The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Sports

June 24, 2014

Golf: Semple Thompson looks back on career

HUMMELS WHARF — A World Golf Hall of Famer made her way to the Central Susquehanna Valley on Monday.

Carol Semple Thompson, an Allegheny County native who still lives in Western Pa., played a round at the Susquehanna Valley Country Club in Hummels Wharf as part of Economic Pennsylvania’s Merle H. Phillips Charity Memorial Golf Tournament. Thompson sits on the board of Economics Pennsylvania.

A seven-time USGA winner, Thompson was the captain of the 2006 and 2008 U.S. Curtis Cup teams that defeated Great Britain and Ireland. In 2008, she was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

“It was fantastic,” Thompson said when asked about her induction. “I went in with Pete Dye, the golf course architect, who’s a very good friend of mine and my family’s. That was really fun.”

Playing golf was never a question when Thompson was growing up in the Pittsburgh suburb of Sewickley. Her father, Bud Semple, was a president of the USGA, and her mother Phyllis Semple served on numerous USGA committees. Their parents had a rule that all five children had to play golf until they could break 90.

Not only did Thompson break 90, she kept right at it. At the age of 16, she competed in the Western Pa. Women’s Championship and defeated her mother in the final.

“I was only 16; I was just a kid,” Thompson said. “I thought, ‘This is no big deal.’ I’m sure it was hard for her.”

That was just the start of big things for Thompson, who remained an amateur throughout her career. She won the 1973 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship (where her father, then the USGA vice president, handed her the trophy), four consecutive Senior Amateur titles, and the British Ladies Open Amateur in 1974 — becoming one of just 11 women to win both the U.S. and British amateurs.

Born in 1948, Thompson grew up in the years before Title IX, when girls weren’t encouraged to play sports the way they are today. In 1966, she and her mother were two of just 101 applicants to play in the U.S. Women’s Open.

“My mother and I both played; all you had to have was a handicap of six or below,” Thompson said. “We just sent in our entries and went and played. In 1967 (when there were 99 entries), we did the same thing.”

Thompson contrasts that with this year’s U.S. Open, which ended Sunday: There were 1,700 entries.

“Things have changed a lot since the ’60s,” she said with a laugh.

As an ambassador for the game of golf, Thompson encourages young people to try the sport.

“We’re always trying to encourage young girls to take it up. Boys seem to stick with it right away. Girls are a little harder. They like it until they’re 13 or 14, then they get self-conscious.”

Although she’s known as a golfer, Thompson is also an avid horseback rider, and she played three sports in high school. That’s why she’s not a fan of young children specializing in one sport.

“I am not a fan of that at all,” she said. “That’s not the way I grew up. I played all sorts of sports. In school, I played a sport in the fall — field hockey — and then I played basketball in the winter and lacrosse in the spring. In the summer, I played tennis and golf and I rode horses. I loved all of that stuff. I thought it was so good to get well-rounded.

“Now, kids have to play soccer all year, or golf all year. I think they get burned out. That worries me a lot.”

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