U.S. SENIOR WOMEN'S AMATEUR
Notebook: Governor Christie’s Speech Fueled By State Pride September 12, 2014 By Joey Flyntz, USGA

Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey addressed the U.S. Senior Women's Amateur players' dinner on the eve of the event. (USGA/Jonathan Ernst)

DEAL, N.J. – The 132 competitors in this week’s U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Championship at Hollywood Golf Club were welcomed with a special visitor at Friday night’s players’ dinner. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie flew in from Panama City, Fla., to say a few words, with post-Hurricane Sandy recovery and New Jersey golf serving as the main themes.

As a Jersey Shore club located about a mile and a half from the ocean, Hollywood was affected by Sandy, which devastated the state’s coastline a little less than two years ago.

Christie’s visit struck a particular chord with Sherry Herman, given that she is a former Senior Women’s Amateur champion (2009) and lives in Jackson, N.J., about a 30-minute drive from Hollywood Golf Club.

While she didn’t suffer any damage to her house, Herman was without power for a week and witnessed the devastation first-hand.

"It resonated. I thought he did a great job," Herman said. "The ladies in the locker room this morning were still talking about how impressed they were with his speech."

Although not a player himself, Christie spoke with pride about golf in New Jersey and the significant financial impact it has on the state, citing in particular the 2005 PGA Championship won by Phil Mickelson at Baltusrol Golf Club, which will host the PGA again in 2016.

While New Jersey is known for its high-profile venues, the upcoming week provides an opportunity to showcase the depth of great golf there is to be played in the state.

"We have phenomenal golf courses in New Jersey," Herman said. "Obviously, people know Pine Valley, Ridgewood, Baltusrol, etc., but it's more than just that. This course is a great golf course and there are plenty more like it that don't get the recognition of the higher-profile places. Everybody has been very complimentary of this course so far. It's something I take pride in."

With so much effort put into restoring the Jersey Shore, Christie encouraged the competitors to explore the area and see what is has to offer outside the golf course.

"On behalf of the nine million residents of New Jersey, we welcome you to our home," he said. "And we encourage you over the next week to make it your home, too."

Role Reversal For Rasmussen-Courville Duo

Jo Rasmussen has caddied for 1995 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Jerry Courville in three U.S. Senior Opens, but at this week’s U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur, Rasmussen is trading her caddie bib for a pitching wedge, with Courville carrying her bag.

Rasmussen, 54, of Singapore, is playing in her first USGA championship in large part due to Courville’s instruction. Rasmussen, who moved to the U.S. 25 years ago and now lives in Westport, Conn., didn’t start playing golf until she was 40. A doctor recommended she find a hobby to relieve the stress of working so hard, and she settled on golf over tennis.

Once she showed an aptitude for golf, Rasmussen wanted to take her game to the next level and a friend recommended Courville as an instructor.

Rasmussen was beaming following her first USGA championship round, a 12-over-par 85, clearly enjoying turning the tables on Courville.

"It’s very exciting. I am very grateful and very honored to be here," she said. "The golf course is beautiful. You get butterflies in your stomach."

Courville admitted it was an adjustment being on the other end of the player-caddie relationship.

"It's different," he said. "I try to get her around the golf course. But I can't read putts anymore, so I wasn't much help with the putting."

Rasmussen admitted that she learned a lot about golf from Courville and seeing how the game is played at the highest level. Whenever her Senior Women’s Am run comes to an end she looks forward to getting on the bag for her friend again.

"I'm a great caddie, I just stay quiet. I feed him when he has a bad hole and gets crabby, she said, joking.

Former Air-Traffic Controller Barker: ‘Golf Is Harder’

The job of air-traffic controller is often referred to as the most stressful job in the world. Tina Barker doesn’t necessarily agree.

Barker, 55, of Fairfield, Calif., worked as an air-traffic controller for 27 years – 22 years with the government and five for the Navy – before retiring in February, but she feels much more at ease directing planes through the air than she does judging the speed of a putt on a USGA green.

"I think today was the most stressful day," she said. "Today is stress. The job was the easiest part of my life. Golf is harder. In a big competition, playing golf is much harder. Playing in a USGA event is more stressful."

Barker, who shot a 12-over 85 at Hollywood Golf Club on Saturday, never sought out a career in air-traffic control. She joined the Navy after dropping out of college and figured she would take a test and become an electrician. Her recruiter encouraged her to aim higher and consider air-traffic control.

As an air-traffic controller in Northern California, Barker was in charge of as few as one or two flights a shift to as many as 25. She never experienced any harrowing ordeals similar to those commonly depicted on TV and in movies, but she did compare it to playing a video game.

"It's like playing Asteroids, but you're talking to the asteroids," she said.

Odds And Ends

There were three practice-round holes-in-one at Hollywood Golf Club, including the first of two-time defending U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur champion Ellen Port’s career, which happened Thursday on the fourth hole. Leslie Page converted her third career hole-in-one, also on the fourth hole, on Friday with a 5-hybrid. Nanette Seman joined the party with a 6-iron on the 15th hole on Friday. … Lynda Foster eagled the par-4 18th hole in Saturday’s first round, her 10th hole of the day. Foster hit a 5-wood from 175 yards and the ball hit the left side of the green and curved into the hole.

Joey Flyntz is an associate writer for the USGA. Email him at jflyntz@usga.org.