Anna Nordqvist hits out of a bunker on the 1st hole. Sunday June 2 2012 Final Round, ShopRite LPGA Classic, Seaview, Galloway. (The Press of Atlantic City / Ben Fogletto)

Ben Fogletto

GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP - Asked what makes the Bay Course challenging, LPGA players talk about subtle greens and high fescue.

They should just refer to a list of the LPGA golfers who have won the ShopRite LPGA Classic at the course. Those names can stand with those from any LPGA event - including major championships. Hall of Famers such as Annika Sorenstam and Betsy King have won here.

The Bay Course at Stockton Seaview Hotel & Golf Club will once again be the site of the $1.5 million Classic from Friday-Sunday.

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"It's a ball-strikers golf course," 2012 Classic champion Stacy Lewis said. "That's why your list of past champions is good. You can't get it around by missing a ton of golf shots."

This is the 25th Classic, and 14 of them, including the last 12, have been at Seaview. The Classic, which began in 1986, was held at Greate Bay Resort & Country Club in Somers Point from 1988-1997 before moving back to Seaview.

The winners at Seaview are practically a "who's who" of the tour's best players the last 25 years.

There are four Hall of Famers: Sorenstam (2005, 2002, 1998); King (1987, 2001); Juli Inkster (1986); and Se Ri Pak (1999). Three other winners have been ranked No. 1 in the world: Lewis (2012); Ai Miyazato (2010) and Cristie Kerr (2004).

The other winners - Janice Moodie (2000); Angela Stanford (2003); Seon Hwa Lee (2006); and Brittany Lincicome (2011) - have combined to win 13 other LPGA events.

And it's not just some of history's best women who have won here. Legendary Sam Snead won the 1942 PGA Championship on the Bay Course.

The course has a storied history. Hugh Wilson designed the original layout in 1914. Legendary designer Donald Ross finished it in 1915.

The par-71 layout measures 6,155 yards, short by LPGA standards. In contrast, the site of next week's Wegman's LPGA Championship - the Locust Hill Country Club in Pittsford, N.Y. - measures 6,615 yards.

At times, LPGA players have dominated the Bay Course. The wining scores are often among the lowest on tour. Lewis won last year with a 54-hole total of 12-under-par 201. Sorenstam set the tournament record by winning in both 1998 and 2005 with a 17-under-par 196 totals.

But the Bay Course can play tougher than it looks or than even past scores indicate.

The wind often whips off Reeds Bay making club selection difficult.

"You miss a shot and you're going to be in some tall grass," Lewis said.

Another strength of the Bay Course is that it doesn't have one dominant characteristic.

"It combines a lot of elements from golf courses around the country," second-year LPGA player Mo Martin said. "It's tree-lined in a lot of places, but it also has the water. It's got the breeze. It's got the fescue."

The shorter holes feature tight fairways.

"You can get in a lot of trouble," Martin said. "It's not like it's wide open and short."

The Bay Course also challenges a player's creativity and shot-making ability. Players can't hit driver from the tee of every par-4. With the wind, approach shots can be a wedge one round and a long iron the next.

"It's fun," said Jenny Gleason, who joined the tour in 2005.

And then there are the greens. They can be difficult to read, but when in doubt, locals say bet on the putts breaking toward Reeds Bay.

"Obviously, to win any week, you need to putt it well," Gleason said. "But here, the greens are a little tricky and you have to know what you're doing. You have to match up your speed and your line to get the ball in the hole."

This year players will find basically the same course they've played in the past. There are just a few minor changes. A new tee box on the 301-yard, par-4 fifth hole could give golfers a chance to drive the green.

Many holes on the course feature high-risk and high-reward shots.

The three par-5 holes - No. 3. No. 9 and No. 18 - are all birdie opportunities. But fescue surrounds all three greens.

Lincicome flirted with the fescue on the final hole of her win in 2011. Her second shot on the par-5 18th hole rolled through the green and landed in the high grass. But she was able to find her ball and chip to within five feet for a birdie putt to clinch the tournament. If her second shot had rolled just a few more feet, the ball and the tournament probably would have been lost.

Other LPGA courses are longer. Other's don't yield as many birdies.

But few can match the Bay Course's champions, tradition and memories.

Memories such as Sorenstam clinching her third Classic championship with a 38-foot eagle putt on the 18th hole in 2005.

Or Kerr leaping with a fist-pump after sinking a putt to hold off Paula Creamer, then an amateur in her first LPGA event, to win in 2004.

The 2013 Classic winner will raise the trophy above her head at about 6 p.m. Sunday. She will receive a check for $225,000 and the knowledge that she's won at a course that has brought out the best in many of the LPGA's greatest players.

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