Nothing to Lose, Perspective Already Gained

Dawn Woodard, 38, of Greer, S.C., fell to Alison Lee, 3 and 1, in the Round of 64 at the 2013 U.S. Women's Amateur Championship. (USGA/Chris Keane)
By David Shefter, USGA
August 7, 2013

CHARLESTON, S.C. – A funny thing happened to Dawn Woodard en route to the 113th U.S. Women’s Amateur. As she stepped out of the scoring area after her sectional qualifier at Kiawah Island’s Cougar Point Golf Course on July 1, she joined her 12-year-old daughter, Samantha, who had served as her caddie.

Several spectators had approached Samantha and asked how she had played. Given the culture of women’s golf these days – a 10-year-old has qualified for the championship the past two years – such questions weren’t out of the norm.

“What did you tell them?” asked Woodard, 38. “She said, ‘I told them I was caddieing for my mom.’ I thought it was pretty funny.”

Woodard shot 73 that day, and advanced to the championship via a playoff. She was the only mid-amateur (25 and over) in this year’s 156-player field to qualify via sectionals – the other four were exempt.

This week, in just her second Women’s Amateur appearance, Woodard joined reigning U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Meghan Stasi in the 64-player match-play draw.

“It’s really cool that she’s here and she made the cut,” said 18-year-old Alison Lee, of Valencia, Calif., who eliminated Woodard, of Greer, S.C., 3 and 1, in the first round on Wednesday at the Country Club of Charleston. “I was a little nervous. My mom was going to caddie for me today and I’m thinking my mom is [almost] the same age as my competitor.

“That’s golf. You can be really young, you can be really old and [yet] we can all compete.”

Only the priorities are different. Lee, an incoming UCLA freshman, aspires to play professionally someday. Woodard, on the other hand, the mother of three girls, was facing a two-hour drive home to be with her family.

Golf no longer takes center stage for Woodard, who played at Furman University in Greenville, S.C., but chose to get married and start a family after graduation. She never even tried to qualify for the Women’s Amateur in those days, as she spent most summers working. It wasn’t until recently that she attempted to qualify for the Women’s Amateur. A three-time U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur medalist (including 2012), Woodard made the Women’s Am field in 2007 at Crooked Stick, but missed the cut. She failed to advance out of sectional qualifying the next two years.

This year, Woodard almost didn’t file an entry, waiting until just hours before registration closed on June 26, thanks to prodding from friends.

“Everybody kept saying it’s in South Carolina, it’s local,” said Woodard, a two-time quarterfinalist in the Women’s Mid-Amateur (2007 and 2009). “What do you have to lose? I finally did at the last minute send it in and made a fun trip out of it.”

After qualifying, she enlisted Furman’s second-year head women’s golf coach, Kelley Hester, to caddie for her. Woodard’s daughters – Ashli is 15 and Caitlin is 10 – were busy with other activities back in Greer, and her husband, Jason, couldn’t get away from work. A strong support system at home allows Woodard to play in national events such as the Women’s Amateur, and the upcoming USGA Women’s State Team Championship and Women’s Mid-Amateur.

Because of family responsibilities, Woodard can find it challenging to play casual rounds of golf or even to practice, especially in the summer. Most of her rounds are played in the practice days leading into the event or the actual competition.

“Sometimes you feel like you’re cramming for an exam,” she said. “You put it off as long as you can and then you get a few minutes here and there before you really have to go.”

Qualifying for the Women’s Amateur  – and reaching match play –  was a bonus. She would have loved to have reached the quarterfinals to earn a Women’s Mid-Amateur exemption, but the first-round loss was hardly devastating.

Listening to two-time U.S. Women’s Amateur champion and Hall of Fame member Beth Daniel at the Players’ Dinner on Saturday night reaffirmed her priorities. Daniel, a Country Club of Charleston member, talked about how winning this championship changed her outlook on golf and made professional opportunities possible.

