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LPGA’s first major to undergo sweeping changes; new dates, venue starting in 2023

Sweeping changes are coming to the LPGA’s first major championship of the year.

The tour’s new commissioner, Mollie Marcoux Samaan, announced Tuesday morning that the ANA Inspiration will not only receive a new title sponsor and purse bump next year, but beginning in 2023, the championship will have a new home and move to a new slot on the calendar, away from its usual pre-Masters dates.

The news, first reported by Golfweek, includes a new name, the Chevron Championship, as Chevron U.S.A. Inc. replaces ANA as title sponsor after seven years. The six-year deal with Chevron also includes a purse increase from $3.1 million to $5 million, which again gives the event the largest prize in women’s golf. Future plans include likely relocating to the Houston area, where some 8,000 of Chevron’s 40,000 global employees are based, and moving competition dates to later in the spring, which will allow the championship to be broadcast on NBC.

A host course will be determined and announced in the coming months.

“This partnership will be a game-changer for the LPGA in so many ways,” Marcoux Samaan said. “It will allow us to elevate this major championship to new heights.”

This year’s ANA Inspiration, won by Patty Tavatanakit in April, marked the 50th edition of the event, which had been held annually at Mission Hills Country Club’s Dinah Shore Tournament Course in Rancho Mirage, California, since the tournament’s inception in 1972.

Co-founded by Colgate-Palmolive chairman David Foster and entertainer Dinah Shore, “The Dinah,” which the tournament has long been nicknamed, has played an important role in the history of women’s golf. It debuted with a purse almost triple that of the U.S. Women’s Open ($110,000 to $40,000). Its pro-ams attracted many celebrities, and its galleries were the best on tour. In 1982, the first year under new title sponsor Nabisco, it was the first women’s golf event to be televised all four rounds, though it had some TV coverage from the start.

A year later, “The Dinah” was officially promoted to major-championship designation. Many players, however, had already considered it one.

“It was probably a major from its first day,” LPGA Hall of Famer Donna Caponi told last year. “It was such an important event right from the start.”

With Shore’s old stomping grounds soon out as host venue, so, too, are the traditional late March/early April dates. Every year, with the exception of last year’s pandemic-rescheduled September edition, the championship has been held right before the Masters. However, since the creation of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur in 2019, there has been a schedule conflict for top amateurs, who have had to choose between the overlapping events.

In the past, former LPGA commissioner Mike Whan seemed committed to the current ANA landscape, citing logistical issues in changing dates while keeping Mission Hills as host. But as Marcoux Samaan pointed out Tuesday, discussions between the LPGA and Chevron had already begun when she took over in August.

While next year’s championship will be contested March 31-April 3 at Mission Hills (ANA will remain a partner for 2022), in two years time, there will be no more splashes in Poppie’s Pond, which major winners have leaped into since Amy Alcott began the trend in 1988.

With Chevron now on board, the championship is all fueled up and ready for its next destination.

“Obviously, the history and the traditions at Mission Hills and the partnership there are very important to all of us and to everyone, so we have talked through that and again, overall, the response has been extremely positive,” Marcoux Samaan said. “I think people know that this is an opportunity for us to sustain this major moving into the future, build new traditions, still honor the past and honor the great work that’s been done.

“But again, I think everyone realizes that this takes us to a whole different level. ... We think that this is the right move for us in the future.