Caryn (Copeland) Wilson put her golf clubs away three years ago after missing the final stage of the LPGA’s qualifying school by one stroke. There was disappointment and frustration for a woman who has played both professional golf and tennis on the highest stage.
Enter her husband, Stan. He delicately began to encourage her to apply for reinstated amateur status so that she would regain her enthusiasm.
"She loves to play golf," he said. "She loves to compete. I said, You love to play and we had a great time playing in USGA events way back when. Just go out there and try."
Wilson, who is one of two women to play in the U.S. Open in both golf and tennis, joining the legendary Althea Gibson, is playing in this week’s USGA Senior Women’s Amateur Championship, her first event since returning to the game.
"If I put the clubs away again after this week I will be so happy that I came in this direction again," said Wilson, who has also qualified for next month’s U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur. "It would be too bad if that (LPGA Q-School) was my last moment in golf."
Wilson, 52, of Rancho Mirage, Calif., is a three-time tennis All-American at Stanford University who went on to play professionally. She competed at Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the Australian Open in the mid-1980s and rose to the world ranking of No. 124. When her playing career was over, she went into coaching, first as an assistant at Stanford and then the head coach at Santa Monica Junior College.
Following that segment of her life, Stan was there to provide direction again. The former television news anchor introduced his wife to golf at a par-3 course in Florida. After whiffing at her first couple of balls, she developed her skill-set and began winning local tournaments and playing in USGA events. She turned pro in 1999 and qualified for the first of two U.S. Opens.
"The attraction of golf versus tennis is that you can play with anybody of any level but you can play by yourself," Wilson said. "I needed a tournament to get me out playing again."
Playing in the USGA Senior Women’s Amateur at CordeValle has provided motivation.
"It’s competitive but there is a different tone about it," said Wilson, who was a semifinalist at the 1997 Women’s Mid-Amateur and has played in three U.S. Women’s Amateurs. "When you get to our age you have seen more things. It gives you perspective on life and what’s important. You just have to enjoy every day."
Stan, who usually travels in a recreational vehicle with Caryn and couple’s golden retriever, is his wife’s caddie this week. He is providing quiet advice.
"I just try to keep her calm," he said. Maybe tell her a joke or two. "Remind her that she is having fun out here; it isn’t life or death."
Wilson concurs that her husband is great at keeping it simple and wonders if she would have had a more successful tennis career if she met him earlier.
"I am still learning about myself," she said. "I am still working on bringing the athletic ‘Caryn’ out. Sometimes I get tied up and start thinking too much."
Wilson has advanced to the second day of match play at the Senior Women’s Amateur in her return to the game.
"She is surprising herself," Stan said. "But it doesn’t surprise me."
McMurdy Indicative of Diverse Field
The 132 players at the USGA Senior Women’s Amateur come from all walks of life. There are corporate executives, law enforcement officials, doctors, bankers and teachers. Sue McMurdy fits right in with the diverse group.
"It means our backgrounds are all different," said McMurdy, who played in her first USGA championship 40 years ago at the U.S. Girls’ Junior. "The common ground is that we love the game."
McMurdy, 57, of Indiana, Pa., is taking a hiatus following a 35-year career with a Pittsburgh-based bank holding company, where she started in data processing and advanced to executive vice president and chief operating officer. In 2011, she was named CIO of the Year of Large Corporations by the Pittsburgh Tech Council.
Golf has always been a family activity for McMurdy, who can now add the title of grandmother to her roles as wife, mother and bank executive. The game has also aided her business career.
"It’s absolutely important," said McMurdy, who noted that there were not many women in mathematics and technology. "Golf is an amazing way to level the playing field. It gave me opportunities that a lot of men executives didn’t have. Once you are in the game, performance speaks for itself."
McMurdy, who is participating in her first Senior Women’s Amateur, is the reigning club champion at Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club. She played in the 1978 U.S. Women’s Open, held at the Country Club of Indianapolis, two Women’s Amateurs, and the 2005 Women’s Mid-Amateur. She even found time to serve as president of the Pennsylvania State Women’s Golf Association.
During her current rest-and-recharge period, McMurdy is contributing in different ways as a consultant, speaker and a member of various boards. As a breast cancer survivor, she is concerned with women’s health and is chairing the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women campaign.
"They want to see real people," said McMurdy about her advocacy for women taking control of their lives. "I went to work with a baseball cap because I didn’t have any hair. Role models are real people."
At the USGA Senior Women’s Amateur there is a diversity of thought and experience that is bound together by golf.
"They are amazing women," McMurdy said. "You have to look sometimes."
Nine USGA champions advanced to the second day of match play: Mary Budke (1972 Women’s Amateur), Terri Frohnmayer (2011 Senior Women’s Amateur), Mina Hardin (2010 Senior Women’s Amateur), Mary Ann Hayward (2005 Women’s Mid-Amateur), Sherry Herman (2009 Senior Women’s Amateur), Joan Higgins (2008 Women’s Mid-Amateur), Martha Leach (2009 Women’s Mid-Amateur), Ellen Port (1995, 1996, 2000, 2011 Women’s Mid-Amateur, 2012 Senior Women’s Amateur) and Corey Weworski (2004 Women’s Mid-Amateur) … Port led a group of nine players who also advanced to the Senior Women’s Amateur’s Round of 32 at Hershey (Pa.) Country Club in 2012.
Brian DePasquale is a manager of championship communications for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.