13 Straight Pars Seal Swede's Senior Women’s Open Win at Pine Needles
The U.S. Women’s Open has broken the heart of Helen Alfredsson many times. So there was poetic justice that the U.S. Senior Women’s Open at the Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club healed some of those scars. Most remarkable was that Alfie closed out her victory in a very un-Helen-like way.
Alfredsson, who’s had seven LPGA victories and another 11 on the Ladies European Tour, is known for her volcanic personality as much as for her incredible physical skills. She finished second in the Women’s Open twice – 1993 and 2008 – but it was her T-9 in 1994 that hurt the most.
She opened with an 8-under-par 63 at Indianwood Golf & Country Club in Michigan – still a U.S. Women’s Open record. She completed 36 holes at 10-under-par 132 – still a record – and was well clear of the field at 13 under par through 43 holes. Then the wheels came off.
After a three-putt from 3 feet, the mercurial Swede played the final 36 holes in 153 strokes, 21 strokes higher than the first two rounds.
There was a point during the final round at Pine Needles when it appeared as if history might repeat itself, but then Alfie, with her husband, Kent Nilsson, an NHL Stanley Cup winner with the Edmonton Oilers, on the bag, regrouped brilliantly.
Alfredsson and Trish Johnson began the final round tied for the lead at even-par 213, four strokes ahead of Juli Inkster. Johnson birdied No. 1, then made four consecutive pars. Alfredsson, true to her erratic form, started birdie, bogey, par, birdie, double bogey and was 1 over after five holes, two strokes behind Johnson.
That’s when weirdness happened.
Johnson bogeyed Nos. 6, 7, 13, 14 and 17 – sprinkling in one birdie – while Alfredsson played the final 13 holes even par to finish at 1-over-par 285, two strokes better than Johnson and Inkster and four clear of Michele Redman and Jane Crafter to secure her first USGA championship.
If you said to anyone who knows her that Alfie played 13 holes even par they’d say: “Oh yeah, four birdies, four bogeys and five pars.” But to close with 13 consecutive pars – unfathomable. But that’s exactly what she did under the most grueling of conditions.
“Well, completely elated – exhausted,” she said when the grind was over. “We struggled today. You keep grinding and grinding and you’re trying to just stay focused on what you’re doing, not let your thoughts slip, and that’s something that is also very difficult when you don't play as much.”
The U.S. Senior Women’s Open, which made its debut in 2018 at Chicago Golf Club – one of the five founding member clubs of the USGA – came to Pine Needles this year, also a historic spot in golf because of the late Peggy Kirk Bell. The LPGA pioneer was also a trailblazer as a teacher and a businesswoman, running facilities at Pine Needles and Mid Pines that specialized in teaching the game to women.
One of the joys of the U.S. Senior Women’s Open is that it is not only a competition but a reunion. This event also honors stars like eight-time USGA champion JoAnne Carner, who – at the age of 80 – shot 167. Dame Laura Davies, winner of the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open, finished T-9 at 292.
The Pine Needles course, with its devilish Donald Ross greens, proved to be a stern test. Danielle Ammaccapane grabbed the first-round lead with a 1-over-par 72. Alfredsson took charge after 36 holes at 144 with a 69 in the second round and Johnson’s brilliant 66 on Saturday left her tied with Alfredsson at even-par 213 going into Sunday.
Sunday was a grind, a day on which par was your friend. Inkster made a charge with a 70 that left her at 3-over-par 287, tied for second with Johnson. Redman had the round of the day – a sizzling 68 – and finished T-4 with Crafter at 289.
But Alfredsson was rock solid. This was not to be 1994 again. Or 1993, or 2008.
“Yeah, a little bit, I guess,” she replied when asked if thoughts of past USGA pain creeped into her mind. “Just to have something USGA, it feels very nice. I know it's one of the toughest tests you ever will do in golf is to play a U.S. Open. I always like tough; maybe not at 54.”
In just two short years, the U.S, Senior Women’s Open has established its place as a major championship. The first winner was Davies – a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame. The second is Alfredsson, a world-class personality and talent.
Golf’s newest championship has already become one of its most compelling.
|With 2-under 69s in the middle rounds, Helen Alfredsson was the only player to post 2 under-par rounds. She also topped the field in driving distance and greens in regulation.|
|“Nothing ever makes up for the tournaments you didn’t win, but this is a USGA championship and everyone wants to win one of those.” – Helen Alfredsson|
|2017 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur champion Judith Kyrinis and Sally Krueger shared low-amateur honors with 72-hole totals of 23-over 307.|
|“You can’t relax, and I think that’s a testament to the design of this golf course. It doesn’t give you a minute’s peace.” – 2018 champion Laura Davies, on Pine Needles|
|“I know Ms. Bell is shining down on us. I think this is a tribute to her because of all that she did for women’s golf.” – Donna Andrews, lead instructor at Pine Needles Academy, on Peggy Kirk Bell|