August 22, 2017 8:19:27 PM
WEST POINT -- Kory Henkes said the idea of a partnership with Ginger Brown-Lemm struck her when the two crossed paths at a tournament a couple of years ago; Brown-Lemm characterized it as her extending the rival program an, "olive branch."
By whatever label, the Ole Miss and Mississippi State women's golf programs are collaborating.
The two programs announced the inaugural Magnolia Invitational Tuesday, to be held at Old Waverly Oct. 1-3. The field for the first installment of the tournament is already complete: Auburn, Augusta State, Kansas State, LSU, Memphis, Southern Mississippi, Tennessee and Troy will join MSU and Ole Miss.
"It seems like a natural fit for any competition to be at this world-class facility and we're blessed to have it every day," said Brown-Lemm, MSU's coach. "What a great way to showcase our unbelievable opportunities here at Mississippi State."
The heavy presence of in-state and nearby schools is no accident.
"We want to bring up the level of golf and the level of respect of the game in Mississippi, in the South," Brown-Lemm said. "Mississippi has a lot to offer and that's kind of the idea of us joining forces and showing what we can do here. It's time the world is aware we have some fine facilities and great hosts."
At one point the field had even more promise. Brown-Lemm said the tournament had verbal commitments from Baylor, South Carolina and Furman before the elite Annika Intercollegiate invited them. The Annika Intercollegiate only entertains roughly a dozen teams, most of those spots reserved based on previous results; the three at-large bids poached three teams from the Magnolia Invitational.
Brown-Lemm was more pleased at getting teams of that caliber to commit -- all of them making the championship stage of the NCAA Tournament last year -- than disappointed at losing them.
"It shows the respect that this golf course has," she said, "it shows they're paying attention to what's coming in the future here and they want their teams on the golf course."
The future Brown-Lemm reference is the 2019 U.S. Women's Amateur, which Old Waverly will host. Old Waverly's Head Golf Pro, Greg Flannagan, told The Dispatch the course is prepared to host the Magnolia Invitational every year, including in 2019 when the U.S. Women's Amateur occurs less than two months prior.
Old Waverly also hosts a spring event for the MSU men's golf team.
Flannagan also said the staff has no plans to make major changes to the course for the Women's Amateur beyond the usual tightening of fairways of speeding up the greens. In other words, the Old Waverly that Magnolia Invitational players see in 2017 and 2018 will be very similar to the one they see in the 2019 Women's Amateur.
"It's going to be difficult for these players," Henkes, Ole Miss' coach, said, "and that's what we want."
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson