The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

July 2, 2012

LPGA golfers come to Joplin for charity tournament

Monday was a big day on the golf course for Bennie Crossland.

Not only did the tournament he created — the Birdies for Babies LPGA Pro-Am at Twin Hills Golf and Country Club— raise nearly $80,000 for what will be Mercy Hospital Joplin, he was also on the team that won the competition on the course.

“This was a great event,” Crossland said. “Everyone comes out and has a great time and the money goes to a great cause. With St. John’s being destroyed, it’s just absolutely wonderful that we can give back to the community.”

The second-year tournament again welcomed 20 LPGA professionals to Joplin. The pros were each given a four-person team of amateurs.

Crossland and his team of Curt Crossland, Jon Troutman and Chris Newby shot a 60 with the help of tour pro Sarah Jane Smith. The team finished one stroke ahead of a team led by Jessica Shepley.

“To see the quality of golf these ladies play, it’s unbelievable,” Crossland said. “I played with Sarah Jane Smith today and she hit maybe one or two shots offline all day long.

“When you play with quality golfers, you automatically get better.”

Amelia Lewis, a second-year LPGA pro and Ladies European Tour rookie, returned to Joplin after participating in the inaugural event last year, which was just weeks after the May 22 tornado, which destroyed St. John’s hospital.

“I always love coming to Joplin and playing with these folks who come out. I played in this event last year and it’s for a good cause, which is the most important thing.

“Last year shocked me. To think one second you can have your home and have your life all set and then the next second it’s just gone ... it’s shocking. And when I came last year people had an optimistic attitude.”

Lewis, who next heads to the South African Women’s Open on July 13, said she is adjusting to life in professional golf as a 21-year old.

“It’s crazy. I’m almost never home. But it’s also fun,” the Jacksonville, Fla., native said. “I love golf and it’s better than any normal day job I could have. I get to be outside all the time competing. I’m still young and can travel around the world. I’m in a different city every week and I’ve been in seven countries already this year. It’s fun. You get to explore the world.”

Mercy CEO Gary Pulsipher was on hand and sang the praises of Crossland, for starting the tournament, and the LPGA pros for taking the time to participate.

“The money really goes to helping us rebuild and the big challenge of putting the hospital together and we focus this tournament specifically toward pediatrics and child care,” he said. “The players have been so willing to do it. We throw a couple bucks at them, but it’s kind of a minor deal. But they’re still so willing to break their normal schedule to come be with us. It’s such a positive thing.”

Crossland said plans are in the works to hold the tournament again next year, with the possibility of adding a tennis tournament and 5K run. They group would also like to bring in another speaker after Sunday night’s dinner and speech from former Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne was a success.

“ We’re out here having fun, but the Mercy system has champions in health care,” Crossland said. “They provide the best care in the area I feel. And all this goes to that cause.”

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