A major champion and a winner of more than 20 events worldwide, Sweden’s Helen Alfredsson is no stranger to playing and executing with the lead. She’s also no stranger to close calls with a U.S. Women’s Open on the line, with two runner-up finishes in the U.S. Women’s Open a part of her stellar record. On Sunday, Alfredsson hopes to continue to execute in big spots, and push the close calls aside, as a 2-under 69 on Saturday put her in a tie for the lead through 54 holes in the 2nd U.S. Senior Women’s Open at Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club. She is joined at even-par 213 by England’s Trish Johnson, who matched the championship’s 18-hole scoring record on Saturday with a 5-under 66.
The duo separated themselves from the rest of the field on a Saturday that saw temperatures eclipse 90 degrees, with four strokes between them and 2018 runner-up Juli Inkster, who had an up-and-down round of four birdies and four bogeys en route to an even-par 71. Reigning champion Laura Davies, who found trouble off the tee on a few occasions on Saturday, shot a 3-over 74 and is six strokes off the pace.
Alfredsson, who led Davies by a stroke after two rounds, is the only player in the field to shoot two rounds in the 60s so far, and picked up right where she left off Friday, making her first birdie of the day on the par-4 second hole, when she holed a putt from 18 feet. She moved to even par for the first time on Saturday on the par-5 10th hole, when she blasted out from a greenside bunker to two feet. Her lone bogey of the day came on the par-4 11th, but she eventually got that stroke back on the par-4 17th, holing a winding, 25-foot-putt to pull even with Johnson.
“Today could have been a quite a low round if I would have made some very, very makeable putts,” said Alfredsson, who tied for sixth in the inaugural championship last year. “But you never know. I'm just going to have to take tomorrow. I'm happy where I am.”
Johnson, who finished third in last year’s U.S. Senior Women’s Open at Chicago Golf Club, albeit 12 strokes behind Davies, entered the day three strokes behind Alfredsson, and immediately started cutting into her deficit. Her second shot on the par-5 first stopped three feet from the hole, setting up an eagle, and a wedge on the par-4 second also left her with a three-foot putt for birdie, which she converted. She made another birdie on the par-4 fourth hole and bogeyed No. 9 to go out in 3-under 32. Her sharp shotmaking continued on the back nine, with approach shots on Nos. 12 and 17 setting up tap-in birdie putts.
“I was a little bit tense the first two days really trying too hard. Playing with Juli [Inkster] and Danielle [Ammaccapane], as well, has its own sort of pressures. I sort of almost played my way out of it yesterday,” said Johnson, who bogeyed two of her last three holes on Friday. “So today it was just go and play golf and see what happens. I eagled the first and birdied the second. Within half an hour I'm back involved again. Then you get a little bit excited and you think, hang on, I've been here before.”
Alfredsson and Johnson were two of four players to break par on Saturday, with Nanci Bowen, who sits in fourth place at 5-over 218, shooting a 1-under 70, and Suzy Green-Roebuck, who is seven strokes back, shooting 2-under 69.
Sunday, May 19: Final Round Tee Times
- Two-time U.S. Women’s Open champion Karrie Webb, who won her second title at Pine Needles in 2001, was on-hand Saturday to take part in a junior clinic and interact with the kids in attendance. She was joined by U.S. Senior Women’s Open competitors Martha Leach, Lisa Grimes, and Barb Bunkowsky. Webb will play in the U.S. Women’s Open, May 30-June 2, at the Country Club of Charleston.
- Trish Johnson’s eagle on the first hole on Saturday was the first, and thus far, only eagle surrendered at Pine Needles during the championship.
- In the race for low-amateur honors, Sally Krueger, of San Francisco, Calif., will enter the final round with a one-stroke lead over seven-time USGA champion Ellen Port and 2017 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur champion Judith Kyrinis. Krueger sits at 16-over 229 through 54 holes, after shooting 4-over 75 on Saturday. A total of five amateurs made the cut.
- The final group of Johnson and Alfredsson will tee off at 1 p.m. EDT on Sunday. Live coverage will be on FS1 starting at 3 p.m.
- Trish Johnson (Even, 66): “The heat does take its toll. I don't know how hot it is out there today. I was just looking at home, and it's 60 degrees and raining. I'm going to make the most of the weather. But it is mentally quite draining because we're not youngsters anymore, so it's hard work. But I enjoyed it, obviously enjoyed playing. Everybody enjoys playing really well, and today I played well.”
- Helen Alfredsson (Even, 69): “The U.S. Open, as much as I remember, it's always been- you know it's tough. You know you've just got to keep going. You know you're going to make doubles. U.S. Opens are about just staying patient, and it's not really one of my strengths, even though I'm getting older, so I'm getting too tired to be too excited about stuff or upset about stuff.”
- Juli Inkster (+4, 71): “I struggled with the putting again. I had three three-putts from nowhere. I didn't hit the ball as good today, but I still hit it good enough to score better than I scored. I just keep throwing them away on the greens. But tomorrow I've got to play a great round in order to win.”
- Laura Davies (+6, 74): “I played badly. I could have done better because I could have putted better. I putted well, but I didn't hole anything. That putt at the last was a classic example. Overall, I didn't hit it well tee to green. I think 3-over is a fair result. I don't deserve much better than that because I hit some really rough shots right in the middle of the round when it got really hot.”
- Donna Andrews (+14, 74): “It's been great. So many of my students [from Pine Needles Academy, where she is the lead instructor] are out there, my family, my friends. It's just been great having so many people out there. I'm going to go work on my golf swing a little bit. I'm going to try to sneak in down at my learning center and use some of my aids that I have down there, work on my swing a little bit. I would like to shoot even par or better. I've played well enough to do it. I just haven't done it yet. So hopefully I've got one more day to try to do that.”