Symetra Tour, which is the LPGA’s developmental tour. It’s been held in Decatur, Illinois for the past 30 years. Peters believes a similar event could be held in Springfield. She said, “If the community could raise a couple hundred thousand dollars, it would be possible.” It may not be a professional golf tournament, but it still gives young female golfers the chance to see other women turning the sport into a career.

When these girls get the chance to interact with players, they see that if they focus on their goals, they could be a professional too someday.