It's a homecoming for Angela Stanford this week
It was a decade ago that a dry-witted Texan got her first LPGA victory, made her best run at a major championship and delivered a memorably funny quip about her "occupation" before golf.
"I worked at the Saginaw Sonic drive-in," Angela Stanford said back in 2003, referring to her home of Saginaw, Texas. "I was a car-hop."
Like on skates? Not exactly. Stanford didn't actually try roller delivery.
"You either saw me on skates, or you saw your food," she said. "It was not at the same time."
Stanford has been one of the more consistent Americans on the LPGA Tour these past 10 years, even if she hasn't become a so-called "star." This week, though, she will be one of the bigger fan favorites. That's because the tour -- finally -- is in her back yard.
The North Texas LPGA Shootout in Irving is the first full-field women's pro golf event in the Dallas-Fort Worth area since the 35-year-old Stanford was in junior high school. She was a spectator back then, as Meg Mallon won the 1991 U.S. Women's Open at Colonial Country Club in Stanford's native Fort Worth.
The LPGA really hasn't had a tournament in DFW in 22 years? Indeed. But at least the tour is back now to try to capitalize on a market that historically has a strong appreciation for golf.
"I've always said this area was missing the boat not having an LPGA [event] here, so it's about time," Stanford said Tuesday in a news conference at Las Colinas Country Club along with fellow Texan LPGA player Brittany Lang. "And I think people will really embrace us. I think they'll have a great time."
With this event, the tour begins its longest stretch of tournaments that mostly are in the mainland United States. That's not something anyone would have taken note of in 1991, because back then almost all of the LPGA's tournaments were in the United States.
Two decades later and very much a global tour, the LPGA thus far in 2013 has had seven tournaments in four countries with five different winners. The tour has been in the United States since mid-March, with an event in Arizona and two in California. Last week, the LPGA was off the mainland, though, with a tournament in Hawaii.
Eight of the next 10 events are in the Lower 48, save a stop in the Bahamas in late May and a mid-July tournament in Canada. This stretch will take us through the end of July and includes the second and third majors of the season, the LPGA Championship and the U.S. Women's Open.
It was at the latter event in 2003 when Stanford came closest to winning a major, falling in a Women's Open playoff to Hilary Lunke. That was the lone LPGA title Lunke ever won. Stanford, meanwhile, has won five times, most recently in February 2012.
She also has played in the Solheim Cup four times and seems sure to be on the U.S. team this year, too, when the USA-Europe competition is held in August in Colorado. Stanford is currently No. 4 on the Solheim points list; the top eight automatically qualify.
Stanford has been in the top 20 on the LPGA money list each of the last six seasons; she's 18th now with one top-10 finish in 2013. There will be distractions, no doubt, this week, with all the additional family, friends and media requests. But that will be counterbalanced by the sheer comfort of being at home.
"Wow, this is what normal people do," joked Stanford, who played collegiately at TCU in Fort Worth. "They go to work and come home and get to be in their own home."
Another LPGA player with Texas ties, Stacy Lewis, will have a good-sized gallery at Las Colinas. Lewis was born in Ohio but grew up in The Woodlands, Texas, outside of Houston. That's about a 3½-hour drive from Irving, where play gets under way Thursday.
Lewis is one of two repeat winners on the LPGA Tour thus far in 2013, along with South Korea's Inbee Park. They currently are 1-2 in the Rolex world rankings as well as on the LPGA money list.
Lewis will be in one of the marquee groups of the early rounds, along with Norway's Suzann Pettersen and young American Lizette Salas. Pettersen edged Salas in a playoff Sunday in the LPGA Lotte Championship in Hawaii. She did the hula after that victory; she'd like to try the Texas two-step this Sunday.
But if a Texan can win, that would be the perfect ending this year for a tournament that Stanford hopes is just beginning.
"I spend most of my time all year telling people how great it is here," Stanford said of her beloved Texas. "So it's nice to have the whole gang here."