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It's not just the Ladies European Tour who were taken over by America’s LPGA for the start of this 2020 season. The same applies to The Legends Tour, the women’s senior circuit which is based in America and takes in two of our own leading lights - Dame Laura Davies and Trish Johnson.
Of course, like with every other Tour, several of the tournaments on the Legends have been cancelled or postponed until 2021.
The next event is now the CT Women’s Open on August 26, but Johnson remains a big fan of the senior scene and she hopes it can make a strong comeback with the help of Mike Whan.
“Personally, I struggle to understand why more retired tour players don’t want to return to golf. I’ll always think of myself as a professional golfer until the day I die - and Laura’s much the same,” she said.
Though the Legends tour needs Whan to come up with a few more tournaments - there are currently two majors and six or so minor events in a normal yearly schedule - she says a player can still make a decent living at this level.
Davies, who won the two majors, the Senior LPGA and the US Senior Open in 2018, is a case in point, Helen Alfredsson another.
When Alfredsson made off with both majors last year, her prize for the US Open alone was a cool $180,000. Meanwhile, Johnson and Inkster each collected $88,000 for their share of second place.
Johnson says that the big thing for the R&A, were they to agree to play catch-up, would be to hold a British Senior Women’s Open. When Davies won its US equivalent, it was in Chicago and, so big was the crowd as she decimated the field, that they had to print another five to ten-thousand more spectator tickets at the halfway point.
So how many women play in a US Senior Open?
“Around 120,” said Johnson. “They’re not all going to be professionals. Plenty of amateurs will make it through the qualifying stages.”
Next questions…. Would the top Americans and other world luminaries turn up for a Women’s British Senior Open?
“Yes,” if the R&A make it big enough.” (She also believes that plenty of the senior amateurs in Europe and at home would try to qualify and might even embark on a stint as professionals.)
“Would spectators be impressed by the standard of play?” Johnson thinks they would.
“I wouldn’t,” she said, “say the senior professionals play better than they did when they were younger because I, for one, don’t hit as far as I did. However, we definitely bring a more philosophical attitude. You can’t lose your rag when you’re a senior because you’d look so ridiculous if you did. Also, we’re probably sharper on and around the greens than we were. When I first started to play as a senior, the practice ground was empty. Today, people practise day and night.”
Johnson, who bagged $90,000 when she won the inaugural US LPGA Seniors in 2017, says there are a few other things which make this level of golf so worthwhile. On a personal basis, the first is that doing well among the seniors whets her appetite to win again on the LET tour, something she last did in 2014.
Going on from there, she finds the players so much more friendly than they were on the LPGA tour itself. “At Senior level you get a lot more cheerful exchanges, with people going out of their way to catch up with each other.” Still more importantly, she loves how all the senior tournaments are linked into charities. “We feel we’re giving back,” says Johnson. “A lot of women of my age go in for charity work of some sort or another and I think we all enjoy that side of things. To give just one example, Riley’s Children’s Hospitals are inextricably involved with the senior LPGA and that works incredibly well. Incidentally, I have a strong feeling that the LET would attract more attention if they were to become associated with good works.
Does Johnson have any ideas as to who might want to sponsor a Women’s British Senior Open? She suggested Colgate, who used to sponsor plenty of women’s professional golf on either side of the Atlantic. Weetabix came next as a company which had once enjoyed great ties with the distaff side of the game. “For myself,” continued this former Curtis and Solheim Cup golfer, “I think that we make a mistake when we back away from courting potential sponsors dealing in ‘women’s products’ on the ground that it might prove embarrassing. Who cares whether it’s embarrassing or not? If such companies are at all interested, we should grab them.”
A great friendship
We recently reported that Johnson and Davies joined forces to help out at a charity golf day at Cowdray Golf. Their friendship is one that has been forged over many years, both on and off the course.
They forged a successful partnership in several Solheim Cup matches including the inaugural event in 1990, and in 2018 the duo won a charity event on the LPGA’s Legends Tour, carding a score of 10-under 61 in the best-ball/scramble format.
Just before lockdown began, they teed up together in the 86th edition of the Sunningdale Foursomes at the Berkshire club. This wasn’t the first time that Johnson and Davies competed in this prestigious event that is open to professional and amateur players. In 2001 Johnson and former European Tour player Jamie Spence came up just shy of winning the title, whilst in 2015, the star pairing of Laura Davies and Barry Lane lost at the quarterfinal stage.
For more information on The Legends Tour visit www.thelegendstour.com.
What is it like to play with golfing legends Laura Davies and Trish Johnson - READ MORE