Colorado Springs, Colo. – Christie Austin was shocked when she saw the Rules official assignments for Thursday’s first round of the 2011 U.S. Women’s Open at The Broadmoor.
Austin, a Colorado resident and fifth-year USGA Executive Committee member, decided to verify it with Laura Saf, the individual in charge of assigning officials.
Have you seen the assignments? Saf asked Austin on Wednesday.
Austin thought it might be a practical joke. But there it was in black and white: the 9:12 a.m. grouping off the 10th tee listed Austin as the forward observer, her husband, Bob, as the walking Rules official, and their 15-year-old daughter, Julie, as the standard bearer.
We had never walked together before, said Christie of Bob, who has been on the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship Committee the last four years and has worked the Women’s Open and U.S. Senior Open the past three years.
Julie, who will be a sophomore at Cherry Creek High in suburban Denver, decided to volunteer at this year’s Women’s Open, having attended many other USGA championships as a spectator.
We thought this was the perfect opportunity, being in our home state, said Christie.
Last week at the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championships at Bandon Dunes, Christie served as the chairman of the APL Championship Committee, while Bob worked as a WAPL Rules official. They worked different courses the first four days, so the two only saw each other after play.
Thursday’s unique pairing offered a chance for the family to experience the championship together.
It’s the only 4½ hours all year that I could direct her on what to do, said Bob with a laugh. So I had to tread lightly.
Bob, who scored a perfect 100 on his most recent USGA Rules Test, only had two minor rulings before play was called at 12:47 p.m. MDT for thunderstorms: a ball in a water hazard and a ball on a sprinkler head. But he and Christie were prepared for any circumstance.
If I don’t see something – like where a ball entered [a water hazard] – she’s walking ahead and might say the ball entered here or the ball is in the grandstand, said Bob. She’s helping me out with that. But we haven’t really had that situation yet.
As passionate Rules officials, Christie and Bob both study hard for the annual test. Bob joked that they both keep a copy of the Decisions on the Rules of Golf next to their bed.
We think if we are going to be at this level officiating, we want to be the best we can be, said Christie, who has scored 99 on the test. It’s a process. Our knowledge base and our depth is better.
Bob is also very active in the game within Colorado: he serves on the board of advisors for the Colorado Junior Golf Association and is the head boys coach at Kent Denver School, which has claimed the last five state 3A titles. His teams have recently featured Gunnar Wiebe (now at University of San Diego), Beau Schoolcraft (University of Colorado) and Matt Schovee (now at Southern Methodist), and he said there are at least two to three Division I prospects on his current team.
While his USGA Index (between a 6 and 9) doesn’t allow him to compete in national championships – Christie has played in nine U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateurs and one USGA Senior Women’s Amateur – he finds plenty of joy working the events.
It’s an honor, said Bob, who hopes to work a U.S. Open someday. This is great stuff. I am very appreciative of the people that ask me [to officiate].
As for Julie, she was quite happy to be assigned to her parents’ group. A golfer herself – she played on the varsity girls’ team at Stevenson Prep in Pebble Beach, Calif., last year – Julie got herself acclimated to being a standard bearer in Wednesday’s practice round, walking with the loquacious Christina Kim, amateur Mariah Stackhouse and Jean Chua.
On Thursday, she had Becky Morgan of Wales, Shi Hyun Ahn of Korea and Belen Mozo of Spain. All three were focused, Julie said, and didn’t offer much conversation.
Then again, she could always chat with Mom and Dad.
Christie had warned her daughter that any Rules official she walked with would be nice, although she warned that a few have their idiosyncrasies.
I told her there were a few quirky ones, said Christie. When we came home [Wednesday] night, we told her you have two quirky ones. You’ve got Mom and Dad.
– David Shefter
Rough Start For Stackhouse
Amateur Mariah Stackhouse, 17, playing in her first Women's Open, bogeyed three of the first four holes on Thursday, but insisted she was not especially nervous. I actually expected to be a lot more nervous than I was, said Stackhouse, who carded a 79. I felt pretty comfortable. I thought this would be the hardest course I ever played, but I actually think it sets up pretty well for me. I just didn't give myself a chance.
Stackhouse said she considers The Country Club of North Carolina, site of the 2010 U.S. Girls' Junior Championship, to be the toughest test she has experienced. The Riverdale, Ga., resident missed nine greens at The Broadmoor in the first round, which made scoring nearly impossible.
I was in the rough more today than I had been during all the practice rounds, she said. I just tried to hang in there. At least I kept it in the 70s.
Stackhouse, who won her fourth AJGA championship earlier this year, prevailed in a playoff at the Atlanta sectional to qualify for the Women's Open. A distant relative of NBA player Jerry Stackhouse, Mariah is a high school senior with a 3.96 grade-point average. On Friday, she committed to Stanford University.
A member of the Tiger Woods National Junior Golf Team from 2003-08, Stackhouse said the fact Woods attended Stanford was irrelevant. Tiger or no Tiger, I would be going to Stanford, she said. I'm very excited about it.
Beware Of The Mountain
There’s a theory that putts on the East Course will break away from Cheyenne Mountain. Juli Inkster, a two-time Women’s Open champion who won her third U.S. Women’s Amateur at The Broadmoor in 1982, learned that the hard way Thursday on the 413-yard par-4 14th hole. She never could get a proper read on the green and ended up marring an otherwise decent round, shooting 3-over 74.
She sent her approach shot 25 feet past the flagstick and took three putts for a double bogey.
I made a few mistakes, she said. In a U.S. Open, you can’t do that. -- Ken Klavon
Slowing Down The Broadmoor
The Broadmoor’s East Course was already the longest in U.S. Women’s Open history. Now, thanks to intermittent rain that ultimately helped to suspend play on Thursday, the 7,047-yard course is expected to play even longer as balls likely will not roll out as far.
Actually, I like the rain because it's going to soften the course, make it a little easier to score, said 18-year-old amateur Amy Anderson, who is the first-day co-leader with 2007 U.S. Women’s Open champion Cristie Kerr at 2-under par.
Hard to imagine is that scoring could get much harder.
Only 83 players finished at least one hole on Thursday, so scoring averages are slightly skewed, but when play was called, the field scoring average was 77.160.
Juli Inkster, a two-time U.S. Women’s Open champion, said the greens were rolling slower than the practice rounds due to the moisture and early play.
Players were taking an average of 2.11 putts on the 176-yard, par-3 eighth hole that features a hole location in the back middle portion of the green. Shots left of the hole location was leaving a dicey two-putt uphill. – Stuart Hall