“For me at 38, yeah I would love to win this tournament,” said Woodard. “But it’s not going to change my life. And that’s the difference.”

On Thursday it is back to being Mom. Her kids aren’t quite old enough to be completely self-sufficient, so she’ll return to being a chauffeur and catering to their needs.

“Mom’s taxi service is out of commission when I’m not there,” she said. “My husband can’t just leave work to cart them around. It helps that family and friends … can get them where they’re supposed to be. I can’t come here and do this without a ton of support.”

Nevertheless, Woodard showed this week she can compete against the youngsters, many of whom are contemporaries of her two oldest children. Lucy Li, who at 10 became the youngest qualifier in Women’s Amateur history, is the same age as Caitlin, her youngest.

“It’s just crazy how good kids are at such an early age,” said Woodard. “I’m actually a better player now than when I was a teenager or when I played in college. Now, it’s just the experience, the course management and playing within myself. But I can’t hit some of the shots they hit or hit it as long. I just don’t practice as much as they do. Priority-wise, golf isn’t everything.

“But I show up wanting to win just as much as they do. That’s the competitive side of me. I would still like to be here [on Thursday], but I’ve had a great experience.”

David Shefter is a senior staff writer with the USGA. Email him at

Get The Rules of Golf App For Your iPhone Or Android Today
Follow the USGA
Become a Facebook Fan of the USGAFollow us on Twitter @USGA
World Amateur Golf Ranking
WAGR Counting Event
Partner Links
AmEx image
AmEx image
AmEx image
AmEx image

The USGA and Chevron have committed to using the game of golf to encourage students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines. This commitment has led to the creation of extensive golf-focused STEM teaching tools, and has resulted in charitable contributions to support golf-related programs through Eagles for Education™

At U.S. Open Championships the Chevron STEM ZONE™ is an interactive experience highlighting the science and math behind the game of golf through a variety of hands-on exhibits and experiments.

The partnership has also produced educational materials such as the Science of Golf video series and a nationally-distributed newspaper insert which are provided to teachers as tools to enhance existing curriculum in schools. These lessons teach the science behind the USGA’s equipment testing, handicapping, and agronomy efforts.

For more interactive experiences featuring golf-focused STEM lessons, visit the partnership homepage.

Chevron image

Rolex has been a longtime supporter of the USGA and salutes the sportsmanship and great traditions unique to the game. This support includes the Rules of Golf where Rolex has partnered with the USGA to ensure golfers understand and appreciate the game.

As the official timekeeper of the USGA and its championships, they also provide clocks throughout host sites for spectator convenience.

For more information on Rolex and their celebration of the game, visit the Rolex and Golf homepage.

Rolex image

IBM has partnered with the USGA to bring the same technology, expertise, and innovation it provides to businesses all over the world to the USGA and golf's national championship.

IBM provides the information technology to develop and host the U.S. Open’s official website,, as well as the mobile apps and scoring systems for the three U.S. Open championships. These real-time technology solutions provide an enhanced experience for fans following the championship onsite and online.

For more information on IBM and the technology that powers the U.S. Open and businesses worldwide, visit

AmEx image

Lexus is committed to partnering with the USGA to deliver a best-in-class experience for the world’s best golfers by providing a fleet of courtesy luxury vehicles for all USGA Championships.

At each U.S. Open, Women’s Open and Senior Open, Lexus provides spectators with access to unique experiences ranging from the opportunity to have a picture taken with both the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open trophies to autograph signings with legendary Lexus Golf Ambassadors in the Lexus Performance Drive Pavilion.

For more information on Lexus, visit

AmEx image
American Express

Together, American Express and the USGA have been providing world-class service to golf fans since 2006. By creating interactive U.S. Open experiences both onsite and online, American Express enhances the USGA’s effort to make the game more accessible and enjoyable for fans.

For more information on American Express visit

AmEx image