Burke Has One Eye on Her Game and Another on '16 Curtis Cup October 4, 2015 | CHOUDRANT, LA. By Stuart Hall

Robin Burke is gearing up for her turn as Curtis Cup captain, but is also happy to test her own game in yet another USGA championship. (USGA/Matt Sullivan)

U.S. Women's Mid-Amateur Home

In preparing for the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship, Robin Burke routinely joined other players who were fine-tuning their games on the back of the practice range at Champions Golf Club in Houston, Texas. 

There, the 53-year-old traded quips and tips with members of the famed club co-founded by her husband, World Golf Hall of Fame member Jack Burke Jr.  

"You feel like you can get ready pretty quick because you have so many good swings and good people around you, and everyone is willing to share,” said Burke, the 1997 U.S. Women’s Amateur runner-up who posted a 20-over-par 164 total at Squire Creek Country Club. "I’m hitting the ball well, but I just expected more out of myself."

Burke refuses to blame a full plate for her game being a bit off, but she has legitimate reasons. In addition to her position as vice president at Champions, in December 2014 she was selected as captain of the 2016 USA Curtis Cup Team.

Playing golf has not been the highest priority, though she played well enough to shoot 73 and win the Sept. 9 qualifier at Braeburn Country Club in Houston.

“I scraped it around and made few putts and wound up as medalist,” she said. “I was like ‘Great, now I have a month to really get ready,’ looked at the calendar, and I was like, ‘Nope, I’ve got like 10 days to get ready.’”

Since the NCAA Division I Women’s Championship in May, Burke, a member of the victorious USA Curtis Cup Team in 1998, has been scouting potential players for the eight-member team. She also traveled to the U.S. Girls’ Junior and U.S. Women’s Amateur championships and has been closely monitoring players’ progress online.

She is impressed by the crop of players the International Team Selection Committee will choose from early next year, especially some of the up-and-comers.

“I’ve mostly been getting to know the players, watching them and seeing their abilities,” said Burke, who is competing in her 36th USGA championship. “Going to the U.S. Girls’ Junior and then going to the U.S. Women’s Amateur and seeing that whole group just step up and prove themselves. That was nice to see.”

Burke has plenty of memories from the 1998 Match, which USA won 10-8 at The Minikahda Club in Minneapolis, Minn., to end a three-match losing streak. That win serves as a motivating force as Burke shapes her team that plays Great Britain and Ireland June 10-12 at Dun Laoghaire Golf Club outside Dublin, Ireland.

“It’s an honor and I never thought I would get the opportunity to captain a Curtis Cup Team,” she said. “I know what it meant to me, and it still means a lot to me. There’s no way to explain the opening ceremony, the first day, the first tee. I want to make it great for my team and I want the girls to realize how important it is because they will take it with them for the rest of their lives.”

Burke says she has solicited advice from her husband, a two-time major winner who was a Ryder Cup playing captain in 1957 and captain again in 1973. She has also spoken to 2004 U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Hal Sutton and “needs to get with some of the gals,” to get their perspective.

Ultimately she will filter through the imparted wisdom and “I’m still going to be myself and do what I think is important,” she said.  

That includes Burke putting her own stamp on the young American squad. And what kind of stamp might that be?

“A winning stamp,” she said with a wry Texas smile.

Stuart Hall is a North Carolina-based freelance writer whose work frequently appears on USGA websites.