Bivens' candor, humor highlight LPGA ceremony

Former LPGA Commissioner Carolyn Bivens

ORLANDO, Fla. – Former LPGA commissioner Carolyn Bivens made a rare public appearance in the golf industry Monday night, introducing Patti Benson at the LPGA Teaching & Club Pros Hall of Fame banquet at Grand Cypress Resort. 

Bivens drew plenty of laughs with her heartfelt speech, according to a source in the room. She doted on Benson’s sense of style and placed special emphasis on her humor.  

“If the fact that (Patti) asked me to present here tonight isn’t testimony enough …,” Bivens said. The crowd erupted.

According to the source, Bivens told the story of a frustrated student who told Benson that she planned to drown herself in a lake. Patti replied: “I don’t think you can keep your head down that long.” 

Benson served as the LPGA T&CP’s national president from 2002 to ’09, overlapping with Bivens’ time at the LPGA. Bivens’ four-year tenure as commissioner came to an abrupt and explosive end in July 2009. 

To understand Benson, Bivens said it’s important to note that she’s a survivor of ovarian cancer. Bivens’ speech then took an emotional turn as she talked about the challenges of the disease.

“Many of us in this room have been touched in some form by this modern-day plague,” she said. “Many are survivors, and some continue the fight. … While we are all shaped by the totality of our life experiences, being told that you have cancer rocks your world.”

It wasn’t until Benson got up to address the crowd that the gravity of Bivens’ remarks hit home. The former commissioner spoke from a place of personal experience.

“By the way, I don’t know if any of you know, and she’ll probably kill me for this …,” Benson said. “Carolyn just underwent breast cancer lumpectomy and just finished radiation, 33 treatments, like the week before she arrived here.” 

The former commissioner could not be reached by Golfweek.

Benson expressed her gratitude that Bivens and her husband, Bill, flew to Orlando from their home in Newport Beach, Calif., for the ceremony. 

Bivens succeeded Ty Votaw as LPGA commissioner in the fall of 2005. She was forced to resign in the midst of a player revolt as the LPGA lost sponsors. The volatile situation came to a head during the 2009 U.S. Women’s Open. 

Bivens has avoided the media and made few appearances since her departure from the LPGA. She attended the funeral for LPGA player Erica Blasberg in California in May 2010.

Benson was one of four members inducted into the LPGA T&CP Hall of Fame on Monday, joining Kay McMahon, Jane Read and Carol Johnson. 

Benson, the founder and operator of the Bobby and Patti Benson Golf Shop at Palm Beach (Fla.) Country Club with her husband, Bobby, became an LPGA member in 1979. She was named the 1997 LPGA Southeast Section Professional of the Year and received the 2002 LPGA Southeast Section Eagle Award as well as the 2009 Nancy Lopez Golf Achievement Award.

Benson beat ovarian cancer almost 13 years ago and dedicated a portion of her speech to the continued fight. 

“My passion really, really, really is to tell people that we’ve got to do better,” Benson said. “Because we all shouldn’t be (hearing about) this disease every five minutes when you pick up the phone and call somebody and hear about it. It just shouldn’t be.”

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