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FAIRFIELD, Connecticut – Massachusetts amateurs Sue Curtin (Boston Golf Club) and Danielle Lee (Renaissance) have played championship-level golf plenty of times before, but this week is an experience unlike any other.
Lee, 62, from Concord, and Curtin, 51, from Westwood, will play in the U.S. Senior Women’s Open for the first time beginning Thursday, July 29 at Brooklawn Country Club (6,011 yards, par-72) in Fairfield, Connecticut. Lee’s group begins at 1:36 p.m. on hole 12, while Curtin tees off at 1:39 p.m. on hole 1.
Chicopee native Michelle Dobek, a former LPGA Tour pro, also qualified her way into the 120-player field, highlighted by 11 former U.S. Women’s Open champions, including Hall of Famers Annika Sorenstam and Juli Inkster.
Tickets are still available and start at just $20 per day. Brooklawn is located about 150 miles southwest of Boston, with an estimated driving time of 2.5 hours.
*UPDATE* Both Sue Curtin and Danielle Lee made it through 8 holes of their opening round on Thursday, July 29 before the event was suspended due to rain/weather conditions. Lee stands at 3-over and Curtin is 4-over. Tee times for the resumption of play have yet to be released.
Curtin and Lee qualified for the 3rd annual U.S. Senior Women’s Open on June 15 at Bass Rocks Golf Club. Lee played 1-under through the final 10 holes to earn medalist honors at 5-over 75. Curtin meanwhile, forced a playoff by making birdie on the 18th and outlasted Pamela Johnson.
As part of the 33 amateur golfers in the field, Curtin and Lee are already relishing the atmosphere around the event, with Lee describing her first USGA experience as a “super-charged Mass Golf event.”
“When I walked up to the driving range, the attendant asked me whether I wanted to hit Pro V1 or Pro V1x balls, and then there’s Laura Davies at the other end of the driving range warming up,” said Lee, who represented Mass Golf in the 2021 Griscom Cup. “You see Annika Sorenstam’s name and Julie Inkster’s name in the same tee sheet with yours. It’s just a continuous series of unbelievable experiences.”
A self-described weekend golfer, Lee watched many of her fellow competitors compete on the LPGA Tour growing up. However, her own journey as a competitive golfer didn’t begin until later in life. Growing up as a cyclist and climber, she gravitated to competitive golf about 10 years ago. She cited the work of several PGA Professionals, including Shawn Hester, Allan Belden, and Skip Guss, for helping craft her swing over the years.
“It’s been quite a journey getting here, with lots of hard work and help from many people,” Lee said. “I’ve met many interesting golfers and friends along the way. As they say, it’s the journey that makes it all fun.”
What makes it extra special is that Lee’s brother lives in Fairfield, and every time she has driven by Brooklawn, she was longing for the opportunity to play there. “To have that opportunity in the U.S. Women’s Senior Open has been fantastic,” Lee said.
Like Lee, Curtin also has a personal connection with one of her fellow competitors. Amy Alcott, a five-time major champion, used to coordinate a charity event to support the fight against multiple sclerosis, the disease that eventually took the life of Curtin’s mother. In addition, Curtin, who grew up in California, often played alongside LPGA rookies in this event, getting her familiar with accomplished players.
Alcott spoke Tuesday night during a reception for the players and mentioned Curtin’s story, beginning with meeting her as a California kid, playing golf at both BYU and Holy Cross, and becoming a stellar amateur player on the state and national level.
“She’s a beam; she’s a delightful person,” Alcott said of Curtin.
Curtin, the 2017 Mass Women’s Mid-Amateur Player of the Year, has prior USGA experience in the US Women’s Four-Ball and U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur. But she said this event has a positive and supportive vibe around it, not to mention the increased level of name recognition. On Tuesday, Curtin played a practice round with 7-time LPGA champion Helen Alfredsson. On Wednesday she got to pair up with Hall of Famer Juli Inkster, the U.S. Solheim Cup Captain, and current LPGA Tour player Pat Hurst.
“The level of camaraderie, it’s special to see that in women’s sports,” Curtin said. “They had to fight for this championship. These women deserve this stage, and to be participating with them is significant.”
Lee Khang, the father of LPGA pro Megan Khang, will also caddy for Curtin.
“There’s an automatic level of comfort and confidence,” Curtin said. “He’s caddied in pro events, so having him there, it’s allowing me to enjoy it more. I’m not worried about all the technicalities.”
Players with the top 50 scores (and ties) advance to the weekend at the Senior Women’s Open.
No matter where she stands, Lee said she’s just sticking to her routine and trying to play to an optimum level.
“I have a range of scores in mind for what that would be, and if I play to that range, then I’ll be satisfied no matter where that leaves me relative to the field and the cut line,” Lee said. “The course itself is playing long for me. Most of my approach shots are 150-190 into sloping greens, but the green speed is similar to what we would see in the Massachusetts Women’s Amateur Championship. I feel that playing Mass Golf Championships has prepared me well.”
Curtin said she believes the course is set up fairly and that putting should make the difference.
“This championship is going to be won on the green,” Curtin said. “They say stay below the pin, but I didn’t mind above or below. The sides were more difficult.”
The U.S. Senior Women’s Open was established in 2018, 38 years after the inaugural U.S. Senior Open was first contested. Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton, Ill., one of the five founding clubs of the USGA, hosted the inaugural championship. The field of 120 players included some of the game’s greatest players, including eight-time USGA champion JoAnne Carner, six-time USGA champion Hollis Stacy, five-time USGA champion Juli Inkster and the eventual champion Laura Davies, of England, winner of the 1987 U.S. Women’s Open.
The field also featured a bevy of amateur golfers with plenty of USGA pedigree, including seven-time champion Ellen Port, 2017 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur champion Judith Kyrinis, inaugural U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Cindy McConnell (1987), and 2009 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Martha Leach, who took home low-amateur honors while tying for 10th.
The competition, for females 50 and older, is open to any professional or amateur whose Handicap Index does not exceed 7.4.