A Comparison between the 1969 and the 2023 LPGA Events at Shaughnessy
While attending the recent 2023 CNKC LPGA championship at Shaughnessy, I began to reflect back to my recollections of caddying in the September 1969 Molson’s LPGA championship. Wearing my historian’s cap, I asked the question: Using my recollections of the ’69 tournament and my on course experiences in the 2023 event, could I write a comparison of the two events? How has the LPGA changed in fifty-four years? How has women’s golf in the Vancouver area changed? Has Vernon Macan’s original Shaughnessy design survived the test of time? This comparison analyzes the following areas: the LPGA, the Shaughnessy event, the field, the course, and Macan’s design.
THE LPGA TOUR
The 1969 LPGA consisted of twenty-nine events for a total purse of $600,000. The largest purse for a individual event was $35,000. The Molson Brewery Company in Vancouver offered a purse of $25,500, the fourth largest, to attract the best LPGA players to Vancouver. The winner received $3750.
From 1969 to 2023 the LPGA expanded from a North America nine month tour to a world -wide series of tournaments playing in Britain, Europe, North America, Australia, and Asian over the eleven – month schedule. After fifty years the 2023 LPGA Tour offered the best female players in the world $101 million in prize money. Over the 2023year the players competed in 33 events in twelve countries and eleven American states. The largest purse was $5 million. The CPKC Canadian women’s open offered $2.35 million, ranking 8th on the list. The winner at Shaughnessy received $375,000.
1969 MOLSON’S CANADIAN LADIES OPEN
To promote the LPGA three events during the 1969 summer, Sandra Post made an exhibition tour across Canada. She stopped in the eight towns playing the local women’s provincial champion plus other prominent women players. Post’s exhibition tour represented the first time a Canadian woman golfer received sponsorship money from major companies. Sandra drove the new Ford Maverick, wore DaFinin women’s clothing, and played Spalding’s newest line of Sandra Post women’s golf clubs. About five hundred spectators attended the exhibition match and clinic at Marine Drive GC. Donna Thompson and Barb Renwick competed in the match. Only the top LPGA stars players received sponsorship money in the 1960’s. Macgregor, Wilson, Hillerich & Bradsbury, and Golfcraft paid sponsorship money to the prominent LPGA stars. In 1972 sponsorship funding took an enormous leap for the women players. Dinah Shore joined forces with Colgate to sponsor the most lucrative LPGA event. Shore’s influence in the entertainment industry quickly expanded other major sponsors to assist the LPGA Tour. Soon Colgate through the Ram Golf Company introduced the new “Daisy” golf line that included all golf equipment, fashion and all auxiliary products made strictly for all classes of women golfers. The success of the “Daisy” line of products showed manufacturers to business opportunities available in the new growing woman’s golf market.
The CLGA (BC Branch), the BCGA and the BC PGA conducted the provincial ladies’ and mens’ amateur championships and the provincial BC Open championship respectively. Their volunteers had the expertise. operating championship golf tournaments. In August 1969 Point Grey hosted the CPGA Championship. This event attracted the best professional men golfers in the country. The organizers for this event moved to Shaughnessy in September to operate the Molson’s event. About 5,000 spectators attended five-day Molson LPGA event. Many of the same local sponsors for the BC Open and the CPGA championship supported the women’s event by purchasing advertising in the tournament program and hole sponsorships in the pro-am. The businessmen paid for the opportunity to play with a lady touring professional in the pro-am event. Basically men in the 35 – 60 age group attended and supported the event. Like the local provincial open and the CPGA championships and the Molson spectators purchased tickets in advance at their local pro shops. The ticket revenue funded junior golf programs at the local clubs. Tickets could also be purchased at the gate on tournament day for $2 for the practice round, the Pro-Am and the Friday. The weekend rounds cost $3. To promote beer sales Molson’s operated a restricted beer garden near the clubhouse. BC provincial laws forbid beer on the course.
