The Drive On campaign by the LPGA Tour is a powerful platform on which the stories of diversity and determination among its players are told in personal detail. In this year of COVID-19, Drive On has also served as an essential bridge in a disrupted season, providing opportunities to compete during trying times.
In July, the Drive On Championship at Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio, brought the Tour back from the five-month pandemic shutdown, kicking off a run of 14 tournaments that at one time seemed like an impossibility. It was a welcome return for both LPGA Tour players and their fans.
This week, the LPGA Drive On Championship Reynolds Lake Oconee in Greensboro, Ga., is the last event before the Tour season sprints to a close. Reynolds Lake Oconee follows an off-week in the wake of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, the third major of the season, and precedes three more off weeks. It is a crucial island of opportunity.
After Drive On, the Tour returns at the Pelican Women’s Championship presented by DEX Imaging in Belleair, Fla., the week before Thanksgiving, followed by the Volunteers of America Classic at The Colony, Texas Dec. 3-6; the U.S. Women’s Open at Champions Club in Houston Dec. 10-13 and the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Fla., Dec. 17-20.
But first this week. The Drive On Championship Reynolds Lake Oconee – halfway between Atlanta and Augusta, Ga. – is an example of the LPGA Tour’s ability to think on the fly when aided by cooperation like that of the folks at Reynolds.
When it became clear that the Tour’s fall Asia Swing would be an impossibility because of the pandemic, the thinking caps went on and Drive On the Sequel became a reality.
As is true with everything in this most challenging of years, some things will be different. There will be no spectators – as has been the case at each event since the season resumed – and because of dwindling daylight this time of the year, there are only 108 players competing for the $1.3 million purse.
But it is an all-star field, including winners of seven 2020 events: Gaby Lopez, Stacy Lewis, Sophia Popov, Austin Ernst, Mel Reid and Danielle Kang, who has won twice this year, taking the Drive On Championship at Inverness then the Marathon Classic presented by Dana the next week.
Also competing at Reynolds are Rolex Rankings top-10 players Minjee Lee and Lexi Thompson, as well as major championship winners Juli Inkster, Ariya Jutanugarn, Hannah Green, Brittany Lincicome, Eun-hee Ji, Morgan Pressel, Lydia Ko, Cristie Kerr, Angela Stanford, Brittany Lang and Pernilla Lindberg.
All four days will be on Golf Channel from 1-4 p.m. Eastern Time.
The Drive On Championship Reynolds Lake Oconee will be played at Great Waters, one of six world-class courses available to Reynolds members and guests. Great Waters, which hugs the shoreline of Lake Oconee, opened in 1992 and was recently renovated by its designer, Jack Nicklaus. It held the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship on the PGA Tour from 1995-97.
“It is great that Reynolds Lake Oconee and Great Waters are stepping up to help the game of golf,” Nicklaus said about the ingenuity behind the Drive On Championship.
“The course we designed and opened 28 years ago was already very special, but after this latest renovation, I believe we added some polish to a gem,” Nicklaus said.
“I think the ladies will absolutely love playing Great Waters,” he said. “I think they will find it a good test but a fair one. I hope the LPGA has a tremendous week there, and that the competitors enjoy the course and the hospitality.”
The players will not only enjoy the course and the hospitality – they will enjoy the opportunity. This is a tournament created because it was needed. That the LPGA and Reynolds were able to put it together so quickly is a perfect example of the Drive On spirit that has propelled the LPGA Tour since its founding in 1950.
There is nothing about 2020 that has been easy but there is something ironically appropriate that on its 70th birthday the LPGA Tour is experiencing one of its most challenging years.
And there is a serendipity that the Drive On campaign was created last year – almost as if anticipating this year.
Drive On tells the stories of toughness and resolve exhibited by players who earned their way to the LPGA Tour. The Drive On Championships show that same toughness and resolve on an organizational level.
This week at Reynolds Lake Oconee, great players will take on a great golf course for a great purpose – the opportunity to pursue their profession. And that’s what Drive On is all about – equal opportunity for those on that wonderfully diverse entity -- golf’s global tour, the LPGA.At Reynolds Lake Oconee the LPGA Tour Drives On.