Eldorado County’s Karen Garcia Qualifies For The 2022 U.S. Senior Women’s Open

Photo from USGA.org

Karen Garcia remembers going to Columbia Edgewater Country Club in Portland, Ore., and watching many of the best in women’s professional golf during LPGA Tour events. Garcia, who had only been playing golf for a few years at the time, also remembers telling herself: “Oh my gosh, I could do this. I could make a living out of this, maybe.” On second thought, Garcia said she realized just how hard it is to be a professional golfer and that her game was nowhere near where it needed to be when she took a year off from her job as a school teacher to work at a local golf course. “I got pretty good,” Garcia, a resident of Cool in El Dorado County, recalled recently.

Garcia is an accomplished player – playing regularly and working on her game, even at home, where she has a putting mat and a net with a driving range mat, where she can hit golf balls to keep her swing fluid and sharp. “I love it. What I love about golf is that it’s not like other sports,” she said. “I can play with people of all sorts of ability levels and all walks of life and get to know people on the golf course that you really can’t while you play other sports. That’s what really attracted me to golf, and it’s kept me going.
“I also love competition and to have that opportunity in golf. There is the camaraderie of golf but also that independence, where you can just go and have that serenity and practice in that kind of inner quiet.”

Garcia is one of the top players in the Sacramento area. She is a member of the Sierra View Country Club in Roseville and plays in Sacramento Golf Council events. Later this month, she will travel to NCR Country Club in Kettering, Ohio, to play in the 2022 U.S. Senior Women’s Open Championship. Garcia finished second, shooting a 1-under-par 72, in a qualifier on Monday, July 18, at Sierra View Country Club. She is one of five players to advance from the qualifying.

The 4th U.S. Senior Women’s Open Championship, a U.S. Golf Association event played on the South Course at NCR Country Club, is Aug. 25-28. It’s a professional event that includes Annika Sorenstam, Juli Inkster, Laura Davies, and Jane Geddes. Other exempt players include Helen Alfredsson, Rosie Jones, Catriona Matthew, Michelle McGann, Liselotte Neumann, Michele Redman, Yuko Saito, Kris Tschetter, Amy Alcott, JoAnne Carner, Hollis Stacy, Jan Stephenson, Danielle Ammaccapane, Jane Crafter, Tammie Green, Jill McGill, Alice Miller, and Val Skinner.

According to the USGA at www.usga.org, the U.S. Senior Women’s Open is open to professional and amateur females with a Handicap Index not exceeding 7.4 who have reached their 50th birthday on the first day of the championship. The USGA said that those in the 120-player field tournament can earn the title through qualifying or an exemption category. “It is an honor to go and play,” said Garcia. “And especially as a person having a full-time job and not getting to travel and play in as many events as other people.

“I feel like I represent a little bit of everyone. I grew up as a public golf course golfer. I represent the Pacific Women’s Golf Association, Northern California. I represent a lot of different groups. I’m proud to have achieved this and excited to get to play, and hopefully, play well. “My game has grown so much that, I think the nice thing is over time, I feel like I can go back there and have fun and enjoy myself and have a shot at making the cut. That’s kind of the goal with amateurs is to make the cut and be the low amateur.”

Garcia is also a member of the Sacramento Chapter of the LPGA Amateur Golf Association, which plays out of the Haggin Oaks Golf Complex. According to the Haggin Oaks website, www.hagginoaks.com, the LPGA Amateur Golf Association, a national organization with local chapters around the country, has continued to grow in size and opportunities for all levels of golfers. “Through golf, education, mentoring and social activities, the group strives to include women of all ages and abilities. New golfers are encouraged and mentored in their transition from the practice range to the course,” the website points out. “The chapter offers classes, clinics, and casual play opportunities as well as 9- and 18-hole play days at a variety of area courses on weekdays and weekends on a year-round basis.”

Garcia works as a counselor at Placer High School-Auburn, so her time for playing golf is limited. But Garcia said she goes about working as hard at the game as she did when she first took it up in 1985.
“I’ve tried to keep getting better every year,” said Garcia, who works with a teaching pro, Greg French, at The Ridge Golf Course & Events Center in Auburn.

Background in golf

  • Garcia started golf when she was 21, playing with her friends at a nine-hole course in Lake Oswego, Ore. She continued in golf, playing at Heron Lakes Golf Club in Portland. “I started playing golf in the summers with my friends. Before my Parks and Rec job, we would play a little nine-hole golf course in Oregon. I got hooked,” she said. “Pretty quickly, I decided I wanted to play golf.” Garcia worked part-time at Heron Lakes as a course marshal. “That’s how I afforded to play golf and learn,” she said.
  • She won the Sierra View CC Women’s Golf Club championship in 2021.
  • She is a two-time winner of Women’s Golf Association of Northern California stroke play tournaments.
  • Garcia was a member of Auburn Valley Country Club for 15 years.
  • She finished 11th in the championship division of the 52nd Sacramento County Women’s Amateur Championship, played July 30-31 at Mather Golf Course. Garcia shot 73-75 – 148 in the Sacramento Golf Council event.
  • She won the Sacramento Valley Women’s Amateur, June 4-5 at the Alister Mackenzie Golf Course at Haggin Oaks. She shot 75-74 – 149 in the Sacramento Golf Council event.
  • Garcia tied for fourth at the 18th Northern California Golf Association Women’s and Senior Women’s Amateur, played June 27-29. She shot 75-77-80 – 232 at Poppy Hills Golf Course, located at Pebble Beach.
  • Winner of 2015 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur
  • Garcia has experience in U.S. Golf Association events, having played in five U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur championships and the 2013 USGA Women’s State Team Championship at the South Course at NCR Country Club.
  • Garcia won the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur in 2015 at Hillwood Country Club in Nashville, Tenn. It was her first USGA title, as she beat Sue Cohn of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., in the semifinals, 1-up, and Pamela Kuong of Wellesley Hills, Mass., in the finals, 1-up.