From the spectator perspective no on course leader boards existed. No ropes controlled the spectators on the course. The playing group included three players, three local caddies, and a marker Because the caddies did not have caddie bibs indicating their player’s name, the spectators could only identify the LPGA star by the name on the golf bag. Marshalls followed the groups where the crowd number warranted it. Basically the spectators could follow a group on the fairway very close to the players. On the final day marshals with ropes controlled the crowd to allow the players access to the tees and the green
In 1969, Bill Good Sr. provided on site daily live radio coverage on CKNW radio network. The local sports scribes interviewed the players before and after each round. Their stories provided the main coverage of the event in the local morning newspapers. On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday CBC television camera crews filmed the closing four holes using two cameras. The camera crew used the same technique found at the BC Lion’s football games. Imagine an electric cart with a flat deck mounted to the frame of the cart above the driver’s seat. The camera man and his tripod camera rested on top of the deck. From this six foot high deck, the CBC crew filmed the main shots of the leaders and the LPGA stars. CBC began their broadcast on Sunday evening at 5:00 PM. The two hour show broadcast a pre-recorded summary of the 54 hole event. No daily live coverage was shown for the event. Clips from the event appeared on the local CBC sports cast on the evening news.
2023 CPKC WOMEN”S OPEN
The 2023 event could best be described as the electronic age event. Using a RCGA app and a cell phone, spectators and sponsors communicated with the tournament organizers. Imagine creating a small town with all the necessities to function for one week best describes the logistics to host a modern LPGA event. Preparations for the tournament actually commenced in 2017 for the Shaughnessy event. But due to COVID Golf Canada postponed the event until 2023.
Committees at Shaughnessy planned all the arrangements for the necessities such as security, food/beverage, transportation, hospitality, first aid, grounds maintenance, rules, practice fairway, pro shop staff, course maintenance, fitness, and sponsor’s tents. Besides the main sponsor CPKC, the Royal Bank Dominion Securities, local hotels, food and beverage outlets, Vancouver Canucks, Red Cross Blood clinic, and others created a carnival atmosphere for the spectators. To promote the game Golf Canada encouraged children to attend with an adult. Hands on play areas enhanced the children’s experience with golf.
Approximately 300 volunteers in 44 different areas supplied the necessary volunteer hours for the event to be successful. No programs or course maps were published. Instead the spectators purchased electronic tickets through the RCGA app.(TICKET COST ). At the event up to date scoring boards located strategically around the course showed the leaders for the event. But the majority of the spectators received all the event information via their cell phone. In an instant one could produce a player’s total career playing record , the scores for the tournament and the score for the day. The hole by hole description that usually appeared in the program now appeared on the cell phone. Player interviews could be downloaded to a home computer.
Around the 10th green and the 17th hole and the final 18th green, the organizers created a entertainment area where sponsors could provided on course experience for their clients. On Friday RBC Dominion Securities invited their clients to experience the tournament inside the ropes. Groups of RBC investors followed players on the course avoiding the challenge to jockey for position to see the stars outside the ropes. Because of the international nature of the lower mainland population the spectator and volunteer base represented the similar cross section of the international field.
The Golf Channel provided full on course coverage of every hole each day for international broadcasting. Viewers around the world had the opportunity to see Shaughnessy in full bloom for the event. Cutaways of Vancouver tourist sites provided valuable advertising for the area.
In 1969 Canada hosted three LPGA events: Toront, Winnipeg, and Vancouver. To cut expenses the regular tour players travelled in six to eight car caravans stopping at the best value restaurants and accommodation. Travelling from Winnipeg to Vancouver the troupe spent over night in Banff. The players awoke the next morning to find a blizzard prevented further travel. In fact many of the southern players experienced snow for the first time.
Sandra Post, the newest Canadian sports star, led the foreign contingent in the event. Sandra Post, playing her second year on the Tour, had the Vancouver audience hoping she could be the first female player to win an LPGA tournament on Canadian soil. In her rookie year she had accomplished the impossible winning the LPGA Tour Championship on her first attempt. No player had ever attained this lofty goal. To add an international flavour to the event, British stars Gwen Brandom, Elizabeth Collins, and Vivian Sauders, Australian Margie Master, and Germany’s top proette Gerda Whelan joined the American and Canada’s Sandra post at Shaughnessy. All the top LPGA players including Carol Mann, Kathy Whitworth, and Mickey Wright the top ranked stars joined the seventy-six players entered in the event. . The three champions dominated the 1968 Tour winning 25 of the 33 events. Other notable stars included the LPGA founders Patty Berg, Sandra Haynie, the Caponi sisters Donna Janet, Sharron Moran, Judy Rankin, Jane Blalock, and Betsy Rawls. The Pacific Northwest stars pro Shirley Englehorn, the professional representing Golfcraft, and amateur Liz Culver joined the list of sixteen amateurs.
