Carolina Trace hosting Open hopefuls again
Carolina Trace Country Club's Lake Course will be part of the U.S. Women's Open for the sixth straight year Thursday when it hosts one of the 24 sectional qualifying tournaments leading to next month's Open championship at Pinehurst No. 2.
"Obviously it's something we're very proud of," said Carolina Trace head golf professional Mike Krick. "Our members are very proud of it, but it's also a tribute to them, how they support the game of golf in general and that they're willing to give up the course for a full day to be a part of the Open."
Eighty-four golfers are slated to vie for four direct qualifying spots; playing 36 holes on the day - which can be a more grueling test in central North Carolina than many of the other sectional venues throughout May.
The club members do more than give up the Lake Course for the day, they help make the qualifying event happen and they'll be helping make the big show in Pinehurst run in a couple weeks.
Each year for the sectional qualifier, volunteers fill up sign-up sheets for tasks before and during the qualifier quicker, Krick said.
At Pinehurst, for both Open championships in June, Carolina Trace members will be the marshals on No. 11 at No. 2, a 483-yard par four.
Even in the years in which the championship wasn't a little down the road, the golfers who made it from Carolina Trace to the U.S. Open gained a few supporters along the way.
Krick will send emails to the members about Trace's new favorite players, then following them through the rest of their efforts at a national championship.
Krick traveled to Pennsylvania for the first round of an U.S. Women's Open a few years ago to see how Trace's qualifiers played.
The club's received updates, thank you notes and plaques from players before.
Siranon Shoomee, a Lee County High School standout, and current state champion as a sophomore, will be making her second attempt at reaching the championship finals.
Shoomee played in last year's sectional qualifier at Carolina Trace. This past fall, she won the NCHSAA 3A state championship shooting 76 and 73 at Foxfire Resort's West Course to win by one stroke.
Last May, Thailand's Patcharajutar Kongkraphan was the medalist shooting 71 and 71 for a two-under par total. Tiffany Tavee of Tempe, Ariz. qualified. Christine Song of Maryville, Tenn. won the last spot via a par on No. 10 on the first hole of a three-player playoff.
In 2012, 15-year old Rinko Mitsunaga of Roswell, Ga., Athens Drive grad and current North Carolina player Katherine Perry and Cheyenne Woods, Tiger's niece and a then-recent Wake Forest grad, qualified.
While having the toughest entry standard in tournament history, the USGA had a record-high number of entries, 1,702 players, enter the 2014 U.S. Women's Open.
Eighty players earned full exemptions to the championship. The rest of the field must advance through sectional qualification. The USGA dropped the required Handicap Index needed for a golfer, amateur or professional, to enter, from 4.4 to 2.4, "due to the rapid growth of women's amateur golf," said the USGA.
Hillary Lunke in 2003 and Birdie Kim in 2005 are the only golfers to begin at the sectional level and win the championship.