If you go
What: Mad Anthonys Charity Classic for Children
When: Today and Monday
Where: Sycamore Hills Golf Club
First pro tee times: Noon today, 8 a.m. Monday
Tickets: $20 for adults; 16 and younger free with adult purchase
Parking: Today, 11:30 a.m., Covington Elementary School; Monday, 6:45 a.m., The Chapel; free including shuttle service
Lineup: Nancy Lopez, Angela Stanford, Amanda Blumenherst, Stacy Lewis, Vicky Hurst, Laura Diaz, Christina Kim, Sarah Jane Smith, Jessica Korda, Belen Mozo, Azahara Munoz and Beatriz Recari
FORT WAYNE — LPGA players descending upon Fort Wayne is nothing new.
In the late 1950s, LPGA players were the focal point of the original Mad Anthonys tournaments, which were founded, at least in part, to fill the void left by the departure of the NBA’s Pistons to Detroit.
Throughout the 55-year history of the Mad Anthonys, there have been many formats to the golf tournaments: Exhibitions between pros like Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Ben Hogan; celebrity Pro-Ams; a battle-of-the-sexes showdown of Rich Beem vs. Natalie Gulbis; and the last two years of John Daly being the headliner.
This year, the Charity Classic for Children will have an 12-player LPGA tournament inside of a Pro-Am.
Nancy Lopez, Angela Stanford, Amanda Blumenherst, Stacy Lewis, Vicky Hurst, Laura Diaz, Christina Kim, Sarah Jane Smith, Jessica Korda, Belen Mozo, Azahara Munoz and Beatriz Recari will vie for a $300,000 purse over two days.
It’s a nod to the past and, perhaps, a catalyst for the future.
“I completely see (Fort Wayne) being an LPGA stop,” said Blumenherst, who spent part of her childhood in Fort Wayne and helped spearhead the change in format. “I think this is a great way for it to maybe become an LPGA event. The fans are unbelievable. It’s a beautiful golf course. And we have such great support, too, from the sponsors. It really could be a great combination.”
The LPGA pros tee off at noon today in the Charity Classic for Children and at 8 a.m. Monday, surrounded by celebrities like NBA player Brad Miller and NFL punter Reggie Hodges (tee times on Page 3B).
The winning LPGA player – they are competing in stroke play – will rake in $50,000, provided by Heritage Food Service Group.
Ultimately, though, the cause is not to line the players’ pockets but to raise money for a charity, the Mad Anthonys Children’s Hope House, which provides lodging and support services for the families of children undergoing pediatric and neonatal treatment.
Last year, the Mad Anthonys, business leaders and professionals from northeast Indiana, raised $115,000. But interest in the tournament, once a staple of the Fort Wayne sports scene, had waned since the heydays of the 1980s.
“This is an outstanding step in the right direction. I couldn’t ask for anything more than to have the $300,000 put up by Heritage Food Services for the gals that was necessary to bring this kind of talent to Fort Wayne,” said Eric Ottinger, Mad Anthonys president. “Hopefully the entire community will come out.”
While attendance has been between 3,000 and 5,000 spectators in recent years, according to the Mad Anthonys, moving to a two-day format should increase attendance. Ottinger said having the tournament only on Mondays made it difficult for those who work on weekdays to attend.
Blumenherst, who worked for almost a year to get her LPGA sisters to play, believes the tournament will be reinvigorated.
“Having it at Sycamore Hills, my home course, is very special,” she said, “and now having it with 12 LPGA players, I’m really hoping it’s going to add some life to the event. It’ll be something that’s going to be a little bit different. I think it’s going to be really fun to watch.”