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Respect from young players makes LPGA founders' hearts 'flutter'

Marilynn Smith, Marlene Hagge Vossler and Shirley Spork at the 2016 Founder Cup. (Getty Images)
Getty Images

PHOENIX – Three of the LPGA’s original 13 founders are still living, and they will get the royal treatment again this week at the Founders Cup.

Shirley Spork, Marilynn Smith and Marlene Hagge Vossler will be seated aside the 18th green here at Marriott’s Wildfire Golf Club, where they relish the respect today’s players show them after holing out.

“It makes my heart flutter,” Spork said. “It makes me feel good that they are able to know about our history this week.”

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

The founders have a lot of stories to share with today’s players, about the challenges they faced starting the tour in 1950, when they began barnstorming across the United States to promote their events.

Spork’s best barnstorming story might be the time she crawled into a tiny car at a circus in Oklahoma.

“I got in the car with 12 midgets,” Spork said. “I squeezed in there with them.”

And crawled out with them in the center ring to tell the crowd about the LPGA tournament coming to their town that week.

More than anyone, the Founders event can attest to how far this tour has come.

“We never knew it would be as big as it is today,” Smith said. “We never dreamed it.”

There are also three pioneers being honored this week. Amy Alcott, Sandy LaBauve and Susie Maxwell Berning will join the founders aside the 18th green.

“It’s fun to reflect,” said LaBauve, who founded LPGA-USGA Girls’ Golf. “This is a week that makes you do that.”