PHOENIX – Karrie Webb feels the weight of history this week in an LPGA event that’s still actually in its infancy.
Webb is the defending champ at the JTBC Founders Cup and a two-time winner of the five-year-old event.
“I feel like this tournament has more history than years we’ve played it,” Webb said at Marriott’s Wildfire Golf Club.
Webb’s comment goes to the heart of the Founders Cup, a tournament commissioner Mike Whan created to honor the LPGA’s 13 founders and its early pioneers. Judy Rankin, Donna Caponi and Sandra Palmer are this year’s special honorees. The trio combined to win 69 LPGA titles, most of them in the ‘70s.
“I think this is great for the younger players,” Webb said. “I started 20 years ago, and a lot more of the founders were still alive and a lot more active, out on tour a little bit more. So, I got to know them a little better than some of the younger girls.”
The LPGA sets up a stage aside the 18th green here, where the honorees can sit and watch the action. Players make a point of greeting the honorees as they leave the green.
“I think it’s great for the younger girls,” Webb said. “I think it’s great for them to be able to put faces to names and possibly sit down and hear some of the stories.”
The LPGA hosts the Pioneer Awards Dinner Friday at the Marriott hotel on tournament grounds. The special honorees will be joined by some of the game’s greats, including two of the three living founders, Shirley Spork and Marilynn Smith. The other living founder, Louise Suggs, wasn’t well enough to travel.
Webb was the ideal winner of the inaugural event in 2011, with her reverence for LPGA history. She won that first event in dramatic fashion, coming from six shots behind in the final round. She won the same way last year, also coming from six shots back in the final round. It was Webb’s 38th and 41st LPGA titles. She donated $25,000 last year to the Founders Film, a project devoted to telling the story of the LPGA founders.
At No. 9 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, Webb continues to be a large factor in LPGA events. She just turned 40 and reiterated comments this week that she made a month ago in Australia, that she’s highly motivated still, with a desire to compete in the Olympics next year in Rio de Janeiro.
“I think the Olympics is pretty much why I’m still playing full time,” Webb said. “That’s a pretty big driving factor for me, to be working as hard as I am.”