After so many achievements, including a national championship, it’s difficult to believe that 2020 NJSGA Hall of Fame inductee Sherry Herman was nearly headed to secretarial school.
“I played on the boys’ team at Wyomissing (Pa.) High School and I was doing well. I competed in the county, district and states for girls, but I never thought I was good enough to play in college. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. My mother told me secretarial school was an option if I didn’t go to college,” said Herman in a recent interview.
Thanks to some sage advice from her high school coach, Tom Aubrey, Sherry (nee, Kamens) decided to look into playing college golf. Her father, Sam Kamens, drove his daughter to the University of Georgia and she liked what she saw.
“I loved the campus, I instantly loved the girls I met on the team, but the coach didn’t have a scholarship for me. I really had no national experience.”
That summer, she qualified for the U.S. Women’s Amateur in Cincinnati.
“I did not qualify for match play and came away very dejected. To me, in these tournaments, there is only one winner and everybody else is a loser. I had to come to grips with that fact, to just do your best and be happy, but it took a long time. I am so competitive.”
Her crowning achievement was her victory in the 2009 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur at The Homestead’s Cascades Course in Virginia. She has played in a total of 32 USGA championships, twice advancing to the semifinals of the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur (1994 and 2001), and also to the quarterfinals of the 2010 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur, just one year after her victory. She also won the 2009 North & South Senior Women’s Amateur Championship at Pinehurst.
Locally, Herman won five NJSGA Women’s Amateur championships (1995, ’96, ’97, ’98, and 2009), the 2008 NJSGA Women’s Senior Championship, plus two NJSGA Four-Ball Championships (both with Helen Bernstein). She won the WMGA Match Play Championship five times (1997, ’99, 2002, ’04, ’09) and the WMGA Stroke Play Championship three times (2000, ’01, ’02). The WMGA also honored Herman with their Player of the Year Award four times (1997, ’99, 2000, ’01). Herman’s five NJSGA Women’s Amateur titles are the second most of anyone in history; Carolyn Cudone and Maureen Orcutt (both NJSGA Hall of Fame members) have six titles. Also, Herman twice represented New Jersey in the U.S. Women’s State Team Championship (in 1995 and 2001).
It wasn’t easy getting started in college golf for Herman, although by the fall of her freshman year at Georgia, a scholarship had opened up for her. It ended up being a good deal for both the freshman golfer and the Georgia team.
“I qualified for every tournament except one, but I didn’t win anything. I wanted to get better and thought I would have access to great instruction and facilities, but ironically, the coaching staff was not that big on instruction.
“Instead, I played practice rounds with (eventual PGA Tour player) Chip Beck and some other phenomenal players. I had to teach myself, or learn from other people. I would ask about drills other teams were using. They would show me putting drills and other things. If it sounded good, I did it myself. “
Herman’s drive and ingenuity paid off. After graduating from Georgia, she joined the Group Fore mini tour in California, and competed there from April through July, 1981.
“It was an awesome experience. I earned a check in my second event. It was for $237. In my seventh event, I tied for seventh and earned $700. Shortly after that, I met my husband, Ben Herman, who happened to be working in California. Three weeks after we met, he was transferred to Boston and I went to Colorado to try to qualify for the LPGA Tour.”
Herman said her father had already lined up sponsors, but she missed qualifying for the LPGA Tour by three strokes. She conceded, “I never really wanted that life, and my heart wasn’t 100 percent into it. So, I went to Boston to be with Ben. I tried again in 1983 to qualify for the LPGA Tour but sprained my ankle. It was then that we decided to start a family, and I become a teaching professional in Boston.”
Her daughters, Jillian and Stacy were born in 1984 and 1988. Later, Ben’s career took him to New York and Sherry was happy to leave New England because “the summers are too short.”
The Hermans relocated to Marlboro, N.J., and later lived in Farmingdale and Middletown. Sherry continued as a teaching pro at Forsgate from 1989-90, and for the Monmouth County Parks System in the early 1990s.
“I loved teaching people the game of golf, but at the same time, I really wanted to play, so I got my amateur status back in the early 1990s,” said Herman, who reached the Round of 32 in the 1992 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur to jumpstart her return to the amateur ranks.
