U.S. SENIOR WOMEN'S OPEN
Still Viable on Tour, Davies Shuns Favorite Role July 11, 2018 | WHEATON, ILL. By Ron Sirak

Though crushed that her beloved Team England lost in the World Cup semifinal, Laura Davies is upbeat about her chances. (USGA/Chris Keane)

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Somehow it makes sense that, in a field flush with the royalty of women’s golf, one of the favorites this week at the U.S. Senior Women’s Open is Dame Laura Davies. The question, it seems from listening to Dame Laura, is how quickly she’ll put England’s crushing defeat by Croatia in Wednesday’s World Cup semifinal behind her. This is a woman as passionate about her soccer as she is about her golf.

How seriously does Davies take soccer – or football, as it is known in her native England? Well, last Saturday she teed off in the third round of the LPGA tournament listening to England’s quarterfinal victory over Sweden. And on Wednesday at Chicago Golf Club, she had her interview time moved up so that she could be at Quigley’s Irish Pub in nearby Naperville, Ill., in time for the start of England’s 2-1 loss.

“I'd probably get fined for saying this, but I had my phone in my pocket and my earpiece in [on Saturday],” Davies said Wednesday morning, before England played Croatia. “As I'm walking five yards off the tee, we scored the first goal. So I would hit a shot and then put the earpiece [back in]. If they get through today, 10 a.m. [Sunday] is the final. I don't know what the USGA thinks about people carrying TVs around with them, but I will have one.”

She doesn’t have to worry about that conflict now. Davies adores soccer. She is a regular in the annual player-caddie match on the Wednesday of the Evian Championship in France, and in 1997 she played six minutes in a game for a professional minor league soccer team, the Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Seadawgs. She’s also been known to set the alarm for 3 a.m. on tournaments days in order to watch an important overseas match on her computer.

Davies also is royalty of sorts in England. In 1988, she was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire. Then in 2000 she became Commander of the Order of the British Empire and finally in 2014 she was designated Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, all for service to golf.

And she is no doubt among the royalty in the field for the inaugural Senior Women’s Open, with more than 80 victories worldwide and 20 on the LPGA Tour, including the 1987 U.S. Women’s Open, a championship she’s played 27 times, and as recently as 2015. All of that has landed her in the World Golf Hall of Fame. Davies has played 11 LPGA events this year, and she electrified fans at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup in March when she shot 63 on Saturday and contended to the end, finishing second to Inbee Park, who is No. 1 in the Rolex Rankings.

“A lot of people probably gave up on me years ago,” said Davies, 54. “I see the shots every day, and I know that if I get it all together, there’s some good stuff still there. So Sunday [at Founders Cup] was huge for me. I bogeyed the last to shoot maybe 4 under. Inbee, as usual, didn’t make a bogey all day, I think, and cruised away with it, but I was still there at the end.”

That performance at Founders Cup, coupled with the fact she still plays a fairly full schedule and still hits the ball a fairly long way has put Davies on the short list of favorites among the 120 competitors. That’s an assessment with which Davies does not exactly agree.

“I don’t know about favorite,” Davies said. “There’s some really good players here. There's a lot of us that have got a chance to win. Ball-striking wise I feel it’s good. The form is OK. It could always be better, but that’s why we keep playing, because we’re always trying to get better.”

What she does agree with is the overwhelming consensus among the players that this championship week has been an emotional mix: partly a reunion of old friends, partly a celebration of women’s golf and completely a first-class event.

“I think everyone that’s come through the gates has seen the course setup, the way the course looks, the way we’ve been welcomed by the members,” Davies said. “I think the USGA have done the players proud, and hopefully now we’ll do them proud with our performance on the course.”

Davies has spent more than 30 years making England proud with her performances on the golf course. A victory this week would be a shining addition to an already brilliant career. And now she doesn’t have to worry about sneaking that TV onto the golf course. Her only concern is Chicago Golf Club – and all those other great players.

Ron Sirak is a Massachusetts-based freelance writer who frequently contributes to USGA digital channels.

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