New Marilynn Smith Arizona Women’s Senior Open, featuring Pat Bradley, Sandra Palmer and Rosie Jones, raises scholarship money and helps fill LPGA void

With the LPGA and Epson Tours off this week, it’s fun to shift focus to the Marilynn Smith Arizona Women’s Senior Open and Scholarship Fund.

Twenty-four two-person teams will compete for a $30,000 purse May 3-4 at Longbow Golf Club in Mesa, in a scramble and four-ball format. Teams include LPGA and World Golf Hall of Famer Pat Bradley/Barbara Moxness, Sandra Palmer/Brandie Burton, Rosie Jones/Lisa DePaulo, Pat Hurst/Wendy Ward, and sisters Dina and Danielle Ammaccapane.

World Golf Hall of Famers Kathy Whitworth, Susie Berning, and Bradley took part in Monday’s pro-am festivities at Longbow.

The late Smith was one of the LPGA’s 13 founders and since 1999, the Marilynn Smith Scholarship has granted more than $1 million to over 200 young female high school seniors who have played golf in high school or in the community and are planning to play golf at an accredited college or university in the United States.

The goal of Monday’s pro-am was to fund 15 scholarships of $5,000 for females across the country.

“Marilynn Smith lived her life as a trailblazer, uplifting, befriending, and making a difference for others,” said Debbie Waitkus, Chair of the Marilynn Smith & Founders’ Legacy Foundation. “She would be incredibly pleased to know that her annual Scholarship Pro-Am is part of a new opportunity in Arizona for women to compete at a high level.”

With the LPGA absent from Arizona once again in 2022, the presence of these senior players helps to fill a noticeable void since the Cognizant Founders Cup moved away to New Jersey.

Smith, who resided in Goodyear, Arizona, won 21 times on the LPGA, including two majors, and was known on tour as Miss Personality. Her desire to give back never waned.

When Smith was in college at Kansas, her father asked athletic director Phog Allen for travel money to help send his daughter to the national intercollegiate championship. Allen told him: “Mr. Smith, it’s too bad your daughter is not a boy.”

Smith managed to make her way to the championship at Ohio State and won. She never forgot Allen’s comment, and it drove her to create opportunities for women both then and now.

Smith died in 2019 at age 89. Earlier this year, the golf world mourned the death of Smith’s good friend Shirley Spork, who died at age 94 just weeks after learning that she’d be inducted into the LPGA Hall of Fame.

Marlene Hagge is now the only living LPGA founder.

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