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If you go
What: U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship
When: July 22-27
Where: Sycamore Hills Golf Club
Admission: Free
Courtesy photo
Marcia Luigs has seen the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship grow considerably.

She’s a golf encyclopedia

Carmel resident key player in growth of sport for women, girls

– Delve into the résumé of Marcia Luigs, the honorary chair of the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship at Sycamore Hills Golf Club on July 22 to 27, and you could get lost.

There’s just so much she has done with, and for, golf through the years.

Luigs, from Carmel, chaired the Girls’ Junior Committee from 1994 to 1998. She captained the U.S. Women’s World Amateur team in 2008 when it finished third, led by former Fort Wayne resident Amanda Blumenherst.

She has been a rules official for 23 Women’s Opens, 23 Women’s Amateurs, seven U.S. Opens and all the Curtis Cup tournaments in the U.S.

“Two of my rules assignments were very, very special,” she said. “I was with Nancy Lopez in her last Women’s Open, and I also refereed Annika Sorenstam at the last Women’s Open she won. Thrills for me all the way around.

“But my greatest honor was being the captain of the 2008 Women’s World Amateur team in Australia. That was the thrill of the lifetime.”

Luigs’ relationship with the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship, which is run by the USGA and open to golfers younger than 18, dates back to 1982 when her daughter, Lisa, was invited to play.

“At that point, there was no sectional qualifying. We couldn’t go with her, and we put this 14-year-old on the plane,” Luigs said.

This tournament has changed monumentally since its inception in 1949, when 28 girls played at Philadelphia Country Club.

By the time Luigs got involved in the 1980s, it was still a much different animal than it is today.

“It was really different … back in those days with no sectional qualifying. We got the girls in Indiana, gave them information and got them organized and did fundraising to help them buy tickets,” Luigs said. “We had a friendly airline executive to help us. There were very few parents who actually went to the championship, and I would accompany between 10 and 12 girls from Team Indiana to the championships.

“In 1995, we had 267 entries into the Girls’ Junior. In 1996, we implemented sectional qualifying and we had 618 entries, an absolutely phenomenal jump.”

There should be more than 1,000 entries this year, as players try to get one of the 156 spots at Sycamore Hills. Once there, they will face two rounds of stroke play before match-play competition crowns a champion.

By playing host for this tournament, Jack Nicklaus-designed Sycamore Hills joins an illustrious line of courses, including Seattle’s Broadmoor Country Club, Indian Hills Country Club in Mission Hills, Kan., and the site of this year’s U.S. Open, Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa.

“In 1998, we celebrated the 50th Girls’ Junior at Merion. We had 813 entries that year, and we had a wonderful celebration with past players from the first Girls’ Junior. We had a dinner with them, and I think about a third of the field was there. They played Pine Valley and the Philadelphia Country Club, and it was a great celebration,” Luigs said.

“We had a picture of all of the (inaugural) entrants, all of the players, and we put that up on the bulletin board right outside the clubhouse. One of the members of that illustrious first Girls’ Junior was standing there, and some of the (current) players were looking at this picture with great interest. And one of them turned and said, ‘Do you think any of these people are still alive?’ ”

Past champions of the Girls’ Junior include Mickey Wright, Lopez, Laurie Rinker, Heather Farr, Michel McGann, Kelli Kuehne, Leigh Anne Hardin, In-Bee Park, Alexis Thompson and Minjee Lee, last year’s winner.