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In Quarterfinals for First Time, Wooster Wants More

By Lisa D. Mickey

| Oct 10, 2018 | Vero Beach, Fla.

Sue Wooster has won national championships in three countries. She hopes this week she can add the United States to that list. (USGA/Fred Vuich)

U.S. Senior Women's Amateur Home

At 4 a.m. back home in Melbourne, Australia, the youngest son of Sue Wooster set his clock to ring every 15 minutes so he could keep an eye on his mum’s match-play progress on Tuesday in the 57th U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Championship.

That live-scoring watch in the wee hours ended up being worth a loss of sleep for Tyler Wooster when his mother won her afternoon Round-of-16 match, 4 and 2, over Marie-Therese Torti of Canada to move into the quarterfinal round at Orchid Island Golf & Beach Club.

Wooster will face Patricia Ehrhart in Wednesday’s second quarterfinal match at 8:10 a.m. EDT, which means her son will again be monitoring her progress from 15 hours ahead, starting at 11:10 p.m. in Australia’s state of Victoria.

“I’m having a good stretch of golf,” said Wooster, 56, who has won five championships this year, including the Canadian Senior Women’s Amateur, the Canadian Women’s Mid-Amateur and the New Zealand Senior Women’s Amateur.

“I like to say I’m playing the bell curve and maybe I’m at the top of the curve at the moment with some good timing,” added Wooster, who has also won national women’s amateur championships in Australia.

And while Wooster has won at least 15 prestigious amateur tournaments around the world, the championship she wants to win most is the one in which she is currently contending.

“I want to win a USGA championship because you can’t do any better than that in amateur golf,” said Wooster, who was the runner-up in the 2017 Women’s Senior Amateur Championship, which is conducted by The R&A.

“Right now, there are eight of us left, so I figure I have a one-in-eight chance to win,” she added.

Like many of the players in the Senior Women’s Amateur, Wooster took up golf late in life. She “hit a few shots” with her father’s old clubs as a child, took some golf lessons around age 25, but did not get serious about high-level competition until she was in her 40s. That came after rearing four sons.

“I wanted to play more competitively after I started playing, but I could only go so far because I was raising a family,” Wooster said. “It’s more frustrating than anything when you’re trying to compete and you can’t practice.”

Now that her sons are adults and helping in the family’s commercial plumbing business in Melbourne, Sue and her husband, Keith, are dabbling with quasi-retirement and traveling the world for her tournaments.

“We have some spare time now that the boys can help out, and for the last few years, I’ve tried to play more tournaments to see how well I can do,” she said.

“I’m not happy just being retired and playing social golf,” she added. “That’s not enough for me. I enjoy the challenge of these championships.”

Wooster played in her first USGA championship, the 2013 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur at CordeValle  in California, at age 51. At the time, she didn’t realize that players with a top-500 World Amateur Golf Ranking didn’t have to qualify. She was ranked in the 200s when those qualifying tournaments were staged that year.

Wooster unknowingly booked airline travel for herself and her husband from Australia to California for a qualifier, and also confidently went ahead and booked their travel to the Senior Women’s Am.

“When we learned I didn’t have to qualify, we traded in our tickets and went on vacation to Hong Kong, then used the second set of tickets for the championship,” said Wooster with a laugh.

Wooster advanced to match play in that 2013 USGA debut, falling to Lynn McMillan, 3 and 1, in the Round of 64.

That was the start of a pursuit that has enticed her ever since. To date, Wooster has made it to match play in the Senior Women’s Am and Women’s Mid-Am championships all nine times she has attempted to qualify.

Prior to this week’s championship, her best finish in match play had been the Round of 32 in the 2016 and 2017 Senior Women’s Amateur, as well as at the 2016 Women’s Mid-Am. Wooster also tied for 40th at this year’s inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open.

To advance into the quarterfinals of a USGA championship for the first time this week is already a milestone for Wooster, regardless of what happens next.

“I would call that a success,” she said. “You have to play some great golf, and you need a bit of luck with a few things to go your way to win, but in match play, you just never know because you can play great and still lose.”

In order to compete at her best, Wooster has dedicated herself to improvement. She began working with a personal trainer in her 30s and has continued on that path, lifting weights, going to the gym four times a week and keeping her body flexible with Pilates.

“It gets more important as you get older,” she said. “You need to eat well, have good fitness and keep some muscle mass because it all shows up in your game if you don’t.”

Wooster’s husband Keith is her caddie this week and the two balance each other with Keith’s laid-back demeanor and Sue’s wound-up, high-energy level. When Sue needs to settle down, Keith is in her ear – reminding her there’s much golf to be played.

“She works hard and deserves the results she gets,” said her husband. “When she started competing, she had to play against all the young girls, like [current LPGA players] Minjee Lee and Sue Oh.”

“I’m really proud of her and I help remind her to just do her best and give herself opportunities,” added Keith. “If it doesn’t work, we’ll go play another tournament later on.”

One thing Sue Wooster has learned for certain in her short competitive golf career is that a “win” often means playing well, staying focused and being decisive in her shots. It’s a challenge she admittedly enjoys.

And sometime during her Wednesday quarterfinal match, her son will roll over in his bed halfway around the world, look at a screen and smile – knowing that win or lose, his mother is playing some of her most accomplished championship golf.

Lisa D. Mickey is a Florida-based freelance writer whose work appears frequently on USGA digital channels.

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