WHEATON, Ill. — Considering the historical importance for women’s golf, Elaine Crosby realized this round carried a good deal of significance.
Crosby shot a 3-under-par 70 Thursday at Chicago Golf Club for the lead after one round of the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open.
"It’s history for women’s golf," said Crosby, a two-time winner on the LPGA Tour. "We’ve worked really hard."
A winner of two tournaments in 17 LPGA seasons, the 60-year-old Crosby owns a one-shot advantage over England’s Trish Johnson, Laura Davies and Sweden’s Liselotte Neumann heading into Friday’s second round.
Unlike the men, women professional golfers haven’t enjoyed an expansive senior tour with only a handful of events held on The Legends Tour.
So the chance to play a major USGA event for the first time has been important to the sport’s future.
"I mean, just being here, it’s just an amazing feeling," Neumann said
Crosby had to qualify to play in the first senior open and on Thursday made the most of it.
She started on the back nine with a 3-under-par 34 and made just one bogey on the day at one of the oldest 18-hole courses in the country. Crosby called a par save on her first hole a key to her round, and from there a smart approach made the difference as firm, dry fairways made it possible for shorter hitters to excel.
"I’m not a long hitter necessarily," Crosby said. "I’m certainly not hitting it with Trish Johnson."
The winner of three LPGA titles and 19 Ladies European Tour titles, Johnson also won the first Senior LPGA Championship in 2017. She birdied four of the par 5s on Thursday.
"It’s a U.S. Open," Johnson said. "My sort of pressure, I suppose for me, is that I won the first Senior LPGA Championship. So I’m the only one that can win them both at the same time, the first one. So that would be quite something."
Davies needed an eagle on 18 to finish within a shot of the lead.
Helen Alfredsson shot a 72, while Juli Inkster, Jean Bartholomew, Marilyn Lovander and Alicia Dibos matched par.
The first 72-hole USGA championship for women 50 and older began with a tee shot by the oldest player, JoAnne Carner. The 79-year-old proceeded to shoot her age and has set a goal of making the 36-hole cut.
Players must walk the 72-hole tournament, and Johnson said endurance will be a key to who eventually wins.
"It’s four rounds walking, which is not something you do on The Legends Tour," Johnson said. "It’s hot, and it’s going to get hotter, so you might be — it might be about stamina to be honest."