Not quite back to normal, but close
Last year’s ShopRite LPGA Classic took place with significant COVID-related burdens but remained a success.
The South Jersey event at the Seaview Resort in Galloway Township is the only regular professional golf tournament near the Cape Region. The pandemic shifted its normal calendar date from late May/early June to late September/early October for 2020.
No fans were allowed, and there were no stands or skyboxes. That made the historic Bay Course look more like the location for a college tournament, but with coverage from Golf Channel and local media.
Instead of the usual 144 golfers before the cut, the 2020 version was limited to 120, in part because of concerns about daylight hours in early fall. This year’s field includes 132 golfers, giving more players a chance to improve their position on the money list and retain their card.
Notwithstanding these challenges, title sponsor ShopRite donated $1.5 million to area charities in 2020, bringing its total donations to over $37 million since becoming the event sponsor years ago.
Bill Hansen is a vice president for Outlyr, a sports marketing/event agency that began with operating the ShopRite several years ago. The company now runs eight tournaments for the LPGA and PGA Tour Champions.
Hansen, the tournament director, said the 2021 ShopRite set for Sept. 27-Oct. 3 might not be quite back to normal, but should be close. “It would take the state changing stuff [for us to deal with],” he said.
One potential drawback is the Philadelphia Eagles game Sunday, Oct. 3, when the Eagles host Kansas City. “We’re sensitive to the issue,” Hansen said. “However, we may have the same number of fans, because they’re itching to come and not stay home.”
The ShopRite is also known for holding the largest pro-am connected to a tour event, but that was also blown off for 2020. Instead, the competition expanded to four rounds instead of the usual 54-hole race.
The 2021 edition returns the two-day pro-am as well as the three-round schedule for the players, including defending champion Mel Reid and past ShopRite champion and recent major winner Anna Nordquist.
Playing in the pro-am requires a four-figure commitment per amateur, with a foursome forking over up to $17,500 for the opportunity. Nonetheless, Hansen said playing spots routinely sell out.
For the LPGA competitors, there is a $1.75 million purse to tap, but the tournament has a larger impact on South Jersey. Hansen estimates that the ShopRite provides an annual $19 million boost to the local economy.
I met Reid at the ShopRite Media Day Aug. 30, as well as NBC Sports commentator Cara Banks. NBC announced that Banks will handle play-by-play for this year’s ShopRite with analysts Judy Rankin and Paige Mackenzie, along with on-course reporters Karen Stupples and Kay Cockerill. This is the first all-women’s broadcast team for Golf Channel.
Reid discussed the impact of winning last year, the pandemic, and the upcoming Solheim Cup at Inverness in Toledo, Ohio.
“[Winning] was life changing for me. It made me believe in myself,” Reid said. “As a defending champion when I walk the course, I can see the good shots I made. I’m very excited to see the fans here. You do have to play slightly more aggressive in the three-day events.”
“COVID helped [me] a lot,” Reid said. “It was a break from 20 years of nonstop travel and playing. I decided to do a reset and said I wouldn’t play. That lasted four days, but then I only played because I wanted to. It gave me a new love for the game again.”
Reid competed for Great Britain in the Tokyo Olympics, and said it was “the most incredible experience in my life.” She stayed in the GB block at the Olympic Village, and greatly enjoyed mixing with the other British athletes.
She looks forward to joining her longtime buddy Carlotta Ciganda and the other Europeans in their defense of the Solheim Cup Labor Day weekend. “We love to try to beat the Americans.”
Tickets for the event are inexpensive and available, with a one-day grounds pass only $15 and the weekly pass only $30. For more information on the tournament and ticket options, go to www.ShopRiteLPGAClassic.com.
First Tee fundraiser Sept. 16
The First Tee – Delaware will hold its 20th annual Mayor’s Cup Golf Tournament Thursday, Sept. 16, at Rock Manor Golf Course in Wilmington. It is the largest fundraiser for the junior-oriented service organization. This year saw a significant boost in program options held at southern Delaware and Maryland Eastern Shore golf courses. For more information, go to firstteedelaware.org.
Local club competition results
The Rehoboth Beach ladies nine-hole group played a Best Ball Stableford team game Aug. 31. Karen Schneiderman, Rosemary Farley, Susan Miller and Lynn Kokjohn won first place. Joan O’Toole, Susan Rodgers and Joyce McCoy took second. Charlotte Samans, Shae Searl, Marie Bernstein and Deborah Hudson finished third.
The Mulligan’s Pointe Ladies group played a Tee to Green game Aug. 31, using total scores minus putts.
Karen Feuchtenberger won first place in Division A, with Linda Kaufmann in second and Diane Braver in third. Pat Shore won Division B, followed by Christine Allison in second and Carol Love in third.