U.S. SENIOR WOMEN'S OPEN
5 Things You Need to Know for Round 2 July 13, 2018 | WHEATON, ILL. By Ron Sirak

Helen Alfredsson is one of two players from Sweden, along with two players from England, in the top 5 after the first round. (USGA/Chris Keane)

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The inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open began with a bang on Thursday at Chicago Golf Club with a moving opening ceremony, Nancy Lopez serving as honorary starter and JoAnne Carner getting things going by hitting the first tee shot. And then there was some sensational play as five players posted scores under par on an extremely challenging golf course. It was a great beginning, but it was only the beginning. Here are five things to look for on Friday:

A Crosby Not Named Bing Or Nathaniel: Perhaps the biggest surprise among those who broke par was Elaine Crosby, who leads at 3 under par. She’s a 60-year-old administrator at Jackson Area Catholic Schools in Jackson, Mich., who has played about 50 Legends Tour events since leaving the LPGA Tour in 2000 following a 16-year career. She did win twice on the LPGA and was T-6 in the 1990 U.S. Women’s Open. Her only competition in 2018 is two rounds in a Legends Tour event and three rounds in the Michigan Open. She earned her spot in the field at a Senior Women’s Open qualifier at nearby Conway Farms Golf Club with a 72. “I saw that the scores were pretty high this morning and I thought uh-oh,” said Crosby, who played in the afternoon. “But I’ve been hitting it well and I rolled it well today.”

World Cup Redux: It was England against Sweden in the quarterfinals of World Cup soccer, with England advancing. But Sweden has a chance to get some payback this week. Among the five players who broke par on Thursday are Trish Johnson and Laura Davies of England, both at 2 under par, and Liselotte Neumann and Helen Alfredsson of Sweden, Lotta at 2 under par and Alfie at 1 under. “Lotta and I were talking about 1979, we played the European Juniors,” Davies said. “We played against each other. She was representing Sweden, I was obviously England, and here we are again 39 years later, and playing again.” In Neumann, 51, the 54-year-old Davies has a formidable foe. “I mean, just being here, it's just an amazing feeling,” Neumann said. “The golf course, everything is just set up so great, and it's in perfect condition. For me to start out like I did today, 2 under, I'm super happy with that round.”

The Carner Cut Watch: In one of the more remarkable performances of the first round, 79-year-old JoAnne Carner shot her age after making bogey on the first four holes. Needing a birdie on No. 18 for a 79, Big Momma came through, tapping in a 2-footer. Carner holds the record as the oldest player to make a cut in an LPGA event – 65 – and now she threatens to set a record that could stand in this event for a very long time. “I can shoot this course under par,” Carner said after her round. She may not need to do that to be among the 50 and ties that qualify for the weekend. She is in a tie for 50th going into Friday.

Low Bay Area Broadcaster: Juli Inkster and Kay Cockerill both have carved out careers in broadcasting, they both live near San Francisco and they play a little bit of recreational golf together. Now they are in a tussle near the top of the leader board at the U.S. Senior Women’s Open. Inkster put up an even-par 73 on Thursday while Cockerill is at 74. “I had the cutest video put together by my Golf Channel crew, a six-minute video just wishing me luck, everyone from engineers to commentators to producers, and I watched that this morning while I had breakfast, and I literally was going back and forth between laughing and crying,” said Cockerill. Inkster, who works the booth during the Fox broadcast of USGA events, was less upbeat after her round. “I played defensive all day," she said. "But very happy with even par today. Could have been a lot worse, so I just need to go back and try to work on something with my swing.”

Sizzling Chicago: The second round likely will be the most challenging of the week in terms of the weather. The mercury is supposed to climb into the 90s and feel like it is in the high 90s with the humidity factored in. Chicago Golf Club is already playing fast and firm and there will be even more giddy-up if this weather forecast pans out. “It is getting very firm in the fairways,” said Crosby. She said playing position golf with less-than-driver off the tee could be a key going forward. Friday may well be a day when playing defense will be the best way to go at the golf course. And it could be a day that tests the conditioning of the players.

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

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