Nelly Korda and Lexi Thompson represent the LPGA Tour this week at QBE Shootout. They will have many guests next year.
Beginning in 2023, the QBE Shootout will become a mixed-team event, bringing this format back to the schedule for the first time since the JC Penney Classic in 1999.
The players were informed of the change at last week’s meeting in the Bahamas.
Details have not been confirmed, such as eligibility criteria or format. QBE Shootout dates back to 1989 when it was better known as Shark Shootout.
“I think this should have been done a long time ago,” said Billy Horschel. “When you look at the game of golf, the fans want to see more team competition, to see something different. It will benefit the PGA Tour, but I think it will benefit the LPGA Tour even more in terms of more exposure.”
The PGA Tour worked to transform the World Cup of Golf into a mixed team event, but progress slowed when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
The mixed team format appeared in 1960 when it was called the Haig & Haig Scotch Foursome. Mickey Wright played, as did Sam Sneed. Past JC Penney Classic champions have included Curtis Strange and Nancy Lopez. Beth Daniel won it three times, twice with Davis Love III and once with Tom Kite.
Tiger Woods played in 1996 with Kelly Kuehne, both reigning U.S. Amateur Champions that year signed to Nike.
The most recent winners were John Daly and Laura Davis in 1999.
“This is long overdue. It will be a huge boost,” said Dottie Pepper, who won in 1992 with Dan Forsman. “It’s been a fun week. And if you were in an argument, it was routine.”
In recent years, the QBE Shootout has featured several LPGA players. Same for the old CVS Charity Classic in New England where Julie Inkster and Natalie Gulbis were the first women to play in 2007.
One of the highlights of the mixed teams was the Battle of the Bighorn in 2001, when Woods and Annika Sorenstam went the extra mile to defeat David Duvall and Carrie Webb.
The purse this week at the Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Florida is $3.8 million and each team will split the winner’s check for $950,000. Only seven LPGA events this year offered a first-place check of more than $425,000, including five majors and a $2 million prize at the CME Group Tour Championship.
“I think the year Donna Andrews won it was her biggest check of the year,” Pepper said. “It was a split wallet right down the middle.”
“LPGA has increased the fees for our services. It was like 6%. So we actually got a smaller check than our partners,” Pepper said with a laugh.
Money will be an incentive for LPGA players. The key is how many of the top players on the PGA Tour are interested, although not many of them are currently playing the QBE Shootout. This year’s field of 12 teams has nine of the top 50. Max Homa number 16 is the highest ranked player.
The participation of top players is what contributed to the demise of the JC Penney Classic.
“Mixed team back in this day and age, there was nothing in the off-season,” said two-time US Open champion Curtis Strange, who won in 1980 with Nancy Lopez. “It was a chance to get rid of rust in good weather. It was very funny. You were supposed to meet the women from their tour, which was good, to have a beer together.
“When you get to know each other, there is more mutual respect,” he said. “And some of those friendships last forever.”
Inkster won the JC Penney in 1986 with Tom Purzer and she said they are still like siblings because of their time in the tournament.
“It was one of my favorite tournaments,” Inkster said. “Guys who didn’t want to play didn’t play. And those who did it were there. But that’s how I got to know these guys really well. It was good money and a lot of fun. It was nice for the men to see how the women played and how well they could play.
“You enjoy company. Learn about yourself, learn about me, and let’s win.”