Longtime friends (and competitors) Amanda Jacobs and Gretchen Johnson don’t believe in sitting on the sidelines
by Josh Gaunt
At the 5th U.S. Senior Women’s Open, held in August at Portland’s Waverley Country Club, two of the club’s members – Gretchen Johnson and Amanda Jacobs – spent the week caddying in the national championship.
Jacobs caddied for World Golf Hall of Famer Amy Alcott, and Johnson caddied for Maggie Will.
“I wanted to do what I could to help support this event, and to support women’s golf in general,” Johnson said. “The atmosphere was amazing all week. Partnering with the USGA to share Waverley with our community and the golfing world at large is the right thing to do and it’s a partnership I hope the club continues in perpetuity.”
Along with caddying for Will, Johnson assisted in bringing Becker Capital Management onboard as one of the Senior Women’s Open corporate sponsors. She is a director of business development at the company. She is also very active in the golf community, supporting various organizations such as the Tournament Golf Foundation, Jacobsen Youth Initiative and the Evans Scholars Foundation.
These two amateur golfers, who already have experience themselves in competing in USGA national championships, wanted an inside-the-ropes experience into how accomplished professionals perform.
“How could I pass up this opportunity to take part in an event where most of my heroes growing up are still out there playing,” Jacobs said. “I grew up watching most of these players at the LPGA event in Portland, so to be inside the ropes with Alcott, Hollis Stacey, Carol Semple Thompson – I mean, how much cooler can that be?”
Very cool, indeed.
“Caddying provides a unique experience into the mind of a golfer, being able to see how one of the game’s legends navigates the golf course, shot making, decision making, an opportunity to learn from the best,” Jacobs said. “I will say, I believe it’s less stressful being the player than the caddie, so that is a good lesson learned to take into the next event I play in.”
Johnson added, “Member support is important, especially as volunteers. Our course knowledge is an asset and there was an opportunity to help a couple pros as caddies. What better way to experience the championship than from inside the ropes.”
Waverley is the oldest private club in Oregon, one of the original founding clubs of the PNGA, and this year became only the third club, alongside Oakmont Country Club and Merion Golf Club, to host a USGA championship in every decade since the 1950s.
“As a player myself in USGA championships, it’s an honor to have an event at our course,” Jacobs said. “And to have a professional event adds to our legacy as being a club that supports all levels of golf.”
Fine players in their own right, Johnson and Jacobs are lifelong friends and fellow competitors. They have faced each other three times in the final match of the PNGA Women’s Mid-Amateur, with Jacobs winning twice and Johnson once. Jacobs is a four-time recipient of the PNGA Women’s Mid-Amateur Player of the Year award, while Johnson is a three-time recipient.
Johnson, 35, has paired with Jacobs, 36, several times in team competitions. Most recently, the two qualified for and played in the 2023 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball, held in May at The Home Course in DuPont, Wash. In September the pair earned medalist honors in qualifying for the 2024 edition of that championship.
Both then played in the 2023 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur, held September 9-14 in Pennsylvania. Jacobs made it to the round of 64 while Johnson, competing in her seventh U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur, once again made a deep run, making it to the semifinals before bowing to eventual champion Kimberly Dinh, 4 and 3.
“I always look forward to competing in a USGA championship because they are prestigious events with great competition, a great test, and an opportunity to compete for a national title,” Johnson said. “Making another deep run at a USGA event is great. It is a confidence booster.”
Jacobs commented about the long-term friendships that come from the game.
“We play ‘fun’ rounds both before and after the events, which when I started playing in competitions, I didn’t have those friendships,” she said. “It’s such a great game for those types of relationships and I cannot be more grateful for the friendships I’ve created from this group of golfers.”
Involvement. Commitment. Giving back to the game, that gives them so much. A great way to go.
Josh Gaunt is a writer and former sports reporter for The News-Review and other publications in southern Oregon, which included coverage of the University of Oregon.