In just five years, the U.S. Senior Women’s Open has established itself as an extremely compelling championship, a place where those who have already made history can add to their legacy. The first four champions include two members of the World Golf Hall of Fame, three previous USGA champions and four dynamic personalities.
This week, the 5th U.S. Senior Women’s Open is at Waverley Country Club, the eighth time the second-oldest club west of the Mississippi has been the host site of a USGA championship.
Of the previous seven, the middle three were won by Lanny Wadkins (1970 U.S. Amateur), Juli Inkster (1981 U.S. Women’s Amateur) and Tiger Woods (1993 U.S. Boys Junior). All three are in the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Waverley is a perfectly historic venue for legends of the game to add another major entry to their resume.
The tone for this championship was set in 2018 when Dame Laura Davies won the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open at Chicago Golf Club, one of the five original member clubs of the USGA. Davies, who captured the 1987 U.S. Women’s Open and has 87 professional victories worldwide, blew away the Windy City, winning by 10 strokes over Inkster.
When the Englishwoman won the 1987 U.S. Women’s Open it was a key step in the global growth of women’s golf, throwing open the door to Europe and, ultimately, to Asia when Se Ri Pak won the 1998 U.S. Women Open. And when Davies added the U.S. Senior Women’s Open it immediately established the credibility of the championship.
“To be the first name on the trophy, only one person can do that,” Davies said Tuesday at Waverley. “For us senior women, it’s the one event to look forward to. And for me, it’s as important as any tournament in the world right now. I haven’t contended since that first one, but I’m here now and let’s see what happens.”
At Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club in 2019, Helen Alfredsson eased the pain of some difficult disappointments in the U.S. Women’s Open, a championship in which she twice was runner-up. The passionate athleticism with which the Swede plays made her two-stroke victory over Inkster and Trish Johnson extremely popular with the fans.
“Having been so close a couple of times, it meant everything to me to win a USGA championship,” Alfredsson said Tuesday. “They are the founders of the game in this country, so that makes it mean so much more. And the way they treat their past champions is truly something special.”
After missing 2020 because of Covid, the championship returned at Brooklawn Country Club in Fairfield, Conn., in 2021 and nothing more need be said than that Annika Sorenstam won in the first year she was age-eligible for the championship open to women 50 and over.
The three-time champion of the U.S. Women’s Open and 72-time winner on the LPGA Tour, was masterful in winning by eight strokes over 1988 U.S. Women’s Open champion Liselotte Neumann in front of Sorenstam’s children, Ava and Will, and with her husband Mike McGee on the bag.
“Having my family there made it all the more special,” Sorenstam said Tuesday. “This was about them. The others were about me.”
By adding the 2022 U.S. Senior Women’s Open at NCR Country Club in Dayton, Ohio, to the 1993 U.S. Women’s Amateur and 1994 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links, Jill McGill joined Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Carol Semple Thompson and JoAnne Carner as the only players to win three different USGA championships.
“Well, hey,” McGill said when reminded that she joined five legends as winners of multiple USGA events. “To be in that company is tremendous. One professional win [in her career], but I'll take it. That's amazing. I think this is sweeter because I'm able to share it with my kids.”
Who will make history this year? Will it be one of the eight U.S. Women’s Open champions in the field or one of the 70 who earned a spot in the field of 120 through qualifying? Come Sunday evening, someone will join the proud legacy of the USGA and Waverley Country Club, adding a sparkling entry to their golf resume.