U.S. SENIOR WOMEN'S OPEN
U.S. Senior Women's Open: 3 Things to Know: Round 1 May 16, 2019 | Southern Pines, N.C. By Scott Lipsky, USGA

After three days of practice and preparation at Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club, the field of 120 talented and inspiring players are ready for the start of the 2nd U.S. Senior Women’s Open. Less than a year removed from an inaugural championship that competitors and fans alike will never forget, there is a similar energy at Pine Needles.

Will another legend become the second player to have her name engraved onto the championship trophy, next to reigning champion Laura Davies? Or will Dame Laura repeat and keep the ultimate prize all to herself?

Here are three things to know as the championship begins on Thursday.

Big Mama Returns

There was a lot to celebrate in 2018 when the U.S. Senior Women’s Open was played for the first time, at iconic Chicago Golf Club. And then one of golf’s all-time greats stole the show. JoAnne Carner, for decades known to the masses as “Big Mama,” teed it up in a USGA championship for the first time in 21 years. She hit the first ball of the championship and, at the age of 79, made memories that her fans will never forget, shooting her age in Round 1.

This week, the 8-time USGA championfrom Kirkland, Wash., is back, gearing up for the challenge that Pine Needles presents. Even with all of her achievements, she knows that teeing it up in a U.S. Open championship at 80 years old isn’t something to take for granted.

“I wasn't sure I'd be alive at 80. It’s just a love of the game, I think more than anything,” Carner said on Wednesday. “I've always loved competing, so to give it one more shot, it's just sort of a goal that you have to have.”

New Look, Same Challenge

Pine Needles is hosting its sixth USGA championship this week, but the U.S. Senior Women’s Open will be the first since Kyle Franz restored the layout to bring back many of the characteristics of the original Donald Ross design. Gone is the heavy rough, replaced by closely mown turf and native areas. And the greens, which used to be bentgrass, are now mini verde ultra-dwarf Bermuda. What hasn’t changed is the test the golf course provides to the best in the game, and all 120 competitors will see that first-hand on Thursday.

“This course gives the players a lot to think about, let alone the mental and physical challenge that will also be put upon them,” said the USGA’s Shannon Rouillard, the championship director of the U.S. Senior Women’s Open. “This is a second-shot golf course, there’s no doubt about it. The greens are crowned, so if you don’t hit the ball in the right place, you’re probably going to end up in a closely mown place or in a bunker. Shotmaking is going to be at a premium.”

Championship Wisdom

This week will be a homecoming of sorts for the 15 competitors who played in at least one of the three U.S. Women’s Opens at Pine Needles (1996, 2001 and 2007). In the case of Juli Inkster, Laura Davies, Liselotte Neumann, and Michele Redman, who played in all three, they have five top-20 finishes among them in Southern Pines.

Nobody in the field, however, came as close to tasting victory here as Kris Tschetter, who was the runner-up in 1996 in Annika Sorenstam’s successful title defense. Despite finishing six strokes behind the dominant Sorenstam, who set the championship’s 72-hole scoring record that week, Tschetter has fond memories from the experience, and positive vibes heading into the championship this week.

“I just remember that Annika was playing so well, and I was talking to Brandy Burton before we went out that day and we were just saying we’re pretty much playing for second place,” Tschetter, 54, said. “I just loved this golf course. This is such a golf town, so it was fun playing here and having so many people that just really loved the game.”

Will those great memories carry over and propel Tschetter to the victory at Pine Needles that just one person denied her 23 years ago? We’ll know by the time the trophy is raised on Sunday. FS1 has television coverage on Saturday and Sunday from 3-5 p.m. ET.

Scott Lipsky is the senior manager of content for the USGA. Email him at slipsky@usga.org.

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