Next year will be the final jump in Poppie’s Pond, ending 40 years of the only LPGA major held on the same course and still known in some corners as Dinah Shore.
The LPGA Tour announced Tuesday that Chevron will become the title sponsor of the first major of the year starting in 2023 and plans to relocate it from the California desert to its Houston headquarters.
It would replace the ANA Inspiration in a six-year contract. Japan-based ANA has been the title sponsor of Mission Hills in Rancho Mirage, California since 2015.
The tournament celebrated its 50th anniversary in Mission Hills in April. It was made a major in 1983 and it was Amy Alcott in 1988 who jumped into the pond around the 18th green to begin what is perhaps the most famous tradition in women’s golf.
LPGA Commissioner Mollie Marcoux Samaan spoke of building new traditions and while important details have yet to be worked out, the loss of so many traditions comes in exchange for a better date, better television and bigger wallet.
“This partnership will be a turning point for the LPGA in many ways,” Marcoux Samaan said on a conference call. “It will allow us to take this great championship to new heights.”
She said the prize pool would increase 60% to $ 5 million, with the winner receiving $ 750,000.
One of the key pieces of the puzzle is where the Chevron Championship is held. IMG’s Ed McEnroe, who runs the tournament, said it would likely be held in the Houston area.
The US Women’s Open was held last December at Champions Golf Club, home of Jack Burke Jr. and past host of the US Open, Ryder Cup and the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour. Chevron is also said to be exploring Carlton Woods.
Marcoux Samaan said the Chevron Championship would have dedicated coverage (the ANA inspiration was on Golf Channel). It’s also important to move the date a week before the Masters, especially with the recent inclusion of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur. This is also the Final Four weekend in NCAA basketball.
The commissioner said it would remain the first major of the year and suggested a late spring date.
“In the short term, our absolute focus is on making sure the next ANA inspiration is a truly fitting final celebration of 61 years of incredible history, fantastic golf dramas and wonderful partnerships at Rancho Mirage,” said McEnroe.
Marcoux Samaan said she was only just beginning to share the changes with players, despite the LPGA posting several comments supporting the upgrade while sharing how much they will miss the Palm Springs tradition in early spring to the big one Championship season to begin.
All of the LPGA majors except the US Women’s Open have title sponsors, and the USGA is about to announce a presenting sponsor who would raise the women’s open money. There were some concerns that the major might not survive in the desert without a replacement for ANA.
“I have tears in my eyes when I cross the bridge to Mission Hills’ 18th green. This course is very special to me and I am very sad to leave it, ”said So Yeon Ryu, who won in 2017. “But I also trust that Chevron will be a great partner for the LPGA Tour and a good plan for the future of this great championship.
“I plan to help them ensure that the history and traditions we built at Mission Hills are carried over to their new location with the championship.”
Shore co-founded the event and remained a large part of the tournament. There is a statue of the late entertainer near the 18th green. Dinah Shore was part of the tournament name until 2000 when it was called the Nabisco Championship. The tournament has had three title sponsors in 50 years – Colgate, Nabisco and ANA.
McEnroe said Shore’s daughter Melissa Montgomery has been a “fantastic sounding board” over the years.
“We intend to stay in tune with the history and tradition and values of the founders,” he said.
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