There are subtle differences between Carol and Cathy Sarkissian, the identical twins from Covina, Calif., who are playing in the 2012 USGA Senior Women’s Amateur Championship.
Cathy wears a hat, Carol a visor. Their irons? Different brands. And, according to their younger brother George Sarkissian, Cathy’s caddie this week, Cathy has the better short game. Carol has a better long game.
Even up close, however, telling the 53-year-olds apart is a challenge. Of course, that’s not a problem for George.
"I haven’t gotten them mixed up since I was 2 or 3 years old," he said with a laugh.
After Friday’s final practice round for the Senior Women’s Amateur, the three siblings lounged around a table on the patio of Hershey Country Club. Cathy and Carol were animated, smiling about their luck in finally reaching the ranks of a national championship – together.
Last month, they both won championship berths through sectional qualifying in Del Mar, Calif. Carol shot 78, Cathy 82, and that was good enough. While Carol has played in the Senior Women’s Amateur twice, and Cathy once, it was never in the same year.
"Qualifying for this was kind of a goal," Cathy said. "I can only play in so many tournaments."
Carol, who has competed in other national and regional championships, says the Senior Women’s Amateur is the best event she plays in. It isn’t pretentious, she said. We feel welcome here.
The twins first played golf at the age of 8. Their first lessons came from their late grandmother, Mary Arthur, who was a pretty amazing mentor to have in the family.
"She taught us all sports," Cathy said. "She played softball, basketball, golf and she bowled.
"And she played on the first women’s professional softball team, from 1928 through 1933, and played against Babe Zaharias, Carol chimed in. As I got older, I kept asking her questions about her participation in sports. I can’t imagine some of the struggles she went through."
As they reminisce, the twins seem relaxed, happy. With George, they are part of a closely-knit family and obviously enjoy spending time together. For these two working women, however, this championship is much more than a glorified vacation. National-championship golf demands hard work and a considerable financial commitment. Carol and Cathy devoted many hours on the practice tee to get here and the cross-country trip from California is expensive. But this is the championship they wanted to share.
Carol had to come back from shoulder surgery in January to make it here.
"When your doctor tells you this is what he calls a career-ending injury, it scares you," she said. "But I wasn’t ready to give up competitive golf. But I’ll tell you, the pain and the doubt, everything you go through."
As she spoke of the seriousness of her injury, her voice trailed off. But she is here, with her sister, and they have met the first goal.
Carol, a special education teacher and athletic director at Magnolia High School, and Cathy, a title insurance consultant, honed their games with their longtime instructor, Janet LePera, who used to play on the LPGA Tour. The twins made several trips to work with LePera in Palm Springs, Calif., to get ready for this championship.
No matter how close they are, they know that golf is an individual challenge and now they attack competition with differing goals.
"Very simple," said Cathy. "To make it to match play. These are short-term goals and steps and it’s like you play golf, one shot at a time."
"I want to make it to the second round of match play," Carol said. "I’ve never gotten beyond the 17th hole in the first round of matches."
In Saturday’s first round, they will be able to keep an eye on each other’s progress. Carol was to tee off at 1:20 p.m. EDT, while Carol is in the very next group. And, as they have for most of their lives, they’ll meet after their rounds to discuss yet another great experience they have shared.
Rhonda Glenn is a manager of communications for the USGA. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.