Alaskan golfer Chesla looks forward to competing against the best in the US Amateur Seniors Championship

Only in Alaska is a resident low on the golf course’s list of interests.

The U.S. Amateur Seniors Championships takes place starting Saturday at Anchorage Golf Course, and professional PGA chief Tom Knight tells players not to worry about wildlife.

“There’s a bear den behind 14. It’s not a big deal at all,” Faris said on Tuesday.

But for Alaska singles in this event, being there means a lot.

“It’s a dream come true,” said Pam Shesla, who will debut on Saturday. “I hope to make Alaska proud.”

Chisla, who lives in Hope, may not be The The Golden Bear, is known as Jack Nicklaus, but she graduated from Bartlett High School, the home of the Golden Bear.

The US Golf Association holds 15 different national tournaments each year, from the US Open featuring professionals to a number of amateur tournaments. This is the first time one has been held in Alaska.

The host country wouldn’t have had anyone on the field if it wasn’t for Chesla. The 80s she picked up at one of the qualifying events made her the second alternative, and once invitations and field admissions were settled, she entered.

“It looks like this is the year I’ve had,” she said. “I played really well in Arizona last winter, and I kind of moved here.”

Many competitors grew up playing golf, but Shisla didn’t care when she was young.

“I went to Bartlett High in Anchorage and played basketball and was a softball player and never wanted to chase that little white ball, but I got hooked.”

As a guard for the Bartlett basketball team, the Golden Bears helped win back-to-back state titles in 1977 and 1978.

“We were actually called Team Cinderella in 1977,” she said, because the team had only two seniors and neither of them were rookies.

Among the Golden Bears’ highlights were a bouncing machine named Aurora Adams, strong lead Susan “Tiny” Turner—sister of Anchorage hoops legend Tony Turner—and Shisla, who played guard. Turner and Chesla were known as “Sweet T” and “Sweet B,” Pam amusedly recalls.

She landed a UAA scholarship and played for a year before an ankle injury sidelined her, then the job prospects proved too good to be missed.

She didn’t start playing golf until her late twenties as a way to spend time with her father, “who had like 4 kids most of his life,” Chisla said.

“It was something that I could do with my dad once my mom died where we weren’t just going out to dinner or for drinks and we could actually spend more time together.

“It worked for a while until I got really good and hit it,” she said with a laugh. “Then he told me that on one occasion, he said to me, ‘You beat me, we won’t play for a while.’ I’m like, ‘Oh, Dad, you should be really proud.’”

“It took me a few years to play with me again after I beat him,” she said.

[From the first tee box to the 18th green, watch this flyover of the Alaska golf course where the US Senior Women’s Amateur will be played]

The former Bureau of Land Management employee says her touch in basketball translates well to her short game of golf.

Shisla wanted to take someone’s bag if she didn’t qualify because she knew familiarity with the course would be critical.

“Which way the slopes break. If you hit the mountain, is it another stick?” she said. “I think there would be an advantage if someone asked a local person to help him.”

Three-time defending champion Lara Tennant will surely be a little more interested in the nuances of the course.

The 55-year-old from Portland, Oregon, had a cut in 2020 due to the pandemic. Winning that year, Tennant will be looking to try to win her fifth title in a row, which would tie the record. Missed opportunity does not matter to her.

“I feel like there are a lot of people and a lot of situations that have been missed a lot more than winning a golf tournament because of COVID,” Tennant said. “So, I try to look at it that way. I try not to look at how it affects me, because in the scheme of life, a golf tournament doesn’t mean much in comparison.”

Another three-time winner, Elaine Porte, whom Tennant beat 2 and 1 in the 2021 final, is also on the field this year.

Playing for a national championship meant rivalry between the two was taken for granted, but they were teammates in some events as well.

“We’re really good friends,” Tennant said. “We play in many of the same tournaments, and we always play all the training rounds together.”

The tournament begins two days after the strike is played before the playing field shrinks to 64. From there the field will compete in four days of playing the match.

Attendance is free, and spectators are welcome to the tournament, which runs through Thursday.

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