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THE INSIDE TRACK / A look at where they're playing
and what they're saying | HOT CORNER

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What: "The LPGA: Celebrating 50 Years"; Where: The Golf Channel, tonight, 6

October 30, 2000|LARRY STEWART

This 90-minute documentary tells the story of women's golf and its growth and features interviews with dozens of the game's greatest players, including eight of the 13 founders of the LPGA. The film, more than a year in the making, was produced by the Golf Channel in cooperation with the LPGA.

Jamie Farr, who portrayed Cpl. Klinger on "M*A*S*H" and has lent his name to an LPGA tournament held in Toledo, Ohio, since 1984, is the host.

The documentary is well researched, nicely put together and offers plenty of rare historical footage. However, it is journalistically soft, a far cry from anything you'd see on HBO's "Real Sports," which once tackled the issue of lesbianism on the LPGA Tour.

The only controversy the documentary deals with is a lawsuit brought against the tour by Jane Blalock in 1972, not long after she won the first Colgate Dinah Shore Invitational. Blalock was suspended for a year for improperly marking her ball. She sued and won, and the LPGA had to change the way it does business. No longer could players rule against other players.

The film offers a segment on the Dinah Shore and its impact on the LPGA. As Blalock notes, the Dinah Shore was the Tour's first $100,000 tournament at a time when no other tournament offered a purse of more than $20,000. David Foster, former president of the Colgate-Palmolive Co., founded the tournament in 1972 and Kathy Whitworth says he is the one nonplayer who deserves to be in the LPGA Hall of Fame.

The film begins with a look at women's golf at the end of the 19th century but mainly focuses on the years since the creation of the LPGA. For six years, there was the Women's Professional Golf Assn. before the Ladies Professional Golf Assn. was founded in 1950.

The original founders who appear in the film are Patty Berg, Alice Bauer, Louise Suggs, Shirley Spork, Marilyn Smith, Marlene Hagge, Betty Jameson and Bettye Danoff. Deceased founders are Helen Dettweiler, Helen Hicks, Opal Hill, Sally Sessions and Babe Zaharias.

Zaharias, who won 41 professional titles before her death in 1956, is featured at length. So is Nancy Lopez, whose popularity after her emergence in 1978 possibly saved the tour.

The film covers a lot of ground, although present-day stars such as Annika Sorenstam and Karrie Webb don't get nearly as much air time as stars from the '50s, '60s and '70s.

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