Summer heat is not exactly an unexpected issue for golf course agronomy staffs in Arizona. But there is heat, and then there were the record-breaking temperatures that enveloped the Valley of the Sun recently. Greater Phoenix experienced 54 days of 110-degree temperatures or higher this summer, with July being the hottest month recorded in the city’s history. Fortunately, cooler weather (high 80s) is forecasted for the 61st U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Championship, which begins Saturday at Troon Country Club.
Located at a higher elevation than the downtown area has certainly helped Troon’s agronomy team, led by superintendent Seth Miller, to get the course more than ready for the field of 132 players (from a championship record 594 entries).
This will be the club’s second USGA championship, following the 1990 U.S. Mid-Amateur won by Jim Stuart. The U.S. Mid-Amateur is returning to Troon in 2025.
A collaboration between the late Jay Morrish and the late Tom Weiskopf, Troon Country Club opened in 1986 and is set in North Scottsdale with views of nearby Pinnacle Peak and the McDowell Mountains. Weiskopf, along with design partner Phil Smith, returned in 2020 to complete a course renovation project. The par-72 layout is expected to play at 5,797 yards for the championship.
“The renovation project was really about it being time for Tom to bring his very first course design back up to speed a little,” said Tim Rafferty, head professional at Troon Country Club since 1989. “There were no routing changes, but we completely re-turfed the entire property and renovated all of the bunkers. And to this day, if he was sitting next to me, Tom would still say this was the best (course) he did. For the almost 40 years we were friends, he always loved this place. He was an unbelievable architect and a great visionary.”
Here are three things to know about this week’s championship:
Judith Kyrinis, of Canada, has enjoyed a spectacular summer. She won her third Canadian Women’s Mid-Amateur in July. Then not only did she qualify for the 2023 U.S. Senior Women’s Open at Waverley Country Club in Portland, Ore., (where she won the 2017 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur), she tied for sixth, the best amateur finish in the championship’s brief history. The 59-year-old was also the oldest player ever to reach the quarterfinals of the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur held earlier this month at Stonewall in Elverson, Pa.
So what’s been the secret?
“That is such a tough question as there is no one key thing,” she said. “A combination of keeping the swing simple, my mental game strong, and expectations in check. Literally, the one-shot-at-a-time philosophy without being outcome focused. Let it happen.”
Kyrinis wouldn’t mind adding a second U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur title to her already impressive playing portfolio. “We all want to come away with a win at this one,” she said. “This is the cream of the crop for Senior Amateur golf. So many USGA champions in the field this week, so many looking to make this their first win. It is highly competitive and you just hope you get on a roll in match play.”
Where were you in 1992? Then 23-year-old Nicki Tizani played in the U.S. Women’s Amateur that year at Kemper Lakes in Long Grove, Ill.., where Vicki Goetze defeated future Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam in the 36-hole final.
The following year, she married professional golfer Steve Stricker, the 2019 U.S. Senior Open champion and runner-up in 2022 and 2023. But it would be several years before her second USGA championship – 31, to be exact. Stricker, 54, of Madison, Wis., shot a 7-over-par 77 at Glenview (Ill.) Park Golf Club to earn her place at Troon Country Club this week. Although a regular caddie in PGA Tour Champions events for her husband, including the 2019 U.S. Senior Open at Notre Dame’s Warren Golf Course, Stricker also played at the University of Wisconsin, where her father, Dennis, was the coach.
So why return to a USGA championship now after more than three decades? “I don’t know,” Stricker told Wisconsin.golf last month. “I just was playing with my family. They’re all doing their thing and working toward something. I kept trying to get better, but what am I trying to get better for? It was just that – to kind of see what would happen if I was actually getting ready for something. Just throw a score up there and see what happens.”
Three-time U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur champion Lara Tennant of Portland, Ore., is no stranger to the Grand Canyon State or Troon Country Club. She played four years of college golf at the University of Arizona 90 miles south in Tucson, and her father, George Mack, was one of the original members at the club from 1986-1997. “I was in Tucson at the time at the University of Arizona, so I probably played it about 10 times while he was a member,” said Tennant. “He is really excited to caddie for me there. Hopefully, some of his home-course knowledge will help.”
If it does, Tennant could join Carolyn Cudone, Dorothy Germain Porter, Anne Quast Sander and Carole Semple Thompson as a four-time champion of an event first contested in 1962. Only Semple Thompson, however, has won four times at match play. The format changed from 54 holes of stroke play to match play in 1997.
Tom Mackin is an Arizona-based freelance writer whose work has appeared on USGA websites.