Let’s rekindle mixed-team event featuring LPGA, PGA Tour players

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Let’s rekindle mixed-team event featuring LPGA, PGA Tour players

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Let’s rekindle mixed-team event featuring LPGA, PGA Tour players

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – John Daly and Laura Davies won the final staging of the JCPenney Classic, a mixed team event that was sponsored by the LPGA and PGA Tour. Brittany Lincicome remembers it well. She grew up not far from Palm Harbor, Fla., and worked as a standard-bearer at the event from ages 12 to 16.

“I got to the know the volunteer who ran it,” said Lincicome, which is how she managed to walk inside the ropes with Davies, her long-bombing LPGA idol.

At the Diamond Resorts Invitational, which concluded Sunday, Lincicome, now in her 14th year on the LPGA, played in the group ahead of Daly during the first round. The LPGA hasn’t had an official tournament on its schedule with PGA Tour players since 1999, the last year of the JCPenney. The Diamond event is an official Champions Tour tournament that features four LPGA players and a number of high-profile athletes and musicians.

Lincicome talked about nutrition with former NBA All-Star Ray Allen during a practice round at Tranquilo Golf Club (she took his money) and helped Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald with his lag putting. Last year Lincicome credited playing against the men at the Diamond Resorts Invitational for helping her win the LPGA’s season-opener in the Bahamas.

The two-time major winner said she’d jump at the chance to experience the mixed-team format she witnessed as a kid. Her ideal partner: “Anybody that would take me and keep me in play.”

The history of the mixed-team event dates back to 1960 with the Haig & Haig Scotch Foursome. The great Mickey Wright won it with Dave Ragan in both ’61 and ’63. Notable winners of the JCPenney include Curtis Strange/Nancy Lopez (1980), Tom Kite/Beth Daniel (1981) and Fred Couples/Jan Stephenson (1983). Daniel also won it twice with Davis Love III (1990 and 1995). Kelli Kuehne made a memorable pro debut at the 1996 version at Innisbrook’s Copperhead Course when she paired with Tiger Woods (in matching red and black Nike outfits).

More recently, Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau paired up as the only mixed team in the 2017 Franklin Templeton Shootout in Naples, Fla. It gave fans a taste of what could be with a mixed field full of today’s stars, though a Rickie Fowler or Dustin Johnson partnership with Thompson would’ve been more buzzworthy.

The LPGA obviously could benefit from the exposure. Lincicome echoed the thoughts of many when she noted that LPGA players are “easier to relate to than a John Daly or a Dustin Johnson.”

Gerina Piller, of course, has a built-in partner in husband Martin Piller, though that competitive Pure Silk-Barbasol commercial suggests otherwise.

“We’re pretty good on the golf course,” Gerina said, smiling.

Brooke Henderson, who finished seventh at Tranquilo and was the top female finisher in the event, lights up at the idea of playing alongside the PGA Tour.

“I feel like a scramble would be pretty fun,” she said.

At Diamond Resorts, Henderson played in the same group as 11-time PGA Tour winner John Cook in the opening round. She noted Cook’s demeanor on the course as well as his strategy, saying he played “wisely.” Henderson also tried to pick up little things with partners Billy Andrade and Keegan Bradley at the 2017 CVS Health Charity Classic, which they won.

Given the LPGA’s long-term strategic alliance with the PGA Tour, it’s surprising the two tours aren’t further along in staging a joint event. LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said as much not long ago. A big issue, Whan noted, is timing. The PGA Tour has 49 events on its schedule, and with the LPGA playing so much overseas, it’s not easy to find a date that works for everyone.

“I think for both of us the idea wasn’t to essentially blow up an event you have, but to create something new,” Whan said.

Or perhaps, simply revisit something that’s old, like the JCPenney. Gwk

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