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LPGA Tour players will bid farewell to Mission Hills Country Club and the famed Poppie's Pond this week as the first Major of the season is played there for the final time. England's Georgia Hall was one of the stars leading the tribute, saying: "It's sad to leave."
Poppie's Pond surrounds the 18th green and is named after longtime tournament director, Terry Wilcox, who retired in 2008. Wilcox is known as 'Poppie' to his grandchildren with Amy Alcott the first to jump into the pond to celebrate victory in 1988.
Speaking ahead of the event, Lexi Thompson, who claimed her only Major championship victory here in 2014 said: "Jumping into Poppie's Pond is one of my best memories. I think what's so amazing is the history behind this tournament. Jumping into Poppie's Pond's, putting the robe on on the 18th green, just the tradition and history behind it. To be able to walk up the 18th green and see my name there, it's pretty special."
Former World No.1, Lydia Ko, echoed Thompson's comments: "The biggest thing about this event is Poppie's Pond. Obviously we've had multiple different sponsors that have sponsored this event, I'm going to miss the tradition of that and every year hoping to be the one that gets to make that leap."
Chevron agreed a six-year deal with IMG to become the title sponsor of the event; which will now be known as the Chevron Championship. As well as their title sponsorship, there has also been a dramatic increase in the purse to $5m - up 60% from the previous year.
The LPGA Tour has confirmed the tournament will move to a later date in spring as part of a long-term commitment with NBC Sports. This year will be the final time the Major is played at Mission Hills Country Club in California as the tournament looks for a new host. Whilst nothing has been confirmed, Houston, Texas, is the likely location; where more than 8,000 Chevron staff are based.
Whilst sad to see the back of Poppie's Pond, Thompson was excited about the future prospects of the tournament: "To be able to have a partnership with Chevron, to come in and come take this event, I know it'll be moving, but at the same time we're not losing an event, we're gaining a partnership with Chevron, as well."
Ko gave similar thoughts: "When KPMG took over the LPGA Championship everybody was sad because there is so much tradition and history at that event, but what KPMG has done to that event, they've upgraded it on every level to the golf courses we play, the hospitality.
"And I think sometimes it is hard to like take that step, and I'm sure Chevron will do that, and we'll make it an even better tournament for the future generations and for us playing."
James joined Golf Monthly having previously written for other digital outlets. He is obsessed with all areas of the game – from tournament golf, to history, equipment, technique and travel. He is also an avid collector of memorabilia; with items from the likes of Bobby Jones, Tiger Woods, Francis Ouimet, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Adam Scott and Ernie Els. As well as writing for Golf Monthly, James’ golfing highlight is fist bumping Phil Mickelson on his way to winning the Open Championship at Muirfield in 2013. James grew up on the east coast of England and is the third generation of his golfing family. He now resides in Leeds and is a member of Cobble Hall Golf Club with a handicap index of 1.7. His favourite films are The Legend of Bagger Vance and Tin Cup.
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