Kim Nyhus has been around the game of golf since before she could walk.
“It’s been forever; my mother tells stories about how we would sit on the green while she putted,” said Nyhus, 20. “We would put the ball in the hole with our hands.”
At age 5, Nyhus was in attendance when her mother, Sue Billek Nyhus, made a run in the 1999 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links (WAPL), where she reached the championship match before losing to Jody Niemann, 1 up.
“All I remember is that we wanted to go home, and we couldn’t,” said Nyhus, who has long since developed an appreciation for her mother’s talent and the game, which she plays at Utah Valley University. Sue has been the head women’s golf coach at the Orem, Utah, school for five years after 11 years in that role at Brigham Young University, and she has been her daughter’s coach for the past two years.
This week at the inaugural U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball, the two are sharing a milestone for Sue. With Kim caddieing for her, Nyhus has added to her record as the only woman to have played in every USGA female championship (U.S. Girls’ Junior, U.S. Women’s Amateur, U.S. Women’s Open, WAPL, U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur, Women’s State Team and now the Women’s Four-Ball).
Kim Nyhus graduated from Utah Valley last week with a degree in exercise science, but has two years of eligibility remaining as she takes pre-med courses, with the goal of becoming a physician’s assistant. Coach Nyhus is thrilled to keep her around.
“It’s just been a joy to watch Kimberly take leaps and bounds in maturity,” said Nyhus. “When most parents are getting a phone call, I’m seeing it in person. I saw her have her best round ever, I watched her lead the team when everybody else was having a bad day. Sometimes, it’s hard to keep the coach hat on and keep the parent hat off.”
Both parent and coach are proud of another recent family milestone.
“The torch has been passed,” said Nyhus. “In the last handicap update, Kim went below me for the first time. She has a 1.7 [Handicap Index®] and I am up to 2.0. I was so thrilled for that. I went right through the roof.”
Kim is the middle of Nyhus and husband Steve’s three daughters, and the only one who has immersed herself in the game, but it took some time.
“I hated it until I was a junior in high school, but it’s been all good things since then,” said Kim. “That’s when I started taking lessons, but not with her. Even though she could have given me great lessons, it’s a hard dynamic. Once I caught the bug, she fueled it, but she never pushed me. If she had pushed, I absolutely would not have done it.”
The two have played together in Utah state four-ball and scramble events, but their dual dream is to compete in national championships.
“I caddied for her in the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur last fall,” said Kim. “It’s fun to be watching, but I really want to play with her.”
“Kim is going to hang around and play two more years for me [at UVU],” said Nyhus, “and then I want to introduce her to the USGA life, because I feel so at home here. We’re going to play in USGA events until I’m as old as Taffy Brower.” Brower, 70, is competing in the inaugural Women’s Four-Ball, her 50th USGA championship.
Martha Leach, the 2009 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion, has also played in dozens of USGA championships, but the Four-Ball gave her the opportunity to compete alongside her daughter, Madison Gerstle, 28, for the first time. Madison’s father is a golf professional and her aunt, Hollis Stacy, is a six-time USGA champion, but Madison never played an 18-hole round until age 25.
“She played a little golf when she was 10, but they only played nine holes,” said Leach, 53. “When she was 25, she just took it up again. Between Hollis and I, she’s probably been to 15 USGA events, and with her dad [John] being in the golf business, we just assume she knows all this stuff, then we realize that she doesn’t.”
“She’s very athletic, she just gravitated toward soccer and basketball as a youngster,” said Leach. “But she is really starting to love golf. She looked at me one day when she was frustrated and said, ‘I hate this game.’ I said, Ohhhh, you’ve got it bad. It’s got you hook, line and sinker.”
Gerstle’s USGA debut began with two pars and a birdie on her own ball as both players’ husbands caddied for them, and they finished the first round of stroke play at 5-over-par 77.
Dawn Woodard, 40, of Greer, S.C., and her husband Jason have three daughters, ages 16, 14 and 12, and she shares her love of sports and golf with them.
“I don’t do it very often, but every once in a while I make ‘me’ a priority,” said Woodard, a four-time medalist in the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur. “They’re so supportive. They have gotten to know some of the people out here and that helps them feel more a part of it. They think it’s fun that I do what I do, and they make sacrifices so that I can do it.”
Woodard’s daughter Samantha, now 14, caddied for her in 2013 when she qualified for the U.S. Women’s Amateur, and the three girls took turns caddieing for her during stroke-play qualifying of the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur later that year at Biltmore Forest Golf Club in Asheville, N.C. Woodard has coached all three of them in various sports, with some degree of success.
“[My kids are] so supportive. They have gotten to know some of the people out here and that helps them feel more a part of it," said Woodard. "They think it’s fun that I do what I do, and they make sacrifices so that I can do it.”
“My younger two have done a little golf, but my oldest [Ashli] is full-bore into lacrosse,” said Woodard. “As far as coaching Ashli, I have to sub that out to someone else. In a way, she’s a lot like I am, very determined, and she sometimes has a hard time drawing the line between mom and coach.”
Before she left for Bandon Dunes, Woodard celebrated an early Mother’s Day with her family.
“We had a nice dinner on Tuesday and they gave me my gift,” she said. “Every year they work with Jason to come up with something unique. They were joking with me, saying ‘Now we don’t have to do anything on Sunday.’”
Either Woodard’s parents or her in-laws stay with the girls when she and Jason are away at a championship.
“To a certain extent, it’s Mother’s Day every day,” said Woodard. “I’m still Mom no matter what happens. I come home after a week away and they’re happy that I’m back, but they’ll be mad that I’m Mom and holding them accountable for things.”
Speaking of accountability, Leach recently found herself being held responsible for a perceived failing.
“Madison looked at me when she was 25 and said, ‘I can’t believe you let me quit golf.’ So I guess it’s my fault.”
Every day is indeed Mother’s Day.
Ron Driscoll is the manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.