Helen Alfredsson predominantly is a recreational golfer these days, better than most recreational golfers, of course, but Nassaus and skins games with friends, however spirited, don’t remotely replicate tournament golf.
Yet Alfredsson, always competitive, often fiery so, somehow cobbled together a game better than good enough to compete, good enough to win a national championship.
Alfredsson, a 54-year-old Swede, won the second U.S. Senior Women’s Open at Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club in Southern Pines, N.C., on Sunday, defeating Juli Inkster and England’s Trish Johnson by two strokes. She received $180,000 for the victory.
“Completely elated,” she said, explaining her emotions. “Exhausted. This probably goes before elated. You just have a hard time believing it.”
Alfredsson parred her final 13 holes to close with a one-over par 72 and a 72-hole total of one-over 285. Johnson, meanwhile, bogeyed three of her final six holes and shot a two-over par 74. Inkster had the best round of the three, a one-under 70, and was a runner-up for the second straight year.
“First loser, I think that’s what they call it,” Inkster said.
Alfredsson, who won seven LPGA events and 11 Ladies European Tour events, last played on either tour in 2013 and now plays two tournaments a year. “And it’s six months in between,” she said. The rest is recreational golf. “My husband likes to play and I have a ton of friends at home that like to play.
“When you play [tournaments] week in and week out, it just becomes so natural. And I was a player that played eight weeks in a row, no problem, flying back and forth to Europe, and bang, you're on the first tee and there you go. I'm glad my next tournament is not until October so I can recover because the recovery time is a lot longer.”
Alfredsson, who won the Nabisco Dinah Shore in 1993, and Johnson arrived at the 12th hole tied. Johnson had a 10-foot birdie putt at 12, “a pretty straight putt, 10 foot up the hill to take the lead,” she said. “Just didn't hit it hard enough, and it died off, and that was pretty much it. A poor shot into the next, poor drive at the next.”
Those resulted in back-to-back bogeys that allowed Alfredsson to take a lead that she maintained to the end with her series of pars.
Alfredsson, in her prime, twice was a runner-up in the U.S. Women’s Open, so she viewed this victory as a bit of revenge.
“Just to have something USGA, it feels very nice,” she said. “One of my first years when I finished second [in the Women’s Open], it was very special. It's one of the toughest tests you ever will do in golf, to play a U.S. Open. And I always liked tough, I think. Maybe not at 54, but yeah, it's nice to have that USGA.”