ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – The women’s return to St. Andrews this week to play the Ricoh Women’s British Open for a second time means a lot, even to the legends of the game who aren’t playing there this week.
“I think it’s a big deal the women are playing St. Andrews for a second time, that they have been invited back,” Hall of Famer Beth Daniel said. “I think it’s pretty awesome.”
Lorena Ochoa won the first time the Women’s British Open was played on the Old Course six years ago. It was also a special week for the Hall of Famer Daniel. She decided in the third round of that championship that she was going to retire there following her Sunday finish. It remains her last round in an LPGA event.
“I got there the Sunday before and walked the course,” Daniel said. “I played it in practice rounds on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I didn’t want to miss a day on that golf course, and I just thought, `I’m not going to find a better place to hang it up.’ I decided on that Saturday it would be my last tournament. What a great place to end my career.”
Daniel confided her plans to a couple players, and the news spread. By Sunday, a collection of friends and colleagues gathered at the 18th to watch her walk over the Swilcan bridge and play her last hole.
The normally cool Daniel said she struggled to control her emotions as she walked across the Swilcan bridge knowing it was her last round in an LPGA competition.
“I went into the scoring trailer and broke down in tears,” Daniel said.
Daniel loves the Old Course, and she remembers relishing even being able to walk through the St. Andrews clubhouse, something the women weren’t sure they were going to be able to do. While St. Andrews is a public trust and the course is open for women to play, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews is an all-male organization residing in the clubhouse.
“You had to go down stairs to get the locker room,” Daniel said. “They let us use the locker room, but they weren’t going to let us use the rest of the clubhouse, which is basically like a museum. I remember a couple women asking if they could take a tour of the clubhouse. We were so grateful; they eventually opened the door to us. They have all these great portraits and memorabilia. It’s just a super clubhouse.”
Daniel said she’ll never forget Hall of Famer Louise Suggs setting up at a window in the clubhouse and watching all week with a view of the first tee and the 18th green.
“It was a special week,” Daniel said.