Many children's and educational charities will be the big winners Sunday.
By PETE MOLLICA
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
VIENNA -- Some of the biggest names in ladies professional golf began play today as the Giant Eagle LPGA Classic got under way at Squaw Creek Country Club. It is the event's 13th year.
One of the strongest 144-player fields in recent years will be taking part in the $1 million tournament with a first-place prize of $150,000.
Two-time defending champion Dorothy Delasin is back, trying for a three-peat, which would make her the seventh player in LPGA history to win the same tournament three years in a row.
This year's tournament is also part of Nancy Lopez's farewell tour as the LPGA Hall of Fame member is cutting back on her playing schedule and could be making her final appearance in the area.
Lopez, who won the tournament in 1993 when it was called the Youngstown-Warren LPGA Classic and played at Avalon Lakes, is still one of the crowd favorites.
Large galleries expected
Crowds were small earlier in the week but are expected to grow this weekend as the actual tournament competition is contested.
Mahoning Valley Sports Charities, owners of the tournament, and Giant Eagle will present another check to charity Sunday, when the tournament champion is determined.
This year's amount will undoubtedly push the 10-year figure over the $3 million mark, since last year's check of $450,000 raised the total amount given to charities to $2.9 million.
More than 50 children's and educational charities benefited from last year's tournament. That number is expected to increase this year.
According to the golfers, Squaw Creek Country Club is in perfect condition for the tournament. Greens superintendent Lou Greco and his staff have worked hard to get the course in its present condition.
"Getting it there was only half the battle," said Greco. "With this heat, keeping it there is the big challenge."
The tournament will be televised on ESPN and ESPN2 all three days of the competition beginning today from 2 to 4 p.m. on ESPN, and 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday on ESPN2, and the final round Sunday from 3 to 5 p.m. on ESPN2.