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Charlie Stewart
 
Practice Makes Perfect
Summer 2010

CSWith the 65th U.S. Women’s Open taking place at Oakmont Country Club in July, women’s golf and the historic course are back in the national spotlight. But before the best players in the world arrive here and capture all the attention, we want you to meet some of the best local amateurs from our area—golfers who could certainly hold their own against some of the top competitors on the championship roster.

These women have a tireless passion for the game. They spend their free hours hitting bucket after bucket of balls on the practice range, while listening to their pros critique every nuance of their swings—also captured on video, of course, for later analysis. They tweak their grip, posture, swing path, and tempo, and then take their best mental game out on the course, where they play until the sun sets on a summer’s eve.

Most of the finest women amateurs in our area learned golf at an early age. Since then, all of them have worked hard to achieve peak performance, while bearing in mind one simple notion: practice makes perfect.CS

Rosemary Studer
If Rosemary Studer of Fox Chapel hadn’t won the women’s club championship at Oakmont Country Club seven times in the past 11 years, she could probably maintain the low profile she prefers. But given that Oakmont ranks as one of the world’s toughest courses, her achievement brings her welldeserved attention.

“Rosemary is very, very modest,” says Eric Johnson, the club’s director of instruction and Studer’s long-game coach. “In 2008, she won by 23 strokes. She just hits the ball so beautifully. She hits it straight and keeps it in play. When she’s on, she is awesome.”

Other members of Studer’s team are head golf professional Bob Ford, who helps with her short game, and her favorite caddy, Lance Kraus. “He is such a cool cookie,” she says of Kraus. “He’s an CSexcellent player himself, so we try to play smart golf. We keep the ball in the fairway, get it on the green, two-putt, and play par-bogey golf.”

Now 55, Studer, who also loves tennis and gardening, began playing golf as a young girl with her father. When asked about the secret to the game, she replies: “Easy. You play in the present. I accept my last shot and forget it. I love to read [sports psychologist and golf about her,” says Shady Side girls’ golf team head coach Hélène Gosse. “When you put the two together, you can’t help but have success.” Those successes include playing number one and leading the team to back-to-back undefeated seasons and PIAA state team championships in 2008 and 2009, as well as being last year’s Longue Vue Club ladies champion— at the age of 15.

When asked about Allen’s impressive track record at such a young age, Quebec-born Gosse replies, “Taken from a saying in French by Corneille in El Cid, “Elle est jeune, il est vrai. Mais aux âmes bien nées, la valeur n’attend point le nombre des années.” Translation: She is young, it is true. But for well-born souls, greatness doesn’t wait for the number of years.

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Courtney Myhrum
At 48, Courtney Myhrum is approaching the magic age of 50, when she will be able to play against golfers her own age. Meantime, the Aspinwall resident still finds joy in competing against teenagers, even though it presents certain challenges. “They’re young, they’re strong, and they’re flexible, all of which I am not,” she laughs.

CSAfter taking time off from golf to raise two daughters, Cally and Phoebe, as well as to start a business as an independent consultant to The Worth Collection, Myhrum is rededicating herself to her golf game.

“This is my year to really get back into competitive golf the way I used to play it BC—Before Children,” she says. “It’s something that I’ve really missed.”

Having made the cut for the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur last December—an event she last qualified for 13 years ago— Myhrum is off to a strong start.

Fox Chapel Golf Club’s head golf professional Alex Childs compliments this seventime club champion on her willingness to put in the hard work necessary to make significant changes to her golf swing. “Courtney has wonderful tempo and tremendous hand-eye coordination,” Childs says. “Because she works for a living and can’t hit balls four hours a day, we worked extremely hard on her downswing and her approach to the ball in order to make her more consistent.”

Myhrum helped to start the Shady Side Academy girls’ golf team in 2005 and is currently the assistant varsity coach. The team won the state championships the past two years. As a United States Golf Association committee member, Myhrum is also running the 2010 U.S. Women’s Open sectional qualifier at Fox Chapel Golf Club on June 2.

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Margaret Pentrack
At the age of seven, Margaret Pentrack began playing golf at the Pittsburgh Field Club with her father, Wayne. And she has been taking lessons there ever since with Dave Martin, the club’s head golf professional.

CSPentrack went on to win the club championship by 10 strokes when she was just 13 and became one of the first girls to play on the Shady Side Academy golf team. Now, at age 20, she is co-captain of the women’s golf team at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Her family has been ever-present throughout her successful golf career. “We used to play every Sunday as a family foursome, and it was just kind of a given that we would play,” she says. “I can’t imagine the game of golf without my family’s support.”

In 2006, Pentrack qualified for the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship in Charlotte, North Carolina, where her brother, Craig, caddied for her. “At one point he gave me a little pep talk, when I was faltering a little on the
back nine, right on the line of the cut,” she recalls. She won the Pennsylvania State Women’s Amateur Championship last year with her mother, Mary Anne, by her side to caddy for the six-day event. “She knew what to do to calm me down and make me laugh,” Pentrack says.

