Home Golf How completely different is that this U.S. Ladies’s Open? Ask a previous champ

How completely different is that this U.S. Ladies’s Open? Ask a previous champ

How completely different is that this U.S. Ladies’s Open? Ask a previous champ


Amy Alcott performed her first U.S. Ladies’s Open in 1975. This week at Pebble Seaside, she displays on how the championship has advanced.


PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — Forty-eight years in the past this summer time, Amy Alcott performed in her first U.S. Ladies’s Open as knowledgeable, at Atlantic Metropolis Nation Membership, in New Jersey. She completed 18th, incomes — nicely, she will’t recall, however it couldn’t have been a lot. The purse for the occasion was simply $55,000. The highlight round it was equally low-wattage. A small gaggle of reporters coated the motion. Attendance was so sparse, it hardly might be labeled as a “crowd.”

“The distinction between then and now’s night time and day,” Alcott stated.

It was a hazy morning in Monterey, and Alcott was standing by the placing inexperienced at Pebble Seaside Golf Hyperlinks, website of this week’s U.S. Ladies’s Open. The official begin of play was nonetheless a day away, however already the grounds buzzed. Spectators pressed across the roped-off follow space. Merchandise tents bloomed within the backdrop, conducting a brisk commerce in caps and shirts.

“Ladies’s golf has develop into large enterprise,” Alcott stated.

This week’s proceedings on the California coast have been hailed as a watershed second in ladies’s golf, a showcase of the very best feminine gamers on the earth, staged for the primary time on the nation’s most storied public course. To understand the magnitude of the second, you could possibly look to the cash (a file purse of $11 million, with $2 million put aside for the winner) or the media consideration (marathon preview protection on Golf Channel, and, for the primary time on NBC, stay telecasts of all 4 rounds). You may also attempt to see it by the eyes of Alcott, one in every of 27 previous ladies’s nationwide championship winners who’ve turned up at Pebble to look at this week.

“You can say that issues have modified since I acquired my begin,” she stated.

Born in Kansas Metropolis however raised in Southern California, Alcott, 67, groomed her sport as a child by “sneaking by the fence onto Riviera” — a prestigious place to trespass that presaged a precocious junior profession. Alcott’s first brush with Pebble got here in 1973, when, at 17, she piled into the again of her mother’s Pontiac and rode up the coast to compete within the California Ladies’s Beginner. A couple of days later, she rode house with each the ladies’s course file (69) and the trophy in hand.

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That very same yr, Alcott competed as an beginner within the U.S. Ladies’s Open, on the Nation Membership of Rochester, the place she briefly held the lead after a gap 69 earlier than stumbling the following day to overlook the lower. She turned professional in 1975, and set a season’s earnings file for a rookie by raking in $25,000.

In each her shot-making and disposition, Alcott was well-suited to powerful setups, and a fast research within the U.S. Ladies’s Open; she notched two prime 5s within the occasion earlier than profitable it on her sixth attempt, in 1980. First place paid $20,000, which, adjusted for inflation, converts to roughly $90,000 at present.

These had been “Ozzie and Harriet days” in ladies’s golf, Alcott stated — quaint and reversion. At Pebble this week, 240 media shops from all over the world have utilized for credentials. In Alcott’s prime, she wanted only one hand to depend the reporters at large occasions, and on the uncommon weeks when the outcomes made the morning papers, her mother would joke that they wanted a microscope to learn the tiny print on the again web page.

The scant protection, after all, was partly as a result of prejudice in opposition to ladies’s sports activities, which, in flip, was unattainable to separate from economics, which influenced the extent of media curiosity, and so forth in a ceaseless cycle. When Alcott was beginning out, she stated, ladies’s golf obtained principally mom-and-pop backing. An exception was toothpaste-maker Colgate, which acquired behind what was then the Dinah Shore within the early Seventies.

“In any other case, it was actually a variety of small native sponsors,” Alcott stated.

From her perspective, change got here within the method of quite a bit transformations; regularly, then immediately, propelled by the whole lot from shifting cultural attitudes and international pursuits to the rise of social media, and extra. To the purpose the place the marquee occasion in ladies’s skilled golf, as soon as barely a blip on the mainstream sporting radar, has morphed right into a juggernaut of an event, enjoying out on a gilded platform. Sponsorship {dollars}, which as soon as got here in a trickle, have swelled to one thing nearer to a torrent. Once you’re making an attempt to promote the sport, it doesn’t damage to have a spot of Pebble’s stature. 

Whilst Alcott spoke, she was gearing up for a pre-tournament occasion, a day fundraiser at Peter Hay, Pebble’s par-3 course, the place she and 10 different previous Ladies’s Open champs would play in an 11-team scramble, joined on their squads by junior golfers and executives from company sponsors: a mixture of blue-chip corporations and monetary giants that had paid $100,000 every for a spot on the tee, with all of the proceeds going to junior golf.

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Alcott stated she was moved by the prospect and likewise struck by the implications: the size to which the U.S. Ladies’s Open has grown, and the potential pressure for change it has develop into. She nonetheless performs golf, and may get it round properly. She’ll be within the area on the U.S. Senior Ladies’s Open, in Oregon, in August

“If I may hit it 20 or 30 yards farther, I’d wish to be on the first tee right here tomorrow competing,” she stated.

She seemed round, on the crowds milling about, on the expansive infrastructure, and stated that she felt tugged in two instructions: grateful for what the U.S. Ladies’s Open has develop into, but additionally wistful for what it may need been.

“Half of me is pondering, ‘Wow, that is nice,” she stated. “The opposite half is pondering, ‘It’s about time!”

Josh Sens

Golf.com Contributor

A golf, meals and journey author, Josh Sens has been a GOLF Journal contributor since 2004 and now contributes throughout all of GOLF’s platforms. His work has been anthologized in The Greatest American Sportswriting. He’s additionally the co-author, with Sammy Hagar, of Are We Having Any Enjoyable But: the Cooking and Partying Handbook.



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