Southern Scene: Hall of Famer Beth Daniel ready for Charleston to shine at U.S. Women’s Open 

USGA/John Mummert

Southern Scene: Hall of Famer Beth Daniel ready for Charleston to shine at U.S. Women’s Open 

LPGA Tour

Southern Scene: Hall of Famer Beth Daniel ready for Charleston to shine at U.S. Women’s Open 

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CHARLESTON, S.C.  – Tricia Nimocks opened The Greenery Florist in downtown Charleston in 1978. The sage-colored single house, built one-room wide from the street view with a double-decker side porch that’s perfect for a glass of sweet tea and a warm breeze, also has been home to Tricia and her family for the past 40 years.

Nimocks, who knows the roads of Charleston intimately as both a native and longtime deliverer of flowers, got behind the wheel of her Ford C-Max for the start of an hour-long tour. In the backseat, giving a running commentary on Charleston past and present, sat LPGA Hall of Famer Beth Daniel, Tricia’s younger sister.

“It was pretty slow and peaceful when we were growing up,” said Daniel, “and we knew everybody. Now we don’t know anybody.”

Much has changed in Charleston since Bob and Lucia Daniel were married in The Citadel’s Summerall Chapel in 1950. So much of what Beth and Tricia knew growing up is gone, paved over and built up by progress. But there’s a lot that hasn’t changed, too.

History feels alive in Charleston. The first shots of the Civil War were fired here, as Daniel points out on our afternoon drive.

In fact, the most famous hole at Daniel’s home course, Country Club of Charleston, site of the 74th U.S. Women’s Open, is the love-it-or-loathe-it par-3 11th Redan.

“The tee was a cannon mount in the Civil War,” said Daniel. “They stored artillery under it; that’s why it was built up like that. If you think about it, it protected the mouth of the river so they couldn’t escape. They were either stuck in the harbor, or they had to go out to the ocean.”

Beth Daniel, left, and sister Tricia Nimocks proved to be gracious hosts. Nimocks owns the The Greenery Florist in Charleston, S.C.  (Beth Ann Nichols/Golfweek)

The Country Club of Charleston, the first Seth Raynor design to host a U.S. Open of any kind, is where Daniel cut her teeth. Henry Picard, winner of the 1938 Masters and 1939 PGA Championship, first came to the club as an assistant pro in 1925. He returned to the club later in life and took a shine to a youngster who showed great promise.

“I was so scared of him,” said the now 62-year-old Daniel of the man in the white button-down shirt and tie.

Picard made a habit of saying things to Daniel like, “Tell me how to hit the ball high.”

If she didn’t know the answer, Daniel would try to hide from Picard behind the big oak tree near the first tee.

When she got it right, the man known as “Pic” would say thank you and walk away.

Daniel, of course, grew up to become one of the LPGA’s great ballstrikers, her precision honed on a course that demanded it. Picard’s questions helped her become a shotmaker and student of the game.

She’ll never forget the time he secretly filled her golf bag with brand new Titleist balata balls, telling her the rock-hard variety wouldn’t do.

After Daniel won the first of her two U.S. Women’s Amateur titles, the club commissioned a life-size portrait of the 18-year-old standing on the 12th tee that still hangs in the clubhouse. She’d go on to win 33 times on the LPGA, including the 1990 LPGA Championship, now known as the KPMG Women’s PGA.

Daniel’s career-low round came at the Country Club of Charleston during a casual round with her father. She faced a 5-foot putt for par on the 18th to shoot 62, when out of the corner of her eye she saw a shadow move. Daniel backed off to find her dad motioning to the gallery in the 19th hole bar that a 62 was on the line.

“He wanted everyone to know,” Daniel said, smiling.

Two and a half years ago, Daniel went out to the range one day and couldn’t see the golf ball. Daniel, who is left-eye dominant, closed her right eye and saw nothing. She was diagnosed with macular hole, and while she underwent two successful surgeries, the tear went too deep. Daniel can now see out of the center of her left eye, but it’s blurred and wavy vision. She says her competitive days are over.

“The retina guy in Michigan told me that what happened to me is one in a million,” said Daniel, who had to miss last year’s inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open because of it.

The narrow streets of Charleston, S.C., provide a modern-day connection to its 17th century roots. (Beth Ann Nichols/Golfweek)

Back on the road, we passed the Church of the Holy Communion, where the Daniel children were baptized and where Tricia serves as an acolyte at the 8 a.m. service.

Daniel’s father went into the Navy at age 17 and served in the Pacific during World War II. Her mother is a long-time volunteer at the Confederate Museum on Meeting Street above Market Hall.

Every turn of the corner in Charleston evokes a memory. From kickball at the Hazel Parker Playground to Tricia’s regattas at the Carolina Yacht Club.

Their high school is long gone but the restaurant scene, well, it has exploded since the days when the Daniel family had about three to choose from.

James Beard Award-winning chefs in Charleston specialize in everything from French and Spanish-Mediterranean to Southern farm-to-table and BBQ. Daniel is partial to Blossom on East Bay Street, a sister restaurant to the popular Magnolias. The owners are her parents’ neighbors.

A drive down Legare Street, where the Sword Gate House, a stately mansion once owned by Abraham Lincoln’s granddaughter that’s currently on the market for $15 million, eventually leads to a conversation about shutters. Back home in south Florida, Daniel has painted hers Charleston green, a green so dark it almost looks black, to remind her of home. There’s a magnolia tree in the front yard, too.

Daniel is honorary chair of the Women’s Open along with three-time Grammy Award winner Darius Rucker, who was born in Charleston and still resides there. Daniel speaks highly of Rucker and the work he has done to raise money for the state’s junior golf program. 

Charleston has been voted the No. 1 small city in the U.S. for eight consecutive years by Conde Nast Traveler readers. Ticket sales for the Women’s Open are up after Tiger Woods won the Masters and women competed at Augusta National for the first time.

Daniel has made peace with the fact her golf is now limited and purely for fun. She’s proud to welcome the best in the world to her town and to her club.

If you’re lucky, she might even give you a tour.  Gwk

(Note: This story appears in the May 2019 issue of Golfweek.)

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