Contested at the challenging Magnolia Grove Golf Course on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail in Mobile, Ala., each player has her eye on the $130,000 share of the tournament-record $800,000 purse as the Tour's 2004 season nears its close.
To be eligible for The Mitchell Company Tournament of Champions, players must have won an LPGA event in 2001-04 or be active LPGA Tour and World Golf Halls of Fame members. The field includes JoAnne Carner, who will tee it up by virtue of her Hall of Fame status, as well as fellow Hall of Famers Beth Daniel and Juli Inkster, who would be in the field regardless, as both stars have won tournaments in the past four years.
Collectively, the 41-player field boasts 342 LPGA tournament titles, led by Carner (43) and Daniel (33). At the other end of the spectrum, 11 players are hoping to make the The Mitchell Company Tournament of Champions their second career victory, including Moira Dunn, Christina Kim, Jennifer Rosales and Kim Saiki, who all became Rolex First-Time Winners earlier this season.
The criteria for The Mitchell Company Tournament of Champions has changed slightly from years past. Previously, the field was limited to Hall of Famers and winners from the current season and two prior years. Players from the current season and three prior years are now eligible. That change gives Heather Daly-Donofrio, Laura Davies, Tina Fischer, Kate Golden, Lorie Kane, Emilee Klein, Carin Koch and Wendy Ward another shot at the $130,000 first-place paycheck.
Last year, Dorothy Delasin began the final round at five-under-par and with a one-stroke lead over Hee-Won Han. The 23-year-old, who had not won in two years, closed with a 69, but Han, looking for her third win of the season, posted a 68 to tie Delasin and force a sudden-death playoff. Returning to the 18th hole, Han missed a 12-foot birdie try, setting the stage for Delasin to roll in an 8-footer and capture the title. Delasin's win, the fourth of her young career, also boosted her season earning just enough to give her a spot in the season-ending ADT Championship, a tournament reserved for the top-30 players on the ADT Official Money List.
Entering this year's The Mitchell Company Tournament of Champions, several players are hoping to replicate Delasin's feat and earn enough money to qualify for the ADT Championship: Sherri Steinhauer (currently 32nd on the ADT Official Money List); Ward (33); Dunn (34); Davies (35); Laura Diaz (36); Patricia Meunier-Lebouc (38); Angela Stanford (39); and Liselotte Neumann (45).