Blackwelder hopes to develop America’s Golf Team
Monday, February 14, 2011
Myra Blackwelder considers herself an LPGA activist. The 1980 Rookie of the Year was later the “voice in the wilderness” who insisted the tour have childcare. Blackwelder has a history of getting things done. Her latest quest: developing America’s Golf Team.
The concept – help better prepare American players for the global stage – is simple. The reality? Funding anything for women’s golf is a challenge.
Blackwelder sent out a press release that essentially said her “team” is open for business, though she has yet to collect any money. Backed by her contemporaries – Beth Daniel, Nancy Lopez, and Meg Mallon – and various corporate constituents, she has laid out plans for a women’s professional tournament series. Blackwelder fervently believes promising American players need more opportunities to compete at home and wants to provide them with proper training and financial assistance to pursue their dreams.
She envisions the events being modeled after the old Crosby Clambakes: A field of 60 American pros will pair with 60 amateurs for a 54-hole tournament. Here’s the kicker: The purses will begin at $500,000 and then jump to $1 million within three years. Lofty goals considering Futures Tour purses hover around $100,000.
Blackwelder also would like to form regional academies for young professionals as well as academies that are on-site at tournaments. For that, she’s enlisted the help of Dr. Jim Suttie, the National PGA Teacher of the Year in 2000 and founder of the professional golf management (PGM) program at Methodist College in North Carolina.
Proceeds from the tournament series would help fund America’s Golf Team Foundation, which aims to, one day, provide funding for selected juniors and support them until age 30, if necessary. Blackwelder believes most females reach their prime around 30.
Two years ago, Blackwelder presented this idea to a group of LPGA legends during the Solheim Cup.
Shirley Spork, an LPGA founder who was instrumental in starting the LPGA T&CP, came up to Blackwelder after the dinner.
“She said, ‘Look, I am too old to do this project for you,’ ” Blackwelder said. “You have to promise me that you will not quit until this gets done.”
Blackwelder promised. Now, she needs the money to deliver.