WHEATON, Ill. – Laura Davies’ five-shot lead at the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open puts her on the brink of history. But what if it was worth even more than the prestige of being the first name on a USGA trophy? What if it put her into the LPGA Hall of Fame?
The LPGA boasts the toughest Hall in all of sports. It’s a points system, and right now Davies is two points shy of the 27 needed to earn to her spot. The LPGA’s five majors are worth two points. A victory at Chicago Golf Club, if it actually counted the same, would put Davies into a Hall most golf fans probably assume she’s already in.
“It would put her in?” asked LPGA Hall of Famer Juli Inkster. “Well, yeah then. Because really, Laura Davies, if anybody is going to be in the LPGA Hall of Fame, she’s pretty impressive and deserves to be in there. But I mean, it’s not easy to win any tournament, and so this is a USGA event. Probably the field is not the strongest, but I think down the line it’ll probably get a lot stronger.”
The LPGA Hall of Fame points system rewards one point for every regular season event, two points for an LPGA major and one for winning the Vare Trophy and LPGA Player of the Year. Davies won the latter in 1996.
In 2015, Dame Laura was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame but missed the ceremony in St. Andrews, Scotland, as her flight from the U.S. Women’s Open was delayed. The 54-year-old Englishwoman has 84 professional titles worldwide, with 20 on the LPGA, including four majors. She’s won 45 times on the Ladies European Tour and competed on 12 Solheim Cup teams.
Hollis Stacy believes the Senior Women’s Open should count toward the Hall of Fame, pointing toward the fact that several of Bobby Jones’ major victories were amateur events.
“I would vote for that,” said Amy Alcott, who benefitted from a change in LPGA Hall of Fame criteria 20 years ago.
Davies herself isn’t a believer, however, saying the best players in the world aren’t here. And while that’s true due to the 50-and-over age limit, for a player to get to this championship and have a chance at the Hall of Fame, like Davies, she must have already amassed an incredible LPGA record.
The LPGA Hall of Fame criteria also includes a minimum of 10 years on tour. (Lorena Ochoa, for example, has the 27 points but not the 10 years, so she’s not in.) That rule was put in place to keep LPGA stars from playing elsewhere, or in this case not at all.
Allowing a victory in the Senior Women’s Open to count toward the LPGA Hall of Fame might the be carrot older players need to keep competing on a tour that has skewed incredibly young in recent years. These days it’s en vogue to talk about retiring at age 30. Imagine if Cristie Kerr, for example, found herself in a similar situation as Davies 10 years down the line.
The first U.S. Senior Women’s Open has been special in countless ways, and the hope is that its success will boost the struggling Legends Tour, which currently lists only five events on its schedule.
This championship does not have the feel of an exhibition. Players are grinding for that $1 million purse. The crowds here are better than some LPGA events. The winner of the Senior Women’s Open gets $180,000, only $60,000 less than the winner of this week’s Marathon Classic on the LPGA.
Perhaps it’s worth at least one point, the equivalent of a smaller regular-season event on the LPGA.
The LPGA’s 27-club prides itself on being exclusive. It’s an elite club, to be sure. But is that really what’s best for the overall growth of the women’s game?
Rosie Jones believes it should count, along with the Senior LPGA Championship held in French Lick, Ind.
“If the LPGA is not recognizing either one of these,” said Jones, “then I’m thinking shame on you.”
It’s at least worth a conversation.