By Ron Sirak
Jill McGill's victory at NCR, in her first year of eligibility for the championship, was a testament to her dedication. (Jeff Haynes/USGA)
The brief history of the U.S. Senior Women’s Open is already loaded with stories for the ages authored by champions Laura Davies, Helen Alfredsson and Annika Sorenstam. And what took place this year at NCR Country Club was a brilliant addition to the legacy of this championship, as Jill McGill joined the elite group that has won three different USGA events.
The inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open in 2018 at Chicago Golf Club was the story of the dominance of Davies as she powered her way to a 16-under-par performance, winning by 10 strokes.
The championship in 2019 at Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club celebrated the persistence and passion of Alfredsson as she finally got the USGA championship that had eluded her, grinding out a two-stroke victory.
After a COVID cancellation in 2020, last year’s USSWO at Brooklawn Country Club in Fairfield, Conn., saw the stunning return of Sorenstam after 13 years away from USGA championships as she played with the same precision that marked her World Golf Hall of Fame career and won by eight strokes.
This year, the 6-foot McGill, who won the 1993 U.S. Women’s Amateur and the 1994 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links – and pretty much nothing since – stood tall during the final round as the South Course at NCR Country Club claimed victim after victim. McGill’s even-par 73, on a day when no one broke par, will only get better with age.
By winning, McGill joined Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, JoAnne Carner and Carol Semple Thompson as the only players with titles in three different USGA events. Very quickly, the U.S. Senior Women’s Open has established itself as a place where history is made.
Adding to her 1993 #USWomensAm and 1994 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links victories 🏆🏆 pic.twitter.com/Faad9q5ppF— USGA (@USGA) August 29, 2022
The championship has a unique character that is becoming a tradition. Early in the week it is about reunion and remembrance, as friends and friendly foes who’ve know each other for decades but now seldom cross paths come together. While it remains a celebration throughout, once the first round begins it becomes what these players crave – an intense competition.
They know the USGA is going to test them and they are ready for that examination. They welcome it. As six-time USGA champion Hollis Stacy said: “If it was easy, we wouldn’t play.”
It is also a week of mutual admiration among the important stakeholders in the game of golf: Players, caddies, media, the host club, the USGA staff and officials who make it all happen.
Throughout the week, players gushed about how well the NCR members treated them; the NCR members gushed about how appreciative the players were to them; and both gushed about the commitment of the USGA to conduct this championship at the highest level.
This is also a championship that produces many winners. While McGill adds her name to the trophy, many others walked away with precious memories while creating equally compelling memories for their fans, family and friends.
No one commanded that stage better than JoAnne Carner, the eight-time USGA champion who, at the age of 83 shot a pair of 83s and has now matched or shot below her age in five of the eight rounds she’s played in this championship.
While this was quite likely her last appearance as a competitor, the pure love of the game she placed on display in the four USSWO championships she’s played has only enhanced the already formidable reputation she established through her brilliant career, dating back to the 1950s.
There were other legends in the women’s game who also got a chance to compete and entertain the galleries. Among those who made the cut was Stacy, 68, a three-time winner of both the U.S. Girls’ Junior and the U.S. Women’s Open, feats that earned her a spot in the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Also playing the weekend were Ellen Port, 60, who won the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur four times and the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur three times; Amy Alcott, 66, who captured the U.S. Girls’ Junior and the U.S. Women’s Open in her World Golf Hall of Fame career; and Lara Tennant, 55, three-time champion of the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur.
This is a week in which honoring the history of the women’s game goes hand-in-hand with adding to that history. This is a week in which the true spirt of Open championships is celebrated as the greats of the game and those who worked their way here through qualifying rounds are on equal footing.
On Sunday, the South Course at NCR provided a grueling final examination after a very testing week. Davies, Alfredsson and Sorenstam – the three past champions – all shot 76 or higher. And that should make everyone respect the even-par 73 by McGill all the more.
While there were many winners at NCR Country Club, there was only one champion – and her name is Jill McGill, the latest addition to USGA championship lore produced by the U.S. Senior Women’s Open.
Ron Sirak is a Massachusetts-based writer who frequently contributes to USGA websites.