ASHEVILLE, N.C. – Julia Potter, 25, of Grainger, Ind., shot a 2-under 69 and holds a five-stroke lead following Saturday’s first round of stroke play at the 2013 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship, being conducted at the par-71 Biltmore Forest Country Club.
Christina Proteau, 30, of Canada, the leader following the morning wave, sits in solo second at 3-over 74. She is followed by a quartet of players at 4-over 75: Mercedes Huarte, 28, of Argentina; 2009 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Martha Leach, 51, of Hebron, Ky.; Olivia Herrick, 25, of Roseville, Minn.; and Rachel Smith, 25, of Mansfield, Texas.
The 2013 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship is open to female amateur golfers who have reached their 25th birthday by Oct. 5. It consists of 36 holes of stroke play followed by six rounds of match play, with the championship scheduled to conclude with an 18-hole final on Thursday.
The U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
Potter, a 2011 graduate of the University of Missouri, learned a lot from her two practice rounds at Biltmore Forest that she was able to put to good use on Saturday.
“I decided that I just needed to play the course and not try to outplay the course,” said Potter, who is competing in her first USGA championship since the 2008 U.S. Women’s Amateur at Eugene (Ore.) Country Club. “On those holes where I felt that I could score well, I made sure of it. On those holes I knew were difficult, I didn't go for anything. I was really focused on hitting the fairways, hitting the green and then putting together two solid putts.”
Potter, a lefthander who earned her amateur reinstatement in 2012 after a short stint on the Symetra (then Futures) Tour, opened with birdies at holes 10 and 11, her first two holes of the afternoon. She played even-par golf through the rest of her round, following her lone bogey at the par-4 fourth with a 15-foot, right-to-left birdie at the par-4 sixth.
“Things were just working well for me today,” said Potter, an event coordinator who underwent back surgery at age 16 due to scoliosis. “I can only hope they continue throughout the week.”
Proteau carded one birdie and four bogeys while battling a mystery illness that arose overnight. However, the illness was not enough to dampen her spirits – or play havoc with her golf game.
“Beware of the sick golfer,” said Proteau with a smile. “If you're distracted by something else, sometimes things can work out.”
Clutch 5-footers to save par at holes 17 and 18 saved Proteau, a criminal prosecutor for the British Columbia Ministry of Justice, from slipping down the leader board.
“On the last hole, I told my husband (and caddie, Jim), this is good practice for (match play), having a 5-footer and having to make it,” said Proteau, a four-time Canadian Women’s Mid-Amateur champion. “Two shots could make a lot of difference over the next few days.”
Smith made the turn at two under, having converted three birdies to one bogey (she started on No. 10). A few wayward tee shots on her inward nine and a double bogey on the par-4 second, where her putter “decided to commit mutiny,” dropped Smith to 4-over 75.
“A couple of wayward shots, but that's golf,” said Smith, a P.J. Boatwright Intern with the Women’s Texas Golf Association who is competing in her second USGA championship. “Just a little off line, a chip didn't quite do what I wanted… little things like that.”
Four-time and defending Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Meghan Stasi, 35, of Oakland Park, Fla., returned what she termed her “best round of 76 ever.” With club member and Champions Tour player Morris Hatalsky on her bag, Stasi struggled off the tee and relied on the strength of her putting game to save her round, carding one birdie to six bogeys.
“I feel like I hit about two (fairways),” said a rueful Stasi, who is attempting to become just the fifth person to win the same USGA championship at least five times. “I'm sure I hit more, but it was definitely a struggle there.”
Stasi is tied for seventh at five over with Margaret Shirley, 27, of Roswell, Ga.; Dawn Woodard, 39, of Greer, S.C.; and Glynnis Price, 26, of Shiprock, N.M.
Stacy Dennis, who reached the semifinals of the 2012 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur, recorded her first career hole-in-one with a 7-iron from 156 yards at the par-3 ninth hole. The 40-year-old from Huntsville, Texas, sits in a tie for 32nd at 10-over 81.
Asheville residents and Biltmore Forest members Debbie Adams and Brenda Corrie Kuehn both carded 8-over 79s and are tied for 15th. Also in that group are 1987 Women’s Mid-Amateur runner-up and 2012 USA Curtis Cup Team captain Patricia Cornett and past USGA champions Mina Hardin, Anna Schultz and Corey Weworski.
Play was delayed for one hour on Saturday morning due to heavy fog that blanketed the Biltmore Forest course.