Judson collegiate – June 2013, page 16
Second-year event pairs collegians, LPGA Legends
By Mike Blum
Getting a golf tournament with a national reach off the ground is a formidable task, especially with about four months to prepare for the inaugural event.
When that event features a unique format involving some of golf’s legendary names along with a collegiate component, the challenge is even greater.
The Judson Collegiate and Legends Pro-Am Challenge was played for the first time last year at Country Club of Roswell. The event will return for a second time July 12-15 with a similar format but a slightly adjusted schedule that will give Atlanta area golf fans an enhanced opportunity to see some of the LPGA’s biggest names of the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s in action.
The tournament was originally projected as a college tournament to honor the memory of Jim and Beth Judson, a Roswell couple active in the Atlanta area golf and philanthropic communities.
The Judsons were returning from watching their daughter Lauren compete in a college tournament for Southern Mississippi in 2010 when their plane crashed. Lauren Judson helped start the process of creating a college tournament to honor her parents, and approached County Club of Roswell instructor Jackie Cannizzo for some advice.
Cannizzo then contacted Atlanta resident Rosie Jones, a long-time LPGA Tour standout and member of the Legends Tour, who had been looking to bring that tour to Atlanta.
Eventually, the idea of a tournament featuring both college players and the LPGA Legends Tour came about, and the event was quickly thrown together for its debut last year.
“It kind of just happened,” Judson said of how the tournament went from an idea to reality.
Judson says her parents’ motto was “Go big or go home,” with the decision to add the LPGA Legends to the tournament an example of that idea. That added to the complexity of organizing the event, with little time prior to the tournament to publicize it.
Largely as a result, the first Judson Collegiate and Legends Pro-Am Challenge came and went mostly unnoticed by the Atlanta golf community last year, but that will change this time around.
The tournament committee has had the benefit of a full year to spread the word about the event, with a slight change in the schedule making it more attractive for fans to attend.
The 2013 tournament will be played July 12-15, with the first day consisting of a pro-am involving one LPGA Legend, one college player and two amateur participants in each group. The pro-am will be played on Friday, followed by the first day of competition Saturday, with each LPGA Legend paired with two college players. The college tournament will continue the next two days, wrapping up play on Monday.
The Legends played for a purse of some $130,000 last year, with Alicia Dibos taking home the winner’s check of $15,000, Dibos shot a 3-under 68 on the CC of Roswell layout to edge SherriSteinhauer by one shot. Jones was 3rd at 70, with Beth Daniel 4th at 71.
Other Legends competing in the inaugural event included Nancy Lopez, Hollis Stacy, Pat Bradley, Amy Alcott, Jan Stephenson and Jenny Lidback, the aunt of current PGA Tour player and former Georgia Tech standout Roberto Castro of Alpharetta.
Cannizzo says this year’s field has yet to be finalized, but most of last year’s participants are expected back, with former Chick-fil-A Charity Championship winner and 2013 European Solheim Cup captain Liselotte Neumann scheduled to be among the first time participants.
Ohio State’s Rachel Rohanna won the inaugural Judson Collegiate title with a 54-hole total of even par 213. Troy’s Langley Vannoy and Nebraska’s Maddie Shields tied for 2nd at 218, with Shields’ closing 69 the low score for the tournament.
Unlike a lot of her competitors, Lauren Judson says she “got into golf a little late and did not have much tournament experience” when she entered college. She visited Southern Mississippi and liked both the campus and school, which offered the Forensic Science program she was looking for.
The Southern Mississippi coach allowed Judson to redshirt her freshman season, and she has gone on to a successful college career, with one season of eligibility remaining in 2013-14.
Judson says she is thinking about attending graduate school to pursue an MBA with an emphasis on non-profits in hopes of one day running a tournament.
“I can’t think of a better way to honor them,” she said of her parents. “They were fully supportive of charities, and my mom was a big advocate of the mentoring aspect.”
In a tournament with some of the LPGA’s legendary players and a group of collegiate golfers, mentoring is a large component, and a pre-tournament event will add to that this year.
A mentoring/leadership workshop will held at Country Club of Roswell the day before the tournament begins (July 11) from 4-6:30 p.m., and will be open to the public at no charge. Among the speakers will be Kathy Whitworth, one of the LPGA’s most legendary members, who is also scheduled to play the next day in the pro-am.
Judson grew up in the Willow Springs community that surrounds Country Club of Roswell, and her development in golf was helped immeasurably by her parents, who she described as “extremely supportive.
“My dad only missed one tournament I played in and was with me all the time from the first time I started. He was always there for me. After tournaments, he’d send me an e-mail telling me the things I did well and the things I needed to work on. And he always told me how proud he was of me. My mom was there for emotional support.”
When Lauren’s initial efforts to create a college tournament to honor her parents were confronted by some scheduling issues, she and the board consisting of family and friends of her parents gave the OK to expand the focus of the event.
Some of the scheduling concerns did not disappear, as the event was played last year and scheduled this year in close proximity to the long-running North & South Women’s Amateur in Pinehurst, N.C., as well as a direct conflict with the annual Georgia Women’s Open.
Cannizzo says the Summer women’s amateur golf calendar is crowded, with the event also having to deal with the host club’s schedule to make a comfortable fit.
The response to last year’s inaugural tournament “was overwhelmingly positive,” Cannizzo says. “It turned out much better than we anticipated. That’s why the membership is so supportive.
“It would be great if we could get some spectators this year and give them an audience.”
To that aim, Cannizzo and others involved with the tournament have done their best to spread the word, manning a booth at a recent Braves game to drum up some support.
Cannizzo stresses how challenging it is “to start a new event in this market. There is so much going on in Atlanta. People have a lot of choices to spend their time and money.”
For an event with “a limited budget” and staffed by committee members “who have day jobs,” Cannizzo says running the Judson Collegiate and LPGA Legends Pro-Am “is a challenge.
“It’s much bigger in size than I had imagined, but there are so many unique parts to the event. Everybody says it takes three-to-five years to get established, and we’re in it for the long haul.”