U.S. SENIOR WOMEN'S OPEN
Come Monday, Ehrhart Will Fondly Recall This Week July 14, 2018 | WHEATON, ILL. By Ron Driscoll, USGA

Patricia Ehrhart is having a memorable week at Chicago Golf Club as she played her way into contention. (USGA/Chris Keane)

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A change in attitude – not necessarily in latitude – has made all the difference for Patricia Ehrhart this week at Chicago Golf Club, where she is tied for 10th place through two rounds of the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open Championship.

Ehrhart, an amateur from Honolulu, Hawaii, knows a lot about surfer culture, having raised three daughters who surf competitively, and she knows a lot about competitive golf, having played on mini-tours and briefly on the LPGA Tour before retiring to raise her children. Her laidback attitude through 36 holes would probably make her good friend, singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett, proud.

“I’m feeling very grateful to be here playing, and I have nothing to lose,” said Ehrhart, 52, who stands at 3-over-par 149, seven strokes behind the co-leaders as she starts Round 3 at 10:02 a.m. CDT with Susie Redman and Marilyn Lovander. “I love the greens, I love the golf course. I’m just kind of embracing that in my heart and playing golf.”

Ehrhart is joined this week by her daughter Scarlett, 11, who caddied for Ehrhart when she qualified for this championship last month in Renton, Wash. Scarlett, who is just getting started in golf, might want to take notes as her mother discusses her philosophy.

“I think you go into tournaments that you want to win, and you start thinking about that and being nervous,” said Ehrhart. “I was just excited to play, and that’s the attitude I’m going to keep the rest of the weekend. It’s not something to be nervous about.”

The way Ehrhart sees it, there is no reason to stress about something that was not on her radar until recently.

“It’s such a privilege, and it is very surreal,” said Ehrhart, who was reinstated as an amateur four years ago. “I didn’t ever expect there to be a Senior Women’s Open, so that's a bonus right there, and then to actually be in the field with all these girls who I admired and who also regularly beat me week-in and week-out, I just never planned on being here.”

It’s unlikely that anyone expected Buffett to be at Chicago Golf Club, but there he was on Monday, wearing the bib designated for Ehrhart’s caddie, along with a credential that read: Player Instructor, Jimmy Buffett. The founder of the Coral Reefer Band was neither an instructor nor a caddie, nor Ehrhart’s uncle, as one report claimed. But he did once support Ehrhart’s professional golf career, and he now helps to fund the Margaritaville Surf Team, which consists of Scarlett and her sisters Mason, 18, and Lola, 16, who travel internationally to compete.

“He’s been a friend for a long time,” Ehrhart told the USGA in 2015. “He’s in Hawaii quite a bit, so my girls are Jimmy’s surf buddies.”

This week, Ehrhart gets to reconnect with some old buddies from her professional golf days.

“We’ve kept in touch through social media, but living in Hawaii, it’s sort of isolated me from any mainland golf or visiting with friends,” said Ehrhart, who played at the University of South Florida. “I run into girls who I’ve known since junior golf, college golf, and it’s interesting to see what everybody has accomplished.”

Ehrhart’s accomplishments since she became an amateur include two semifinal finishes, in the 2016 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur and the 2017 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur. She is exempt into both championships this year.

“I’ve just loved playing the game,” said Ehrhart. “I enjoy it more now than I ever have, thanks to senior golf. It’s given me a reason to practice and play, and my focus is to try to qualify for as many USGA events as I can. But I can also laugh at myself a lot easier now, and it doesn’t keep me up at night.”

She planned to be kept up a bit late on Friday night to attend Buffett’s concert at Wrigley Field, and perhaps he will return the favor by watching her play on Saturday.

“I think it’s something he would like to do, but not if it’s a huge scene,” said Ehrhart, who describes Buffett as a 15-handicap player whom she cajoled into getting a handicap card two years ago. “If he comes, it would be great. He was so impressed with the event and the girls – he was like, ‘Geez, they all hit it like you do.’ So it’s great for him to realize that.”

And it’s great for Ehrhart to realize that the game – no matter the stage – is just a game.

Ron Driscoll is the senior manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at rdriscoll@usga.org.

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