Kettering, Ohio – Jill McGill stepped up to hit her bogey on the 18th green at the US Senior Women’s Open when Annika Sorenstam said, “No, no, no, Mark.” A confused McGill turned and asked why.
“He goes, ‘You’re going to win,'” McGill said. “I was, what? I really had no idea.”
McGill hadn’t won a trophy since 1994, and it was somewhat fitting that the winningest player in modern LPGA history was there to make sure McGill got her moment.
“I wanted to hug her,” Sorenstam said, “and say, ‘This is yours, so enjoy the moment, enjoy it and let me finish.’
McGill, 50, hit the airwaves with her Senior Women’s Open triumph, joining Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Joan Carner and Carol Semple Thompson as the only players with three different USGA titles. McGill won the 1993 US Women’s Amateur Public Association.
“It’s been a really long time,” said McGill, who has never won as a pro. “I was always a bit frustrated that I couldn’t figure out how to do it. I’ve been a different person out there this week, really, in terms of just accepting hey, you’re making the best decision you can. You try to perform the best you can. That’s all you can do.”
On a day when no one came close at NCR Country Club, McGill shot an even-par 73 to finish at 3-under 289 for the tournament. Leta Lindley, another Senior Women’s Open rookie who won once on the LPGA, in 2008, finished one stroke back.
Lindley, who like McGill now works as a teaching professional, had husband Matt Plagmann back in the bag, just like before.
“It felt like we picked up where we left off,” he said, “and it was like putting on your favorite cozy sweater.”
While the rookies finished 1-2, it was three past champions—Laura Davies (2018), Helen Alfredsson (2019) and Annika Sorenstam (2021)—who entered the final round as favorites. Together they own 15 major LPGA titles.
For a while there, it looked like the sun might be Dame Laura Davies’ biggest threat. The 58-year-old felt shivery after bending over on the sixth hole and taking out an umbrella to try to beat the heat.
As Annika Sorenstam — perhaps the most consistent player in the history of the women’s game — carded a sensational 40 on the front nine and Helen Alfredsson shot a 39, Davies took a two-shot lead on the back nine.
Jill McGill tees off on the 17th hole during the final round at the 2022 US Senior Women’s Open at NCR Country Club (South Course) in Kettering, Ohio. (Photo: Jeff Haynes/USGA)
McGill shot even on the front and was within striking distance until Davis blew up the leaderboard with a devastating eight-for-four bogey at the par-4 12th. After hitting her drive left into the trees, Davies’ second shot bounced off a tree out of bounds and never recovered.
She looked devastated when she came in to meet the press after a closing 78 dropped her to sixth place.
“About as tough as I’ve ever known it, I think,” said Davis, who has battled a bruised Achilles since the AIG Women’s British Open.
Sorenstam birdied the first hole he faced with Davies and Alfredsson looking ready to put on a show. Instead, he hit the brakes. Sorenstam said she didn’t drive the ball well enough this week, but she really can’t pinpoint why. He only hit four fairways in the final round.
When asked what her schedule might look like next year, Sorenstam said it’s too early to say, but that she won’t play as much as she did this year.
“It was hard to put in that effort and not get the results,” he said, “and I’m at a point in my life where I have some other fun things going on, so I’m not really feeling the excitement that’s coming. back and play.”
Six amateurs made the cut this week in Kettering. Patricia Ehrhart took low amateur honors after finishing 10 over. The 56-year-old Hawaiian is the travel and events manager for the Margaritaville Surf Team. Her three daughters, Scarlett, Lola and Mason, are all members of the team, which is led by Jimmy Buffett.
Ehrhart has now earned a spot in next year’s field at Waverly Country Club.
McGill joined the LPGA in 1996 and has amassed 24 career top 10s. She finished second twice and won more than $2 million, last competing in 2013. McGill promised her two children, Bella (10) and Blaze (6) that if she was in the top 10 after the first two rounds, they could drive up from Dallas with their father to watch over the weekend.
Bella, who wants to follow in mom’s footsteps, carried the trophy to the media stage after the round and even asked mom a question.
McGill had older sister Sheleigh O’Keefe, a former ski mogul turned teaching pro, in the bag this week. O’Keefe was diagnosed with ovarian cancer last year and had to pull out of her own local qualifier at the Senior Women’s Open this year with back pain.
While McGill had no idea where things were going, O’Keefe was well aware and fought her feelings through the holes they closed.
“Shelley has always been an amazing supporting force for me in my career,” McGill said. “I just love her.
The statuesque McGill credited the work she’s been doing playing competitive tennis – “We think we’re playing Wimbledon” – as a major asset this week.
“The guy I work with coaches our team, his name is Jason Warren,” McGill said, “and I was working on my serve and he’s like, ‘You’ve already put in the hard work, so when you go like that you just have to relax and to let it flow and really loosen up the arms and shoulders, and I really got out of that today just being loose and relaxed.”
She also did her best to forget everything she felt as an LPGA pro when it counted most. The former Trojan remembers feeling sick to her stomach from being so tense as a young pro more than 15 years ago.
NOT this time.
McGill became the first American to win this championship and earned a spot in the field at the following year’s historic US Women’s Open at Pebble Beach. She is also now banned from that championship for the next 10 years, meaning she will return to San Diego Country Club, the site of her US Women’s Amateur victory, for the 2025 Women’s Senior Open.
“I love Pebble Beach,” McGill said, “it’s heaven on earth.”
The USGA Golf Museum and Library archives and preserves golf for future generations
The story originally appeared on GolfWeek