On Oct. 7, Sherry Herman, winner of the 2009 USGA Senior Women’s Amateur, as defending champion spoke to the Players Dinner at the 2010 USGA Senior Women’s Amateur at Fiddlesticks C.C. in Fort Myers, Fla. Her speech, which received a standing ovation, is reprinted below.
Fort Myers, Fla. – The thrill of winning a USGA championship! Being a National Champion in a sport that you didn’t necessarily choose, but rather, chose you! None of us would be entered to play in this championship today unless we had the passion, the will and the drive to be the best we can be in this sport!
I have played in more than 20 USGA tournaments and I never gave up on the dream or the goal to become a USGA champion. This past year has been rewarding on so many levels. It has been 30 years since I entered my first USGA championship and now and forever, I am a USGA Champion! Seeing the trophy in my kitchen and at my club this summer reminded me every day of my achievement; especially, if I woke up from the dream and it ended differently! I have a sense of complete satisfaction that I cannot fully describe. It’s a different kind of satisfaction. I have had my soul-mate by my side for 29 years, that’s very satisfying; my babies have turned into fun-loving, responsible adults and that too, is very satisfying; but winning a national championship is a satisfaction that put an extra smile on my face every single day since I won last September.
I know that I did not win this championship alone. I think most people are aware of the family support I’ve had throughout these years, so I won’t bore you with that. But, I truly know that without the unending support of my husband, daughters and brother, I would not be standing here tonight.
My father taught me the game of golf when I was 11 years old. If I could change anything, it would be to have had him see me win this championship. When he passed away, instead of sending flowers, our family chose the USGA as one of the choices where people could make a memorial donation. He was a huge fan of the USGA. If my father wasn’t working, he was playing golf. For me, some of my fondest memories of him are of us on the golf course.
I had no premonition of winning this particular championship last year. I just knew my time was running out and being a Senior meant I had an extra opportunity to win a national championship. I saw turning 50 as a positive and I embraced it. So I concentrated just a little extra. I focused a little more. I stayed in a certain routine all week at the Homestead, and I also knew that I was playing some of my best golf.
My husband, Ben, usually caddies for me in national events. Last year was no different except that he had a very painful condition in his foot. After two days of walking the hills of the Cascades course during qualifying, he cried, Uncle, and asked me if I minded a replacement caddie. Long story short, I had the pleasure of having Tom as a caddy for the match play rounds, who, from the get go, knew the advice to give and when to give it. He knew how to run ahead of the cart, get the yardage and figure out what the distance would play, given the terrain. It turns out we were a great team! Given the format of the caddie not being allowed to ride in the cart EVER; Tom and I never really got to talk and get to know each other much during the tournament because I stuck to my routine after each successful match.
After I won, Tom and I had a moment where I was able to thank him for helping me win a national championship. It was quite emotional for both of us. It was then I learned that Tom was not a regular caddie at the Homestead, but rather a member there who is a captain for United Airlines and flies 777’s internationally. His calm under pressure is now well understood! I surely did not win this championship by myself.
As you might imagine, we had quite the party in New Jersey and Tom and his wife flew in to celebrate with us. Along with the trophy, Tom was a big hit at the party as my friends all had the chance to hear and share stories with him. It was a night to remember! Ben and I have a very special bond with Tom that will last forever. Tom is here tonight as our guest and will be my caddie as we defend OUR championship.
In my opinion, the single most intangible ingredient you need to win any event, particularly a USGA championship, is, A LITTLE BIT OF LUCK. This may sound like a New York state lottery commercial, but it’s true. In tournaments I’ve won, I can always find some amazing bit of luck that happened, a ball hits a bump just the right way and stays in bounds, the last half of a roll and the ball falls into the hole, and so on. Last year at the Cascades course at the Homestead, I had just a little bit of luck on my road to victory.
For those of you who were at last year’s championship, I hope you remember the 4th hole, a Par 3, 165 yards, downhill, usually with the wind in our faces. On the first day of qualifying, my group reached the 4th hole where we were the fourth group to tee off. We had a 45-minute wait! I had the honor. When it finally was our turn to play and after waiting for sooo long, I came over the top and hit the dreaded hook. Having no clue where the ball ended up, I hit a provisional after my fellow competitors hit their shots. Same swing, same result. I figured one of the two had to be in play, so, off we went to the green.
Luckily, the first ball was in bounds by eight inches, right next to the road, on a downhill slope, behind the green. I was looking right into a wall of boulders, with an opening between two tall pine trees, then a big embankment up to the green. No other shot was possible…that I saw. So, my plan was to hit a wedge on the down-slope, up, over the rock wall, under the pine tree branches, into the bank and the ball would then bounce up onto the green.
My aim had to be exact! So Ben stood on top of the embankment to give me a direction to the flag. After waiting for three trucks to pass by on the road, I hit the ball – HARD — it had a lot of things to do!! Much to my surprise, the ball slammed right into the middle of one of the boulders, careened across the road, with me ducking out of the way so as to not incur a penalty for the ball hitting me…slammed into a porta-potty across the road that was placed there for players, caddies and spectators on the 5th hole cart path, and then sailed back across the road causing me to duck again, landing a bit to the right of where I was. Now, I had a better angle! I chipped to just in front of the greenside bunker, then I hit onto the green and two-putted for a triple-bogey 6!!
