Unique event features LPGA Legends, college players
One of Georgia’s most unique tournaments returns to the Atlanta area late this month, as the Country Club of Roswell will host the Judson Collegiate & Legends Pro-Am Challenge for the third time.
The tournament, which will be played June 27-30, has both a professional and amateur component, with top college players competing along with members of the LPGA Legends Tour.
The LPGA Legends, who include Nancy Lopez, Pat Bradley, Amy Alcott, Hollis Stacy, Jan Stephenson, Laura Davies and tournament host Rosie Jones, compete in a pro-am Friday with a college player and two amateur participants. Each of the Legends competitors are paired with two college players Saturday, with the professionals competing for a purse of $120,000.
The round also marks the first day of a 54-hole tournament for the college players, which continues on Sunday and concludes Monday.
The Judson Collegiate & Legends Pro-Am Challenge was created to honor the memory of Roswell’s Jim and Beth Judson, who were active in the golf and philanthropic communities in the Atlanta area.
The Judsons died in a plane crash in 2010, returning from a trip to watch their daughter Lauren Judson compete for the Southern Mississippi women’s team. The initial idea was for a college tournament, but the concept expanded after Lauren Judson approached Jackie Cannizzo, an instructor at the Country Club of Roswell, and Cannizzo contacted Jones, one of the top players on the Legends Tour and an Atlanta resident.
It was decided to put together a tournament featuring both the Legends Tour and a field of collegians, with the first Judson Collegiate & Legends Pro-Am played in 2012 with just a few months of preparation.
After a rather hastily thrown together debut event, the tournament had a smoother second year of operation, and things continue to improve for the third time around.
The pro-am is a sellout, the college field has a waiting list and AT&T has signed on as the tournament’s presenting sponsor.
Cannizzo, the Tournament Director for the Judson Collegiate & Legends Pro-Am Challenge, says “the quality of the field is better, the sponsorship is better and we’ve expanded the women’s leadership workshop, which is the biggest difference from last year. It’s not just a golf event.”
The workshop will be held at the Double Tree Hotel in Roswell on Thursday, June 26, the day before the tournament begins. The event is free for high school and college students, and features speakers from both the business world and sports who will share their knowledge with those attending.
Cannizzo and the other individuals involved with the Judson Foundation, including Lauren and her brother Dean, have worked hard to raise awareness of both the tournament and non-golf aspects of the event.
The Atlanta area has not had a women’s tour event since Chick-fil-A withdrew its sponsorship for the annual LPGA stop at Eagle’s Landing Country Club, which last hosted the tournament in 2006.
The Legends players are the ones the tournament’s “target audience grew up watching,” Cannizzo says, and are the primary spectator attractions.
Even though it’s just a one-day event from a tournament standpoint for the Legends field, it is an important part of the tour’s schedule, which has lost a few tournaments from 2013. The Legends Pro-Am Challenge is the second of seven scheduled tour stops in 2014, with Liselotte Neumann winning the first event of the year in Arizona last month.
Neumann is a former champion of Atlanta’s LPGA Tour event, as are Legends Pro-Am Challenge participants Lopez, Val Skinner and Barb Mucha.
They will be among a group of 30 Legends players who will attempt to keep Alicia Dibos from three-peating as tournament champion. Dibos did not win during her 10 seasons on the LPGA Tour, but has taken a liking to the Country Club of Roswell layout, winning each of the first two Legends tournaments at the course.
Last year, Dibos won in a playoff over Nancy Scranton after both players shot 1-under 70. Five players tied for third at 71, including Jones and fellow Atlanta resident Jenny Lidback.
Hall of Famer Betsy King and Sherri Steinhauer also shot 71, with Bradley, another Hall of Famer, next at 72.
In addition to playing in Legends events, Dibos is an instructor at the famed Winged Foot Club in suburban New York.
Atlanta area native and former UGA golf team member Cindy Schreyer will be among the Legends participants, along with fellow ex-Georgia golfer Luciana Bemvenuti, who works with Cannizzo on the golf staff at Country Club of Roswell.
The college field includes players from Georgia, Clemson, Auburn and Florida State, with several local players among that group.
Atlanta area residents Kayla Jones and Michaela Owen are headed for Florida State and Auburn respectively, and will be in the field along with Suwanee’s Sloan Shanahan (Clemson) and Roswell’s Jessica Haigwood (Augusta State), who enjoyed excellent freshman seasons in 2013-14.
Other locals in the field are Alpharetta’s Emily Kurey (Louisville), whose college coach is Courtney Swaim, one of the best female golfers to come out of the Atlanta area, and Kaylee Random, Lauren Judson’s teammate at Southern Mississippi. Both Random and Judson, who will also be competing in the tournament, recently completed their final year of college eligibility at Southern Miss.
Among the additions to the tournament this year is a kids clinic on Saturday, headed up by Atlanta area instructor Joyce Wilcox, and University Days on Saturday and Sunday, with fans encouraged to wear their school colors in support of tournament participants (pro and college) from their schools.
For information on the Judson Collegiate & Legends Pro-Am Challenge, visit www.JudsonGolf.com