As soon as she received the call Saturday telling her that she had made the field for the first U.S. Senior Women’s Open, Jane Sirmons shared the good news. She celebrated with the members whom she teaches at Cold Spring Country Club and she had three phone conversations with her first instructor, her 97-year-old father, Ray.
He knew the importance of the tournament, which begins Thursday morning at Chicago Golf Club. He knew she had been an alternate after having lost a playoff for the final spot in a qualifier, and that she had been waiting for a berth to open.
“He was so excited about it,” said the pro who has been Cold Spring’s director of instruction for the past 10 years.
The long-distance chats Saturday will remain with the daughter forever. Her father died Sunday morning.
As great an honor as it is to be in the inaugural Senior Women’s Open, her first instinct was to withdraw. But her three brothers convinced her to play, saying it would be the ultimate tribute to their dad.
“He caddied for me some when I was on tour. I know he’ll be with me while I’m there. That’s the only reason I’m still going,” Sirmons said from the pro shop Sunday before she left for Wheaton, Illinois, on Monday.
“Oh my gosh, he taught me how to play. I just went back to putting the way I did when I was a kid, because of him,” she said. “He played since he was a kid. He had a beautiful golf swing. I have a video of him swinging less than a year ago. He still had a gorgeous, gorgeous swing. He taught me the game totally until I turned pro, and then I went with David Leadbetter.”
Sirmons, 57, grew up in St. Petersburg, Florida, and earned a golf scholarship to Florida International. She worked her way through the mini tours onto the LPGA tour. This week, she will be reunited with many of her peers from the 1980s. “It’s not like I was really close to a lot of the players, but it will be nice to see them all again. It will be an honor to play with them all again,” the Huntington resident said.
The United States Golf Association takes its share of public relations hammerings, but it is hard to find any fault with the decision to establish a national championship for women 50 and older. Some of the entrants still are among the biggest names in women’s golf: Juli Inkster, Jan Stephenson, Amy Alcott, Hollis Stacy, JoAnne Carner, Pat Bradley, Laura Baugh. Also included in the field is Garden City native Jean Bartholomew, a former LPGA player and now an instructor at Engineers Country Club and the winner last month of the Women’s Met Open.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Stacy said in a USGA news conference during the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills.
“We could have all been sitting at that bitter table of one, but we all look at this as a new beginning for all of us.” Alcott added, “Obviously, we’re really thrilled. Golf doesn’t stop when you’re 50.”
The event’s significance was not lost on the members at Cold Spring. They immediately began a campaign to sponsor Sirmons’ impromptu trip. “It’s amazing, the support they give here,” said the instructor who was invited north in 2008 by a club official who plays at the Florida course where she was working.
Her current boss, Cold Spring’s director of golf Jim Weiss, offered to caddie for her this week if her brother Gary could not make it. No matter who carries her clubs, she will be carrying many memories and emotions. Her father was on the bag at nearby Medinah when she qualified for the 1986 U.S. Women’s Open.
The family is holding off on the funeral until next week. On the course this week, she said, “I’m going to try to hold it together.”
Charles Jurgens Jr., Swan Lake GC, fifth hole, 192 yards, 7-wood
Scott Linzer, Spring Lake GC, 13th hole, 154 yards, 7-iron
Mark Dobriner, Cold Spring CC, 11th hole, 157 yards, 7-iron
Rob Landsiedel, Indian Island CC, 11th hole, 195 yards, driver
Dave Clark, Willow Creek G&CC, 11th hole, 167 yards, 7-iron
Howard Revis, Pine Hills CC, 17th hole, 145 yards, 7-iron
Bill Demorest, Pine Hills CC, 17th hole, 145 yards, 8-iron
Sharon Kaler, Heatherwood GC, third hole, 145 yards, 7-wood
Bryan Giangrande, Heatherwood GC, 15th hole, 130 yards, 9-iron
Jackie Appleby, Sumpwams Creek GC, fourth hole, 105 yards, 8-iron
Jim Mitchell, Sumpwams Creek GC, second hole, 134 yards, 9-iron