To increase the field to 76 players the Molson’s invited the top amateur women players in western Canada to play along side the American stars. Basically any woman who represented their province on a provincial team could play. This invitation attracted Gail Moore, the low amateur, Marlyn Palmer, Susan Brown, Holly Botham, Jan Allison, Billie Bartley, Marilyn Karch, Lorraine Smythe, Sheila Bentley. and Collen McCulloch. In fact Carol Mann dominated the LPGA in Canada winning four out of six previous Canadian stops. The majority of the players were in the age group late twenties to mid-thirties. The LPGA Tour did not offer enough income for the top female American amateurs to earn a respectable annual income. Sponsorships only existed for the very few at the top.
Women’s golf in BC experienced a spike in participation in the 1970’s especially in the junior girl’s category. It is difficult to credit the 1969 LPGA and the limited field 1973 LPGA/Senior Men’s tournament at the Victoria GC as the reason.
In August 2023 the LPGA schedule showed the world-wide exposure the tour now experienced. The players spent four weeks playing in France, Scotland, England, and Northern Ireland. Air Canada provided first class travel for the players to fly directly from Northern Ireland to Vancouver for their next stop at Shaughnessy. The remainder of the field travelled first class form various destinations around the world.
In 2023 players from 29 countries composed the 156 players who entered the first day of the CPKC championship. All the top ranked players in the world played. Thanks to the efforts of Jocelyn Bourassa the BMO Canadian Ladies Tour provided the top Canadian women professionals an opportunity to qualify for the Shaughnessy event. Local amateur stars registered in the RCGA elite program were also given exemptions to the tournament. Unlike the 1969 event the players in the 2023 basically ranged in age from teenagers to mid twenties.
The 2023 LPGA player showed the hightech level the player now enjoyed. Following the players on Tuesday showed the planning and preparations the players now undertake to be successful. Their entourage of assistants can include a dietician, a fitness advisor, a swing coach, and short game guru. To assist in the course analysis players had assistants preparing notes on the bunkers, the various slopes and speeds on each green, the challenges in the fairway rough and the green apron roughs. These assistants entered all the course information into a book the player could refer to during the actual tournament. Manufacturers created equipment designed specifically to the player’s swing to create the most successful striking of the golf ball.
On the practice green and the practice fairway, the player used the latest technology to analyze their swing or putting stroke. Thew Course maintenance crew maintained the practice putting green at a stimp speed of 12. In 1969 stimp never existed. The Shaughnessy greens were always noted as slow.
Basically, every player and their assistants utilized every possible gadget, training method and high tech equipment to defeat a golf course. Utilizing worldwide marketing firms, the 2023 LPGA players have access to more sponsorship money than the 1969 players. This extra funding enables them to hire staff to create an environment for them to succeed.
In 1966 the PGA tour players complained about the greens. In fact, two players claimed the greens ruined their putting stroke for the next two years. Other professionals complained the greens were bumpy, too slow, and too undulating. The same conditions existed at the ’69 LPGA event. In fact the green had become so spongy foot prints appeared on the green surface. In 1970 Norman Woods reported the thatch in the greens at Shaughnessy required every green to be replaced. After removing the thatch layer he planned to eliminate some of the drastic slopes on the greens. This procedure would allow the green speed to be increased.
From 1957 – 1960 Vernon Macan designed and supervised the construction of McCleery, Richmond and Shaughnessy. Shaughnessy would become Macan’s crowning jewel. Each green’s average cost was $10,000, the most expensive greens ever constructed in the Pacific Northwest. Why did the most expensive greens in the northwest need to be replaced within a decade? This question is now being investigated to see what occurred to create this situation.
