CEDAR RAPIDS – The United States Golf Association has never held one of its championships in Eastern Iowa. That covers over a century and a lot of tournaments.
That changes Saturday with the start of the U.S. Women’s Senior Amateur at Cedar Rapids Country Club. It will feature accomplished players from across the country and other nations. It could mark the beginning of USGA events coming to town on a periodic basis.
“We’d like to see it lead to more,” said CRCC president Michael O’Donnell. “This is the first step to potentially another USGA event.”
The impetus to the club pitching itself as a potential USGA host was the architectural restoration of its course in 2016. The course was re-bunkered. Greens and fairway corridors were expanded, and tees were rebuilt. The lines of play were improved.
“Now it’s more like an old classic golf course,” said CRCC golf superintendent Tom Feller.
The intention was a greater resemblance to the course Donald Ross designed in 1915. Ross is one of the most-renowned golf architects of all-time, and CRCC was the only Iowa property he designed.
“I’ve been here 18 years,” Feller said. “We’d always entertained hosting a USGA event. After the course was restored we felt it set up a little better for one, and was a showcase.”
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After the restoration and the CRCC membership approving the pursuit of a USGA event, “it was just getting the USGA to take a look at the golf course,” said Iowa Golf Association executive director Chad Pitts. “They came to the golf course and loved it.”
Thus, the 2019 Women’s Senior Amateur was awarded to the club. It’s just the third USGA event to come to Iowa, following the 1963 U.S. Amateur and 1999 U.S. Senior Open, both in the Des Moines area.
The competition is for women age 50 and over. It will stretch from Saturday’s first round of stroke play with 132 entrants to next Thursday’s 18-hole championship match with the last two players remaining. The CRCC will be open for all, with free admission to the event.
“It’s a huge honor to be able to host one of the USGA’s 11 championships,” said Molly Altorfer, the host committee co-chair for the tournament. “To be placed in the rota of (USGA) courses across the country puts us in a league with incredible golf courses and golf clubs.”
There are distinguished golf clubs that don’t pursue national events. Altorfer said the CRCC decided in recent years to try to hold a USGA tourney because “our membership supports golf in general and definitely amateur golf.”
When the event is over, O’Donnell said, “We hope the players rave about the golf course, the club, and this great town.”
2019 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur golf tournament
Venue: Cedar Rapids Country Club, 550 27th St. Drive SE
Parking: Washington High School, with shuttles to CRCC
Schedule: Saturday: Stroke play, Round 1, 18 holes
Sunday: Stroke play, Round 2, 18 holes
Monday: Match play, Round of 64
Tuesday: Match play: Round of 32 and Round of 16
Wednesday: Match play, Quarterfinals and Semifinals
Thursday: Championship match, 18 holes
Field: 132 players, age 50 and older
Defending champion: Lara Tennant of Portland, Ore.
Here are some of the 132 players who will compete in the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur golf tournament, which will be held at the Cedar Rapids Country Club Saturday through next Thursday:
Stacey Arnold, Westminster, Colo.: The first University of Iowa women’s golfer to qualify for the NCAA Championships (1990). A three-time All-Big Ten player. She was inducted in the UI Athletics Hall of Fame in 2003. She qualified for the Senior Am in her first year of eligibility.
Judy Penman, Oro Valley, Ariz.: Muscatine native who retired to Arizona three years ago. She’s playing in her second-straight Senior Women’s Am.
Lara Tennant, Portland, Ore.: The defending champion. She took the lead on the first hole of last year’s championship match and never relinquished it. Her father, George Mack, caddied for her in the tournament.
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Sue Wooster, Victoria, Australia: The runner-up in 2018. She won the Australian Senior Amateur championship last October and has also won national senior events in Canada and New Zealand.
Diane Lang, Weston, Fla.: A 3-time winner (2005, 2006, 2008) of this event. She is native of Jamaica, and was the first Jamaican to play on the LPGA Tour. She regained her amateur status in 1989.
Ellen Port, St. Louis: Won this tournament in 2012, 2013 and 2016 and also won four U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateurs. She is in the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame and Missouri Sports Hall of Fame.
Laura Webb, East Berkshire, UK: Won the Women’s Senior Amateur championship in the United Kingdom in 2016 and 2018. She also has won Irish girls, ladies and senior titles.
Judith Kyrinis, Thornhill, Ontario: The 2017 Senior Am champion, the 2014 runner-up, and a 2018 quarterfinalist. She tied for 29th in this year’s U.S. Women’s Senior Open. She is one of three Canadians to win this event. She has been a registered nurse in Toronto for 33 years. She recorded a hole-in-one when she was 8 ½ months pregnant with her oldest child.
Lisa Schlesinger, Fort Myers, Fla.: Semifinalist in the Senior Amateur in 2011 and 2012. She played point guard on the Maryland women’s basketball teams that won two ACC titles and went to the 1978 Final Four.