KETTERING, Ohio – NCR Country Club, the host of this week’s USGA Women’s State Team Championship, features 36 holes of golf. The bulk of the attention goes to the South Course, which has staged a PGA Championship, U.S. Women’s Open and U.S. Senior Open over the past 44 years. NCR’s North Course, however, has also proved itself to be a tough championship test, having served as the companion stroke-play course for the 1998 U.S. Mid-Amateur.
“If you play the North Course from the back tees, it will give you everything you want. It’s very, very challenging,” said Steve Bolerjack, the club’s chief operating officer. “It has tall fescue, where the South Course has a lot of trees. It’s more open, but has a tremendous amount of bunkering.”
While the North Course provides a stiff test from those back tees at 7,055 yards, it has also distinguished itself as a course that can be enjoyed by players of all levels.
In addition to the traditional forward tees, which play at 5,225 yards, five years ago the club installed two other tees as part of the PGA Family Course program. The tees, marked “Gold” and “Blue,” make it possible for players to play the 18-hole layout at lengths of 3,299 and 1,889 yards, respectively, with holes measuring anywhere from 55 to 280 yards. A separate scorecard is available for players who use those tees, and the initiative has proven popular with younger golfers and beginners.
“We were only one of two or three clubs in the state of Ohio who originally [became involved with] the program,” Bolerjack recalled. “Junior activities and programming are a big part of who we are, and so we wanted to have that available, to attract and be able to recruit the younger families.”
The Play Golf America website now lists more than 50 facilities in Ohio that are a part of the program, with courses available all over the country. You can find a listing for each state here.
New York Down to Two
Squads competing in the Women’s State Team can generally absorb one lackluster round each day, as the two lowest scores are counted for each team, which traditionally has three players. Vermont knew heading into the championship that they wouldn’t have that luxury, as Shelly Yusko and Nancy Gorham-Lasante prepared for the week knowing they would be the duo carrying the flag for the Green Mountain State.
New York, however, was dealt a blow just two days before the start of play, when Alexis Hios was forced to withdraw on Sunday, meaning Ellen Oswald and Denise Martorana would have both of their scores count for all three rounds.
“In a way, trying to look at the positive, you just know that your score is going to count and to just give it your best shot,” said Oswald, who shot nine-over par 82 on Tuesday. “You just try to just stick with it and help out your teammate, since you’re both in the same boat.”
A Championship For All Ages
One of the most recognizable characteristics of the Women’s State Team is the wide age range of the competitors, which was on full display during Tuesday’s first round at NCR Country Club. The 8:31 a.m. pairing featured 12-year-old Aneka Seumanutafa of Hawaii, the youngest player in the field, and California’s Robyn Puckett, who, at 66, is the oldest player in the field.
Puckett knew her playing partner was young, but she was unaware of the coincidence until midway through her round.
“I knew that there was a 12-year-old on the Hawaiian team, but I didn’t know who it was,” said Puckett, who shot an 11-over 84 on Tuesday. “I thought it was the player in the group ahead of us, so I asked Aneka, 'how old are you?' and she said she was 12, and I just thought to myself, ‘oh, I guess they paired the oldest and the youngest together.'"
Despite the age disparity, the two seemed to enjoy each other’s company, and will get to do so again on Wednesday afternoon.
“I’m kind of used to playing with older people,” said Seumanutafa, who edged her fellow competitor by a stroke with an 83. “I had fun playing with [Robyn], she’s a fun person to play with.”
“It was a great experience for me, I just enjoy the new breed of golfers coming up, and the way Aneka hits the ball, she just gets up and wallops it,” Puckett added.
Stasi Relishes Role of Playing Captain
Meghan Stasi is used to having titles attached to her name when it comes to her participation in USGA championships. The 35-year-old Oakland Park, Fla., resident is a four-time U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion, and represented the United States in the 2008 Curtis Cup Match. This week at the Women’s State Team, she has assumed the role of captain of a Florida team that she is representing as a player for the third time.
The duty was given to Stasi since Meghan Martinek, the Director of Women’s Golf for the Florida State Golf Association, is working with the USGA this week and is not able to assume the role.
“It’s an honor to represent the state and to be here. It’s all about the team. We’re all grounded in the team concept, so we’re just enjoying each other’s company,” said Stasi, who, along with teammate Tara-Joy Connelly, fired an even-par 73 on Tuesday and is tied for sixth among individuals.
Scott Lipsky is the USGA’s social media specialist. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.