Sherri Steinhauer: Three WBO wins, Laura Davis and the long putter
The last time the Women’s British Open visited Woburn we had a different sponsor in Weetabix, a different course in the Duke’s and it was in 1999, two years before the tournament was afforded Major status.
But the winner was a familiar one as Sherri Steinhauer defended her title with a closing birdie to pip Annika Sorenstam. Seven years later the American added a third WBO title, this time as a Major winner (she already had one big one to her name) back at Lytham, the scene of her 1998 victory.
None of these triumphs came as a huge surprise – Steinhauer played on four Solheim Cup teams – but the ease in which she adapted her game to being so successful in the UK was remarkable. Only the great Karrie Webb also has three wins in this tournament.
Other titbits include being part of a six woman play-off for an LPGA event, a record on the Tour, and being an assistant at the 2011 Solheim Cup, the year she retired.
Now she has a museum of sorts with all her memorabilia dating back to her childhood, a visual autobiography of all the good times that she enjoyed in the game. My first competitive round on a links was an 81 at Lytham in 1998 and I then went on to win. I was looking at flights to go home the next day.
It was only possible because of the weather, it was windy and rainy and I played well and kept moving up the leaderboard. My goal was to avoid the fairway bunkers and I did that. I charted the course to miss the sand and I went 72 holes and didn’t go in any of them.
I went to school in Texas where it was very windy and always hit the ball low. I loved drilling shots rather than let the wind affect it. And I loved the imagination that a links course requires.
At Lytham when the wind blew it pretty much played that same way for the week and at the same strength, there wasn’t much gusting like there is in the States.
That made it a bit easier to control the ball. It’s hard to start with a hard par 3 as they do at Lytham and I remember the second time in 2006 hitting it over the green and getting it up and down which calmed me down for the day.
There is a railway line down the right on the 2nd and 3rd holes and I had a shot that I could lose to the right so I was definitely playing down the left side of those fairways!
I think as far as having a game plan and sticking to it that was the two best tournaments that I ever played. I really wanted to win the Women’s British Open when it was a Major so I was extremely nervous in 2006.
It always seemed like a Major the way Weetabix ran the tournament and got the best names in the field so it felt like a big week. In 1999 at Woburn I remember being paired with Laura Davies and after the two rounds we were signing our cards and she said ‘good luck in the defence of your title’ and it struck me that’s what I was doing.
It put a great thought in my head. I wasn’t right in it but was within range and it gave me a great attitude going into the weekend. On Sunday I didn’t have my best game and started poorly but finished well so felt proud of myself. It could have easily gone south. I had a 12-foot putt on the 18th to beat Annika.
I would have loved to have won at St Andrews in 2007 and I made some amazing friends there. I met a lady who is now in her 70s and we are still good friends and I visited her a couple of years ago.
It is such a special place for me and I played the Old Course again. The history and knowing how long the course has been there it makes it very special. I stayed on the hotel on the 18th hole and my room overlooked it.
I thought I had a chance but I had a really bad last day. I went and visited Old Tom’s grave and I don’t know if that was bad luck! I have a stored garage with all my memorabilia.
My late mum kept a lot of things and I couldn’t throw these things away, my bulletin board from my bedroom was all wrapped up and was exactly as it was.
There were cards and medals and pictures and it is divided into my professional and amateur days. It has a family room with all of our videos and I make inspirational videos for kids and we watch them up there.
Hopefully I can inspire one child. I have a lot of things from the British Open. When you win you get a special bag that you carry the following week so those are in there.
When you get out on Tour you are just going and going and you don’t have time to reflect so it’s neat. I am involved in a kids tournament and they want me to ship one of my British Open trophies home.
So I’m a little nervous that it doesn’t break and I’ll be packing it really well. I used a long putter for four of my wins. I don’t know why more women didn’t use one, I guess a lot of women feel like they’ve got great touch with the short putter.
I never even claimed to be a great putter with the long putter, that was the part of my game that held me back. It was something different, I knew when I first picked it up that I just felt really good with it.
I first put it in my bag in Atlantic City in 1998 and I remember holing a 20-footer, so I thought ‘this is staying’ and I used the same putter the rest of my career. I got the exact same model twice but that was it for the next 12 years. I worked with Dr Bob Rotella, who is a leading sports psychologist.
I was always extremely hard on myself as a child and at college, and I would never have made it without working with him so that I understood how to channel my emotions to work in my favour and not against me.
The best thing he ever told me was to treat myself like I would my own best friend so if they hit a bad shot I would always console them and offer a few nice words, so that resonated with me. I thought I should beat myself up so that one sentence made a difference for me.
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