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Barnstorming tales from the Founders Cup

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PHOENIX – The pioneers being honored at the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup this week made all sorts of odd publicity appearances to try to sell tickets as they barnstormed the country in 1950 when they started the tour.

Shirley Spork remembers waiting ringside to make a pitch between rounds in a prize fight in Washington, D.C.

“It was gross, there was blood spattering all over the place,” she said.

Louise Suggs remembers going to minor league baseball games and hitting golf balls out of the stadium.

“You strike a golf ball at a baseball park, especially at night, and it looks like you're hitting it about six miles,” Suggs said.

The 13 founders traveled from tournament to tournament in a caravan of cars. They once traveled 1,600 miles between events, going from Spokane, Wash., to Waterloo, Iowa.

With no cell phones in those days, Spork said the women developed a unique communication system to send messages from car to car. They used green, red and yellow pingpong paddles. One color meant a food stop, one color a gas stop and one color a potty stop.

These are the kind of stories the three founders here this week can tell today’s players. Suggs, Spork and Marilynn Smith are attending the event. Sophie Gustafson tweeted that she made a point to chat with all three of them.

“Don’t think I’ll ever forget that,” Gustafson said.

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