A few years ago, I was playing in a Legends Tour pro-am with the great JoAnne Carner. She was 74 years old at the time and made two eagles, chipping in on a par 5 and holing out from 117 yards on a par 4. As always, she was funny and charming, and the competitive fire still raged within her, in that special way it does with champions.
At one point, I said to her: “Big Momma, do you know that you are one of only five people who have won three different USGA events?” Matter of factly, almost as if it were part of her pre-shot routine, she replied: “Yeah, and if there were a Senior [Women’s] Open I’d have four.” Then she striped a drive that perfectly fit the dogleg left we were playing.
That window has closed for Carner, who won the U.S. Girls’ Junior, the U.S. Women’s Amateur five times and the U.S. Women’s Open twice, but turns 78 on April 4 and is in need of knee replacements. But a new challenge has opened for a host of other legends of the game. Next July 12-15, the U.S. Senior Women’s Open will debut at Chicago Golf Club, the oldest course in America on its original property and one of the founding clubs of the USGA.
The sense of excitement around this new event is building in a special way, rekindling the desire that always smolders in great players. Last fall, I was playing the Hyannisport Club on Cape Cod with Pat Bradley, winner of the 1981 U.S. Women’s Open and a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame. She was on her game that day on the windswept seaside links.
“Pro,” I said. “You’re killing it today.”
Without hesitation Bradley, who is now 66, replied: “I just want to be a factor in the first Senior Women’s Open. I want to play well there. It’s history. We’ve waited a long time for this.”
And Bradley plans to be there, having qualified in one of the exempt categories announced in March for the debut of the U.S. Senior Women's Open.