PINEHURST, N.C. – If anyone in this week’s field at the U.S. Women’s Open can offer perspective on the evolution of the women’s game, it’s Laura Davies.
Davies survived a sectional qualifier to punch her ticket to Pinehurst at age 50, and this week will make her 26th appearance in the event. She won in 1987 at Plainfield Country Club in New Jersey, etching her name on the trophy before many players teeing it up this week were even born.
The changes in women’s golf since that victory are stark, according to the four-time major champion.
“There’s no comparison, really,” Davies said Tuesday. “The age has come down. All the best players in those days were the older players, the 30- to 40-year-olds – Pat Bradley, Beth Daniel. Now the best players are the younger players. I think it’s quite marked.”
While many of the best female players are younger than ever, the appearance this week of 11-year-old Lucy Li takes things to a new level. In Davies’ mind, there is no downside to the pre-teen teeing it up against the pros.
“What advice can you give an 11-year-old, really? It’s extraordinary,” Davies said. “I imagine this course is going to be a really long course for an 11-year-old, but I’m also imagining her short game must be unbelievable. So that might give her a chance at making the cut.
“But you never know with these kids. She’s probably trying to win it, for all I know.”
With 20 LPGA victories and 45 wins on the Ladies’ European Tour, Davies was surprised to find out last month that she had earned the title of Dame Commander of the British Empire (D.B.E.) from Queen Elizabeth II as recognition for her hall-of-fame career.
“I got the M.B.E. in 1987 after I won the U.S. Open and the C.B.E. in 1996. I always thought you only got one upgrade basically, but I got the double bump so I’m in first class now,” said Davies, who will be introduced on the tee as Dame at next month’s Ricoh Women’s British Open. “I don’t think there’s any tournament I could win now that can beat this honor, because it’s something that’s given to you over a 30-year career.”