Any win is a good win at any stage of a golfer’s career, says LPGA Legend Laurie Rinker. But to win a Legends Tour event while playing alongside young professionals just launching their careers -- as Rinker did last month when she won the Chico’s Patty Berg Memorial -- was even more affirming at this stage of her veteran LPGA career.
In that event, Legends Tour players competed in their own 36-hole tournament alongside the young pros on the Symetra Tour, competing in a 72-hole event.
“It was a personal challenge to be out there with the younger pros,” admitted Rinker, 52, of Stuart, Fla. “There are some talented young ladies out there.”
Rinker won her fourth Legends Tour title at that event, adding it to her two LPGA Tour victories. And Rachel Rohanna, one of the young pros with whom she played, won the Symetra Tour’s Guardian Retirement Championship the following week.
“Playing with Laurie helped confirm that I was on the right track with my new game plan this year,” said Rohanna, 24, a third-year pro from Waynesburg, Pa. “She made everything look easy and if she was in trouble, she took her bogey and went on to birdie one of the next holes.”
Rinker led the Legends Tour tournament wire to wire and won by three strokes, crediting solid ball striking and a calmer head than she possessed as a younger pro.
“Rachel’s a lot more calm than I was at her age,” said Rinker, who played on the LPGA Tour longer than Rohanna has been alive. “I think I underperformed on the LPGA. Now, my perspective about golf and how I handle adversity is a lot better.”
While Rinker and Rohanna are years apart in age and experience, during their round together the two players discovered they had the same vintage 1999 Callaway Steelhead 3-woods. The two also compared their respective family support and often found themselves in similar spots in the fairway. But the young pro finished the day with a memorable close-up view of Rinker’s opening-round 67.
“On the 17th hole, Laurie made a 20-footer for her sixth and final birdie,” said Rohanna, who currently has one win and five career top-five finishes on the Symetra Tour. “She laughed and said, ‘That was lucky.’ I thought, ‘Lucky? You’ve been doing this all day. You’re a Legend!’”
Rinker says she tries to keep her game sharp by playing in smaller Florida tournaments between Legends Tour events. Last week, she paired with Florida pro Annette DeLuca to win the South Florida PGA Lady Pro-Pro Championship.
And while Rinker hopes to continue her solid play at Legends Tour events, she also is preparing for the LPGA Tour’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship June 11-14, in Westchester, N.Y. That event is the LPGA’s second major championship of the year.
“I’m excited to be playing in that tournament and I’d like to be respectable there,” said Rinker, who also plans to compete in a 2015 U.S. Women’s Open Championship qualifying event.
While Rinker’s youthful days of fearless fire on the golf course may be years past, the veteran pro admits she is “pleased” to be where she is now in her game.
“I seem to be able to get myself up for tournaments,” said Rinker, a mother of two. “And these days, I’m going into tournaments playing well against players who did much better than me on the LPGA Tour. I’m just excited to be in the position to win again.”