Cindy Rarick has played in 558 LPGA events, has earned $2.1 million, and has won championships from Honolulu to Corning, N.Y. Not bad for someone who started playing golf at 15 on the boys team at Sahuaro High School.
She is 50 now (don't tell her I told you) but looks forever 39. It's pretty ironic that Rarick has outlasted ex-Wildcats Annika Sorenstam and Lorena Ochoa on the LPGA scene.
Rather than announce her retirement, Rarick has announced her return.
This weekend, there is going to be a gathering of VIPs (very important pros) at Rarick's home overlooking the Omni Tucson National golf course. Hall of Famers Pat Bradley, Patty Sheehan, Amy Alcott and 16 others with links to the grand history of women's golf will be in town for Tucson's debut on the LPGA Legends Tour.
"I played in hundreds of events, but I never really had an idea what it took to put on a tournament," said Rarick, who is the organizing force behind a weekend event that concludes Monday when Hall of Famer Kathy Whitworth will play in a Legends Tour fundraiser at The Stone Canyon Club. "It can be overwhelming."
The Legends Tour doesn't have the size, corporate power or, most importantly, the TV contract of its male counterpart, the Champions Tour. "We won't even rope off the fairways from spectators," said Rarick.
But it's a start, and Tucson is a fitting place for the 2010 debut of the six-event Legends Tour series. We miss the LPGA Tour and, given the embarrassing gaps in a diminished schedule, it surely misses us.
In its 24 years as an LPGA Tour host, Tucson paid out $14.1 million and was sponsored by a grocery store, a golf manufacturer, the copper industry, a jelly-making company, a convenience store and by the deep pockets of the Tucson Conquistadores.
It sometimes got lost in the madness of March, played opposite Lute Olson's biggest games, and it always competed for the entertainment dollar against the Diamondbacks, Rockies, Indians and White Sox.
Its local appeal was further dimmed because it was staged a few weeks after Phil Mickelson or Tom Watson or David Duval would win the Tucson Open.
But the LPGA was accepted here because it was modestly priced and conveniently located in the heart of Tucson, on the municipal track at Randolph North, and because, frankly, we were fortunate that someone in the Who's Who of women's golf always seemed to win: Nancy Lopez one year, Jan Stephenson the next. UA All-Americans Annika Sorenstam and Christa Johnson both won here twice.
How do you top that?
After dealing with the high-brow PGA Tour and the grumpy old men of major-league baseball, the LPGA Tour was the friendliest sporting event on the calendar.
"We don't have a title sponsor or a presenting sponsor yet," Rarick says, "but this isn't going to be a one-shot thing. The minute we wrap it up this weekend, we're going to get started on next year."
It was the inability to maintain a title sponsor that doomed the LPGA in Tucson six years ago. Now, on a smaller scale but with bigger names, Rarick and Judy McDermott, executive director of the Conquistadores, are bringing it back.
The 20 women who will play in Sunday's 11 a.m., shootout at Tucson National have a cumulative 183 tour victories (17 majors) among them. Rarick is typical of the caliber of a Legends golfer.
Perhaps the only regret of her distinguished career is that she didn't win in Tucson. She was second in 1995 and fourth in 1993 but otherwise was a significant name in women's golf for 20 years. She is the only Tucson-raised golfer to ever play regularly on the LPGA Tour.
Rarick was probably a bigger name in Hawaii and Japan than she was in Arizona; part of that is because she played college golf for Hawaii and represented a resort course there for more than a decade. She is still in demand for corporate pro-am outings.
"I'm now transitioning into other areas, many of them outside of golf," she says. "I was home in January this year for the first time in 25 years, but that's fine. It seems like those years went by in a blink, but my life is good; I couldn't have scripted it any better."
• What: Women's Senior National Invitational
• Where: Omni Tucson National Resort, 2727 W. Club Drive
• Schedule: Today: Practice rounds. Saturday: Junior clinic, 9 a.m.; Pro-Am at Catalina Course, 11 a.m. Sunday: 18-hole shootout at Catalina Course, 11 a.m.
• Tickets: Available at the gate, $10 daily
Contact Greg Hansen at 573-4362 or email@example.com