Timing Everything For Qualifier September 13, 2010 By Andrew Blair

Carol Robertson thinks of a return to amateur golf as a renewing experience. (Courtesy Virginia State Golf Association)

By Andrew Blair

It didn’t take long for Carol Robertson of Virginia to reacclimate herself to amateur golf.

Robertson, who was reinstated to amateur status on Sept. 5, reached the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur  Championship through sectional qualifying two days later at Rivermont Golf and Country Club in Johns Creek, Ga. 

The Virginia Beach, Va., resident had been pointing to the date for more than a year. Talk about timing being everything: The three qualifiers on Sept. 7 filled the final three spots before the national championship, which will be conducted Sept. 25-30 at Wichita (Kan.) Country Club.

Her mindset after shooting 77 to gain a  spot in the Women’s Mid-Amateur field was part relief, part a sense of a mission being accomplished.

It’s pretty exciting. It’s been a year since I played in a tournament, Robertson said. I forgot what ‘nervous’ felt like. It was a really tough course, but I played well enough to get through it.

Robertson, a 2005 graduate of James Madison University, won the 2006 Virginia State Golf Association Women’s Amateur Championship under her maiden name, Carol Green. Shortly thereafter, she turned professional and competed on the Duramed Futures Tour from 2007-09. She counts the two-plus years of professional golf as a learning experience, but admittedly thinks of a return to amateur golf as a renewing experience.

I feel like I have a clean slate again, she said. I haven’t been excited about playing golf in a long time. I feel like I get to start all over again – not many people get to do that.

That said, Robertson has no regrets about taking a shot at professional golf.

If anything, it made me a better golfer, Robertson said. You’re around some of the best players. You learn a lot about yourself – there’s no escape. It was a lot of fun, but it sure makes you appreciate amateur golf.

Robertson had remained connected to the game while waiting for reinstatement. She helped the VSGA coordinate its Junior Golf Club initiative, and is serving as the assistant women’s golf coach at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va.

She was quickly reminded of her place back in the working world. Knowing that she wanted to take part in the qualifier, Robertson had to clear an obstacle that faces most amateur golfers: whether or not time away from work would be granted at Old Dominion. Robertson credits the Lady Monarchs’ golf staff with clearing the path.

Right off the bat, they said, ‘You need to go for it,’ Robertson said. After qualifying, reality soon set in; she took a red-eye flight back to Hampton Roads and was at practice the next day.  I was very lucky that they understood. I have the best of both worlds here. They want me to coach, obviously, but also go out and play with the players.

Robertson can’t be blamed if she had a little extra incentive beyond wanting to make an impact on her return to the amateur ranks. Her husband, Jason, qualified for the U.S. Mid-Amateur in sectional qualifying at Elizabeth Manor Golf and Country Club in Portsmouth, Va., in late August, meaning the husband-wife tandem will be competing in USGA championships on the same dates. The U.S. Mid-Amateur is Sept. 25-30 at Atlantic Golf Club in Bridgehampton, N.Y.

I couldn’t be the one who couldn’t make it, she said with a laugh.

Robertson will be making her third start in a USGA championship. She competed in the 2004 U.S. Women’s Amateur at The Kahkwa Club in Erie, Pa., and represented the Virginia team at the 2007 USGA Women’s State Team Championship at The Club at Carlton Woods in Texas.

The opportunity to compete in another USGA championship represents a validation of sorts for Robertson. The journey, she believes, was well worth the ride.

The USGA makes you feel like you’ve done something great to be there, no matter how you play (at the championship), Robertson said. To just get there, you know you’ve done something special.

Andrew Blair is the communications director for the Virginia State Golf Association.