And her family will be there for her again this summer as she takes on the challenge of qualifying for the Women’s Open. “Playing in the Open would be the opportunity of a lifetime,” Pentrack muses. “I love Oakmont. I played there in the state amateur one year. It’s the ultimate challenge, where you are definitely tested and you have to remember that it’s just a game.”

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Nadia Luttner
Nadia Luttner’s list of accomplishments is already as long as her driver. Starting early helped.

“I knew Nadia when she was two-years-old doing double back flips in my pro shop,” remembers Al Jackson, head golf professional at Churchill Valley Country Club. “Then I started coaching her when she was five or six. She was very talented and had natural athletic ability.”

CSBy the age of eight, Luttner was playing competitively. At 13, she tied local legend Carol Semple Thompson for fourth place in the qualifying round of the 2006 Pennsylvania State Women’s Golf Association Amateur Championship at Oakmont Country Club. The following year she was the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic
Association (PIAA) regional champion. In 2008, she made the cut for the U.S. Girls’ Junior Amateur, and the next year qualified for the 34th Junior PGA Championship.

Now, this Fox Chapel High School junior and two-time WPIAL champion stands barely over 5-foot-2, but has a boundless ability to focus. Luttner is preparing for a grueling schedule of tournaments this summer, including
the sectional qualifier for the Open, which requires that players have a handicap less than 4.2. The 17-year-old loves to practice and does so with a purpose.

“I always practice using my pre-shot routine,” she says. “I get behind every shot, pick a specific target, pretend I’m in a tournament and that this counts, so when I get into real pressure situations, I’ll be able to feel calm and
execute the shot.”

Her proud father, Earl Luttner, believes golf is teaching his daughter enduring lessons, both on and off the course.

“She has been able to play great golf courses in all kinds of conditions,” he says. “Because she has had to get used to playing whether it’s rainy, windy, or cold, that should help her overcome adversity later in life.”

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Mary Lou Gatewood
Mary Lou Gatewood got a late start playing golf. Her husband, Carl, played in high school and maintains a five-stroke handicap, but she didn’t take up the game until 15 years ago when she was 46.

“When I started, I was terrible—I was really terrible,” Gatewood admits. “At first there was no one who would play with me other than my husband and my 10-year-old son. Then I got up the courage to play with the 18-holers at the [Pittsburgh] Field Club and have been playing ever since.”

CSShe found that even though she had played competitive tennis and paddle tennis, golf was different. “It is the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to learn,” Gatewood says. “You can be so good one day and so bad the next. But
that’s what makes it so interesting and is the reason why people have such passion for it.”

Gatewood lives in Harmar Township and is co-chairman of The Clothes Line, a resale shop in Bloomfield, where proceeds go to Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC.

When she is not volunteering at the store, she is probably on the course. “I always thought that golf was a very selfish sport and took too long,” she says. “Now I actually love everything about golf. I love being outside. I love the social aspect. I love playing with my husband and my sons. I’ve been very lucky.”

So lucky that she has had four holes in one—two of which came in the same week.


Gatewood takes the advice of her teaching pro, John Aber, who works at Allegheny Country Club overlooking Sewickley. “He tells me to stay still over the ball and not to sway,” she says.

And now she has been the women’s club champion at the Pittsburgh Field Club two years running. “It’s been quite a ride,” she says

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Hélène Gosse
For Hélène Gosse, growing up in Canada with ten siblings, including six brothers, meant there was always an abundance of sports equipment lying around the house. At the age of 8, she took the three golf clubs she
found—a 4-iron, a spoon, and a hickory-shaft chipper—and played in the park across the street. Her father mowed the grass to make three short fairways. Then he set up tomato cans for holes and gave his daughter the stray balls he found while fishing the river that ran alongside the local golf course.

CSFrom this makeshift beginning was born an amateur golf career that would include competing in four countries, winning the Canadian Women’s Open Championship in 1966 and the New Zealand Women’s Open Championship in 1972. More recently, Gosse qualified for four U.S. Senior Opens and won the Fox Chapel Golf Club ladies’ championship seven times.

The Aspinwall resident says she loves everything about the game of golf. “I love the smell of it, especially early in the morning,” she says. “I love the silence of the course, and the challenges the game poses. And I think
you can learn about life on the golf course, including honesty especially, self-control, confidence, and humility.”

As head coach, Gosse is now passing on her wisdom to her two-time state champions on the Shady Side Academy girls’ golf team. “She really brings confidence to the team, and is always the one saying, ‘I know you guys can do it,’” star player Kendall Allen says. “She’s really great at motivating us.”

That’s because she speaks from a world of experience.

“I know exactly how hard it is out there,” Gosse says. “But that is what makes it so worthwhile. If the kids are nervous I tell them to go out there, have fun, and do your best. It has to be fun to start with.”

With many thanks to SHADY AVE magazine for granting me permission to reprint on my website.

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