From the “City of Champions” named after its two most famous athletes – Rocky Marciano and “Marvelous “Marvin Hagler – the group of power players responsible for bringing women’s professional golf back to the Bay State after a 22-year absence are W.B. Mason owners Stephen and John Green, Mayor Bill Carpenter, Doug King and Thorny Lea Golf Club members Ray Cronin, Tom Gadles, Leo Meehan, pro Peter Norton and tournament director Robby Thompson. The W.B. Mason Championship marks the first time the Symetra Tour has played in the Bay State since the 1993 Lady Michelob FUTURES Charity Golf Classic at Shaker Farms in Westfield. W.B. Mason is a $1 billion office supply company with several substantial investments in the sports world, mostly notable the “Green Monster” at Fenway Park.
The 2015 Symetra Tour – the Road to the LPGA Tour – and the women’s version of the Web.Com Tour features 144 rising stars, competing in 23 official tournament for $110,000 each event. The undisputed goal of each player is to finishing the season in the top-10 money-list to earn a spot to compete on the Big Stage – the LPGA Tour. The W.B. Mason Championship, is the 17th event of the season featuring female golfers from 18 countries; including 88 from the United States, 10 from Canada and 4 from Korea. The winners share is $16,500.
Thorny Lea Golf Course, established in 1901, is set up to play 6,326 yards for the ladies with par of 71. The top 3 toughest holes after round one proved to be Nos. 6, 18 and 14. The three easiest holes were Nos. 2, (converted to a par 5) and Nos. 11 and 8.
Five players from the Bay State teed it up on day one of the 54-hole event including amateurs Megan Khang (Rockland), Jacquelyn Eleey (Quincy), WGAM Champion Isabel Southard (Sharon) and Symetra Tour veterans Brittany Altomare (Shrewsbury) and Kaitlin Coons (Wilbraham.) Coons, Altomare and Khang shot 1-over, 72, while Eleey struggled posting 9-over, 80. Newly crowned Mass Women’s Amateur Isabel Southard, 20, who won the title at Thorny Lea on Aug 13 beating Shannon Johnson 3 & 2, was disqualified because her caddie (Dad) used a range device during competition, which is allowed in practice rounds but not in competition. Dad should’ve read the rule book before toting the bag. The top 70 and ties make the cut into Sunday’s final round, expected to be at +3.
Not surprising, 17-year old phenom Megan Khang, a member at Thorny Lea, drew the biggest galleries while the first-round leader, Dottie Ardina, from the Philippines, shot 5-under, 67.
Tournament Director Robby Thompson, who has worked tirelessly over the past few months to put the event together, said the first day went off without a hitch. Within six weeks he and his team expect to meet with Bret Lasky, and staff from LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan’s office to determine the feasibility of hosting another Symetra Tour event in 2016, either at Thorny Lea, or another venue south of Boston.
The W.B. Mason Championship is co-sponsored by Champion Lincoln and Evans Machines. Sunday grounds tickets are $10 with proceeds going to the Brockton Boys and Girls Club, the Brockton YMCA and the Brockton High School Athletic Department. Free parking is available at Brockton High School with shuttle service available to the main gate at Thorny Lea.
LPGA Is Not What It Used To Be
The Boston area was a regular stop on the LPGA from 1980 – 1990 at Ferncroft CC called the Boston Five. In those days female professional golf was hot and the big draw were superstars Jan Stephenson, Jane Blalock, Pat Bradley, Julie Inkster, Cindy Rarick, Beth Daniel, Laurie Rinker and Donna Caponi. From 1991 – 1997 the LPGA moved to Blue Hill Country Club for the PING/WELCH Championship, featuring names like Dottie Pepper, Helen Alfredsson, Amy Alcott, Jane Geddes and the 1997 winner Sweden’s Liselotte Neumann.
Those were the golden days for the LPGA Tour, which was dominated by US female golfers, offering only a handful of recognizable international players. Today’s LPGA Tour is dominated by foreigners, mostly Korean’s, who have established themselves as the best female players in the game. In 20 tournaments this year on the LPGA, Korean’s have won 12 times and US players have only 3 wins, although Stacey Lewis, 29, born in Toledo, Ohio, earned Rolex Player of the Year honors in 2012 and 2014. On July 26, Lexi Thompson won the Meijer Classic held in Michigan. The two other US winners are Christie Kerr and Brittany Lincicome.
This event could be the beginning of bringing more professional golf events to the Boston area. Corporate America, whose bases are located in Boston, should reach out to the LPGA & Senior PGA Tours and explore opportunities to bring more live professional golf tournaments to this area, and help many local charities along the way!WHAT'S YOUR REACTION?