Anchorage Golf Course (USGA photo)
While she might not be the most recognizable name in the field, Pamela Chesla is on the brink of making history at the 60th U.S. Senior Women's Amateur which gets underway on Saturday at the Anchorage Golf Course.
As the only Alaskan in the field, the Hope resident will have the honor of striking the opening tee shot in the first-ever USGA championship conducted in her home state.
"I’m humbled, honored, excited and maybe a little nervous to be a participant and be the first to tee off," said Chesla, who lived in Anchorage for 44 years before recently relocating to Hope, one of Alaska’s first gold-rush towns.
"Jamie Berge has worked hard to have the USGA bring a championship here for 15 or more years. I believe the State of Alaska deserves this championship. Everyone involved has more than stepped up to the tee to pull this off. Anchorage Golf Course has worked hard over the past 4-5 years in making changes and upgrades. We hope to showcase the beauty the last frontier has to offer. It’s a remarkable team effort."
Alaska has hosted a U.S. Open qualifying tournament every year since 2009 as well as a number of U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur qualifying events, but it’s never been the scene of a USGA championship tournament.
“Before Mike (Davis) retired, he wanted to take a USGA championship to Alaska,” said John Bodenhamer, USGA chief championships officer. “I had more experience in the state than he did (Bodenhamer played in three Alaska State Opens, winning in 1987 and 1988), and he used to ask me all the time, ‘Where can we conduct a championship up there?’ Now that we have one, we really want to make the people up there feel like a part of the USGA, because they are and have been great supporters. It’s a long way to go, but we are the United States Golf Association, and that means all 50 states and Puerto Rico.”
“We’re thrilled and honored to be the first golf course in Alaska to host a USGA championship,” said Anchorage Golf Course general manager Rich Sayers. “To showcase to the world what sort of golf we have here in Alaska and demonstrate both the challenge and beauty of our golf course on such a grand stage is something we cannot wait for.”
, who fell short in the final match of the 2021 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur
to Lara Tennant at last year's championship, 2 and 1, will make the journey to Alaska from her home in St. Louis in search of her eighth USGA title.
"I have heard it (Anchorage Golf Course) is a beautiful course and that those who have lobbied to host are very excited to have us," she said. "How awesome it is to be able to be a part of history?
"It was a bold step for the USGA to bring a championship to a location that is tough to get to and probably isn't known for its golf courses, but leave it to the old ladies to put it on the map."
Tennant, the three-time defending U.S. Senior Women's Amateur champion, is also looking forward to the excursion north from her home in Portland, Ore.
"It’s going to be a unique and memorable event for all participants," she said. "I have not heard much about the course but I have been to Alaska and it is the most beautiful and majestic state in all of America."
Chesla, who has lived in the Land of the Midnight Sun for some 47 years, knows a thing or two about the uniqueness of playing golf in her home state.
"Alaska is a unique and rugged place to golf," said Chesla. "One might share the fairway, sand trap or green with a moose or a bear with newborns. We may have a short season (mid May-Sept.), however, we have almost 24 hours of daylight during that time to play golf.
"There’s never a dull moment and this is as exciting as it gets!"
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Field and Format
Not counting the moose, bears or foxes that might be wandering the tree-lined fairways of the par-72, 5,787-yard Anchorage Golf Course, a total of 132 of the best female senior golfers in the world will make the long journey north to compete for the championship on the public facility located on the wooded hillside which overlooks the Alaskan capital and offers a view of the tallest peak in North America, 20,310-foot Denali, formerly known as Mount McKinley.
There are 11 countries and 35 states represented in the championship, with 111 of the 132 players hailing from the United States.
and Ellen Port
are two of the five defending champions in the field, along with Terri Frohnmayer (2011), Judith Kyrinis (2017) and Carol Semple Thompson (1999, 2000, 2001, 2002).
Tennant, 55, will be aiming for her fourth U.S. Women's Senior Amateur Championship after capturing titles in 2018, '19 and last year when she defeated her longtime friend and rival Port, 2 up at The Lakewood Club in Point Clear, Ala.
Port has a chance to make some history of her own in Anchorage. The 60-year-old St. Louis native is tied with Anne Quast Sander and Carol Semple Thompson for second among female USGA champions with seven titles, trailing only JoAnne Carner (eight). Semple Thompson, a World Golf Hall of Famer, is also making the trip north.
The mothers of two Curtis Cup team members will also be in Anchorage. Brenda Kuehn, 57, the mother of Wake Forest standout Rachel Kuehn, is competing in her third U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur, and recently qualified for the 2022 U.S. Senior Women’s Open. She secured the winning point for the USA in the 1998 Curtis Cup Match at The Minikahda Club in Minnesota and watched her daughter achieve the same distinction at the 2021 Curtis Cup in Wales and the 2022 Curtis Cup Match at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa.
Ulrika Migliaccio, 50, was a member of the University of Arizona women’s golf team from 1992-1995, where she helped the team to a Pac-10 Championship title and a runner-up finish at the NCAA Championship in 1992. She earned All-America and All-Pac-10 honors that season while playing alongside Annika Sorenstam. Her daughter, Emilia, a two-time All-America player at Wake Forest, recently won the North & South Women's Amateur and was a member of the victorious 2021 and 2022 USA Curtis Cup Teams.
Sarah Ingram, a three-time U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion who served as captain for the last two USA Curtis Cup teams, is also in the field. Port (USA: 2014), Semple Thompson (USA: 2006, 2008) and Mary Budke (USA: 2002) join Ingram as former Curtis Cup captains who will be in Anchorage.
Ingram, Kuehn and Migliaccio will be paired together for the stroke play portion of the event.
Two rounds of stroke play will narrow the field of 132 to 64, who will then compete in six rounds of match play. Basked in sunlight for well over three-quarters of the day, there won't be any fear of suspending play for lack of light.
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A Look Back at Last Year
While heavy rains in the southeast might have delayed Lara Tennant's quest for a third straight U.S. Senior Women's Amateur Championship, the Portland, Ore. native had to deal with a force arguably stronger than Mother Nature in Ellen Port during the title match at The Lakewood Club in Point Clear, Ala. In a much-anticipated championship match between two longtime friends and rivals, Tennant won her third consecutive U.S. Senior Women's Amateur title, defeating the seven-time USGA champion, 2 up, on Lakewood's Dogwood Course. Read the full story here.
The USGA contributed to this report