When Char Carson retired from her corporate job and moved to Arizona in 2006 to pursue teaching, she never imagined that decision would amount to as much success as she has had on the golf course.
Carson has spent the last 10 years as an LPGA Class A Teaching Professional at Springfield Golf Resort in Chandler, a senior community with a course open to the public. Not only has she created lifelong bonds with some of the women in the community she plays with on a weekly basis, but she has also taken her golf game to a new level. On Thursday, July 15, during the US Senior Women’s Open qualifier at Longbow Golf Club in Mesa, she tied for first place with two other golfers.
All three were named to the US Women’s Senior Open that took place from July 29 to Aug. 1 at Brooklawn Country Club in Fairfield, Conn. It’s a goal Carson set for herself in 2018 when she attended the Open as a spectator. Ahead of the event, she said she was still in a state of disbelief she was able to accomplish her goal.
“I’m so excited,” Carson said. “I still think I have a little bit of disbelief. Just to have this happen, it’s unbelievable.”
Carson was first introduced to golf as a teenager by her friend, Janet Kielich, who she has known now for 40 years. The two were volleyball teammates growing up, which Carson pursued at a competitive level for 39 years. Kielich had also played golf with her dad on a regular basis and aimed to get Carson involved. However, she hated it. It wasn’t until Carson was 25 years old, she was reintroduced to the game.
This time, however, she fell in love with it.
Carson and Kielich have remained close ever since. Kielich caddied for her during the US Women’s Open. She took it upon herself to learn the ins and outs of caddying, all to be the best she could be for her friend.
“She sent me a three-page check list of things we need to bring,” Carson said. “I was just cracking up. We were both so excited.”
Carson placed eighth overall in her first attempt at qualifying for the Open in 2019. She was named as an alternate with her placing.
She flew out to Connecticut in hopes of being called upon to compete in the tournament. The call never came, something she thinks of as a blessing now two years later.
“I got to see and be there up close and watch how everything happens,” Carson said. “It was really fascinating. And it inspired me even more for this one, 2021.”
With the pandemic still ongoing, the amount of time Carson had between the qualifier and the start of the Open was limited to 10 days. She and Kielich left Sunday, July 25 for Connecticut.
They had just three days to get settled in and familiarize themselves with the course. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were used practice round days for all the competitors. Carson and Kielich walked the course several times to identify areas of trouble and to game plan.
Because of the different climate, Carson also set out to putt for at least an hour a day to get used to the different speeds on the greens.
“Those greens are so different than what we have right now in Arizona,” Carson said. “They’re lightning fast. I was almost tempted to putt on my tile (at home). There will be a lot of short game.”
Carson credits much of her success on the course and ability to qualify for the Open to the Springfield community. Even before her qualifying match, residents would often share messages of encouragement and support.
When she told them she qualified and would compete at the Open, numerous cards were sent her way. One resident in particular, Donna Sweet, who runs the women’s league at Springfield, has been one of her biggest supporters.
Sweet is in charge of the league’s communication, scoring and pairings while still finds time to play five days a week at 89 years old.
“I’ve had the most incredible amount of support from everyone here,” Carson said. “It’s amazing. I want to be Donna at 89. She’s spunky and is my hero.”
Carson still believes she would be one of the least experienced golfers at the Open. But that doesn’t take away from all she has accomplished.
Overall, to see how far she’s come and to have the opportunity to compete is a rewarding experience in itself.
“This was one of those big, audacious goals and I went after it,” Carson said. “I knew what it would take to get here and now that I am, it’s all about what it will take to make the cut. I just really want to take it all in, have fun with it, learn as much as I can and see how the scores turn out.”