Luigs' Last Amateur
Legacy Will End After 16 Years Of USGA Service
By Rhonda Glenn, USGA
North Plains, Ore. – It is 8 o’clock in the evening at this United States Women’s Amateur and the moon is hovering on the horizon. Qualifying rounds are over and a playoff has begun. Seven anxious contestants are vying for the final five coveted match-play spots in the 64-player draw. They’ve played one hole on Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club's Witch Hollow Course. Four players go to the second tee. Three of them will survive.
Marcia Luigs of Carmel, Ind., is on the two-way radio with Maggie Giesenhagen, USGA staff director of the championship. Luigs is chairman of the USGA Women’s Committee.
Is there enough daylight to continue? Yes, Luigs says. They can play one more hole. It’s 8:30.
They play and the final two players are eliminated. The field is set. It’s dark now and Luigs is on her way back to the hotel to hurriedly grab dinner. Luckily, she doesn’t have to exchange her Women’s Committee uniform for more formal clothes for yet another official dinner. Many a night she presides at a dinner table for guests from clubs serving as future championship sites.
For nearly two decades, Luigs has had a front-row seat to golf history and the best players in the world. She saw Michelle McGann, then Brandie Burton win the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship. She was present when Nancy Lopez narrowly lost the 1997 Women’s Open here at Pumpkin Ridge and on site at Prairie Dunes in 2002 to see her compete in her last Women’s Open.
She witnessed Betsy King's last U.S. Women’s Open triumph and Annika Sorenstam's first. She saw amateur Jenny Chuasiriporn make the legendary 48-foot putt to tie Se Ri Pak at Blackwolf Run in 1998. And, standing in the 72nd fairway, she saw Birdie Kim hole the bunker shot that dashed 17-year-old Morgan Pressel’s Women’s Open hopes last summer at Cherry Hills Country Club outside of Denver.
For 21 years, in fact, Marcia Luigs has enjoyed these great USGA moments while managing the complexities of running national championships in a refreshingly simple fashion.
In February, Luigs will step down as chairman of the Women’s Committee of the United States Golf Association after a traditional two-year term, ending 16 years on the Women’s Committee and five years on the Girls’ Junior Committee. For the last two years she has been making prize presentations, opening remarks and rulings on the course. It has been two years of getting up at 5 a.m. to get to the course by 6. Two years of blistering heat and severe thunderstorms. Two years of doing what she loves.
Luigs’ career in golf administration began when her daughter, Lisa, a fine amateur, was playing junior golf.
“That’s how I started,” Luigs said. “I got to know all of these people who were doing these great things for Lisa. It was a privilege to be involved and try to give back to them.”
Her first role was as chairman of the housing committee for the 1982 U.S. Junior Amateur, which was conducted at Crooked Stick Golf Club, Luigs’ home club in Carmel. Luigs was hooked, and she was drafted for the Girls’ Junior Committee in 1985, moving to the Women’s Committee in 1990. The Committee, with the USGA staff, conducts six national championships: the Girls’ Junior, Women’s Amateur, Women’s Open, Women’s Amateur Public Links, Women’s Mid-Amateur and Senior Women's Amateur. The Committee, with the Ladies Golf Union, also conducts the biennial Curtis Cup Match and assists with the USGA State Team Championship and Women’s World Amateur Team Championships.
Along with those duties, the Committee studies various issues related to the conduct of women’s golf in this country and makes recommendations to the USGA Executive Committee.
From June through September, Luigs and her troops are on the road running the national championships. Then, from October through May, they’re in planning sessions and studying issues. There’s no time off.
“It’s 15 hours a day,” she laughed. “I feel like sometimes I run on adrenalin for most of the summer. I’m definitely not known as a morning person, so getting up at 5 a.m. for weeks at a time is…” her voice trailed off for lack of a word that would sufficiently describe the effort.
Women’s Committee members arrive at the championship site before many of the players are out of bed. With the sun coming up, it’s a nice time of morning. Workers are dragging the fairways to remove grass clippings and dew. Tee markers are being positioned. New holes are being cut and tamped down. Bunkers get their final raking.
In the USGA office, Committee members grab radios, timing sheets, stop watches and tape measures on their way to the first tee. Most importantly, they pick up a copy of The Rules of Golf.
Most of these volunteer women serve as Rules officials at the championships. It’s a stressful, finite sort of job. You need to know the difference, and there is one, between an apple on an apple tree and an apple core on the ground. Getting 156 players around 80 acres of turf, hazards and other intangibles without falling all over themselves is no easy task. And when a championship ends, it’s deemed successful if it runs smoothly, with no glitches, and all that anyone remembers is the golf. That task, it seems, never ends.
