Repeat the mantra after me: Women’s Golf Does One Good, Women’s Golf Does One Good…
Yes, I am nearly besides myself with glee at the fact that the 43rd Kraft Nabisco Championship—not only the first major on the LPGA Tour but the largest stage in women’s golf, where one gets to see the biggest stars there are live in action—is finally upon us, taking place April 1-6 at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, right at the heart of the Palm Springs Valley.
Anyone who’s been following the sport will know that 2013 KNC champ Inbee Park is returning to defend her title. And even those who don’t follow women’s golf are aware that every player who competes has her eye on the final target: a victory jump into Poppie’s Pond. But what exactly is this tradition all about?
Some of you may believe that Poppie is a famous female golfer—she who first took a winning dive into the refreshing waters adjacent the 18th green. Well, some of you would be wrong. “Poppie” isn’t a woman at all. The moniker refers to the pet name given to longtime tournament director Terry Wilcox (who retired in 2008) by his seven beloved grandchildren. And the pond—a concrete-lined pool that is part of Champions Lake, which surrounds the 18th (finishing) hole of the LPGA major—was named in his honor. It’s 5.5 feet deep at the center, extending 60 feet on either side of the bridge over which the golfers walk to reach the island green. The water in the pond is carefully maintained at swimming pool levels of quality with a continuous source of fresh water. So taking the big leap isn’t hazardous to any golfer’s health.
Champion Amy Alcott was the first to spontaneously take the plunge in 1988, encouraged by her caddy Billy Curry. The next two annual winners skipped the splash, but in 1991, when Alcott won for an unprecedented third time, she dove in again, this time joined my tournament founder Dinah Shore. But only after conqueror Donna Andrews followed Alcott’s previous leads, in 1994, did the wonderful, wet, whimsical move become a firmly planted tradition, with every winner since making the jump. And now, more than 23 years after that initial pop into Poppie’s Pond, victory just wouldn’t be victory without it. Can’t wait to see who gets to get her feet—and all the rest of her—soaked in 2014.