CLIFTON, NJ — The LPGA’s Cognizant Founders Cup begins Thursday at Upper Montclair Country Club and local native Marina Alex, just days removed from the biggest win of her professional career, is set to be one of the headliners in an elite field.
Yes, it’s a big golf week for North Jersey. Here’s everything you need to know about the Founders Cup.
The Founders Cup was started in 2011 to honor the 13 founding members of the LPGA Tour. It’s a 72-hole stroke play event that awards a $3 million purse ($450,000 to the winner), the largest prize in women’s golf outside of a major or a season-ending event.
The event was played in Arizona for its first decade, last October it moved to North Jersey for the first time and was contested at Mountain Ridge Country Club in West Caldwell.
This week, just seven months after World No. 1 Jin Young Ko won with a score of 18-under-par, she’ll be among the favorites to win as the LPGA Tour returns to Upper Montclair for the first time since 2009.
Happy homecoming for Alex
Marina Alex, the former Wayne Hills star, will be playing close to home and the timing couldn’t be better. Less than two weeks ago, Alex picked up the most impressive win of her professional career.
With two of the top three players in the world in contention at the Palos Verdes Championship, Alex edged Jin Young Ko and World No. 3 Lydia Ko with a five-under-par 66 in the final round.
It was Alex’s second win on the LPGA Tour and her first since 2018. The win moved her up 33 spots to No. 28 in the world.
Alex said recent work with Claude Harmon III has helped her feel re-inspired coming out to the West Coast.
“It’s been tough,” said Alex. “We’re all getting older. I’m getting older. There are so many amazing players out here. The competition is really, really difficult. So I just didn’t know if my mind and body were going to put me back in a position that I was going to be able to do it again.”
Alex, the first player from Vanderbilt to win on the LPGA, said she tried to stay away from leaderboards, noting that she doesn’t typically respond well when she goes “leaderboard crazy.”
“It can just create extra pressure that I don’t need,” said Alex, “whether it’s to make a birdie or to keep a lead. It’s just – it doesn’t help my performance, so I kind of have to be really disciplined to just take a deep breath and do me.
“If it’s good enough to win, it’s good enough to win. If someone outplays me, that’s okay, but I don’t want to outplay myself. That’s the mistake I have made in the past.”
course: Upper Montclair Country Club, Clifton
Opened in 1928 and designed by legendary architect AW Tillinghast, the course was renovated in the 1950s by Robert Trent Jones, Sr. The tournament course will feature a composite from the 27 holes at the facility which has the rare distinction of hosting the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour and Champions Tour in its long history.
field: The 144-players competing this week will include most of the top 100 in the world, including Jin Young Ko, Lydia Ko and Lexi Thompson.
defending champion: Jin Young Ko, who shot 18-under at Mountain Ridge in October of 2021