Making the Rounds: Golfer from Cool wins U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur

USGA Museum

Karen Garcia is a national golf champion and a pragmatist.

When asked to describe the likelihood of her win earlier this month in the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur, she evoked Carl Spackler.

“You know that line in the movie ‘Caddyshack,’ where he says, ‘This unknown, comes out of nowhere,’ ” Garcia asked. “That’s me.”

All the workouts, all the practice over time paid off. Maybe I can inspire someone else to think they can do something like this, too.

Cool golfer Karen Garcia after winning the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur

While Spackler was fictional, as was his Masters win, Garcia’s accomplishment puts her in select company as a United States Golf Association champion. That she lives in Cool and had not won anything outside of a club championship makes the Spackler “out of nowhere” comparison even better.

“I like to say I drive down into civilization every day to go to work,” said Garcia, a guidance counselor at Placer High School. “We walk every day with the deer and have bear teeth marks on our garbage container.”

Garcia, 53, won the last two holes to beat Pamela Kuong of Wellesley, Mass., 1-up in the final match Oct. 1 at Hillwood Country Club in Nashville, Tenn.

She credited improved fitness that kept her strong during eight competitive rounds in six days, putting tips during a practice round with a Hillwood member that her husband and caddie, Ruben, committed to memory and her power – the former college softball player at Oregon who didn’t take up golf until age 21 routinely drove the ball 20 to 40 yards past her competitors.

“It was a huge advantage how far, how high and with how much spin I could hit it,” she said. “Playing against seniors finally paid off.”

She said the matches she plays representing her club, Auburn Valley, in Northern California Golf Association team competition helped steel her despite her lack of experience in big-stage pressure situations.

“It helped me develop those skills, how to close out matches,” she said.

Garcia has several top 10s in State Fair, Sacramento city and county events but no victories. She finished last in the Sacramento County championship at Ancil Hoffman in the weeks leading up to the Senior Amateur.

That’s history now, with her name on the USGA trophy, established in 1962, that is expected to arrive at her home next week for her to enjoy for 11 months.

“All the workouts, all the practice over time paid off,” she said. “Maybe I can inspire someone else to think they can do something like this, too.”

21Age when U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur champion Karen Garcia took up golf

Down in Dallas

NCAA sanctions early this month against the SMU men’s golf program have had a ripple effect in the Sacramento region.

The Mustangs were banned from team and individual postseason play this season because of recruiting and ethical violations that cost coach Josh Gregory his job.

The fallout:

▪ Senior Bryson DeChambeau from Clovis, the reigning NCAA and U.S. Amateur champion, left SMU’s golf team.

▪ Senior Austin Smotherman from Del Oro High School in Loomis, in the Mustangs’ lineup because of DeChambeau’s departure, tied for second in the prestigious Erin Hills (Wis.) Intercollegiate won by SMU. The finish matched Smotherman’s college individual best but was bittersweet considering he played only because of his good friend’s absence.

▪ Josh Sedeno, a senior at Del Oro and a top national recruit, after twice committing and de-committing to SMU, announced Monday he will attend Alabama.

SMU is appealing its postseason ban. Smotherman, who chose SMU because he felt the school gave him the best chance to contend for a national title, is hopeful but realistic.

“It kind of (stinks), but we’ve settled in,” Smotherman said. “It’s brought the team together.”

SMU qualified for the NCAAs two of his first three years.

Smotherman said he hoped to start a “Loomis legacy” in Dallas but understands Sedeno’s decision.

“We’re all good,” he said.

Et cetera

▪ John Catlin’s Asian Tour foray moved in the right direction last week when he made his first cut in his fourth tournament. Catlin (Gold River) tied for 65th in the Macao Open and earned $2,650.

▪ Meet Presidents Cup captain Jay Haas and support the First Tee of Greater Sacramento on Nov. 2 at Catta Verdera. Breakfast tickets ($75) ahead of the First Tee Invitational include a fireside chat with Haas, this year’s honorary chairman. Go to to sign up.

Steve Pajak: 916-326-5526, @Steve_Pajak