Sue Wooster’s impressive, albeit relatively brief, competitive golf career has spanned thousands of miles, across several time zones. Having won championships across the globe, Wooster is no stranger to racking up frequent flyer miles, but her most recent slate might be the most impressive scheduling stretch of her career: four USGA championships in less than two months.
To Wooster’s memory, she has never played in more than three USGA championships in a single year. The 61-year-old Aussie earned exemptions into all four of the championships on her schedule this year; the exemptions took a lot of the question marks of having to qualify out of the equation and allowed her to plan ahead for a jam-packed, 59-day stretch of elite competition.
After finishing in eighth place at the Arizona Women’s Amateur Championship, Wooster made the jaunt to Los Angeles’ Bel-Air Country Club for the U.S. Women’s Amateur. With just a few days in between, she then made her way to Portland, Ore., for the U.S. Senior Women’s Open at Waverley Country Club, where she finished T29.
She then had another solid performance at the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur at Stonewall in Pennsylvania, where she came up short in an 8-way playoff for one of the final three match play spots.
The fourth and final USGA championship on Wooster’s 2023 schedule is the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur- an event she knows all too well, having been the event’s runner-up in three of the last four years. It took her “about a year” to get over the first loss in 2018; she felt like she had missed her one opportunity to win a USGA title.
“That’s probably it. That’s probably my only chance of ever winning a USGA event,” Wooster recalled thinking after the loss. “Chances are, I’ll never get into another final, that’s how you think. Because I’d been trying so hard to get there and then I finally get there and I just didn’t win it.”
After proving her own doubts wrong by reaching the final again in 2019 and once more in 2022, she realized that she could reach another final. To her own admission, the task becomes more challenging with age, but the three runner-up finishes had a silver lining: it gave her the confidence to know that nothing is stopping her from reaching the final again- and winning one.
“I’m a better golfer than I was in last year’s final; I’ve improved in the last year. So, I feel like my chances are pretty good,” Wooster said. “But I don’t put that expectation on myself because it’s just too much. It’s not good for you to say, ‘oh, you’ve got to reach the final or you’ve failed.’”
Rebounding from three second-place finishes and grinding out four USGA championships in less than two months would be taxing for anyone, but there are a few things that keep Wooster motivated. Among them are her competitive nature and her husband, who trots the globe with her, dualling as her caddie at many events, and knows the ins and outs of her game as well as anyone.
Wooster was a latecomer to the game. She recalls picking up a club once while on the course with her father during her youth and attending a women’s golf clinic at some point in her 20s, but not long after that, she had the first of her four children and golf took a backseat.
In the meantime, her kids inherited a competitive gene and found ways to turn everything, from throwing a piece of paper across the room to backyard tennis matches, into a competition. Playing tennis – and not letting her boys win until they could actually beat her – satisfied her competitive gene for the time being.
But it wasn’t until her 50s, after her boys were all self-sufficient, that she took up golf more seriously. She found that golf did something for her competitive edge that playing tennis in the backyard with her boys didn’t quite satisfy. Now, the 506th-ranked amateur golfer in the world is using the golf course to make up for the competition she missed out on when she was younger.
“It’s just a challenge. I love the challenge of it. I love competing, I love to put myself out there and I just love competing,” Wooster said.
Winning a USGA championship would be a crowning achievement to Wooster’s already decorated career, but putting too much pressure on herself creates anxiety, which in turn, hurts her game. She is mindful of the nerves that come with competing at such a high level and tries to focus on other things that will improve her chances of hoisting a USGA trophy, including her swing, fitness routine and getting the proper rest.
Next, she takes her talents to the 61st U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Championship for another crack at the title she’s narrowly missed out on. But this time, she has a hometown advantage: the championship will be held in Wooster’s adopted home of Arizona at Scottsdale’s Troon Country Club.
Wooster fell in love with Arizona after several vacations in the state, escaping the up-and-down weather of Melbourne’s winters; she loved the warmth, the desert, the mountains and of course, the courses and eventually made the Grand Canyon State her home away from home. Winning at Troon, just a stone’s throw away from her residence, would only make adding a USGA championship to her already illustrious resume sweeter.
“It’d be just the icing on the cake to my career,” Wooster said. “And I feel like mentally, I could just sit down and go ‘now, relax.”