SPORTS

From Omaha, Oklahoma and Italy came U.S. Senior Women's Am qualifiers at CRCC

Four golfers got taste of what awaits them here in a few weeks

The four qualifiers from Tuesday’s U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur golf qualifier at Cedar Rapids Country Club: Susan Marchese of Omaha, Neb., and Therese Quinn of Jacksonville, Fla. (front); LeeAnn Fairlee of Oklahoma City and Heidi Person of Pauma Valley, Calif. (right background). They will join 128 other players at the Senior Women’s Am at the CRCC Aug. 24-29. (Mike Hlas/The Gazette)
The four qualifiers from Tuesday’s U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur golf qualifier at Cedar Rapids Country Club: Susan Marchese of Omaha, Neb., and Therese Quinn of Jacksonville, Fla. (front); LeeAnn Fairlee of Oklahoma City and Heidi Person of Pauma Valley, Calif. (right background). They will join 128 other players at the Senior Women’s Am at the CRCC Aug. 24-29. (Mike Hlas/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Golfers from four different states left the Cedar Rapids Country Club Tuesday with the rights to return here in a few weeks to play in arguably the most-prestigious women’s tourney Iowa has ever hosted.

The U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur will be held at the CRCC from Aug. 24-29. On Tuesday, 15 players competed for four qualifying spots into the 132-player event. Players from California, Florida, Nebraska and Oklahoma will return.

In fifth-place was Gail Kramer, a Cedar Rapids native who was one shot from getting into a playoff for the fourth spot. She was one of eight Iowans in the field.

“I’m just off RAGBRAI,” Kramer said. “This was the third-straight day I played golf after that. I feel a little drained.”

Kramer is a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force who lives most of the year in Palm Desert, Calif. She made 118 straight free throws in a competition at the 1978 Iowa girls’ state basketball tournament while she was a Cedar Rapids Kennedy prep.

The course, with bedeviling greens the bedeviling United States Golf Association probably love, looked championship-ready. Therese Quinn of Jacksonville, Fla., had the low score among the women with a 7-over-par 79.

There was a qualifier for the U.S. Senior Men’s Amateur as well, with Sam Billmeyer of Ankeny winning a sudden-death playoff with a birdie on the first hole against Fort Madison’s James Butler. Billmeyer was the only player in the 21-man field to advance to the Senior Am, which will be Aug. 24-29 in Durham, N.C.

For the four women who advanced, playing here can only help when they return for the big tourney.

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“I chose between qualifiers here, in Arkansas, and in Houston,” said LeeAnn Fairlie, a volleyball coach at Oklahoma City’s Christian Crossing School and a 2012 inductee into the Oklahoma Golf Hall of Fame. “I thought I might as well come here and get a peek of what this looks like.”

Fairlie was a University of Oklahoma golf teammate of Susan Marchese of Omaha, who also was one of Tuesday’s four qualifiers. Marchese’s husband is an Iowan who attended the University of Iowa, so she gets some home-state entitlement.

But Marchese is Nebraska through and through, having won 18 state amateur titles.

This course is beautiful,” Marchese said. “It really is stunning. The care given to it is astounding.”

Marchese was inducted into Nebraska’s Golf Hall of Fame in 1999.

Heidi Person of Pauma Valley, Calif., played in Cedar Rapids Tuesday because she was coming off a vacation in Italy and didn’t have many qualifying options left when she returned home.

She hustled off the CRCC grounds after learning she had qualified because she had a westbound midafternoon flight to catch.

“I don’t know if I’m coming or going,” Person said, but she does know she’ll be coming back in three weeks.

Quinn is getting a twofer on her trip to Iowa from Florida. Not only did she get some experience on the CRCC layout, but she is checking off what she called a bucket-list item by visiting The Raj, an Ayurvedic health spa/wellness retreat in Fairfield. Quinn is a practitioner of Transcendental Meditation.

She said she hasn’t won anything in golf, which is a humble misrepresentation. She has played in a dozen USGA championship events, including last year’s U.S. Women’s Senior Open.

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“I’m just plugging,” Quinn said. “I’m fulfilling my passion for the game.”

There was a lot of that going around here Tuesday.

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