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Babe Zaharias Open still a go starting Sept. 15

By Van Wade

Among many Southeast Texans heaving a sigh of relief after dodging Hurricane Laura destruction last week was Babe Didrikson Zaharias Foundation president W.L. Pate Jr.

The Beaumont city councilman was relieved not only over his home suffering minimal damage but because the inaugural Babe Zaharias Open golf tournament didn’t get blown away.

The Sept. 15-18 Women’s All Pro Tour event, featuring young female golfers aspiring to a professional career, had already been pushed back from early June by COVID-19 concerns. To have endured another delay or, even worse, a cancellation, would have been a tough pill to swallow for those who have worked so hard to make the tournament a reality.

“It’s a huge relief for everyone involved in trying to get this tournament established,” Pate said. “Our prayers go out to all those who are suffering because of Laura. We are so blessed to have escaped the kind of losses our friends and neighbors suffered. And we’re elated to be able to go forward with the golf tournament.”

In Pate’s words, things have been coming together in “spectacular fashion,” starting with landing Beaumont Emergency Center as the all-important title sponsor. Also on board with significant sponsorships are 5 Under Golf Center, Lone Star Properties, Giglio Distributing, Market Basket and Chica and Associates.

Still needed is a $10,000 presenting sponsor and numerous $1,000 hole sponsorships.

If all sponsorships are sold, the tournament will offer a purse of $35,000. Nearly as important to the winner as the money will be the points awarded toward playing in a tournament at the next level of women’s professional golf – The Symetra Tour.

This won’t be the first time a women’s professional tournament called the Babe Zaharias Open has been played in Southeast Texas. From 1953-67 there was an LPGA Tour stop under that name played in Beaumont. It launched at Beaumont Country Club, then moved to Bayou Din in the mid-1960s.

Pate saw an opportunity to rekindle a Babe Zaharias Open after mini-tour operator Gary DeSerrano launched the Women’s APT last year. DeSerrano, with his wife Kathy working as a major partner, also runs the men’s APT for aspiring young male professionals like Port Neches-Groves ex Braden Bailey.

Like all of pro golf, the Women’s APT has been heavily impacted by COVID-19. The Babe Zaharias Open will be only the tour’s seventh event of the season. The most recent was played July 21-24 in Conway, Arkansas.

Pate, who is also overseeing significant upgrades at the Babe Zaharias Museum, can hardly contain his excitement about the tournament and a recent $50,000 grant to help with the $215,000 museum renovation. He and his late father, W.L. Pate Sr., have worked tirelessly for a half century on promoting The Babe’s name and legacy, and he loves how things are coming together.

“We are not where we want to be, but we are getting closer,” he said. “We need hole sponsors for the golf tournament and the names of foundations who might be interested in assisting with the museum upgrade. Anyone who would like to be a part of this at any level should contact me at wlpate@bdzfoundation.com.”

Babe Zaharias Open tournament week will kick off with a Tuesday, Sept. 15 Pro-Am at Beaumont Country Club. Anyone interested in participating in the Pro-Am can purchase a three-person team in it for a $1,000 hole sponsorship. Included with that are passes for a Pro-Am reception the night of the 15th at 5 Under.

The tournament itself has been shortened from 72 holes to 54.