THIS IS PREVIEW FOR THIS WEEK’S ISPS HANDA CUP, A TEAM EVENT MATCHING U.S. PLAYERS ON THE LPGA LEGENDS TOUR AGAINST LEGENDS PLAYERS WHO WERE BORN INTERNATIONALLY.
By Len Ziehm
OLD HICKORY, Tenn. – The biggest season in the 13-year history of the LPGA Legends Tour reaches a climax this week with the eighth playing of the ISPS Handa Cup at Hermitage Golf Club.
The international team event features some of the biggest names in women’s golf with the U.S. squad, captained by JoAnne Carner, taking on the World team, led by Sweden’s Pia Nilsson.
Canadian Lorie Kane, coming off her victory two weeks ago in the first LPGA Legends Championship at French Lick, Ind., heads the World squad that also includes England’s Laura Davies and Trish Johnson, Australian Jan Stephenson and Sweden’s Helen Afredsson and Liselotte Neumann.
Also on the World squad are Jane Crafter, of Australia; Alicia Dibos and Jenny Lidback, Peru; Gail Graham, Canada; Alison Nicholas, England; and Mieko Nomura, Japan.
Carner’s U.S. squad features Pat Bradley, Beth Daniel, Rosie Jones, Betsy King and Nancy Lopez among its 12 players who will compete in team matches on Saturday and singles matches on Sunday. Jones has a dazzling 15-3-2 record in ISPS Handa Cup play – the best of any players in the competition.
Rounding out the U.S. roster are Cindy Figg-Currier, Christa Johnson, Barb Mucha, Cindy Rarick, Laurie Rinker, Nancy Scranton and Sherri Turner. Lori West will be Carner’s assistant captain and South Africa’s Sally Little will back up Nilsson.
Team pairings and matchups for Saturday’s competition will be announced at Thursday night’s opening ceremonies. The players on both squads will participate in a Friday pro-am before the Handa Cup tees off on Saturday.
The Handa Cup was first played in 2006 at World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Fla. It was conducted there for five years, then moved to Portsmouth, N.H., for two stagings and was contested last year at Reunion Resort in Orlando, Fla. The U.S. won the first six battles but last year’s ended in a 24-24 tie with Carner and Nilsson also the competing captains.
Saturday’s program includes 12 team matches of nine holes each. Six will be played in the morning starting at 9 a.m. on the front nine using best ball format. The six afternoon matches will start at 1 p.m. on the back nine using the modified alternate shot format. Unlike the Solheim Cup, the Handa Cup is not a match play event. It’s stroke play within each match.
While team competition is a rarity on all the pro tours, the LPGA Legends do have familiarity with the General’s Retreat layout – one of two 18-holers at the well-regarded Hermitage public facility on the outskirts of Nashville. It hosted the LPGA’s Sara Lee Classic from 1988-2002 and three of the players in this year’s Handa Cup were winners of the Sara Lee Classic.
Davies won in 1994 and Mucha in 1998 but the most memorable of the champions was ’91 winner Nancy Lopez. Then pregnant with her third child Lopez shot a course record 7-under-par 65 in the first round en route to her 44th LPGA title with a 54-hole score of 10-under-par 206.
Lopez went on to win 48 LPGA titles and was a key player in last year’s Handa Cup. It was her last putt that enabled the U.S. to salvage a tie in the team competition.
Who will win the inaugural event?
Will Jessica Korda defend her title?