Blalock, Hiestand Receive Special Exemptions March 21, 2018 | Liberty Corner, N.J. By Julia Pine, USGA

Mary Jane Hiestand, the runner-up in last year's U.S. Women's Mid-Am, will be playing in the inaugural U.S. Senior Women's Open. (USGA/Darren Carroll)

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Jane Blalock, a 27-time winner on the LPGA Tour, and Mary Jane Hiestand, the runner-up in the 2017 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship, have received special exemptions into the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open Championship, which will be conducted July 12-15, 2018, at Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton, Ill.

Blalock, 72, was the 1969 LPGA Tour Rookie of the Year before amassing her 27 LPGA victories, which ties her for 19th on the all-time list.

“I had major goosebumps when I received the call,” said Blalock, a native of Portsmouth, N.H. “This is a historic event of mammoth proportions, so to have the chance to participate in this championship is so significant on many fronts. [Senior women] now have the chance to compete on golf’s most prominent stage. And those of us who did not win a U.S. Open will now have another chance.”

Hiestand, 58, an amateur golfer from Naples, Fla., finished second to Kelsey Chugg in the 31st U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur last November at Champions Golf Club in Houston, Texas. She has competed in 43 USGA championships, including a semifinal finish in the 2013 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Championship at CordeValle in San Martin, Calif.

“I’m just so excited,” said Hiestand, a Michigan native and a member of that state’s Golf Hall of Fame. “As soon as I heard four years ago that this championship was happening, I’ve been looking forward to it. And to not have to go through qualifying, it takes one variable out. It’s really the icing on the cake. I think this will be another huge stride for senior women’s golf.”

The inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open is open to any female professional or amateur golfer who is 50 years of age as of July 12 and has a Handicap Index® not exceeding 7.4. The field will include 120 players, who will earn entry in the championship via sectional qualifying at sites nationwide or through an exemption category. Entries opened on March 7 and close at 5 p.m. EDT on May 23.

Julia Pine is a manager of championship communications for the USGA. Email her at jpine@usga.org.

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