September 11: Close Calls Long Ago


Carol Semple Thompson, who won the 2001 USGA Senior Women's Amateur, said of the 9/11 tragedy that year: "The prevailing opinion was that there wasn’t a thing we could do about what was going on in New York or Washington, and we probably should try to get back to some sort of normalcy, if there was ever going to be such a thing in our lives again." (Fred Vuich/USGA)  
By Rhonda Glenn, USGA
September 11, 2012

Hershey, Pa. – They remember it so well. It was a day just like this one – sunny and breezy – when the planes hit the towers. A few contestants and officials in the 2012 USGA Senior Women’s Amateur were in Sewickley, Pa., for the 2001 Senior Women’s Amateur. Some saw that last, ill-fated plane fly low over Allegheny Country Club, speeding toward certain doom in the Pennsylvania countryside just 60 miles away.

On that fateful morning eleven years ago, second-round matches were underway. It was the 40th anniversary of the championship and, for the first time, it would be televised.

Thirty-two players, trailed by their caddies, families, friends and Rules officials, were playing the early holes.

Taffy Brower, a player from Boynton Beach, Fla., sits in this media room 11 years later. When she is asked to remember that day, Brower sobbed.

“I didn’t know that’s what you wanted to talk about,” she said. “Excuse me, I cry easily. But it’s still so vivid.”

Judy Cooke, USGA Rules Official, Elverson, Pa.: We were walking down the first hole with the players and a plane went overhead. I said to a caddie, ‘My, he’s flying low.’ That was the last plane. After it was gone, it got deathly quiet.

Connie Shorb, player, York, Pa.: I was standing on the second tee. I was playing Jean Smith. Carol Semple Thompson was playing just behind us and Dick, her husband, was waiting for her. A man pulled up in a pickup truck and started screaming, “We’re being attacked!” The official with us tried to wave him away. He wasn’t moving. He was screaming. Hysterical. I looked at Dick. He said, “It’s true.” I lost the next five holes and lost the match on the 18th. I was never so thankful to lose.

Sue May, USGA Rules Official, Las Vegas, Nev.: I was coming down the 12th hole with the match between Anne Carr and Kathie Westlund. All of a sudden, men came out and started breaking down the television towers. The man in the snack bar had a radio playing really loud. Anne Carr said, “Why don’t they turn that down?” An official came on the two-way radio and said something was happening and not to tell the players until after the match.

Marianne Towersey, player, Newport Beach, Calif.: I remember coming in from my match and seeing the professional walking in circles outside of the golf shop, mumbling. I got closer and I could hear. “Jets. The sky scrapers. The tragedy. The people. Explosions.” Bits and pieces.

Taffy Brower, player, Boynton Beach, Fla.: I had bought a shirt for my husband Buzz, because September 11th is his birthday. The shirt was bright orange and he said, “Oh, Taffy.” So, we went in the golf shop to find another shirt. The TV was on. We were talking about shirts when they said a second plane had hit a building.

Sue May, Rules Official: A television worker came up to me on the 15th hole and asked, “Would you like to hear the latest news?” I said, “I don’t have time for it now. I’ve got to catch up with my match.”

Judy Cooke, Rules Official: The men tearing down the television towers looked like military men. You could see the changes on the faces of the people on the course. It just became eerie. Players were asking, “What’s going on?” And no one responded.

Teresa Belmont, Senior Women’s Amateur Championship Director, Far Hills, N.J.: We took all eight quarterfinalists into the clubhouse. I even remember the murals on the wall, the scenes of horses and pastures. And then, we let the players decide if they wanted to continue playing.

Taffy Brower, player: Everyone was in such shock. We didn’t know what to do or what to think.

Connie Shorb, player: It was just total disbelief that, one, we would be vulnerable and two, they’d do something so outrageous, an attack on civilians.

Marianne Towersey, player: The consensus was, we didn’t want terrorism to get in the way. The American way of life goes on. We were still stunned and no one felt strongly, so we went along with the USGA’s suggestion that we would play.

Teresa Belmont, Senior Women’s Amateur Championship Director: The players decided to play. Then the television people pulled me in front of a camera. I remember the intense lights. I was told that our championship and the men’s senior amateur, were the only sporting events in the country that did not cancel. I was asked why. I could only say that the players made the decision.

Carol Semple Thompson, player, Sewickley, Pa.: The prevailing opinion was that there wasn’t a thing we could do about what was going on in New York or Washington, and we probably should try to get back to some sort of normalcy, if there was ever going to be such a thing in our lives again.

Connie Shorb, player: My first thought was that they should cancel but then I thought, no one can go anywhere. We’re going to continue with our lives and we are all together with our friends.

Marianne Towersey, player: Thousands of people had died, but as we continued to talk about it, we said, let’s just go on. Let’s not let anything stop us. Let’s just do this.

Judy Cooke, Rules Official: That night, some of us went to the closest church, where they were having prayer services. I’m Southern Baptist and it was a Catholic church in Wexford, but that night it was non-denominational. The committee had a prayer service the next morning. Judy Muirhead led it.

Sue May, Rules Official: After the quarterfinal matches the next morning, I remember walking up the 18th hole with Carol Semple Thompson. Up on the hill we saw the American flag flying at half mast, and tears flowed down our faces. Anne Carr contacts me every year near this date. It’s a bond we have. We cry.

The championship ended on Sept. 13. In the final, Carol Semple Thompson defeated Anne Carr, 1 up.

Rhonda Glenn is a manager of communications for the USGA. Email her at rglenn@usga.org.

 

 

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