Perhaps it’s not a Grand Slam, but it certainly was a ringing double with the bases loaded. In the first year with two majors for senior women, Laura Davies took them both as on Wednesday she added the Senior LPGA Championship presented by Old National Bank to the U.S. Senior Women’s Open she won earlier this year. Dame Laura is the undisputed Queen of the senior set.
As she was at Chicago Golf Club in July, Davies was simply dominant, leading after every round of the 54-hole event on The Pete Dye Course at French Lick, but this time it was not a walk in the park like her 10-stroke coronation outside Chicago. Her final round 70 left her at eight-under Par 280, four strokes clear of Helen Alfredsson and Silvia Cavalleri, both of whom pulled even with her on the front nine of the final round.
On a day when the wind gusted to 25 mph, the brutish Dye design was even more punishing than usual. Only four players broke par over 54 holes on the challenging layout with Michele Redman getting in at one-under-par 287, alone in fourth place. Burton finished at 289 and defending champion Trish Johnson was at 291.
The star-studded leaderboard was simply overmatched by Davies, who at 55 remains one of the most powerful players in all of women’s golf, regardless of age. As the wind started to pick up midway through the front nine her strength became a key component to her game. She now has those two senior major trophies to put next to the four pieces of hardware she collected for winning a quartet of LPGA majors.
“I wish there were more of them to play,” Davies said about bagging the two senior majors. “This was a real treat because I’ve never put three good rounds together on this course. With the wind today and the challenging layout, I think two under par was a really good score,” she said about her closing-round 70.
Davies began the final round with a two-stroke lead over Brandie Burton and three clear of Cavalleri and Jane Crafter. Redman, Alfredsson and Liselotte Neumann were four strokes off the pace.
When Cavalleri ran in a 15-foot birdie putt on No. 5 and a 20-footer on No. 6, there was a three-way tie at five under par between the Italian, Davies and Alfredsson. Davies took the lead back with a birdie on No. 7 but Alfredsson responded immediately, making her fourth birdie in six holes on No. 8 to get back into a tie with Davies, this time at six under par.
The tournament turned on No. 11, where Alfredsson drove into the right rough, drew a bad lie, hit her second shot into a bunker and then left the ball in the bunker, making a double bogey.
“I made a run,” Alfredsson said, “but I made a bad mistake with that drive on No. 11 and I never recovered.” Alfredsson play was remarkable considering she was competing for the first time since the Senior Women’s Open. “It took me that long to recover,” she said with a smile.
Davies also hit an errant drive on No. 11 but minimized the damage by saving a one-putt bogey. The other turning point was on the par-3 16th hole where Davies fanned her tee shot but it caught a corner of land and stayed out of the water as she saved par.
“I got lucky on No. 11 and 16,” Davies said. “But you need a bit of luck to win. I hit a lot of quality golf shots and when I hit a couple of poor ones I got away with it.”
Pretty much everyone left French Lick wanting more and many of the players departed Indiana optimistic about the future of competitive golf for senior women. “I think so,” three-time U.S. Women’s Open champion Hollis Stacy said when asked if she thought the Senior LPGA would lead to more tournaments for the over-45 set.
“I think the LPGA, the USGA and the PGA of America realize that the fastest growing segment of golf is women,” she said. “And they realize that most economic decisions in this country are made by women, especially women over 50. I think they see the opportunity here.”
The seeds planted by Jane Blalock when she created the Women’s Senior Golf Tour in 2000, which became the Legends Tour in 2006, have taken root. The Senior LPGA Championship was a huge boost when it became a major in 2017. And that was enhanced when the U.S. Senior Women’s Open joined it this year.
How those roots will grow next and where this will all go, only time can tell. But in Davies the Senior LPGA determined a deserving champion who is clearly the best player in senior women’s golf. This was, in every sense of the word, a major success. Like any great performance, it left you wanting more. And that’s a good thing.