CHARLESTON, S.C. – As she introduced herself to her much younger fellow competitors on the tee Monday morning, Liz Waynick heard some humbling words.
Aurora Kan, 19, told the 53-year-old from Scottsdale, Ariz., before their first stroke-play qualifying round of the 2013 U.S. Women’s Amateur, “It’s an honor playing with you today.”
Two nights earlier at the players’ dinner, Waynick’s name came up as one of the noteworthy members of this year’s championship field. The 2012 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur runner-up had not competed in the Women’s Amateur since 1976.
Thirty-seven years ago, at 16, Waynick was the youngest competitor at Del Paso Country Club in Sacramento, Calif. She returns to the championship as the oldest in the 156-player field.
Kan was impressed by what she heard.
“It’s pretty awesome that she is still playing golf and she made it this far,” said Kan, of Boothwyn, Pa., who shot 2-over-par 73. “She’s just very passionate about the game. Just watching and observing her you can tell she’s a grinder and a fighter. She’s very competitive. She has that drive.”
Unfortunately, Waynick no longer possesses the same power as her fellow competitors – 17-year-old Gabrielle Curtis, of Eau Claire, Wis., was the third member of the group – and was consistently outdriven. On some of the longer par-4s, Waynick had to lay up, hoping for up-and-down pars.
“When you’re playing par-4s 426 [yards] into the wind … that’s a par-5 for me,” said Waynick, who shot 87. “Hit it on the green in three and make a putt. But I had four doubles. Just stupid stuff. But it strictly was enjoyable. Everything is good.”
Only three golfers in this year’s championship were alive when Waynick last played the Women’s Amateur: reigning USGA Senior Women’s Amateur champion and 2014 Curtis Cup captain Ellen Port, 2012 Senior Women’s Amateur runner-up Jane Fitzgerald and 38-year-old Dawn Woodard, who was a toddler.
Only in golf can a 53-year-old compete against teenagers.
“It something Liz and I talked about,” said Kan. “She said it’s something you can play for the rest of your life. It’s amazing that she still plays [at a high level].”
Kan also got some good-natured ribbing from Waynick.
“She told me, you have a great caddie there,” said Kan, who was carrying her own bag. “She has a great sense of humor.”
Back in the day, Waynick also had a strong golf game.
In the 1976 Women’s Amateur, she advanced to the third round of match play, defeating 1974 Women’s Amateur champion and future LPGA Tour player Cindy Hill before losing to future Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez, 5 and 3. After Monday’s disappointing round at the Country Club of Charleston, it is unlikely Waynick will be among the low 64 golfers advancing to match play.
Waynick, who was exempt from qualifying by reaching the Women’s Mid-Amateur final last fall at Briggs Ranch in San Antonio, Texas, didn’t come here with delusions of grandeur. An 87 might have once angered her, but now she laughs it off.
“If we had been in [Las] Vegas and betting on the 5 and the 6, we would have killed them,” said Waynick, referring to the numbers on her scorecard. “When you’re 16 … you don’t have any fear. You’re not shaking over a 6-inch putt.”
Waynick, a native of Roanoke, Va., never returned to the Women’s Amateur after losing to Lopez, who was then an All-America player at the University of Tulsa. Waynick played the U.S. Girls’ Junior the following year and won the Virginia State Women’s Amateur in 1981 before embarking on a professional career. She briefly played the mini-tours and later spent one year (1999) as the director of golf at Pumpkin Ridge in suburban Portland, Ore., the site of six USGA championships, including a pair of U.S. Women’s Opens (1997 and 2003). From there, she went to Desert Mountain in Scottsdale, where she spent 14 years as the head professional at the Renegade Course.
Waynick then left golf for the real-estate business, where she has worked ever since. In 2008, she applied to the USGA for amateur reinstatement and recently has become competitive again. Last year, the Arizona Women’s Golf Association named her both its Player of the Year and Senior Player of the Year.
The 6,488-yard layout at the Country Club of Charleston is a bit longer than what she’s accustomed to playing in senior and mid-amateur events. A sore hip and bad leg didn’t help matters, but Waynick refused to blame the 87 on physical maladies.
“Nothing [physical] except where the ball went,” said Waynick, who stays fit by competing in sprint triathlons. “I just didn’t have my best day.
“I’m here and I’m playing. [And] I’m not working today.”
Waynick emphasized one other difference between her Women’s Amateur appearances.
“I didn’t need a nap at 16.”
David Shefter is a senior staff writer with the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.