Every time Pat Bradley walked by the statue of Dinah Shore next to the 18th green at Mission Hills Country Club, she’d climb up on the little base and put her hand on Dinah’s arm and have a chat. Longtime Desert Sun golf writer Larry Bohannan recalled the scene as he considered the question: How should Shore’s legacy continue in Texas?
Bradley, like so many LPGA greats, was friends with Shore. The Hollywood superstar made such a tremendous impact on the tour in the 1970s and 80s that they put her in the LPGA Hall of Fame as the only non-playing member.
But as the 52nd Chevron Championship, still known by many as “The Dinah,” leaves the Dinah Shore Tournament Course and heads to The Woodlands near Houston this year (April 20-23), it’s natural to wonder how Shore will fit in.
“You can’t create that,” said Bohannan of Bradley’s ritual, “that has to be something that’s organic.”
Shore died in 1994, before nine of the top 10 players in the world were even born. Jane Blalock, the tournament’s first champion in 1972, said Shore could be compared to a modern-day Oprah in terms of her popularity and reach.
Another burning question with only three events remaining before this year’s Chevron: Will the champion’s leap, the most significant tradition (one might argue the LPGA’s only noteworthy tradition), carry on?
Tournament organizers told Golfweek there’s no expectation that a player will jump into the lake on the 18th next month at the Nicklaus Course at The Club at Carlton Woods, but should the mood strike, the championship team is making sure it will be safe.
An area of the lake at the 18th green is being dredged and netted to make sure it’s deep enough for a player and her caddie and family to take the plunge. The traditional robe and slippers will also be on standby, if needed.
“Whoever wins this year needs to jump in and keep it going,” said Brittany Lincicome, a two-time champion at Mission Hills.
The hospitality area around the 18th green at the Nicklaus course at Carlton Woods will be named “Dinah’s Place” and Shore’s family has been invited to attend.
Shore’s name will also live on in the generosity of the Chevron Dinah Shore Scholarships, given to high school seniors who are pursuing a college education but not playing collegiate golf. Nominees must have a passion for women’s golf and desire to help grow the game.
There will once again be a Champions Dinner with Thomas Keller, chef and proprietor of The French Laundry, creating a special menu to honor 2022 champion Jennfier Kupcho. The tournament will also bring back a Junior Legacy Pro-Am, designed to link up legends of the game with bright young stars.
The Champions Wall will be, for now, a temporary structure that will celebrate the 51 years of history that took place at Mission Hills.
Sandra Palmer, an honorary member at Mission Hills who won 19 times on the LPGA, including the Colgate Dinah Shore Winner’s Circle before it was a major, feels the championship needs to find a new identity in her native Texas.
There was talk at last year’s Chevron about the LPGA Legends staging an event in the Coachella Valley this spring. There was even a news conference about it Sunday morning before Kupcho won.
Two weeks later, the PGA Tour Champions announced that the new Galleri Classic would be held March 24-26 at Mission Hills. Fred Couples, Steve Stricker, Ernie Els, Bernhard Langer and David Duval are among those who have committed to the field.
So far, nothing has been announced in the area for senior women.
Patty Sheehan, who won at Mission Hills in 1996 and lives there now part-time behind the 14th tee on the Dinah Shore Course, signed up to volunteer at the Galleri Classic. She was given three choices: walking scorer, work the range, help out in the caddie tent.
Sheehan, who hasn’t yet decided which job she’ll take, reported that the greens are hard and fast on the Dinah Shore Tournament Course but the rough isn’t up. They’ve added a couple new tees and trimmed the eucalyptus trees to open it up more.
“They’re trying to clean up Poppie’s Pond,” she said, “in case one of them tries to jump.”
Sheehan said she’s trying to “go down the positive road” about how things have turned out.
Judy Rankin, who like Palmer and Blalock won the Dinah before it was a major, is doing the same. Rankin was part of the deep history of the LPGA at Mission for five decades, right up to the final putt last year in the broadcast booth. She too would like to see the Chevron begin its own kind of history in her home state of Texas, noting that it’s probably right not to see a lot Dinah this year, but that it’s never right to forget her.
“I think it’s part of growing old gracefully,” she said of adapting to change. “Be glad you had it, celebrate on a rare occasion, and let the new be new.”