KETTERING, Ohio – Golf has allowed a pair of Women’s State Team competitors to pursue a second phase of their athletic careers that returns them both to the national stage.
Suzi Spotleson of Canton, Ohio, who is competing in her fifth Women’s State Team and will appear in her seventh U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur next month, played outfield for the 1986 Northwestern University softball team, which reached the NCAA Division I Women’s College World Series. A four-time letter-winner, Spotelson took to golf easily after her career on the diamond came to a close.
“After college, I knew I was done playing fast-pitch softball; I had a good friend who played golf, so I borrowed some clubs, and I thought, well this is fun, so I just kept at it,” said Spotleson, who shot a disappointing 80 on Wednesday, but holed out for eagle on the 17th hole. “Pound for pound, I could always swing the bat pretty well, so I just changed the plane of that swing, and adjusted to golf with no trouble.”
For Marie Bambo of Salt Lake City, collegiate athletics came after she had already reached national prominence on the ski slopes. The 1979 Canadian National Alpine champion in 1979, Bambo had the opportunity to compete in the Olympics, but slalom skiing at the collegiate level was much more appealing compared to the risks downhill skiing presented.
“Being a downhill skier, it was really dangerous. I had packed up the bags of three of my teammates after one broke her back and two tore their knees out,” said Bambo, who didn’t pick up golf until she was 34 and is competing in her first USGA championship this week. “I just decided, you know what? This is not worth my life. It was the hardest decision of my life, because I was not finished improving.”
Bambo, who is originally from Montreal, attended the University of Utah on a skiing scholarship and has lived in the state ever since. She is an eight-time club champion at The Jeremy Golf and Country Club in Park City, and was the runner-up in the 2011 Utah Women’s Amateur.
Playing With a Different Perspective
Conducting a golf championship requires an exceptional amount of work from a lot of people, and there are several competitors in this week’s Women’s State Team who have first-hand experience with the effort. When they are not playing, a number of them are golf administrators for state and regional golf associations, and they have spent long hours making sure players have the best experience possible.
“It’s wonderful to just show up, not have to worry about being here an hour before the first tee time, to have to hand out scorecards,” said Emily Bouchard, the director of junior and senior golf for the Maine State Golf Association, who is competing for her home state this week. “I can just take everything in and observe.”
Among Bouchard’s cohorts in the field this week are Iowa’s Carroll Dethrow, who serves on the Iowa Golf Association’s board of directors and was the president of the Iowa Women’s Golf Association. Deb Mitchell and Susan Gatewood of Alaska are past presidents of the Alaska Golf Association and Alaska Women’s Golf Association, respectively. In addition, Martha Linscott, competing for Kansas this week, serves on the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship Committee for the USGA.
“I obviously appreciate what everyone does out here; especially the volunteers go unnoticed sometimes,” Bouchard said. “We scrounge for volunteers sometimes; you need a lot to run an event like this.”
All In The Family
Familiarity with teammates is always a positive in a team event, and two teams have taken it one step further this week at the Women’s State Team.
Mississippi’s team includes the mother-daughter tandem of Cissye and Kathleen Gallagher. The District of Columbia is also in on the act, as Janice Calomiris, competing for the sixth time, is joined this year by her niece, Alexa Calomiris, who is making her Women’s State Team debut.
“She said to me, you should do it, this is the last time you can try and qualify before you go off to college, and this may be my last year to ever qualify for this,” said Alexa, 17, who plays with Janice often at Congressional Country Club, where her parents and aunt are members. “It’s been really fun, since we got to play the practice rounds together. We kind of feed off each other; she’s always been about fun.”
Eagles Soar at NCR on Wednesday
The scoring averages for Rounds One and Two at the Women’s State Team were nearly identical – 84.831 on Tuesday and 84.779 on Wednesday – but there was one major difference when it came to scoring. While there were no eagles recorded by the 154-player field on Tuesday, there were nine on Wednesday, spread among four holes. No. 16, a par-5 that has played as the easiest hole on the course both days, surrendered the most (4), despite being lengthened to 429 yards from 417 Tuesday. Eight of the nine eagles were scored on par 5s, with one on a par 4: Suzi Spotleson of Ohio holed her second shot on the 307-yard 17th.
Women’s State Team Gets Special Visitors
A group of youngsters from The First Tee of the Greater Miami Valley came to watch the action at NCR Country Club on Wednesday afternoon, giving them an up-close look at a national championship.
“We just wanted to expose them to some great golf. There’s not often an opportunity to have a USGA event in your backyard; they just came out after school and made some signs to cheer on the ladies,” said Amanda Zedrick, the chapter’s program director.
The First Tee’s Greater Miami Valley chapter has reached approximately 7,000 kids throughout the area this year, according to Zedrick. For more information about The First Tee, which promotes youth development through the game of golf, and to find a local chapter, visit www.thefirsttee.org.
Scott Lipsky is the USGA’s social media specialist. Email him at email@example.com.