Isabelle Beisiegel is the only woman in the 9,006-entry qualifying field for the 2012 U.S. Open at San Francisco’s Olympic Club. And some might say that simply proves that this journeywoman pro golfer has made a career out of setting herself up to fail.
Not a particularly long driver, never a winner on the LPGA Tour, survivor of a debilitating health crisis, Izzy’s story raises the obvious question: Why on earth would this 33-year-old insist on attempting to qualify for so-called men’s pro golf events?
Last year, she became the first woman to qualify for the men’s Canadian Tour. Year after year, she’s tried to qualify for the so-called men’s U.S. Open, and she’s even made some forays into the PGA Tour’s Q-school. She’s not Annika Sorenstam, Michelle Wie or Lexi Thompson, so why bother?
Well, because she can. Because you can. Because your daughter and your sister and your best friend can. Beisiegel — Isabelle Blais back when she was an all-American at the University of Oklahoma — likes to say that the ball doesn’t know whether that’s a man or a woman hitting it.
“I wish a lot of girls would try to qualify for the men’s U.S. Open,” she emailed from Mexico, where she was playing on the Symetra Tour. “I think a lot of women have the potential to qualify. … I guess I am the only one ‘crazy’ enough to try.”
As Beisiegel goes on, however, her quest calls to mind a 20th-century Christopher Morley passage: “There is only one success… to be able to spend your life in your own way.” She sounds about as crazy as any woman who has found her calling.
Recapping Izzy’s golf career
Part of Izzy Beisiegel’s calling is, yes, her faith. An atheist until 1999, she now leads the Fellowship of Christian Athletes on the tour. In 2000 she married her husband, Dan, who caddies for her. In 2003 this French Canadian led the way at LPGA Tour School.
But in her rookie year, her health began to take a toll. She had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2002, and in November of 2005 was found to have Graves Disease. When she underwent surgery to remove her thyroid in the spring of 2006, the doctors also found Hashimoto’s.
Beisiegel’s own website is a great resource for anyone interested in learning more about autoimmune disease. The Vision page there also offers great insight in the quality that drove Beisiegel’s recovery through hormone replacement therapy and now motivates her latest quest, the U.S. Open.
Her direct answer to critics who say she is wasting her time? She believes in perseverance.
“I have failed at this particular qualifier since 2004 — and I have tried almost every year,” Beisiegel says. “So I don’t know if this year will be any different. But I do enjoy trying; I think perseverance is a gift God has given me through the different trials I have had in my life. I am starting to truly enjoy adversity, if that makes sense.
“My motivation is to get to play the most difficult course setups in the world — getting to play the most demanding test. That sounds like fun to me!”
That’s good, because Izzy’s local qualifier May 14 puts her on one of the most demanding layouts in the country, Miramont Country Club in Bryan, Texas. At 7,174 yards from the gold tees, it is rated 74.9 with a 143 slope — for the men. Her Symetra Tour drives this year average 257 yards, 73rd in the company of ever-stronger, ever-more-athletic young women.
Following Izzy on her journey
She did not make a cut on the men’s Canadian Tour last year but has some LPGA status this year and has entered qualifying for the U.S. Women’s Open (May 30 in St. Louis).
“Golf is not 100 percent physical. However, it is not always an easy road to follow,” she says. “I feel more and more challenged by the changing of the sport to a more athletic golfer. The young women coming out of college are much stronger and faster as time goes by… I am just trying to keep up now.
“I am not sure what lies ahead for my career, but I do know that God has given me the desire to continue playing and I am enjoying giving my best until He leads me another way. It is funny to me how I missed the cut in Sarasota, Florida, on the Symetra last week and just this weekend I tied my career best score and tied the course record in Mexico with a 7-under-par (66). It makes me realize I don’t really know what’s around the corner.”
In the meantime, Beisiegel ranks as a fan favorite on the Symetra Tour. With her slender good looks, she’s considered a golf babe and hot golfer by those who make such judgments, and her lit-from-within personality lights up the fairways.
“There are so many things that are fun about golf– getting to know people in that four-hour walk, shared laughter on the course, the smell of freshly cut grass, the squirrels scurrying away, of course the feel of hitting the sweet spot, and when the ball goes as you had imagined it … I know I am leaving things out.
“But for me, fulfillment is what is permanent. Golf or relationships or things can’t give me that. Only a relationship with Jesus Christ gives me that. Being part of His plan is what is fun to me!”
Does this sound like a woman who’s wasting her time, spinning her wheels and exercising in futility?
EDITOR’S UPDATE: Beisiegel failed to qualify for the U.S. Open, but just a few weeks later at Glen Echo Country Club in St. Louis she finished first in her sectional to qualify for the 2012 U.S. Women’s Open.