Coloradans Andonian-Smith, Moore, Hardy join Texan Beliard in advancing to inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open
by Gary Baines
Colorado Golf Hall of Famer Janet Moore and part-time Gunnison resident Marilyn Hardy have each competed in dozens of USGA national championships over the years.
They’re all special, but the one they qualified for on Tuesday at CommonGround Golf Course in Aurora really sets itself apart.
The two, along with fellow Coloradan Sherry Andonian-Smith and Texan Patricia Beliard, earned spots in the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open. Years from now, they’ll all be able to reminisce about being part of the field for a first-ever national championship. (Andonian-Smith, Hardy and Moore are pictured at left.)
And it’s an added bonus that the event will be contested at one of the oldest and top-ranked courses in the U.S., Chicago Golf Club, which will host the competition July 12-15.
“This one is very special for me,” said Moore, a Centennial resident who will be playing in her 26th USGA championship. “Normally I don’t get too nervous for qualifiers. I was nervous for this one, and already I’m nervous for the tournament and it’s a month away. This is very special to play in the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open. It’s the biggest (USGA event) I’ve played in.
“My friend Ellen Port (a seven-time USGA champ) is exempt. And she said, ‘Janet, I want you to come out and watch.’ I said, ‘Ellen, I’m going to try to play.’ She’s like, ‘I’m sorry. I forgot.’ I’m anxious to text her and say, ‘Hey, I’m playing too.'”
Added Hardy, a veteran of roughly 36 USGA championships, including two U.S. Women’s Opens: “This is huge. I’m so excited about it. It’s fantastic that they got around to (creating this event). It’s way overdue.”
Andonian-Smith, a Colorado PGA professional from Centennial who’s an instructor at Valley Country Club, earned medalist honors Tuesday at CommonGround with a 1-under-par 71. The 55-year-old played her final seven holes in 3 under par and made four birdies and three bogeys on the day.
That left her with a big smile on her face.
“Honestly I thought my USGA tournaments were done,” said Andonian-Smith, who last competed in a USGA national championship as an amateur — at the U.S. Women’s Amateur and the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links — twice each. She was twice a first alternate for the U.S. Women’s Open. “I’m 55 and I’m not going to do the U.S. Open anymore. So when they did this event, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I have another chance.’ So I was very excited.
“This is pretty high (on my list of golf accomplishments) because I thought I was done with them. I haven’t slept much the last few nights.”
Andonian-Smith will also play this year in the Senior LPGA Championship, in October in French Lick, Ind.
Moore, winner of five CWGA Stroke Play Championships in the 1990s, tied for second at 74 on Tuesday despite a double bogey on the final hole. The 53-year old finished with three birdies, three bogeys and the double. Sarah Moore, Janet’s daughter, helped Arapahoe win a 5A girls state high school team title at CommonGround in 2010, and she caddied her for mom on Tuesday.
Speaking of Sarah Moore, she played golf at Wheaton College in Illinois, which is about a 10-minute drive from Chicago Golf Club. Janet Moore coached the Wheaton women’s team for several years, and during that time she had the opportunity to play Chicago Golf Club once.
“It was really hard,” Janet Moore recalled of the historic course. “I think that’s part of my being nervous. Just playing it for fun, it was hard. But it’s a great course, and the history of it is impressive. I’m thrilled to be part of it. It will be a really good challenge.”
Hardy, 56, who has advanced to the semifinals of the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur and to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur, matched Moore’s 74 on Tuesday after parring her last 15 holes of the day. Hardy and her husband, renowned golf instructor Jim Hardy, live in Colorado during the summer and in the Houston area during the winter. Jim Hardy served as Marilyn’s caddie on Tuesday, and he does likewise in all USGA championships in which she competes. (The two are pictured above.)
Not surprisingly, Marilyn also works considerably with Jim on her swing and her game.
“How could I not?” she said with a smile. “And he’s always right. I keep that in mind. It’s very comforting having him on the bag.”
And Beliard, a native of France who lives part-time in Houston and has played on the Ladies European Tour for most of the last two decades, earned the fourth and final U.S. Senior Women’s Open berth out of Tuesday’s field of 24. Beliard, 54, birdied the last hole of regulation for a 75, then defeated former LPGA Tour players Lori West of Glenwood Springs and Dede Cusimano of Aspen on the first hole of a playoff. Beliard two-putted from the back fringe for par from 30 feet to advance.
Cusimano and West missed the green short on the extra hole, the par-4 first, and neither could convert their 20-foot par putts. Cusimano ended up two-putting for bogey to earn the first alternate spot, while West three-putted for double bogey, leaving her with the second alternate position.
Beliard (left), like the other qualifiers, relishes the fact that she’s part of the first field for the U.S. Senior Women’s Open.
“It’s something that it’s great we have it for the first time and I really want to be part of it,” she said. “It was about time we have the U.S. Senior Women’s Open. I think it’s great. I’ll be very, very happy to play in the first one for sure.”
U.S. Senior Women’s Open Qualifying
At Par-72 CommonGround GC in Aurora
ADVANCE TO NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
Sherry Andonian-Smith, Centennial 71
Janet Moore, Centennial 74
Marilyn Hardy, Gunnison 74
Patricia Beliard, Katy, Texas 75
ALTERNATES (In Order)
Dede Cusimano, Aspen 75
Lori West, Glenwood Springs 75
Kathy West, Tulsa, Okla. 77
For complete scores, CLICK HERE.