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LPGA stars want to keep Kraft identity despite sponsor loss

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RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Karrie Webb doesn’t just want to see the year’s first major continue at Mission Hills Country Club after Kraft Nabisco’s contract expires with Sunday’s conclusion of the event. She wants to see Dinah Shore’s name go back on it.

“I think Dinah Shore's name should come back onto the event just to keep that identity,” said Webb, who won this championship in 2006 and 2000. “Whoever comes on board as a sponsor, it shouldn't just be the sponsor's name . . . . Even when we took Dinah's name off the event, people knew what event it was, because they'd been a part of it for so long.

“I just feel like, to keep the identity of this event, when people tune in to watch, they're going to know, `That's the Dinah Shore, the LPGA's first major of the year.’ That's what I'd really like to see for 2015 and beyond.”

The Kraft Nabisco Championship got its start as the Colgate-Dinah Shore in 1972. Shore, an actress and singer, helped found the event and hosted it until her death in 1994. Her name remained on the event until 2000. Nabisco came aboard as title sponsor in 1982. It became the Kraft Nabisco in 2002.

While LPGA commissioner Mike Whan is more than optimistic that the event will return to Mission Hills in 2015 and beyond, there will be uncertainty until a new title sponsor is secured.

Players see the event’s long history as vital to the LPGA’s identity. From Shore’s legacy, to the Walk of Fame along the 18th green, to the victor’s leap into Poppie’s Pond and all the memorable winning and losing shots at the 18th, Mission Hills Country Club’s history and traditions mean a lot to today’s players.

“We need to stay here,” said Stacy Lewis, who won the Kraft Nabisco in 2011.

The LPGA will take over control of the event at week’s end. No announcements about the future of the championship will likely be made this week, but Whan is confident its future here will be secured.

“I think a lot of the older players, like Juli [Inkster], they know this tournament as the Dinah, where players my age, we know this as the Kraft,” Lewis said. “For me, it's going to be hard to not call it the Kraft anymore, because that's what Kraft Nabisco has built here. It's Kraft, that's what it is.  Everybody knows what course it's at, where it is. We need to hopefully get another sponsor, somebody onboard, that wants to create a tradition like that again going forward.”