The Judson Collegiate & Legends Pro-Am Challenge was played for the fourth time late last month at Country Club of Roswell, with the tournament changing its playing format this year to more closely reflect the mentoring aspect of the event.
During the first three years of the tournament, the LPGA Legends played one round of golf in a pro-am format with a team of amateurs, and also played one day with players who were also competing in the college portion of the tournament.
The individual score during the round with the college players was the only one that counted for the Legends’ players in the field, with two of the tour’s lesser-known players coming away with victories the first three years the event was held.
Alicia Dibos, a non-winner during her stint on the LPGA Tour, won the first two years, and Barb Moxness, also a non-winner in a relatively brief but successful LPGA career, was last year’s champion, winning in a playoff over Dibos.
This year, the Legends format changed to two pro-am rounds with college players competing both days prior to their 54-hole tournament. The LPGA Legends competed in two separate team formats, one a scramble with their three amateur partners, and a modified scramble (“shamble”) with a college player, counting the best ball among the two.
Atlanta resident Rosie Jones serves as the Tournament Host for the Legends players, and was part of one of the winning teams in the first day of the pro-am. Jones said the change in format stemmed from wanting to have more interaction between the Legends and the college players, which fit the overall leadership aspect of the event.
“We wanted to have a chance to mentor the college players,” Jones said after the completion of the second pro-am.
The Legends played with college players in the three previous tournaments, but since the pros were also competing individually for a purse of more than $100,000, they had to divide their attention between competition and mentoring.
The change in format took some of the focus off the Legends’ competitive nature, and put them into a more relaxed situation where they could more easily interact with their amateur partners and collegiate player.
“We could have more conversations and spend more time with each other,” Jones said. The change was good for the Legends’ amateur partners and beneficial for the college players, with the Legends players losing a competitive opportunity while gaining a chance to help the next generation of female golfers.
Although this year’s Legends field was a little smaller than the past three and was missing a few name players, the majority of the Legends’ actual legends returned to play last month.
Among the players competing along with Jones were Nancy Lopez, Pat Bradley, Betsy King, Amy Alcott, Hollis Stacy, Jan Stephenson and Kathy Whitworth, one of the LPGA’s true legends.
“The field was as good as the field we had last year,” said Jones, who felt her fellow Legends enjoyed the new format and the increased opportunity to get to know the college players.
Tournament Director Jackie Cannizzo, a member of the golf staff at Country Club of Roswell, pointed out that the tournament “first started as a college event. The opportunity to pair up with the Legends was an added bonus.”
Cannizzo said the Leadership Conference held at Georgia Tech the day before the tournament started, was a huge success, with a huge increase in participation from both speakers and workshop attendees.
The Judson Collegiate & Legends Pro-Am Challenge was created to honor the memory of Jim and Beth Judson, a Roswell couple who were a big part of the local golf and philanthropic communities. They died in a plane crash returning from watching daughter Lauren Judson compete in a college tournament.
Lauren Judson, her brother Dean, Cannizzo and family friend Kirk Knous helped create the JCI Foundation and the tournament that supports it, with the emphasis this year shifting more to the Leadership Conference that preceded the tournament.
Jones had come close to winning the first three years in the individual competition, and managed to be part of the winning team in the Legends-college player format the first day. Barb Mucha’s team won the scramble format, with Betsy King the Legends-college winner the next day and Laurie Rinker the pro on the first place scramble team.
Taylor Totland of Furman won the 54-hole Judson Collegiate Invitational, carding scores of 71-74-71 for a 3-over 216 total. Sarah Bae of North Carolina State was second at 217, shooting 75-69-73. Sydney Needham of Villa Rica, who is transferring from Samford to Florida, shot 71-73-74 to place third at 218.
Totland birdied five of the first 10 holes in the final round to offset a triple bogey on the par-4 fourth, and preserved her lead with pars on her last seven holes. Bae had the lead midway through the final round until she took a triple bogey on the short but perilous par-4 ninth.
Needham had a chance to win before an erratic finish that began with a double bogey at the par-5 13th and a bogey at the 14th. She rebounded with birdies and 15 and 16 to close within one of the lead, but made bogey on the difficult par-4 17th and settled for par on the par-5 18th.
Defending champion Jessica Haigwood of Roswell, who plays at Augusta State, was among the leaders after an opening 71, but followed with back-to-back 75s and tied for sixth at 221 with Milton’s Payton Schanen, who will be a freshman at Mercer this Fall. Schanen shot 74-74-73, beginning her final round with 11 straight pars before carding four bogeys and two birdies over her final seven holes.