Two LPGA legends — a course and a commentator — are saying their farewells
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. — Golf is losing an iconic venue in 2022.
This week, the Dinah Shore Tournament Course is hosting the top golfers in the world for the final time. When one lucky player makes the leap into Poppie’s Pond on Sunday evening (with caddie in tow), it will close a 50-year chapter for the LPGA major — now known as the Chevron Championship — at Mission Hills Country Club.
Golf is also losing an iconic broadcaster in 2022. Judy Rankin — who announced last fall that she’d retire at the end of this year — will call the action this week at the Chevron. When the winner’s interview concludes Sunday evening and Rankin exits the Golf Channel booth, that’ll be that for Rankin’s run at Mission Hills.
“I’ve loved every minute of it,” she told GOLF.com.
It’s fitting that Rankin and “The Dinah” go out together. The tournament started well before Rankin’s broadcast career began, but before she picked up a headset, she was a heck of a player. She won 26 times on the LPGA Tour, and one of the biggest victories of her career came at Mission Hills — the 1976 Colgate-Dinah Shore Winner’s Circle.
The event wasn’t recognized as a major at the time, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t big time. With entertainment icon Dinah Shore’s name attached to the tournament, it became a must-play stop on the LPGA circuit.
At a time when male celebrities attaching their names to tournaments was in vogue — Crosby Clambake, Bob Hope Classic, etc. — Shore gave women’s golf a similar luminary.
“Her name on this tournament did a lot for us,” Rankin said. “I don’t know that anyone in the entertainment world could’ve done for us what she did in exactly the way she did it.”
Shore had plenty of clout in the entertainment industry, and she brought that influence with her to women’s golf. Although Shore originally thought she was being asked to host a tennis tournament (yes, really), she quickly took to golf and helped elevate the women’s game.
When the event began in 1972, its purse was double that of any other LPGA tournament. Shore’s celebrity friends filled the pro-am tee sheets, and with sun-splashed Mission Hills as the venue, the event became one of the tour’s hottest spots.
“The tournament here was a kickstart for my generation,” Rankin said. “The Colgate tournament here, Mission Hills, and the addition of Dinah, was the thing that drove the tour forward and drove it to bigger heights.”
Rankin capitalized on the legitimacy Shore helped bring to the sport. She transitioned from the fairways to the announcing booth after her playing days, and in 1984 took a commentating job with ESPN and ABC.
The career Rankin put together rivals that of any broadcaster in golf history, though you wouldn’t know it from asking her. Among her many admirable traits, modesty is near the top of the list.
“I’m the lucky one who got started a long time ago and worked with all of the right people to be able to stick,” Rankin said. “I suppose in women in television, and women in men’s golf, I was a bit of a pioneer. But you sure don’t know you’re being that at the time. You’re just struggling to do it.”
It didn’t take long for Rankin to hit her stride, and once she found it she never slowed down. She became a mainstay in golf television while trotting around the globe, and was named the lead LPGA broadcaster for the Golf Channel in 2010 — a role she has occupied since.
Like any good relationship, Rankin and The Dinah have been symbiotic.
For Rankin, the event served as a launch pad — one that she’s used to become one of the most authoritative voices in the game.
For The Dinah, Rankin has provided much-needed representation in golf media, and she’s provided a roadmap for others hoping to follow in her path.
“I was here for the very first tournament, and now I’m here for the last one,” Rankin said. “This place has always meant a lot to me.”
The Dinah would say the same of her.