WHAT LUCK!! A TRIPLE BOGEY! YAY!! As I walked off the green, I calmly said to my group that I had a 6, went to the cart, where Boodie McGurn was the driver, and off we went to the next hole. Sue Davis, Boodie and I played the rest of the holes and never once talked about that hole. We signed our cards at the end of the round and said we’d see each other the next day for our last qualifying round.
That night, at dinner with friends, we were discussing our rounds and after awhile, it suddenly dawned on me to tell what happened on the 4th hole. As I told the story, everyone started laughing at how funny and amazing it was that the ball hit the porta-potty, that I even TRIED that shot to begin with, like what were you thinking! and next thing I know we were laughing so hard, we were crying – realizing how lucky I was that the porta-potty was placed at that exact location and that my ball came back in bounds and I ended up with only a triple-bogey 6, when I very easily could have had a 10 or more!!!
In the second qualifying round, we all played a little better than the day before and, sure enough, when we got to the fourth tee, I had the honor again, but this time with only a two-group wait. Conditions were about the same, so, I took the same club, a knockdown 6 iron. I teed the ball, but I did make a slight swing adjustment in order to prevent the ball, at all costs, from going LEFT!
It worked, the ball landed on the green, 10 feet from the pin, I picked up my tee and walked off to watch both of my competitors hit the green. On our way to the carts Boodie said to me, What club did you use? I said, Same one as yesterday! And as if on cue, the three of us started laughing hysterically! It wasn’t until that moment, that I realized my playing partners and competitors had the same type of anxiety for me as I had for myself on that tee shot, yet they did not breathe a word of it until afterwards.
They waited an entire day! The true sportsmanship of those two ladies was amazing. We had a great laugh and then by the next hole we were back to the business of qualifying.
Imagine the luck in the precision of placing those port-a-potties in that very specific location, just so my ball would hit at the correct angle to go back across the road; LUCK that the first ball stayed in bounds and the LUCK of being paired with two wonderful competitors in Boodie and Sue.
So, the moral of the story is, you CAN have a triple bogey and qualify for match play, porta-potties are not only necessary but also very welcomed on a USGA championship golf course and you can be paired with wonderful competitors who are gracious and understand when, and when not, to discuss certain shots or situations. AND, most important, you can qualify 33rd for match play and go on to win a NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP!
In each USGA championship, last year’s winner gives a speech in which she invariably says, "This was an amazing year!" You listen and think, 'Yeah, I’m sure it was, but how amazing can it actually be?' I’m here to tell you, that I truly had an amazing year. I had a victory party that I will never forget; filled with friends that came from out of town because they absolutely did not want to miss the celebration. My golf club had a celebration for me that was amazing! I was honored at a New Jersey university as Athlete of the Year! Imagine that? It seemed that every time I played golf or was around golfers, I was congratulated on my victory. The sheer happiness of those around me for what I achieved was sometimes overwhelming.
While Ben and I were watching the USGA Senior Open in Seattle this summer on TV, the announcers spoke about how much Fred Couples wanted to win this tournament as it was in his home town, he had a lot of friends there and that despite all the tournaments he has won and the terrific career Fred has had, he said the one thing missing from his resume is a USGA championship. Ben and I looked at each other and then gave each other a high-five. I have one. It has been an amazing year!
My husband is a remarkable guy. He excelled in baseball and then softball in his younger years. He is a legend in certain parts of the country for his amazing skills. In my mind, Ben always had the IT factor, as I call it. A typical example is when Ben’s team was one run down, bottom of the 9th, two outs, man on first – he hit a ball out of the park that was still rising as it went over the fence and his team won. I have seen him do this many times and have heard many similar stories from his teammates over the years. I had always hoped this IT factor — that extra dig deep, make-it-happen-when-you-need-it-the-most quality — would, by osmosis, morph into me so that I could have that extra something one needs to win a national championship. I’ve been waiting for IT to appear in me for a long time in a USGA event. I never thought it would take so long. Last September I finally got to experience IT. As they say, better late than never.
Last year I was able to dig a little deeper to go through the numbe-one seed, to come back from 4 down with eight holes to play, to win a sudden-death match in the semi-finals and to keep it together during the final match against Carolyn (Creekmore) to win the championship. I can only attribute it to finally experiencing the IT factor. The Osmosis finally set in.
I’d like to think I’ve been patient. But really, Ben has been the patient one. I share this great win with him and am so very proud that his name is on the trophy too. It is well deserved.
I would like to welcome the youngsters here tonight playing in your first USGA Senior Women’s Championship. I want you to know two things: One – the women competitors playing here in this championship are the best women you’ll ever meet and two, Tom and I plan to work very hard to defend this championship and bring the trophy back to my kitchen, where it became part of our family.
I am sure everyone will agree, The Fiddlesticks Long and Mean is a fabulous, challenging golf course and will provide a fantastic venue for this championship. I would like to thank its members for graciously hosting this event. I know there has been a lot of hard work and months of planning to make this happen. I met Jacques LeGiere in January. He was so excited to host this USGA championship. We, the players, are forever grateful for your hard work, your generosity and your enthusiasm.
To Edie Rice, Theresa Belmont, USGA officials and volunteers, whose passion for the game is always evident, you work tirelessly to insure the championship runs perfectly. I want to truly thank you for being the keepers of this great game and for providing the very best national championship for us seniors to play in.
It has been my complete honor to be your 2009 USGA Senior Women’s National Champion.
Good luck to all the players this week. Remember: you will need JUST A LITTLE BIT OF LUCK!