I get no respect.”
One of professional golf’s best events of the year started today. No, I’m not a week early. I’m not talking about a little “toonamint” in Georgia. I’m referring to The ANA Inspiration, or what many of us still call ‘The Dinah.” The LPGA kicks off golf’s major championship calendar every year in the California desert yet when this week rolls around all many, if not most, people associated with the sport can talk about is that “The Masters is only a week away!” It’s a damn shame.
The event got its start in 1972 when entertainer Dinah Shore and retail powerhouse Colgate teamed up to bring an LPGA event to the Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage (let’s just say Palm Springs) California. Jane Blalock won that year. Then over the course of the next ten tournaments the trophy was claimed by, among others, Mickey Wright, Kathy Whitworth, Judy Rankin, Donna Caponi, and Nancy Lopez. Members of the Hall of Fame all including the namesake Dinah Shore. In 1983 the powers that be decided it should be considered a major championship. These days it’s not uncommon to hear folks opine that women professionals should have their own event at Augusta National. To that I say why? We already have an LPGA equivalent to The Masters.
The first year it was a “Major” Amy Alcott won it, then Juli Inkster. In 1986 Pat Bradley was victorious and the year after that Betsy King won in a playoff. That’s four more members of the Hall of Fame, if you’re counting. In 1988 Alcott won it again and decided to celebrate by jumping into the pond that fronted the 18th green and a tradition was born. In subsequent years Inkster won it again, so did King and in 1991 Amy Alcott won the darn thing for the third time. Sounds a lot like the stretch when Arnold Palmer, jack Nicklaus and Gary Player traded green jackets. The remainder of the decade gave us Patty Sheehan, Dottie Pepper (twice) and Betsy King again before ushering in the greatness that would be Karrie Webb and Annika Sorenstam.
I’ll be the first to point out the LPGA has shot itself in the foot on any number of occasions when it’s come to that tour’s major championships. It too often plays fast and loose with that distinction. The du Maurier Classic isn’t, and never was, a major. Neither is the Evian Championship. You can’t have five in a calendar year or else you become the Senior Tour. Settle on the rightful designees: The Dinah (okay the ANA Inspiration), the United States Women’s Open, The Women’s British Open and The LPGA Championship. No more, no less.
But that slate, as well as each season’s major championship schedule, starts with this week’s event in Palm Springs (okay Rancho Mirage). I’ll concede it doesn’t deserve golf fan’s undivided attention but it does deserve our respect. It deserves its own, solitary space in the major championship sun. Not after we talk about next week’s Masters. Not with the qualifier of it being the “first women’s major”. Not on highlight shows following a look at a random Phil Mickelson birdie in Texas. It’s the first major. Period. Stop. I just mentioned the PGA TOUR event this week, in Houston and some pretty big names are participating (Mickelson, Spieth, Fowler and Rose) but let’s face it it’s not a major. Heck, after this year it doesn’t even have a sponsor!
“The Dinah” is golf’s top dog this week. Can we please act like it?