The LPGA tour will bring some of the world's greatest athletes to Rochester next week for the Wegmans LPGA tournament, and the community will get the chance to know them as more than golfers.
Four of the tour's stars will spend the afternoon before the tournament starts talking about their heroes on and off the course at a special luncheon and panel discussion sponsored by the University of Rochester's Susan B. Anthony Center for Women's Leadership.
The second annual "Conversation with Champions" will be held at noon on Wednesday, June 20, at the Champions Pavilion of Locust Hill Country Club. The panel offers a unique platform for LPGA players to talk about life outside the game and who inspired their great successes.
Panelists for a "Conversation with Champions" are tour veteran Nancy Lopez, Golf Magazine's golfer of the decade for 1978 to 1987, 1978 LPGA rookie of the year, and Professional Golf Association Hall of Famer; Lorena Ochoa, winner of the 2005 Wegmans LPGA, winner of six tournaments in 2006, and Mexico's female athlete of the year in 2006; Natalie Gulbis, who has her own calendar and reality TV show, and winner of the California Women's Amateur Championship at age 14; and Morgan Pressel, the youngest player to ever qualify for the U.S. Open at age 12, and winner of the 2007 Kraft Nabisco Championship making her the youngest woman, at 18, to win a golf major championship.
Former Sports Illustrated senior editor Myra Gelband will moderate the panel. After earning her bachelor's degree from the University of Rochester in 1971, Gelband joined the Sports Illustrated staff and covered, golf, track and field, football, hockey, and the Olympics.
Nora Bredes, director of the Anthony Center for Women's Leadership, said in a society that's crammed full of references to male sports heroes like Babe Ruth and Michael Jordan, it's important to recognize the people who inspire female athletes.
"We thought it would be interesting to ask these women who are part of the game, the business, if they have heroes and who they are," Bredes said, noting that a hero is more than just a role model. "A hero is really a transcendent figure–someone who takes on significant obstacles, prevails, and whose life then becomes an example for the rest of us."
Bredes said the conversation will likely examine the readiness of our society for female sports heroes and whether the panelists see themselves as heroes and if so, what their responsibilities are in that role.
Gelband, who watched women's sports mature throughout her career as a sports journalist, said we can learn from the collective wisdom of the athletes on the panel because they've each had unique experiences coming into the sport and maturing as players.
Lopez, Gelband noted, learned the sport from her father on public courses and went pro as a sophomore at Tulsa University in Oklahoma. By contrast, Morgan Pressel comes from a family with an impressive athletic lineage–her uncle, Aaron Krickstein, played professional tennis and was ranked sixth in the world standings at one point–and passed on college to join the LPGA tour.
Gelband said that diversity says something about the state of women's sports. "It's indicative of the depth and strength of women's golf and women's sports that you could put together a panel like this that crosses generations and international lines," she said. "It really speaks to the growth and health of women's sports."
Gelband said the panel is also a great event for Rochester because the residents here are big fans of the LPGA. Kim Osur, marketing manager of Wegmans LPGA, said the event is all about getting Rochester fans closer to their golf heroes.
"We do it because it gives the LPGA players an opportunity to give back to the community," Osur said. "By participating in the panel, it gives fans more of an upfront and personal opportunity to meet the players."
Tickets for the June 20 event are $50 and include admission to the tournament that day, which is Pro-Am Day. Tables of eight can also be purchased for $350 and the price includes a day pass on Wednesday for each guest. Tickets can be purchased online at www.rochesterlpga.com. For reservations or more information, contact the Wegmans LPGA at (585) 427-7100 or the Anthony Center at (585) 275-8799. Proceeds benefit the Disabled Children of Monroe County's two camps, Camp Haccamo and the Sunshine Campus.