Few figures in the game of golf have loomed as large as Kathy Whitworth and her presence will be greatly missed as the LPGA Tour returns to Texas for the first time since Whitworth’s passing last December, to an event where the 88-time LPGA Tour winner was the longtime tournament ambassador at The Ascendant LPGA benefiting Volunteers of America.
For eight years, Whitworth was the one to present the tournament champion with the trophy she designed on a napkin back in 2014 and which bore her name.
In celebration of the World Golf Hall of Fame member, Whitworth will be honored throughout this year’s tournament starting with the addition of her signature to the Kathy Whitworth trophy. Also new this year is the installation of the Kathy Whitworth Walk of Champions, which is now the name for the cart path that runs along the 18th fairway at Old American Golf Club.
The Inside the Ropes Program which affords fans and juniors a chance to walk alongside the game’s greats during competition will continue as it was an important initiative for Whitworth. Her Kathy Whitworth Invitational, which she established in 1999 to afford junior girls a chance to compete alongside the world’s best, lives on in her absence.
Four past champions who have had a chance to hoist the Kathy Whitworth Trophy – Stacy Lewis, who won in 2014, Jenny Shin, who earned her lone victory in the Lone Star state in 2016, Cheyenne Knight who became a Rolex First-Time Winner in 2019, and Texas’ own Angela Stanford who won in 2020 – will each return to Old American Golf Club. They’ll be joined by defending champion Charley Hull who will compete for the first time since the Solheim Cup. Hull has been dealing with a neck injury which she endured ahead of the biennial team competition and did not play last week in Arkansas to rest her neck in preparation for her title defense.
These past champions are part of a 132-player field that will be competing over 72 holes for a $1.8 million purse. The field features 17 major champions Lexi Thompson, Paula Creamer and Brittany Lincicome, in addition to seven 2023 LPGA Tour winners, most notably Celine Boutier, Hannah Green and Alexa Pano. A slew of Texans, alongside Lewis, Knight and Stanford, will also get a chance to compete in front of a hometown crowd in The Colony, just 30 minutes outside of downtown Dallas.
The Ascendant LPGA is one of just two full-field events remaining on the season’s schedule and represents one of the final opportunities for players to secure their spot in the limited-field events in Asia, to advance to the CME Group Tour Championship and to avoid a potential trip to LPGA Q-Series by finishing inside the top 100 in the Race to the CME Globe. It’s also a chance for players at the top of the game to make a move in the season-long races for Rolex Player of the Year, Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year and Vare Trophy.
Whitworth was a seven-time winner of the Player of the Year award as well as the Vare Trophy, more than any other player in the women’s game. While her record-setting 88 wins are what most people tend to remember about Whitworth, she did so much to grow the women’s game, particularly in her home state of Texas where she was a longtime ambassador for The Ascendant LPGA.
Whitworth will always be missed, but perhaps even more so this week, as the LPGA Tour returns to Texas without one of its greatest advocates for the very first time.