LPGA lacks full field of players
The 2001 Giant Eagle LPGA Classic officially gets underway today, and for just the fourth time in the 12-year history of the event, there will not be a full-field of 144 golfers.
As of last Wednesday night, the official cut-off for golfers to enter the tournament, only 134 LPGA players had signed up to play in this year's event.
This will also mark the return of the tournament to Squaw Creek Country Club, site of this event from 1990 through 1992. The last eight years, the tournament was held at Avalon Lakes Golf Course.
The lack of a full field is nothing unusual for LPGA tournaments; it occurs often for many reasons. Golfers usually map out their tour schedule early in the season. Then there are always injuries, fatigue and other reasons golfers need to take a week off.
Final tournament: This year's Giant Eagle Classic also happens to fall the week before the tour's final major tournament of the year, the Weetabix Women's British Open.
Because this event is held in London, England, many golfers will take this week off to make travel arrangements to get there.
The strong European delegation on the LPGA Tour will also use this week to go back to its homeland for some rest before heading to England. Almost all of the top Europeans, including the Nos. 1 and 2 ranked players on the money list, Annika Sorenstam and Karrie Webb, are not playing in this year's Giant Eagle event.
Giant Eagle tournament manager Eddie Thomas was not happy with this year's schedule, but it was something that neither he nor the tournament had control over.
Next year, the tournament will move a week earlier on the schedule and avoid such a conflict.
But that's enough about who won't be here -- now for a look at who will be playing this week at Squaw Creek.
The lineup: Former Giant Eagle champion Se Ri Pak, the 1998 winner, heads up this year's field, and she is having another great season. She's won three times this year, including most recently at the Jamie Farr Kroger Classic in Toledo. She is also ranked No. 2 on the money list with just under $1 million in earnings.
She will be joined by eight other former winners of this event, led by defending champion Dorothy Delasin, who won this event as a 19-year-old rookie last year, her first and only LPGA win.
Jackie Gallagher-Smith recorded her first and only LPGA win in the 1999 Giant Eagle event, while the other former champs include LPGA Hall of Fame members Nancy Lopez (1993) and Betsy King (1992).
King won the last local tournament played at Squaw Creek, while the 1991 champion, also at Squaw Creek, was Deb Richard, who will be here this week.
Two-time Giant Eagle champions Tammie Green (1994-1997), an Ohio native, and Michelle McGann (1995-1996) are both returning. The only past champion who won't be here is the first winner in 1990, Beth Daniel.
Money winners: This year's field includes 22 of the top 50 money winners, and Pak and King have both won tournaments this year.
Two other members of the top-10 money list are in the field. Fan favorite Dottie Pepper, ranked No. 5, and third-year pro Laura Diaz, ranked No. 10, are playing here.
Pat Hurst, who lost a two-hole sudden-death playoff to Delasin a year ago, is back and ranked No. 20, while Korean Mi Hyun Kim (No. 11), Texan Wendy Ward (No. 12) and native Ohioan Michele Redman (No. 15) are all in the field.
Other fan favorites such as Danielle Ammaccapane, Brandie Burton, Jane Geddes, Donna Andrews, Penny Hammel and Cindy Flom are all in the field.
The top Europeans playing here are Sweden's Liselotte Neumann and Scotland's Janice Moodie.
Regardless of who's here and who's not, the tournament is expected to draw big crowds as it has for the past 11 years and raise a lot more money for the local charities involved.
XPete Mollica is a sportswriter for The Vindicator. Write to him at email@example.com.