Regardless of how many courses she has seen, how many holes she has traversed during a Hall of Fame playing career and nearly 30 years as an award winning broadcaster, some places always will stand out for Judy Rankin. For instance, the Meadow Brook Club in Jericho.
"Meadow Brook was a big golf course, a pretty good test from tee to green. And as I remember, doesn't it end with a pretty long par 3?" she said the other day on her cell phone, driving near her Texas home with her granddaughter.
One other thing that makes it stand out, she added, "Meadow Brook was the last place I ever won."
She beat Beth Daniel by two strokes to win the 1979 WUI Classic, the 26th and final victory in one of the most accomplished careers in LPGA Tour history. So when she returns to Long Island next week, as analyst on ESPN's coverage of the U.S. Women's Open at Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton, she will be revisiting good memories. She also will offer proof that, even though the Women's Open never has been on Long Island before, there is a footprint for women's tour golf here.
In fact, Rankin had won the same event in 1978, too, when it was held at North Hills in Manhasset. "I remember it being a really nice course, with a lot of hills. I had just returned from the European Open outside London and I remember thinking it was particularly nice not to play somewhere halfway around the world," she said.
At Sebonack, Rankin will be working her third major in four weeks. She was the lead analyst for Golf Channel at the Wegmans LPGA in Rochester, then worked last week on ESPN's telecasts of the men's U.S. Open at Merion.
"I think as a player, to some degree, I was always intimated by the U.S. Open. The best I ever did was second," Rankin said, referring to the 1972 Open at Winged Foot, which she lost by a stroke to Susie Maxwell Berning. She pointed out a statistic she had just heard: 73 golfers each played No. 18 at Merion twice over the weekend, and no one made birdie. She said it makes you wonder if it might have been over the top.
So she is looking forward to seeing Sebonack, which has a par-5 finish and the possibility of many birdies. She has heard it is a natural, somewhat linksy layout, which she admires. "I particularly like a golf course where you can say, 'This is the land that was there, they just put in some greens and tees,' " she said.
Bottom line, it will be a homecoming for her as a broadcaster. Her last Long Island visit was in 1986, when she was a relatively new on-course reporter for ABC at the Open at Shinnecock Hills.
"I was the swing person. So many people took the lead that Sunday, they kept moving me from group to group. Finally, they had me settled in on the 13th hole with Raymond [Floyd]," she said, pointing out that it became her first chance to cover an Open champion close up. "It was a great experience for me."