Almost two decades after she last played in a USGA championship, Lisa Morrissett is back on the national stage at the 58th U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur at Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Country Club.
But this time she brings an entirely new perspective on the game that had long been an integral part of her life.
The daughter of two longtime USGA officials, the 52-year-old Morrissett played in 15 USGA championships between 1982 and 2000, advancing to match play in the 1992 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links at Haggin Oaks in Sacramento, Calif., and the 2000 U.S. Women’s Amateur at Waverley Country Club in Portland, Ore.
Co-captain of the women’s golf team at the University of Missouri in 1989, Morrissett won the 1989 Tennessee Women’s State Amateur and the 1990 Indianapolis Women’s City Amateur. Her career was golf-oriented, as well: she worked as a championship administrator, including at the 1995 and 1998 U.S. Women’s Opens.
But in 2001, competitive golf fell to the wayside. Morrissett got married, moved to a new town and became a stay-at-home mom to her daughter, Amy Jayne. During the ensuing years however, her life began to change in other ways.
“Without competitive golf as an anchor and a compass in my life, I slowly leaked the off-the-charts confidence and self-esteem that had always been there,” she said. “My weight ballooned. My marriage failed. I found myself needing to go back to work and finding that my industry did not welcome me back with open arms; it had moved on without me.”
As she tried to find her way, golf slid even farther off the radar.
“The first summer I took off (from playing competitively), my daughter was 18 months old,” she said. “Then one summer turned into two, then three, then five, 10 and so on. Maybe I was almost intimidated by how much work it was going to take to get back to where I was. Sometimes it was fun to just go out and hit it, but to know the level I played at before, I just wasn’t interested in really doing that.”
But earlier this year she returned to the golf business, joining Cohoat and O’Neal Management, a Carmel, Ind.-based company that provides consulting services to the golf and real estate industries. The job got her back out to golf clubs and courses, stirring the competitive juices that had long been dormant.
“For me the competition is my motivation,” she said. “It’s a little fear-based, too. If I put something on the calendar, I’m not not going to practice because I don’t want to embarrass myself.”
Two events made it on that calendar this year: the Indiana Women’s Golf Association Match Play Championship in early July and the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur qualifier a few weeks later at Sycamore Hills Golf Club in Fort Wayne, Ind.
At the former, players more than 30 years her junior were hitting drives 70 yards past her. “That’s when I thought about keeping everything in perspective, stay in your lane, and play your own game,” said Morrissett, who finished tied for 22nd.
At Sycamore Hills, with her 76-year-old father, Joe Luigs, on the bag, she made her only birdie of the day on the second playoff hole to qualify for the championship.
“All of a sudden I tried not to think about what that meant because then I would have started to cry,” she said. “It has been quite a road to get back to a USGA championship.”
It’s been a familiar place for her parents, however. Her mother, Marcia Luigs, and her father are both longtime USGA Rules officials who have served on multiple committees. Her father also received the 2010 Joe Dey Award from the USGA for meritorious service to the game as a volunteer. Both Luigs are also members of the Indiana Golf Hall of Fame.
As Morrissett likes to say, the game has provided her family with an “embarrassment of riches.”
Like the moment she shared with her father at the 1989 U.S. Women’s Amateur at Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina, the first USGA championship when he was on her bag.
“Somewhere on the course we were waiting to play and he turned to me and said, ‘You know, I really never thought I’d ever have a daughter who would be playing in a USGA championship.’ I’ve always carried that with me.”
During the 1990 U.S. Women’s Amateur at Canoe Brook Country Club in Summit, N.J., her father was back on the bag while her mother was the starter who introduced each group.
“After she said my name I promptly drove it under a tree,” she said with a laugh. “Still, that was pretty cool.”
This past Thursday, as she and her parents drove to Iowa from Indianapolis, they reminisced about all the places they have been thanks to the USGA.
“We’re beyond fortunate to be able to do this,” she said. “This trip wouldn’t have been possible without the support of my sister Amy back home in Indianapolis, who is taking care of various pets and our homes.”
Morrissett, who says her self-confidence has now come back 100 percent, is determined to enjoy the moment this week, no matter her scores. She opened with a round of 84 on Saturday.
“I certainly have a lot more gratitude and appreciation for the game, and certainly for my parents,” she said. “You’re never too old to start over. My No. 1 goal this week is to stay present and grounded and not look ahead, because that’s just so easy to do in golf. Even though my game is super rusty, I still feel like I have a lot left in the tank. I’ll do the best with what I’ve got.”
Arizona resident Tom Mackin is a frequent contributor to USGA digital channels. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.