Curiosity got the better of Donna Andrews last year when she decided to compete in the inaugural Senior LPGA Championship at French Lick. She had barely played any golf for half a decade due to nagging shoulder injuries that eventually led to surgery, and she was eager to see what sort of form she could produce.
She ended up being very pleasantly surprised as she tied for 20th in that first Senior LPGA Championship with her competitive juices flowing again, a result that has persuaded her to play a bit more tournament golf this year, beginning with her return last week to the ANA Inspiration for the first time since 2005.
"I had been playing here and there before French Lick last year, but I hadn't played much because I had bad shoulders," Andrews, a six-time champion on the LPGA Tour, told LPGA.com. "I've since had both my shoulders fixed. I had surgery on both of them and thought it would motivate me to try to get back in shape.
"I actually went to French Lick with the idea of just going to see what I got. When I got there, I hit the ball fairly well, didn't putt as well as I would have liked to have but it sort of motivated me to work on my game again. And then when I saw that I was coming out to the ANA Inspiration (as a former champion), I decided to sort of kick start the year so I know what I need to work on before we get to the Women's Open and to the Senior Open."
The 2018 ANA Inspiration proved to be a daunting challenge for Andrews, with the Dinah Shore Tournament Course set up at 6,763 from the back tees. She ended up missing the cut after struggling to scores of 82 and 81.
"I had not played there since 2005, and it's a lot longer than when I played back then!" laughed Andrews, who won her only major title at the 1994 Nabisco Dinah Shore and became just the second champion to make the celebratory leap into Poppie's Pond.
"The course is great and it's beautiful but because I was having to hit more club into the greens, I couldn't hold the greens so I either had to find a ball that spins better or learn to hit it higher or something. I hit a lot of great shots at the ANA that ended up over the greens and that is certainly not where you want to be on that golf course. But I do have great memories of Rancho Mirage. I love the people there and I love the golf course there so I was glad I came to play, even though I didn't play well."
Andrews viewed her week at the ANA Inspiration as both an exploratory mission and also as a "Mom's getaway".
"I hadn't played from probably 2011 to maybe 2015, she said. "I had one shoulder fixed in 2011 and the other one fixed in 2014, so it wasn't really until 2015 that I started playing a little bit again. I don't play much these days because I teach full time at Pine Needles Resort. I have two young kids that I am chasing around that are eight and 11 so the ANA was sort of a Mom's getaway, being able to actually play 18 holes a couple of days in a row."
Andrews, now aged 50, is relishing the opportunity to compete once again at the Senior LPGA Championship presented by Old National Bank when it is held this year at French Lick from October 15-17, with an impressive list of LPGA Hall-of-Famers, major champions and a former LPGA Tour winners in the field.
"I now know where my game is," she said. "I know what I need to work on, and that was the big thing for me was just seeing if I could hold up to play for a few days and then know what I needed to work on, what parts of the body I need to work on and what parts of my golf game I need to work on."
Englishwoman Trish Johnson led wire-to-wire to win the inaugural Senior LPGA Championship by three shots, ending a week that Andrews will never forget.
"That first Senior LPGA Championship was very successful," she said. "The fans ... I was surprised how many fans were out there on the golf course. It's a tough golf course to walk but a beautiful location there at French Lick. They treat us like royalty there so it's always fun to go back. I think that will just grow and grow."