RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. - The players at the Kraft Nabisco Championship are competing for part of the $2 million purse and their part in history. The unique tradition of the leap into "Poppie's Pond" celebrates its 25th anniversary. The water hazard surrounding the 18th hole at the Mission Hills Country Club. The tradition started when Amy Alcott leaped into Poppie's Pond after winning in 1988. "To see it happen, and then for it to take off and for all these young girls to dream of how they're going to do the jump, as they come to this event, it's a really special tradition," said Gabe Codding, the tournament director.
The finishing hole's special for lots of reasons. The walk to the green lined by plaques with the names of past champions, the statue of Dinah Shore greeting the golfers, and the plaque explaining the pond's namesake all contribute to the tradition. Poppie's Pond is named after longtime tournament director Terry Wilcox. "Poppie" is the nickname his grand kids gave him. "With late Dinah Shore jumping into the pond, I think we all remember the different leaps the champions have done into Poppie's Pond," said Annika Sorenstam. "So to come back here, obviously not to compete, but part of it brings back a lot of memories."
Sorenstam made the leap three times before retiring. For other past champions like Yani Tseng, the leap can provides motivation for a win.
"I mean one time is not enough," said Tseng. "I want to do it again. So I wish this year, would be a good year for me to do it."
Some jumps prove more memorable than others. Codding fondly recalls the fanfare surrounding Lorena Ochoa's jump in 2008. A mariachi band and a mass of people in the pond set a new standard. "We hadn't really seen that kind of outburst before," said Codding. "So to see this all out party in the pond, was pretty special and really memorable for me."
For spectators, the celebration comes as a chance to break out of traditional golf etiquette. "You don't feel like you have to hold it all in," said Paz Salas. "You can jump around and scream, and it's just an awesome thing to see."
And of course, they've thought about how they would do it. "I would definitely jump in feet first," said Paz.
For the players who may actually get to take a plunge, the plans become a little more elaborate. "Because one of my friends gave me a snorkel, so I'll bring that and jump in the water," said Tseng.