For Canadian Shelly Stouffer, winning the US Senior Women’s Amateur at the Anchorage Golf Course in Alaska earlier this month seemed like a good thing.
The 52-year-old B.C. knew she had a head start on the court this year considering she grew up in Prince Rupert, a port city on Kaien Island that’s not too far from begging for the 49th state, and felt like she a familiarity with the game in conditions similar to those in Alaska would be advantageous. She had recently beaten defending champion Lara Tennant 4 and 3 in a singles match at the PNGA Cup – a mixed Ryder Cup-style event hosted annually by the Pacific Northwest Golf Association. And she finished third in Senior Am last year, narrowly missing out on the final game after losing to Ellen Port in the semifinals in Alabama, so it was no stretch to think she had a legitimate chance to win. his first USGA title. .
Stouffer opened her campaign with an 81 on the first day of stroke play, a score that would have made most other players a little hot under the collar. But that didn’t faze the former pro one bit, and with her youngest son, Brett, on the bag cheering her on, Stouffer bounced back with a 68, the only under-par score this week.
“The 81 was very unusual,” Stouffer said. “I must have thought the last time I filmed in the ’80s was probably months and months ago. My son is like, ‘You don’t do that.’ And I say, ‘No, I don’t.’ I knew it was going to be tough there. And it was still in the top 64 so I wasn’t really worried. I figured I could definitely play better than that.
His two-day total of 149 was good enough for the No. 2 seed and was game for Stouffer once the game started. She easily made it through the rounds of 64, 32 and 16, winning 5 and 3, 5 and 4 and 8 and 6 respectively, and won her quarterfinal match 3 and 2 by beating compatriot Judith Kyrinis.
The semi-finals saw her defeat Kathy Hartwiger after Stouffer won holes 12-14 three times in a row, eventually closing the match with a par 15 to win 4 and 3. And although Australian Sue Wooster seemed having the advantage of experience considering it was the third time she had made the final match in the past four years, she too ran straight into Stouffer’s buzzsaw, falling 4 and 3 to finish second again .
“I felt like I could hit all the shots I needed and I was hitting the ball really well,” Stouffer said of the win. “I just felt like this was going to be my week and it ended up being like this.”
While Stouffer is no stranger to the winner’s circle, this title means so much more than the others, aside from the grandeur of winning a USGA championship. Five years ago, in 2017, Stouffer’s husband Ward died suddenly at the age of 56, leaving her alone to raise the couple’s two young sons following an untold tragedy. Ward also played professional golf and was always supportive of his wife’s competitive endeavors, encouraging her to play as much as she could.
“Ward was aiming to win national championships and he always wanted me to go and play them and I think that’s okay,” Stouffer said. “But then I started to have this mindset that, yeah, it’s really great to win these national championships. He obviously despises me. He’s super proud of me. He would have loved to be there. .
“There were pictures that we had had the day before. The sun was kind of piercing through the clouds and I was on the beach all alone and my son took a picture of me and you have my name there and that was me swinging in it. There was this ray of light coming down on my club. He looks really cool. I felt like Ward was shining on me.
Stouffer is set to kick off this week’s US Senior Women’s Open at the NCR Country Club in Kettering, Ohio, a spot she earned with her victory at the Canadian Senior Women’s Amateur Championship last year. It’s her first time playing in the senior major and she’s already having a blast, catching up with some of the people she played professional golf with in her prime and teeing off with two-time 2019 champion Helen Alfredsson. LPGA Senior Championship winner Trish Johnson and 43-time LPGA Tour winner JoAnne Carner during a practice session on Tuesday.
“Helen bombs it and Trish bombs it well enough too that I can follow them for a bit. It was pretty awesome just comparing my game to their game. It’s just exciting to understand everything and be around everything and (Wednesday) my practice part is with Annika Sorenstam and a few other girls, so it’s is so cool.
“Obviously I want to make the cut. I want to do really well. It would be great to play towards the end of tee times on Sunday and see how it goes.
While Stouffer’s week in Dayton will be even more special with her sister and former LPGA Tour caddy Sandra on the bag and as she soaks up every second spent around the legends of the game, she will of course be thinking of her late husband as she strolls through the NCR. But Ward’s sage golf advice will always ring in Stouffer’s ears and she knows he’ll walk with her every step of every round. And it’s that thought that comforts her as she prepares for the challenge of a US Open and the magnitude of this major moment in her golfing career.
“His thing has always been fairways and greens, fairways and greens. These are just the basics, fairways and greens, and stay under the hole. It’s the three things – fairways and greens and staying under the hole and making a few putts.
“It’s so shit that he’s not here anymore. But you know, he looks down on me, watches me do some pretty cool things now, so that’s cool.