When the Clemson women's golf team came to Charleston for a tournament in March, head coach Kelley Hester pointed out the Country Club of Charleston to her top assistant, Heather Bowie Young, and said, "That's where (the U.S. Women's Open) is, and you're going to qualify."
Two months later and Bowie Young is indeed playing at the Country Club of Charleston for the U.S. Women's Open Championship, although she didn't know she was going to be here until U.S. Senior Women's Open winner Helen Alfredsson declined her spot. Bowie Young was the first alternate in a qualifier held in Greensboro, N.C.
"I guess I should send her a bottle of wine or something," Bowie Young said Monday after arriving for the event.
This isn't Bowie Young's first Women's Open. She spent 17 years on the LPGA Tour and competed in 10, the last time in 2012. Her best Women's Open finish came in 2005, when she tied for 13th. During her career, Bowie Young won the 2005 Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic and also qualified for the 2003 U.S. Solheim Cup team, where she was a teammate of Beth Daniel.
Bowie Young, 44, has been at Clemson for the past three seasons. She said that after turning 40 she began to look for the next phase of her life.
"I loved playing on the LPGA Tour, but I started not playing as well as I wanted, and I didn't enjoy it as much," Bowie Young said of the decision to call Hester and inquire about coaching opportunities. "I didn't think I would end up at a school as big as Clemson, and I didn't think I would end up working for her. That's just how the stars aligned."
Bowie Young's husband Jeremy caddied on the LPGA Tour, where the two met, and now works on the Web.com Tour. But he won't be on the bag this week; that honor goes to Hester.
"(Coaching) keeps you young. It's energizing. It's a different side of golf. I feel like now I'm more of a caddie, but I do love being out on the golf courses. I love dissecting them and figuring out the best way to play a hole. That's kind of what I do," she said.
"I have no expectations this week. My expectation is to have fun, to enjoy the walk, to play a Seth Raynor golf course. And to learn from these players. I'm going to pick up a drill they're doing and I can take that back to our team. This is the laboratory of the best players in the world. So I'm going to take something back for our kids to try."
CC of Charleston caddie
The second-youngest player in the Women's Open hopes that some local knowledge will help her this week. Megha Ganne of New Jersey, 15, will have Country Club of Charleston member Christian Sease caddying for her this week. (Alexa Pano, 14, is the youngest competitor).
Sease, who is playing mini-tour golf, was a standout at Wando High School and Winthrop before turning pro. In 2016, Sease won the Carolinas Amateur at the Country Club of Charleston, shooting a 63 during the third round that included a hole in one on the course's famous par-3 11th hole. Sease beat Clemson golfer Carson Young in a playoff for the title.
Ganne recently finished second in her age group in the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship at Augusta National. She previously has qualified for the 2017 and 2018 U.S. Girl's Junior, the 2017 U.S. Women's Amateur and the 2018 U.S. Women's Amateur Four-Ball.
South Carolina connections
In addition to Heather Bowie Young, there are four golfers with South Carolina ties competing ... Austin Ernst of Seneca played two years for LSU, where she won the 2011 NCAA Division I individual title ... Mi Hyang Lee, originally from Korea, lives in Columbia where she moved to be closer to her coach, Puggy Blackmon ... Sarah Schmelzel lives in Phoenix but played for South Carolina from 2012-16 ... Nanna Koerstz Madsen is from Denmark and played one year, 2014, at South Carolina before turning pro in 2015.
Women's Open miscellany
The first Women's Open was played in 1946 at Spokane (Wash.) Country Club with Patty Berg winning. It was the only one conducted at match play ... players this year hail from 25 countries and 23 states ... 12 Women's Open champions are competing and 10 Women's Open runners-up ... there are 28 amateurs in the field.