LPGA 1969 players did not complain because the ball basically stopped dead from all approach shots because of the thick thatch layer. Macan did not design the green for this to occur. For the 1969 Molson event the committee reversed the nine’s at Shaughnessy The course measured 6100 yards. For the 1969 event the committee built a new tee on the righthand side of the fairway just past the gully. This new tee eliminated the dog leg hole and shortened the yardage by 200 yards. Today the short course at Shaughnessy uses this tee area. Carol Mann won the 1969 54-hole event shooting 4 under par.
In 1969 the greens crew still used the fairway gang mowers to cut the tees and the area around the bunkers. The practice of annual aeration for the fairways and greens had not been introduced. Greens staff used top dressing to provide nourishment to the grasses on the tees and greens. Apron mowers, and tee mowers did not exist.
In 2023 utilizing new tee areas the course measured 6500 yards. To prepare Shaughnessy for the 2023 event, the greens crew utilized the most modern equipment to create absolutely perfect playing conditions for the LPGA. Because of the new types of mowers, Shaughnessy now had separate teeing areas for various distances. Annual aeration and topdressing techniques maintained perfect soil conditions for proper turf growth. Whereas the 1960’s greens crews relied on past techniques to maintain the course, the 2023 crews had professional training at recognized institutions to give them the knowledge to maintain their course to the highest standards.
When Vernon Macan designed his courses, he did not believe in “plastering the course with bunkers”. Around his greens he did not place a bunker past the middle of the green. He did believe in sloping his greens left to right, right to left, and front to back. Rarely did he designed a green that sloped back to front. Usually the front right or left bunker influenced the slope of the green. No bunkers existed past the middle of his greens unless the penalty for going over the green was greater than the penalty to land in the bunker. Macan believed the average player under clubbed on his approach shots. If no bunkers existed at the back of the green a player had no excuse for not taking an extra club or two for the approach.
From 1969 to 2023 architects added four bunkers past the middle of the green plus about half a dozen fairway and greens bunkers. Basically the ’69 course and the ’23 looked very similar. The 1969 course measured 6100 yards compared to 6500 yards for the 2023 players.
In 2023 during the practice rounds the standard player’s comment about the course was; “I thought we had played all the major tournaments for the year. This course is setup to challenge the toughest major course we have played this season.” To challenge the top players in the world there was no secondary rough cut on the fairways. When the ball rolled off the fairway it instantly entered the 2” rough. In most instances the ball could not be seen by a spectator behind the ropes. To prevent lost balls, at least two volunteers stationed at the driving location on every hole watched the shot. Small flags indicated the ball location. Volunteers controlled spectator movement across the fairways. At the green two or three volunteers controlled spectator noise to allow total silence to concentrate on their putts. Each flag was placed approximately nine feet from the edge or the green surface. No secondary cut between the green surface and the rough exited. Only a flat three foot area existed around each flag. If a highflying approach shot landed three to ten feet around the flag the ball rolled away from the hole in any direction.
In conclusion the Shaughnessy setup for the 2023 LPGA event created the situation for a minus nine score to win. The champion Megan Khang constantly played a shot the designer Vernon Macan would have praised her efforts. For each approach shot to the green she took one or two additional clubs than her playing partner used for the same distance. She took a full swing then suddenly stopped waist high after striking the ball. This produced a powerful low flying shot that struck the front of the green and rolled towards the hole. In some instances she managed to have the ball stop within ten feet of the hole. The perfect shot to a Macan designed green.
Macan designed his courses so the man who paid the bills the middle or high handicapper could have an enjoyable day on his course. Equally important, the low handicap player should be challenged in order to score low. His basic philosophy held true The Shaughnessy set up for the 2023 tournament challenged the best female golfers in the world. Using all the latest technology, equipment to match their swing, consultants for diet, fitness mental and swing Macan’s original design held strong. The following week at Columbia Edgewater the Macan designed course was setup more conducive for the best players to shoot lower scores. Chanettee Wannasaen won with minus 26. Recently the LPGA Tour named the CKKC Women’s Championship the best 2023 LPGA event. The Shaughnessy organizers should be proud of this honour showing Macan’s crowning jewel has survived the test of time.