NOBLESVILLE, Ind. – Pat Cornett opened her 24th appearance in the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur with an 8-over-par 80, keeping her in contention to advance to the match-play portion of the championship for the third time in four years. When asked how she performed on Saturday, her answer was simple.
I didn’t hit the ball well, but I hung in there and made some good up and downs, she said. I have a few things to work on, but we’ll see.
Golf is a game that one can play for a lifetime, but always look to improve at, and Cornett is a great example. The 2012 USA Curtis Cup Team captain has plenty of experience on the golf course to guide her, as this week’s start at Harbour Trees Golf Club is her 61st in a USGA championship, dating to the 1971 U.S. Girls’ Junior. In her 52 previous USGA amateur championship appearances (she played in eight U.S. Women’s Opens), the Mill Valley, Calif., resident has reached at least the Round of 16 in match play on 13 occasions, and has won numerous championships on the state and local levels.
Cornett has continued to build upon her golf resume despite factors which she would have been forgiven for putting the clubs aside for. In fact, her ability to continue to compete over the years has surprised even herself.
Cornett never considered pursuing professional golf and immediately entered medical school following graduation from Stanford University, where she earned All-America honors for the Cardinal women’s golf team. She embarked on a career as a physician specializing in oncology and hematology, all while raising a family. In the meantime, Cornett continued to compete at the elite levels of the game, including a run of at least one USGA championship every year from 1984 to 2006.
I remembered thinking in 1976, this could be my last [U.S. Women’s] Amateur, because I was going to medical school and I didn’t know what was going to happen, said Cornett of her quarterfinal performance at Del Paso Country Club. I did my internship and residency and I thought, well, I’ll never get out onto the golf course again, it’s too much work. Then I joined the faculty and I thought it would be hard to get out there, but I kept finding time.
With her children now grown, Cornett, 60, has continued to find ways to challenge herself. Still an active practitioner, she also oversees the educational programs in the Department of Medicine at the University of California-San Francisco, and recently started leading a sub-group that is working to restructure the third-year curriculum for its medical students. She’s also stayed active on the research side, giving her a full plate of responsibilities off the course.
It’s been challenging. I think going on less sleep is the key, she said with a laugh. It’s fun to balance all three (clinical care, research and teaching). My favorite thing is the educational administration and trying to have people succeed at all levels so we can make our programs stronger.
No doubt borrowing from the meticulous record-keeping that her career demands, Cornett has been sure to keep track of all of the golf she has managed to play over the years. On her player questionnaire, she listed all 60 USGA championships that she had competed in, along with the host site of each.
If her busy schedule doesn’t provide enough perspective on how important it is to take advantage of opportunities to play the game she loves, a recent incident certainly highlights it. While serving as Curtis Cup captain in Nairn, Scotland (she competed for the USA twice, in 1978 and 1988), Cornett was riding in a golf cart at the start of the afternoon four-ball matches on the second day of competition when her right ankle collided with one of the grandstands, breaking it in two places. While her recovery was a relatively quick one, as she competed in Women’s Mid-Amateur qualifying later that fall, she missed out on a chance to qualify for the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur. It was a position she had never found herself in before.
I appreciate being able to play a lot more now; being on crutches and not being able to get around was not too much fun, she recalled. I have a new appreciation for being able to walk the golf course and play.
Work. Family. Injury. Through it all, Cornett has managed to remain a stalwart in USGA championships, which she hopes includes an extended stay this week, despite some competitors that are half her age.
A more appropriate venue for me is probably the Senior Women’s Amateur; this is a little long for me, especially when it’s raining, she observed after her round on Saturday. I’m just grinding it out and doing the best I can.