Curtis Cup Captain Mohler Surprises Herself, Qualifies For U.S. Women's Amateur
Oldest player in field (55) competing in first Women's Amateur Championship since 1980
By David Shefter, USGA
Noreen Mohler had planned to visit St. Louis in early August. She just never thought she would be bringing her golf clubs.
What began as a pipedream turned into reality on July 20 when the 55-year-old Bethlehem, Pa., resident qualified for the 2009 U.S. Women’s Amateur, to be contested at Old Warson Country Club in St. Louis Aug. 3-9.
Mohler, who earlier this year was named USA Curtis Cup captain for the 2010 Match at Essex County Club in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Mass., was going to St. Louis for an early scouting mission. It would provide an opportunity to size up available talent for next June’s biennial competition against Great Britain and Ireland.
But then an idea popped into her head. Why not make an attempt at qualifying for the championship?
And when she posted a 2-over-par 74 at Sunnybrook Golf Club in Plymouth Meeting, Pa., Mohler had earned a spot in the 156-player field. It will be her first appearance in the Women’s Amateur since 1980, when she missed the match-play cut at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kan.
To put that long drought into perspective, all but seven players in this year’s event weren’t even alive in 1980.
“Pretty amazing, huh?” said Mohler by phone before departing for St. Louis. “I didn’t think I had a really good chance. I mean, I had a chance or otherwise I wouldn’t have done it.”
With her son Brendan on her bag, Mohler was two under par through 14 holes of the qualifier. Three-putt bogeys at 15 and 16 brought her back to even, and a nasty pull-hook off the tee at the par-3 17th led to a double bogey. But Mohler regained her composure and converted an 8-foot par putt at the final hole for the 74. She figured a 75 would qualify. As it turned out, 76 played off for the final spot.
“I had a good day,” said Mohler, who will be the oldest player in the field. “The course played long for me. Everyone was hitting it 30 yards by me. It was almost 6,300 yards. That’s an OK length for me. I wouldn’t want to play anything longer. That’s why I didn’t even try to qualify for the Women’s Open. I know my limits.”
Despite the Women’s Open being conducted in her backyard, the 6,740-yard Old Course at Saucon Valley simply was too long for Mohler. Instead, she served as a volunteer and scouted the amateurs in the field. Six amateurs made the cut, three of which were juniors: 14-year-olds Alison Lee and Alexis Thompson, and 16-year-old Jessica Korda. Jennifer Song, 19, of La Cañada, Calif., who won the 2009 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links title, was the low amateur, giving Mohler plenty of good fodder for when the team is selected next year.
She also spent a day recently at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., for the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship, watching the likes of Thompson, Korda and 17-year-old Kimberly Kim, a member of the 2008 Curtis Cup squad.
Being inside the ropes at the Women’s Amateur just gives Mohler another opportunity to observe talent, not just on the course but how the players handle their emotions off it.
Mohler has not made any special requests to play with anyone and knows the groupings for stroke play are done randomly by the USGA. That doesn’t mean she won’t have time to scout.
George “Buddy” Marucci Jr., the 2009 USA Walker Cup captain, has spent a majority of his summer competing in the same amateur events as some of his possible players. The Walker Cup will be held Sept. 12-13 at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa.
“There’s no better way to really get up close and personal unless you are playing with them,” said Mohler. “You are in the locker room with them. You are seeing not just what happens on the golf course, but also what happens outside the golf course, too. That’s important.”
This will be Mohler’s seventh appearance in the Women’s Amateur. In 1975, she advanced to the semifinals, where she fell to eventual winner Beth Daniel in 19 holes. She also made match play on four other occasions, losing in the second round in 1973, 1976 and 1979 and the first round in 1977. She was a member of the Curtis Cup team in 1978.
In 1984, Mohler turned professional and played two years on the LPGA Tour before giving up professional golf after meeting her current husband, Jeff. She stayed away from competitive golf for 20 years while raising a family and tending to their restaurant in Easton, Pa. Recently, Mohler has enjoyed a golf renaissance playing USGA championships. She was a quarterfinalist at the 2007 USGA Senior Women’s Amateur at Sunriver (Ore.) Resort, and she reached the semifinals of last year’s U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur at Barton Hills C.C. in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Then she received the ultimate honor from the USGA Women’s Committee earlier this year.
“Nothing beats being named Curtis Cup captain,” she said. “That’s bigger than any significant victory.”
Even qualifying for the U.S. Women’s Amateur at 55.
David Shefter is a USGA Digital Media staff writer. E-mail him with questions or comments at email@example.com.