U.S. SENIOR WOMEN'S OPEN
Nyhus Extends Unbreakable USGA Mark May 14, 2019 | Southern Pines, N.C. By Ron Sirak

The U.S. Senior Women's Open will be the ninth different female USGA championship that Sue Nyhus will compete in. (USGA/Chris Keane)

U.S. Senior Women's Open

There are precious few records in sports considered to be unbreakable. The 11 consecutive PGA Tour wins by Byron Nelson comes to mind. With each passing year, the 88 LPGA titles by Kathy Whitworth look more and more unreachable. And the 15-stroke victory by Tiger Woods in the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach may never see the delete key.

But Sue Nyhus has accomplished something that will stand forever in the USGA record books and there are no ifs, ands or buts about it. When she qualified for this week’s U.S. Senior Women’s Open, Nyhus became the first player in USGA history – male or female – to qualify for every championship offered to her, and that’s an impressive list totaling nine in all.

When she pulled into Southern Pines, N.C., this week and registered for play at the Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club it was the culmination of a lengthy journey that began when she qualified for the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship at the age of 17.

Nyhus, now 56, followed up on that Girls’ Junior with the U.S. Women’s Amateur, the U.S. Women’s Mid-Am, the U.S. Women’s Open, the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links, the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur, the U.S. Women’s State Team and the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball before adding the U.S. Senior Women’s Open.

And since the Public Links has been replaced on the USGA championship schedule by the Four-Ball and the State Team has been retired, Nyhus is assured of holding a mark that will never be broken – or even tied.

“I never started out thinking that was going to be a thing,” she said Tuesday at Pine Needles after a practice round for Thursday’s start of competition. “I just played whatever I could play because I love to compete. I want to get better and improve every time I get on the golf course.”

Then one day Nyhus looked up and realized history was staring back at her. She gave it a wink and decided she was more than willing to accept the challenge.

“In about 2005, I realized I had played in everything except the Senior Women's Amateur,” she said. “So I started looking forward to that and as it got closer I got more hungry. Then they announced the Four-Ball and shortly after that the Senior Women’s Open. I was like, ‘I got to keep going.’”

Nyhus, who began playing when she was 15 and made it into the Girls’ Junior just two years later, qualified for the Senior Women’s Open on April 29 at Glenmoor Country Club in Englewood, Colo., earning one of two available spots. She walked off Pine Needles on Tuesday with respect for the Donald Ross design and appreciation for this championship, which had a hugely successful inaugural outing last year at historic Chicago Golf Club.

“I could see it coming,” Nyhus said about the creation of the Senior Women’s Open, saying it was part of a natural evolution that includes the Four-Ball events. “It’s heaven to be there. I’ve already had a good time and it’s only going to get better.”

Nyhus played college golf at Brigham Young University, where she earned a degree in secondary education and then a masters in health education. She played the Ladies European Tour for several years before regaining her amateur status in the mid-1990s after her second child was born. She earned a Ph.D. in sports psychology from the University of Utah in 1992.

Her coaching career began as an assistant for the BYU women’s team in 1998. In 2001, she became head coach, a position she held for 11 years, leading BYU to the NCAA Championships in 2005 for the first time since she was on the team 20 years earlier.  

Now she is head coach at Utah Valley University, where she coached her daughter, Kimberly, from 2013 to 2017. In 2014 they became the first mother-daughter combination to advance to match play in the Utah Women’s Amateur.

“My game is not tournament tough at the moment,” Nyhus said. “But my mind is tournament tough. If I can really focus on a few things and play my game, I think I'm going to do quite well.”

One thing is clear: Not only does Nyhus have that Ph.D. in sports psychology as a 15th club in her bag, she is also steeped in competitive experience. This is her first Senior Women’s Open, but it’s a prize at the end of a long road that she has enjoyed every inch of the way.

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

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