The U.S. Women's Open is the most prestigious, and the richest,
LPGA event, yet it has the weakest field of the year. The fault
lies with the USGA's qualifying system for nonexempt players, an
18-hole crapshoot that needs a major overhaul.
The system has two problems. First, anybody can get hot for 18
holes, so we need a more rigorous test to separate the wheat from
the chaff. Second, because only a 4.4 handicap index is needed to
enter, the fields contain too many golfers who have no business
being on the course with tour pros battling for spots in a
tournament that can make or break a season. The Open has a purse
of $2.9 million--$800,000 more than our next biggest event--so you
can almost secure your card for the next year with a high finish.
I have nothing against amateurs playing in the Open. I qualified
for the Open as a 16-year-old, in 1979, when my only concerns
were pleasing my dad and wondering what my mom would serve for
dinner. Most amateurs who make it, though, aren't prepared for
the rigors of the Open. I shot 75-78 and missed the cut.
We have too many players at qualifiers who can't break an egg and
only create distractions. At my qualifier, on May 14 in
Brentwood, Tenn., a girl in the group in front of me played so
badly she looked like a 24-handicapper. At a qualifier in Duluth,
Ga., Nancy Lopez played with a high schooler who shot 91 and a
club pro who had an 82. No wonder Nancy shot 78 and was in tears
Some pros favor a 36-hole qualifier, but my solution is two
stages of qualifying, local and sectional, same as the men have.
Look what happened at one of the men's qualifiers last week:
Former Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino got a lot of attention,
then shot a 78, yet no Tour player was subjected to all the
I shot 76 at my qualifier, missed by six shots and have only
myself to blame. I'm disappointed I won't be at Pine Needles. I
know I could've made some serious money playing against that
Laurie Rinker-Graham has two wins in 19 LPGA seasons.
COLOR PHOTO: JAMIE SABAU