The U.S. Women's Open is the premier women's golf tournament in the United States, if not the world. The best female golfers in the world, competing on one of the nicest courses.
Dori Carter will be there.
Carter, who graduated from Valdosta High School less than a month ago, qualified for the U.S. Women's Open on Tuesday in Spartanburg, S.C. She won a 36-hole sectional qualifier, shooting a 144 to beat several professionals and top amateurs, and earn her trip to the Open.
"This is unbelievable," a very excited Carter said. "I get to play in the U.S. Women's Open. This is something I'm going to remember for the rest of my life."
The U.S. Women's Open will take place June 23-26 at Cherry Hills Country Club in Cherry Hills Village, Colo., near Denver.
Carter doesn't have a lot of time to celebrate Tuesday's win and her berth in the Open. She leaves for Colorado on Saturday, because registration is Sunday.
"I'm going to enjoy this, but I also know I have to get back to work, and get ready for the Open," she said.
On Tuesday, Carter shot a 74 in her first round. Then, after a 30-minute break to eat lunch, she went back out on the course and shot a 70. The 144 made her low medalist by one stroke. The top two finishers in Spartanburg qualified for the Open.
"I went out there, and tried to play a good round," Carter said. "I was thinking, 'Just go play your best, and be consistent.' I didn't want to shoot a 74, then an 84. I went back out there, and ended up shooting a 70. A 74 is good for me on a course this long, and a 70 is excellent. I was also excited about getting a birdie on the 18th hole in both rounds.
"I was in the second group of the day, so I had like an hour wait to see if I made it. It wasn't too nerve-wracking waiting. It was exciting. Even if I hadn't made it, it was still a great experience. I still shot two good rounds. But when everyone was finished, and I found out I had won, it was so exciting to realize I had qualified for the U.S. Women's Open."
She's looking forward to playing with some of the best players in the world.
"It's going to be amazing to play with Annika Sorenstam and all those other great players," Carter said. "I mean, these are the best players in women's golf, and I'm going to be right there playing with them."
Years ago, Carter was at a Future's Tour event when golfer Heather Daly-Donofrio (who won the event) let her caddy for her on the final hole. That moment remains special to Carter, and now she says she might try to see if she and Daly-Donofrio can play a practice round together at Cherry Hills.
She's also been a volunteer at the LPGA's Chick-Fil-A Charity Championship in Stockbridge, so she's been around LPGA players before. But now instead of being a volunteer, she's going to be a player.
"It's going to be so great," Carter said. "I'll get to play, just like the other players. I get a locker in the locker room. My caddie gets to wear one of those shirts with my name on it. I'd love to make the cut. I can't wait to see how I did compared to some of the best LPGA players. When I see my score in there with the other players, that may be when it really hits me that I am playing in the U.S. Women's Open."
Carter will be a freshman at the University of Mississippi in the fall, competing in one of the toughest conferences in women's college golf. Two golfers she beat in Tuesday's qualifier are women she'll see plenty in college, Whitney Wade of Georgia and Margaret Shirley of Auburn.
While qualifying for the premier event in women's golf, Carter made sure to represent her future school. She wore an Ole Miss hat Tuesday, and plans to wear it in the Open as well.
Carter reached the Spartanburg qualifier by getting through a local qualifier in Jacksonville, Fla., shooting a 77. Valdosta Country Club pro Rob Williams caddied for her in Jacksonville, but couldn't make it to Spartanburg because he was playing in a tournament in Atlanta. So golf friends Wilson and Laura Lindsea of Lenox carried her bag Tuesday.
Now that Dori Carter has made it to the U.S. Women's Open, what's her ambition for the tournament?
"I want to play two good rounds of golf, and hopefully make the cut," she said. "I want to represent Valdosta, Georgia well.
"I'm going to enjoy this experience. I'm 18, and I'm playing in the U.S. Women's Open. For the rest of my life, I'll be able to tell people I played in the U.S. Women's Open when I was 18."
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