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Big Band era singer still a major player in wor ld of women's golf

Readers of a fairly formidable vintage may be familiar with Dinah Shore, that American darling of the Big Band era with a name that sounds more like some exclusive, gated beach resort in Florida.

Park Inbee, of Korea, celebrates by jumping into Poppie's Pond along with her fiance Nam Gi Hyub, right, after winning last year's Kraft Nabisco Championship.
Park Inbee, of Korea, celebrates by jumping into Poppie's Pond along with her fiance Nam Gi Hyub, right, after winning last year's Kraft Nabisco Championship.

When she wasn't belting out the hits of yesterday, Shore was developing a keen interest in golf and that would manifest itself in 1972, when she put her name to the LPGA Tour's Colgate Dinah Shore Championship, an event that would blossom and attain major status 11 years later. These days, it's known as the Kraft Nabisco Cham­pion­ship, and has been for the last 12 years, but not for much longer.

The first grand slam event on the women's calendar, which starts today at its traditional home of Rancho Mirage in California, doesn't have a backer for the 2015 edition and, at a time when the LPGA Tour is financially flourishing again after a period of relative austerity, the uncertainty surrounding one of the circuit's most established, cherished events has prompted much reflection.

"I think Dinah Shore's name should come back on to the event, just to keep that identity," said the evergreen Karrie Webb, who won the Kraft Nabisco title in 2006 and already has two wins on the tour this season. "Even when we took Dinah's name off the event, people knew what event it was, because they'd been a part of it for so long. When people tune in to watch, they're going to know 'that's the Dinah Shore, the LPGA's first major of the year'. That's what I'd really like to see for 2015 and beyond."

Whether you know it as the Dinah Shore or the Kraft Nabisco, the $2m championship has certainly made a name for itself. A year ago, it was Inbee Park's turn to take the winner's traditional, celebratory plunge into Poppie's Pond after she won by four shots to begin a rousing run in which she captured the first three majors up for grabs on the women's scene in 2013.

Park defends her crown this week in a field that features nearly all the LPGA Tour's main movers and shakers, although too much moving and shaking has led to Suzann Pettersen, the world No.2 from Norway, having to withdraw because of a niggling back problem. Perhaps she can borrow a dollop of Tiger Woods' liniment?

Lydia Ko, the 16-year-old from New Zealand who already sits in fourth place on the global order, suffered her first serious dunt as a professional when she limped away from last week's Kia Classic with a closing 78, the worst score of her short career in the paid ranks. Another of the game's teenage talents, Charley Hull, has arrived in confident mood following her maiden victory on the Ladies' European Tour in the Lalla Meryem Cup in Morocco last month.

At the other end of the age spectrum, Scotland's flag bearer, 44-year-old Catriona Matthew, now in her 20th season on the LPGA circuit, is looking to up the ante after a topsy-turvy start to the campaign. It's all part of her theory, though.

"After playing on tour as long as I have, I know it is better to have two average weeks and one very good one, as opposed to three consistent but not great events," she suggested. "Financially, it is better to hit the home run and be streaky rather than steady."

Matthew began the year with a missed cut in Australia, but she swiftly repaired that damage with a third place the following week in Thailand. In the three events she has played in the States since then, the former Women's British Open champion has finished 45th, 73rd and 39th.

With her impressive pedigree in the cut-and thrust of the majors, maybe it's time to hit that home run again this weekend.

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