Fitness Buff Schlesinger Tries to Conquer Next Athletic Feat September 29, 2015 | NASHVILLE, TENN. By Lisa D. Mickey

Lisa Schlesinger has played well in past U.S. Senior Women's Amateurs but is still eyeing the trophy she wants most. (USGA/Matt Sullivan)

U.S. Senior Women's Amateur Home

She has won a national bench-press title, played professional basketball and slap-bunted her way to first base against some of the best fast-pitch softball hurlers of all time.

But there is one athletic accomplishment Lisa Schlesinger wants more than anything:  to lift the trophy as the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur champion. The player from Laytonsville, Md., was the stroke-play medalist at the 2011 and 2012 Senior Women’s Amateur championships, but it’s the ultimate prize she really covets.

“I don’t want to just be in the records books as this event’s medalist for two years in a row,” said Schlesinger, 57. “That’s nice, but the big deal is getting your name on that USGA trophy.”

While weather issues in Tuesday’s Round of 32 pushed Schlesinger’s match against 2009 U.S. Senior Women's Amateur champion back to the early afternoon, the lifelong athlete said her career in other sports had taught her how to mentally and physically prepare for competition.

“As a kid, I played with the boys,” she said. “I just wanted to compete and win and that’s stuck with me my entire life. Even when I’m driving, I don’t like it when people pass me. I want to be in the front.”

Schlesinger raised her game as a 5-foot-4 point guard at the University of Maryland, where she played from 1975-1979. During her tenure with the Terps, her team won two Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) women’s basketball championships and advanced into the 1978 NCAA Women’s Final Four during her junior year.

After graduating in 1979, she played in the Women’s Basketball League (WBL), which preceded the current WNBA. She was a guard for the Washington Metros and the New England Gulls for two years in the early 1980s, and started a third season with a team in St. Louis before deciding to end her career and return home to the D.C. area.

While she continued playing basketball in an adult women’s league on the AAU circuit, she also explored other pursuits. She got involved in a Greater Washington, D.C. fast-pitch softball league, eventually earning a spot in its hall of fame as a switch-hitting left fielder. But the spark-plug player’s strength was getting on base. She would drag-bunt and slap-bunt and beat out most fielders to first base.

“I was really quick back then and had an on-base percentage of somewhere between .400 and .500,” said Schlesinger. “That’s what helped our team.

“We played against [U.S. Olympians] Lisa Fernandez and Dot Richardson, who really helped establish women’s fast-pitch softball,” she added. “We came along before them, but they raised the level of the game. I think we were pioneers in the sport.”

Schlesinger had always lifted weights and worked on her fitness level for the sports she played, but in her early 30s, she took up competitive powerlifting. In the 1990s, she won a national powerlifting championship in the 130-pound weight class, bench-pressing 180 pounds.

“I did that for a while and was fairly successful at it, but then it started killing my shoulder, so I decided I’d had enough of that,” she said.

Around that same time, Schlesinger found herself exploring the game her parents used to try to get to her play as a teenager at Norbeck Country Club in Rockville, Md. She still wanted to compete but was tired of “beating up [her] body” in other sports.

“My parents tried to get me to play golf when I was 14, but I would cry when I hit a bad shot and I had no patience,” she said. “I told them golf didn’t move quickly enough for me and that I was a team-sport person.”

But by her mid-30s, once her improving golf skills began matching her competitive nature, Schlesinger saw the game in a different way.

“I met the right people and they helped me improve,” said Schlesinger, a retired realtor in her family’s real estate and property management business. “A lot of people pushed me to become a better player in golf.”

Schlesinger began winning local and regional tournaments. She won the 2005 Chrysler Club Championship, which qualified her to play as an amateur in the 2006 Bob Hope Chrysler Classic a PGA Tour event in Palm Springs, Calif. A few years later, she added wins at the 2008 and 2009 Maryland Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship.

After those wins, Schlesinger decided to refocus her fitness training specifically for golf. She looked at herself as an aging athlete and considered how she should maintain good conditioning, while also protecting herself against injury.

“Fitness has always been important in the other sports I played, but I figured it was also going to be important for me in golf, so I changed how I trained,” she said.

While she no longer lifts heavy weights, Schlesinger is still at home in the gym. She works out twice a week, focusing on strength training, flexibility and core fitness.

“I’ve been working with a trainer for 20 years and I don’t think weight lifting has a negative effect in golf,” she said. “I feel like it’s helped me stay physically stronger and mentally sharper.”

Schlesinger knows she has some tough competition this week. And it’s just the first of back-to-back weeks for her, as she’ll travel straight from Tennessee to Louisiana to compete in the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship, which begins on Saturday, Oct. 3.

Schlesinger calls every championship “a highlight” in her prodigious athletic career. And if she were to finally hoist that Senior Women’s Amateur trophy? That just might be her best lift ever.

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