WORCESTER, Mass. – Michelle Dobek hadn’t played a competitive round of golf in a couple of years, but the U.S. Senior Women’s Open qualifier in Fairfield, Connecticut, was too convenient to pass up.
The former LPGA Tour golfer from Chicopee (Mass.) made the best of it by shooting a 4-over 76 at Greenwich Country Club on July 15 to tie for second in the qualifier and grab one of the six qualifying spots. Dobek is a golf instructor at Fairview CC in Greenwich.
“I’m rusty, I’m very rusty,” Dobek said in a telephone interview. “I didn’t putt well, but I just got through it.”
Dobek hasn’t played many competitive rounds in recent years because she’s been too busy teaching and she hadn’t played any such rounds during the pandemic. When she was interviewed for this story, she had given lessons that day from 7:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m.
“I don’t really even have time to practice,” she said. “I practice here and there.”
So she was pleased that she managed to qualify.
The U.S. Senior Women’s Open will be held in Connecticut, at Brooklawn CC in Fairfield, only about 45 minutes from Fairview CC, July 29-Aug. 1.
Dobek was eligible, but didn’t try to qualify for the two previous U.S. Senior Women’s Opens in 2018 at Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton, Illinois, and in 2019 at Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club in Southern Pines, North Carolina.
The USGA’s newest championship, which is for women aged 50 and older, was not held last year because of the pandemic.
The 5-foot-5 Dobek has played in a few pro-ams with golfers she used to compete against on the LPGA Tour during the 1990s and early 2000s, but not over the last two years during the pandemic. Some of her former LPGA Tour competitors will tee off at Brooklawn.
“I’m looking forward to seeing them all,” Dobek said.
Three-time U.S. Women’s Open champions Annika Sorenstam and Hollis Stacy, two-time U.S. Women’s Open winners Juli Inkster and JoAnne Gunderson, 2021 U.S. Solheim Cup team captain Pat Hurst and 2021 European Solheim Cup captain Catriona Matthew will be in the field at Brooklawn. So will Laura Davies and Helen Alfredsson, winners of the first two U.S. Senior Women’s Open titles.
Dobek, a 2012 inductee into the Western Mass. Golf Hall of Fame, turned pro at age 22 in 1988 and won twice on the Futures Tour. Her best finishes on the LPGA Tour were ninth place at the Star Bank LPGA Classic in 1997 when she shot a career-best 67 in the final round and a tie for 10th in the LPGA Championship in 1996. She played in five U.S. Women’s Opens. She modestly labeled her LPGA Tour career as sporadic.
“I obviously wanted to play better when I was out there,” she said.
She is most proud of the fact that she holds Class A status with the LPGA’s Teaching & Club Professional division.
She began playing golf at age 5 at her parents’ driving range on Chicopee Street in Chicopee and she played golf for Florida International University after graduating from Chicopee High School. It’s fitting that she teaches at Fairview CC because Fairview is a section of Chicopee. Dobek still gets back to her hometown as often as she can.
Dobek said as an instructor she enjoys helping people out and watching their progress.
“Every person is different,” she said. “Everyone has their own way to swing and you just kind of work with it.”
Some of her students know that she used to play on the LPGA Tour, but she doesn’t mention it.
This will be the third USGA Open championship held at Brooklawn, which was founded in 1895. The club also hosted the 1979 U.S. Women’s Open, won by Jerilyn Britz, and the 1987 U.S. Senior Open, won by Gary Player.
Even though Dobek works in Greenwich, she had never played Greenwich CC before, not even for a practice round. She did play Brooklawn a few years ago and she’s begun to practice a bit more to try to sharpen her game.
“I’m just going to do my best and try to have fun,” she said. “Whatever it is, it is.”
The U.S. Senior Women’s Open is a walking-only, 72-hole stroke play competition with a 36-hole cut to the top 50 players and ties.
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