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King is LPGA ambassador long after her playing days

DIVOTS -

June 15, 2008|By TIM KOELBLE

Golf always has been and always will be in Betsy King's blood.

She played 29 seasons on the Ladies Professional Golf Association Tour and entered the LPGA Hall of Fame in 1995 when she posted her 30th title.

King is providing her leadership these days in other ways since she has stepped aside from the rigors of competition.

She was in Gettysburg, Pa., on Monday to help promote the Gettysburg Championship, the 14th of 16 stops on the Duramed FUTURES Tour, to be held Aug. 22-24 at The Links of Gettysburg.

King, a native of Reading, Pa., is serving as Honorary Chairperson of the tournament. She has never played The Links, but recalled one visit to the area.

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"I was in eighth grade and went to the Battlefield on a field trip, and I also remember having to write a paper for college on 'Picket's Charge,'" she said.

After graduation from Furman University, King headed out on tour and gained her playing status in 1977. She broke into the victory column in 1984 when she won the Women's Kemper Open, two other titles and ended up with the first of her three Player of the Year honors.

In 1989, King won her first of back-to-back U.S. Opens on the way to Player of the Year honors. She had 20 top-10 finishes and became the first woman to bankroll more than $600,000. Her last win came in 2001 when she captured her 34th crown with a third ShopRite Classic title, also passing the $7 million mark in career earnings.

In 2007, King captained the U.S. Solheim cup to a 16-10 win over Europe, only the second time in Solheim history that the Americans won on foreign soil.

"That was the easy part of being a captain," said King. "I didn't have to make a shot."

She listed that captaincy as her No. 1 non-playing highlight. Her highlight as a player came in 1992 at Bethesda (Md.) Country Club, where she won the LPGA Championship and became the first LPGA player to shoot four sub-70 rounds in a major.

In recent years, the LPGA has become more international.

Does King see a need for American players to step up and keep the popularity of the LPGA going?

"We need to have more Paula Creamers and Morgan Pressels," she said. "Lorena (Ochoa) is the most gracious and humble person I've been around. We all admire what Annika (Sorenstam) has done but she wasn't as outgoing as Lorena."

King has long been invovled in charitable functions and recently helped create Golf Fore Africa, an LPGA initiative to benefit victims of genocide in Rwanda.

The LPGA Championship came under fire last week as it was completing the fourth year of a five-year contract to be played at Bulle Rock in Havre de Grace, Md. Questions arose as to whether the major would remain at that venue following 2009.

That question was answered when the LPGA brought the major under its umbrella, in essence making it the LPGA's version of the Players Championship, similar to the PGA.

"I think it's a good idea," said King. "McDonald's had a great 20-year run but I think the (Bulle Rock) location hurt and corporate sponsorship wasn't coming around. And I don't think the players liked the course."

Only time will tell whether the LPGA secures new sponsorship with the move and where the tournament will call its new home.

Divot Diggers

The Tri-State Junior Golf Association begins its 2008 season Monday with an 8:30 a.m. shotgun start at Fountain Head Country Club.

Clayton Rotz, a Chambersburg graduate who just completed his freshman year at Louisiana State University, competed recently in the prestigious Sunnehanna Tournament of Champions, finishing in a tie for 50th with a four-day 297, 17 over par. The tournament was won by Rickie Fowler, who posted an 8-under-par 272 and is competing in the U.S. Open this weekend.

The 35th West Virginia Women's Senior Amateur Championship takes place Wednesday and Thursday at The Woods Resort in Hedgesville, W.Va. Betty Brandon, of Charleston, W.Va., is the defending champion in the 50-and-older tournament.

Golf outing

The Kiwanis Classic will be held July 25 at Beaver Creek Country Club with proceeds to benefit local youth programs sponsored by the Hagerstown Kiwanis. Cost for a 2-man team is $150 which includes a buffet dinner following the 1 p.m. start. For information contact John Roney at 301-791-5487 or 301-331-0064.

Tim Koelble is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2024, or by e-mail at koelble@herald-mail.com

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