Reading Eagle, PA - Betsy King has continued her travels to various LPGA Tour events even though she retired from playing more than a dozen years ago.
She visits tour sites to promote her longtime charity, Golf Fore Africa.
But King will enjoy the ultimate reunion this week.
The Berks native and LPGA Hall of Fame icon is playing in the inaugural U.S. Senior Women's Open, which begins today at the historic Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton, Ill.
"I think there's a lot of people excited that they finally did something," King said.
The long-awaited championship has been playfully dubbed "The About Time Senior Women's Open" as former LPGA players have long been lobbying for such an event.
"I always knew I would play in it," King said. "Like everyone else, I wish it would've come earlier in terms of being a little more competitive. A lot of people are playing because they said they want to play in the first one."
The Senior Women's Open will certainly have a nostalgic feel when play gets underway today at one of the nation's oldest courses.
JoAnne Carner, 79, will hit the opening drive this morning with Nancy Lopez serving as the starter at the first tee.
The immensely popular Carner, or "Big Momma," was a 43-time winner on the LPGA Tour from 1969 to 1985.
She also has one of the most impressive records by a male or female in USGA events, having won five U.S. Women's Amateur Championships, two U.S. Women's Opens and one U.S. Girls' Junior Amateur.
Lopez, who popularized women's golf in the 1970s and '80s with her magnetic personality and record of 48 LPGA wins, is unable to compete. The 61-year-old recently had knee surgery.
King, who turns 63 next month, will start today's round on the 10th tee at 7:44 with Pat Bradley and Amy Alcott.
All three are former Women's Open champions.
King won two Women's Open titles, capturing the 1989 championship at Indianwood Golf and Country Club in Lake Orion, Mich., and the 1990 title at Atlanta Athletic Club in Atlanta.
She finished her 28-year career with 34 LPGA wins, six majors, five Solheim Cup appearances as a player and one as a captain.
It's fair to say King will carry realistic expectations into this week.
King was 50 years old when she last played on the LPGA Tour in 2005.
She played one major since then -- the 2011 Women's Open -- when she was preparing to compete on the Legends Tour, the unofficial LPGA senior tour for women 45 and over.
King has played a handful of those events -- she won the 2013 Fry's Desert Classic -- and most recently competed in June, tying for 11th at the Suquamish Clearwater Legends Cup in Kingston, Wash.
"I made a triple bogey each day," she said. "I play 15 or 16 holes pretty well. I can't seem to play 18 holes. When you're not playing much, you make those scoring mistakes."
King's play was limited this year after she strained a muscle in her rib cage several months ago.
"My problem is I've been trying to practice more this year, but I really had to lay off for a while," she said. "It was painful to swing."
King had healed by mid-May, but by that time she was preparing for a trip to Africa -- she makes several a year as part of her efforts to help provide water, educational needs and medical care to children and families in countries such as Rwanda and Zambia.
After King returned from her overseas trip, she started preparing "like mad."
She took a couple of lessons with her longtime coach Ed Oldfield and played as many rounds as she could, including one at Berkleigh Golf Club earlier this month with her brother, Lee.
King had made an unexpected trip to Berks County from her home in Arizona to attend the funeral for local PGA instructor Bob Kramer.
"My swing feels slower since I had my right knee replaced," King said. "I don't push off as well.
"But my putting is still fine. I have good and bad days around the green. It's tough judging those shots when you're not playing as much."
Players such as Juli Inkster and Laura Davies are in their 50s and still play full competitive schedules.
They'll have the advantage this week, while others like King, Bradley and Alcott are essentially dusting off their clubs to join the festivities.
But for the inaugural U.S. Senior Women's Open the celebratory atmosphere is what this week is all about.
This article is written by Julie Pelchar Cohen from Reading Eagle, Pa. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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