Laura Davies rolls to 10-shot victory at inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open

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Laura Davies rolls to 10-shot victory at inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open

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Laura Davies rolls to 10-shot victory at inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open

WHEATON, Ill. – They circled in close around the 18th green for a front-row seat to history – Nancy Lopez, Sandra Palmer, Jane Blalock, Jane Geddes, Liselotte Neumann. It was a moment decades in the making, one that for many of the game’s legends felt deeply satisfying. Juli Inkster buttoned up her even-par round to clear the stage for Dame Laura Davies, a player known the world over for her power, flare and signature black sweater vest.

Davies two-putted for birdie on the closing par 5 to become the first name etched on a yet-to-be-named shiny U.S. Golf Association trophy awarded to the U.S. Senior Women’s Open champion.

“I was really happy about the early tee time for a kicker,” said Davies of the 9:09 a.m. start due to incoming weather. “I woke up about 3:30 a.m. and couldn’t get back to sleep until about quarter to 5:00, and then my alarm went off at 6:30. So it was a bit of a traumatic night, but that’s what great championship golf is all about. It tests everything. You’re playing in the heat, trying to sleep properly. Everything gets tested in these championships. That’s another good reason when you come out on top, you feel pretty pleased with yourself.”

The 54-year-old hasn’t lost much yardage since her prime, back when she carried a 1-iron. Her longest drive at firm-and-fast Chicago Golf Club clocked in at 328 yards. She mostly hit 2-iron off the par 4s. Davies led the field in putting as well as scrambling and finished second behind Helen Alfredsson in greens in regulation. Davies didn’t miss a putt from inside 5 feet all week.

It added up to a crushing performance at one of golf’s most historic and exclusive clubs. Davies thrust her putter toward the sky in celebration after her stunning 10-shot victory. It marked the World Golf Hall of Famer’s 85th title worldwide. Davies’ last victory on a major tour came at the LET’s 2010 Hero Honda Women’s Indian Open. Davies also won her debut on the Legends Tour in 2012.

Davies’ bogey-free 5-under 68 on Sunday gave her a 16-under 276 total. Inkster began the day five shots back, but sloppy bogeys on Nos. 2 and 3 from the beloved American Solheim Cup captain virtually put Davies on cruise control.

After Inkster made consecutive birdies on Nos. 8 and 9, however, Davies stepped up to the par-3 10th and hit her worst shot of the week.

“It was a horrible block out to the right,” she said, “and left a ridiculous putt, and somehow managed to two-putt it. For a second I thought I was putting it in the bunker. So that was massive – when that dropped in the top side because I misread it and I pulled it. I’ll be honest about that. It wasn’t the greatest hole I’ve ever played, but I think that to me was when I really started to think I might have one hand on the trophy and just had to get the other one in there.”

Davies won for the first time on American soil at the 1987 U.S. Women’s Open, defeating Ayako Okamoto and JoAnne Carner in an 18-hole playoff. She has played in a whopping 589 LPGA events, making the cut 423 times and winning 20 titles. Her $9,473,223 puts her 16th on the LPGA’s all-time money list.

“She did stuff where people would say ‘What is she thinking?’ ” Sweden’s Alfredsson said. “But I think that’s the same with (Phil) Mickelson. They take those chances. Everybody becomes so conservative. It’s about winning for them. It’s not about the money.”

Even so, along with a slice of history, Davies takes home a $180,000 paycheck. She’s already looking forward to next year’s Senior Women’s Open at Pine Needles in May, even though she missed the cut twice there in previous championships. But before that there’s the Senior LPGA Championship at The Dye Course in French Lick, Ind., where Davies can nab the senior sweep.

“French Lick is a very different golf course,” Davies said. “It doesn’t suit my game necessarily, but I’ll be there battling it out with the old girls, yes, definitely.” Gwk

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