Caroline Gowan is 51 years old. But back in 1988, she was a 26-year-old would-be star on the LPGA Tour.
In what was then called the Rochester International, Caroline shot an opening-round 68 to lead the tournament. She was still the leader at the halfway mark, and shared the top spot after three rounds with Nancy Lopez and Lauri Peterson. Playing in the next to last group on Sunday, Caroline shot an 81 to finish 12th.
Internet information on Gowan is a little sketchy. Yahoo lists her as having made just $7,001 in a career of undetermined length. Others acknowledge only that she existed. But in 1988 she couldn't have been more gracious or happier to actually lead a professional tour event. She did all the interviews, signed all the autographs and made a real and lasting impression on people.
It was like that back then. The Rochester International was our little golf tournament. The women, who called each other girls even if we weren't allowed to, came to Locust Hill, played a little golf, praised the community for its support of the event and returned every year to do it all again.
The names Nancy Lopez, Patty Sheehan, and Rosie Jones were like family. Cathy Morse, Mary Dwyer and amateurs Jamie DeWeese, Lisa Brandetsas and Danielle Downey actually were. Rochester born and bred.
But in the 10 years since Downey last played, things changed. Wegmans made it possible for Rochester to host a major. The LPGA Championship has been played at Locust Hill for the last three years. It is bigger, better on the grand scale, more corporate, more international, and more important.
And a little less fun.
The golfers we came most to know and love have long since gone. Replaced by players a little less identifiable. Many of the best these days are South Korean, almost all of whom now reside in Florida. There are three Kangs, six Lees and three Parks, including this year's champion Inbee Park. Inbee played 39 holes of championship golf on Sunday, a remarkable feat, one of the greatest we've ever seen here.
To be fair, these women are no less talented than they were before, no less friendly, no less personable. But they are a tougher sell.
Sometimes bigger isn't better. We've lost something in the 37 years it took to get to 2013 at Locust Hill.
Bill Pucko is a career journalist, an award-winning writer and broadcaster. He has worked over 30 years in television, radio, and newspapers in Rochester. He is a sports columnist for the Messenger Post Newspapers, co-founded and editor of Bylinesports.com, producer and host of a high school sports show on WBGT.