18 Questions With ... 2-Time Women's Amateur Champion Vicki Goetze Ackerman
Twenty years ago at Pinehurst (N.C.) No. 2, Vicki Goetze, at the age of 16 years, 9 months and 19 days, became one of the youngest winners of the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship. Three years earlier, Goetze, from Hull, Ga., had lost in the final of the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship and a week prior to that Women’s Amateur, she fell to Brandie Burton in the semifinals of the U.S. Girls’ Junior at nearby Pine Needles Resort and Lodge. As fate would have it, Goetze avenged that loss by defeating the 17-year-old Burton in the Women’s Amateur final, 4 and 3. USGA Digital Media staff writer David Shefter caught up with Vicki Goetz Ackerman, now a mother of a 4-year-old son, at this year’s Women’s Amateur at Old Warson Country Club, where she is working as an on-course commentator for the Golf Channel.
USGA: Does it feel like 20 years has gone by since that triumph?
Goetze: Some days, yes.
What do you remember about that week at Pinehurst?
Goetze: I remember just not understanding the magnitude of what a win at a U.S. Women’s Amateur would be. First, I was sick (heat exhaustion) at the beginning of the week and I wasn’t even going to play. And once I got through that, all the other people who I played against, I had played in other tournaments. Then to play Brandie Burton [in the final], who I had just lost to the week before, it was kind of like being at a junior event.
Were you motivated when you had a chance to play Brandie in the final?
Goetze: Highly motivated. If anything, I almost chuckle at myself, because there’s absolutely no way she was going to beat me two weeks in a row. Granted, she very could have because she is a great player. I just didn’t want to go down twice.
In the second round, you had a very tough match against Terri Thompson of Savannah, Ga. You were two down with three to play and rallied.
Goetze: That was one of my best friends. She was from Georgia, too, and I believe I won 16, 17 and 18. I remember, distinctly, that both of us knocked it close on 17. I think I putted first and I made and she missed. And we went to 18 [all square].
As a 16 year old going through this draw, were you just incredulous to the whole experience?
Goetze: Absolutely, I had no idea. These young ladies today, it’s a completely different ball game. [The Women’s Amateur] was a complete afterthought. I think I only played because I had made the semifinals [of the Girls’ Junior] the week before. We didn’t have to qualify. I only played because it was the next week and I made it to the semis and that put me there. It’s just a completely different ball game now.
Were you in awe of the great players in the field?
Goetze: I was so naïve. It was just ignorance is bliss. I had no idea.
And you beat past champion Carol Semple Thompson in the semifinals, who was more than twice your age?
Goetze: The thing is I had met these ladies prior to that point. I wasn’t well read on all of their accomplishments. Here I am as a kid and I’m more worried about homecoming and prom than what her record is on the golf course. There weren’t near the publications that there are now informing everybody of their accomplishments. She was just another person on the golf course. Very nice. I was very respectful because I was brought up to respect everybody.
Did it make it easier to play back then because there wasn’t an Internet presence or television coverage by the Golf Channel?
Goetze: Possibly. Now they are putting a lot of pressure on them a lot earlier. I was probably advanced for my age in the workouts. The majority of these young ladies [today] are starting so much younger and playing so many tournaments.
Were you playing a lot of tournaments at that age?
Goetze: Nothing compared to these [girls today]. I wasn’t home-schooled. I could only miss x-amount of days.
But you did make the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links final at 13, which is an accomplishment very few people know about?
Goetze: The irony is I qualified for the WAPL at 11 and I didn’t even go. I chose not to go. I went to Little Peoples [tournament in Quincy, Ill.] instead. They gave me a choice and I said I would rather go there and go play with my friends, so I didn’t do it.
You are also one of a handful of golfers to reach three different USGA amateur championship finals: WAPL, Girls’ Junior (1990) and Women’s Amateur.
Goetze: Even when I played in the WAPL, once again I’m 13. I thought I could win the [Women’s] Open when I was 14. But [Alexis Thompson] thought she could win the Open when she was 14 too. That doesn’t surprise me. When you are so young, you haven’t had many failures or much bad happen to you, which is a great thing. It’s when you get older and had more experiences. You can feed off of them and help you as well as hamper you too.
How much did winning the Women’s Amateur change your life?
Goetze: The biggest change for me was when everyone was asking me if I was going to turn pro. After awhile I said I guess I am. Versus before when it seemed so far away, I said I don’t know. It was more the realization that this could possibly happen. But I didn’t grow up with this goal of turning pro. I loved doing what I did. Junior tournaments were more fun. We had cookouts and dances. It wasn’t what it is now: very serious. I just enjoyed doing it. Quite honestly, I’m glad I did it then. Some of these ladies and young men are missing out on a lot of things.
So many of today’s players are turning pro right out of high school, but you chose to go to the University of Georgia and play in college?
Goetze: It’s such a learning experience to get away from home and grow up and be independent. There’s a part of me that said we had a rule on the [LPGA] Tour that you had to do that. I think you’re really not ready. Maybe golf you are, but maturity-wise, there’s a lot to it. And there’s a lot of demands and there’s a lot of things these kids have a rough time with, and rightfully so.
You also have the distinction of beating Annika Sorenstam in the 1992 Women’s Amateur final. Is that something you often look back on, considering the direction of your careers?
Goetze: It is kind of ironic. It’s funny, I don’t really think about that [win] all that much to be honest. I don’t know why. I don’t look at it quite that way. I look at winning it and it’s interesting to see where she ended up and somewhat disappointed where I ended up.
Was there a difference winning the second Women’s Amateur?
Goetze: Second time I knew what I was doing. The second time was much harder.
Was there television coverage of that match?
Goetze: We didn’t even have television. Ours was the last [Women’s Amateur] without television. The next year they started televising it. It’s interesting because I have tried to find footage of me playing, just to remember how I chipped and putted, and there’s very little. Local TV or U.S. [Women’s] Open. Other than that, there’s nothing out there.
When you see these young players, do you see yourself at 16?
Goetze: It’s much more of a business. It’s really neat watching how the game has come around from a standpoint of good they are.
There were 40 juniors in the field this week, which is probably a lot more than were playing in 1989?
Goetze: Back then, I think you only played in the [Women’s] Amateur if you made it to the semis of the Girls’ Junior. You didn’t go. It just wasn’t one of the things you did. It was just different.