If you have to give up your course record at a prestigious venue, best-case scenario is that it’s only trumped when the U.S. Women’s Open comes to town.
That’s the situation that Patricia Baxter-Johnson, a veteran of the LPGA tour and a golf instructor at Hampton Hills in Westhampton Beach, finds herself in. “[A member] is telling me I still have it,” she modestly reveals, though she hasn’t more definitively confirmed that she still holds the women’s course record at Sebonack Golf Club, where the U.S. Women’s Open will be played June 24–30.
Though the men have played Long Island numerous times, teeing off at Shinnecock Hills and at various points west, this will be the first time that the U.S. Women’s Open will be held anywhere east of New York. “It’s so great to have a Women’s Open on these prestigious courses,” says Baxter-Johnson, referring to the storied golf history of the East End.
Sebonack is the latest addition to the Hamptons golf family, though “you get the feeling that the course has been here forever,” says Baxter-Johnson. Designed by Jack Nicklaus and Tom Doak and opened in 2006, it neighbors National Golf Links of America and Shinnecock Hills in Southampton, offering sweeping views of the Great Peconic Bay and Cold Spring Pond.
Despite its East End infancy relative to men’s golf, women’s golf is “definitely starting to happen; barriers are breaking down.” Baxter-Johnson attributes its rising success to those who have helped to break the glass ceiling in the world of golf.
In her life, that group includes Stanley Pine, the owner of Hampton Hills, who brought her on as the course’s first female golf instructor. And, Michael Pascucci, who owns Sebonack and fought to bring a Women’s Open to the East End.
Baxter-Johnson divides her time between Hampton Hills in the summer and as an instructor at the Ritz Carlton in Jupiter, FL. in the winter. She is one of the few golfers who began her career first as an instructor and then played on tour. “It’s been awesome,” Baxter-Johnson says of her tenure in Westhampton. “Pine had the power [to promote women’s golf], and he did something about it.”
The Women’s Open will feature the most elite players in the world. “Everyone has to qualify for the tour, which makes it really interesting,” says Baxter-Johnson.
“Women’s golf is so much more relatable than men’s golf,” she says. More than 130,000 spectators are expected to descend upon Sebonack and amateur golfers will find that women’s golf offers realistic and practical tips for their own game. Whereas the professional men seem almost superhuman in the sport, the women play at a level that is much more approachable. “Women hit similar distances [to the best amateur players.] There are so many ways for spectators to learn,” she says.
“[Sebonack] is a golf course that demands the best type of golf,” says Baxter-Johnson, who remains a member of the LPGA tour.
The contest will be about putting and chipping, as the fairways are generous but the greens are difficult.
Baxter-Johnson cites Inbee Park, who won the LPGA Championship in Pittsford, NY earlier this month, as a player to watch. Park won the U.S. Women’s Open in 2008 at just 19 years old. And Cristie Kerr, the 2007 Open Champion, will also be contending for her second title. Kerr’s caddy is staying with Johnson-Baxter and her husband,
As women’s golf gains more popularity on the national stage, East Enders can revel in everything that makes summer in the Hamptons so special—sunshine, golf and the possibility of being able to say, “I knew her before she was big-time.”