SAN MARTIN, Calif. – Susan Cohn is playing in a USGA championship for the first time in more than two decades. In some ways she is a mystery finalist after defeating Caryn Wilson, 4 and 3, in the semifinals of the USGA Senior Women’s Amateur.
While Cohn, 50, of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., has never stopped playing golf, her schedule was curtailed while she raised three children, who are now college-age.
“I had three kids close in age that played sports and had activities,” said Cohn, whose son, Aaron, is a baseball shortstop at Duke University. Her oldest daughter, Rose, recently graduated from Emory University, and her youngest daughter, Hannah, is attending the University of Pittsburgh. “I found it harder to leave home then.”
Taffy Brower, a two-time Senior Women’s Amateur quarterfinalist, has competed against Cohn in Florida’s Palm Beach County Amateur for years. She has watched Cohn win 10 county titles and raise a family.
“As a person, she is dear to my heart,” said Brower, who advanced to match play in this year’s championship. “She is a great mom and that’s the reason she has not been around for a while. I appreciate her faithfulness to her family. I think it’s a credit to her.”
Cohn and Brower are staying together at CordeValle this week and were paired for a couple of practice rounds before stroke play started last Saturday.
“We talked about [the course] in our practice rounds,” said the 68-year-old Brower. “She is doing exactly what she needs to do. We are trying to stay clear of a lot of excitement. She is laid-back anyway.”
Cohn, who qualified for this championship at Frenchmen’s Reserve Country Club in Palm Beach Gardens, where she has worked in the golf pro shop the last three months, said she and Brower discussed some details. The former golf team walk-on at the University of North Carolina pointed out that she is coming from flat courses in South Florida to a course with hilly terrain, different grasses and no humidity.
“She is a very calming influence at everything, not just golf,” said Cohn, who defeated 2004 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Corey Weworski in 20 holes in Wednesday morning’s quarterfinals and 2009 Senior Women’s Amateur winner Sherry Herman in the third round of match play. “She is wonderful at putting things in perspective and she’s got a great sense of humor.”
Brower was in the gallery throughout the day as she quietly rooted for a friend who is playing in a USGA event for the first time since the 1992 Women’s Mid-Amateur.
“It’s been a great experience for both of us,” said Brower, who told Cohn that even at her age she likes to walk the first practice round to get a better feel for the course. “I appreciate having a younger person around; it encourages me to keep going. She appreciates an older person around because of the knowledge they have.”
Tim Powers Splits Work Between Ice and Turf
Tim Powers arose to perform his tasks as CordeValle’s assistant superintendent before ending his 19-hour day at the HP Pavilion, home of the National Hockey League’s San Jose Sharks.
Powers, 53, is one of 14 off-ice officials who work the Sharks’ home games. He could be assigned on any given night to duties in the penalty box, as a goal judge or scoring official.
“Everyone that works there has a real passion for the game,” said Powers, who was the superintendent at Crystal Springs Golf Course, in Burlingame, Calif., for 11 years before recently joining the CordeValle staff. “Kind of like people who are good in the golf business, you have to have a real passion.”
Powers’ hockey roots began on a frozen pond in Huntington, N.Y., located on the north shore of Long Island. He started playing with neighbors and friends at age 9, and rooted for the New York Islanders.
After graduating from the University of Maine with a degree in forestry, Powers couldn’t find employment. He landed a job at Shorehaven Golf Club, in Norwalk, Conn., and entered the University of Massachusetts’ winter turfgrass program. Following work at other courses and six years of golf-course construction, Powers moved to California in 2001. In his new position at Crystal Springs, he started attending Sharks’ games with his friends.
“They had an opening on the (off-ice officials) crew and I knew the game and love the game,” said
Powers, who is part of a crew that works every home contest. Two are assigned to the penalty boxes, two as goal judges, a game-time keeper, a penalty-time keeper and six on computers.
One of three assistants to CordeValle superintendent Tom Gray, Powers sees and hears things that most fans would never notice in a building known as the “Shark Tank.”
“Watching a linesman having to pick up a guy’s teeth off the ice,” said Powers about one of his games in the penalty box.
“They are terrific guys,” he said. “They are all very polite. I am opening up the box and giving him the time and it’s thank you sir.”
Powers has traveled to Lake Tahoe every summer for the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship, where he has walked the fairways as an official scorer with former NHL stars Jeremy Roenick, Brett Hull, Mario Lemieux and other sports standouts.
“I have gotten to sit next to some of the greatest players of the game,” said Powers about his Sharks’ job. “[In some cases] Guys I grew up watching.”
Erickson Elevates USGA Senior Women’s Amateur
Lew Ellen Erickson’s tenure as chairman of the USGA Senior Women’s Amateur Championship will come to an end on Thursday when the 2013 champion is awarded the trophy.
It has been a four-year period in which Erickson goes over every little detail, from the golf course, to food service, to housing, to signage and to transportation.
“She has elevated the championship for the players, committee and volunteers,” said Teresa Belmont, the director of the Senior Women’s Amateur for the USGA. “She raised the bar.”
Erickson and Belmont are routinely on the phone more than a year in advance of championship week. The topics include committee assignments, a schedule of events, and a players’ dinner, just to name a few.
“[I wanted to] really take it to the next level because the players are at the next level,” said Erickson, who began her volunteer duties with the USGA as a member of the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship Committee in 1993. “These are the players who were first coming through Title IX, as NCAA players, and as LPGA players.”
Erickson has also worked for the host site when she was the general chairman for the 2008 USGA Senior Women’s Amateur, held at Tulsa (Okla.) Country Club.
“She sees both sides of the equation,” Belmont said. “She has a rapport with the committee. They work well with her and listen to her. She always challenges me to do a better job and to make sure I am thinking of all aspects.”
Erickson, whose father was a college basketball coach and mother was a city golf champion, earned a scholarship to Oklahoma State University, where she played with LPGA Tour veteran Val Skinner. She earned a degree in organizational administration and moved on to a career in the banking industry.
As a USGA volunteer, Erickson has been a starter, a marshal, a Rules official and a scorer, all of which play a role in managing a championship.
“We walk through the property as though we have never been on it before,” Erickson said. “We start at the front gate.”
And Erickson reminds her committees and the host club of the importance of conducting one of the USGA’s 13 national championships.
“The championship is all about the players,” she said.
Ellen Port, the defending USGA Senior Women’s Amateur champion, is the only player in the 2013 field to reach the quarterfinal round for the second consecutive year … Mina Hardin, who was inducted into the Texas Golf Hall of Fame in 2012, reached at least the quarterfinals for the third time in four Senior Women’s Amateur appearances … Hardin won the 2010 championship and was a runner-up in 2011.
Brian DePasquale is a manager of championship communications for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.