2002: Match-play mettle: Thompson wins 24 in row

After winning seven U.S. Golf Association championships, you’d think Carol Semple Thompson would have more confidence. But the soft-spoken, long-reigning queen of amateur golf amazes herself each time she wins.

The latest chapter in Thompson’s illustrious career will read four consecutive USGA Senior Women’s Amateur championships. In a downpour Oct. 10, Thompson defeated Barbara Berkmeyer, 3 and 1, at Mid Pines Inn and Golf Club in Southern Pines, N.C., to win her fourth. Thompson is one behind Carolyn Cudone’s Senior Women’s Amateur record (1968-72) five consecutive titles.

“I think everybody rolls over and plays dead,” Thompson quipped. “There was no way I could have predicted this. I don’t expect myself to do this. I just seem to be able to squeak by.”

How do you squeak by 24 consecutive times? Twenty-four is the number of consecutive matches Thompson has won during the last four years, a USGA record. She also became the first medalist to go wire-to-wire since the format changed to match play in 1997. Only JoAnne Gunderson Carner has won more USGA titles (8) for women, and Thompson has now tied Anne Quast Sander at seven. For men, Bobby Jones has nine, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods both have eight.

“The seven USGA championships I think are comparable to other women,” said Thompson, who won the 1973 U.S. Women’s Amateur and the 1990, 1997 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur titles. “I certainly don’t feel it gets me up with someone like Tiger (Woods). I know perfectly well that a U.S. Open is a little different than the Senior Women’s. But I’m still thrilled to win it.”

Thompson, 53, arrived at Mid Pines feeling less than confident about her swing. But an opening-round 7-and-6 victory over Marilyn Nolan-Johnson calmed her nerves for the rest of the week.

In the championship against Berkmeyer, a 58-year-old from St. Louis, Thompson made seven pars on the front nine for a 1-up lead at the turn. Berkmeyer squared the match on No. 10 when her 104-yard approach landed inches from the hole. But Thompson was too steady down the stretch and Berkmeyer conceded the hole and the match when she failed to make par on No. 17.

“I was playing an experienced player,” Berkmeyer said. “Whether it’s rainy, sunny, she’s going to win the match. I was the underdog, I wasn’t supposed to win.”

For the fourth consecutive year, the trophy will be on display at Allegheny Country Club, Thompson’s home club in Sewickley, Pa. At the awards ceremony, Thompson said when the trophy was sent from Allegheny to Mid Pines a note was found with the package that read “please return with care to Allegheny Country Club.”

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