In a report at www.usga.org during the event, Garcia said: “There are so many people along the way who have helped me. I think the best part of being a champion is they have all been a part of that.” She added: “To win a USGA event, to think of all the people before me that have their name on this trophy; I’ve played in five Mid-Ams and a State Team and never even come close. “To have stayed calm all week and stayed in the moment, as they say, was the biggest challenge. You’ve got to get out of your own way and have a good week.” In the report, Kuong said: “I’m so happy for Karen. Karen is a great person and she deserved it. She made the clutch birdies when she had to.”

Qualifying for 2022 U.S. Senior Women’s Open Championship
Garcia was one of five players to advance from qualifying at Sierra View Country Club – a par-73, 5,620-yard layout – to the U.S. Senior Women’s Open. Teresa Ishiguro, the medalist from Ione, CA with a 4-under 69, was followed by Garcia in second place with a 1-under 72, Sally Krueger of San Francisco and Lynne Cowan of Rocklin in a tie for third place with 75s, and Tina Barker of Fairfield in fifth place with a 76.
Krueger, Cowan and Barker are also amateurs. Garcia said her goal going into the qualifier was wanting to hit every fairway and green – and to play par golf. “I figured that was what would qualify,” she said.

Garcia started out her round on the back side and made the turn at 2-under following birdies on the par-5, 10th hole and the par-3, 17th hole. She hit a wedge to three feet and made the putt for birdie on No. 10. She saved par on the 14th hole when she made the putt from 15 feet. “I just, again, tried to stay really kind of calm and focused,” said Garcia. The challenge is also dealing with nerves and emotions. “That is the struggle, I think, is to kind of turn off your brain in a way, turn off your emotions and be able to take lots of deep breaths. Picking a target, being really specific in visualizing targets, is a big deal for me. Trying to just stay calm and trying to just make sure to keep up my pace, but not rush too much. And be real, real consistent with a pre-shot routine. It’s really easy to be able to hit golf shots when there’s nothing on the line and it doesn’t really matter. It’s much harder when there’s something attached to it, like getting to qualify,” she explained.

Heading to NCR Country Club, in Kettering, Ohio
There is a cut to the low 50 scorers and ties following the first two rounds, Aug. 25 and 26. The final two rounds are Aug. 27 and 28. Garcia will be able to play practice rounds at NCR Country Club prior to the event. It’s a par-73, 6,231-yard course. Qualifying is being held, from July 11 to Aug. 8, at 16 sites, the USGA said. “Just the fact that I can even just now qualify, it kind of shows the growth in my game. And also to me, golf is an opportunity for all of us to get better,” she said. The mind-set that she will take to the U.S. Senior Women’s Open Championship is to try and stay focused, not be overwhelmed by it, and to take each hole and each shot one at a time. “I also do think about the fact that I represent more than just myself when I go and play. I’m representing, in a way, Placer High School. I represent all sorts of things – everyone at my club, my state, my region,” she said.

Background in sports, teaching and coaching

  • Garcia played basketball and softball at Sunset High School in her hometown of Beaverton, Ore., graduating in 1980. She played two years of softball, at first base and second base, at the University of Oregon. She was named as a scholar-athlete during her two years at Oregon. She played wing and high-post positions in basketball. “Back in my day, I could jump, but not anymore. I loved to play defense and rebound in basketball,” said Garcia.
  • She graduated from Portland State in 1985 with a degree in psychology.
  • Garcia went into teaching, and has taught and coached in middle schools and high schools over the years.
  • She began her career at Central Catholic High in Portland. She has also worked in Clovis.
  • Garcia moved to the Sacramento area in 1997 and has worked at Mesa Verde High School in Citrus Heights, Casa Roble High School in Orangevale, and Bella Vista High School in Fair Oaks.
  • She has been at Placer High as a counselor since 2015.
  • She has coached softball, basketball and golf over the years.

In a report on the USGA website, at www.usga.org, Garcia was asked at the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur in 2015 how being a former college softball player benefits her as a golfer. She said: “I’m not afraid to swing at the ball and try to hit it far. I think that transferred well to golf and gives me an advantage because sometimes I hit the ball longer than others.”

Garcia and husband, Ruben Garcia, make their home in Cool, CA in Eldorado County.

  • Marty James is a freelance writer who makes his home in Napa. He retired on June 4, 2019, after spending 40 years as a sports writer, sports editor and executive sports editor for the Napa Valley Register, a daily newspaper in Napa County. He is a 1979 graduate of Sacramento State and a member of the California Golf Writers & Broadcasters Association. He was inducted into the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Hall of Fame in 2016. martyjames.sports@gmail.com

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