They aren't sure what the next four days will hold or how far into the weekend their games will take them, but Martha Nause and Becky Iverson are already having the time of their lives at this inaugural U.S. Senior Women's Open.
The former LPGA Tour regulars are among six golfers with Wisconsin ties who will make history Thursday when the first United States Golf Association championship for women professionals and amateurs age 50 and older begins at the historic Chicago GC. Nause, a Sheboygan native, and Iverson, the director of golf at the Bridges GC in Madison, have played Legends Tour events in recent years, but three days into the the build-up for the first U.S. Senior Women's Open week, they know this was already much bigger.
"It seems so much like a celebration, like a reunion. " Nause said Wednesday during a telephone interview. "We've seen each other on Legends Tour, a lot of us, for the last several years. But there are a lot more people here who haven't played the Legends events so it's fun to see everybody. So many people that we haven't seen for a very long time. It's been very fun."
The USGA received 462 entries from amateur and professional golfers who had turned 50 by July 12 and had a handicap index of 7.4 or lower. A field of 120 golfers will take to Chicago GC, one of the five founding clubs of the USGA and the oldest golf club in the U.S. in continuous use at the same location, for 36 holes before the field is cut to the low 50 golfers plus ties for the weekend.
Nause, 63, who spends her winters in Arizona and her summers in Minnesota, said she has been working hard to get her game in shape for this chance the USGA has given golfers from the golden era of the LPGA Tour and the senior amateurs who grew up watching them. She believes she can make the cut.
Iverson, who will turn 51 in October, believes her chances of playing on the weekend might be a little more remote. Her life is now dominated by running a golf course and raising a teenage daughter so anything beyond having fun the next two days will be icing on the cake for the native of Upper Michigan.
"I've said it before, but I don't play golf for a living," Iverson said via telephone Wednesday. "I think the best-case scenario would be if I made the cut and that would be if I played really well. It's an amazing golf course. And it's perfectly manicured, but the greens are extremely difficult. When you stand over a putt that breaks seven or eight inches and you haven't played under pressure in years, they're tough. I don't expect too much."
While they'd love to be in the mix come Sunday, Nause and Iverson know they haven't played as much competitive golf as others in the field.
Golfers with Wisconsin ties in first U.S. Senior Women's Open field
|Sue Ginter||52||Jupiter, Fla.||Appleton native who played eight years on LPGA Tour; now a teaching pro in Florida|
|Becky Iverson||51||Madison, Wis.||Upper Michigan native who is now director of golf at the Bridges GC in Madison|
|a-Leigh Klasse||57||Cumberland, Wis.||Minnesota Golf Association Hall of Famer retired to northern Wisconsin|
|a-Maggie Leef||57||Merton, Wis.||Wisconsin State Golf Association Hall of Famer still active in WWSGA events|
|Martha Nause||63||Minneapolis, Minn.||Sheboygan native and former major champion who still plays on Legends Tour|
|Lauri Merten||58||Delray Beach, Fla.||Waukesha native who played 15 years on the LPGA Tour and won three times, including the 1993 U.S. Women's Open|
England's Laura Davies, 54, is coming off four days on the LPGA Tour at last week's Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic near Green Bay. The 1987 U.S. Women's Open champion made the cut and finished tied for 72nd.
Julie Inkster, 58, who won the second of her two U.S. Women's Open titles in 2002, has played nine events on the LPGA Tour this year, albeit making just one cut. Tish Johnson has been hard to beat on the Legends Tour. Helen Alfredsson posted the second of her two U.S. Women's Open runner-up finishes just 10 years ago, at the 2008 championship.
"The course is not long," Nause said. "Anybody who drives it straight and has their putter going is going to be competitive, very competitive."
In practice rounds, however, Iverson has been quickly reminded about how critical it is to have precision with her short irons, especially at Chicago GC.
"When you don't play a lot, you don't have your precise yardages," Iverson said. "It's like 'Well, I kinda know I hit this between 140 and 145.' But when you know you have to hit it 143 to carry a ridge or suck back down, that gets more difficult. I'm not exactly sure how the scores will go; I think the field will be kind of half-and-half. Half of us are going to struggle and half are going to, you know, be a little bit more ready."