By Sal Maiorana - Rochester D&C
PITTSFORD - For the first time in the 37-year history of the LPGA tournament, an entire day of play was washed out as a tremendous, soaking rain began bombarding Locust Hill Country Club early in the morning and never relented.
Thus, LPGA officials decided to postpone the round before it even got started, and will now try to begin the Wegmans LPGA Championship Friday morning.
"The rain came in later than the forecast, we thought it was going to start at about four in the morning and when I got up and didn't see rain I was hopeful until I looked at the radar," said Sue Witters, the LPGA's vice-president of tour rules and competitions, at about 1 p.m.
"We had a lightning bolt within 10 miles at about 6:15 so we immediately shut down the practice facilities. This storm came in and sat. We knew the golf course could take a half-inch to three-quarters of an inch of rain, and we got to a half-inch a couple hours ago, and basically it hasn't stopped raining."
Assuming the rain does stop, and course superintendent Rick Slattery and his crew can get the waterlogged layout in shape, the plan is to play 18 holes Friday, 18 on Saturday, and after the field is cut, play the final 36 holes on Sunday. A Monday finish, though, is not out of the question if there are further rain delays.
"I think everybody is going to try as hard as they can to play 72 holes, and so Monday would be the next option," said tournament co-chairman Jerry Stahl. "I think (cutting the tournament to 54 holes) would be an absolute last resort."
Many players didn't even bother coming to the course and only those who had early tee times showed up. Brittany Lang was one of those.
"I didn't think we wouldn't be playing at all," said Lang, who took the opportunity to go shopping for a wedding dress later in the afternoon. "I looked at the forecast and I knew we were going to get wet and it was going to be a tough day for sure. Obviously the course isn't draining that well, so once they made that first announcement, I knew we were going to sit in the clubhouse for a while."
The first two LPGA events in Rochester in 1977 and 1978 were scheduled 54-hole tournaments. Since switching to 72 holes in 1979, only once has the event been shortened to 54 holes, in 1996 when Dottie Pepper won. That year, play began on Thursday, but the round was eventually cancelled by non-stop rain and with more rain in the forecast, the decision was made to play only 54 holes.