by Allie White
The US Women’s Open is the biggest tournament in women’s golf and perhaps the biggest sporting event in women’s sports. This year, the gates of Lancaster Country Club admitted roughly 25,000 people a day to watch. It’s a big deal!
I’m a pro golfer and every year around May I try to qualify for the Open through one of the USGA’s qualifying sites. Any woman with a handicap under 2.4 can give it a whirl. I play on the Symetra Tour (women’s golf’s version of Triple A baseball). Most of us Symetra Tour players usually try for the Open.
I made the 2009 Open at Saucon Valley in Pennsylvania. It was awesome. This year the Open was again in Pennsylvania… Lancaster Country Club. I grew up playing golf at Lancaster Country Club in Ohio and I also take lessons from Sally Austin who lives on Lancaster Drive. Coincidence? I think not! Obviously, I thought it would be a triangle of destiny that I return to Pennsylvania to win the Open this year. Right?
The USGA has 25 qualifying sites and I picked Boston, not Korea, England, or China but Boston, because it has the northern grass I grew up playing. After 36 holes in 47 degrees and rain I found myself in the clubhouse with a spot in the Open field and one group still to finish. Of course young Megan Khang came in one stroke better than me and just like that I was on a plane ride home with nothing more than a first alternate spot. Still there was a slim outside chance that enough people would withdraw and I would get a spot.
By Wednesday before the Open I still hadn’t gotten that phone call to come play. So what the heck, I decided to drive over to PA and wait on the putting green in case somebody had to withdraw suddenly. There were four of us waiting.
After a seven-hour drive on the Turnpike, an overnight in a less-than-four-star Days Inn and waking up at 4 a.m. in a drizzle, I didn’t play in the Open. Thanks triangle of destiny. However, on the bright side, being a US Open alternate had some sweet perks. Here is an inside look at why it’s the best way to watch an Open ever!
- I parked next to the clubhouse? Yeah, that’s right I did. After being told by the USGA, I would need to talk my way in for parking, I boldly drove right past road closed signs, orange cones, a policeman who pulled me over, parking security, until I found myself right in front of the clubhouse. By the afternoon the whole parking lot was solid Lexus’ (official car of the Open) except for my blue Prius (the Batmobile). Proud moment!
- An Empty Practice Facility. Okay, so besides getting to hit on the range while Michelle Wie was whacking away, and putt around with Stacey Lewis on the green, I also had a whole wedge area to myself between the hours of 6:00am and 7:00am before Suzann Pettersen started firing balls at me.
- Volunteers! Just like the grand majority of golf events, the volunteers at the Open were the difference
- Michelle Wie. It was a blast watching hordes of people following Michelle Wie with her interesting putting stroke.
- Hanging out with Fellow Alt Jean Chua. Symetra competitor, Jean Chua (pictured above) helped keep my spirits up as we slowly lost all hope of playing… good time for a putting contest.
- Player Dining. Yeah, so I went ahead and used my alternate badge to talk my way into player dining too. I had breakfast with Marina Alex and a few hours later she was leading the tourney? No problem, Marina.
- Player Dining. Not only was breakfast awesome, but so was lunch. And being that there were athletes everywhere, the ice cream line was really short….
- Laura Davies. I watched Laura the Legend, age 51, knock it on the green on 7 like it was nothing. Take that youngens!
- 25,000 People Outside and No Phones. How often in the 21st Century do you see so many people outside enjoying each other’s company not cramped and staring at a cell phone screen? Old school fun!
- Spending the day with a Friend! Luckily for me, my friend Sarah Bejgrowicz grew up playingLancaster Country Club and was in town visiting her family. Not only did she help me bust into parking, player dining, and the practice facilities, she was ready for me if I needed a caddy. Big thanks to Sarah!
Being an alternate was fun, but next year I’ll be shooting for the tee!
Allie White from Lancaster, Ohio, is a professional golfer and golf journalist. She is currently pursuing her Masters in Journalism at Ohio University. With four years of experience on the Symetra Tour, a cut-made at the 2009 U.S. Women’s Open, and a 2016 Ohio Open Championship, White hopes to continue her golf career during her academic breaks.