They don’t call it the “Last Frontier” for nothing. Alaska completes the USGA’s circuit of the 50 states this week by hosting its first USGA championship, the 60th U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur. Many of the world’s best female golfers 50 and older will vie for the title starting on Saturday at Anchorage Golf Course, which opened in 1987 and is one of just 21 golf courses in the state.
Alaska is a big state. How big, you ask? The next three largest states in area (Texas, California and Montana) could fit inside Alaska with plenty of room to spare. It’s also a young state – 2nd-youngest in the U.S. to Hawaii, winning the race from territory to statehood by a matter of months over Hawaii in 1959. That makes it barely older than the Senior Women’s Amateur, which debuted three years later, in 1962.
For a state making its championship debut, Alaska has a strong golf pedigree. It has hosted numerous USGA championship qualifiers, including a local qualifier for the U.S. Open in every year qualifying has been held since 2006. Players have come from as far away as Japan to attempt to earn the precious single spot in final qualifying that is up for grabs. Probably the best-known player with Alaska roots is Danny Edwards, who won five times on the PGA Tour and played for the 1973 USA Walker Cup Team. Edwards was born in 1951 in Ketchikan, the southernmost city in the state.
On Saturday, Pamela Chesla, 61, who moved from Texas to Alaska in 1975, will hit the first shot of the first USGA championship in the state. After that, the goal is the same for everyone in the 132-player field: be one of 64 to advance to match play.
Here are 3 Things to Know about the 2022 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur:
Lara Tennant is one of several past U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur champions in the field, but the only reigning one – and a three-time reigning one at that. Tennant reeled off 18 consecutive match-play victories in 2018, 2019 and 2021 (the championship was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020) to join seven other players who have won this title three or more times. In a sure indication that Tennant is in rarified air, she is seeking to match the feat of legendary Carol Semple Thompson, who is the only four-time champion of this event since 1997. That’s the year the format changed from a 54-hole, stroke-play test to the more traditional USGA amateur championship format: 36 holes of qualifying and six match-play rounds to determine the champion.
Last year, Tennant, 55, became the 12th player to win a USGA championship at least three times in a row (it’s been done 13 times by those players, with Tiger Woods the lone repeater: 1991-93 U.S. Junior Amateur and 1994-96 U.S. Amateur). The Portland, Ore., native and former college player at the University of Arizona already shares one distinction with Thompson: they are the only two players in the aforementioned match-play era to win the title as medalist – Thompson did it in 2002, the last of her four straight titles, while Tennant did it last year.
Tennant’s first two victories in this championship in 2018 and 2019 came via matching 3-and-2 wins over Sue Wooster of Australia. Wooster is back this year among a strong contingent of international players, several of whom have made deep runs in this championship as well as earning important victories in their own country.
Wooster, 60, of the Australian state of Victoria, won the 2022 European Senior Ladies’ title by eight strokes at Parnu Bay Golf Links in Estonia last month, and she has also captured the Western Australia and the Scottish Senior Women’s stroke-play titles in 2022. Among those Wooster defeated in Estonia was Sylvie van Molle, of Belgium. Molle was the runner-up in the 2019 British Senior Women’s Amateur, and she reached the quarterfinals of last year’s U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur at The Lakewood Club, in Point Clear, Ala., where she lost to seven-time USGA champion Ellen Port. Laura Webb, of Northern Ireland, advanced to the quarterfinals of this championship in her 2019 debut and has won Irish, British, Welsh and Spanish senior titles, the latter in 2022.
Players from Canada have traditionally made strong showings in this championship, led recently by Judith Kyrinis, the 2017 champion and 2014 runner-up. Kyrinis, 58, of Thornhill, Ontario, gave Tennant arguably her toughest match in 2021, losing in 19 holes in the Round of 32. Other Canadian hopefuls include Terrill Samuel, 61, (the 2017 runner-up to Kyrinis who captured the British Senior Women’s Amateur earlier this month at Royal Dornoch, overtaking Tennant the final day to win the 72-hole stroke-play event), along with Shelly Stouffer, 52, of British Columbia, who got to the semifinals last year at Lakewood in her championship debut.
Among the familiar names on the list for this championship is newcomer Ulrika Migliaccio, of Cary, N.C. Long before her daughter, Emilia, played on a pair of winning USA Curtis Cup Teams and enjoyed a successful college career at Wake Forest, Ulrika was winning the Swedish girls’ title and competing on a pair of NCAA title teams at the University of Arizona. Migliaccio turned 50 on June 5 and is the championship’s youngest player. Another rookie is fellow 50-year-old Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll, of Haslett, Mich., who is head coach of the Michigan State women’s golf team and a five-time Big Ten Coach of the Year in her 25 years there.
Two other players making their Senior Women’s Am debut are Ulrika Belline, 52, of Sweden, and Claudia Ramirez, 51, of San Antonio, Texas. Belline is a single mother of three who picked up her clubs last year after an 11-year hiatus from golf. She was a member of the Swedish National Junior Team from 1989-1993, and a member of the 1990 and 1993 Arizona State women’s golf teams, both of which won NCAA titles. Ramirez is a Titleist Performance Institute-certified instructor who specializes in working with junior and senior golfers. She played college tennis at Texas Christian University, where she earned a degree in neuroscience.
Ron Driscoll is the senior manager of content for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.