WHEATON, Ill. – The first two players in the interview room at the U.S. Senior Women’s Open are two of the great quotes in all of golf: Laura Davies and Juli Inkster. Their 15 minutes behind the mic says all you need to know about why this championship was sorely needed.
Davies actually moved her pre-tournament press conference on Wednesday to accommodate her World Cup viewing. She planned to watch England’s semifinal game versus Croatia at Quigley’s Irish Pub in Naperville, Ill. At last week’s Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic, Davies watched the first 22 minutes of England’s game against Sweden and then ran to the first tee with her phone still in her pocket. After hitting driver, Davies put her earpiece back in to hear that England had scored the first goal. This continued on throughout the round in between shots until England won 2-0.
“Sunday is going to be interesting because I don’t know what the last tee time is, but England, if they get through today, 10:00 a.m. is the final,” said Davies. “I don’t know what the USGA thinks about people carrying TVs around with them, but I will have one.”
And that’s precisely the kind of storytelling that makes this event so darn compelling. They’re legends for their play, of course, but they’re absolute dynamite outside the ropes.
The inaugural Senior Women’s Open at Chicago Golf Club kicks off on Thursday at 7 a.m. local time with 79-year-old JoAnne Carner striping the first tee shot. The field of 120 includes 15 U.S. Women’s Open champions.
Nancy Lopez won’t be competing in the event due to recent knee surgery, but she is throwing out the first pitch at Wednesday night’s Chicago White Sox game and will serve as honorary starter on the first tee. Inkster and Davies, both still active on the LPGA, are among the favorites to win and the likes of Betsy King, Pat Bradley and Jan Stephenson highlight a star-studded field.
“It’s up to us now,” said 54-year-old Davies. “The USGA have given us the platform, now we’ve got to prove that we’re worthy of this because it’s pretty amazing what they’ve given us.”
Inkster, 58, has competed in nine LPGA events this season and missed the cut in all but one, citing trouble on the greens. In preparation for this event, she switched from the claw grip to the cross-handed and worked on her path. When asked who has worked with her on putting, Inkster turned and looked to husband Brian Inkster.
“He’s been drinking a lot this week,” she said laughing. “The poor guy,”
It has been a while since Inkster, a seven-time major winner, has been a favorite coming into a championship. The two-time U.S. Women’s Open champ now works in the booth during that championship and joked that she had forgotten how to get to a media center.
“I don’t like the whole limelight thing,” said Inkster of being a favorite. “I just like to play golf.”
Davies referred to Chicago Golf Club as a “thinking senior women’s golf course.” The fairways are wide but miss one and the “long stuff is taking no prisoners.”
The first 18-hole course in America hosted a U.S. Open as far back as 1897, the first of three national Opens. Four U.S. Amateurs have been played here, along with two Walker Cups and a Senior Amateur. The Women’s Amateur was contested at Chicago Golf Club in 1903.
Players can play the revered C.B. Macdonald/Seth Raynor layout on the ground or in the air, which is useful to those who have lost some distance. Ten players in the field are 65 and over.
“Putting is where it’s at,” said Inkster. “You’re going to have a lot of last-couple-feet roll-outs, so you’re going to have a lot of three- and four-footers for par, and you’re going to have to make those.”
Needless to say, they’re up for the challenge.