There are two distinct moments that stand out when I think back to the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open last year at the Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton, IL.
The first is the opening tee shot. It was 7 a.m. on a beautiful summer morning, and the first pairing of the day off hole No. 1 was JoAnne Carner, Hollis Stacy, and Sandra Palmer. A superstar threesome that owns a combined 80 LPGA Tour victories and six U.S. Women’s Open titles.
There was a sea of fans who had come to witness history being made; the start of a new–and long overdue–championship. There were camera phones held high, kids on parents’ shoulders, and people still sniffling after an emotional opening ceremony that had concluded only minutes before.
As JoAnne “Big Mama” Carner stepped up to her ball, which she had strategically teed up minutes before in fear of being too nervous to do so when the crowds were watching, the voice of first-tee starter Nancy Lopez rang out over the gallery. Then, the 79-year-old legend striped her tee shot down the middle of the fairway and proceeded to shoot her age in a round that will forever go down in infamy.
The second was at the trophy ceremony four days later. While fans faced the presentation, which was beautifully placed in front of the iconic Chicago Golf Club clubhouse, one face stood out. As Martha Leach, a former U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion, accepted her low amateur medal after an impressive T10 finish, her sister Hollis Stacy watched, beaming with tears in her eyes, as recorded video. She herself had had an impressive week of play, but watching her little sister be honored during a week in which women’s golf took a giant leap forward brought all of Hollis’ emotions to the surface.
These two moments are burned into my memory, and neither had to do with the competition at hand.
That’s what is so special about the U.S. Senior Women’s Open.
It is senior women’s golf at its finest, some of the world’s most legendary golfers competing on the grandest of stages. But it’s so much more than that. It’s a celebration of women’s golf. It’s a reunion. It’s nostalgic. Competitors were playing practices rounds with old rivals and older friends. The players’ dinner was a wonderful mixture of pre-championship jitters and reminiscing on days and rounds of the past.
Whether you want to be there as a spectator (with no rope lines, you get to walk the fairways with these legends of the game!) or hope to apply to play yourself one day, this year’s 2nd U.S. Senior Women’s Open at Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club will continue this championship’s legacy as history in the making.
In 2022, Pine Needles will host its record fourth U.S. Women’s Open, and it is a club and facility that is synonymous with the growth and advancement of women’s golf thanks to Peggy Kirk Bell and her family.
I’ve heard from several women that they’re nervous to apply to play, or their games aren’t tournament-ready anymore. I get it. But I’ve also heard so many wonderful things from people who got over their fears and gave it a try: