Golf’s first major would have been played this week. The ANA Inspiration, contested at the Dinah Shore Tournament Course at Million Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif. has been a staple of the LPGA Tour and the Palm Springs area since 1972 when Dinah and Colgate-Palmolive CEO David Foster created what was, at the time, the richest tournament in women’s golf.
It remains the only LPGA Tour major contested on the same course every year. And in 48 playings, some of the game’s most memorable moments and traditions have come to life there in the long shadows of Mount San Jacinto.
Here are just a few highlights:
Four years after retiring from full-time competition, one of the LPGA Tour’s greatest champions, Mickey Wright, won the 1973 ANA Inspiration, the first time the tournament was contested at 72 holes. Wright closed with a 68 on January 5th, a Friday, so the course could be open for member play by the weekend. It was the last of Mickey’s 82 victories.
In 1984, 23-year-old LPGA Tour rookie Juli Inkster birdied the last hole in regulation to tie Pat Bradley, who was the leading money winner at that time. Six months removed from having won her third U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship, Inkster beat Bradley in a playoff and would go on to win the Rolex Rookie of the Year title.
After firing a 71 in the final round to defeat Colleen Walker by two shots, an excited Amy Alcott looked at her caddie, Bill Kurre, and said, “Let it rip.” The two of them then made the first leaps into Poppie’s Pond. It was Alcott’s second ANA Inspiration victory, having won the event in 1983, the first year it became a major.
The celebratory dive didn’t take off immediately. Alcott went in again when she won in 1991, this time with Kurre and Dinah Shore. But it wasn’t until Dinah passed away in February of 1994 that the leap became a tradition. Donna Andrews dove into the pond a month later after defeating Dame Laura Davies by one shot.
Dottie Pepper put on a show that is still talked about more than two decades later, shooting a tournament-record 19-under par for four days to win by six shots over Meg Mallon. They were the only two players to reach double-digits under par for the week. It was Pepper’s second ANA Inspiration victory.
A year after finishing third behind Pepper, Karrie Webb lapped the field at the ANA Inspiration, firing a 14-under-par total to win by 10 shots, still the largest margin of victory in tournament history.
Annika Sorenstam won her third ANA Inspiration in five years and her eighth major title, an eight-shot victory over Rosie Jones. It would be Sorenstam’s largest margin of victory in a major.
Karrie Webb started the final round of the 2006 ANA Inspiration seven shots back and seemingly out of contention. But an incredible Sunday 65, capped by one of the greatest shots in LPGA history, led to a victory. As Webb described it, “I had 116 yards to the hole (on the par-5 18th). At the time I was one shot back and thinking that I needed to make birdie to get into a playoff. I hit a nice smooth pitching wedge in there. It took a couple of hops and went in the hole (for eagle).”
That shot put her in a playoff with Lorena Ochoa that Webb won.
Trailing by a shot with one hole to play, 23-year-old Brittany Lincicome hit the shot of her life from 210 yards on the 18th, a hybrid over water and onto the green. Her ball rolled toward the back of the green and then funneled gently down to the hole, leaving her a four-foot putt for eagle, which she made for her first major title.
Needing a birdie at the final hole to overtake Ariya Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko laid up with her second shot on the par-5 18th, leaving her a perfect wedge distance. She hit the wedge shot to within eight inches, almost holing it for eagle. Birdie proved to be enough as Ko tapped in for her second consecutive major title (she also won the Evian Championship in 2015). The win made Ko the youngest two-time major winner in LPGA Tour history at 18 years, 11 months and 9 days, and the youngest golfer, male or female, to win two majors since Young Tom Morris won his second Open Championship in 1869.
In a Cinderella story that no one could have predicted, Pernilla Lindberg made the ANA Inspiration her first LPGA Tour win in her 250th career start. The popular Swede did it by knocking off one of the greatest champions of all time, LPGA Hall of Fame-member Inbee Park, in an eight-hole playoff that stretched into Monday morning.
Lindberg had the hottest putter of the championship, a club that kept her in or near the lead all week. It didn’t disappoint in the playoff either. What began as a three-player affair with Lindberg, Park and Jennifer Song, became a two-woman race after Song dropped out on the third playoff hole.
One more playoff hole halved in the pitch black of Sunday night pushed things to Monday where Lindberg and Park teed off on the 10th hole. They halved 10, 17 and 18, with Lindberg continuing to hole putt after crucial putt, and then returned to the 10th where the 32-year-old from Bolinas, with her parents in attendance and her future husband on her bag, drained a 30-footer for birdie to capture the title.