Chattanooga, Tenn. – September 11.
There is only one 9/11 in the hearts of most Americans. On Sunday, we’ll take time to remember what occurred on that day 10 years ago.
It is 2001 and the USGA Senior Women's Amateur is underway at Allegheny Country Club in Sewickley, Pa.
And then it happened. The World Trade Center. The Pentagon. And United Flight 93 went to the ground in Shanksville, Pa., just 80 miles from this historic little club.
Teresa Belmont, director of the Senior Women's Amateur, is the USGA staff member in charge of the championship. She has run the Senior Women’s Amateur for many years. It is now morning and the players have just started the second round of match play when the horror happens. Belmont – as we all do – has vivid memories of that day.
The players do not know. It is a national championship, so no one is picking up cell phone calls or watching TV. Carol Semple Thompson, the defending champion, hears from her husband Dick Thompson that a plane has crashed into the World Trade Center. She thinks it is perhaps a very small plane. She does not know.
Members of the Senior Women’s Amateur Committee follow the news but keep the tragic information under wraps.
We saw no sense in telling the players until after they finished playing, said Jean St. Charles, a veteran committee member. We wouldn’t even allow the club to lower the flag to half-staff until the matches were over. When the matchers ended, we told the players and lowered the American flag to half-staff.
Roberta Bolduc, a competitor and a member of the USGA Women’s Committee, has lost her first-round match and is flying home. Her plane lands in Albany, N.Y. The day was sparkling, with a clear blue sky.
The Hudson River looked like a silver ribbon in the morning sunlight, Bolduc recalled this week. I thought of the line from the poem, ‘God’s in His Heaven, all’s right with the world.’
Bolduc does not know.
As the players finish their 2001 matches and dash to the clubhouse between rounds, word filters to them about the national tragedy.
I remember it so well, Belmont said. We took all of the quarterfinalists into the clubhouse. All eight of them. I even remember the murals on the walls, the scenes of horses and pastures. And then we let the players decide if they wanted to continue the championship.
The quarterfinalists are from across the nation and one is from Canada. All have national reputations: Taffy Brower of Boynton Beach, Fla.; Liz Haines of Gladwyne, Pa.; Toni Wiesner of Fort Worth, Texas; Marianne Towersey of Newport Beach, Calif.; Anne Carr of Renton, Wash.; Karen Ferree of Hilton Head, S.C.; and Marylou Henderson of Canada, and Thompson, the famed amateur, who is playing in front of the home crowd at the club where she has played for all of her golf life.
And so, in the old white frame clubhouse at Allegheny Country Club, eight senior women players go over their choices. They can go home, and continue the championship at another time, or they can play.
The discussion is short, the decision unanimous. The players are stoic. Planes aren’t flying. There is nowhere for them to go. They will stay. They will play on.
More than a thousand miles away, in St. Louis, Mo., Senior Amateur players make the same decision. The men, too, will play on.
The Senior Women’s Amateur was televised that year for the first and only time. Belmont was pulled in front of the cameras. I remember the intense lights, and then I was told that our championship, and the men’s senior, were the only sporting events in the country that did not cancel and I was asked why, she said. She could only say that the players made the decision.
That night, Senior Women’s Amateur Committee members went out to dinner together. We stayed very close to each other, said St. Charles. We didn’t want to be alone.
Because of the decision of the players, the matches went on. In the end, Thompson won the third of what would be four consecutive titles. She was thoughtful as she spoke of the 9/11 tragedy and the decision of the players.
I think the prevailing opinion was that there wasn’t a thing we could do about what was going on in New York or Washington, and we probably should try to get back to some sort of normalcy, if there is ever going to be such a thing in our lives again, Thompson said.
In the analysis surrounding those tragic days, and in years since, we have been told that the goal of terrorism is to disrupt our lives. Terrorism is designed to force us to ground, so to speak, and to make us change our way of life and everything we love.
Ten years ago, in Sewickley, Pa., eight senior women golfers said no. Eight senior women took a stand. Eight women said, Play on. Perhaps in taking that one small step, they laid the first stone in the foundation of determination and perseverance that would help this country endure.
Rhonda Glenn is a manager of communications for the USGA. E-mail her with questions or comments at email@example.com.