Laura Davies was playing one final nine-hole round to stay loose for the U.S. Women’s Open. She stood on the teeing ground of the par-3 17th hole at Lancaster Country Club, watching as the hopeful players in front of her blasted bunker shots to distant corners of the putting surface and worked chip shots from improbable angles. One player even pulled out a craftsman-grade level to gauge the pitch of the green as she walked to potential hole locations.
As the players and their entourages were walking off the back of the green, Davies was already in the middle of her backswing. Her tee shot landed on the right fringe; she didn’t check her yardage, hit another ball or confer with a swing coach to obsess about a swing gone slightly awry.
“They are taking too much time out here,” Davies said with a smile in her soft English lilt. “You have to do your work, get your swing right and then trust yourself. There are so many bloody coaches and trainers pushing and pulling players today that they don’t trust their swings and their ability to play and enjoy the game.”
Davies chipped her practice tee shot close, tapped in and moved on to sign autographs for golf fans young and old, while her playing partners got in a little extra work before signing as they waited – again – for the group ahead to finish the obsessive calculations and swing rehearsals.
Joined on the tee by Fox Sports announcers Greg Norman and Brad Faxon, Davies shared a quiet joke with them, then rocketed a drive up the 18th fairway, eliciting appreciative hoots and whistles from the announcers and fans as the ball went about 40 yards farther than any drive they’d seen on the finishing hole.
The 1987 U.S. Women’s Open champion shakes her head and laughs, shrugs in a “maybe it’s just me” kind of way. Which, of course, it is.
Always a fan favorite, the 51-year-old Davies has also been a winner at every turn. She has 20 LPGA victories, and set the record with 45 victories on the Ladies European Tour. In addition to the U.S. Women’s Open – which Davies won at Plainfield Country Club in an 18-hole playoff against Ayako Okamoto and JoAnne Gunderson Carner before she’d even become an LPGA member – she won three other majors: the 1994 and ’96 LPGA Championships and the 1996 du Maurier Classic. She was the leading money-winner in 1994 and the Player of the Year in ’96, but she’d really rather talk about right now than 20 years ago – especially since those accomplishments are anyone wants to discuss right now.
“I am so gratified to hear from these fans and writers and friends and family about this honor, she said. “I am honored about this thing on Monday, but I am a golfer and I would rather win the U.S. Women’s Open again than talk about what I did before.”
The “thing” happens to be her induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. There, she will be joined by 1979 U.S. Amateur champion Mark O’Meara, 1981 U.S. Open champion David Graham and famed Golden Age golf course architect A.W. Tillinghast in the Class of 2015. In this momentous year, Davies was honored by Queen Elizabeth II. Dame Laura Davies’s full title is Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. To top it off, she was among the first women granted membership into the R&A.
“I am so touched and honored to be recognized,” Davies said. “But I am an absolute wreck over it. I despise being the center of attention and now I will have to talk about myself in front of everyone – especially so close to home! Why couldn’t it have been in Florida this year? Now I will have to speak live on the Golf Channel and Sky TV.”
The induction ceremony will be broadcast live in the U.S. by Golf Channel at 1 p.m. ET on Monday, July 13.
“It keeps me up at night, worrying that I am going make an absolute fool of myself,” she said “When it is over, I will cherish every moment, but until then I haven’t gotten a moment’s sleep.”
Davies remains focused on her game and is trying to earn enough points to qualify for the European team in the Solheim Cup. “It killed me to miss the 2013 Cup,” she said, “but I didn’t earn my way on. But I would love to make it back. I believe that I am hitting the ball well enough to win on the tours and in the major championships.”
What does Davies see as the key to her longevity? “Well, obviously I am quite strong and I don’t practice to the nth degree,” she said. “I still have a lot of life left in this body. My wrists are fine, my knee is bad but that is from years of soccer as a kid, not from golf. I just haven’t worn myself out on the practice area. I believe that I can play another five or 10 years.”
Judging by the support she has been getting from the galleries at Lancaster Country Club, the feeling is mutual.
“It is quite special, actually,” Davies said. “I think many of the golf fans were children when I would come and play the Hershey tournament or the Betsy King Classic. They are all grown up now, which makes me appreciate these moments.”
And on Monday, the entire golf world will have the opportunity to show her how much we’ve appreciated her.
David Chmiel is manager of Members content for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.