U.S. SENIOR WOMEN'S OPEN
Ammaccapane Sisters Relish Rare Opportunity May 13, 2019 | SOUTHERN PINES, N.C. By Ron Sirak

Dina (left) and Danielle Ammaccapane are excited to be competing together in a U.S. Open championship again. (USGA/Chris Keane)

U.S. Senior Women's Open Home

For this day at least – for this week at least – the Sisters Ammaccapane are back together again. What plopped them back onto a competitive stage they shared for parts of three decades as members of the LPGA Tour is the 2nd U.S. Senior Women’s Open Championship at Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club. And their smiles and laughter were all you needed to know about how much they are enjoying this opportunity.

But it was the fire in their eyes that spoke most eloquently about how intensely they each want to be hoisting that trophy on Sunday evening. While both are living in Phoenix, Ariz., it’s clear that for these two extremely competitive siblings, sharing a championship experience is something special. There is being together, and there is being together. This is different in a very good way.

While Danielle was a solid fourth last year at Chicago Golf Club when Laura Davies won in a rout, Dina, who turned 50 six days after the 2018 championship, is making her debut in the Senior Women’s Open. The fact that they could share this experience, unlike last year, makes it even more of a special treat.

Any rust that may have accumulated on their steely competitive spirit was knocked away by a practice round on this Donald Ross gem that both said was as challenging as they remember from the U.S. Women’s Opens they played here. That and seeing their foes banging balls made them eager to tee it up for real.

“This is fun,” Danielle said as she walked off the 18th green. “I just wish I could play more,” she said. And by play, she means compete. “But you know,” she said, “once you get into it again, you get into it again.”

That was a sentiment her sister understood completely. From 1983 through 2013, one or both Ammaccapanes played in an LPGA tournament. And from 1985 through 2003, Danielle competed in the U.S. Women’s Open 15 times, while Dina played in 12 between 1987 and 2007.

“Yeah, you tee it up and then it all feels familiar,” said Dina, wearing a New York Yankees hat that reflected her birthplace on Long Island. “You know what it’s like to be there,” she said about revisiting the familiar foe of competitive nerves. “I have good memories here. You draw on that.”

Dina played in all three U.S. Women’s Open Championships at Pine Needles. Although she missed the cut in 1996, when Annika Sorenstam won, she was T-34 in 2001, when another Hall of Famer, Karrie Webb, took the title, and was T-22 in 2007 when Cristie Kerr was the champion. Her best effort in a Women’s Open was a tie for 15th at Blackwolf Run in 1998.

“I’ve been dreaming about coming back to this tournament for months,” Danielle said.

Her effort last year was remarkable considering how little competitive golf she’d been playing. The three women who finished in front of her – Davies, Juli Inkster and Trish Johnson – all are still playing a relatively full tournament schedule.

“I came here with my husband in March and played a few rounds. If you can’t get up for this, then get out of here. I haven’t won a major, so I want this,” said Danielle, who tied for third in the 1990 U.S. Women’s Open at Atlanta Athletic Club and tied for fourth at Blackwolf Run in 1998.  

Danielle, 53, played golf at Arizona State University and had a distinguished amateur career, winning the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links and the NCAA individual title in 1985, and competing for the United States in the 1986 Curtis Cup Match. She won seven times on the LPGA Tour before a torn ACL forced her to retire.

Missing the competition, she joined the Legends Tour for women over 45 in 2013. To get sharp for the inaugural Senior Women’s Open, she also played on the Cactus Tour in the western U.S. Last year, she tied for 19th in the Senior LPGA Championship after finishing tied for 14th in 2017.

Dina, 50, played at San Jose State University, where she was on the 1989 NCAA championship team with Pat Hurst. She played 15 full seasons on the LPGA Tour, making 359 starts. She has also played some Legends Tour events and tied for 51st in the 2017 Senior LPGA and tied for 41st last year. A 73 in qualifying at Briarwood Country Club in Sun City West, Ariz., on April 23 got her into the Senior Women’s Open.

For Danielle, the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open was an experience she’ll never forget, and her fourth-place finish left her wanting more.

For Dina, this year at Pine Needles is a new adventure rekindling old passions for the championship hunt.

For both, Thursday begins their individual quest for the championship. And this much is clear: There is no place they’d rather be.

Ron Sirak is a Massachusetts-based freelance writer who frequently contributes to USGA digital channels.

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