“It was great to play in WMGA and Garden State Women’s Golf Association events. My focus was more in having fun, but also in honing my competitive golf skills. I was meeting new people in those organizations. I especially enjoyed the camaraderie and the team events.”
By 1994, Herman’s competitive instincts had obviously returned. She reached the semifinals of the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur in Tacoma, Wash. The next year, at Rumson, she won the first of four consecutive NJSGA Women’s Amateur Championships.
Herman left golf from 1998-2008 to concentrate on a start-up business called PlayPhone, which would turn into a very successful mobile content company. One of Sherry’s highlights was to create the first prepaid mobile card which was sold to Walmart, Best Buy and Target.
In 2008, Herman would return to the game in full force. During her comeback that season, she reached the Round of 32 in the U.S. Women’s Senior Amateur. She also won the NJSGA Women’s Senior that year at Cherry Valley. It set the stage for her stellar 2009 campaign.
After winning the 2009 NJSGA Women’s Amateur for the first time in eleven years, she won the North and South Senior Women’s Amateur at Pinehurst before arriving in Hot Springs, Virginia for the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Championship.
“I went to Homestead with sheer determination. I was 51 at the time and I had just had a great experience winning the North & South Senior Women’s Amateur at Pinehurst and the New Jersey State Amateur after an 11-year hiatus. That gave me confidence.”
Herman breezed in her first four matches in the U.S. Women’s Senior Amateur, winning 3 & 2 in the round of 64, 6 & 5 (over stroke play medalist Joan Higgins) in the round of 32, 4 & 2 in the round of 16, and 3 & 2 in the quarterfinals. In her semifinal match, Herman needed 19 holes to defeat Robin Puckett of California.
After defeating Puckett in the semifinals, she played well in the final against Carolyn Creekmore of Dallas, where she won 4 & 3 to become one of very few national champions to hail from New Jersey.
“Early on, it was a very tight match. I was one down and won No. 8 to get to even. Someone had to take charge of the match. I knew I had to go win it. I birded No. 10, and I was determined not to give it back.”
It is her proudest achievement.
“Winning a national championship is so very hard to do. I’ve played in over 30 USGA events, so I just know how difficult it is to win,” Herman said.
“I just feel so fortunate to have been able to do it. Everything went right for me competitively. I never celebrated one victory match that week; I just focused on the next match. At breakfast, I would plot my strategy and look at the pin positions.
“I was just very strategic. I decided how I was going to play the course, but had never taken that approach before. I just played it differently than other girls who hit it as long as I did. I didn’t hit a lot of drivers that week. My putter was steady and I wasn’t in the sand much. I feel like I played really well. Beating the No. 1 seed (Joan Higgins) gave me a lot of confidence,” she stated.
“I know it wasn’t a fluke. Putting it all together, you need a certain amount of luck, but you also have to have a certain amount of talent to do it,” said Herman, who now resides in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., where she continues to play often – and competitively.
Herman has played in all but one U.S. Women’s Senior Amateur Championships since 2008, and has qualified for match play each time. Three times she reached the Round of 16, including at Hollywood Golf Club (where she was a member at one time) in 2014.
The longtime competitor acknowledges the importance of her family and friends on her sustained success. Herman has had immeasurable support from her family, beginning with her brother David, who has always been a positive source of confidence, to her husband, Ben, who caddied for most of Sherry’s national tournaments, and to her daughters, who whenever she left to play a tournament always followed online. She would receive supportive phone calls from her girls with the constant reminder of saying, “If you are going to leave us to play in a golf tournament, you’d better win!”
Herman is also very thankful for her friends and experiences here in New Jersey. In addition to Hollywood, her club memberships in New Jersey also included Bamm Hollow, Battleground and Shore Oaks (now Eagle Oaks).
“I am very fortunate and very grateful for my experiences in the WMGA and Garden State Women’s Association, the NJSGA and other organizations. Being competitive with all those good players really helped me prepare for national competition. Combined, those organizations helped me get to the next level in the USGA championships,” she concluded.