By D.E. Wheeler
WEST POINT With the number of top women from the Ladies Professional Golf Association that will be in West Point, Monday looks to be the first practice round of the 1999 U.S. Women’s Open.
Along with many celebrities that include country music star Vince Gill, 15 of the top 25 women on the LPGA money list will be participating in the Wendy’s Palmer Home Pro-Celebrity Golf Tournament. The host for the Sunday-Monday event is Old Waverly Golf Club in West Point, which is also the host of the 1999 U.S. Women’s Open.
“This event has improved tremendously since it first started, especially for Palmer Home,” Old Waverly Director of Golf Ernie Blue said. “The first year (1989), we raised only $10,000 for Palmer. Last year, we raised $100,000.
“This event is a major deal for Palmer Home (a Columbus-based charity), and we don’t want people to forget that aspect. This helps them raise 10 percent of their budget, and we’re pretty proud of that.”
The basic schedule for the Pro-Celebrity Classic begins Sunday at 2 p.m. with the Skins Game. There will be six teams of celebrities involved, and they will play hole Nos. 10, 11, 12, 17 and 18.
Who will be playing in Sunday’s Skins Game is not known for certain, and it depends on the arrival times of some celebrities. Blue did mention that Gill, the LPGA’s Tammy Green, Ole Miss head football coach Tommy Tuberville and current Carolina Panther and former Ole Miss and Pontotoc standout Wesley Walls will be in the Sunday event.
“For people who have missed the Skins Game before, they’re missing a fun event,” Blue said. “Not that Monday is not loose, but everybody seems looser on Sunday during the Skins Game.”
Monday’s schedule begins at 9 a.m. with an exhibition featuring Thad Daber, World Champion One Club Record Holder, and Kevin Wood, a trick shot specialist. Then the Pro-Celebrity begins at 10 a.m. with a shotgun start.
Blue reports that he has a full field of 140 players, which will be divided into 29 teams.
“This event has already been helped by bringing in all of the LPGA women,” said Blue, who has been working at Old Waverly for eight years. “Being a host of the U.S. Open has just propelled us forward. And after this year, with the word of mouth, everybody will want to come here.”
The list of LPGA participants expected includes Nancy Lopez, Beth Daniel, Meg Mallon, Michelle McGann, Helen Alfredsson and Cindy Rarick. Two current PGA pros expected are Glen Day, who is sponsored by Old Waverly, and 1994 FedEx-St. Jude Classic winner Dickey Pride.
Other notables expected include Old Waverly course designer Jerry Pate, former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Steve Bartkowski, Gary Collins, Mississippi State head football coach Jackie Sherrill, Tom Wiggins from “As The World Turns,” Gil Gerard of Buck Rogers fame, Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas and Hal Linden from Barney Miller.