Learning From A Legend
On the eve of the first LPGA Major Championship of the year, the Kraft Nabisco Championship at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, we asked Bird Golf Academy’s own Sandra Palmer some questions about the tournament. Sandra won the Kraft Nabisco when it was known as the Dinah Shore in 1975 and it is one of her most cherished wins of her amazing career. Sandra won 19 times on the LPGA Tour and was mentored by the legendary Harvey Penick throughout her career.
Bird Golf: The LPGA and its players treat the Kraft Nabisco (the LPGA’s first Major Championship of the year) with the same reverence that the men professionals treat Augusta and The Masters. Why is that?
Sandra: In my humble opinion, Mission Hills CC is one of the truly great golf venues and has all of the characteristics of a Major Championship venue. It requires accuracy off the tee due to the heavy rough and with the over-hanging trees; precision irons are also a must. Additionally, bring your best putting touch and a strong mental toughness.
It’s a breathtakingly beautiful golf course surrounded by the mountains. A must play for your bucket list. The history of the event (since its inception in 1972) and that it has always been always played at Mission Hills CC, creates a very special aura that is also unique to the Championship.
Bird Golf: What is your most vivid recollection from your victory there in 1975?
Sandra: I led the Dinah Shore Championship from start to finish. That’s pressure and one I am very proud of.
Bird Golf: The LPGA has a lot of up and coming young stars (as we documented earlier this month in the article https://www.birdgolf.com/blog/golf/the-lpga-tour-these-girls-are-good ). Who amongst the players in their 20’s, do you think has the chance to shine the brightest?
Sandra: I see Stacy Lewis staying on top and she’s still young. I’d have to say that there are so many Asian players and any one of these very talented young ladies would be a good pick. They have really strong fundamentally sound swings. Lexi Thompson is one of my choices to break through if she can get those putts to start dropping.
Bird Golf: In her victory in 1988, LPGA Hall of Famer, Amy Alcott created the tradition of ‘the Champion’s Leap” when she jumped into the lake fronting the 18th green right after she won. Would you have done the Champion’s Leap?
Sandra: I would make the Champion’s leap into the pond now. Back then it was shallow and a favorite spot for every duck. Ugh! I hate to think of that!
Bird Golf: You won 19 times in your incredible career, which included two major Championships. Did you feel any more nervous or excited to play in a Major? And what advice can you give our students about how best to handle their nerves and emotions when they are playing in a big event, like their Club Championship?
Sandra: I always looked forward to the biggest events the most and relished testing my game on the biggest stages, particularly the US Open. Golfers can do a lot for themselves by practicing their short games. It’s very important to know how far you can carry your irons’ ESP on the par 3’s. You can get a head start by visualizing at night, each hole, starting on the 1st tee and playing all 18 holes in your mind.
Carry yourself like a champion with your head held high and with positive self-talk. Don’t allow negative thoughts to creep in or to get down on yourself. Be your own cheerleader. Start practicing ahead with Clear Key, which will help take the pressure off yourself and most especially, believe.
Bird Golf: Thank you, Sandra!
Pretty amazing first hand insights from a legend and gives us all some great advice. Sandra is one of BGA’s Senior West Coast instructors and the experience of a golf school with her will be a game changing few days (as it is with all of BGA’s amazing teachers).