A mixture of sadness and pride for Patty T at Mission Hills
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Patty Tavanakit felt a mixture of pride and sadness when she arrived at Mission Hills in California for the first LPGA Tour major of the year.
It was a thrill to see her name on the wall of champions. The former UCLA star from Thailand went wire-to-wire last year in the ANA Inspiration for her first major title.
“Proud to put my name there,” she said Tuesday. “I actually took a picture with it. Just a nice feeling. I mean, makes me love this place even more regardless how I do this week.”
And that leads to the sadness.
This is the final year at Mission Hills, a course packed with more tradition than any other in women’s golf. It was known for years (and still is in some circles) as the Dinah Shore from when it began in 1972 to getting major championship status in 1983.
Amy Alcott started the tradition of jumping in Poppie’s Pond that surrounds the 18th green in 1988. Whoever wins this year will be making the final leap.
Chevron has taken over as title sponsor and is moving the tournament to Houston in 2023, when it will be held in May. Without new sponsorship, the tournament might not have survived. Chevron already is raising the prize money to $5 million this year and investing $1.2 million over six years in the LPGA Foundation.
Tavatanakit says Hall of Famer Juli Inkster spoke at a champions dinner of growing the women’s game, and this was a step toward that.
“I love coming back here,” she said. “But we’re evolving and changing, and we always look forward to what’s new.”
The May date will be new, and Tavatanakit can speak to experience how that will make a difference. Three years ago, she was eligible for the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur and the first LPGA major of the year.
She was forced to choose and turned down her one chance to compete at the home of the Masters. She was at UCLA. It was either fly across three time zones or drive to a major.
“If I were to go back in time I would still do that with my full heartbeat,” she said. “It was just a tough decision, but that was where it was laying out for me. … I want to have the experience of playing in majors and just the nerves.”
While it paid off with a major title two years later, Tavatanakit is happy that other women won’t be forced to choose given the later spring date for the Chevron Championship.
“I’m really happy that no one have to pick and choose between Augusta and a major, because it is a tough choice,“ she said.
BOOKING A TEE TIME
Sam Burns was looking to play golf, so he called the head pro at a private club and arranged for a tee time. That all sounds routine, except this was Augusta National.
Burns qualified for his first Masters last March when he won the Valspar Championship, which last year was held after the Florida swing. Augusta National the last week in February is nothing like it will be next week, but it was a memorable day.
“Honestly, I tried to be a spectator and take the place in,” Burns said. “I got to do it with my dad, which was really cool.”