RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Defending champion Lexi Thompson posed in a news conference Tuesday with the new ANA Inspiration Trophy.
Then she posed with the new ANA Inspiration robe, a garment made of super absorbent cloth that retails for 100,000 yen back in Japan. That's $1,000.
A lot is changing with All Nippon Airways taking over from Kraft Nabisco as the new title sponsor of the year’s first major championship, but to the delight of LPGA pros, the championship’s traditions are all being preserved with ANA agreeing to continue to host the event at the Dinah Shore Course at Mission Hills. The winner will continue to be honored with a plaque along the Walk of Champions aside the 18th green, and the traditional leap into Poppie’s Pond isn’t going anywhere. That exotic new robe will hang in a plexiglass closet for all to see on the first tee when the championship begins Thursday.
“Whether it's jumping into Poppie's Pond, putting that robe on after you jump into the pond, there are so many traditions and so much history behind this tournament,” Thompson said. “I think that's what makes this tournament so special and inspirational.”
This tournament got its start as the Colgate Dinah Shore Winner’s Circle at Mission Hills in 1972 with Jane Blalock winning that first year. It was designated a major in 1983 and played then as the Nabisco Dinah Shore. ANA is in the first year of a five-year deal as title sponsor.
“It was very important to keep this tradition going at this tournament here at Mission Hills,” Thompson said. “We’re very grateful for ANA coming in and picking up the tournament and keeping that tradition going.”
Upon arriving at Mission Hills, the major difference fans first notice, aside from the name change, is the color. ANA’s blue is the dominant color where Kraft Nabisco’s was red.
LPGA commissioner Mike Whan joined Thompson and ANA officials in a new tradition Tuesday in the media center. They took part in the Kagami-Biraki ceremony. That literally means “opening the lid.” Whan and Thompson took up wooden mallets and helped bang open a wooden barrel filled with sake.
The ceremony brought home how ANA intends to add its own traditions to the established ones here.
“There was uncertainty for a moment,” Michelle Wie said of not knowing if the championship would survive when Kraft Nabisco first announced it was giving up sponsorship. “I was thinking, `Oh, it would be really sad if we didn't come back.’ It’s all worked out. We’re back here and it's really great.”