“It used to be that you would go to the championship and have a week or 10 days of highly intense work, then a respite,” said Luigs of the Women’s Committee task. “But now it’s a seven-day-a-week job. There are always details, talking over the last event or the next one. It’s not just the Women’s Open, Women’s Amateur or Curtis Cup we focus on. We focus on all the championships. The championship that is most important is the championship that is underway.
“I often think of Barbara McIntire and Judy Bell. I just want to do the sort of job they would approve of. (McIntire is the two-time Women’s Amateur champion and former chairman of the USGA Women’s Committee. Bell is the former Curtis Cup player, two-time Women’s Committee chairman and the only woman to become president of the USGA.)
“They were absolute icons to me and a lot of other people in the way they helped run the USGA. They were just so good at their work. I remember when I first came on the Women’s Committee I was really scared of Judy. If she got a little cross, it scared me to death! I thought, ‘She must need something. What can I do for her that will make her job easier?’ ”
Luigs has her own style, one that seems at least somewhat influenced by McIntire and Bell. She speaks in the same measured tones that they used in more than 30 years of USGA work, yet she has the relaxed informality of an upbringing in the small Indiana town of Crawfordsville as the daughter of a doctor. Luigs is not one to fire off opinions. She waits a beat, making sure of what she wants to say, then responds. Her answers to all sorts of questions are thoughtful. In her leadership role, it’s a style that works very well.
While she’s temporarily their leader, Luigs has great appreciation for her Women’s Committee colleagues.
“This committee is really a top-notch team and everyone on the committee contributes a lot,” she said. “I think we’re so involved with the championships because the women’s championships need our involvement. The talent (of the committee) is so good. Things have to be carefully looked after, I think.”
Of all the championships, Luigs has special fondness for the Women’s Opens held at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colo., in 1995 and at Blackwolf Run in Kohler, Wis., in 1998. She remembers Sorenstam winning her first Women’s Open at The Broadmoor, of course, and Chuasiriporn’s putt at Blackwolf Run. More than that, she recalls those two as family affairs. Marcia and her husband, Joe Luigs, a top Rules official who works many championships as well, worked at the championships and their daughter, Lisa, was the championship manager.
Luigs has enjoyed some great competitive moments. Her favorites are the Curtis Cup Matches she has attended. But there are others.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked up a fairway and gotten chills,” she said. “I was standing in the 18th fairway with Morgan Pressel at the 2005 Women’s Open when Birdie Kim holed the bunker shot to win and beat Morgan. I can remember being here at Pumpkin Ridge in 1997. Once we finished with a group, the Women’s Committee members stayed in that bowl-like hollow at the 18th green, and we watched Nancy (Lopez) and Alison (Nicholas).
“I was the walking Rules official with Nancy Lopez in her last Women’s Open when she was paired with Betsy King and Patty Sheehan at Prairie Dunes. It was thrilling. It was really something. I spent the whole day watching these three great players enjoy each other. It was really a touching moment when they came up the 18th.
“Get teary? I do that quite often.”
The 1993 Women’s Open stands out in Luigs’ memory. It was played at Crooked Stick, where she and Joe have a comfortable home overlooking the first fairway and the site of the 2007 U.S. Women's Amateur. It’s scattered with golf artifacts and signs with funny sayings. A lot of traffic – friends and family – goes in and out and it’s a lively place.
Living on a golf course is a natural fit. It’s an environment Luigs loves. “We were driving around the golf course here in a cart last night after the matches were finished, and it was so quiet, so quiet,” she said. “There was none of that ambient noise from traffic. It was just wonderful.”
There was none of that peace and quiet at the 1993 Women’s Open at Crooked Stick. The championship was going along smoothly until intense storms ravaged Carmel late on Saturday. That’s when Marcia’s neighbors kicked in.
“It was the Sunday after we had that huge, horrible Saturday night storm,” Luigs said. “But I loved seeing what people accomplished overnight. We had hundreds of volunteers, lifting skyboxes back into place and picking up tree limbs. We only had to delay the start of play Sunday by one hour.”
It is the people she has met at all of the championships and in all of her roles that Luigs will miss when she steps down at the 2007 USGA Annual Meeting.
“Flat out,” she said, with a rare tinge of Indiana slang. “That is what I’m going to miss the most. It’s not like I won’t see them again, but I won’t be spending those weeks with them each summer. It’s almost like a family.”
Last Saturday night, she finished one of her last duties, once again serving as the master of ceremonies at the Women’s Amateur Players’ Dinner.
“I was saying goodnight to the players and their guests, and I suddenly realized that this concluded my career and it was my last Women’s Amateur,” Luigs said. “I got sort of choked up, after 17 years of doing it, and I was just trying to say goodnight.”
Rhonda Glenn is a Manager of USGA Communications. E-mail her with questions or comments at email@example.com.