YAKIMA, Wash. -- There might not be a better opportunity for a first-time breakthrough in the Blossom Invitational than this week.

While defending champion and four-time winner Charisse Spada returns, there are just three other former winners (with six combined titles) in the Championship Flight of the 61st edition of the annual event that will be played today and Friday at the Yakima Country Club.

That lack of championship experience certainly opens the door for one of the others in the flight to claim their first Blossom title, a group that includes local golfers Nancy Eglin and Pat Martin.

Both Eglin and Martin find themselves in prime position to contend as they’re among the top six handicap players in their flight with Eglin a 4 and Martin a 5. Spada and Denise Kieffer top the list as 3 handicappers, with three-time Blossom winner Mimi Racicot at 4 and Debbie Acton at 5. Past winner Pat Terry is a 6.

Even though the opportunity for a first-time winner is there, it won’t be easy to accomplish.

Spada was an impressive winner last spring, pulling away on the second day for a six-shot victory over six-time winner Sue Ursino, one of several former champions not playing this year. Spada, who missed the 2011 event because of a shoulder injury, also won here in 2009, ’07 and ’04.

Racicot is another past winner quite familiar with the challenging YCC layout, although her last Blossom win came in ’02 (her others were in ’99 and ’91).

Terry (1997) and Jani Japar (2001, 1982) are the only other past champions entered this week.

Among those seeking their first Blossom title is Kieffer, who showed an ability to master the YCC layout after finishing second in the 91st Washington State Women’s Golf Association State Championship last summer on this same course.

Martin, who was third last year, and Eglin are attempting to become just the second local golfer and first since Dorothy Carratt Messinger in 1966 to win this event.


Championship Flight

Denise Kieffer, Charisse Spada, Mimi Racicot, Nancy Eglin, Debbie Acton, Pat Martin, Pat Terry, Gretchen Klein, Claudia Robbs, Chelsea Frontis, Jeanne Link, LoriAnne Johns, Mary Roche, Jani Japar, Barb LaBissoniere, Stephanie Drake, Kim Hong, Debbie Nethery, Lisa Stix, Betty Gilmore, Shelly Yarbrough, Linda Bonuccelli, Sharon Johnston, Pat Wehr, Susan Crosland, Mary O’Donnell, Ann Hall, Caren Mackenzie, Cindi Stewart.