My Shot: I Can't Wait to Tee it Up This Week July 10, 2018 | WHEATON, ILL. By Pat Bradley

Pat Bradley, the 1981 U.S. Women's Open champion, is excited to return to USGA competition. (USGA/Chris Keane)

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All these years later, I look at the picture of me holding my USGA trophy, and it’s something that every young American girl who gets into the game dreams of winning. I wasn’t really sure it would happen, but it did, and it’s still very emotional for me.

Now my contemporaries and I are thrilled to be part of this history-making moment and another chance at a USGA national title with the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open. It’s nice to reconnect with the Chicago area, having won my Women’s Open in 1981 at LaGrange Country Club, less than 20 miles from Chicago Golf Club.

· Her 66 in 1981 U.S. Women’s Open stood as low final round by a champion for 23 years
· Won 31 LPGA Tour titles, six majors among them – including three in 1986
· Overcame Graves’ disease, an overactive thyroid condition, in the late 1980s
· Won LPGA Player of the Year honors in 1986 and 1991
· First player in LPGA Tour history to eclipse $2 million, $3 million and $4 million in earnings
· Fellow pro Val Skinner once quipped, “It’s death, taxes and Bradley on the leader board.”
· Was U.S. Women’s Open runner-up in 1991 and had eight top-five finishes
· Aunt of 2011 PGA Championship winner Keegan Bradley

I remember starting the day three strokes behind [all-time LPGA Tour wins leader] Kathy Whitworth, but on the first hole of that final round, I hit a good drive, and I had a 7-iron into the green. It almost went in the hole for eagle, just lipping out.

Kathy was the sentimental favorite, and I was paired with Beth Daniel, who had a terrific résumé in USGA events. And then there was little me from Westford, Mass. Even though I had eight wins on Tour, my style of play did not particularly lend itself to the Women’s Open, because I didn’t hit a high ball.

My irons had more of a low, penetrating flight, and just holding the hard, fast greens of a U.S. Open was a difficult task. Fortunately for me, it all came together that week, including Mother Nature. A powerful storm came through the area late Saturday night and it helped to soften the greens. That was a huge aspect in my favor.

By the time we made the turn, it was down to Beth and me and we were even through 14 holes. On No. 15, she saved par out of a bunker, hitting it to about a foot, and then I knocked in my putt from the front of the green for a birdie. It must have been 70 feet away. You wouldn’t have imagined making that putt in your wildest dreams. I know that I took a little bit of the wind out of Beth’s sails with that one.

When we came to the par-5 finishing hole, I still led by one, but she could reach the green in two. I hit my drive, nothing spectacular, and Beth hit a great drive. I put my second shot about 70 yards from the green, and she went for it. If she had hit it straight, she would have been putting for eagle, but she hooked it into the left rough. I hit an excellent sand wedge for my third shot, about 3 feet from the hole, and then she almost chipped in for eagle. I remember putting my ball down, and it was a little side-hiller, right to left. A little voice told me, Pat, do not overanalyze this – don’t overthink it. Just get over it and stroke it. I knocked it in for a 66, one stroke better than Beth.

As we all know through its tradition, any championship put on by the USGA tests every ounce of us as players – physically, mentally and emotionally. To be a member of the USGA family of champions is an amazing accomplishment, and still thrilling to me.

It’s so important to establish this Senior Women’s Open for future generations, players like Annika Sorenstam, Lorena Ochoa, hopefully Karrie Webb when her time comes. Our counterparts on the Champions Tour have had that opportunity and now we’re starting our legacy.

I have moments of brilliance, and some days not so much. But we’re all out there beating balls, getting ready. I can’t wait to play.

Pat Bradley begins play in the Inaugural U.S. Senior Women's Open at 7:44 a.m. CDT on Thursday, July 12.