One of the most unique – and best – parts of the JTBC Founders Cup is the way the tournament honors the women who have worked hard to make the game what it is today.
This year, the event is paying tribute to a trio of pioneers who not only excelled inside the ropes during their playing careers, but who also helped advance the game of women’s golf by being ambassadors and promoting the sport their entire lives. Hall of Famers Judy Rankin and Donna Caponi and 19-time LPGA champion Sandra Palmer are this year’s honorees, and each woman is a fine example of how an athlete can make an impact on those around them.
Rankin, a two-time LPGA Player of the Year, is one of the most respected women in golf and can routinely be found offering quality commentary on Golf Channel from LPGA events around the globe. She won 26 tournaments, two money titles and three Vare Trophies before retiring at age 38.
Rankin went on to captain victorious U.S. teams at the 1996 and 1998 Solheim Cups, serve on the LPGA Board of Directors and fill the role as LPGA president from 1976-77. She also provides on-air commentary at a handful of PGA Tour events during the year.
Caponi won four major titles as part of her 24-win career and is one of 14 women to make the U.S. Women’s Open her first LPGA victory, winning the prestigious event in 1969 before repeating as champion again in 1970. She finished second on the LPGA money list in 1976 and 1980 before retiring in 1988 and served as assistant captain for the victorious 2005 U.S. Solheim Cup team.
Caponi also made her way to television after retiring, working as a golf analyst for Golf Channel and CBS Sports.
Two of Palmer’s 19 career victories were major championships, and she claimed the 1975 LPGA Player of the Year award after winning the money title that year. She finished in the top 10 on the money list for 10 consecutive years from 1968-77 and currently serves as Director of Golf at Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club in Mission Viejo, Calif.
All three women represent the best the sport has to offer, both on and off the course, and they helped elevate the LPGA after the 13 founders passed the torch on to their generation. The Tour would not be the same without the achievements of women like Rankin, Caponi and Palmer, and today’s players know full well the impact the trio had on the game they all love so much.
So, it’s fitting that this week in Phoenix, at an event created to pay homage to the LPGA’s pillars of the past, that pioneers like Rankin, Caponi and Palmer are given the recognition and thanks they deserve. Well done ladies, well done.