With the catastrophe in Japan still unfolding as the tournament got under way, many golfers chose charities bringing relief to that country (page G20). While Whan had been criticized for rushing this tournament from the drawing board to the calendar, the situation in Japan made the timing of an event devoted to charitable giving seem, if anything, serendipitous.
Sacrifice was one of the unofficial themes at this tournament, whose primary purpose is to celebrate the LPGA's 13 founders, five of whom are still alive, and three of whom—Marilynn Smith, Shirley Spork and Louise Suggs—graced the event with their presence, mingling with fans and sharing stories about how they barnstormed the country back in 1950, the LPGA's first season. Those pioneering souls taped flyers to shop windows, gave clinics, organized the pro-am and often missed practice rounds because they were too busy marking the course, pounding stakes and typing up press releases.
The scrappiness of the founders, their grit and resilience, served as an inspiration to today's LPGA, which is fighting to remain viable. After playing 31 tournaments in 2007, the women's tour is down to 26 events this season—only 13 of them on American soil. But the economy is rebounding, as Whan frequently notes, while not trying to sound too much like Herbert Hoover. Prosperity—and, hopefully, new sponsorship—is just around the corner.
Whan has yet to erase a voice mail he got from Smith, who called immediately after getting a letter from him in which he detailed his plans for the Founders Cup. "I'm going to write you a letter," she says, "but I just had to call and tell you how much I appreciate this. All the founders do." At that point the 81-year-old's voice cracks. "I'm sorry," she says, when she is unable to continue. "I just appreciate what you're doing for the founders and for the LPGA."
One of the cool aspects of this event was that the respect and gratitude flowed both ways. Asked if the loss of a paycheck hurt, Stanford told the truth: "Yes, it will," admitted the Texan, whose closing 75 dropped her from first to fifth. "I have to play well to make my living. So, in that respect, it's hard. But every player here needed help to get where they are. Nobody did it by herself. We wouldn't be here without the founders. So I can give a week of my life to help somebody else down the road."
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