US Senior Women's Open, Golf's New Major Championship

USGA championship for 50-and-older women launches in 2018

Chicago Golf Club's 15th green and clubhouse
Chicago Golf Club is the site of the inaugural US Senior Women's Open tournament in 2018. David Alexander/Getty Images

The U.S. Senior Women's Open Championship joins the roster of USGA championships beginning in 2018. It will be the 14th championship tournament operated by the United States Golf Association. The USGA, after years of lobbying by top women golfers and fans of women's golf, made the announcement on Feb. 7, 2015 of this event's creation. (The men's U.S. Senior Open has existed since 1980.)

Format and Field Size

The U.S. Senior Women's Open consists of 72 holes of stroke play, 18 holes per day over four days.

The tournament is walking-only (no carts). The field begins with 120 golfers and is cut after 36 holes to the low 50 scorers (including ties).

Eligibility and Qualifying

As with all USGA open championships, golfers earn places in the U.S. Senior Women's Open through a combination of qualifying tournaments and exemptions from qualifying. Exemption categories will be announced in 2018, as will the schedule of qualifying tournaments.

The 2018 tournament is open to any professional or amateur golfer who is 50 years of age as of July 12, 2018, and, in the case of amateurs, has a handicap index not exceeding 7.4.

2018 U.S. Senior Women's Open

  • When: July 12-15
  • Where: Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton, Ill.
  • Tickets: Ticket information will be available beginning in 2018. At that time, fans can sisit for information.

Chicago Golf Club is the oldest golf course in the United States that has been in continuous operation at the same location.

Founded in 1893, it was one of the five original clubs that got together to form the USGA. For the U.S. Senior Women's Open, Chicago Golf Club will be set up at 6,082 yards and a par of 73.

The most-recent USGA championship played at Chicago Golf Club is the 2005 Walker Cup, won by Team USA over Team Great Britain & Ireland by a score of 12.5 to 11.5.

Golfers In the Field for 2018 US Senior Women's Open

Since the exemption categories for 2018 have not yet been announced, we don't yet have a definitive list of golfers who've already qualified. However, it's a given that the exemption categories will include golfers who've met the minimum age requirement of 50 and are past champions at the U.S. Women's Open. The reigning U.S. Women's Senior Amateur and LPGA Teaching and Club Professional Senior Championship winners are probably going to be there, too. And past champions at the U.S. Women's Amateur, along with winners from the current season of the Legends Tour, are likely qualifiers, too.

So the list of golfers likely to have exemptions includes Hall of Famers such as Pat Bradley, Laura Davies, Juli Inkster, Amy Alcott, Betsy King and Meg Mallon. Dottie Pepper is one golfer who has already said she will not play. And Annika Sorenstam will be too young by two years to make the field in 2018. Nancy Lopez and Patty Sheehan are two other legends whose participation is not yet known. (Keep in mind that some of these legends haven't played competitive tournament golf in years, so will have to work hard to get their games in shape. That is the reason Pepper has given for not playing — she doesn't have time to put in the required work.)

Why Did the USGA Add a US Senior Women's Open?

Because it's long overdue! The U.S. Senior Open (the one the men play) has been around since 1980. That's a 38-year head start by the time the Senior Women's Open finally arrives in 2018.

Plus, the USGA operates two versions of each of its championships — a men's tournament and women's tournament — for every other event it stages. The U.S. Open and U.S. Women's Open, the Amateur and Women's Amateur, the Boys Junior and Girls Junior, and so on for every championship except the Senior Open, which doesn't have a women's counterpart ... until the inaugural playing in 2018, that is.

So, finally, the best 50-plus women golfers in the United States and around the world will have a major championship of their own.

It's Also a Boost for the Legends Tour

The Legends Tour is a senior tour for women golfers and is the official senior tour of the LPGA.

Golfers must be 45 or older to compete on the Legends Tour, which was founded in 2000 by former LPGA star Jane Blalock.

The Legends Tour has muddled along for most of that time period, staging only a handful of tournaments per year (many years only 4-5 at most), playing mostly 36-hole events. The tour has seen an uptick in recent years: In 2015 there were eight tournaments on the schedule; in 2017, six. The LPGA created the Senior LPGA Championship, and the seniors also now play the Solheim Cup-style Handa Cup.

With a U.S. Senior Women's Open coming in 2018, we should see more of the best LPGA golfers who are entering their late 40s (and those already in their 50s) start putting more effort into practicing, and start playing more Legends Tour events. Many of them already do, of course, but the Legends Tour should see an increase in both quality and quantity as a result of the creation of the U.S. Senior Women's Open.

Future Sites and Dates for the US Senior Women's Open

The first U.S. Women's Senior Open in 2018 is to be played in July; the second, in 2019, in May. What this tells us is that the USGA has not yet settled on a section of the calendar during which this championship will annually be played. So far, only the first and second editions of this tournament have sites and dates. The 2018 event info is listed above.

2019 U.S. Senior Women's Open

  • When: May 16-19
  • Where: Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club, Southern Pines, N.C.